chapter  Chapter 3
14 Pages

Black Markets and Cadaverous Pies: The Corpse, Urban Trade and Industrial Consumption in the Penny Blood

WithSally Powell

When Tim Roper and Ben Bandy decide to turn their hands to resurrection in Henry Thornley’s penny blood serial Life in London (1846), Roper reveals the shocking extent to which the resurrected and dissected corpse is commodified and secreted into the marketplace. Both legitimate and black market trading in corporeal goods constituted a palpable presence in the most densely over-inhabited areas of the city and penny fiction writers responded anxiously to the relationship between the sanctity of the individual and the economics of the Victorian city. Cannibalism presented itself to penny blood writers as a suitably sensational topic, but beyond the obvious appeal of such outrageous subject matter, the popularity of the tale of Sweeney Todd testifies to the existence of a mid-century working-class perception that in a newly industrialized urban economy there existed not only a literal but a metaphoric relationship between the consumption of goods and a cannibalistic feeding upon one’s fellow urbanites.