A City Girl
  • Publication Date: August 30, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781554812707 / 1554812704
  • 250 pages; 5½" x 8½"
Exam Copy

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A City Girl

  • Publication Date: August 30, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781554812707 / 1554812704
  • 250 pages; 5½" x 8½"

In April 1888, Friedrich Engels wrote a letter to the English novelist and journalist Margaret Harkness, expressing his appreciation for her first novel, A City Girl: A Realistic Story, and calling it “a small work of art.” A City Girl was one of many slum novels set in the East End of London in the 1880s. It tells the story of a young East Ender, Nelly Ambrose, who is seduced and abandoned by a middle-class bureaucrat. After the birth of her child and betrayal by her family, Nelly is rescued by two outside forces: the Salvation Army and a sympathetic local man, George, who wants to marry her despite her “fallen” status. While Nelly’s relative passivity and social ignorance distinguishes her from contemporary New Woman heroines, Harkness’s sympathy for Nelly’s position and refusal to judge her morally make A City Girl a fascinating and original novel.

This Broadview Edition includes contemporary reviews of A City Girl along with historical documents on London’s East End, fallen women in late-Victorian fiction, and reform organizations for East End women.

Margaret Harkness: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

A City Girl

Appendix A: Contemporary Reviews of A City Girl

  1. From “Novels of the week,” The Athenaeum (30 April 1887)
  2. A City Girl: a Realistic Story,” The Spectator (31 March 1888)
  3. “Publisher’s Corner,” Our Corner (August 1887)
  4. From “Novels and Stories,” The Glasgow Herald (14 May 1887)
  5. From “New Books and Reviews,” The Sheffield Daily Telegraph (11 May 1887)
  6. From “Metropolitan Gossip,” The Belfast News-Letter (22 May 1887)
  7. Letter, Friedrich Engels to Margaret Harkness (from Engels: Correspondence January 1887–July 1890)

Appendix B: Other Writings by Margaret Harkness/John Law

  1. “Girl Labour in the City,” Justice (3 March 1888)
  2. “Salvationists and Socialists,” Justice (24 March 1888)
  3. From In Darkest London (1891)

Appendix C: The East End in Late-Victorian London

  1. From Andrew Mearns, The Bitter Cry of Outcast London (1883)
  2. From The Diary of Beatrice Webb, vol. I (11 April 1888)
  3. From Jack London, “Those on the Edge,” People of the Abyss (1903)

Appendix D: Reform Initiatives for East End Women

  1. From Lady Mary Jeune, “Helping the Fallen,” Fortnightly Review (1 November 1885)
  2. Margaret E. Harkness, “The Match Girls’ Strike,” The Spectator (21 July 1888)
  3. From Captain William Booth, “A New Way of Escape for Lost Women: The Rescue Homes,” In Darkest London and the Way Out (1890)
  4. Eleanor Marx, Speech on May Day (4 May 1890)

Appendix E: Fallen Women in Late-Victorian Fiction

  1. From George Gissing, The Unclassed (1884)
  2. From Ella Hepworth Dixon, The Story of a Modern Woman (1894)
  3. Arthur St. John Adcock, “The Soul of Penelope Sanders,” East End Idylls (1897)

Tabitha Sparks is Associate Professor of English at McGill University.