Infants of the Brush – A.M. Watson (by Beata)
Chimney Sweeps Remembered
The story of a group of underprivileged boys living in the 18th century London and exploited as chimney sweepers moved me deeply …
The novel portrays a group of boys – chimney sweepers – who, by poverty and misfortunes, become actually slaves to a heartless Master Armory for several years, until they grow up too big to get inside a chimney. The poverty is behind the forced separation from family, a family that is often impossible to regain even if they manage to free themselves from Armory. Egon Whitcombe’s mother sells him (!) when he is six, as, after her husband’s death at sea, she struggles to feed her son, her ill daughter and herself. Egon is intelligent and soon understands that only following the rules will allow him to become free again.
Descriptions of daily hardships, injuries, hunger and lack of love are most gripping and upsetting. I was surprised to learn that the book is based on factual information. Sweeping the chimneys was necessary, as it is today, but then it was done by little boys who often got injured or killed while earning meagre money which was to be given to their so-called patrons in order to buy their freedom.
I was unaware that despite several legal steps to eradicate this exploitation taken over a period of two hundred years, it was only when central heating was introduced that children were no longer ’employed’ as chimney sweepers!
AM Watson did fantastic thorough research and brought these long-forgotten children back to life. I would like to thank Ms AM Watson for a signed copy of this novel and a lovely personalized card.