University of Hertfordshire

The Wretch of Today, may be Happy Tomorrow: poverty in England, c 1700-1840

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


  • Sarah Lloyd
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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSuffering and happiness in England 1400-1850:
Subtitle of host publicationNarratives and Representations
EditorsJoanna Innes, Mike Braddick
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print) 9780198748267
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2017

Publication series

NameThe Past and Present
PublisherOxford University Press


This chapter explores what we can know about the conceptualization and representation of by poorer Britons. It draws on ‘pauper letters’ to parish authorities, written tactically, and on autobiographies and letters composed by the relatively poor, noting echoes of the characterization of happiness by elite social commentators. It draws attention to a growing interest (linked to the development of the concept of nostalgia) in the emotional charge that could be derived from reflection on emotional experience as people contrasted past happiness with present misery, or vice versa. While reading such accounts may lead us to think that we are penetrating the interior lives of marginal people in the past, Lloyd suggests that our response is probably coloured by the fact that we are heirs to these ways of conceptualizing and representing experience. We need to work harder to glean insight from earlier ways of representing happiness and suffering.


This material was originally published in Suffering and happiness in England 1400-1850: Narratives and Representations, edited by Joanna Innes and Mike Braddick, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press, Under embargo until 10 August 2019.

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