The names are Tom and Jerry are these days synonymous with the cat and mouse cartoons of 1940s, but to a nineteenth century ear, whether Regency or Victorian, they belonged to the rakish Corinthian Tom and his cousin from the country Jerry Hawthorne who, along with their friend Bob Logic, roamed the streets of the capital in search of a good time in Egan’s boisterous comic serial Life in London.
Described as ‘a faithful Portraiture of High & Low Life’ from the West End to the East End, Pierce Egan’s comical monthly was one of the popular sensations of its day. The central characters, Tom, Jerry and Logic were well-heeled young men about town, keen to see ‘a bit of life’ in the poorer districts of London. Their escapades and misadventures were largely autobiographical, being drawn from the lives of Egan himself and his illustrators, George and Robert Cruikshank and Isaac Richard.
One of the key achievements of Egan’s Life in London was using contemporary slang as the basis of its style. As a result of the success of Life in London, the names Tom and Jerry became proverbial for young men causing disorder.