From George W. M. Reynolds' The Mysteries of London (1844–1845):

"Ah!" said the bookseller, after a pause; "nothing now succeeds unless it's in the comic line. We have comic Latin grammars, and comic Greek grammars; indeed, I don't know but what English grammar, too, is a comedy altogether. All our tragedies are made into comedies by the way they are performed; and no work sells without comic illustrations to it. I have brought out several new comic works, which have been very successful. For instance, 'The Comic Wealth of Nations'; 'The Comic Parliamentary Speeches'; 'The Comic Report of the Poor-Law Commissioners,' with an Appendix containing the 'Comic Dietary Scale'; and the 'Comic Distresses of the Industrious Population.' I even propose to bring out a 'Comic Whole Duty of Man.' All these books sell well: they do admirably for the nurseries of the children of the aristocracy. In fact they are as good as manuals and text-books."

I can identify most of the references here, but I don't know exactly what is meant by "Distresses of the Industrious Population." I know that the "industrious population" is what we would today call the "working poor," and that the Poor-Law Commission was charged with ameliorating their "distresses"; but was there a specific work of literature, or report, or famous speech, that would have been immediately understood by Reynolds' use of the title "Distresses of the Industrious Population"?


John Thelwall was an 18th century British parliamentary and social reformer. He worked primarily as a journalist and editor, but was also a teacher of rhetoric and elocution. He was involved in some of the earliest modern speech therapy interventions.

He delivered a lecture titled The Distresses of the Industrious Population in March of 1795. You can find the text here.

Although Thelwall is probably not well-known outside of the United Kingdom, searching Google scholar reveals thousands of books and articles which mention him. He may be well-known enough to mention alongside the other works and for Reynold's readers to understand what is meant.

There are other possibilities. In a comment, Spagirl mentioned a parliamentary debate with a somewhat similar title. Friedrich Engels published The Condition of the Working Class of England in 1844 (the same year Mysteries of London was published). However, the other works in the quote are all direct titles. It seems unusual that only this one title would be paraphrased, so I think Thelwall is the most likely choice.

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