Infants of the Brush
A Chimney Sweep's Story
by A. M. Watson
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Infants of the Brush is historical fiction based on Armory v. Delamirie, a 1700s court case before the King’s Bench against Paul de Lamerie, a silversmith. In the vein of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Infants of the Brush is set in a time when London society ignored the ills of child labor. Unlike the gleeful chimney sweeps portrayed in Mary Poppins, climbing boys were forced up burning flues to dislodge harmful soot and coal ash.
Egan Whitcombe is just six years old when he is sold to Master Armory for a few coins that his family desperately needs. As one of Master Armory’s eight broomers, Egan quickly learns that his life depends on absolute obedience and the coins he earns.
Pitt, the leader of Master Armory’s broomers, teaches Egan to sweep chimneys and negotiate for scraps of bread. Broken and starving, the boys discover friendship as they struggle to save five guineas, the cost of a broomer’s independence.