Infants of the Brush: A Chimney Sweep's Story

A. M. Watson

Book Cover

GENRE

HISTORICAL FICTION

    Core Theme

    LOOKING FOR A DIM LIGHT AT THE END OF A VERY DARK TUNNEL

    TIME PERIOD

    18th Century

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    OLIVER TWIST, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, ANNIE

    CHARACTER LIST

    EGAN: 7. LEAD. A VERY RESILIENT, OUTSPOKEN LITTLE BOY WHOSE LIFE CHANGES IN AN INSTANT.

    PITT: 13. EGAN'S FRIEND AND MENTOR.

    ARMORY: 32. A MAN WHO BUYS AND BASICALLY ENSLAVES EGAN AND OTHER YOUNG BOYS.

    LAMERIE: 34. THE JEWELER TO WHOM EGAN LOSES HIS BROOCH.

    RORY: PRE-TEENS. A MEAN KID WHO LEADS THE BOYS WHEN PITT DIES.

    CHARLES: 15. LAMERIE'S APPRENTICE WHO SWINDLES EGAN OUT OF A BROOCH.

    Logline

    A brotherhood of boys working to survive the dangers of the chimney sweep trade in 1700s London. Infants of the Brush – historical fiction based on the King’s Bench case Armory v. Delamirie – portrays the cruelty of child labor and resilience of the human spirit in the pre-industrial age.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 35-54,13-17,18-34,55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    London

    Based on a True Story

    Yes

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: self-published

    Publisher: Red Acre Press

    Year Published: 2017

    Starting Description

    Following his father’s death at sea, Egan (6) is sold to a chimney sweep by his impoverished mum. Egan joins 7 other boys that climb and clean chimneys for Master Armory by day and sleep on ash in the cellar at night.

    Ending Description

    Circumstances lead Egan to find a valuable pendant, which is stolen from him by a silversmith’s apprentice. Armory sues the silversmith (Paul de Lamerie) and is successful before the King’s Bench. Master Armory then sells Egan to a ship’s captain, who redeems Egan from servitude.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    9780999512203

    Mature Audience Themes

    Information not completed

    Plot - Other Elements

    Happy Ending,Meaningful Message,Twist

    Plot - Premise

    Other

    Main Character Details

    Name: Egan Whitcombe

    Age: 5

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Desperate,Faithful,Outspoken,Underdog,Naive

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Thomas Pitt

    Age: 13

    Gender: Male

    Role: Mentor

    Key Traits: Modest,Obedient,Uneducated,Selfless,Leader,Empathetic,Desperate

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Daniel Armory

    Age: 32

    Gender: Male

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Aggressive,Greedy,Unapologetic,Manipulative,Skillful,Power Hungry,Blunt,Villainous

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Paul de Lamerie

    Age: 34

    Gender: Male

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Complex,Honorable,Sophisticated,Secretive,Visionary

    Development Pitch

    Infants of the Brush is an evocative story of child labor in London’s pre-industrial age that shines a light on the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Based on Armory v. Delamirie – a David versus Goliath court case in 1722 involving the notable silversmith Paul de Lamerie – Infants of the Brush translates historical record into the lived experience of the destitute children scraping by on London’s streets. Through hardship, a brotherhood of sweeps emerges as the boys discover friendship and struggle to save five guineas, the cost of a broomer’s independence. The boys face dangerous working conditions, rely on the goodness of strangers, suffer the cruelty of class discrimination, and revel in the happy moments inherent to childhood. Given that children were deemed property without rights until the twentieth century, engaging in the history of child labor gives us perspective on the inequalities and struggles of the present. Infants of the Brush is a vivid tale adaptable to film (comparable to The Book Thief (2013)) or miniseries (similar in structure and length as the BBC’s Oliver Twist (2007)).

    Genre

    DRAMA

    Brief

    Egan is sold by his mother and now he will become a chimney sweep in 1700s London. His new owner is cruel and he needs to save money to buy his freedom. He finds a jewel, and although the owner cheats him out of the money, he goes to work on a ship like he's always wanted.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: EXCELLENT

    Commerciality: FAIR

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: GOOD

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: EXCELLENT

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    Yes, it is accurate.

    Draw of Story

    The gravitas of poverty in old London.

    Possible Drawbacks

    No, it was interesting all along.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY DOES NOT RELY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    Exploited kids trying to survive against the odds.

    Fanbase Potential

    It would be a narrow fan base as it's not a high concept or well-known material.

    Awards Potential

    It could have awards potential if adapted well and with great talent attached since it's a story that evokes emotion and has gravitas.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    OLIVER TWIST, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, ANNIE

    What’s New About the Story

    It's originality lies in its truth. The story is not an uncommon one for its time, yet it is still shocking to the sensibilities of a modern audience.

    Lead Characters

    They're as resilient as it gets.

    Uniqueness of Story

    This isn't a rare gem because it's not rare. The audience doesn't learn anything new or gain anymore insight into the time or setting, and the characters are too young to offer much toward the greater philosophical conversation about their plight.

    Possible Formats

    Film - Indie, Film - Streaming, TV Series - Limited Run / Mini-Series

    Analyst Recommendation

    CONSIDER

    Justification

    If all the right elements are in place for a very good movie, it would make a good addition to the genre.

    Brief

    A brotherhood of boys working to survive the dangers of the chimney sweep trade in 1700s London. Infants of the Brush – historical fiction based on the King’s Bench case Armory v. Delamirie – portrays the cruelty of child labor and resilience of the human spirit in the pre-industrial age.

    What We Liked

    Keeping you on pins and needles with each job these children are forced to undertake, this story really illustrates the callous disregard for life that permeated society, and not all that long ago.

    Film: The compelling characters and the high drama of everyday life and death in 1700s London keeps the stakes high enough to fill the structure of a film. The characters are at the most crucial time in their lives, and we take the journey with them into this exciting and terrifying world. We expect twists and surprises, knowing they can probably mostly mean bad things, and this dread propels the plot. The beauty and the carnage of the setting is also a plus for cinematic adaptation.

    TV: This could make a good short form series but doesn't have the breadth and depth of material for a regular series. The audience would want to see what danger lurks around the next block for these characters. They are certainly as worthy of empathy as any other on television. The other-worldliness of period drama also seems to be a good draw for television viewers.

    Key points: Period London
    Kids in peril
    Evil selfish adults
    Fraternal bonds
    Justice and injustices

    Synopsis

    London, 1721. Reeves, a boy chimney sweep, runs around from home to home asking if his services are needed. It’s a holiday, so no one is opening their doors because of the chaos this day usually brings on the streets. He picks some pockets, then finds a blouse with a brooch sewn into it and is able to hide it before some older kids beat him up and take his coins. Egan, 6, and his little sister Kerrin go to the Thames to await their dad’s boat. They see it, but he doesn’t come off with the rest of the merchant marines. He’s died in an accident, and their mother is catatonic. Kerrin gets the measles. Egan looks for work. Lamerie, 30s, exits his carriage and enters the goldsmith’s union where he signs on two 15 year-old apprentices who will be with him for the next seven years. Egan’s mother sells him to Armory, 30s-50s, who will employ him as a chimney sweep. Egan screams and cries as his mother leaves him. Armory smacks him hard, and hands him to another boy, Pitt, 13, for training. Pitt is missing two fingers and a thumb. They were burnt off in a chimney accident. They visit Ms. Bixby, a kind lady who runs a mortuary. She shaves off Egan’s hair so it doesn’t catch fire in the chimneys. She gives Egan a wrapping for his head to protect him while he works. Then they take to the streets and look for chimneys that don’t have much smoke coming out of them because they’re clogged, and yell “sweep” for the inhabitants, who sometimes come out and let them in to clean the chimney. Pitt shows Egan how it’s done, and at the end of the day they go back to Armory’s where they give him their money and sleep in a coal cellar. Pitt tells Egan to save his money because it’s five guineas to buy his freedom from Armory and he can go home. Egan meets Andrew, Rory, Iggy, Adam, Tick, and Will, who live there too. They all sleep on the sacks full of ash that they collect. Egan finds out that a kid named Reeves died.

    Early the next morning they all get a meager bowl of gruel then go out looking for work. Pitt and Egan clean a large house with a lot of chimneys and Egan is scared at first but then gets the hang of it. They get a meal and two shillings. Pitt hides some of the money in his shoe in order to save enough to buy his freedom and shows Egan how to do the same. Armory will get the rest.

    Lamerie scolds Charles, his new apprentice, for not polishing the silver well enough. Bennett, the other apprentice, is allowed to go home after melting silver. All the sweepers gather in the basement and play cards, while Tick is thrown down the stairs for being a penny short for the day. Pitt promises to look out for him tomorrow so it doesn’t happen again. The next morning, Armory is still drunk from the night before but takes Pitt and Egan with him to a house that has a lot of chimneys that converge into one - and they’re all small. Pitt gets to work, while Egan is too scared to climb into the tight space. Armory smacks him hard and Egan climbs in. Then, Armory lights a fire underneath him and Egan starts screaming and feels stuck and can’t see a thing. Pitt calls down to him and helps him climb up to the roof. Egan has to now go back in and start cleaning but he cries that he can’t. Pitt smacks him and he goes back inside. When he gets to the bottom, Armory sees that Pitt has smacked him already so he doesn’t feel the need to. Pitt helps Egan clean his cut knees and tells him he did good, and if he hadn’t hit him, Armory would have done much worse. At his shop, Lamerie and Bennett discuss the mark that craftsmen make on their silver and the taxes they have to pay. They both don’t particularly like Charles.

    Spring rains allow afternoons off for the boys, who play games in the cellar. When the rain stops, there’s a lot of business. The boys visit Rex, who was a sweep who was badly injured and is crippled and deformed. They give him some money and bread, and then run from the police. Summer arrives, and Armory goes off to the country so the sweeps are on their own, even though they’re still supposed to earn money for him. Egan and Pitt go to Egan’s old house, but they find out his mother moved away. Pitt promises they’ll find her somehow. They sleep in a graveyard, but they’re caught and told they’re allowed to sleep there if they help with upkeep. A priest takes them in and gives them new clothes and has them sit in on christenings and weddings. They use a candle to perform their own ceremony that is supposed to make their wishes come true. Armory comes back from the country at the end of the summer and work begins again. He takes them to a huge mansion where Iggy gets stuck in one of the chimneys but Egan helps him out again. It’s Christmas, and Egan, out working alone, gets lost. He ends up in a church where people give him coins. The priest points him in the right direction and he finally gets back to Armory’s house. Armory wakes Pitt and Egan and takes them to a tavern to clear the chimney. It’s too hot inside and Pitt doesn’t want to go in but Armory makes him. He covers himself as best he can and goes up, but there is a fire above him, and it falls on him and he dies. Armory tells Egan to get the rest of the boys and they all come and take Pitt’s body away and he is buried in a pit with other poor people. Egan cries as a priest tries to comfort him. Egan has Pitt’s shoes with Pitt’s money and he takes it to the undertaker Ms. Bixby to count for him. He’s two guineas short of the five he needs to buy his freedom from Armory. The next morning is business as usual, but Egan can’t take it and attacks Armory, who whips him, beats him, and throws him down the stairs. Locked in the cellar for the day, he finds the ruby brooch that belonged to Reeves. The next day, he takes it to Lamerie’s shop where Charles tells him he’ll have to take it apart to evaluate it. Lamerie comes out and offers him a fraction of what it’s worth. When Egan says no and asks for it back, Charles hands it to him - missing the ruby. Egan protests and is thrown out. He goes back and tells Armory the story. Mr. and Mrs. Armory take him to Lamerie’s shop in a carriage, and Armory and Lamerie argue over the theft of the jewel. Later, the boys meet, but without Rory. They need a plan to get rid of him since he’s taken over as head boy since Pitt died. Rory is hated by the other boys and demands part of their earnings.

    The next day, Armory takes Egan to Westminster where he hires a solicitor to sue Lamerie. Back in the cellar, Egan recounts the whole story about the brooch to the other kids. Rory demands a guinea if Egan gets the money for it. Egan promises Iggy he’ll take him with him if he can buy freedom for both of them. Egan is kept inside until the court date, where he helps out in the kitchen and gets to eat more than usual. He brings food to the other boys at night but they are still jealous of him. Egan is scrubbed in a tub for court the next day, and is even given a bed to sleep in. In court, the jury rules that Armory should be paid fifty pounds for the missing jewel. Everyone is surprised, especially Egan. Armory takes them to a pub to celebrate and Egan is given a good meal. Drunk, Armory informs Egan that, since he owns him, he owns all of the money. Egan can’t believe what he’s hearing. It’s all been a lie and they can’t buy their freedom. Armory takes Egan to the Thames and sells him to a ship for five guineas. Egan is treated as one of the crew, not as a slave, and not owned. He earns wages that he’s allowed to keep and hopes to die on the sea like his dad.

    About The Author

    A. M. Watson is a teacher, attorney, and author whose soul awakens when visiting libraries, museums, and historic sites. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine where she manages a utility company by day and writes overlooking the harbor at night.