When the American businessman, Louis Simond, landed at Falmouth in 1809, he found an England radically divided between the rich and the poor. In London, King George III was confined to his rooms and considered mad by his subjects, while the self-indulgent and grotesquely overweight Prince Regent entertained "society" at Carleton House with unbelievable splendor. On June 19, 1811, he gave a ball for more than 2,000 guests that featured an immensely long dinner table with an artificial stream meandering down the middle between the ornate silver serving dishes, complete with sand, moss, rocks, aquatic plants and miniature bridges. Live gold and silver fish swam among the rocks, their scales reflecting the candlelight, "to the infinite delight of the guests," until the fish began to die of oxygen starvation and took everyone's appetite away.
While aristocratic "society" gossiped about the Prince Regent's separation from his wife, Charlotte, and the scandalous affair of Lord Byron with the married Lady Caroline Lamb (who visited him in his apartments, dressed as a page, and openly sent him a lock of her pubic hair), the weavers of the north were on the verge of starvation and gangs of abandoned children roamed the streets of London, picking pockets, engaging in prostitution, and filling more than 200 "flash houses," in effect, crime schools with dormitories. Orphaned and illegitimate young boys, ages 3 to 6, were regularly sold to master chimney sweeps, sent naked into the flues to clean out the soot, and--if they got stuck in the chimneys--either burnt or cut out.