The iconic tale of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, was first published as a weekly series of "penny dreadfuls" between November 1846 and March 1847. The author cannot be determined with any certainty, but scholars beleive it was most probably written collaboratively by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest, alternating between each episode released.
Our story begins in 1785 when a young seafarer, Captain Thornhill, disappears while visiting the shop of a barber in London, a certain Sweeney Todd whose shop in Fleet Street is situated by St. Dunstan's church, just round the corner from the famous and popular meat pie shop run by Mrs. Lovett. Thornhill was carrying a string of pearls as a gift for Johanna Oakley, the sweetheart of his friend Mark Ingestrie who is missing, presumed lost at sea. One of Thornhill's friends, Colonel Jeffrey, together with Johanna Oakley, takes up the search... and suspicion immediately falls on the barber's shop as Thornhill's faithful dog has taken up station at that door and refuses to leave the place. But the mystery only deepens. Todd's apprentice asks awkward questions and makes some frightening discoveries, but is immediately dispatched to a lunatic asylum outside London where he is incarcerated. And meanwhile the entire district is troubled by an appalling stench rising from the vaults of St. Dunstan's church.