'Thank Heaven upon your knees, dear lady,' cried the girl, 'that you had friends to care for and keep you in your childhood, and that you were never in the midst of cold and hunger, and riot and drunkenness, and - and something worse than all - as I have been from my cradle; I may use the word, for the alley and the gutter were mine, as they will be my deathbed.'Further to the previous post: Dickens comes to some kind of specificity late in Oliver Twist in Nancy's conversation with Rose, though the confession is coded. It is only outside the text, in his introduction to the third edition of the novel, speaking perhaps in a different voice, that Dickens throws caution to the wind:
...Sikes is a thief, and Fagin a receiver of stolen goods ... the boys are pick-pockets, and the girl is a prostitute.But that was in 1841. Fast-forward a few Victorian decades to the edition of 1867, and we find those lines omitted from Dickens's intro. It would be left to the editors of later academic versions of the novel to determine Miss Nancy's Profession.