Victorian London - Crime - Con-men - the match-girl

Sir, - At a time when our sympathies are so strongly excited on behalf of the suffering poor, every attempt at imposture ought to be exposed.
    Yesterday, in walking up Idol-lane, I saw a girl lying on the pavement weeping over and gathering up a quantity of matches which lay scattered beside her. In the hurry of business I passed on, and my heart reproached me afterwards for not having administered to her relief when two or three pence would have repaired the damage. To-day, in Cullum-street, a girl was in the same situation with a pair of common varnished prints in frames, through one of which was a hole, as if he hand had accidentally fallen through. She appeared in the greatest grief, and I gave her 6d.; when in the act of raising her head to return thanks, I discovered the match girl of yesterday. I charged her with it, which she stoutly denied; and my suspicions being strongly raised, I watched her. In Lime-street (so little a distance as that) I saw her deliberately throw herself down with the same pictures, and enact the same scene over again. On threatening to give her in charge of the police, after a good deal of blustering, she admitted the trick and promised if I would let her go this time she would never do so any more; and seeing no policeman at hand, I let her off, first recovering my 6d. I am told this is a stale device, but as it is new to me it may be so to some others of your readers.
    I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
11, Mincing-lane, Jan.12.            W.C.

letter to The Times, January 16, 1850