London Labour and the London Poor
A Cyclopędia of the Condition and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Those That Cannot Work, and Those That Will Not Work.
By Henry Mayhew.
London: Griffin, Bohn, and Company, Stationers' Hall Court. 1862.
[digitised copy kindly provided by Les Butler, ed.]
[... back to index]
The Happy Prostitute
and there is such a thing, is either the thoroughly hardened, clever infidel, who knows how to command men and use them for her own purposes; who is in the best set both of men and women; who frequents the night-houses in London, and who in the end seldom fails to marry well; or the quiet woman who is kept by the man she loves, and who she feels is fond of her; who has had a provision made for her to guard her against want, and the caprice of her paramour.
The Sensitive, Sentimental, Weak-Minded, Impulsive, Affectionate Girl
will go from bad to worse, and die on
a dunghill or in a workhouse. A woman who was well known to cohabit with
soldiers, of a masculine appearance but good features, and having a
good-natured expression, was pointed out to me as the most violent woman in
the neighbourhood. When she was in a passion she would demolish everything
that came in her way, regardless of the mischief she was doing. She was
standing in the bar of a public-house close to the barracks talking to some
soldiers, when I had an opportunity of speaking to her. I did not allow it to
pass without taking advantage of it. I told her I had heard she was very
passionate and violent.
"Passionate!" she replied; "I believe yer. I knocked my father down and wellnigh killed him with a flat-iron before I wor twelve year old. I was a beauty then, an I aint improved much since I've been on my own hook. I've had lots of rows with these 'ere sodgers, and they'd have slaughter'd me long afore now if I had not pretty near cooked their goose. It's a good bit of it self-defence with me now-a-days, I can tell yer. Why, look here; look at my arm where I was run through with a bayonet once three or four years ago.
She bared her arm and exhibited the scar of what appeared to have once been a serious wound.
"You wants to know if them rowses is common. Well, they is, and it's no good one saying they aint, and the sodgers is such ---- cowards they think nothing of sticking a woman when they'se riled and drunk, or they'll wop us with their belts. I was hurt awful onst by a blow from a belt; it hit me on the back part of the head, and I was laid up weeks in St. George's Hospital with a bad fever. The sodger who done it was quodded, but only for a drag,* [* Imprisoned for three months] and he swore to God as how he'd do for me the next time as he comed across me. We had words sure enough, but I split his skull with a pewter, and that shut him up for a time. You see this public; well, I've smashed up this place before now; I've jumped over the bar, because they wouldn't serve me without paying for it when I was hard up, and I've smashed all the tumblers and glass, and set the cocks agoing, and fought like a brick when they tried to turn me out, and it took two peelers to do it; and then I lamed one of the bobbies for life by hitting him on the shin with a bit of iron - a crow or summet, I forget what it was. How did I come to live this sort of life? Get along with your questions. If you give me any of your cheek, I'll ---- soon serve you the same."
It may easily be supposed I was glad to leave this termagant, who was popular with the soldiers, although they were afraid of her when she was in a passion. There is not much to be said about soldiers' women. They are simply low and cheap, often diseased, and as a class do infinite harm to the health of the service.
The metropolis is divided by the
police into districts, to which letters are attached to designate and
distinguish them. The head-quarters of the F division are at Bow Street, and
the jurisdiction of its constabulary extends over Covent Garden, Drury Lane,
and St. Giles's, which used formerly to be looked upon as most formidable
neighbourhoods, harbouring the worst characters and the most desperate
Mr. Durkin, the superintendent at Bow Street, obligingly allowed an intelligent and experienced officer (sergeant Bircher) to give me any information I might require.
Fifteen or twenty years ago this locality was the perpetual scene of riot and disorder. The public-houses were notorious for being places of call for thieves, pickpockets, burglars, thieving prostitutes, hangers - on (their associates), and low ruffians, who rather than work for an honest livelihood preferred scraping together a precarious subsistence by any disreputable means, however disgraceful or criminal they might be. But now this is completely changed. Although I patrolled the neighbourhood on Monday night, which is usually accounted one of the noisiest in the week, most of the public houses were empty, the greatest order and decorum reigned in the streets, and not even an Irish row occurred in any of the low alleys and courts to enliven the almost painful silence that everywhere prevailed. I only witnessed one fight in a public-house in St. Martin's Lane. Seven or eight people were standing at the bar, smoking and drinking. A disturbance took place between an elderly man, pugnaciously intoxicated, who was further urged on by a prostitute he had been talking to, and a man who had the appearance of being a tradesman in a small way. How the quarrel originated I don't know, for I did not arrive till it had commenced. The sergeant who accompanied me was much amused to observe among those in the bar three suspicious characters he had for some time "had his eye on." One was a tall, hulking, hang dog-looking fellow; the second a short, bloated, diseased, red-faced man, while the third was a common-looking woman, a prostitute and the associate of the two former. The fight went on until the tradesman in a small way was knocked head over heels into a corner, when the tall, hulking fellow obligingly ran to his rescue, kindly lifted him up, and quietly rifled his pockets. The ecstasy of the sergeant as he detected this little piece of sharp practice was a thing to remember. He instantly called my attention to it, for so cleverly and skillfully had it been done that I had failed to observe it.
When we resumed our tour of inspection, the sergeant, having mentally summed up the three suspicious characters, observed:
"I first discovered them in Holborn three nights ago, when I was on duty in plain clothes. I don't exactly yet know rightly what their little game is; but it's either dog-stealing or 'picking up.' This is how they do it. The woman looks out for a 'mug,' that is a drunken fellow, or a stupid, foolish sort of fellow. She then stops him in the street, talks to him, and pays particular attention to his jewellery, watch, and every thing of that sort, of which she attempts to rob him. If he offers any resistance, or makes a noise, one of her bullies comes up, and either knocks him down by a blow under the ear, or exclaims: 'What are you talking to my wife for?' and that's how the thing's done, sir, that's exactly how these chaps do the trick. I found out where they live yesterday. It's somewhere down near Barbican, Golden Lane; the name's a bad, ruffianly, thievish place. They are being watched to-night, although they don't know it. I planted a man on them."
Two women were standing just outside the same public. They were dressed in a curious assortment of colours, as the low English invariably are, and their faces had a peculiar unctuous appearance, somewhat Israeliish, as if their diet from day to day consisted of fried fish and dripping. The sergeant knew them well, and they knew him, for they accosted him.
"One of these women," he said, "is the cleverest thief out. I've known her twelve years. She was in the first time for robbing a public. I'll tell you how it was. She was a pretty woman - a very pretty woman - then, and had been kept by a man who allowed her 4l. a week for some time. She was very quiet too, never went about anywhere, never knocked about at night publics or any of those places; but she got into bad company, and was in for this robbery. She and her accomplices got up a row in the bar, everything being concerted before hand; they put out the lights, set all the taps running, and stole a purse, a watch, and some other things; but we nabbed them all, and, strange to say, one of the women thieves died the next day from the effects of drink. All these women are great gluttons, and when they get any money, they go in for a regular drink and debauch. This one drank so much that it positively killed her slick off."
At the corner of Drury Lane I saw three women standing talking together. They were innocent of crinoline, and the antiquity of their bonnets and shawls was really wonderful, while the durability of the fabric of which they were composed was equally remarkable. Their countenances were stolid, and their skin hostile to the application of soap and water. The hair of one was tinged with silver. They were inured to the rattle of their harness; the clank of the chains pleased them. They had grown grey as prostitutes.
I learnt from my companion that "that lot was an inexpensive luxury; it showed the sterility of the neighbourhood. They would go home with a man for a shilling, and think themselves well paid, while sixpence was rather an exorbitant amount for the temporary accommodation their vagrant amour would require."
There were a good many of them about. They lived for the most part in small rooms at eighteen pence, two shillings, and half-a-crown a week, in the small streets running out of Drury Lane.
We went down Charles Street, Drury Lane, a small street near the Great Mogul public-house. I was surprised at the number of clean-looking, respectable lodging-houses to be seen in this street, and indeed in almost every street thereabouts. Many of them were well-ventilated, and chiefly resorted to by respectable mechanics. They are under the supervision of the police, and the time of a sergeant is wholly taken up in inspecting them. Visits are made every day, and if the Act of Parliament by the provisions of which they are allowed to exist, and by which they are regulated, is broken, their licences are taken away directly. Some speculators have several of these houses, and keep a shop as well, full of all sorts of things to supply their lodgers.
There is generally a green blind in the parlour window, upon which you sometimes see written, Lodgings for Travellers, 3d. a night; or, Lodgings for Gentlemen; or, Lodgings for Single Men. Sometimes they have Model Lodging-house written in large black letters on a white ground on the wall. There are also several little shops kept by general dealers, in contiguity, for the use of the inmates of the lodging-houses, where they can obtain two pennyworth of meat and "a haporth" of bread, and everything else in proportion.
There are a great number of costermongers about Drury Lane and that district, and my informant assured me that they found the profession very lucrative, for the lower orders, and industrial classes don't care about going into shops to make purchases. They infinitely prefer buying what they want in the open street from the barrow or stall of a costermonger.
What makes Clare Market so attractive, too, but the stalls and barrows that abound there.
There are many flower-girls who are sent out by their old gin-drinking mothers to pick up a few pence in the street by the sale of their goods. They begin very young, often as young as five and six, and go on till they are old enough to become prostitutes, when they either leave off costermongering altogether, or else unite the two professions. They are chiefly the offspring of Irish parents, or cockney Irish, as they are called, who are the noisiest, the most pugnacious, unprincipled, and reckless part of the population of London. There is in Exeter Street, Strand, a very old established and notorious house of illfame, called the ------, which the police says is always honestly and orderly conducted. Married women go there with their paramours, for they are sure of secrecy, and have confidence in the place. It is a house of accommodation, and much frequented; rich tradesmen are known to frequent it. They charge ten shillings and upwards for a bed. A man might go there with a large sum of money in his pocket, and sleep in perfect security, for no attempt would be made to deprive him of his property.
There is a coffee-house in Wellington Street, on the Covent Garden side of the Lyceum Theatre, in fact adjoining the playhouse, where women may take their men; but the police cannot interfere with it, because it is a coffee-house, and not a house of ill-fame, properly so called. The proprietor is not supposed to know who his customers are. A man comes with a woman and asks for a bed-room; they may be travellers, they may be a thousand things. A subterranean passage, I am told, running under the Lyceum connects this with some supper-rooms on the other side of the theatre, which belongs to the same man who is proprietor of the coffee and chop house.
We have before spoken of "dresslodgers:" there are several to be seen in the Strand. Any one who does not understand the affair, and had not been previously informed, would fail to observe the badly-dressed old hag who follows at a short distance the fashionably-attired young lady, who walks so gaily along the pavement, and who only allows the elasticity of her step to subside into a quieter measure when stopping to speak to some likely-looking man who may be passing. If her overtures are successful she retires with her prey to some den in the vicinity.
The watcher has a fixed salary of so much per week, and never loses sight of the dress-lodger, for very plain reasons. The dress-lodger probably lives some distance from the immoral house by whose owner she is employed. She comes there in the afternoon badly dressed, and has good things lent her. Now if she were not watched she might decamp. She might waste her time in public-houses; she might take her dupes to other houses of ill-fame, or she might pawn the clothes she has on, for the keeper could not sue her for a debt contracted for immoral purposes. The dress-lodger gets as much money from her man as she can succeed in abstracting, and is given a small percentage on what she obtains by her employer. The man pays usually five shillings for the room. Many prostitutes bilk their man; they take him into a house, and then after he has paid for the room leave him. The dupe complains to the keeper of the house, but of course fails to obtain any redress.
I happened to see an old woman in the Strand, who is one of the most hardened beggars in London. She has two children with her, but one she generally disposes of by placing her in some doorway. The child falls back on the step, and pretends to be asleep or half-frozen with the cold. Her naturally pale face gives her a half-starved look, which completes her pitiable appearance. Any gentleman passing by being charitably inclined may be imposed upon and induced to touch her on the shoulder. The child will move slowly and rub her eyes, and the man, thoroughly deceived, gives her an alms and passes on, when the little deceiver again composes herself to wait for the next chance. This occurred while I was looking on; but unfortunately for the child's success the policeman on the beat happened to come up, and she made her retreat to a safer and more convenient locality.
Many novelists, philanthropists, and newspaper writers have dwelt much upon the horrible character of a series of subterranean chambers or vaults in the vicinity of the Strand, called the Adelphi Arches. It is by no means even now understood that these arches are the most innocent and harmless places in London, whatever they might once have been. A policeman is on duty there at night, expressly to prevent persons who have no right or business there from descending into their recesses.
They were probably erected in order to form a foundation for the Adelphi Terrace. Let us suppose there were then no wharves, and no embankments, consequently the tide must have ascended and gone inland some distance, rendering the ground marshy, swampy, and next to useless. The main arch is a very fine pile of masonry, something like the Box tunnel on a small scale, while the other, running here and there like the intricacies of catacombs, looks extremely ghostly and suggestive of Jack Sheppards, Blueskins, Jonathan Wilds, and others of the same kind, notwithstanding they are so well lighted with gas. There is a doorway at the end of a vault leading up towards the Strand, that has a peculiar tradition attached to it. Not so very many years ago this door was a back exit from a notorious coffee and gambling house, where parties were decoyed by thieves, blacklegs, or prostitutes, and swindled, then drugged, and subsequently thrown from this door into the darkness of what must have seemed to them another world, and were left, when they came to themselves, to find their way out as best they could.
My attention was attracted, while in these arches, by the cries and exclamations of a woman near the river, and proceeding to the spot I saw a woman sitting on some steps, before what appeared to be a stable, engaged in a violent altercation with a man who was by profession a cab proprietor - several of his vehicles were lying about - and who, she vehemently asserted, was her husband. The man declared she was a common woman when he met her, and had since become the most drunken creature it was possible to meet with. The woman put her hand in her pocket and brandished something in his face, which she triumphantly said was her marriage-certificate. "That," she cried, turning to me, "that's what licks them. It don't matter whether I was one of Lot's daughters afore. I might have been awful, I don't say I wasn't, but I'm his wife, and this 'cre's what licks 'em."
I left them indulging in elegant invectives, and interlarding their conversation with those polite and admirable metaphors that have gained so wide-spread a reputation for the famous women who sell fish in Billingsgate; and I was afterwards informed by a sympathising bystander, in the shape of a stable-boy, that the inevitable result of this conjugal altercation would be the incarceration of the woman, by the husband, in a horse-box, where she might undisturbed sleep off the effects of her potations, and repent the next day at her leisure. "Nec dulces amores sperne puer."
Several showily-dressed, if not actually well-attired women, who are to be found walking about the Haymarket, live in St. Giles's and about Drury Lane. But the lowest class of women, who prostitute themselves for a shilling or less, are the most curious and remarkable class in this part. We have spoken of them before as growing grey in the exercise of their profession. One of them, a woman over forty, shabbily dressed, and with a disreputable, unprepossessing appearance, volunteered the following statement for a consideration of a spirituous nature.
Times is altered, sir, since I come on the town. I can remember when all the swells used to come down here-away, instead of going to the Market; but those times is past, they is, worse luck, but, like myself, nothing lasts for ever, although I've stood my share of wear and tear, I have. Years ago Fleet Street and the Strand, and Catherine Street, and all round there was famous for women and houses. Ah! those were the times. Wish they might come again, but wishing's no use, it ain't. It only makes one miserable a thinking of it. I come up from the country when I was quite a gal, not above sixteen I dessay. I come from Dorsetshire, near Lyme Regis, to see a aunt of mine. Father was a farmer in Dorset, but only in a small way-tenant farmer, as you would say. I was mighty pleased, you may swear, with London, and liked being out at night when I could get the chance. One night I went up the area and stood looking through the railing, when a man passed by, but seeing me he returned and spoke to me something about the weather. I, like a child, answered him unsuspectingly enough, and he went on talking about town and country, asking me, among other things, if I had long been in London, or if I was born there. I not thinking told him all about myself; and he went away apparently very much pleased with me, saying before he went that he was very glad to have made such an agreeable acquaintance, and if I would say nothing about it he would call for me about the same time, or a little earlier, if I liked, the next night, and take me out for a walk. I was, as you may well suppose, delighted, and never said a word. The next evening I met him as he appointed, and two or three times subsequently. One night we walked longer than usual, and I pressed him to return, as I feared my aunt would find me out; but he said he was so fatigued with walking so far, he would like to rest a little before he went back again; but if I was very anxious he would put me in a cab. Frightened about him, for I thought he might be ill, I preferred risking being found out; and when he proposed that we should go into some house and sit down I agreed. He said all at once, as if he had just remembered something, that a very old friend of his lived near there, and we couldn't go to a better place, for she would give us everything we could wish. We found the door half open when we arrived. 'How careless,' said my friend, 'to leave the street-door open, any one might get in.' We entered without knocking, and seeing a door in the passage standing ajar we went in. My friend shook hands with an old lady who was talking to several girls dispersed over different parts of the room, who, she said, were her daughters. At this announcement some of them laughed, when she got very angry and ordered them out of the room. Somehow I didn't like the place, and not feeling all right I asked to be put in a cab and sent home. My friend made no objection and a cab was sent for. He, however, pressed me to have something to drink before I started. I refused to touch any wine, so I asked for some coffee, which I drank. It made me feel very sleepy, so sleepy indeed that I begged to be allowed to sit down on the sofa. They accordingly placed me on the sofa, and advised me to rest a little while, promising, in order to allay my anxiety, to send a messenger to my aunt. Of course I was drugged, and so heavily I did not regain my consciousness till the next morning. I was horrified to discover that I had been ruined, and for some days I was inconsolable, and cried like a child to be killed or sent back to my aunt.
When I became quiet I received a visit from my seducer, in whom I had placed so much silly confidence. He talked very kindly to me, but I would not listen to him for some time. He came several times to see me, and at last said he would take me away if I liked, and give me a house of my own. Finally, finding how hopeless all was I agreed to his proposal, and he allowed me four pounds a week. This went on for some months, till he was tired of me, when he threw me over for someone else. There is always as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, and this I soon discovered.
Then for some years, ten years, till I was six-and-twenty, I went through all the changes of a gay lady's life, and they're not a few, I can tell you. I don't leave off this sort of life because I'm in a manner used to it, and what could I do if I did? I've no character; I've never been used to do anything, and I don't see what employment I stand a chance of getting. Then if I had to sit hours and hours all day long, and part of the night too, sewing or anything like that, I should get tired. It would worrit me so; never having been accustomed, you see, I couldn't stand it. I lodge in Charles Street, Drury Lane, now. I did live in Nottingham Court once, and Earls Street. But, Lord, I've lived in a many places you wouldn't think, and I don't imagine you'd believe one half. I'm always a-chopping and a-changing like the wind as you may say. I pay half-a-crown a week for my bed-room; it's clean and comfortable, good enough for such as me. I don't think much of my way of life. You folks as has honour, and character, and feelings, and such, can't understand how all that's been beaten out of people like me. I don't feel. I'm used to it. I did once, more especial when mother died. I heard on it through a friend of mine, who told me her last words was of me. I did cry and go on then ever so, but Lor', where's the good of fretting? I arn't happy either. It isn't happiness, but I get enough money to keep me in victuals and drink, and it's the drink mostly that keeps me going. You've no idea how I look forward to my drop of gin. It's everything to me. I don't suppose I'll live much longer, and that's another thing that pleases me. I don't want to live, and yet I don't care enough about dying to make away with myself. I arn't got that amount af feeling that some has, and that's where it is I'm kinder 'fraid of it.
This woman's tale is a condensation of the philosophy of sinning. The troubles she had gone through, and her experience of the world, had made her oblivious of the finer attributes of human nature, and she had become brutal.
I spoke to another who had been converted at a Social Evil Meeting, but from a variety of causes driven back to the old way of living.
The first part of her story offered nothing peculiar. She had been on the town for fifteen years, when a year or so ago she heard of the Midnight Meeting and Baptist Noel. She was induced from curiosity to attend; and her feelings being powerfully worked upon by the extraordinary scene, the surroundings, and the earnestness of the preacher, she accepted the offer held out to her, and was placed in a cab with some others, and conveyed to one of the numerous metropolitan homes, where she was taken care of for some weeks, and furnished with a small sum of money to return to her friends. When she arrived at her native village in Essex, she only found her father. Her mother was dead; her sister at service, and her two brothers had enlisted in the army. Her father was an old man, supported by the parish; so it was clear he could not support her. She had a few shillings left, with which she worked her way back to town, returned to her old haunts, renewed her acquaintance with her vicious companions, and resumed her old course of life.
I don't insert this recital as a reflection upon the refuges and homes, or mean to asperse the Midnight Meeting movement, which is worthy of all praise. On the contrary, I have much pleasure in alluding to the subject and acknowledging the success that has attended the efforts of the philanthropic gentlemen associated with the Rev. Mr. Baptist Noel.
I have already described the condition of low and abandoned women in Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Wapping, and Shadwell, although I have not touched very closely upon those who cohabit with thieves and other desperate characters, whose daily means of obtaining a livelihood exposes them to the penalties the law inflicts upon those who infringe its provisions. Their mode of living, the houses they inhabit, and the way in which they pass their time, does not very materially differ from that of other prostitutes, with this exception, they are not obliged to frequent casinos, dancing-rooms, and other places of popular resort, to make acquaintances that may be of service to them in a pecuniary way, although they do make use of such places for the purposes of robbery and fraud. Some women of tolerably good repute - that is, who are regarded as knowing a good set of men, who have admission to the night-houses in Panton Street and the Haymarket - I am informed, are connected with thieves. The night-houses and supper-rooms in the neighbourhood of the Haymarket are for the most part in the hands of a family of Jews. Kate Hamilton's in Princes Street, Leicester Square, belongs to one of this family. She is given a percentage on all the wine that she sells during the course of the evening, and as she charges twelve shillings a bottle for Moselle and sparkling wines, it may readily be supposed that her profits are by no means despicable. Lizzie Davis's, Sams's, Sally's, and, I believe, the Carlton, also belong to this family. One of these Jews, I am told, was some few years back imprisoned for two years on a charge of manslaughter. He was proprietor of a brothel in the vicinity of Drury Lane, and the manslaughter occurred through his instrumentality on the premises. I have been informed by the police that some of the proprietors of these night-houses are well-known receivers of stolen goods, and the assertion is easily credible. To exemplify this I will relate a story told me by a sergeant of the H division. Some two years ago a robbery was committed by a "snoozer," or one of those thieves who take up their quarters at hotels for the purpose of robbery. The robbery was committed at a hotel In Chester. The thief was captured, and the Recorder sentenced him to be imprisoned. This man was a notorious thief, and went under the soubriquet of American Jack. He was said to have once been in a very different position. He was polished in his manners, and highly accomplished. He could speak three or four languages with facility, and was a most formidable and dexterous thief, causing much apprehension and trouble to the police. After being incarcerated for a few weeks he contrived in a clever manner to make his escape from one of the London prisons; it was supposed by the connivance of his gaolers, who were alleged to have been bribed by his friends without. Be this as it may, he effected his liberation, and was successfully concealed in London until the hue and cry was over, and then shipped off to Paris. But the night after he escaped he perpetrated the most audacious robbery. He was dressed by his friends, and having changed his prison attire went to B---- Hotel, a well-known place, not far from the Freemasons Tavern, where, singularly enough, the Recorder of Chester, who had sentenced him, chanced to be staying. American Jack had the presumption to enter into conversation with the Recorder, who fancied he had seen his face before, but could not recollect where. The visitors had not long retired to bed before American Jack commenced operations. He was furnished by his accomplice with a highly-finished instrument for housebreaking, which, when inserted in the lock, would pass through and grasp the key on the inside. This done, it was easy to turn the key and open the door. The thief actually broke into sixteen or seventeen rooms that night, and made his exit before daybreak loaded with booty of every description. The proprietors of the hotel would offer no reward, as they feared publicity. The Recorder of Chester, when the robbery was discovered, remembered that the person he had conversed with the night before was the man he had convicted and sentenced at the assizes. He repaired to Bow Street with his information, and the police were put on the scent; but it is well known if no reward is offered for the apprehension of an eminent criminal the police are not so active as they are when they have a monetary inducement to incite them to action. It was imagined that American Jack had taken refuge with his friends near the Haymarket. A waiter who had been discharged from one of the night-houses was known slightly to a sergeant of police, who interrogated him on the subject. This waiter confessed that he could point out the whereabouts of the thief, and would do so for twenty pounds, which reward no one concerned in the matter would offer; and, as I have already stated, the criminal soon after made his escape to Paris, where he continued to carry on his depredations with considerable skill, until one day he mixed himself up in a great jewel robbery, and was apprehended by the gensdarmes, and sent to the galleys for some time, where he is now languishing.
This little history is suggestive - why should not Parliament vote every year a small sum of money to form a "Detective and Inquiry Fund," from which the Commissioners of Police at Whitehall and Old Jewry might offer rewards for the capture of offenders? Some spur and inducement surely might be given to our detectives, who take a great deal of trouble, and, if unsuccessful, are almost always out of pocket through their researches.
Cannot Sir Richard Mayne and Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey improve on this idea?
The police enter the night-houses every evening to see if spirits are sold on the premises; but as there are bullies at all the doors, and a code of signals admirably concerted to convey intelligence of the approach of the officers to those within, everything is carefully concealed, and the police are at fault. They might if they chose detect the practices they very well know are commonly carried on; but they either are not empowered to go to extremities, or else they do not find it their interest so to do I have heard, I know not with what truth, that large sums of money are paid to the police to insure their silence and compliance; but until this is established it must be received with hesitation, though circumstances do occur that seem strongly to corroborate such suspicions. The women who cohabit with thieves are not necessarily thieves themselves, although such is often the case. Most pickpockets make their women accomplices in their misdeeds, because they find their assistance so valuable to them, and indeed for some species of theft almost indispensable.
There are numbers of young thieves on the other side of the water, and almost all of them cohabit with some girl or other. The depravity of our juvenile thieves is a singular feature in their character. It is not exactly a custom that they follow, but rather an inherent depravity on their part. They prefer an idle luxurious life, though one also of ignominy and systematic dishonour, to one of honesty and labour; and this is the cause of their malpractices, perhaps inculcated at first by the force of evil example and bad bringing up, and invigorated every day by independence brought about by the liberty allowed them, the consequence of parental neglect.
It is of course difficult to give the stories of any of these women, as they would only criminate themselves disagreeably by confessing their delinquencies; and it is not easy to pitch upon a thieves' woman without she is pointed out by the police, and even then she would deny the imputation indignantly.