"But where would you take us to?" .... "Not far: to yon swarming alley, for instance, crowded with ruffian men and vice-steeped creatures that "were women once" - an ant-hill in all but the industry - where human beings starve by hundreds, and lodging-house keepers reap fortunes, fattening, like the vermin they resemble, on the rags and wretchedness of their miserable tenants - where the Pariah children of the very poor - the little lepers, cast aside as hopeless, sit outside the gates of civilisation, and with out-stretched hands and strange, half-savage cries, implore the pity of passers-by - and men, gentlemen abounding in broad-cloth respectability, pass these courts daily; but they see nothing, hear nothing - or, if they see, they mutter, "hopeless, hopeless!" and, taking their coat-skirts under their arm, walk swiftly away to breakfast or to dine. ... "The tenant of the noblest mansion in London pays a far lower nighlty rent for the space he occupies, and the cubic feet of air he breathes, than does the miserable urchin who pays his two or three pence for permission to stow himself under the bed of a low lodging-house, filled to suffocation by the most abandoned of all ages - one of twenty or thirty inmates of a space not large enough for the right accomodation of more than two or three." "If," continues the same writer, "if it be desirable to pollute the rising generation, to sink them below the possibility of recovery, then, let the low lodging-houses and wretched single rooms and cellars be continued - they are as full of children as they are of disease and sin." "Always the same tale," lisps Belgravia, whose philanthropy is ever of the "telescopic" sort, and who can see no misery nearer home than Carolina or New Orleans - "ever the same tale, disease, disease, disease. Well, there are hospitals; we pay well to them, and - it's no affair of ours." But,- and you will pardon us - the affair comes somewhat nearer home to your lord or ladyship than either of you have yet imagined. One thing is certain enough, and we pray Belgravia to take it into her calculations - it is, that the fiend of pestilence is no respecter of persons; and the same power that to-day has made a "slovenly, unhandsome corpse" of poor Pat, the labourer, tomorrow may strike into genteel nothingness the most aristocratic of lords.
Watts Phillips, The Wild Tribes of London, 1855
see also George Sims in How the Poor Live - click here