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Friday, January 18, 1850
The evils consequent upon the uncertainty of labour I have
been at considerable pains to point out. There is still one other mischief
attendant upon it that remains to be exposed, and which, if possible, is greater
than any other yet adduced. Many classes of labour are necessarily uncertain or
fitful in their character. Some work can be pursued only at certain seasons -
some depends upon the winds, as, for instance, dock labour - some on fashion,
and nearly all on the general prosperity of the country. Now, the labourer who
is deprived of his usual employment by any of the above causes, must - unless he
has laid by a portion of his earnings while engaged - become a burden to his
parish or the state, or else he must seek work either of another kind, or in
another place. The bare fact of a man's seeking work in different parts of the
country, may be taken as evidence that he is indisposed to live on the charity
or labour of others, and this feeling should be encouraged in every rational
manner. Hence the greatest facility should be afforded to all labourers who may
be unable to obtain work in one locality, to pass to another part of the country
where there may be a demand for their labour. In fine, it is expedient that
every means should be given for extending the labour market to the working-man;
that is to say, for allowing him as wide a field for the exercise of his calling
as possible. To do this involves the establishment of what are called the "casual
wards" of the different unions throughout the country. These are,
strictly speaking, the free hostelries of the unemployed workpeople, where they
may be lodged and fed, on their way to find work in some more active district.
But the establishment of these gratuitous hotels has called into existence a
large class of wayfarers for whom they were never contemplated. They have been
the means of affording great encouragement to those vagabond or erratic spirits
who find continuity of application to any task especially irksome to them, and
who are physically unable or mentally unwilling to remain for any length of time
either in the same place or at the same work - creatures who are vagrants in
disposition and principle - the wandering tribe of this country - the nomads of
the present day.
"The right which every person apparently destitute possesses, to demand food and shelter without inquiry, affords, says Mr. Pigott, in the Report on Vagrancy, "great facilities and encouragement to idle and dissolute persons to avoid labour, and pass their lives in idleness and pillage. There can be no doubt that of the wayfarers who, in summer especially, demand admission into workhouses, the number of those whom the law contemplates under the titles of 'idle and disorderly,' and 'rogues and vagabonds,' greatly exceeds that of those who are honestly and bonafide travelling in search of employment, and that it is the former class whose numbers have recently so increased as to require a remedy.
It becomes almost a necessary result of any system which seeks to give shelter and food to the industrious operative on his way to look for work, that it should be the means of harbouring and fostering the idle and the vagabond. To refuse an asylum to the vagrant is to shut out the traveller - so hard is it to tell the one from the other. The difficulty of making this distinction is, I know, a matter of great consideration with the committee of the Institution for the Houseless Poor; and though they have recently passed a resolution not to admit applicants for more than three nights, with the view of preventing the Asylum from becoming literally the nest of idleness and beggary, still, strange to say, the greater mass of the inmates are parties who are known to have an inveterate objection to work for their living. I have as yet only dealt with the more select portion of the inmates of this establishment - those, indeed, for whose protection the institution is especially designed; and I now come to treat of those who by right have no place there, but whom, as I said before, it is almost impossible to debar without closing the door to the others.
The prime cause of vagabondism is essentially the non-inculcation of a habit of industry; that is to say, the faculty of continuous application at a particular labour has not been engendered in the man's mind; and consequently he is naturally erratic, wandering from this to that, without any settled or determinate object. Hence we find that the vagrant disposition begins to exhibit itself precisely at that age when the first attempts are made to inculcate the habit of continuous labour among youths. This will be seen by the following table (taken from last year's returns of the Houseless Poor), which shows the greatest number of inmates to be between the ages of 15 and 25. The individuals of these ages are generally vagrants.
THE AGES OF APPLICANTS FOR SHELTER AT THE CENTRAL ASYLUM, PLAYHOUSE-YARD, WHITECROSS-STREET, IN THE YEAR 1849.
|Age||No. of applicants|
|Children under||1 month||17|
The cause of the greater amount of vagrancy being found among
individuals between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five (and it is not by the
above table alone that this fact is borne out) appears to be the irksomeness of
any kind of sustained labour when first performed. This is especially the case
with youth, and hence a certain kind of compulsion is necessary in order that
the habit of doing the particular work may be engendered. Unfortunately,
however, at this age the self-will of the individual begins also to be
developed, and any compulsion or restraint becomes doubly irksome. Hence,
without judicious treatment, the restraint may be entirely thrown off by the
youth, and the labour be discarded by before any steadiness of application has
been produced by constancy of practice. The cause of vagrancy then resolves
itself to a great extent into the harshness of either parents or employers; and
this it will be found is generally the account given by the vagrants themselves.
They have been treated with severity, and being individuals generally remarkable
for their self-will, they have run away from their home or master to live as
mere lads in some of the low lodging-houses, where they soon found companions of
the same age and character as themselves - and with whom they ultimately set out
on a vagabond excursion through the country, begging or plundering on their way.
Another class of vagrants consists of those who, having been thrown out of employment, have travelled through the country seeking work without avail, and who consequently have lived on charity so long that the habits of wandering and mendicancy have eradicated their former habits of industry, and the industrious workman has become changed into the habitual beggar.
Before taking the following statements, I visited the vagrants who had been detained, at my request, after their night's lodging in the Asylum. Twelve or thirteen were gathered round one of the large grates in the College Ward, some sitting and some standing. Only vagrants were there - no artisans, nor any of the better sort, to whom Playhouse-yard is an asylum, instead of merely a lodging. But all must necessarily be mixed. The "strange bedfellows" with whom misery, as we are told, makes a man acquainted, abound in this home of the homeless. Among the vagrants so assembled - and I have noted the same circumstances before - there was hardly any conversation; hardly a sentence was interchanged, for I could observe them before they saw me. Each man sat in lumpish silence - for a vagrant's life, so to speak, seems a dull blank. He lives only in the present moment - and that moment unaffected by the remembrance of the past, and uncoloured by the hope of the future. Two coloured men were seated on the hearthstone, close to the fender; both were seamen, and the younger of the two, as if he could never enjoy enough of heat when he had the opportunity, had bared his legs and arms to present a larger surface to the fire than even the great and frequent holes in his thin rags permitted. The two sat packed together, and I never saw men so covetous of heat - they looked as if longing to stretch themselves at full length before the furnace-like grate, and so monopolise its influence. It must be remembered, however, that the morning was bitingly cold, and that these poor fellows had felt what a night in the streets in an English winter was. Their position seemed unnoticed by the others - who, indeed, I believe, rarely manifest surprise at anything - and the only gleam of feeling, not to say merriment, among them, was when someone incidentally intimated that it was a man's right to do anything rather than starve.
The first vagrant was one who had the thorough look of a "professional." He was literally a mass of rags and filth. He was, indeed, exactly what, in the act of Henry VIII., is denominated a "valiant beggar." He stood near upon six feet high, was not more than 25, and had altogether the frame and constitution of a stalwart labouring man. His clothes, which were of fustian and corduroy, tied close to his body with pieces of string, were black and shiny with filth, which looked more like pitch than grease. He had no shirt, as was plain from the fact that, where his clothes were torn, his bare skin was seen. The ragged sleeves on his fustian jacket were tied like the other parts of his dress, close to his wrists, with string; this was clearly to keep the bleak air from his body. His cap was an old brimless "wide-awake, and, when on his head, gave the man a most unprepossessing appearance. His story was as follows:- "I am a carpet weaver by trade. I served my time to it. My father was a clerk in a shoe-thread manufactory at . He got 35s. a week and his house, coals, and candles found him. He lived very comfortably; indeed, I was very happy. Before I left home I knew none of the cares of the world that I have known since I left him. My father and mother are living still. He is still as well off as when I was at home. I know this because I have heard from him twice and seen him once. He won't do anything to assist me. I have transgressed so many times that he won't take me in hand any more. I will tell you the truth, you may depend upon it; yes, indeed, I would, even if it were to injure myself. He has tried me many times, but now he has given up. At the age of 21 he told me to go from home and seek a living for myself. He said he had given me a home ever since I was a child, but now I had come to manhood I was able to provide for myself. He gave me a good education, and I might have been a better scholar at the present time had I not neglected my studies. He put me to a day school in the town when I was eight years old, and I continued there till I was between twelve and thirteen. I learnt reading, writing, and ciphering. I was taught the Catechism, the history of England, geography, and drawing. My father was a very harsh man when he was put out of his way. He was a very violent temper when he was vexed, but kind to us all when he was pleased. I have five brothers and six sisters. He never beat me more than twice to my remembrance. The first time he thrashed me with a cane, and the last with a horsewhip. I had stopped out late at night. I was then just rising sixteen, and had left school. I am sure those thrashings did me no good, but made me rather worse than before. I was a self-willed lad, and determined if I couldn't get my way in one way I would have it in another. After the last thrashing he told me he would give me some trade, and after that he would set me off and get rid of me. Then I was bound apprentice as a carpet-weaver for three years. My master was a very kind one. I runned away once. The cause of my going off was a quarrel with one of the workman that was put over me. He was very harsh, and I scarce could do anything to please him, so I made up my mind to leave. The first place I went when I bolted, was to Crewkherne, in Somersetshire. There I asked for employment at carpet-weaving. I got some, and remained there three days, when my father found out where I was, and sent my brother and a special constable after me. They took me from the shop where I was at work and brought me back to ,and would have sent me to prison had I not promised to behave myself and to serve my time out as I ought. I went to work again, and when the expiration of my apprenticeship occurred, my father said to me, 'Sam, you have a trade at your fingers' ends: you are able to provide for yourself.' So then I left home. I was twenty-one years of age. He gave me money -£3 10s. - to take me into Wales, where I told him I should go. I was up for going about through the country. I made my father believe I was going into Wales to get work; but all I wanted was to go and see the place. After I had runned away once from my apprenticeship, I found it very hard to stop at home. I couldn't bring myself to work, somehow. While I sat at the work, I thought I should like to be away in the country: work seemed a burden to me. I found it very difficult to stick to anything for a long time; so I made up my mind, when my time was out, that I'd be off roving, and see a little of life. I went by the packet from Bristol to Newport. After being there three weeks I had spent all the money that I had brought from home. I spent it in drinking - most of it, and idling about. After that I was obliged to sell my clothes, &c. The first thing I sold was my watch. I got £2 5s. for that. Then I was obliged to part with my suit of clothes. For these I got £1 5s. With this I started from Newport to go farther up over the hills. I liked this kind of life much better than working, while the money lasted. I was in the public-house three-parts of my time out of four. I was a great slave to drink. I began to like drink when I was between thirteen and fourteen. At that time my uncle was keeping a public-house, and I used to go there backwards and forward more or less every week. Whenever I went to see my uncle he gave me some beer. I very soon got to like it so much, that, while an apprentice, I would spend all I could get in liquor. This was the cause of my quarrels with my father, and when I went away to Newport, I did so to be my own master, and drink as much as I pleased, without anybody saying anything to me about it. I got up to Nant-y-glo, and there I sought for work at the iron-foundry, but I could not get it. I stopped at this place three weeks, still drinking. The last day of the three weeks I sold the boots off my feet to get food, for all my money and clothes were now gone. I was sorry then that I had ever left my father's house; but, alas! I found it too late. I didn't write home to tell them how I was off. My stubborn temper would not allow me. I then started off barefoot, begging my way from Nant-y-glo to Monmouth. I told the people that I was a carpet-weaver by trade, who could not get any employment, and that I was obliged to travel the country against my own wish. I didn't say a word about the drink - that would never have done. I only took 2 ½d. on the road - nineteen miles long; and I'm sure I must have asked assistance from more than a hundred people. They said, some of them, they had nout' for me, and others did give me a bit of bara caws or bara minny (that is, bread and cheese or bread and butter). Money is very scarce among the Welsh, and what they have they are very fond of. They don't mind giving food - if you wanted a bagful you might have it there of the working people. I inquired for a night's lodging at the union in Monmouth. That was the first time I ever asked for shelter in a workhouse in my life; I was admitted into the tramp room. Oh, I felt then that I would much rather be in prison than in such a place, though I never knew what the inside of a prison was - no, not then. I thought of the kindness of father and mother. I would have been better, but I knew that, as I had been carrying on, I could never expect shelter under my father's roof any more; I knew he would not have taken me in had I gone back, or I would have returned. Oh, I was off from home, and I didn't much trouble my head about it after a few minutes; I plucked up my spirits and soon forgot where I was. I made no male friends in the union - I was savage that I had so hard a bed to lay upon; it was nothing more than the bare boards and a rug to cover me. I knew very well it wasn't my bed, but still I thought I ought to have a better. I merely felt annoyed at its being so bad a place, and didn't think much about the rights of it. In the morning I was turned out, and after I had left I picked up with a young woman, who had slept in the union over night. I said I was going on the road across country to Birmingham, and I asked her to go with me. I had never seen her before. She consented, and we went along together, begging our way. We passed as man and wife, and I was a carpet-weaver out of employment. We slept in unions and lodging-houses by the way. In the lodging houses we lived together as man and wife, and in the unions we were separated. I never stole anything during all this time. After I got to Birmingham I made my way to Wolverhampton. My reason for going to Wolverhampton was, that there was a good many weavers there, and I thought I should make a good bit of money by begging out of them. Oh, yes I have found that I could always get more money out of my own trade than any other people. I did so well at Wolverhampton, begging, that I stopped there three weeks. I never troubled my head whether I was doing right or wrong by asking my brother weavers for a portion of their hard earnings to keep me in idleness. Many a time I have given part of my wages to others myself. I can't say that I would have given it to them if I had known they wouldn't work like me. I wouldn't have worked sometimes if I could have got it. I can't tell why, but somehow it was painful to me to stick long at anything. To tell the truth, I loved a roving idle life. I would much rather have been on the road than at my home. I drank away all I got, and feared and cared for nothing. When I got drunk over night, it would have been impossible for me to have gone to work in the morning, even if I could have got it. The drink seemed to take all the work out of me. This oftentimes led me to think of what my father used to tell me, that the bird that can sing and won't sing ought to be made to sing.' During my stay in Wolverhampton, I lived at a tramper's house, and there I fell in with two men well acquainted with the town, and they asked me to join them in breaking open a shop. No, sir, no, I didn't give a thought whether I was doing right or wrong at it. I didn't think my father would ever know anything at all about it, so I didn't care. I liked my mother best, much best. She had always been a kind good soul to me - often kept me from my father's blows, and helped me to things, unknown to my father. But when I was away on the road I gave no heed to her. I didn't think of either father or mother till after I was taken into custody for that same job. Well, I agreed to go with the other two; they were old hands at the business - regular housebreakers. We went away between twelve and one at night. It was pitch dark. My two pals broke into the back part of the house, and I stopped outside to keep watch. After watching for about a quarter of an hour, a policeman came up to me and asked what I was stopping there for. I told him I was waiting for a man that was in a public-house at the corner. This led him to suspect me, it being so late at night. He went to the public-house to see whether it was open, and found it shut, and then came back to me. As he was returning he saw my two comrades coming through the back window (that was the way they had got in). He took us all three in custody; some of the passers-by assisted him in seizing us. The other two had six months' imprisonment each, and I, being a stranger, had only fourteen days. When I was sent to prison I thought of my mother. I would have written to her but couldn't get leave. Being the first time lever was nailed. I was very down-hearted at it. I didn't say I'd give it up. While I was locked up I thought I'd got to work again and be a sober man when I got out. These thoughts used to come over me when I was on the 'stepper,' that is, on the wheel. But I concealed all them thoughts in my breast. I said nothing to no one. My mother was the only one that ever I thought upon. When I got out of prison, all these thoughts went away from me, and I went again at my old tricks. From Wolverhampton I went to Manchester, and from Manchester I came to London, begging and stealing wherever I had a chance. This is not my first year in London. I tell you the truth, because I am known here, and if I tell you a lie, you'll say, 'you spoke an untruth in one thing, and you will do so in another.' The first time I was in London, I was put in prison fourteen days, for begging, and after I had a month at Westminster Bridewell, for begging, and abusing the policeman. Sometimes I'd think I'd rather go anywhere, and do anything, than continue as I was - but then I had no clothes, no friends, no house, no home, no means of doing better. I had made myself what I was. I had made my father and mother turn their backs upon me, and what could I do, but go on? I was bad off then as I am now, and I couldn't have got work then if I would. I should have spent all I got in drink then, I knew. I wrote home twice. I told my mother I was hard up - had neither a shoe to my foot, a coat to my back, nor a roof over my head. I had no answer to my first letter, because it fell into the hands of my brother, and he tore it up, fearing that my mother might see it. To the second letter that I sent home, my mother sent me an answer herself. She sent me a sovereign. She told me that my father was the same as when I first left home, and it was no use my coming back. She sent me the money, bidding me get some clothes, and seek work. I didn't do as she bade. I spent the money - most part in drink. I didn't give any heed whether it was wrong or right. Soon got, soon gone; and I know they could have sent me much more than that if they had pleased. It was last June twelvemonth when I first came to London, and I stopped till the 10th of last March. I lost the young woman when I was put in prison in Manchester. She never came to see me in quod. She cared nothing for me. She only kept company with me to have some one on the road along with her; and I didn't care for her - not I. One half of my time last winter I stopped at the straw yards - that is the Asylum for the houseless poor here and at Glasshouse. When I could get money I had a lodging. After March I started off through Somersetshire. I went to my father's house then. I didn't go in. I saw my father at the door, and he wouldn't let me in. I was a little better dressed than I am now. He said he had enough children at home without me, and gave me 10s. to go. He could not have been kind to me, or else he would not have turned me from his roof. My mother came Out into the garden in front of the house, after my father had gone to his work, and spoke to me. She wished me to reform my character a bit. She cried a great deal, and was very sorry to see me in so sad a state. I could not make any rash promises then. I had but very little to say to her. I felt myself at that same time, for the very first time in my life, that I was doing wrong. I thought, if I could hurt my mother so, it must be wrong to go on as I did. I had never had such thoughts before. My father's harsh words always drove such thoughts out of my head; but when I saw my mother's tears, it was more than I could stand. I was wanting to get away as fast as I could from the house. After that I stopped knocking about the country, sleeping in unions, up to November. Then I came to London again, and remained, up to this time. Since I have been in town, I have sought for work at the floor-cloth and carpet manufactory in the Borough, and they wouldn't even look at me in my present state. lam heartily tired of my life now altogether, and would like to get out of it if I could. I hope at least I have given up my love of drink, and I am sure if I could once again lay my hand on some work, I should be quite a reformed character. Well, I am altogether tired of carrying on like this. I haven't made sixpence a day ever since I have been in London this time. I go tramping it across the country just to pass the time, and see a little of new places. When the summer comes, I want to be off. I am sure I have seen enough of this country now; and I should like to have a look at some foreign land. Old England has nothing new in it now for me. I think a beggar's life is the worst kind of life that a man can lead. A beggar's no more thought upon than a dog in the street, and there are too many at the trade. I wasn't brought up to a bad life. You can see that by little things - by my handwriting; and, indeed, I should like to have a chance at something else. I have had the feelings of a vagabond for full ten years. I know, and now I am sure, I'm getting a different man. I begin to have thoughts and ideas I never had before. Once I never feared nor cared for anything, and I wouldn't have altered if I could; but now I'm tired out, and if I haven't a chance of going right, why I must go wrong.''
The next was a short, thick-set man, with a frequent grin on his countenance, which was rather expressive of humour. He wore a very dirty smock-frock, dirtier trowsers, shirt, and neckerchief, and broken shoes. He answered readily, and as if he enjoyed his story:-
"I never was at school, and was brought up as a farm labourer at Devizes, he said, "where my parents were labourers. I worked that way three or four years, and then ran away. My master wouldn't give me money enough, only 3s. 6d. a week, and my parents were very harsh; so Iran away rather than be licked for ever. I'd heard people say, go to Bath,' and I went there; and I was only about eleven then. I'm now twenty-three. I tried to get work on the railway there, and I did. I next got into prison for stealing three shovels. I was hard up, having lost my work, and so I stole them. I was ten weeks in prison. I came out worse than I went in, for I mixed with the old hands, and they put me up to a few capers. When I got out I thought I could live as well that way as by hard work, so I took to the country. I began to beg. At first I took 'no' for an answer, when I asked for 'charity for a poor boy;' but I found that wouldn't do, so I learned to stick to them. I was forced, or I must have starved, and that wouldn't do at all. I did middling; plenty to eat, and sometimes a drop of drink, but not often. I was forced to be merry; because it's no good being down-hearted. I begged for two years - that is, steal and beg together. I couldn't starve. I did best in country villages in Somersetshire; there's always odds and ends to be picked up there. I got into scrapes now and then. Once in Devonshire me and another slept at a farm-house, and in the morning we went egg hunting. I must have stowed three dozen eggs about me, when a dog barked, and so were alarmed and ran away, and in getting over a gate I fell, and there I lay among the smashed eggs. I can't help laughing at it still, but I got away. I was too sharp for them. I have been twenty or thirty times in prison. I have been in for stealing bread, and a side of bacon, and cheese, and shovels, and other things, generally provisions. I generally learn something new in prison. I shall do no good while I stop in England. It's not possible a man like me can get work, so I'm forced to go on this way. Sometimes I haven't a bit to eat all day. At night I may pick up something. An uncle of mine once told me he would like to see me transported or come to the gallows. I told him I had no fears about the gallows; I should never come to that end; but if I were transported I should be better off than lam now. I can't starve, and I won't; and I can't list; I'm too short. I came to London the other day, but could do no good. The London hands are quite a different set to us. We seldom do business together. My way's simple; if I see a thing, and I'm hungry, I take it if I can, in London or anywhere. I once had a turn with two Londoners, and we got two coats and two pair of trowsers; but the police got them back again. I was only locked up one night for it. The country's the best place to get away with anything, because there's not so many policemen. There's lots live as I live, because there's no work. I can do a country policeman generally. I've had sprees at the country lodging-houses - larking, and drinking, and carrying on, and playing cards and dominoes all night for a farthing a game, sometimes fighting about it. I can play at dominoes, but I don't know the cards. They try to cheat one another. Honour among thieves! Why, there's no such thing; they take from one another. Sometimes we dance all night - Christmas time and such times. Young women dance with us, and sometimes old women. We're all merry; some's lying on the floor drunk; some's jumping about, smoking; some's dancing, and so we enjoy ourselves. That's the best part of the life. We are seldom stopped in our merry-makings in the country. It's no good the police coming among us. Give them beer and you may knock the house down. We have good meat sometimes - sometimes very rough. Some are very particular about their cookery, as nice as anybody is. They must have their pickles, and their peppers, and their fish sauces (I've had them myself) to their dishes. Chops in the country has the call; or ham and eggs, that's relished. Some's very particular about their drink, too; won't touch bad beer; same way with the gin; it's chiefly gin (I'm talking about the country). Very little rum - no brandy; but sometimes, after a good day's work, a drop of wine. We help one another when we're sick, where we're knowed. Some's very good that way. Some lodging-house keepers get rid of anybody that's sick by taking them to the relieving officer at once.
A really fine looking lad of 18 gave me the following statement. He wore a sort of frock coat, very thin, buttoned about him, old cloth trowsers, and bad shoes. His shirt was tolerably good and clean, and altogether he had a tidy look and an air of quickness - but not of cunning: -
"My father, he said, "was a bricklayer in Shoreditch parish, and my mother took in washing. They did pretty well - but they're dead and buried two and a half years ago. I used to work in brick fields at Ball's-pond, living with my parents and taking home every farthing I earned. I earned l8s. a week, working from five in the morning until sunset. They had only me. I can read and write middling. When my parents died. I had to look out for myself. I was off work attending to my father and mother when they were sick. They died within about three weeks of each other, and I lost my work, and I had to part with my clothes; before that I tried to work in brick-fields, and couldn't get it, and work grew slack. When my parents died I was 13; and I sometimes got to sleep in the unions - but that was stopped, and then I took to the lodging-houses, and there I met with lads who were enjoying themselves at push halfpenny, and cards; and they were thieves, and they tempted me to join them, and I did for once - but only once. I then went begging about the streets and thieving, as I knew the others do. I used to pick pockets. I worked for myself, because I thought that would be best. I had no fence at all - no pals at first, nor anything. I worked by myself for a time. I sold the handkerchiefs I got to Jews in the streets, chiefly in Field-lane, for 1s. 6d., but I have got as much as 3s. 6d. for your real fancy ones. One of these buyers wanted to cheat me out of 6d., so I would have no more dealings with him. The others paid me. The kingsmen they call the best handkerchiefs - those that have the pretty-looking flowers on them. Some are only worth 4d. or 5d., some's not worth taking. Those I gave away to strangers, boys like myself, or wore them myself round my neck. I only threw one away, but it was all rags, though he looked quite like a gentleman that had it. Lord Mayor's Day and such times is the best for us. Last Lord Mayor's Day I got four handkerchiefs, and I made us. There was a sixpence tied up in the corner of one handkerchief; another was pinned to the pocket - but I got it out, and after that, another chap had him, and cut his pocket clean away, but there was nothing in it. I generally picked my men - regular swells or good-humoured looking men. I've often followed them a mile. I once got a purse with 3s. 6d. in it from a lady when the Coal Exchange was opened. I made 8s. 6d. that day - the purse and handkerchiefs. That's the only lady lever robbed. I was in the crowd when Manning and his wife were hanged. I wanted to see if they died game, as I heard them talk so much about them at our house. I was there all night. I did four good handkerchiefs and a rotten one not worth picking up. I saw them hung. I was right under the drop. I was a bit startled when they brought him up and put the rope round his neck and the cap on, and then they brought her out. All said he was hung innocently; it was she that should have been hung by herself. They both dropped together, and I felt faintified, but I soon felt all right again. The police drove us away as soon as it was over, so that I couldn't do any more business; besides I was knocked down in the crowd and jumped upon, and I won't go to see another hung in a hurry. He didn't deserve it, but she did, every inch of her. I can't say I thought, while I was seeing the execution, that the life I was leading would ever bring me to the gallows. After I'd worked by myself a bit, I got to live in a house where lads like me, big and little, were accommodated. We paid 3d. a night. It was always full; there was twenty or twenty-one of us. We enjoyed ourselves middling. I was happy enough; we drank sometimes, chiefly beer, and sometimes a drop of gin. We would say 'I've done so much,' and another, 'I've done so much;' and stand a drop. The best lever heard done was £2 for two coats from a tailor's, near Bow-church, Cheapside. That was by one of my pals. We used to share our money with those who did nothing for a day, and they shared with us when we rested. There never was any blabbing. We wouldn't do one another out of a farthing. Of a night some one would now and then read hymns, out of books they sold about the streets - I'm sure they were hymns; or else we'd read stories about Jack Sheppard and Dick Turpin, and all through that set. They were large thick books borrowed from the library. They told how they used to break open the houses and get out of Newgate, and how Dick got away to York. We used to think Jack and them fine fellows. I wished I could be like Jack (I did then), about the blankets in his escape, and that old house in West-street - it is a ruin still. We played cards and dominoes sometimes at our house, and at pushing a halfpenny over the table along five lines. We struck the halfpenny from the edge of the table, and according to what line it settled on was the game - like as they play at the Glasshouse - that's the 'model lodging house' they calls it. Cribbage was always played at cards. I can only play cribbage. We have played for 1s. a game, but oftener 1d. It was always fair play. That was the way we passed the time when we were not out. We used to keep quiet, or the police would have been down upon us. They knew of the place. They took one boy there. I wondered what they wanted. They catched him at the very door. We lived pretty well; anything we liked to get when we'd money; we cooked it ourselves. The master of the house was always on the look-out to keep out those who had no business there. No girls were admitted. The master of the house had nothing to do with what we got. I don't know of any other such house in London; I don't think there are any. The master would sometimes drink with us - a larking like. He used us pretty kindly at times. I have been three times in prison, three months each time; the Compter, Brixton, and Maidstone. I went down to Maidstone-fair, and was caught by a London policeman down there. He was dressed as a bricklayer. Prison always made me worse, and as I had nothing given me when I came out, I had to look out again. I generally got hold of something before I had been an hour out of prison. I'm now heartily sick of this life. I wish I'd been transported with some others from Maidstone, where I was tried." ...
A cotton-spinner (who had subsequently been a soldier), whose appearance was utterly abject, was the next person questioned. He was tall, and had been florid-looking (judging from his present complexion). His coat - very old and worn, and once black - would not button, and would have hardly held together if buttoned. He was out at elbows, and some parts of the collar were pinned together. His waistcoat was of a match with his coat, and his trowsers were rags. He had some shirt, as was evident by his waistcoat, held together by one button. A very dirty handkerchief was tied carelessly round his neck. He was tall and erect, and told his adventures with heartiness.
"I am thirty-eight, he said, "and have been a cotton-spinner, working at Chorlton-upon-Medlock. I can neither read or write. When I was a young man, twenty years ago, I could earn £2 10s. clear money every week, after paying-two piecers and a scavenger. Each piecer had 7s. 6d. a week -they are girls; the scavenger - a boy to clean the wheels of the cotton-spinning machine - had 2s. 6d. I was master of them wheels in the factory. This state of things continued until about the year 1837. I lived well and enjoyed myself, being a hearty man, noways a drunkard, working every day from half-past five in the morning till half-past seven at night - long hours that time, master. I didn't care about money as long as I was decent and respectable. I had a turn for sporting at the wakes down there. In 1837 the self- actors' (machines with steam power) had come into common use. One girl can mind three pairs - that used to be three men's work - getting 15s. for the work which gave three men £7 10s. Out of one factory 400 hands were flung in one week, men and women together. We had a meeting of the union, but nothing could be done, and we were told to go and mind the three pairs, as the girls did, for 15s. a week. We wouldn't do that. Some went for soldiers, some to sea, some to Stopport (Stockport), to get work in factories where the self-actors wer'n't agait. The masters there wouldn't have them, at least some of them. Manchester was full of them; but one gentleman in Hulme still won't have them, for he says he won't turn the men out of bread. I listed for a soldier in the 48th. I liked a soldier's life very well until I got flogged - 100 lashes for selling my kit (for a spree), and 150 for striking a corporal who called me an English robber. He was an Irishman. I was confined five days in the hospital after each punishment. It was terrible. It was like a bunch of razors cutting at your back. Your flesh was dragged off by the cats. flogging was then very common in the regiment. I was flogged in 1840. To this day I feel a pain in my chest from the triangles. I was discharged from the army about two years ago, when the reduction took place. I was only flogged the times I've told you. I had no pension and no friends. I was discharged in Dublin. I turned to, and looked for work. I couldn't get any, and I made my way to Manchester. I stole myself aboard of a steamer, and hid myself till she got out to sea, on her way from Dublin to Liverpool. When the captain found me there he gave me a kick and some bread, and told me to work - so I worked for my passage, 24 hours. He put me ashore at Liverpool. I slept in the union that night - nothing to eat, and nothing to cover me - no fire; it was winter. I walked to Manchester, but could get nothing to do there, though I was twelve months knocking about. It wants a friend and character to get work. I slept in unions in Manchester, and had oatmeal porridge for breakfast, work at grinding logwood in the mill, from six to twelve, and then turn out. That was the way I lived chiefly; but I got a job sometimes in driving cattle, and 3d. for it - or 2d. for carrying baskets in the vegetable markets - and went to Shoedale union at night. I would get a pint of coffee and half a pound of bread, and half a pound of bread in the morning, and no work. I took to travelling up to London, half- hungered on the road - that was last winter - eating turnips out of this field, and carrots out of that, and sleeping under hedges and haystacks. I slept under one haystack, and pulled out the hay to cover me, and the snow lay on it a foot deep in the morning. I slept for all that, but wasn't I froze when I woke? An old farmer came up with his cart and pitchfork to load hay. He said, 'Poor fellow! have you been here all night?' I answered 'yes.' He gave me some coffee and bread, and ls. That was the only good friend I met with on the road. I got fourteen days of it for asking a gentleman for penny; that was in Stafford. I got to London after that, sleeping in unions sometimes, and begging a bite here and there. Sometimes I had to walk all night. I was once 43 hours without a bit, until I got hold of a Swede turnip, and so at last I got to London. Here I've tried up and down everywhere for work as a labouring man, or in a foundry. I tried London Docks, and Blackwall, and every place, but no job. At one foundry the boiler-makers made a collection of 4s. for me. I've walked the streets for three nights together - here, in this fine London. I was refused a night's lodgings in Shoreditch and in Gray's-inn-lane. A policeman, the fourth night, at twelve o'clock, procured me a lodging, and gave me 2d. I couldn't drag on any longer. I was taken to a doctor's in the city. I fell in the street, from hunger and tiredness. The doctor ordered me brandy and water, 2s. 6d., and a quartern loaf, and some coffee, sugar, and butter. He said what I ailed was hunger. I made that run cut as long as I could, but I was then as bad off as ever. It's hard to hunger for nights together. I was once in 'Steel' (Coldbath fields) for begging. I was in Tothill-fields for going into a chandler's shop, asking for a quartern loaf and half a pound of cheese, and walking out with it. I got a month for that. I have been in Brixton for taking a loaf out of a baker's basket, all through hunger. Better a prison than to starve. I was well treated because I behaved well in prison. I have slept in coaches when I had a chance. One night on a dunghill, covering the stable straw about me to keep myself warm. This place is a relief. I shave the poor people and cut their hair on a Sunday. I was handy at that when I was a soldier. I have shaved in public houses for halfpennies. Some landlords kicks me out. Now in the days I may pick up a penny or two that way, and get here of a night. I met two Manchester men in Hyde Park, on Saturday, skating. They asked me what I was? I said 'A beggar.' They gave me 2s. 6d., and I spent part of it for warm coffee and other things. They knew all about Manchester, and knew I was a Manchester man by my talk.
The statement I then took was that of a female vagrant - a young girl with eyes and hair of remarkable blackness. Her complexion was of the deepest brunette, her cheeks were full of colour, and her lips very thick. This was accounted for: she told me that her father was a mulatto from Philadelphia. She was short, and dressed in a torn old cotton gown, the pattern of which was hardly discernible from wear. A kind of half shawl, patched and mended in several places, and of very thin woollen texture, was pinned round her neck; her arms - which, with her hands, were full and large - were bare. She wore very old broken boots and ragged stockings. her demeanour was modest.
"I am now 18, she stated. "My father was a coloured man. He came over here as a sailor, I have heard, but I never saw him; for my mother, who was a white woman, was not married to him, but met him at Oxford; and she married afterwards a box-maker, a white man, and has two other children. They are living, I believe, but I don't know where they are. I have heard my mother say that my father - that's my own father - had become a missionary, and had been sent out to America from England as a missionary by Mr. . I believe that was fifteen years ago. I don't know who Mr. was, but he was a gentleman, I've heard my mother say. She told me, too, that my father was a good scholar, that he could speak seven different languages, and was a very religious man. He was sent out to Boston, but I never heard whether he was to stay or not; and I don't know what he was to missionary about. He behaved very well to my mother, I have heard her say, until she took up with the other man (the box-maker), and then he left her and gave her up, and came to London. It was at Oxford that they all three were then; ~and when my father got away or came away to London, my mother followed him (she's told me so, but she didn't like to talk about it), as she was then in the family way. She didn't find him; but my father heard of her, and left some money with Mr. for her, and she got into Poland- street workhouse through Mr. , I've heard. While there she received 1s. 6d. a week; but my father never came to see her or me. At one time, my father used to live by teaching languages. He had been in Spain, and France, and Morocco. I've heard, at any rate, that he could speak the Moors' language, but I know nothing more. All this is what I've heard from my mother and my grandmother - that's my mother's mother. My grandfather and grandmother are dead. He was a sawyer. I have a great grandmother living in Oxford, now 92, supported by her parish. I lived with my grandmother at Oxford, who took me out of pity, as my mother never cared much about me, when I was four months old. I remained with her until I was ten, and then my mother came from Reading, where she was living, and took me away with her. I lived with her and my stepfather, but they were badly off. He couldn't get much to do at his trade as a box-maker, and he drank a great deal. I was with them about nine months, when Iran away. He beat me so; he never liked me. I couldn't bear it. I went to Pangbourne, but there I was stopped by a man my stepfather had sent - at least I suppose so - and I was forced to walk back to Reading - ten miles, perhaps. My father applied to the overseer for support for me, and the overseer was rather harsh, and my father struck him, and for that he was sent to prison for three months. My mother and her children then got into the workhouse, but not until after my stepfather had been some time in prison. Before that she had an allowance, which they stopped. I don't know how much. I was in the workhouse twenty-one days. I wasn't badly treated. My mother sweared my parish, and I was removed to St. James's, Poland-street, London. I was there three weeks, and then I was sent to New Brentford - it was called the Juvenile Establishment - and I went to school. There was about 150 boys and girls; the boys were sent to Norwood when they were 15. Some of the girls were 18- kept there until they could get a place. I don't know whether they all belonged to St. James's, or to different parishes, or how. I stayed there about two years. I was very well treated, sufficient to eat; but we worked hard at scrubbing, cleaning, and making shirts. We made all the boys' clothes as well, jackets and trowsers, and all. I was then apprenticed as maid of all work, in Duke-street, Grosvenor-square, for three years. I was there 2½ years, when my master failed in business and had to part with me. They had no servant but me. My mistress was sometimes kind, pretty well. I had to work very hard. She sometimes beat me if I stopped long on my errands. My master beat me once for bringing things wrong from a grocer's. I made a mistake. Once my mistress knocked me down stairs for being long on an errand to Pimlico, and I'm sure I couldn't help it, and my eye was cut. It was three weeks before I could see well. (There is a slight mark under the girl's eye still.) They beat me with their fists. After I left my master I tried hard to get a place, I'm sure I did, but I really couldn't; so, to live, I got water-cresses to sell up and down Oxford-street. I stayed at lodging-houses. I tried that two or three months, but couldn't live. My mother had been through the country,' and I knew other people that had, through meeting them at the lodging-houses. I first went to Croydon, begging my way. I slept in the work-house. After that I went to Brighton, begging my way, but I couldn't get much, not enough to pay my lodgings. I was constantly insulted, both in the lodging-houses and the streets. I sung in the streets at Brighton, and got enough to pay my lodgings, and a little for food. I was there a week, and then I went to the Mendicity, and they gave me a piece of bread (morning and night) and a night's lodging. I then went to Lewes and other places, begging, and got into prison at Tunbridge Wells for 14 days for begging. I only used to say I was a poor girl out of place, could they relieve me? I told no lies. I didn't pick my oakum one day, it was such hard stuff; 3½ lbs. of it to do from nine to half-past three, so I was put into solitary for three days and three nights, having half a pound of bread and a pint of cold water morning and night; nothing else, and no bed to sleep on. I'm sure I tell you the truth. Some had irons on their hands if they were obstropolous. That's about two months ago. I'm sorry to say that during this time I couldn't be virtuous. I know very well what it means, for I can read and write, but no girl can be circumstanced as I was. I seldom got money for being wicked; I hated being wicked, but I was tricked and cheated. I am truly sorry for it; but what could a poor girl do? I begged my way to London from Hastings, and got here on Saturday last, and having no money, came here. I heard of this Asylum from a girl in Whitechapel, who had been here. I met her in a lodging-house, where I called to rest in the daytime. They let us rest sometimes at lodging-houses in the daytime. I never was in any prison but Tunbridge Wells, and in Gravesend lock-up for being out after twelve at night, when I had no money to get a lodging. I was there one Saturday night, and got out on Sunday morning, but had nothing given me to eat - I was in by myself. It's a bad place - just straw to sleep on, and very cold. I told you I could read and write. I learned that partly at Oxford, and finished my learning at the Juvenile Establishment at Brentford. There I was taught reading, writing, sums, marking, sewing, and scrubbing. Once I could say all the multiplication table, but I've forgot most of it. I know how to make lace, too, because I was taught by a cousin in Oxford, another grandchild of my grandmother's. I can make it with knitting needles. I could make cushion-lace with pins, but I'm afraid I have forgot how now. I should like, if I could, to get into service again, here or abroad. I have heard of Australia, where I have a cousin. I am sure I could and would conduct myself well in service, I have suffered so much out of it. I am sure of it. I never stole anything in my life, and have told all I have done wrong.