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Tuesday, January 22, 1850
I now lay before the public the geographical history of Vagrancy - so to speak - for the last fourteen years. The table has been constructed with much care from the annual Reports of the Society in connection with the Asylums for the Houseless Poor, and it presents us with some very curious and startling results. The period of the greatest destitution appears to have been 1846-47, when it will be seen that the numbers from every part were, with but few exceptions, quadrupled. The decrease in 1847-48, it will be seen, is nearly one half in most of the English counties. In the case of Ireland, however, the vast number of destitute poor from that country who entered the Asylums in 1847 -48, shows that the distress which was caused by the potato disease had not greatly abated at that time.
TABLE SHOWING THE NUMBER OF PERSONS FROM DIFFERENT COUNTRIES SHELTERED AT THE ASYLUM FOR THE HOUSELESS POOR IN THE METROPOLIS, FOR 14 YEARS.
|COUNTRIES||1829 to 1830||1830 to 1831||1831 to 1832||1832 to 1833||1834 to 1835||1840 to 1841||1841 to 1842||1842 to 1843||1843 to 1844||1844 to 1845||1845 to 1846||1846 to 1847||1847 to 1848||1848 to 1849||Total||The average of each year for 14 years|
North Midland Agricultural-
|South Midland and Eastern Agricullural|
|South Agricultural and Maritime-|
|South Midland Agricultural, with dispersed domestic manufacturers|
|Northern and Midland Manufacturing and Mining-|
|Northern Mining and Agricultural-|
|Western Mining and Agricultural-|
|Guernsey and Jersey||5||14||-||2||3||5||-||7||22||8||8||1||25||47||147||10.5|
In addition to the individuals included in the above table,
there are among the houseless poor who were admitted into the London Asylums in
the course of the same period of years, five natives of Belgium, and the same
number who were natives of China; one came from each of the following places -
Bermuda, Cape de Verde Islands, Cape of Good Hope, Switzerland, Corfu, Geneva,
and Isle of France. From Ceylon and Newfoundland there were four each; Hanover
and Van Diemen's Land contributed nine each; twelve were from the Isle of Man,
thirteen from Denmark. From Gibraltar there were 26; from Malta, 28; from the
Netherlands, 8; New South Wales furnished 3; Nova Scotia, 10; Poland, 12;
Sandwich Islands, 2; Scilly Islands, 7; South Sea Islands, 13; and St. Helena, 28.
From the above table it will be seen that Ireland, for the last 14 years, has upon an average, annually supplied the asylums for the houseless poor in the metropolis with 2,455 applicants for shelter, which is four times the number that have come from any other part. The large increase of Irish immigrants seems to have been mainly owing to the potato disease in that country; for it appears that in the year 1846 only 772 Irish applied for shelter at the Asylum for the Houseless Poor, whilst in 1847 the number increased to as many as 7,576, and in 1848 to no less than 10,756. Last year the number of Irish, however, fell to 5,068. The next of the localities contributing the largest number of houseless poor is Middlesex, which has furnished 643 every year. Then comes Kent, giving 491; Lancashire, 469; London, 374; Essex, 342; Somersetshire, 311; Scotland, 309; Hampshire, 273; Berkshire, 270, &c. The county that has supplied the least is Rutlandshire, the number on an average being only seven annually. The next of the counties contributing the smallest number of houseless poor is Westmoreland, which has furnished 10 annually; then comes Sussex, yielding 15; Hertfordshire, 19; Huntingdon, 20; and so on.
If we take the number of inhabitants in each county into consideration, we shall find that Middlesex gives the greatest amount of applicants, there being from that county annually one individual in every 477 of its population. The next is Berkshire, which contributes one in every 595; then comes Cumberland, with one in every 606; then Kent, yielding 1 in every 1,116, &c. The counties from which the smallest amount proceeds are - first, Surrey, which contributes 1 in every 21,160; then Sussex, giving 1 in every 19,002; Yorkshire, 1 in every 8,456; Hertfordshire, 1 in every 8,021, and so on. But if we take an average of the different divisions, we shall find that the South-midland and East Agricultural furnishes 1 in every 1,729, which is nearly four times as many as the manufacturing and mining districts. The Metropolitan district furnishes the least of all, being only 1 in every 8,882 of its population. From this it would appear that where a district depends exclusively upon agriculture for the employment and support of its people, distress is most prevalent; but where mining and manufacturing are introduced, the condition of the inhabitants is improved.
I now come to the characteristics of vagrant life, as seen in the casual wards of the metropolitan unions. I shall reserve whatever I have to say upon the matter generally until my next communication, when I shall give the statistics of vagrancy, first for England generally, and then for the metropolis alone. The subject is one of the most important with which I have to deal, and the facts adduced in my present letter are sufficiently startling to give the public an idea of the great social bearings of the question; for the young vagrant is the budding criminal. .
Previously to entering upon my inquiry into this subject, I consulted with a gentleman who had long paid considerable attention to the question, and who was, moreover, in a position peculiarly fitted for gaining the greatest experience and arriving at the correctest notions upon the matter - I consulted, I say, with the gentleman referred to, as to the Poor-law officers from whom I should be likely to obtain the best practical information; and I was referred by him to Mr. Knapp, the master of the Wandsworth and Clapham Union, as one of the most intelligent and best informed upon the subject of vagrancy. I found that gentleman all that he had been represented to me as being, and obtained from him the following statement - which, as an analysis of the vagrant character, and a description of the habits and propensities of the young vagabond, has, perhaps, never been surpassed:-
He had filled the office of master of the Wandsworth and Clapham Union for three years, and immediately before that he was the relieving officer for the same union for upwards of two years. He was guardian of Clapham parish for four years previously to his being elected relieving officer. He was a member of the first board of guardians that was formed under the new Poor-law Act, and he has long given much attention to the habits of the vagrants that have come under his notice or care. He told me that he considered a casual ward necessary in every union, because there is always a migratory population, consisting of labourers, seeking employment in other localities, and destitute women travelling to their husbands or friends. He thinks a casual ward is necessary for the shelter and relief of such parties, since the law will not permit them to beg. These, however, are by far the smaller proportion of those who demand admittance into the casual ward. Formerly they were not five per cent. of the total number of casuals. The remainder consisted of youths, prostitutes, Irish families, and a few professional beggars. The youths formed more than one-half of the entire number, and their ages were from 12 to 20. The largest number were 17 years old - indeed, he adds, just that age when youth becomes disengaged from parental control. These lads had generally run away either from their parents or masters, and many had been reared to a life of vagrancy. They were mostly shrewd and acute youths; some had been very well educated. Ignorance, to use the gentleman's own words, is certainly not the prevailing characteristic of the class; indeed, with a few exceptions, he would say it is the reverse. The lads are mostly distinguished by their aversion to continuous labour of any kind. He never knew them to work - they are, indeed, essentially the idle and the vagabond. Their great inclination is to be on the move, and wandering from place to place, and they appear, he says, to receive a great deal of pleasure from the assembly and conversation of the casual ward. They are physically stout, healthy lads, and certainly not emaciated or sickly. They belong especially to the able-bodied class, being, as he says, full of health and mischief. When in London they live in the day time by holding horses, and carrying parcels from the steam-piers and railway termini. Some loiter about the markets in the hope of a job, and others may be seen in the streets picking up bones and rags, or along the water-side searching for pieces of old metal or anything that may be sold at the marine store shops. They have nearly all been in prison more than once - and several a greater number of times than they are years old. They are the most dishonest of all thieves, having not the least respect for the property of even the members of their own class. He tells me he has frequently known them to rob one another. They are very stubborn and self- willed. They have often broken every window in the oakum-room rather than do the required work. They are a most difficult class to govern, and are especially restive under the least restraint; they can ill brook control, and they find great delight in thwarting the authorities of the workhouse. They are particularly fond of amusements of all kinds. My informant has heard them often discuss the merits of the different actors at the minor theatres and saloons. Sometimes they will elect a chairman and get up a regular debate, and make speeches from one side of the ward to the other. Many of them will make very clever comic orations; others delight in singing comic songs, especially those upon the workhouse and gaols. He never knew them love reading. They mostly pass under fictitious names. Some will give the name of "John Russell," or "Robert Peel," or "Richard Cobden." They often come down to the casual wards in large bodies of twenty or thirty, with sticks hidden down the legs of their trowsers, and with these they rob and beat those that do not belong to their own gang. The gang will often consist of 100 lads, all under twenty, one-fourth of whom regularly come together in a body; and in the casual ward they generally arrange where to meet again on the following night. In the winter of 1846 the guardians of Wandsworth and Clapham sympathizing with their ragged and wretched appearance, and desirous of affording them the means of obtaining an honest livelihood, gave my informant instructions to offer an asylum to any who might choose to remain in the workhouse. Under this arrangement about fifty were admitted. The majority were under seventeen years of age. Some of these remained a few days - others a few weeks - none stopped longer than three months; and the generality of them decamped over the wall, taking with them the clothes of the union. The confinement, restraint, and order of the workhouse were especially irksome to them. This is the character of the true vagrant, for whom my informant considers no provision whatsoever should be made at the unions, believing as he does that most of them have settlements in or around London. The casual wards, he tells me, he knows to have been a great encouragement to the increase of these characters. Several of the lads that have come under his care had sought shelter and concealment in the casual wards after having absconded from their parents. In one instance the father and mother of a lad had unavailingly sought their son in every direction; he discovered that the youth had run away, and he sent him home in the custody of one of the inmates, but when the boy got within two or three doors of his father's residence, he turned round and scampered off. The mother afterwards came to the union in a state of frantic grief, and said that he had disappeared two years before. My informant believes that the boy has never been heard of by his parents since. Others he has restored to their parents, and some of the young vagrants who have died in the union have, on their death-beds, disclosed the names and particulars of their families, who have been always of a highly respectable character. To these he was sent, and on their visits to their children scenes of indescribable grief and anguish have taken place. He tells me he is convinced that it is the low lodging-houses and the casual wards of the unions that offer a ready means for youths absconding from their homes immediately on the least disagreement or restraint. In most of the cases that he has investigated, he has found that the boys have left home after some rebuke or quarrel with their parents. On restoring one boy to his father, the latter said that, though the lad was not ten years old he had been in almost every workhouse in London; and the father bitterly complained of the casual wards offering shelter to a youth of such tender years. But my informant is convinced that, even if the casual wards throughout the country were entirely closed - the low lodging-houses being allowed to remain in their present condition - the evil would not be remedied, if at all abated. A boy after running away from home generally seeks shelter in one of the cheap lodging-houses, and there he makes acquaintance with the most depraved of both sexes. The boys at the house become his regular companions, and he is soon a confirmed vagrant and thief like the rest. The youths of the vagrant class are particularly distinguished by their libidinous propensities. They frequently come to the gate with a young prostitute, and with her they will go off in the morning. With this girl they will tramp through the whole of the country. They are not remarkable for a love of drink - indeed, my informant never saw a regular vagrant in a state of intoxication, nor has he known them to exhibit any craving for liquor. He has had many drunkards under his charge, but the vagrant is totally distinct - having propensities not less vicious, but of a very different kind. He considers the young tramps to be generally a class of lads possessing the keenest intellect, and of a highly enterprising character. They seem to have no sense of danger, and to be especially delighted with such acts as involve any peril. They are likewise characterized by their exceeding love of mischief. The property destroyed in the union of which my informant is the master, has been of considerable value, consisting of windows broken, sash frames demolished, beds and bedding torn to pieces, and rugs burnt. They will frequently come down in large gangs on purpose to destroy the property in the union. They generally are of a most restless and volatile disposition. They have great quickness of perception, but little power of continuous attention or perseverance. They have a keen sense of the ridiculous and are not devoid of deep feeling. He has often known them to be dissolved to tears on his remonstrating with them on the course they were following - and then they promise amendment; but in a few days, and sometimes hours, they would forget all and return to their old habits. In the summer they make regular tours through the country, visiting all places that they have not seen - so that there is scarcely one who is not well acquainted with every part within 100 miles of London, and many with all England. They are perfectly organized, so that any regulation affecting their comforts or interests becomes known among the whole body in a remarkably short space of time. As an instance, he informs me that on putting out a notice that no able-bodied man or youth would be received in the casual ward after a certain day, there was not a single application made by any such party, the regular vagrants having doubtless informed each other that it was useless seeking admittance at this union. In the winter the young vagrants come to London and find shelter in the Asylums for the Houseless Poor. At this season of the year the number of vagrants in the casual wards would generally be diminished one-half. The juvenile vagrants constitute one of the main sources from which the criminals of the country are continually recruited and augmented. Being repeatedly committed to prison for disorderly conduct and misdemeanour, the gaol soon loses all terrors for them; and, indeed, they will frequently destroy their own clothes, or the property of the union, in order to be sent there. Hence they soon become practised and dexterous thieves, and my informant has detected several burglaries by the property found upon them. The number of this class is stated in the Poor-law Report on Vagrancy, to have been, in 1848, no less than 16,086, and they form one of the most restless, discontented, vicious, and dangerous elements of society. At the period of any social commotion they are sure to be drawn towards the scene of excitement in a vast concourse. During the Chartist agitation, in the June quarter of the year 1848, the number of male casuals admitted into the Wandsworth and Clapharn Union rose from 2,501 to 3,968, while the females (their companions) increased from 579 to 1,388.
Of the other classes of persons admitted into the casual wards, the Irish generally form a large proportion. At the time when juvenile vagrancy prevailed to an alarming extent, the Irish hardly dared to show themselves in the casual wards, for the lads would beat them and plunder them of whatever they might have - either the produce of their begging or the ragged kit they carried with them. Often my informant has had to quell violent disturbances in the night among these characters. The Irish tramp generally makes his appearance with a large family, and frequently with three or four generations together - grandfather, grandmother, father and mother, and children - all coming at the same time. In the year ending June, 1848, the Irish vagrants increased to so great an extent that, of the entire number of casuals relieved, more than one-third in the first three-quarters, and more than two-thirds in the last quarter were from the sister island. Of the Irish vagrants, the worst class - that is the poorest and most abject - came over to this country by way of Newport, in Wales. The expense of the passage to that port was only 2s. 6d.; whereas the cost of the voyage to Liverpool and London was considerably more, and consequently the class brought over by that way were less destitute. The Irish vagrants were far more orderly than the English. Out of the vast number received into the casual ward of the union during the distress in Ireland, it is remarkable that not one ever committed an act of insubordination. They were generally very grateful for the relief afforded, and appeared to subsist entirely by begging. Some of them were not particularly fond of work, but they were invariably honest, says my informant - at least so far as his knowledge went. They were exceedingly filthy in their habits, and many diseased.
These constitute the two large and principal classes of vagrants. The remainder generally consist of persons temporarily destitute, whereas the others are habitually so. The temporarily destitute are chiefly railway and agricultural labourers, and a few mechanics travelling in search of employment. These are easily distinguishable from the regular vagrant; indeed, a glance is sufficient to the practised eye. They are the better class of casuals, and those for whom the wards are expressly designed, but they form only a very small proportion of the vagrants applying for shelter. In the height of vagrancy they formed not 1 per cent, of the entire number admitted. Indeed, such was the state of the casual wards that the destitute mechanics and labourers preferred walking through the night to availing themselves of the accommodation. Lately the artisans and labourers have increased greatly in proportion, owing to the system adopted for the exclusion of the habitual vagrant, and the consequent decline of their number. The working man travelling in search of employment is now generally admitted into what are called the receiving wards of the workhouse, instead of the tramp room, and he is usually exceedingly grateful for the accommodation. My informant tells me that persons of this class seldom return to the workhouse after their one night's shelter; and this is a conclusive proof that the regular working man seldom passes into the habitual beggar. They are an entirely distinct class, having different habits, and indeed different features, and Jam assured that they are strictly honest. During the whole experience of my informant he never knew one who applied for a night's shelter commit an act of dishonesty, and he has seen them in the last stage of destitution. Occasionally they have sold the shirt and waistcoat off their backs before they applied for admittance into the workhouse, while some of them have been so weak from long starvation that they could scarcely reach the gate. Such persons are always allowed to remain several days to recruit their strength. It is for such as these that my informant considers the casual wards indispensable to every well conducted union - whereas it is his opinion that the habitual vagrant, as contradistinguished from the casual vagrant or wayfaring poor, should be placed under the management of the police, at the charge of the union.
The vagrant applying for shelter is admitted at all times of the day and night. He applies at the gate, he has his name entered in the vagrant book, and he is then supplied with 6 ounces of bread and 1 ounce of cheese. As the admission generally takes place in the evening, no work is required of them until the following morning. At one time every vagrant was searched and bathed, but at the present season of the year the bathing is discontinued; neither are they searched unless there are grounds for suspecting that they have property secreted upon them. The males are conducted to the ward allotted to them, and the females to their ward. These wards consist each of a large chamber, in which are arranged two long guard beds, or inclined boards, similar to those used in soldiers' guard rooms; between these is a passage from one end of the chamber to the other. The boards are strewn with straw, so that on entering the place in the daytime it has the appearance of a well-kept stable. Each person is supplied with two, and at the present season with three, rugs to cover them. These rugs are daily placed in a fumigating oven, so as to decompose all infectious matter. Formerly beds were supplied in place of straw, but the habitual vagrants used to amuse themselves with cutting up the mattresses and strewing the flock all over the place; the blankets and rugs they tore into shreds, and wound them round their legs under their trowsers. The windows of the casual ward are protected on the inside with a strong guard - similar to those seen in the neighbourhood of racket grounds. No lights are allowed in the casual ward, so that they are expected to retire immediately on their entrance, and this they are invariably glad to do. In the morning they are let out at eight in the winter, and seven in the summer. And then another 6 oz. of bread and 1 oz. of cheese is given to them, and they are discharged. In return for this three hours' labour at the hand corn-mill was formerly exacted; but now the numbers are so few, and the out-door paupers so numerous, and so different from the class of vagrants, that the latter are allowed to go on their road immediately the doors of the casual ward are opened. The labour formerly exacted was not in any way remunerative. In the three hours that they were at work, it is supposed that the value of each man's labour could not be expressed in any coin of the realm. The work was demanded as a test of destitution and industry, and not as a matter of compensation. If the vagrants were very young they were put to oakum picking instead of the hand mill. The women were very rarely employed at anytime, because there was no suitable place in the union for them to pick oakum, and the master was unwilling to allow them, on account of their bad and immoral characters, as well as their filthy habits, to communicate with the other inmates. The female vagrants generally consist of prostitutes of the lowest and most miserable kind. They are mostly young girls, who have sunk into a state of dirt, disease, and almost nudity. They are few of them above twenty years of age, and they appear to have commenced their career of vice frequently as early as ten or twelve years old. They mostly are found in the company of mere boys.
The above descriptions apply rather to the state of the vagrants some two or three years back, than to things as they exist at present. In the year 1837 a correspondence took place between the Commissioners of Police and the Commissioners of the Poor-law, in which the latter declare that "if any person state that he has no food and that he is destitute, or otherwise express or signify that he is in danger of perishing unless relief be given to him, then any officer charged with the administration of relief is bound, unless he have presented to him some reasonable evidence to rebut such statement, to give relief to such destitute person in the mode prescribed by the law." The Poor-law Commissioners further declare in the same document, that they will feel it their duty to make the officers responsible in their situations for any serious neglect to give prompt and adequate relief in any case of real destitution and emergency. The consequence of this declaration was, that poor-law officers appear to have felt themselves bound to admit all vagrants upon their mere statement of destitution, whereas before that time parties were admitted into the casual wards either by tickets from the ratepayers, or else according to the discretion of the master. Whether or not the masters imagined that they were compelled to admit every applicant from that period my informant cannot say, but it is certain that after the date of that letter vagrancy began to increase throughout the country - at first gradually, but after a few years with a most enormous rapidity; so that in 1848, it appeared from the Poor-law Report on Vagrancy (presented to both Houses of Parliament in that year) to have increased to upwards of 16,000. The rate of increase for the three years previous to that period is exhibited in the following table: -
1. - Summary of the Number of Vagrants in Unions and Places under Local Acts, in England and Wales, at different periods, as appears from the Returns which follow: - Average number relieved in one night in 603 unions, &c., in the week ending 20th December, 1845 .... 1,791
Average number relieved in one night in 603 unions, &c., in the week ending 19th December, 1846 .... 2,224
Average number relieved in one night in 596 unions, &c., in the week ending 18th December, 1847 .... 4,508
Total number relieved, whether in or out of the workhouse, in 626 unions &c., on the 25th March, 1848 .... 16,086
Matters had reached this crisis when Mr. Buller, the late President of the Poor-law Board, issued, in August, 1848, a minute in which - after stating that the Board had received representations from every part of England and Wales respecting the continual and rapid increase of vagrancy - he gives the following instructions to the officers employed in the administration of the Poor-law: -
"With respect to the applicants that will thus come before him, the relieving officer will have to exercise his judgment as to the truth of their assertions of destitution, and to ascertain by searching them whether they possess any means of supplying their own necessities. He will not be likely to err in judging from their appearance whether they are suffering from the want of food. He will take care that women and children, the old and infirm, and those who, without absolutely serious disease, present an enfeebled or sickly appearance, are supplied with necessary food and shelter. As a general rule, he would be right in refusing relief to able-bodied and healthy men; though in inclement weather he might afford them shelter, if really destitute of the means of procuring it for themselves. His duties would necessarily make him acquainted with the persons of the habitual vagrants; and to these it would be his duty to refuse relief, except in case of evident and urgent necessity.
"It was found necessary by the late Poor-law Commissioners at one time to remind the various unions and their officers of the responsibility which would be incurred by refusing relief where it was required. The present state of things renders it necessary that this board should now impress on them the grievious mischiefs that must arise, and the responsibilities that may be incurred, by a too ready distribution of relief to tramps and vagrants not entitled to it. Boards of guardians and their officers may, in their attempts to restore a more wise and just system, be subjected to some obloquy from prejudices that confound poverty with profligacy. They will, however, be supported by the consciousness of discharging their duty to those whose funds they have to administer, as well as to the deserving poor, and of resisting the extension of a mosUpernicious and formidable abuse. They may confidently reckon on the support of a public opinion, which the present state of things has aroused and enlightened; and those who are responsible to the Poor-law Board may feel assured that, while no instance of neglect or harshness to the poor will be tolerated, they may look to the Board for a candid construction of their acts and motives, and for a hearty and steadfast support of those who shall exert themselves to guard from the grasp of imposture that fund which should be sacred to the necessities of the poor."
Thus authorized and instructed to exercise their own discretion, rather than trust to the mere statement of the vagrants themselves, the officers immediately proceeded to act upon the suggestions given in the minute above quoted, and the consequence was that the number of vagrants diminished more rapidly than they had increased even throughout the country. In the case of one union alone - the Wandsworth and Clapham - the following returns will show both how vagrancy was fostered under the one system, and how it has declined under the other: -
The number of vagrants admitted into the casual ward of Wandsworth and
Clapham was in 1846 .... 6,759
Ditto in 1847 .... 11,322
Ditto in 1848 .... 14,675
Ditto in 1849 .... 3,900
In the quarter ending June, 1848, previously to the issuing of the minute, the number admitted was 7,325 - whereas in the quarter ending December, after the minute had been issued, the number fell to 1,035: -
The cost of relief for casuals at the same union in the year 1848, was .... £94 2 9½
In 1849 it was .... 24 10 1½
The decrease throughout all London has been equally striking. From the returns of the Poor-law Commissioners, I find that the total number of vagrants relieved in the metropolitan unions in 1847-8 was no less than 310,058; whereas in the year 1848-9 it had decreased to the extent of 166,000 and odd - the number relieved for that year being only 143,064.
During the great prevalence of vagrancy the cost of the sick was far greater than the expense of relief. In the quarter ending June, 1848, no less than 332 casuals were under medical treatment either in the workhouse of the Wandsworth and Clapham union or at the London Fever Hospital. The whole cost of curing the casual sick in the year 1848 was near upon £300, whereas during the last year it is computed that it cannot have exceeded £30.
Another curious fact, illustrative of the effect of an alteration in the administration of the law respecting vagrancy, is to be found in the proportion of vagrants committed for acts of insubordination in the workhouse. In the year 1846, when those who broke the law were committed to Brixton, where the diet was better than that allowed at the workhouse - the cocoa and soup given at the treadmill being especial objects of attraction, and, indeed, the allowance of food being considerably higher there - the vagrants generally broke the windows, or tore their clothes, or burnt their beds, or refused to work, in order to be committed to the treadmill; and this got to such a height in that year, that no less than 467 persons were charged and convicted with disorderly conduct in the workhouse. In the year following, however, an alteration was made in the diet of prisoners sentenced to not more than 14 days, and the prison of Kingston, of which they had a greater terror, was substituted for that of Brixton, and then the number of committals decreased from 467 to 57; while in the year 1848, when the number of vagrants was more than double what it had been in 1846, the committals again fell to 37; and in 1849, out of 3,900 admissions, there were only 10 vagrants committed for acts of insubordination.
Of the character of the vagrants frequenting the unions in the centre of the metropolis, and the system pursued there, one description will serve as a type of the whole.
At the Holborn Workhouse (St. Andrew's) there are two casual wards, established just after the passing of the Poor-law Amendment Act, in 1834. The men's ward will contain forty, and the women's 20. The wards are underground, but dry, clean, and comfortable. When there was a "severe pressure from without, as a porter described it to me, as many as 106 men and women have been received on one night, but some were disposed in other parts of the workhouse, away from the casual wards.
"Two years and a half ago a 'glut of Irish' " (I give the words of my informant) "came over, and besieged the doors incessantly; and when above 100 were admitted, as many were remaining outside, and when locked out they lay in the streets stretched along by the almshouse, close to the workhouse in Gray's-inn-lane. I again give the statement (which afterwards was verified) verbatim. "They lay in camps," he said, "in their old cloaks, some having brought blankets and rugs with them for the purpose of sleeping out; pots, and kettles, and vessels for cooking when they camp; for in many parts of Ireland they do nothing - I've heard from people that have been there - but wander about; and these visitors to the workhouses behaved just like gipsies, combing their hair and dressing themselves. The girls' heads, some of them, looked as if they were full of caraway seeds - vermin, sir - shocking. I had to sit up all night; and the young women from Ireland - fine-looking young women - some of them finer-looking women than the English, well made and well formed, but uncultivated - seemed happy enough in the casual wards, singing songs all night long, but not too loud. Some would sit up all night washing their clothes, coming to me for water. They had a cup of tea if they were poorly. They made themselves at home; the children did as soon as they got inside; they ran about like kittens used to a place. The young women were often full of joke; but I never heard an indecent word from any of them, nor an oath, and I have no doubt, not in the least, that they were chaste and modest. Fine young women, too, sir. I have said, 'Pity young women like you should be carrying on this way' (for I felt for them); and they would say, 'What can we do? It's better than starving in Ireland, this workhouse is.' I used to ask them how they got over, and they often told me their passages were paid, chiefly to Bristol, Liverpool, and Newport, in Monmouthshire. They told me that was done to get rid of them. They told me that they didn't know by whom; but some said, they believed the landlord paid the captain. Some declared they knew it, and that it was done just to get rid of them. Others told me the captain would bring them over for any trifle they had; for he would say, 'I shall have to take you back again, and I can charge my price then.' " The men were uncultivated fellows compared to the younger women. We have had old men with children who could speak English, and the old man and his wife couldn't speak a word of it. When asked the age of their children (the children were the interpreters) they would open the young creatures' mouths and count their teeth, just as horse-dealers do, and then they would tell the children in Irish what to answer, and the children would answer in English. The old people could never tell their own age. The man would give his name, but his wife would give her maiden name. I would say to an elderly man, 'Give me your name.' Dennis Murphy, your honour.' Then to his wife, 'And your name,' - 'The Widdy Mooney, your honour.' 'But you are married?' 'Sure, then, yes, by Father.' This is the case with them still. Last night we took in a family, and I asked the mother - there was only a woman and three children - her name. 'The Viddy Callaghan - indeed, then, sir.' 'But your Christian name?' 'The Viddy' "(widow) was the only answer. It's shocking, sir, what ignorance is, and what their sufferings is. My heart used to ache for the poor creatures, and yet they seemed happy. Habit's a great thing - second natur' - even when people's shook. The Irishmen behaved well among themselves; but the English cadgers were jealous of the Irish, and chaffed them, as spoiling their trade - that's the cadging fellows did. The Irish were quiet, poor things, but they were provoked to quarrel, and many a time I've had to turn the English rips out. The Irish were always very thankful for what they had, if it was only a morsel; the English cadger is never satisfied. I don't mean the decent beat-out men, but the regular cadger, that won't work, and isn't a good beggar, and won't starve - so they steal. Once, now and then, there was some suspicion about the Irish admitted that they had money, but that was never but in those that had families. It was taken from them and given back in the morning. They wouldn't have been admitted again if they had any amount. it was a kindness to take their money, or the English rascals would have robbed them. I'm an Englishman, but I speak the truth of my own countrymen, as I do of the Irish. The English we had in the casual wards were generally a bad cadging set - saucy as could be - particularly men that I knew, from their accent, came from Nottinghamshire. I'd tell one directly. I've heard them of a night brag of their dodges - how they'd done through the day - and the best places to get money. They would talk of gentlemen in London. I've often heard them say ,in Piccadilly, was good; but they seldom mentioned names, only described the houses, especially club houses in St. James's-street. They would tell just where it was in the street, and how many windows there was in it, and the best time to go, and "your're sure of grub,'' they'd say. Then they'd tell of gentlemen's seats in the country - sure cards. They seldom give names, and I believe don't know them, but described the houses and the gentlemen. Some were good for bread and money - some for bread and ale. As to the decent people, we had but few, and I used to be sorry for them when they had to mix with the cadgers; but when the cadgers saw a stranger they used their slang. I was up to it. I've heard it many a night when I sat up, and they thought I was asleep. I wasn't to be had by the likes of them. The poor mechanic would sit like a lost man - scared, sir. There might be one deserving character to thirty cadgers. We have had gipsies in the casual ward; but they're not admitted a second time, they steal so. We haven't one Scotch person in a month - nor a Welshman, or perhaps two Welshmen, in a month, among the casuals. They come from all counties in England. I've been told by inmates of the casual' that they had got 2s. 6d. from the relieving officers, particularly in Essex and Suffolk - different unions - to start them to London when the straw-yards' (the asylums for the houseless) were opened; but there's a many very decent people. How they suffer before they come to that - you can't fancy how much; and so there should be straw-yards in a Christian land - we'll call it a Christian land, sir. There's far more good people in the straw-yards than the casuals - the dodgers is less frequent there, considering the numbers. It's shocking to think a decent mechanic's houseless. When he's beat out he's like a bird out of a cage; he doesn't know where to go or how to get a bit - but don't the cadgers! The expense of relieving the people in the casual ward was 2d. per head, and the numbers admitted for the last twelve months averaged only 12 nightly.
I now give the statements of some of the inmates of the casual wards themselves. I chose only those at first who were habitual vagrants.
An intelligent-looking boy, of 16 years of age, whose dress was a series of ragged coats, three in number - as if one was to obviate the deficiency of another, since one would not button and another was almost sleeveless - gave me the following statement. He had long and rather fair hair, and spoke quietly. He said: -
"I'm a native of Wisbeach, in Cambridgeshire, and I am sixteen. My father was a shoemaker, and my mother died when I was five years old, and my father married again. I was sent to school, and can read and write well. My father and stepmother were kind enough to me. I was apprenticed to a tailor three years ago, but I wasn't long with him. I runned away; I think it was three months I was with him when I first runned away - it was in August. I got as far as Boston, in Lincolnshire, and was away a fortnight. I had 4s. 6d. of my own money when I started, and that lasted two or three days. I stopped in lodging-houses until my money was gone, and then I slept anywhere - under the hedges or anywhere. I didn't see so much of life then, but I've seen plenty of it since. I had to beg my way back from Boston, but was very awkward at first. I lived on turnips mainly. My reason for running off was because my master ill-used me so; he beat me, and kept me from my meals, and made me sit up working late at nights for a punishment. He pretended, anyhow, that it was for a punishment; but it was more to his good than to punish me. I hated to be confined to a tailor's shopboard, but I would rather do that sort of work now than hunger about like this. But, you see, sir, God punishes you when you don't think of it. When I went back my father was glad to see me, and he wouldn't have me go back again to my master, and my indentures were cancelled. I stayed at home seven months, doing odd jobs, in driving sheep, or any country work, but I always wanted to be off to sea. I liked the thoughts of going to sea far better than tailoring. I determined to go to sea if I could. When a dog's determined to have a bone, it's not easy to hinder him. I didn't read stories about the sea then - not even 'Robinson Crusoe' - indeed, I haven't read that still, but I know very well there is such a book. My father had no books but religious books; they were all of a religious turn, and what people might think dull, but they never made me dull. I read Wesley's and Watts's hymns, and religious magazines of different connexions. I had a natural inclination for the sea, and would like to get to it now. I've read a good deal about it since - Clark's 'Lives of Pirates,' 'Tales of Shipwrecks,' and other things in penny numbers (Clark's I got out of a library though). I was what people called a deep boy for a book, and am still. Whenever I had a penny after I'd got a bellyful of victuals, it went for a book, but I haven't bought many lately. I did buy one yesterday - the Family Herald - one I often reads when I can get it. There's good reading in it; it elevates your mind - anybody that has a mind for studying. It has good tales in it. I never read "Jack Sheppard" -that is, I haven't read the big book that's written about him; but I've often heard the boys and men talk about it at the lodging houses and other places. When they haven't their bellies and money to think about, they sometimes talk about books; but for such books as them - that's as 'Jack' - I haven't a partiality. I've read 'Windsor Castle' and 'The Tower,' -they're by the same man. I liked 'Windsor Castle,' and all about Henry VIII, and Herne the Hunter. It's a book that's connected with history, and that's a good thing in it. I like adventurous tales. I know very little about theatres, as I was never in one. Well, after that seven months I was kindly treated all the time. I runned away again to get to sea, and hearing so much talk about this big London, I comed to it. I couldn't settle down to anything but the sea. I often watched the ships at Wisbeach. I had no particular motive, but a sort of pleasure in it. I was aboard some ships too, just looking about as lads will. I started without a farthing, but I couldn't help it. I felt I must come. I forgot all I suffered before - at least the impression had died off my mind. I came up by the unions where they would take me in. When I started, I didn't know where to sleep any more than the dead; I learned from other travellers on the road. It was two winters ago, and very cold weather. Sometimes I slept in barns, and I begged my way as well as I could. I never stole anything then or since, except turnips; but I've been often tempted. At last I got to London and was by myself. I travelled sometimes with others as I came up, but not as mates - not as friends. I came to London for one purpose just by myself. I was a week in London before I knew where I was. I didn't know where to go. I slept on door-steps or anywhere. I used often to stand on London Bridge, but I didn't know where to go to get to sea, or anything of that kind. I was sadly hungered, regularly starved, and I saw so many policemen I daren't beg - and I dare not now, in London. I got crusts, but I can hardly tell how I lived. One night I was sleeping under a railway arch somewhere about Bishopsgate-street, and a policeman came and asked me what I was up to? I told him I had no place to go to, so he said I must go along with him. In the morning he took me and four or five others to a house in a big street. I don't know where; and a man - a magistrate, I suppose he was - heard what the policeman had to say, and he said there was always a lot of lads there about the arches, young thieves, that gave him a great deal of trouble, and I was one associated with them. I declare I didn't know any of the other boys, nor any boys in London - not a soul; and I was under the arch by myself, and only that night. I never saw the policeman himself before that I know of. I got fourteen days of it, and they took me in an omnibus, but I don't know to what prison. I was committed for being a rogue and something else. I didn't very well hear what other things I was, but 'rogue' I know was one. They were very strict in prison, and I wasn't allowed to speak. I was put to oakum some days, and others on a wheel. That's the only time I was ever in prison, and I hope it will always be the only time. Something may turn up - there's nobody knows. When I was turned out I hadn't a farthing given to me. And so I was again in the streets, without knowing a creature and without a farthing in my pocket, and nothing to get one with but my tongue. I set off that day for the country. I didn't try to get a ship, because I didn't know where to go to ask, and I had got ragged, and they wouldn't hear me out if I asked any questions of people about the bridges. I took the first road that offered, and got to Greenwich. I couldn't still think of going back home. I would if I had had clothes, but they were rags, and I had no shoes but a pair of old slippers. I was sometimes sorry I left home, but then I began to get used to travelling, and to beg a bit in the villages. I had no regular mate to travel with, and no sweetheart. I slept in the unions whenever I could get in - that's in the country. I didn't ever sleep in the London workhouses till afterwards. In some country places there were as many as 40 in the casual ward -~ men, women, and children; in some only two or three. There used to be part boys like myself, but far more bigger than I was; they were generally from 18 to 23; London chaps chiefly, I believe. They were a regular jolly set; they used to sing and dance a part of the nights and mornings in the wards, and I got to sing and dance with them. We were all in a mess; there was no better and no worse among us. We used to sing comic and sentimental songs both. I used to sing 'Tom Elliot,' that's a sea song, for I hankered about the sea, and 'I'm Afloat.' I hardly know any but sea-songs. Many used to sing indecent songs; they're impudent blackguards. They used to sell these songs among the others, but I never sold any of them, and never had any, though I know some from hearing them often. We told stories sometimes; romantic tales some, others blackguard kind of tales about bad women; and others about thieving and roguery; not so much what they'd done themselves, as about some big thief that was very clever at stealing, and could trick anybody. Not stories such as Dick Turpin or Jack Sheppard, or things that's in history, but inventions. I used to say when I was telling a story - for I've told one story that I invented till I learned it - (I give this story to show what are the objects of admiration with these vagrants) - You see, mates, there was once upon a time, and a very good time it was, a young man, and he runned away and got along with a gang of thieves, and he went to a gentleman's house and got in, because one of his mates sweethearted the servant, and got her away, and she left the door open. - (But don't, he expostulated, take it all down that way, it's foolishness, I'm ashamed of it - it's just what we say to amuse ourselves) - and the door being left open, the young man got in and robbed the house of a lot of money, £1,000, and he took it to the gang at their cave. Next day there was a reward out to find the robber. Nobody found him; so the gentleman put out two men and a horse in a field, and the men were hidden in the field, and the gentleman put out a notice that anybody that could catch the horse should have him for his cleverness, and a reward as well, for he thought the man that got the £1,000 was sure to try to catch that there horse, because he was so bold and clever, and then the two men hid would nab him. This here Jack (that's the young man) was watching and he saw the two men, and he went and caught two live hares. Then he hid himself behind a hedge and let one hare go, and one man said to the other, 'There goes a hare,' and they both run after it, not thinking Jack's there. And while they were running he let go t'other one, and they said, 'Here's another hare,' and they ran different ways, and so Jack went and got the horse, and took it to the man that offered the reward and got the reward; it was £100; and the gentleman said, 'D--n it, Jack's done me this time.' The gentleman then wanted to serve out the parson, and he said to Jack, 'I'll give you another £100, if you'll do something to the parson as bad as you've done to me.' Jack said 'Well, I will,' and Jack went to the church and lighted up the lamps and rung the bells, and the parson he got up to see what was up. Jack was standing in one of the pews like an angel, when the parson got to the church. Jack said, 'Go and put your plate in a bag; I'm an angel come to take you up to heaven.' And the parson did so, and it was as much as he could drag to church from his house in a bag; for he was very rich. And when he got to the church, Jack put the parson in one bag and the money stayed in the other; and he tied them both together, and put them across his horse, and took them up hills and through water to the gentleman's, and then he took the parson out of the bag, and the parson was wringing wet; and Jack fetched the gentleman, and the gentleman gave the parson a horsewhipping, and the parson cut away, and Jack got all the parson's money and the second £100, and gave it all away to the poor. And the parson brought an action against the gentleman for horsewhipping him, and they both were ruined. That's the end of it.' That's the sort of story that's liked best, sir. Sometimes there was fighting in the casual wards. Sometimes I was in it. I was like the rest. We jawed each other often, calling names, and coming to fight at last. At Romsey a lot of young chaps broke all the windows they could get at, because they were too late to be admitted. They broke them from the outside - we couldn't get at them from inside. I've carried on begging and going from union to union to sleep until now. Once I got work in Northampton with a drover, and kept working, when he'd a job, from August last to the week before Christmas. I always tried to get a ship in a seaport, but couldn't. I have been to Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol, Southampton, Ipswich, Liverpool, Dover, Brighton, Shoreham, Hastings, and all through Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, and Suffolk - not in Norfolk, they won't let you go there. I don't know why. All this time I used to meet boys like myself, but mostly bigger and older; plenty of them could read and write, some were gentlemen's sons, they said. Some had their young women with them that they'd taken up with, but I never was much with them. I often wished I was at home again, and do now, but I can't think of going back in these rags; and I don't know if my father's dead or alive (his voice trembled), but I'd like to be there and have it over. I can't face meeting them in these rags, and I've seldom had better, I make so little money. I'm unhappy at times, but I get over it better than I used, as I get accustomed to this life. I never heard anything about home since I left. I have applied at the Marine Society here, but it's no use. If I could only get to sea, I'd be happy, and I'd be happy if I could get home, and would, but for the reasons I've told you."
The next was a boy with a quiet look, rather better dressed than most of the vagrant boys, and far more clean in his dress. He made the following statement: -
"I am now 17. My father was a cotton-spinner in Manchester, but has been dead ten years, and soon after that my mother went into the workhouse, leaving me with an aunt, and I had work in a cotton factory. As young as I was, learned 2s. 2d. a week at first. I can read well, and can write a little. I worked at the factory two years, and was then earning 7s. a week. I then ran away, for I had always a roving mind, but I should have stayed if my master hadn't knocked me about so. I thought I should make my fortune in London - I'd heard it was such a grand place. I had read in novels and romances, halfpenny and penny books, about such things, but I've met with nothing of the kind. I started without money, and begged my way from Manchester to London, saying I was going up to look for work. I wanted to see the place more than anything else. I suffered very much on the road, having to be out all night often, and the nights were cold, though it was summer. When I got to London all my hopes were blighted. I could get no further. I never tried for work in London, for I believe there are no cotton-factories in it; besides, I wanted to see life. I begged, and slept at the unions. I got acquainted with plenty of boys like myself. We met at the casual wards, both in London and the country. I have now been five years at this life. We were merry enough in the wards, we boys singing and telling stories. Songs such as 'Paul Jones' was liked, while some sung very blackguard songs; but I never got hold of such songs, though I have sold lots of songs in Essex. Some told long stories - very interesting - some were not fit to be heard; but they made one laugh sometimes. I've read 'Jack Sheppard' through, in three volumes, and I used to tell stories out of that sometimes. We all told in our turns. We generally began - 'Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, though it was neither in your time, nor my time, nor nobody else's time.' The best man in the story is always called Jack. At my request this youth told me a long story, and told it very readily, as if by rote. I give it for its peculiarity, as it is extravagant enough, without humour: - "A farmer hired Jack, and instructed him overnight. Jack was to do what he was required, or lose his head. 'Now, Jack,' said the farmer (I give the conclusion in the boy's words), 'what's my name?' Master, to be sure,' says Jack. 'No,' said he, 'you must call me Tom Per Cent.' He showed his bed next, and asked, 'What's this, Jack?' 'Why, the bed,' said Jack. No, you must call that 'He's of Degree.' And so he bid Jack call his leather breeches 'forty cracks;' the cat, 'white-faced Simeon;' the fire, 'hot Coloman;' the pump, 'the resurrection;' and the haystack, 'the little cock-a-mountain.' Jack was to remember these names or lose his head. At night the cat got under the grate, and burned herself, and a hot cinder stuck to her fur, and she ran under the haystack and set it on fire. Jack ran upstairs to his master, and said -
Tom Per Cent, arise out of He's of Degree,
Put on your forty cracks, come and see,
For the little white-faced Simeon
Has run away with hot Coloman
Under the cock-a-mountain,
And without the aid of the resurrection
We shall all be damned and burnt to death.'
So Jack remembered his lesson and saved his head. That's the end.' Blackguard stories were often told about women. There was plenty told, too, about Dick Turpin, Sixteen-String Jack, Oxford Blue, and such as them, as well as about Jack Sheppard, about Bamfylde Moore Carew, too, and his disguises. We very often had fighting and quarrelling amongst ourselves. Once at Birmingham we smashed all the windows, and did all the damage we could. I can't tell exactly why it was done, but we must all take part in it or we should be marked. I believe some did it to get into prison, they were so badly off. They piled up the rugs; there was no straw, and some put their clothes on the rugs, and then the heap was set fire to; there was no fire and no light, but somebody had a box of lucifers. We were all nearly suffocated before the people of the place could get to us. Seventeen of us had a month a piece for it. I was one. The rugs were dirty and filthy, and not fit for any Christian to sleep under, and so I took part in the burning, as I thought it would cause something better. I've known wild Irishmen get into the wards with knives and sticks hidden about their persons, to be ready for a fight. I met two young men in Essex who had been well off - very well - but they liked a tramper's life. Each had his young woman with him, living as man and wife. They often change their young women, but I never did travel with one, or kept company with any more than twelve hours or so. There used to be great numbers of girls in the casual wards in London. Any young man travelling the country could get a mate among them, and can get mates - partners' they're often called - still. Some of them are very pretty indeed; but among them are some horrid ugly - the most are ugly; bad expressions and coarse faces, and lame, and disgusting to the eye. It was disgusting, too, to hear them in their own company - that is, among such as themselves, beggars, you know. Almost every word was an oath, and every blackguard word was said plain out. I think the pretty ones was worst. Very few have children. I knew two who had. One was 17, and her child was nine months old; the other was 21, and her child was eighteen months. They were very good to their children. I've heard of some having children and saying they couldn't guess at the fathers of them, but I never met any such myself. I didn't often hear them quarrel - I mean the young women that went as partners - in the lodging-houses. Some boys of have their young women as partners, but with young boys older women are generally partners - women about 20. They always pass as man and wife. All beggar girls are bad, I believe. I never heard but of one that was considered virtuous, and she was always reading a prayer-book and a pocket testament in her lodging-house. The last time I saw her was at Cambridge. She is about 30, and has traces of beauty left. The boys used to laugh at her and say, 'Oh! how virtuous and righteous we are, but you get your living by it.' I never knew her to get anything by it. I don't see how she could, for she said nothing about her being righteous when she was begging about, I believe. If it wasn't for the casual wards, I couldn't get about. If two partners' goes to the same union, they have to be parted at night, and join again in the morning. Some of the young women are very dirty, but some's as clean. A few, I think, can read and write. Some boasts of their wickedness, and others tell them in derision its wrong to do that, and then a quarrel rages in the lodging-house. I liked a roving life at first, being my own master. I was fond of going to plays, and such like, when I got the money, but now I'm getting tired of it, and wish for something else. I have tried for work at cotton factories in Lancashire and Yorkshire, but could never get any. I've been all over the country. I'm sure I could settle now. I couldn't have done that two years ago, the roving spirit was so strong upon me, and the company I kept got a strong hold on me. Two winters back there was a regular gang of us boys in London. After sleeping at a union we would fix where to meet at night to get into another union to sleep. There were thirty of us that way, all boys, besides forty young men and thirty young women. Sometimes we walked the streets all night; we didn't rob, at least I never saw any robbing. We had pleasure in chaffing the policemen, and some of us got taken up. I always escaped. We got broken up in time - some's dead, some's gone to sea, some into the country, some home, and some lagged. Among them were many lads very expert in reading, writing, and arithmetic. One young man - he was only 25 - could speak several languages; he had been to sea; he was then begging though a strong young man. I suppose he liked that life. Some soon get tired of it. I often have suffered from cold and hunger. I never made more than threepence a day in money, take the year round, by begging; some make more than 6d., but then I've had meat and bread given besides. I say nothing when I beg, but that I am a poor boy out of work and starving. I never stole anything in my life. I've often been asked to do so by my mates - I never would. The young women steal the most. I know, least I did know, two that kept young men, their partners, going about the country with them, chiefly by their stealing. Some do so by their prostitution. Those that go as partners' are all prostitutes. There is a great deal of sickness among the young men and women, but I never was ill these last seven years. Fevers, colds, and venereal diseases are very common."
The last statement I took was that of a boy of thirteen. I can hardly say that he was clothed at all. He had no shirt and no waistcoat - all his neck and great part of his chest being bare. A ragged cloth jacket hung about him, and was tied, so as to keep it together, with bits of tape. What he had wrapped round for trowsers did not cover one of his legs, while one of his thighs was bare. He wore two odd shoes - one tied to his foot with an old ribbon, the other a woman's old boot. He had an old cloth cap. His features were distorted somewhat from being swollen through the cold.
"I was born (he said) at a place called Hadley, in Kent. My father died when I was three days old, I've heard my mother say. He was married to her, I believe, but I don't know what he was. She had only me. My mother went about begging - sometimes taking me with her; at other times she left me at the lodging-house in Hadley. She went in the country round about Ton- bridge and there, begging. Sometimes she had a day's work. We had plenty to eat then, but I haven't had much lately. My mother died at Hadley a year ago. I don't know how she was buried. She was ill a longtime, and I was out begging; for she sent me out to beg by myself a good while before that, and when I got back to the lodging~house they told me she was dead. I had 6d. in my pocket, but I couldn't help crying to think I'd lost my mother. I cry about it still. I didn't wait to see her buried, but I started on my own account. I met two navvies in Bromley, and they paid my first night's lodging; and there was a man passing, going to London with potatoes, and the navvies gave the man a pot of beer to take me up to London in the van, and they went that way with me. I came to London to beg, thinking I could get more in London than anywhere else, hearing that London was such a good place. I begged, but sometimes wouldn't get a farthing in a day, often walking about the streets all night. I have been begging about all the time until now. I am very weak - starving to death. I never stole anything. I always kept my hands to myself. A boy wanted me to go with him to pick a gentleman's pocket. We was mates for two days, and then he asked me to go picking pockets; but I wouldn't. I know it's wrong, though I can neither read nor write. The boy asked me to do it to get into prison, as that would be better than the streets. He picked pockets to get into prison. He was starving about the streets like me. I never slept in a bed since I've been in London. I'm sure I haven't. I generally slept under the dry arches in West-street, where they're building houses - I mean the arches for the cellars. I begged chiefly from the Jews about Petticoat-lane, for they all give away bread that their children leave - pieces of crust and such like. I would do anything to be out of this misery."