chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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contrasts does mortal existence present to view!
While some are joyous and happy in one place, others are
overwhelmed with sorrow and affliction elsewhere! At the same moment that the
surgeon ushers a new being into life, the hand of the executioner cuts short the
days of another. Here the goblet sparkles with the ruby wine — there
the lip touches the poisoned glass of suicide: — in this
abode a luxurious banquet is spread upon the table — in that
the wretched inmate has not a crust to stay the cravings of famine!
Thus was it that while the hostess and the guests were
blithe and happy in the villa near Clapton, a painful scene was in process of
It was about five o'clock on that same evening when a
cab stopped at the prisoners' gate of Newgate; and from the vehicle stepped a
tall, powerfully-built and rather good-looking man dressed in plain clothes. He
was accompanied by a Superintendent and Serjeant of Police.
They were immediately admitted into the lobby of the
gaol; and the turnkey, after bestowing upon them a nod of recognition, said,
"You needn't tell me to guess what you 're come about. So the youngster is
to go over, then — after all?"
"Yes," replied the tall man in plain clothes.
"The Secretary of State's warrant was sent down here about an hour ago. I
suppose Cope is in?"
"Step into the office, Mr. Busby, and see,"
answered the turnkey.
The tall man, who responded to the name of Busby,
accordingly passed from the lobby into the governor's office.
"Any thing new?" asked the turnkey, rubbing
his nose with the end of the massive emblem of his office, and accosting the two
police authorities, who had seated themselves on the bench facing the gate.
"Not that I know on," returned the Serjeant;
"leastways nothink partickler — unless it is that my
Superintendent here is doing someot in the littererry line, and writing a book
about Great Criminals, and Police, and Prisons, and all that there kind of
"You don't say so?" ejaculated the turnkey.
"Yes, sir — Mr. Crisp is quite
right," said the Superintendent, pompously: "I ham getting up a
work on them subjects; but my official po-sition will compel me to publish it
enonnymusly, as they say. And while we're here, Crisp, we may as well take down
a few notes — for I must inform you," continued the
Superintendent, addressing himself once more to the turnkey, "that my
friend and subordingate Mr. Crisp is helping me in this here labour of
"Well, sir," returned the gaol functionary,
"any information that I can give you, I shall be most happy to furnish you
with, I'm sure."
"Thank'ee kindly," said the Superintendent.
"Now, Crisp, out with your note-book, and fall to. Busby will be half an
hour or so in the office. Pray, sir, what may be the anniwal average of
prisoners, male and female, in Newgate?"
"About three thousand males and eight hundred
females," answered the turnkey.
"Put that down, Crisp. I suppose in the males you
includes boys, and in the females you comprises gals?"
"Certainly," was the reply.
"Put that down, Crisp. Now what's the state of
discipline here?" asked the Superintendent. "I've heerd a good deal
about it, in course; but I'd rayther have it direct from a 'ficial source."
"Why, there isn't much to say on that point,"
returned the functionary thus appealed to. "We let the prisoners have
pretty much their own way: they gamble, play at ball, fight, swear, sing, and
lark in the wards just as they like."
"Put that down, Crisp. It's a blessing to think of
the state of freedom one enjoys even in the gaols of this enlightened and
"To be sure it is," said the turnkey.
"The young thieves consider Newgate to be a capital school for improvement
in their profession: when they're at chapel, they're always practising
"What's bred in the bone will never go out of the
flesh," observed the Superintendent. "But the poor creeturs must have
some diwersion. Put that down, Crisp."
"Ah! Newgate has seen some rum things in its
time," moralised the turnkey. "It has been a felon's gaol for
well-nigh seven hundred years."
"Has it, though?" cried the Superintendent.
"Now, then, Crisp — put that down."
"And ever since I first come here," continued
the turnkey, "there have been constant Reports drawn up about the
state of discipline;. but I never see that any change follows."
"Put that down, Crisp. When my book is published,
my good fellow, you'll jist see what the world will say about a change! There's
no need of change — and that I'll undertake to prove. Newgate is the
very palace of prisons. Lord bless us! it would do half the Aldermen themselves
good to pass a few days in such a pleasant place."
"Sometimes we have a few discontented fellows here
that don't like to associate with the rest," proceeded the turnkey;
"and then they ask to be thrown into solitary cells."
"Put that down, Crisp. I suppose they're always
gratified in their wishes?" asked the Superintendent.
"Oh! always," replied the turnkey. "But
the worst of all is that the chaplain here is nothing more or less than a
regular spy upon the governor [-315-] and the
officials, and constantly reports to the Home Office every thing that
"Put that down. Crisp. Such conduct is shameful;
and I wonder the Gaol Committee of Aldermen don't take the matter up."
"So they will," rejoined the turnkey.
"But here comes Busby."
And, as he spoke, the tall man in plain clothes
re-entered the lobby.
"All right?" asked the Superintendent.
"Yes. We'll take him over at once," was the
The turnkey stepped into a passage leading to the
interior of the gaol, and gave some instructions to a colleague who was
A few minutes afterwards Henry Holford, dressed in his
own clothes, and not in the prison-garb, was led into the lobby by the official
to whom the turnkey had spoken.
The youth was well in health, and by no means cast down
in spirits. His face, at no period remarkable for freshness of colour, was less
pallid than it ever before had been. There were, however, a certain apathy and
indifference in his manner which might have induced a superficial observer to
conclude that his reason was in reality affected; but a careful examination of
the expression of his countenance and a few minutes' study of his intelligent
dark eyes, would have served to convince even the most sceptical that, however
morbid his mind might for an interval have become, that excitement or disease
had passed away, and he was now as far removed from insanity as the most
rational of God's creatures.
"Come, young man," said Mr. Busby, with great
kindness of manner, as if he were endeavouring to a conciliate an individual
whom he actually deemed to be of disturbed intellects; "you are going along
with me — and I'll take you to a nice house with a pleasant garden,
and, where you'll be well treated."
"I am at no loss to imagine the place to which you
allude," said Holford, an expression of slyness curling his lip.
"Better Bedlam than Newgate."
"He's no more mad than me, Crisp," whispered
the Superintendent to the Serjeant.
"Not a bit, sir," was the reply.
"You may put that down, Crisp," continued the
Superintendent, still speaking aside to his subordinate. "It will all do to
go into our report to the Home Secretary. How capital that turnkey allowed
himself to be pumped by me, to be sure! Don't you think I did it very
"Very well, sir, indeed," returned Crisp.
"But I introduced the subject for you, by saying that you was okkipied in
writing a book."
"Good hidear, that, Crisp," rejoined the
Superintendent. "The turnkey little thought we was spies, while he blowed
up about the chaplain."
"In course you'll make out Newgate a horrid place,
sir?" said Crisp.
"In course I shall," answered the
Superintendent emphatically; "'cos it'll please the Home Secretary. But
there's Busby a-calling after us."
This was indeed the case; for while the two
police-officers were thus engaged in the interchange of their own little private
sentiments, Mr. Busby had conducted Holford to the cab, and had ensconced
himself therein by the side of the prisoner.
The Superintendent followed them into the vehicle; and,
at the suggestion of Busby, who declared in a whisper to that functionary that
three men were not needed to take care of one boy, the farther services of Crisp
were dispensed with.
And now the cab rolled rapidly along the Old Bailey,
turned down Ludgate Hill, thence into Bridge Street, and over Blackfriars
Bridge, in its way to Bethlem.
How strange to Holford appeared the busy, bustling
streets, and that river — "the silent highway" — on
whose breast all was life and animation, — after the seclusion of
several weeks in Newgate!
But — ah! did he not now behold those scenes
for the last time? would not he thenceforth become dead to the world? was he not
about to be immured in a living tomb?
Never — never more would the echoes of the
myriad voices of the great city meet his ears! He was on his way to the
sepulchre of all earthly hopes — all mundane enjoyments — all
Henceforth must that bright sun, which now steeped
pinnacle, dome, tower, and river in a flood of golden lustre, visit him with its
rays only through the grated window of a mad-house!
For the last time was he crossing that bridge — for
the last time did he behold that crowded thoroughfare leading to the
obelisk: — on the gay shops, the rapid vehicles, and the moving
multitudes, was he also now gazing for the last time!
The last time! Oh! those three monosyllables
formed a terrible prelude — an awful introduction to an existence of
monotony, gloom, and eternal confinement! Ah! could he recall the events of the
last few weeks! — But, no — it was impossible: — the
die was cast — the deed was done — and justice had
settled his destiny!
The last time! And he was so young — so
very young to be compelled to murmur those words to himself. The sky was so
bright — the air of the river was so refreshing — the
scene viewed from the bridge was so attractive, that he could scarcely believe
he was really doomed never to enjoy them morel And there was a band of music
playing in the road — at the door of a public-house! What was the
air? "Britons never shall be slaves!" Merciful God! — he
was now a slave of the most abject description! The convict in the hulks knew
that the day of release must come — the transported felon might
enjoy the open air, and the glorious sun, and the cheering breeze: — but
for him — for Henry Holford — eternal confinement
within four walls!
The last time! Oh! for the pleasures of life that
were now to be abandoned for ever! For the last time did his eyes behold those
play-bills in the shop windows — and he was so fond of the theatre!
For the last time did he see that omnibus on its way to the Zoological
Gardens — and he was so fond of those Gardens! Ah! It was a
crushing — a stifling — a suffocating sensation to know
that in a few minutes more huge doors, and grated windows, and formidable bolts
and bars must separate him from that world which had so many attractions for one
of his age!
Yes: — he now beheld those bonnets — those
shops — those streets — those crowds — those
vehicles — for the last time!
And now the cab has reached the iron gate in front of
There was a temporary delay while the porter opened that
Holford looked hastily from the windows; and his lips
were compressed as if to subdue his feelings.
Again the vehicle rolled onward, and in a few moments
stopped at the entrance of the huge madhouse.
[-316-] The Superintendent
alighted: Holford was directed to follow; and Busby came close after him.
The great folding doors leading into the handsome hall
of the establishment stood open: — Holford paused on the threshold
for an instant — cast one rapid but longing look behind him — a
last look — and then walked with firm steps to a waiting-room
commanding a view of the grounds at the back of the building.
On the table lay a book in which visitors to the
institution are compelled to enter their names and places of abode. Holford
turned over the leaves — carelessly at first; but when he caught
sight of several great names, he experienced a momentary glow of pride and
triumph, as he murmured to himself, "How many will come hither on
purpose to feast their eyes on me?"
Busby, who was one of the principal officers connected
with the establishment, of which Sir Peter Laurie is the intelligent and justly-honoured
President, left the room for a short time, Holford remaining in the charge of
the Superintendent. When the first-mentioned functionary returned, it was to
conduct the youth to his future place of abode.
Busby led the way through a long and well ventilated
passage, in which about a dozen miserable-looking men were lounging about.
Holford cast a glance of ill-concealed terror upon their
countenances, and read madness in their wild eyes. But, to his
astonishment, he beheld no horrifying and revolting sights, — no
wretches writhing in chains — no maniacs crowning themselves with
straws — no unhappy beings raging in the fury of insanity. He had
hitherto imagined that madhouses were shocking places — and Bethlem
worse than all: but distressing though the spectacle of human reason dethroned
and cast down must ever be, it was still a great relief to the young man to
find, upon inquiry of the officer, that there were no scenes throughout the vast
establishment one little worse than that which he now beheld.
On one side of that long passage were the cells, or
rather little rooms, in which the inmates of that department of the asylum
slept, each being allowed a separate chamber. The beds were comfortable and
scrupulously cleanly in appearance; and the officer informed Holford that the
linen was changed very frequently.
From the other aide of the passage, or wide corridor,
opened the rooms in which the meals were served up; and here we may observe that
the food allowed the inmates of Bethlem Hospital is both excellent in quality
and abundant in quantity.
There was a very tall officer, — indeed, all
the male keepers throughout the institution are tall, strong, and well-built
men, — walking slowly up and down the passage of which we are,
speaking; and when any of the unhappy lunatics addressed him, he replied to them
in a kind and conciliatory manner, or else good-naturedly humoured them by
listening with apparent interest and attention to the lamentable outpourings of
their erratic intellects.
It is delightful to turn from those descriptions of
ill-disciplined prisons and of vicious or tyrannical institutions, which it has
been our duty to record in this work, — it is delightful to turn
from such pictures to an establishment which, though awakening many melancholy
thoughts, nevertheless excites our admiration and demands our unbounded praise,
as a just tribute to the benevolence, the wisdom, and the humanity which
constitute the principles of its administration.
Oh! could the great — the philanthropic
Pinel rise from the cold tomb and visit this institution of which we are
speaking, — he would see ample proof to convince him that, while on
earth, he had not lived nor toiled in vain.
Connected with the male department of Bethlem, there are
a library and a billiard-room, for the use of those who are sufficiently sane to
enjoy the mental pleasures of the one or the innocent recreation of the other,
The books in the library are well selected: they consist chiefly of the works of
travellers and voyagers, naval and military histories and biographies, and the
leading cheap periodicals — such as The London Journal,
Chambers's Information for the People, Knight's Penny Magazine, &c.
Communicating with the female department of the asylum,
is a music-room, — small, but elegantly fitted up, and affording a
delightful means of amusement and solace to many of the inmates of that division
of the building.
When these attentions to the comforts and even
happiness, — for Bethlem Hospital exhibits many examples where
"ignorance is bliss," — of those who are doomed to dwell
within its walls, are contrasted with the awful and soul-harrowing spectacle
which its interior presented not very many years ago, it is impossible to feel
otherwise than astonished and enraptured at the vast improvements which
civilisation has introduced into the modern management of the insane!
But let us return to Henry Holford.
We left him threading the long passage which formed a
portion of his way towards this criminal department of the hospital, — that
department which was thenceforth to be his abode!
It may be readily imagined that he gazed anxiously and
intently on all he saw, — that not a single object of such new,
strange, and yet mournful interest to him escaped his observation.
Suddenly he beheld a man leaning against the wall, and
staring at him as he passed in a wild and almost ferocious manner. There seemed
to be something peculiar in that poor creature's garb: — Holford
looked again — and that second glance made him shudder fearfully!
The man had on a strait-waistcoat, — a
strong garment made of bed-ticking, and resembling a smock that was too small
for him. The sleeves were beneath, instead of outside, and were
sewn to this waistcoat — a contrivance by which the arms of the
unhappy wretch were held in a necessary restraint, but without the infliction of
"Merciful God!" thought Holford, within
himself; "if a residence within these walls should drive me really mad! Oh!
if I should ever come to such an abject state as that!"
His miserable reflections were strangely interrupted.
One of the lunatics abruptly drew near and addressed him
in a wild and incoherent tone.
"The nation is falling," he said; "and
the worst of it is that it does not know that it is falling! It is going down as
rapidly as it can; and I only can save it! Yes — the nation is
falling — falling — "
Holford felt a cold and shuddering sensation creep over
him; for these manifestations of a ruined intellect struck him forcibly — fearfully, — as
if they were an omen — a warning — a presage of [-317-]
the condition to which he himself must speedily come!
He was relieved from the farther importunities of the
poor lunatic, by the sudden opening of a door, by which Busby admitted him into
a narrow passage with two gratings, having a small space between them. The inner
grating was at the bottom of a stone staircase, down which another keeper
speedily came in obedience to a summons from Busby's lips.
This second keeper now took charge of Henry Holford,
whom he conducted up the stairs to a gallery entered by a wicket in an iron
grating, and divided by a similar defence into two compartments. One of these
compartments was much larger than this other, and contained many inmates and
many rooms: the smaller division had but six chambers opening from it.
The entire gallery was, however, devoted to those
persons who, having committed dread deeds, had been acquitted on the ground of
It was to the lesser compartment that Holford was
And now he was an inmate of the criminal division of
Bethlem Hospital, — he who was as sane as his keeper, and who could,
therefore, the more keenly feel, the more bitterly appreciate the dread
circumstances of his present condition!
And who were his companions? Men that had perpetrated
appalling deeds — horrible murders — in the aberration
of their intellects!
Was this the triumph that he had achieved by his
regicide attempt? had he earned that living tomb as the sacrifice to be paid for
the infamous notoriety which he had acquired?
Oh! to return to his pot-boy existence — to
wait on the vulgar and the low — to become once more a menial unto
menials, — rather than stay in that terrible place!
Or else to be confined for life in a gaol where no
presence of madness might tend to drive him mad also! — Yes-that
were preferable — oh! far preferable to the soul-harrowing scene
where man appeared more degraded and yet more formidable than the brutes!
Yes — yes: transportation — chains — the
horrors of Norfolk. Island, — any thing — any thing
rather than immurement in the criminal wards of Bethlem!
Vain and useless regrets for the past! — futile
and ineffective aspirations for the future!
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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