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A NEW CHAMBER OF HORRORS
The time has now
arrived for a new Chamber of Horrors; a room not veiled under the thin
apologetic title of "A Chamber of Comparative Physiognomy," but a
fearful national apartment, supported out of the national taxation, and standing
as a national monument of disgrace and shame. It shall not be filled with the
sullen faces of murderers and regicides; it shall not be so broad in design that
it may exhibit horrors of all countries; and it shall not be merely a wax-work
holiday show for gaping rustics. It shall be a Poor-law Museum of men, women,
and children starved to death in England--in merry England--in wealthy
England--in the country famed for nothing so much as its homely virtues; it
shall be set up on the [-188-] waste ground usually devoted to heroic statues
in Parliament Street, Westminster, and, while it shall be a warning to reckless,
breeding paupers, it shall be the standing curse of the Poor-law Board, and
every poor-law official throughout the country. The world is too busy, the
newspapers are too universal in their aspirations, and our statesmen are
thinking far too much of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, to devote more than
a passing glance to these most awful deaths, unless they are brought before them
in a blunt, material shape. The dead man is hurried away in the parish coffin,
the usual curt line is recorded in the registrar's book, the paragraph in the
newspaper corner is read and forgotten, and the whole thing is buried in eternal
night. This is not enough; and, for the sake of those strugglers who are left,
we require more. Per-centages, averages, and all the hocus-pocus of statistics
are only mists, fogs, curtains, and sleeping-draughts, except to the official
mind; and we, the public, require something more gross--and more palpable. The
deaths from "privation," [-189-] "deaths from want of breast-milk,"
"deaths from neglect," "deaths from cold" --or, in plain
unsavoury words, from utter starvation--increase every year. They were two
hundred and twenty-two (in London only) in 1848, they were five hundred and
sixteen, within the same area, in 1857, and this, without questioning how many
of the returns under the head of "fever," ought to be classed as
starvation. Here is a country that spends one hundred millions sterling a year
in universal government, and yet allows hundreds of its children, in its
metropolis alone, to be annually starved to death!
The first stone of the New Chamber of Horrors must be laid at once; its architecture must be in keeping with its contents; famished paupers must support its entablature, in the shape of caryatides, and the death's head must blossom on every column. The first full-length model that shall stand in its dark rooms shall be that of the poor old woman of seventy years of age, who was found dead at the Marylebone workhouse door, on Christmas night, 1860. The next grim [-190-] model shall be that of the deaf and dumb man who was picked up, on the same day, in the same parish, cold and famished, and who died in the arms of the workhouse surgeon during the night. This shall form the basis of the show in the north transept.
In the south transept a full-length model shall be placed of the starved excavator who dropped dead in Manor Street, Clapham, on the 11th of January, 1861, while begging with some companions. He saved himself from being classed as a "noisy impostor," but he lost his life.
In the east nave we shall have a full collection. We shall begin with a model of Thomas Bates, a melancholy suicide from workhouse neglect. As every statue will have its story written under it, I give the newspaper story of poor Bates--a record doubtless forgotten, although only written on the 2nd of December, 1860:
"Mr. Humphreys, the coroner for the eastern division of the county of Middlesex, held an inquest on Wednesday, at the Black Horse Tavern, Kingsland Road, upon the body of [-191-] Thomas Bates, a cabinet-maker, aged sixty-two, who committed suicide by hanging himself in a public-house where he lodged. The evidence of the deceased's daughter and another witness was to the effect that he complained that he could not obtain admission to Shoreditch workhouse, and, in reply to an offer on the part of his daughter to accompany him there, he said, ` they would bully the eyes out of her head if she went.' He was very infirm and not able to work, although he did sometimes earn threepence or fourpence a day, and his children, who were all in poor circumstances, sometimes gave him a few halfpence. The deceased said several times that, if he were not admitted into the house, he should destroy himself. Upon the 14th of November he told the witness that he had applied, but had been refused admission, but was to have one shilling and sixpence a week and a four pound loaf of bread for three months. The relieving officer denied that the deceased had applied for admission into the workhouse. It appeared that the deceased was [-192-] an inmate of the house from October, 1859, to the 4th of August last, during which time he was in the sick ward suffering from chronic bronchitis, but on the latter date he was discharged from the doctor's list as `relieved.' He was then called before the board, who directed him to be discharged with an allowance of one shilling a week and a four pound loaf for two weeks. The clerk to the guardians said the deceased quitted the workhouse voluntarily, but afterwards qualified that statement by admitting that the man had not applied to be discharged, and that the board had ordered him to leave the house. Dr. James Clark, surgeon to the Shoreditch workhouse, who attended him while he was an inmate, stated that deceased, when discharged by him `relieved,' on the 4th of August, was not able-bodied, and was not in a fit condition to leave the house. After a lengthened inquiry, at which the Board of Guardians were represented by their solicitor, the jury returned a verdict that the deceased hung himself while in an unsound state of [-193-] mind, through having been refused admission to the workhouse."
By the side of Thomas Bates we shall place William Gurr, and tell his story as we find it recorded in the public journals of December 23, 1860:
"On Monday, December 17, an inquest was held before the coroner, at the Market-house Tavern, Finsbury Market, Shoreditch, on the body of William Gurr, aged sixty-seven years, a blacksmith, who died from starvation. Mary Gurr, of No. 2, King's Head Court, Long Alley, stated that she was the widow of the deceased, who had been very reduced and destitute. On Thursday fortnight he went into Shoreditch workhouse. Witness succeeded in obtaining a little work, and would not go into the establishment, as she could earn with her daughter about four shillings per week, and three persons had to subsist and pay rent out of that amount. Deceased came out on Monday, the 3rd instant, after being in the workhouse four days. He said to witness, 'I would rather be at home, [-194-] however much trouble I am in.' The deceased left the workhouse and went before the Board of Guardians, who, after hearing the case, ordered him two shillings and sixpence and a loaf weekly. The deceased then came home and died in a few days afterwards. They never had meat for months. The only things they had to live upon were dry bread, treacle, dripping, with a little tea and sugar; and no beer. They were very deficient of wearing apparel and bedding. The deceased had not been able to work for the last eighteen months. The two shillings and sixpence per week from the parish, and the four shillings witness and her daughter earned, were all they had to subsist on and to pay rent, food, and firing. I believe that the deceased died from want of food and the necessaries of life. When the deceased went into the workhouse he was so ill from weakness and debility that he reeled and staggered as he walked. He had nothing at home but dry bread for days. While in the workhouse the deceased had one day tea for breakfast, one day meat, another day [-195-] pudding, and meat again on Sunday. Deceased only had meat twice while in the workhouse, and no stimulants. After other evidence, Mr. Thomas Pool Collier, surgeon, said that the deceased was dead when he was called. Had made a post-mortem examination. Several of the organs were healthy, but the stomach only contained a little water-gruel. There was not the slightest trace of fat inside or outside the body. The walls of the stomach were thin from want of nourishment, and the body was much emaciated. The coroner having commented on the case at some length, the jury returned a verdict of `Died from starvation through the want of the common necessaries of life.' "
Our next full-length model will be that of Samuel Bailey, whose story is recorded in the public journals of January 30, 1861:
"On Monday evening, January 28, Mr. Humphreys, coroner, held an adjourned inquest at the Prince of Wales, Bishop's Road, Victoria Park, respecting the death of Samuel Bailey, aged forty-one, a widower.
[-196-] "An emaciated boy, apparently about twelve years of age, said: `The deceased was my father. Previous to our removal to the workhouse, we lived at No. 12, Weatherhead's Gardens, Crabtree Row, Bethnal Green. My father was a cabinet-maker, but had no work for the last three months, during which time he has been selling the furniture to procure us food, and for some time past we have had nothing to eat but bread. On Friday, the 4th instant, I went with my father to the workhouse, and on the way he told me he was going to ask for admission into the house, and I did not expect we should have gone home again, but we did return; and in the afternoon the relieving officer's assistant came and told my father to go again to the workhouse at four o'clock, and he did so, and they gave him two loaves of bread and an order to go before the board on Monday. We then returned home, and the bread which he received lasted us until Sunday. On Monday my father got up to go to the board at the workhouse, but he fell down immediately, and was unable to go. In the evening my aunt [-197-] went to the workhouse to request them to send the chair used to convey those unable to walk; and, as her application was not immediately attended to, she swore at the person she saw, and because she did so, he refused to send the chair, and she returned without it, and said father must walk there; but he said he could not, and we remained at home until Wednesday night, when a policeman came and took father to the workhouse in a truck, and I walked by the side. When we got to the workhouse we were immediately admitted, and father died soon after.'
Dr. Christie deposed to having made a postmortem examination, the result of which was that he attributed death to exposure and want of nourishment.
An immense mass of evidence was taken at the various sittings, which want of space compels us to omit, all tending to show the fearful state to which poverty had reduced the deceased.
The jury returned the following verdict: `That the deceased died from exposure to cold [-198-] and the want of food and other necessaries; and the said jurors do further say, the said death was accelerated by the great neglect of the relieving-officer of Bethnal Green parish; and the said jurors request the coroner to forward a copy of the same to the parish authorities, and also to the Poor Law Commissioners.'
This will form a group: The policeman wheeling the dying man to the workhouse in a truck, and the son walking by the side.
I can easily find a dozen more "cases," even in London, and within the months of December, 1860, and January, 1861, to fill the new Chamber of Horrors, but my impression is that these will be enough. Before this museum of poor-law victims has been open a year, I believe that not a single instance of starvation will have to be recorded throughout the land.*
[*Reprinted from All the Year Round.]
LONDON MODEL LODGING HOUSES.
After dwelling so
long upon the "horrors of London," I naturally turned to the other
side of the account, and looked at what had been done or was doing to improve
the homes of the poor. I knew that the "Board of Health" had come and
gone, and was now represented by the Government Local Management Act Office-a
shadow of a shade. I knew that a Common Lodging Houses Act, to prevent the
huddling together of different families in one room had been in operation for
some years, and that its provisions were enforced, or not enforced, according to
the energy and conscientiousness of the local inspectors of nuisances. I knew
that many cellar-rooms, called "kitchens," had been condemned in
certain neigbourhoods; many ceilings had been compulsively whitewashed; many
drains [-200-] had been constructed; and many rotten dustheaps had been removed. I knew
that there had been much talk, and much writing, about the social condition of
the labouring classes, and that if I only held up my finger I might be deluged
with pamphlets on this deathless subject. Although a writer by profession, I
have a constitutional horror of English composition about any real work that
requires to be done. Receiving certain reports, tracts, and prospectuses, more
as a guide to places than to results, I went once more into the holes and
corners of London to see what model lodging-houses we have really got.
The first place I arrived at was a block of buildings in St. Pancras, lying between Agar Town and Chapel Street, Somers Town, the worst parts of the parish. They belong to a London society, started to some extent upon commercial principles, called the "Metropolitan Association for improving the dwellings of the Industrious Classes." This society, I believe, was founded in 1842, and the St. Pancras buildings were the first large block of model houses, or rooms in [-201-] "flats," erected in London. They are laid out to accommodate about one hundred and ten families, with about four hundred and twenty rooms, at a rental varying from three shillings and sixpence to seven shillings a week for each set of rooms. The highest prices give the command of three fair-sized rooms and a scullery, with every convenience. The plan of these rooms is very much like that of the "flat" dwellings in Edinburgh. The outer door secures the family from intrusion, and locks in the household at night. The sittingroom is equal in size to the two bed-rooms, and the latter are reached by two doors, one at each side of the sitting-room fireplace. The scullery is a narrow strip, about the length of the sittingroom. The fore-court is an enclosed playground for the children.
The height of the building is its chief structural defect, although, if the calculations have been carefully made, this ought to enable the association to lower their rents. The tenure is leasehold; the building is apparently made to last for ages; and the nett dividend of the society [-202-] from all their model houses is only about two per cent. The inference is, that too much money has been expended in building for posterity. The rents are grumbled at by many of the tenants, although they are under the market price of the neighbourhood, and too low to meet the expenses of the building, and make a fair return upon the capital sunk, according to the average yield of London house property. The winding well staircases, running up perhaps about sixty feet, with no protection at the sides or landings but an iron railing, reaching no higher than the waist of a man, are sad mistakes of the architect and builder. These staircases, at any hour of the day, are like Jacob's ladders swarming with children, and many accidents and deaths have occurred, so I was told, in the house, in consequence of these deep pits not being closed in. The necessary rail-guards should be fixed at once; such traps for careless, unwatched children, in a philanthropic building, are a disgrace that ought to be got rid of without an appeal to law.
The occupants are chiefly the higher class of [-203-] labourers and artisans, and the regular payment of the different rents would show this, even if the friends of the association had not stated it in their reports. This may seem a cheering fact to many people, but to me it bears a different aspect. I will state why I regard it unfavourably a little further on.
The other London buildings of the association are in different parts of the town. In Nelson Square, Bermondsey, there is accommodation in "flats" for one hundred and eight families; at Queen's Place, Dockhead, ten dwellings have been taken and re-arranged for ten families; and in Albion Buildings, Bartholomew Close, some old houses have been taken, and fitted up so as to lodge decently about twenty-four families. In the east of London, in Albert Street, a block of family dwellings on the "flat" system, has been built for sixty families; in Pelham Street, twelve houses have been built for twelve different families; and similar accommodation has been provided for nine families in cottages in Pleasant Row. In Albert Street, the society has also [-204-] built a set of chambers for single men, with accommodation for two hundred and thirty-four tenants; and they have long held an old house in Compton Street, Soho, in the West, which will lodge one hundred and twenty-eight single men on the same plan. In St. James's, Westminster--not far from this latter place-the association has also built another block of family buildings, capable of housing sixty families. Altogether, we may reckon the population in the society's model houses at the present time, as being nearly two thousand.
I have not visited all the houses belonging to this society, because they are not always open to inspection. The tenants, as before stated, belong to the best class of labourers and artisans, and they very properly object to be watched, counted, and inspected. Their wages are not lower than those of Hugh Miller, when he worked as a quarryman, and they show a certain degree of independence. The charity they receive through a sentimental standard of rent, is given to them in such a silent underground way, that they are not [-205-] aware when they receive it. As long as they are allowed to remain in their rooms, and pay their rent punctually, they believe that they are under no obligation to a charitable body of ladies and gentlemen. It would be difficult to persuade them that a nett dividend of only two per cent. upon the capital of their landlords, must prove that something is really given to them that they do not pay for.
At the chambers for single men in Albert Street, Mile End, I found a large coffee-room, well lighted, well warmed, and fitted up with a due regard to cleanliness and comfort. There was also a kitchen, where a number of the lodgers were cooking and eating their dinners, and a rather dull heavy library, where one man was writing a letter. About one hundred and seventy-four lodgers were on the books (the place will house two hundred and thirty-four), principally clerks, labourers, and mechanics, with a few men living on small superannuations. The beds upstairs were in separate cupboards, very much like the baths at the public wash-houses, each lodger [-206-] having a locker to himself, and a private key. The weekly rent for all this accommodation, which is substantially as good as what is generally given at a West-End club, is only two shillings and sixpence. This sum pays for gas, fire, newspapers, water, soap, towels, and books, as well as the rest of the lodging.
Looking at the building, and its low charges, I was not surprised to find that its lodgers came from all parts, and that while its net profits had only been a little over one per cent. upon the outlay, it had not benefited the neighbourhood in any perceptible degree. The Bethnal Green population--the low and really poor--are housed even more badly now than they were before the society started in philanthropic business. They have been pushed on one side, compelled to crowd closer together, because their huts have been pulled down for "improvements" and new buildings, and are looked upon by the managers of model houses with ill-concealed contempt. Even in the family houses at the side of these clubchambers, no weaver or street hawker is to be [-207-] found; the rents, although unremunerative, are pitched too high for such people, and there are standing rules to keep them out. The association is for improving the dwellings of the "industrious classes" --a very loose and windy phrase--and, with one exception, hereafter to be noticed, these model buildings may be looked upon as intruders. At St. Pancras, they have done nothing for the worst class in Somers Town and Agar Town, and they have wasted their means on a class who are well able to help themselves. I can find hundreds of tenants who are attracted to these houses from all sides by the low artificial rents, who have no more right to be pensioners of a half-benevolent society than I have. The costermongers-the street hawkers--the industrious poor, are still rotting up their filthy, ill-drained, ill-ventilated courts, while well-paid mechanics, clerks, and porters, willing to sacrifice a certain portion of their self-respect, are the constant tenants of all these model dwellings.*
[* Earl Granville made the following remarks in the House of Lords, February 28, 1861:-- "He now came," he said, "to the third point, upon which he most entirely agreed--namely, [-208-] the incalculable evil of the poorer classes being over-crowded to the extent which they had heard, and which account he believed to be perfectly true. The evil was great, but the difficulty was to find a remedy. The noble earl (Earl of Derby) made no suggestion, except that a committee should be appointed to inquire. The difficulty was enormous; and when they came to deal with the metropolis, with its three millions of inhabitants, it was impossible to deal satisfactorily with the question. He himself was a shareholder, in common with many of their lordships, in the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Poor, and they received an interest of two per cent., and that was more than he had expected, though it was not an amount which would induce people to regard it as a profitable investment, and the question of interest had a most important bearing when they came to deal with the great question. He himself had spoken to one of the great contractors, and asked him whether it was possible to do what the Metropolitan Association was doing upon a large scale, and get such interest as would tempt persons into speculations of the sort; and after that gentleman had considered the subject in all its bearings, he thought that such a scheme must be fruitless. Another objection to such a scheme was that a great part of the people who went to such places to live were persons who could afford to pay for better lodgings. Even in the model lodging-houses a great many of the apartments had been taken by persons that were above the class whom it was the particular object to reach, and who were huddled up in small rooms."]
[-208-] The club-chambers for single men, I
cannot help looking upon as a benevolent mistake. The Soho Chambers never
presented any hopeful feature from their commencement, and they have [-209-] long been a
financial failure. The Albert Street Chambers, as I have just shown, are the
next worst property on the society's books, and these are the only two
establishments devoted to single men. Why charity--for charity it is, to a large
extent--should lay itself out to help those who are best able to help
themselves, I cannot possibly imagine. The tenants of the Soho Chambers have
always largely consisted of the idle, not the industrious classes, and there is
nearly as much dissipation in wasting whole days reading periodicals over a
coffee-room fire, as in playing at skittles or drinking in a tap-room. Idleness
is idleness whatever form it takes, and it may always be met with, in large
quantities, at these clubchambers. Of all associations, the Society for
improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes is the least bound to help it
in certain localities, at a considerable annual loss.
The family dwellings in Albert Street are carefully arranged; the staircase has no well, and the washhouse is in the playing-ground. The rents vary from four shillings a week, for two [-210-] rooms and a scullery, to five shillings a week; the rooms in the area being the lowest in price, and the middle rooms the highest. The rooms at the top of the houses are the most difficult to let, and have been for the last ten years. A great demand exists for model cottages, containing two sets of rooms of three each, for two families; and those near the clubcham- bers, belonging to the society, are never unoccupied.
In another corner of Bethnal Green--in the worst and poorest part of this large and miserable district--Miss Burdett Coutts has partly built, and is now completing, a block of model lodging houses. They are light, cheerful, and somewhat ecclesiastical in appearance, and form, at present, three sides of a large quadrangle. They stand upon ground formerly occupied by a notorious place called Nova Scotia Gardens, where the Italian boy was murdered, or "burked," as it was called, some years ago, by Bishop and Williams.
The east and west wings of these model houses [-211-] are now filled with tenants. The rents in the east wing are four shillings a week for three rooms, three shillings and sixpence a week for two rooms, and two shillings a week for one room. The rooms are small, but well ventilated; and there is every convenience throughout the house, even to baths. The laundry is at the top of the wing, well supplied with water, and the playing-ground for the children is in the quadrangle below. The staircases have two defects. There is a deep narrow well between the steps, which may lead to some serious accident, unless it be railed over; and the ventilation is too boisterous. Long, arched openings in the walls, running up nearly the whole length of the stairs, make the place too cold in the winter, although they are covered with thick blinds. Two hundred men, women, and children are in the east wing, and one hundred and fifty in the west wingmaking a population of three hundreds and fifty. When the place is finished this will be more than doubled, and the workmen are now busily employed in building the back row of rooms. The [-212-] rooms in the east wing number about one hundred and eighteen, and in the west wing one hundred and five. The rents in the west wing are a little higher than those in the east wing; being five shillings a week for three rooms, four shillings a week for two rooms, and two shillings and sixpence a week for one room.
I feel a delicacy in criticising the charitable designs of an estimable lady, who has a perfect right to do what she likes with her own. Miss Coutts may have no intention of calling these buildings model lodging-houses, in the popular acceptation of the term, but the public will doubtless so name them for her, and look upon them as improved dwellings for the local poor. This they are not, and never will be, and the sooner the truth is told about them the better. The industrious poor of Bethnal Green are very sparingly represented in them, and then only on the east side. A weaver, who can only earn about seven or ten shillings a week in the present condition of his trade, would not be able to pay the rents of such rooms, even if they were large [-213-] enough for his shuttle, which they are not, and even if the manager thought proper to admit him. Street hawkers and the old inhabitants of Nova Scotia Gardens are never found in such places, and the court and alley population are left exactly where they were. The clearance, like all clearances, must have raised their rents, and caused them to huddle more closely together.
An analysis of the population in the west wing of these new buildings would show something like the following:--A clerk, employed in the city, who came here from Hoxton; a warehouseman, employed in the city, who came here from Clerkenwell; a workman, employed at Woolwich, who runs up and down by the Eastern Counties' Railway; a compositor, employed in the neighbourhood, [-214-] who came here from the city; a railway guard employed at the railway; the family belonging to the mate of a ship who is in the East Indies; a working cooper, who came here from St. Luke's parish; two or three more warehousemen and clerks, who came here from the city; a printer who came here from the country; a labourer who works some distance out of London; with a few working mechanics, perhaps not more than half-a-dozen out of fifty tenants who really sprung from the district. Whatever good such buildings may do, they can never improve the neighbourhood they stand in. They fly over the heads of those who are most in want of improvement, instead of burrowing under their feet. They attract a crowd of sharp-sighted tenants from outside districts who are a little more advanced in cleanliness and civilization, and are quick to see where ten shillings? worth of comfort is selling at less than half-price.
The other building belonging to the Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes, which I have spoken of as an exception to the general rule of misappropriation, is the model lodging-house in St. James's, Westminster. Here, the sixty families are chiefly working tailors the staple poor of the district; and although the site is not very cheerful, every [-215-] room is occupied. Three rooms, on the "flat" plan, let here for seven shillings and sixpence a week; and a second class of rooms, let in blocks of three, at six shillings and twopence a week.
The "Healthy Houses," a small private speculation near here, in Husband Street, are very dark and badly constructed, the bedrooms having no chimneys or fireplaces. Eight families are housed in this block, paying five shillings and sixpence a week for three rooms on the ground floor, and six shillings and sixpence a week for similar rooms at the top. The best feature about them is the glazed bricks in the passages and staircases, which present a surface that rejects the dirt, and is easily kept clean.
Passing by the parochial model lodging-houses which exist in St. James's, Westminster, Marylebone, and other parishes, I come to the buildings belonging to the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes. There are nine establishments; one in George Street, Bloomsbury, for one hundred and four single men [-216-] another in Hatton Garden for fifty-four single men; a "renovated lodging-house" in Charles Street, Drury Lane, for eighty-two single men; and a similar house in King Street, Drury Lane, for twenty-two single men. There are also the renovated dwellings for families in Wild Court, Drury Lane, with one hundred and six rooms; a similar building in Clark's Buildings, Broad Street, St. Giles's, containing eighty-two rooms; the Thanksgiving Model Buildings in Portpool Lane, Gray's Inn Lane, for twenty families, and one hundred and twenty-eight single women, with a public wash-house; the renovated dwellings for families and single men in Tyndall's Buildings, Gray's Inn Lane, containing eighty-seven family rooms, and forty beds for men; and the building in Streatham Street, Bloomsbury, for fifty-four families.
The society is supported by donations, subscriptions, and loans borrowed at interest, and it has now been in existence for nearly twenty years. It has doubtless done much good in improving the habits of many of the dirty poor, but it has [-217-] also met with the same bitter experiences as the other leading association. The people it has gathered under its wing are not often the class it ought to have started to benefit. In the Streatham Street houses, I saw indications of comfort in those dwellings I could look into which told me that certain well-paid workmen were accepting a lodging partly paid for by charity. One of the warm friends of the association has recently said that "they find no reluctance on the part of the working classes to accept this kind of benevolence." I can only say, I am sorry for it. The standard of morals must be very low where men with health, strength, and skilled hands, are content to accept anything that they do not fully pay for.
The building in Streatham Street is rather gloomy, built in a very heavy style to last for centuries, and disfigured by galleries with broad flat brick columns, when iron would have been so much lighter. These columns make the entrances dark, and throw a gloom into the bedrooms in front. The rents are about six or [-218-] seven shillings a week for three rooms, and five shillings a week for two rooms. The rent-book shows the superior class of tenants who have been sucked into these houses. In the week ending February 2, hard as the times are supposed to be, there were only two gaps of a few shillings each in a rental of fourteen pounds sterling. One of these gaps was caused by a death, the other by a want of work. Can any house-agent, dealing with working people in London, show an equally clear rent-book at the present moment?
The single men's lodging-houses are very similar to many established by private individuals in different parts of London, particularly those opened by Mr. Sartoris in Commercial Street, Whitechapel.
I went to the one in Charles Street, Drury Lane, where beds are made up for eighty-two men at fourpence a night each, or two shillings a week for each lodger. The beds are clean, and not too close together, and the house has seldom many vacant. In the kitchen, [-219-] about a dozen men were standing about the room, some cooking at the fire, others talking and idling. One old man was writing in one of the boxes, which are like the compartments in common coffee-rooms; and another was asleep, with his head and arms lying amongst some broken potatoes on one of the tables. They looked to me all greasy, faded men-men difficult to keep clean, who smelt of onions, and were mostly out of employment. The old lady, who regarded herself as the mother of them all, told me that many were lawyers' clerks, linen-drapers' assistants, and mechanics. One lodger, a compositor, not then in the house, she had had for years. Some stopped a night only, some a month, some came from the country; and occasionally a few thieves crept in as lodgers, and stole a few of the other lodgers' clothes. She had never had but one costermonger--a most superior man of his kind, who lived there for two years, until he got married, when he left, most probably to live up a court.
Nearly all the kitchens of these places reminded [-220-] me very much of a low ward in a debtors' prison, particularly the kitchen in Charles Street.
The society claims to be instituted for improving the condition of the labouring classes. Here, I am sorry to say, we have another loose phrase adopted as the watchword, or key-note of an association, which is well-intentioned, and royally supported in its operations. It would be rather difficult to define who the "labouring classes" really are, and I am afraid that many lodgers sheltered by this society would hardly bear a strict examination into their claims as labourers. Without any wordy flourishes, the society is a clean, wholesome lodging-house company, providing decent accommodation for any one who knocks at their doors, if he is not a costermonger, or a confirmed dweller in courts. No one seems to touch the lowest of the low, or their putrid hiding-places, and the depths in education reached by ragged schools are not yet reached by philanthropists in providing model dwellings.
Our benevolent societies are all either too [-221-] large-minded, or tied to the log of a rumbling title. We want a division of labour,--a large association of real workers, not talkers and givers --and a body of home missionaries who will tuck up their shirt-sleeves, and go out with brooms, shovels, pails, and whitewashing brushes. We want creeds of all kinds put on the shelf, for a short period, and a few years of "soap and water societies;" "scrubbing-brush societies," and such like combinations. We have heard a good deal lately about muscular Christianity, and if it is anything more than a mere name, a splendid field of action is open before it. In no part of the world,--not even in the remotest dens of savage wildernesses,--is there such a field for labour as in our London courts and alleys. Peel off the stucco at any point, and there is the mass of dirt, vice, and social degradation festering beneath. I have lived in it and amongst it ever since I could walk and talk, and I speak with some authority when I say that I know what it is. No one has ever properly grappled with it, has ever thoroughly understood it, or perhaps [-222-] tried to understand it. The attempts at reform have been mere pickings at the surface,--feeble, half-supported efforts to do good. The man only preached at, goes back to his den and rubs the lesson off his mind in a few minutes. The child only preached at, goes out of the school, puts its tongue in its cheek, throws a "handspring" in the mud, and forgets all it ever learnt in its domestic hell. Education, as I have said before, is something more than merely "sitting under" a preacher, or learning lessons out of a book. We all know what home influence is for good or evil, and here are one hundred and fifty thousand families living in dens that are worse than sewers. The most awful thing in. connexion with these people, is to find them utterly blind to their dirt and misery. Their senses are blunted by long familiarity, they cannot see the overcrowding, the mass of rotten filth that surrounds them; they cannot smell the stench; they are choked with dirt, and yet feel clean; and they slink up the foul back streets, and are satisfied with their condition. The six thousand dwellers[-223-] in London model lodging-houses*
in Model Houses in London, Estimated.
for improving the condition of the Labouring Classes, in all buildings
Strand Building Company, Eagle Court, Strand
Hilliard's Houses at Shadwell
and Private Houses on the Model Plan
Coutts's Houses, Bethnal Green
down upon them with contempt, the very porters spurn them from the model doors,
and they sink back a million of hopeless lepers, that no man will touch.*
[* Reprinted from Good Words.]
No art is so
difficult as the art of charity. To give a man a something (except in money)
that he really wants, or to organize a home for him that he will really prize,
are things that are not done once in a hundred years.
The rudest idea of the charitable refuge is the almshouse. It existed at the time when waggons did the journey to York in a week or ten days, and when it was not safe to wander towards Charing Cross after dusk. There is a wonderful sameness about all buildings of the kind. They have a central hall with a clock and a bell; a number of small brick tenements projecting to the right; an equal number projecting to the left; a pump, a cabbage-garden at the back, an ornamental grass-plot (where the [-225-] charity is rich) laid out in front; a statue of the founder, or a tablet to his memory; a dull uniformity; and an awful silence. Every room is like every other room, and every door is opposite some other door. How can the inmates of such a place be happy? Neither broken-down haberdashers, decayed Turkey merchants, nor needy frame-knitters are grateful for such refuges. They go to them, because beggars have no power to be choosers. They walk about, reflecting each other's pauperism; they constantly revolve round the same old ideas, and they moodily watch each other's decay. No matter how picturesque the general view of their building may appear; no matter how healthy or delightful may be the locality in which they are placed; no matter whether you call their institution by the name of college or almshouse; there is a mixture of the workhouse and the penitentiary in its constitution which it will never lose while a single inmate remains.*
[* This paragraph is taken mainly from an old article of mine in the Daily News.]
[-226-] If almshouses that are almost rural
in their aspect are felt to be prisons, how much less attractive those dwarfed,
dark, cottage-looking dens must be, that, through the changes of time, are now
in the very heart of the City? You may meet with them at every turn;--in
Moorgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate, and Southwark. Their founders never had any
politico-economical idea of making them repulsive in order to check the growth
of the poor. Their design and position were supposed to be faultless by those
who founded them. From the day on which they were raised, to the present hour--a
period perhaps, of more than three hundred years,--their low rooms have never
been without inmates. Sometimes they shelter a few stooping old men who creep
about the paved yards, or peer through the railings at the gate; and sometimes a
few withered old women who clean their cottage windows, brush their door-steps,
and fetch water from the pump. These pensioners exist, like strange animals in a
cage, and are placed at the road-side for idle, thoughtless pas-[-227-]sengers to gape
at. The field or country lane of the sixteenth, seventeenth, or even eighteenth
century, in which their original hermitages were built, has become a close
street of busy warehouses, if not an alley of dirty hovels. The old pensioners
find themselves in everybody's way; and everybody is in their way. Their air,
and their light, are half blocked out by a law of metropolitan progress, and
their poor lives are doubtless shortened by the accidents of their position.
They live daily and hourly in a way that their benefactors never meant they
should live in; and the boards and corporations who manage their funds are as
well aware of this as most people. Too much respect is paid to the assumed, not
the real, wishes of the dead; and no one has courage enough to ask Parliament to
remove these unfortunate almshouses.
In London and the outskirts there are at least a hundred of these charitable refuges, and more than one-third of this number are jammed up in and about the city. There is one row for the deserving poor - re-built in 1789 - up a [-228-]court in Moorgate Street. The houses are clean and comfortable, and the situation is not very confined, but the ground must be wasting away under such an unproductive class of buildings.*
[* "Value of Land in the City.--In consequence of improvements being made in Newgate Street, Great Tower Street, and two other places within the City, land to the amount of 2,670l.-of which sum 890l. (one-third) has been contributed by the Metropolitan Board of Works--will be given up to the public. From the quantity so applied, we find the average rate per acre to be 180,000l. sterling." --City Press, 1860.]
The deserving poor in each of these
six houses, receive now about six or seven shillings a week each; but if the
freehold was sold, offices and warehouses would rise upon the spot, and every
dependant of this charity would be benefited for ever and ever. In Great St.
Helen's, Bishopsgate, there is another asylum, known as Judd's, founded in 1555,
and rebuilt in 1729. It shelters six poor men who have each two rooms and ten
shillings a week, and who are doubtless very happy. Neither of these places can
be strictly called almshouses; the first being an ordinary row of small
dwellings, and the last [-229-] a large, old-fashioned mansion. The rooms now occupied
by each of these six poor men, would fetch about thirty pounds a year if let out
as offices, and a building might be raised on the ground occupied by this old
refuge, that would pay a much higher rental.
It is not necessary to describe even half-a-dozen of these places, nor to look into each deed under which they were founded, to know that their removal would benefit the charities they represent, and the people at present living in them. Let any one, in passing over London Bridge, towards Southwark, look down upon a squat row of cottages lying between St. Saviour's Church and the wharf warehouses of Messrs. Humphrey and others. These almshouses were built in the last century by Mrs. Shaw Overman, for eight poor women. Each house contains only one room on the ground floor, and the residents have five shillings a week each. New London Bridge and its approaches from the south have raised a noisy, ever-crowded roadway high above their heads, and the wharf buildings, Bridge [-230-] House hotel, and other places have towered up round them, until they seem now to live at the bottom of a deep brick well. They are evidently standing in the way of business very much against their will, for they have no particular associations with Southwark at the waterside. They are called the "witches," by costermongers and boatmen, and would doubtless be very glad if they were able to choose another lodging. Their cottages look like mushrooms by the side of the lofty, yellow warehouses; and huge packages seem always hanging over them at the end of cranes, threatening to fall and crush them. If the ground these ill-placed refuges stand upon were sold to the building genii of the neighbourhood, the eight old ladies who depend upon Mrs. Overman's charity now, and those who may have to depend upon it in the future, might retire to any lodging coming within their means, secure in an income doubled if not trebled.
This is the case with many London almshouses; and every hour that is lost in altering [-231-] it according to the dictates of business, common sense, and humanity, is so much wrong inflicted upon the poor, helpless inmates, in opposition to the real wishes of those who founded these charities. Let each knot of dependants be boldly pensioned off, with liberty to go where they like, to live where they like, and to spend their money as they like. This is real charity, and while it will reform old almshouses--the gifts of past philanthropists--it will set a healthy example before the philanthropists of the future.
Weeks spent in Westminster, near the Abbey, would only multiply these experiences; and weeks spent in and about Whitechapel, St. George's in the East, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch, Clerkenwell, St. Pancras, Bermondsey, Southwark, Lambeth, "over the water" generally, and Marylebone, would certainly produce a like result. Wherever you sink a shaft--whether in the centre or the outskirts--and penetrate with a good guide, perseverance, and fair local knowledge, you will find endless veins of social degradation. In all my journeys through the holes and corners of London I have found a terrible sameness--little more than one thing--a dead level of misery, crime, vice, dirt, and rags. I have had but one story to tell, and I have told it as faithfully as it [-233-] could well be told. The scale upon which my chapters have been unavoidably planned has imposed a treatment rather broad and superficial, and a rather arbitrary arrangement of districts. I have kept to certain distinct patches of London whose titles were familiar to the public, and by this means, when a strict description of parochial boundaries was out of the question, I have laboured to show upon what locality I stood. I have passed by many holes and corners in Fleet Street, the Strand, Chancery Lane, Holborn,*
[* The Earl of Shaftesbury made the following remarks in the House of Lords, February 28, 1861:- "In eight small courts," he said, "off Holborn Hill, he found sixty-two houses, three hundred and fourteen rooms, of the average size of eight feet by three and seven by nine. In these rooms lived one thousand four hundred and seventy-nine persons. It was impossible to imagine the physical and moral evil which resulted from these circumstances, or to describe the fearful effects on the population. But he might say that there were adults of both sexes living together in the same room, in which every social necessity, every domestic act, must be performed; that there were not only adults of both sexes living in the same room, but adult sons sleeping with their mothers, and brothers and sisters very commonly sleeping in the same bed. He was stating what he knew to be the truth when he said that incestuous crime was frightfully common - common to the greatest possible extent within the range of these courts.]
Gray's-inn Lane, [-234-] and other quarters that are dirty, ill-constructed, and overcrowded enough to merit a place in the catalogue. At present the melancholy list is full. I shall now endeavour to deal with a few of the social questions arising out of my survey, and shall then hold my peace.
Setting aside the criminal population of London, and that
small number of the London industrious poor who struggle against the degrading
influences of the neighbourhoods in which they are mostly compelled to live, we
shall find at least one-third of our three millions of human beings in the
metropolis housed in filthy, ill-constructed courts and alleys, or crowding in
unwholesome layers, one over the other, in old houses and confined rooms. The
life they lead daily and hourly is full of debasing lessons. Decency is lost
where large families of all ages and of both sexes are accustomed to live in one
apartment, and habits are engendered which last for generations. This
carelessness about comforts and conveniences acts upon landlords. There is
little [-235-] demand for pure, wholesome, well-constructed dwellings, and they are not
supplied. The court and alley property in and about London, which is a disgrace
to a city of enterprise and civilization, is in most cases up to the level of
its consumers. A low, wretched standard of living makes the poor huddle together
in such places, without any general desire to improve them. Model
lodging-houses, if built in advance of a general demand for such superior
dwellings, would not raise the tenants to the level of the building, but would
drag the building down to the level of the tenants. I think it was the Duke of
Bedford who built a number of superior three-roomed cottages on his estate,
because he disliked to see his labourers huddled together in one room. The habit
of living in one room, however, was too strong for the reformer, and in a few
months each cottage was filled with three separate families, the original tenant
having sub-let what he considered his spare space. The records of philanthropy
could supply many more discouraging anecdotes, but there is too much reservation
on [-236-] such points. No country in the world spends so much money in charity as
England--no country is taxed for benevolent purposes to anything like the same
[*Our national poor-rate is estimated at six milions sterling per annum. It has also been calculated that another million a year is devoted to charitable purposes, and about an equal amount of benevolent permanent resources is derived from the liberality of former generations. Our national paupers are estimated at one
A parliamentary return, moved for by Mr. Villiers, and published February 12, 1861, shows that in England and Wales there are 7,432,587 persons rated to the poor rate; the gross estimated rental at Lady Day, 1856, was 31,315,595l.; the [-237-] rateable value at Lady Day, 1856, was 25,737,056l.; and the number of houses rated to the relief of the poor, was 1,400,237.]
In London alone there is every conceivable form of institution for the relief of the sick, the infirm, and the specially afflicted. Squat rows of almshouses meet us, as I have just said, at every turn, nestling in the very heart of the city and its outlets. Nearly a million of "cases" receive free medical advice and assistance in London alone every year. The hat is always going round. The first stone of some benevolent building is always being laid. We dine, we sing, we act, we make speeches in aid of the funds of a thousand institutions; we are never tired of doing what we consider good. [-237-] Casinos, harmonious pot-houses, and pugilistic exhibitions,*
[*"Pugilistic Benefit for the Distressed Coventry Weavers.--The announced pugilistic demonstration in aid of the funds for this charitable purpose took place on Monday evening, January 28, 1861, at the National baths, Westminster Road. The benefit was to all intents and purposes
'a bumper,' and this must be highly gratifying to those members of the P.R. who had taken so much interest in carrying out this charitable gathering. The spacious building was crowded in every part. Phil Benjamins was the M.C., and was assisted in the discharge of his duties by Jemmy Shaw, with the most praiseworthy zeal. The sports opened with the performance of Professor Thomas, and then came the sparring, the bouts, which followed in admirable time, being between the following men, viz:--Dillon and Plantagenet Green, George Crockett and Dan Collins, Job Cobley and Travers, Ben Caunt and Jem Ward, Bos Tyler and Harry Brunton, Bob Brettle (who came expressly from Birmingham, with his belt and cups,) and Mike Madden, Jerry Noon and Alec Keene, W. Shaw and Young Reed, Tom Paddock and Tom King. Sam Hurst, the champion, who, from lameness, was unable to spar, came on the stage and exhibited the belt for which he and Tom Paddock had contended. Then followed Harry Broome, the ex-champion of England, and Harry Orme; but, before the bout between these distinguished members of the ring took place, Broome, in a neat speech, returned thanks on behalf of the
[-238-] committee for the liberal manner in which they had been supported in their charitable undertaking. Then came a spar between George Brown and Jemmy Welsh, Harris and Hicks being the next exhibitors, and last, though not least, was the wind--up between Nat Langham and Jem Mace, the last-named man exhibiting his belt. In addition to these leading men there were many others present who were anxious to set-to, but had not the opportunity. Tom Sayers was unable to attend, nor did Lynch, the American, put in an appearance to spar with Harrington. Broome, in his speech, announced that 197l. had been taken in money at the doors, this being irrespective of money that will have to be accounted for by tickets sold, so that the whole affair, in a pecuniary view, was eminently successful...
A donation of 50l.-the result of a musical performance was presented to the Bow Street Police Court poor-box, on 31st January, 1861, by Mr. Weston, the proprietor, and Mr. Corri, the musical director, of Weston's music-hall, Holborn.
A donation of 10l. for the same poor-box was received by Mr. Corrie from the proprietor of the Argyll Rooms, a casino in Windmill Street, Haymarket."]
catch the benevolent infection and
work like mill-horses to aid noisy soup-kitchens. I can only wonder that
prostitution is not moved to be [-238-] charitable, and that the mangy Haymarket does
not give up a few nights' earnings every winter for the benefit of the poor. The
impulsive virtues flourish even upon dunghills, and people bestow with one hand
while they are compelled to receive with the other. Paupers unite in teapot
testimonials to matrons and overseers, which they purchase out of the money
saved from [-239-] tobacco and snuff. The hard-hearted man, the cold-blooded political
economist, the hunks, the gripe--all, are empty dreams. Business is business in
every hole and corner, and no trade will ever be conducted upon sentimental
principles; but, after the shop shutters are put up, the ledger is posted, and
the till money is counted, the large heart begins to do its work. We are
certainly not suffering from too little heart in our social system, but perhaps
from too much. The head, after all, is not the worst guide in works of charity,
as those men find who have to analyze results. Benevolent people who act from
impulse rather than reflection--warm-hearted, open-handed givers--are hourly
pained by seeing their gifts misapplied, or their institutions fattening the
class whom they were never intended to benefit. Model lodging-houses, designed
to work good, but planted in uncongenial soil, become occupied by tenants, as I
have just shown, who require no assistance from a sentimental standard of rent,
and the "swinish multitude" are still left wallowing in their blind
alleys. Soup-kitchens, [-240-] like free theatres, attract the wandering tribes of
London--open their doors without any effectual check or inquiry, dispense food,
as in Spitalfields, to the extent of thirty thousand pounds sterling and find,
after all, that they have fed the wrong men. Hospitals, asylums, charity
schools, and other forms of permanent out-door relief, are worm-eaten by
imposition, and yet they flourish. They stand up as monuments for foreigners to
gaze at, and are, at the same time, our glory and our shame. They show a class
on one hand always ready to give, and they show another class--low, wanting in
self-reliance and self-respect, demoralized by much charity--always ready to
receive. The seeds of the old lavish poor-law have borne bitter fruit, and a
working-class has grown up who look to a parish pension as the honourable reward
of age. The simplest and cheapest forms of insurance are neglected; the usurious
loan offices, whose thousands of branches spread into every district, are
welcomed as friends; early reckless marriages are contracted--marriages, as I
have said before, that are as much a "dis-[241-]sipation" as gin-drinking, or
any other abomination,--children are produced without thought, set upon their
feet without clothing, taught to walk, turned into the street without food or
education, and left to the ragged school, the charitable public, or the devil.
Homes for such outcasts spring up on all sides; large-hearted men and women rush
forward to help the neglected; and the class is sometimes unfortunately
increased by the very efforts made to relieve it.
I am grieved to have to write like this of honest labourers--of men who ought to do their work, keep homes over their heads that are something better than dog-kennels or pigsties, and shrink from a gift as if it were a wound. They increase and multiply, and all for what? To become paupers; to glut the labour market; to keep their wages down at starvation point, to swell the profits of capital. They look to everyone to relieve them, but make few efforts to relieve themselves. The most perfect poor-law; the most perfect administration of that poor-law; the most lavish charity can do nothing [-242-] for them compared to the wonders of self-help. Let them defer their marriages for six or seven years, and they will turn their backs on strikes and starvation. My sympathies are with them in any well-considered scheme to benefit their condition. I have lived amongst them and know their ways; I willingly acknowledge their many virtues, their generosity, their endurance under suffering, but I want to see them with a little more pride. They may not always beg themselves, but they make their wives and families beg for them. The disgrace is theirs where the poor, pinched women in scanty clothes are sent to crowd round the parsonage-door, or to hold out the well-thumbed, creased petitions in their thin, bloodless hands.
The labour thrown upon the working clergy in the lowest districts by this want of self-reliance on the part of the industrious poor is something enormous. Their houses become tailors'-shops, eating-houses, dispensaries, banks, schools, sanitary committee-rooms--everything but clerical sanctuaries. The old classic, the [-243-] pet divine, are thrown on one side or forgotten; and to walk all day in muddy boots, to give out tickets and read letters, to return home at uncertain hours with grubby hands, and to spend the evening in making up parochial accounts is their daily and hourly task. They see distress that they cannot relieve; they know its cause, and yet they have not the heart to reprove it; they toil and beg for their local charities, often with little effect, and sometimes eat into their own scanty incomes rather than neglect their dependants. The poor-law, which, if properly constructed, ought to relieve them of this ceaseless, disheartening drudgery, is only a millstone round their necks. It starts with a proper determination to check pauperism in every possible way, but it never succeeds in carrying out its object. It breaks down, as it has broken down this winter--not so much from glaring faults in its individual administrators, as from the make-believe character of its system. Its plan is to get rid of the poor--to pass them on-to toss them from hand to hand, and not to grapple [-244-] with them. It makes all the show, spends much of the money, and leaves other people to do the work. A pauper is often disposed of by being told to go farther; but he sometimes dies in the streets, and creates a public scandal.*
[* On Friday morning, January 11, 1861, Mr. Carter received information of the awfully sudden death of a man in Manor Street, Clapham. The deceased, with four other men, were walking through the streets, in consequence of the frost stopping their work as navigators, soliciting the contributions of the charitable to relieve their destitution. The dead man, who was singing in the road with the others, suddenly staggered and fell. A surgeon stated that death was caused by cold and hunger, and the poor man's co-mates said that they had been two days without food.]
The workhouse doors may be closed,
the lights may be put out, the master may be in bed; but other doors are open,
other lights are burning, other people are stirring. The workhouse--the
ratepayers themselves-become receivers of out-door relief when the starving poor
are thus thrown upon stray charity.
The question of an equalization of poor-rates generally springs up when the condition of the poor is examined; and those who have advocated this change in the plan of rating with the greatest [-245-] care and ability have sometimes mistaken the effect it would produce upon the pauper population. It would not reform their condition; it would not remedy the evils under which they suffer; it would not make them more decent, more moral, more independent; it would not drain off superabundant labour from overstocked markets. It would make one portion of the poor--the great majority--more comfortable; and it would make another portion, the minority, less comfortable. As a measure of justice it would deal principally with property, and would not check pauperism in the slightest degree. We should get rid of glaring inequalities in assessment, and all landlords would be reduced to one level of taxation. Companies that have sucked up a parish--like the Bank of England, which stands, I believe, on the whole of St. Christopher-le-Stock--would not be their own assessors, their own guardians, their own relieving officers, paying sums that are ridiculously small when contrasted with other assessments. We should get rid of one notorious difficulty in the way of "metropolitan improve-[-246-]ments." New streets might then be cut without any fear that capitalists would hesitate to provide houses for the working classes in other districts, because checked by the poor-rates. The pauper in the west, with his five shillings a week and his loaf of bread, would have to divide his dole with the pauper in the east, who gets nothing but a loaf and a shilling aweek, but that would be all. The great problem of how to check pauperism without cruelty or neglect would still be unsolved.
Attempts have been made to improve the physical condition of the poor by what is called "sanitary reform." Like all meddling legislation this may do as much harm as good. If certain kitchens are condemned as not being fit for human dwelling-places, the rents in that particular district are raised, and this practically by the order of the local officer of health. If certain rooms in a house are closed according to law, and the dwelling accommodation of the district is not stretched in another direction, the rooms that are left have the same value as all the [-247-] rooms in the house had before. The tenants, not the landlord, are the sufferers by this enforced change, and they are compelled to huddle more closely together, and to pay an increased rent. It seems an awful thing that a felon in prison should have one thousand cubic feet of breathing space, while many poor working--people in the most overcrowded districts have not more than two hundred cubic feet of air in their rooms for each person; but the first is paid for and given out of the taxes, and the second has to be worked for and bought. If the Metropolis Local Management Acts, or any other sanatory Acts, compel the poor, by inspection, to purchase five hundred cubic feet of air for each member of their families, they either compel them to better their condition, or to pinch their half-empty stomachs for the sake of the public health. I am afraid that this attempt to improve the poor by Act of Parliament is as unsound in principle as it is often mischievous in effect.
The educational agencies at work upon the rising generation may do something to raise the [-248-] moral tone and habits of those who will be men and women in ten or fifteen years' time; but the present generation, the idle and industrious poor who have passed the age of manhood, I am afraid must be given up. Their habits are formed; they are beyond the influence of schools or classes, and their ambition can only be excited on behalf of their children. Philanthropy can do no harm and much good by devoting all its energies to the young, and the more it improves their minds and morals the more chance is there that they will aim at a higher standard of living.*
[* The London ragged schools, I believe, number one hundred and fifty, containing twenty thousand children. The unpaid teachers at these schools amount to two thousand.]
This is the only road out of the
slough of pauperism, dirt, and overcrowding which exists in London, and if that
fails us there is no hope.