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TERRIBLE SIGHTS OF LONDON
Labours of Love in the midst of them.
BY THOMAS ARCHER
'STRANGE WORK,' 'THE PAUPER, THE THIEF, AND THE CONVICT,' ETC.
STANLEY RIVERS AND CO.
IT is now nearly two years since, in the pages of London Society, I
asked the question which suggested the title of the present volume - 'What is
the most terrible sight in London?' and in briefly alluding to some of the
darkest aspects of social life in the Great City, endeavoured to draw attention
to the condition of its destitute and neglected children. Long before that
article was written, I had learned something not only of London's terrible
sights, but, what was better, of the holy work which was carried on in divers
manners and in sundry places to remedy the suffering and destitution that are
often so appalling.
When I had begun to think of recording some of my observations in a book that should serve to represent various efforts made for the relief of distress. the appearance of The Seven Curses of London, in which my friend James Greenwood has so graphically shown us some of the worst evils that belong to our present condition, seemed to me to make such a volume as I had contemplated no less appropriate, as recording at once the need for and the operation of benevolent institutions, established for the purpose of diminishing the evils complained of.
The larger part of this book is occupied by the subject of the care and nurture of friendless children; and for this I cannot offer any apology, since I am every day more strongly convinced that our only hope of dealing effectually with the difficulties that daunt, and the dangers that threaten, us on the side want, ignorance, and crime, must be founded on a liberal and intelligent recognition that we are to accept the orphans of society as our own, and hold ourselves responsible for their being trained to a life of usefulness and honour.
Labours of Love in the Great City
AMIDST the cold appalling flood of want and misery in
the Great City, there rolls a Gulf-stream of fervent
The two most remarkable aspects of life in London are, its degraded poverty, and the almost innumerable associations for alleviating every form of want and distress. The great thoroughfares of the metropolis may be said to resemble the advertising columns of a newspaper in this respect: that they display at once evidences of urgent and almost insupportable needs, and the means whereby those very needs may be supplied. Hunger, nakedness, sickness, destitution, are too apparent on every side; and yet on every side charitable organisations appeal to us for support, and urge their claims on the frequently just ground that the work they have accomplished has caused those claims to be already widely recognised, and the work itself extended.
How is it, then, that constantly multiplying institu-[-2-]tions for the relief of calamity yet fall so far short of supplying the wants that called them into existence; that with all our effort, and the ever-recurring agencies of secretaries, committees, reports, books, tracts, dinners, balls, concerts, meetings, and even sermons, the large sums subscribed are yet insufficient to supplement a heavy poor-rate and much casual almsgiving, by putting an end, at all events, to such shocking and yet preventible cases of utter destitution as are reported almost daily in the newspapers, and may be seen an~ night in the refuges for the homeless, in the casual wards of the metropolitan workhouses, or in the wretched abodes of the starving, but as yet unpauperised, inhabitants of some of our 'low neighbourhoods'?
The question is a difficult one to answer; for although it cannot be doubted that a better economy and a more direct administration of the funds would effect much greater results than are at present attained, it cannot be forgotten that, but for the apparently complicated machinery by which many of these institutions are kept going, no such support could be obtained as is now represented by the long list of donations and subscriptions:-committees with influence in many different spheres, -agencies at work in all directions, and secretaries with a talent for taking advantage of all sorts of contrivances for raising money, by giving people opportunities for spending it on their own gratification, combined with the pleasant consciousness that they only consent to do so for the benefit of somebody else.
In the brief preface to Mr. Herbert Fry's excellent [-3-] Guide to the London Charities for the present year, there is a sentence full of sound sense, which must be taken into account whenever we begin to rail at the extravagant outlay presumably authorised by the committees of some of our most prominent institutions: 'Doubtless there is room for improvement in the management of some charitable institutions; but we must not forget that the crop of public benevolence, of which England is justly proud, has to be cultivated with much expense, and garnered with hard labour and considerable skill. But for the agency of men of business operating on the public mind by carefully studied and reiterated appeals, sometimes competing in no unfair rivalry for the gifts of the liberal-minded, perhaps not half of the money now bestowed in charity would be raised at all. Take away the machinery (expensive but necessary) and dismiss the secretaries, by whose energies subscriptions are chiefly obtained, and many charities would at once collapse. Take away the personal interest which the benevolent feel in the sufferers from this or that ailment, and it may be that benevolence "in the abstract" will not be strong enough to make them draw their purse-strings.'
With this opinion, in as far as it relates to those institutions the proceedings of which are thoroughly known, and the accounts completely examined and publicly verified, I most cordially agree; but it cannot be denied that there are too many 'charities' where there is not only room for improvement, but an absolute need for thorough reformation. Some of them, largely sup-[-4-]ported and even handsomely endowed, but with so little regard to the intention of their original founders and the reasonable demands of modern opinion, that they have been concentrated into small corporations, exhibiting a contemptuous defiance whenever the propriety of a more exact account of their stewardship is even so much as hinted at. There are others, merely little local societies, originally designed perhaps to provide employment for some philanthropic person, who persuaded two or three of the leading inhabitants of the district to join him in promoting a good work. They have grown into small institutions, where the committee consists of half-a-dozen gentlemen who consent to let their names appear in the reports, but seldom or never attend the meetings. The treasurer has a nominal office also, inasmuch as he generally disburses the accounts so promptly at the request of the secretary, that he has nothing left to treasure except the balance of the current subscriptions. The auditors, or the one who does duty, and is a friend of the secretary, pass the vouchers, and assent to the balance-sheet with cheerful alacrity. The 'annual' statement, which few of the subscribers take the trouble to look at, in the belief that it's all right, because Messrs. This, That, and T'other are on the committee, contains no details by which it may be seen how much of the income is absorbed by the secretary's salary and the working of the institution.
Should any one propose a minute inquiry into the affairs of such an institution, the nominal committee would as likely as not deprecate any such action as [-5-] being 'likely to injure poor' Mr. So-and-so, the secretary, who is, of course, entitled to live out of an association which he founded with public contributions; and Mr. So-and-so himself would probably smite his honest breast, deplore the want of Christian feeling in those who wickedly call in question his long-accepted integrity, and would endeavour to raise a suspicion that the proposition emanated from, some enemy, who was envious of the prosperity of the institution, and to satisfy whose unsanctified curiosity would be derogatory alike to principle and to conscious integrity.
That 'abstract benevolence' would be inefficient for causing the public to draw their purse-strings may be at once taken for granted, because there is no such thing as abstract benevolence in such matters. All charitable benevolence is, of course, relative; and the mere subscription of a certain amount of money, without knowing or caring to what object it was to be applied, would not be benevolence at all. It may be doubted whether a large number of the guineas put down on the lists of charitable institutions proceed from true benevolence. They may be the result of temporarily agitated sympathies, and are, perhaps, too often no farther expression of the desire to do good than may be discovered in the gratification of kindly susceptibilities by the luxury of giving. As a satirical writer once said on the same subject, 'Their wounded sensibilities secrete a guinea, and are relieved.' It may be impossible that any one contributing to several institutions should have a directly personal interest in each; but [-6-] assuredly true benevolence cannot consist in only an impersonal regard for the objects of charity. No man can even cultivate truly philanthropic sentiments by such a plan, much less take credit to himself for doing good. It is perhaps a good thing that the money he bestows is well spent, and applied as he would wish it to be applied; but if he stops short at giving, and takes no personal interest in the work of charity anywhere, he has no claim to the character of a benefactor.
Doubtless the present large organisations for the relief of distress permit, if they do not actually encourage, this impersonal kind of interest. To get as large a number of guineas as possible, and have a good working committee, is the reasonable object of every earnest secretary of a flourishing institution; but if he be wise he will encourage that immediate sympathy and warm interest which binds a large number of representative people to promote the success of their common cause.
It is often difficult; for in many cases constant visiting at the institution would be a source of disorder, for which no friendly aid could compensate, and the perpetual interference of well-intentioned but inexperienced people would bring any such association to grief; yet it is well worth trying; for organised schemes, the working of which is solely vested in a restricted committee of management instructed by officials, almost necessarily result first in an assimilation to state relief as represented by a poor-law, and then in a loss of individual interest. As a reaction from this, smaller associations are formed in order to enlist more personal [-7-] sympathies for the same object; the stream of public beneficence is diverted, by means of direct appeals, into inferior channels; and unscrupulous persons take advantage of the general confusion of philanthropic competition to misappropriate the funds. It is in this way that large numbers of the poor become demoralised, by being made the recipients of unsystematic relief, in order that rival institutions may claim the credit of affording aid to large numbers, for whom adequate provision might have been made by existing charities, or by the establishment of branches of the same charity in different localities.
In fact, the antipathy to centralisation has been made the means of fostering the worst examples of local self-government in benevolent associations, as well as in parochial and municipal corporations; and it is only by a free and intelligent union of both principles that the best results will ultimately be attained.
The suggestions recently made by the Poor-Law Board for the combined action of district charity-committees and state officials, seem to indicate that some attempt may soon be made to effect this kind of union; and the Society for the Organisation of Relief has already taken up the question with hopeful earnestness; with what success remains to be seen.
Should the plan advocated by this society, the members of which have given long and serious attention to this matter, gain the appreciation of the public, and a charity-committee be formed in each of a number of limited districts into which the metropolis may be di-[-8-]vided, for the purpose of cooperating with the guardians and the relieving officers, great improvements must be accomplished-not by supplementing that relief which the state grants only to the utterly destitute, but by enabling the temporarily distressed to retrieve their position, and so checking the fearful increase of chronic pauperism, and abolishing the profession of mendicancy. But such a scheme will scarcely be complete if it should stop there. In the future a large number of the various established charities may be included in this cooperation, and the districts themselves become important links in a golden chain of beneficence, one end of which should be the right of relief from the equalised rates paid to the state for the maintenance of the absolutely destitute; and the other, the provisions made by voluntary contributions to alleviate the sufferings of those who need intelligent assistance in order to restore them to a position of self-support.
It might be impossible to include every existing institution in such a scheme, but at least those which had special work to do would not lack support, since they would be taking as definite a part in the great object for which all London would unite, as they can do now that competing claims produce what seems to be inextricable, confusion; and it is certain that, while the cost would on the whole be decreased, people who now hold back from giving, because they suspect the professions of those who appeal to them, would contribute more cheerfully, and so lessen the burden that at present falls heavily on those who believe it to be their [-9-] duty to give, whatever may be the occasional misdirections of their bounty.
Altogether apart from this question, however, it is the glory of our Great City that so many institutions have been for years carrying on works of mercy and loving-kindness; patiently abiding by conditions which they are unable to alter; ready at any time to open their doors to those whom they seek to benefit, and their records to any inquirer who may desire to investigate their proceedings. Some of them may be open to the charge of perverting their original intention; but very few of them can be convicted of misappropriating their funds. It is to the endowed charities, especially to the smaller and least-known trusts confined to particular districts and corporations, that we must look for the worst examples of such perversion and misappropriation; and it is from these that we may expect the most strenuous opposition to any scheme which will involve close inquiry.
We should be thankful to know that, apart from these, there are noble institutions, entirely dependent on public sympathy, the working of which will bear investigation, and the necessity for which will in itself be an appeal to all faithful hearts, while the poor do not cease out of the land.
In the following sketches of some of these societies, it has been sought to indicate those that are most representative of the forms of distress which they seek to alleviate. They may not be the largest, the most prominent, or even in all respects the 'best managed;' but [-10-] they fairly set themselves to the particular work which they have undertakes, and, on the whole, show an intelligent unity of action, which is one of the first essentials for effecting real and lasting benefits.
It is necessary to state this much, because in a single volume it would be impossible profitably to name all, even of the really valuable institutions. Their omission from these pages does not denote any indifference to their claims, but is simply a necessity arising from the object of the book - the desire to show, by such examples as I can speak of from personal observation, what is the Labour of Love that is trying to redeem this Great City from the curses that degrade, and would, but for that holy work, doom it to destruction.
That some more definite charitable organisation is necessary will be obvious to any one who cursorily seeks for information as to the objects of various benevolent institutions, and the amount annually expended on the relief of distress. To arrive even at a proximate estimate of the sum spent in various charities in the metropolis is almost impossible; for many institutions not only refrain from publishing clear and accurately-detailed accounts of their working expenses, but do not even make a public return of the results of a balance-sheet. Probably some of them may have no proper balance-sheet even to lay before their subscribers, and some certainly do not print any accounts which will indicate the actual extent of their operations, or the cost of their working machinery. As far as can be roughly estimated from the returns of the most prominent and [-11-] representative institutions, the sums expended annually would be:
For orphans and destitute children, in about sixty institutions, 220,000l., distributed among 60,000 children ; but it is impossible to tabulate this intelligibly in a small space, since, while some of the children are in asylums where they are supported at from 15l. to 45l. a-year each, others are only the recipients of weekly dinners, or other occasional relief afforded by ragged-school and refuge committees.
In seven hospitals for sick children, about 39,000 are relieved at a cost of 14,500l. ; but of these, only about 700 are in-patients, the rest receiving out-door relief.
In eleven asylums for children, supported or assisted by various trades and professions, about 2,600 little ones are supported, at an expense of 34,000l.; but the amount expended per head varies very considerably.
In seven schools with greater or less endowments, the income for the year is represented by 74,0701., to support and educate 1,642 children.
For the relief of destitute persons there are a multitude of societies and agencies; and as the nature of the relief varies from the occasional meal or hundred-weight of coals, or the shelter and breakfast of a night refuge, or even the partial aid afforded by a soup-kitchen, to the provision of a home or a small pension, it is impossible to specify their distinctions. The amount of annual income in thirty-four of these institutions is, however, about 60,000l.; and with this the enormous [-12-] number of 670,000 cases receive temporary or more permanent relief; each case, however, not necessarily representing a different person.
In general and special hospitals, dispensaries, and institutions for giving medical aid, the number of persons assisted is almost incalculable, and bears an immense proportion to the sums received and expended. It must be remembered that the great army of outpatients represent the greater part of the applicants, who, although they add seriously to the frequently gratuitous labour of the medical practitioners who represent the institutions, do not make a very great inroad on the funds. Thus, of about 1,200,000 persons relieved, only 80,000 are in-patients, and the income amounts to less than 3,000,000.
In four institutions for the deaf and dumb, 423 persons, juvenile and adult, seem to have required 9,980l. for their support; and in four institutions for the blind, the number of recipients are about 3,070, and the income 21,400l. The one idiot asylum at Earlswood returns its patients at 500, and its income at about 25,000l. For the relief of poor or destitute aged persons, fifteen seveial charities, assisting 1,706 persons, return an income of about 24,000l. Eighty- eight charities, supported by various trades and professions, for the relief of aged poor and the widows and orphans of those who belonged to the crafts they represent, relieve about 19,000 persons, at a cost of about 190,000l. In fifteen almshouses, mostly endowed or supported out of charitable trusts, between 300 and [-13-] 400 persons are sheltered and pensioned, at a cost of above 10,000l. The pensions vary greatly; but the average, if they were equally divided, would be from 25l. to 80l. a-year for each person.
Of corporate and endowed charities, as well as the operations of numerous charitable trusts in various districts, it is useless to attempt even a rough estimate, since they are kept so remarkably snug, and their original intention has been so lost sight of and perverted, that accounts are neither furnished on inquiry, nor permitted to go forth to the public.
For the rescue and temporary maintenance of those convicted of crime, fourteen institutions, representing about 3,500 cases, receive an income of about 30,000l. And in fifteen institutions for the redemption of fallen women from their life of vice and misery, either by quite temporary aid, or by two or three years' maintenance, during which they contribute by their work to their own support, the numbers relieved are about 2,850, at the expense of 31,000l.
[-14-] CHAPTER I.
THESE LITTLE ONES.
Nobody's Children - What is a Foundling? - Premiums on Immorality - Captain Coram - Public and Private Infanticide - The Benevolent Premium - The Legal Premium - Somebody's Baby - 'Brought up by Hand' - The Lesson of a Mud-pie - Public Cradles - Wanted a Baby-show - The best Dinners in London - Somebody's Children - Drooping Buds and Fading Blossoms - In Beds at Ratcliff-cross - In Borders at Great Ormond-street - The Dancing Chancellor's Locality - Making the Crooked straight - 'Genteel Poverty' - Lilliput Village - The Hive at Haverstock-hill - Clapton to Watford - Live Waxwork at Wanstead - 'Five Fathom deep' - Water Babies - A pressing Question - A growing Evil - A threatened Danger - Charitable Gambling - The Power of the Purse - Benevolent Auctions - Exchange and Robbery - Vote-hawkers and Proxy-mongers - Settling-days - Charity Dinners - Ungenteel Poverty - Daisies in Spitalfields.
WHAT is a foundling? The question is easily asked;
but, in relation to any existing institution for receiving
infants abandoned by their parents, it is one not easily
answered. It may be doubted, too, whether any such [-15-]
institution in London would receive support, since its
appeals would be met with a representation that a provision for children presumed to be
offer a direct premium, not only to immorality, but to
the most revolting and unnatural form of cruelty.
We frequently hear of deserted infants being found on door-steps or exposed to disease and death, from which they are sometimes saved by being taken by the police to the nearest union workhouse, where the officials will endeavour to discover and punish the mother, and to make the father contribute to the support of his child; but provision for this kind of pauper is not contemplated by the administrators of the poor-law, who may be said to refuse to recognise any such means of disposing of the awkward encumbrance of babies born in or out of wedlock. The law, in its terrible determination to discountenance immorality, does nothing whatever to mitigate the misery of the mother of an 'illegitimate' child, by compelling the father to support either her or her offspring. All he has to do is to keep out of the way; and even if he be discovered, the amount demanded of him is so ludicrously inadequate for the maintenance even of a baby, that the wretched woman would rather rely on his 'generosity,' or on some supposed lingering pity or passion that he may still retain for her, than separate herself from him for ever by appealing to a legal tribunal for her rights.
In sober truth, she has no rights; and the law none. It is considered so necessary to up-[-16-]hold the sanctity of marriage, in relation to the usual property qualification by which, in this country, we recognise almost all social claims, that we forget there are two persons implicated; and the result is direct encouragement to the seducer or the betrayer at the expense of his victim. We demand everything from the woman, nothing from the man. She has either to resist with unassailable virtue all the temptations to which she may be exposed, or give up everything; forfeit all her claims upon society, as well as all means of redress, and become outcast from the presence even of Justice itself.
In order that women may be taught how sacred virtue As, men are suffered to use all the arts of vice to induce them to sin, and pay no penalty for their success. The result may be seen among the ten thousand discarded children who throng our streets, many of them utterly destitute, and all of them without proper guardianship. The result might also be seen in the dreadful statistics of infanticide, if any such returns were made by the registrars, but at present no such information is included in their accounts. When these returns are accurately made, people will be a little startled at their revelations. Such knowledge of the subject as may be obtained from coroners' inquests is a little disturbing to that sense of respectability which is believed to distinguish the middle class of society. At the last congress of the Social-Science Association, Dr. Lankester, the coroner for the central division of Middlesex, distinctly declared that the crime Qf infanti-[-17--]cide prevailed most, 'not among the upper classes, not among the middle lower class, not among women of the lower class, because they were well under observation; it was chiefly - almost only - among that class of women not observed - the women who could conceal their condition, and who could be alone when the child was born.' During the last seven years he had held inquests, on the average, on 71 of these children per year. In central Middlesex, the average yearly number of inquests held, in which verdicts of 'wilful murder' had been returned in cases of newly-born infants, was 1 in every 15,000 of the population. In the discussion that ensued, it was evident enough that the difficulty in which the law placed juries, who would otherwise find a wretched mother guilty of murder, arose from the inevitable conclusion that a great injustice was perpetrated in making her alone responsible. For while the Recorder of Bath advocated that the law should be so altered that, in a verdict of infanticide (meaning the killing of the child at birth), the jury should be able to regard the sentence as distinct from that which now follows a conviction of child-murder, another gentleman was in favour of a penal law against the fathers. A paper was read in favour of an Act of Parliament authorising charitable associations to receive illegitimate children, and to proceed before a magistrate against both the father and the mother for the support of these institutions; a startling proposition truly, but still suggestive of the difficulty that besets the whole question. It is certain that humane juries now feel [-18-] themselves bound to evade the operation of the law by finding verdicts of temporary insanity; and Dr. Green of Bristol broadly stated his opinion that no woman of sound mind wilfully destroyed her offspring; a statement contradicted by Mrs. Meredith, who 'related instances where' (I quote the report) 'young girls systematically murdered their children, and learnt from their companions the art of committing this crime.'
All this is very terrible; and it is perhaps most terrible to find that the lesson of the sanctity of virtue, as demonstrated by the punishment for vice being inflicted on one party only, is too readily taken for granted. Almost at the very time that this discussion was going on, an inquiry was being held in a tavern in the eastern portion of London as to the death of a girl of eighteen, a dressmaker, whose body had been found in Duckett's Canal, and then lay, frightfully disfigured, in the deadhouse, where it had been identified by her unhappy father.
The sister of the dead girl stated that she suspected her husband of having held an immoral relation to the deceased, and that she had several times heard her threaten to put an end to her life.
The case then proceeded as follows:
The Coroner: Has not this man got three or four wives?
Witness: Not that I know of, except one that he married before me. We have been married seven months. I took his word that he was not lawfully married.
A Juryman: He had a wife and two children up-stairs.
[-19-]Witness: I was not aware of this. I did believe he had also lived with a fourth woman.
Dr. Edward Howard Moore deposed that deceased's death arose from suffocation by drowning.
The coroner proceeded to sum up, when
A juryman asked if the man could not be punished. He knew the parties well; and not only had the man two wives living in one house, but he had seduced this wretched young woman and another girl in the house working at the machine.
The Coroner: I am not going to attempt to defend this horrible man's conduct, but he cannot be amenable to this court. He has to answer to his God, and possibly to the law.
A juryman said it could be proved that this poor girl was with the man on the very day she was supposed to have committed suicide. He considered that an open verdict should be returned.
The jury ultimately returned a verdict 'That deceased was found drowned in Duckett's Canal; but how she came into the water there was no evidence to show.' It would have been just the same if an infant - one more witness to the shame and misery that in this case ended in a desperate leap into the canal- had been the victim. Its dumb evidence in a court of law would have been against the mother, and in such a case the same jury who found that there was 'no evidence to show how the wretched girl came into the water,' would have returned a verdict of temporary insanity to save her from the extreme penalty. Assuredly until there be a public [-20-] prosecutor in this country, armed with enactments that will make the father share in the punishment, and until the seducer and the libertine be made to feel that the price of a dozen cigars a-week is not accepted by the legislature as sufficient recompense for ruin, disgrace, and misery, our efforts to adopt Nobody's Children will still be paralysed. At present, all that Dr. Lankester can suggest is, that the workhouse should be the needed asylum, with gentlemen and ladies of refined feelings as masters and matrons, instead of unsuccessful tradesmen or favoured butlers. As this scheme is not yet adopted, however, the columns of newspapers still display the occasional advertisements of baby-farmers, who accomplish infanticide without becoming amenable to the law, and furnish another horrible temptation to the despairing or the 'unnatural' mother. So our system of avoiding all premium on 'immorality' adds to the injustice already perpetrated by society; and the great institution which professes to take charge of deserted infants has long ago given up all pretensions to retain the name of 'The Foundling Hospital.' Let us give it credit, however, for such work as it really performs-in the maintenance of illegitimate children, and the possible 'replacing the mother in the course of virtue, and the way of an honest livelihood,' if she can satisfy the committee of her previous good character, and can prove that the child is in no sense a foundling, since it 'can only be received into this hospital upon her personal application.'
It is 150 years since Captain Thomas Coram, who had lived for some time in Nova Scotia, and had brought [-21-] the necessity for improved legislation in that region under the notice of the Government, came home with a moderate fortune from the American plantations, and, in his daily walks from Rotherhithe to the City, was greatly concerned at the sight of infants left exposed in the public streets. Having come to the conclusion that the destruction and desertion of children was attributable to the 'want of proper means for preventing the disgrace and succouring the necessities of their parents,' he set heartily to work to provide a refuge to which wretched mothers might carry their offspring, and themselves be enabled to return to a virtuous and honest life.
In 1741, and only after nearly nineteen years' advocacy of this work of mercy, the good old sea captain had obtained subscriptions sufficient for founding a hospital, and a wing of the present building was erected on the estate of fifty-six acres, which had been purchased in the Lamb's Conduit-fields for the sum of 5,500l. It was announced that at eight o'clock on a certain evening twenty children would be received who were not suffering from any contagious disease; that the persons bringing them should come in at the outward door and ring a bell at the inward door, and not go away until notice was given of reception; that no questions whatever should be asked of any person bringing a child; and that to each child should be affixed some distinguishing mark or token, so that the children might be afterwards known if necessary.
These tokens, many of which are still preserved, mostly consisted of small silver coins, crosses, lockets, [-22-] empty purses, doggerel verses pinned to the infant's clothes, and, in one case, a lottery-ticket, of which there is no farther record, so that it may be presumed the number was an unlucky one.
The records of the institution contain copies of many of these verses and mottoes left with the infants at the door at a subsequent period of the history of the hospital, and many of them are perhaps a little too suggestive of the demoralisation which an indiscriminate reception of children without question was calculated to encourage. Many of them are scraps of Latin; others consist of verses, one of which runs,
'Pray use me well, and you shall find
My father will not prove unkind
Unto that nurse who's my protector,
Because he is a benefactor.'
In other cases the station in life of those who took advantage of the charity was guessed at by the quality of the clothes in which the little stranger was left at the hospital-door; and many of the children were declared by the persons leaving them to be legitimate, the proof of which was that they were born in lying-in charities, available only for married women. In one case, the verse by which the infant was to be identified, runs,
'Not either parent wants a parent's mind,
But friends and fortune are not always kind.
The helpless infant, by its tender cries,
Blesseth the hand from whom it meets supplies.'
The number of applicants increased so quickly after the opening of the hospital, that painful scenes were [-23-] soon presented at the doors, where a hundred women might be seen struggling and fighting for precedence. To put a stop to this, the mode of reception was changed, and the children were afterwards admitted by ballot, every woman who drew a white ball being eligible. This necessity, however, itself indicated the difficulty which beset the undertaking; and all kinds of fraud were practised in order to place children in the institution- a state of things which was a source of great uneasiness to the honest founder, who, when he discovered that the managing committee were receiving children without any method of ascertaining the claims of each case, made many representations which were so constantly disregarded, that he at length left the management of the institution in their hands.
In fifteen years after the opening of the hospital,. the committee applied to parliament for assistance, and it was designed to admit all exposed and deserted young children from all parts of the country. This extended scheme was countenanced by the government, and a guarantee was given by parliament that grants of money should be provided sufficient for the purpose.
The first day on which this general reception was announced, a basket was hung outside the hospital-gates, and 117 children were deposited as claimants of government support. Then the gigantic error which had bean committed became apparent; fathers and mothers with large families discovered an easy method of reducing their anxieties, and illegitimate children were easily disposed of without any farther responsibility. The [-24-] conveyance of helpless infants from remote country districts, and their consignment to the hospital-door, dead or alive, became a distinct part of the carrier's trade; and parochial officers, in the exercise of a sagacity which is still their distinguishing characteristic, took advantage of so favourable an opportunity for diminishing the rate, and their own responsibilities at the same time by emptying the workhouses of the infant paupers, and taking newly-born children from mothers who required parish-relief, in order to be rid of the burden that might otherwise be placed upon them.
For nearly four months this system, or want of system, continued, and during that period fifteen thousand children were consigned to the hospital-basket. The inundation of infant life was more than the most robust charity could make head against. The provisions for dealing with such continual claims were insufficient, and the precautions for preserving the lives themselves were but partially understood. Of the 15,000 'foundlings,' only 4,400 lived to be apprenticed; the refuge became not a hospital, but a charnel-house, and the funds were exhausted.
Starting afresh after this terrible failure, somebody, whose name has not been recorded, advised an entirely different scheme, which, though not so lamentable in its results, was still bad enough in principle. It was proposed to admit children with the proviso that each temporary occupant of the basket should have a 100l. note attached to it. This recommendation was adopted with considerable success, until a better counsel pre-[-25-]vailed; but it was not till the year 1801 that all such practices were abolished, and the entire charity was paced under the organisation which has continued to the present time.
By the present mode of admission various rules are laid down, the preliminary qualification being, that the child shall be illegitimate and not that of a widow, the only legitimate children admitted being those of soldiers and sailors killed in the service of the country; that the child shall be under twelve months old; that the petitioner shall have borne a good character previous to the birth of the child; and that the father shall not be forthcoming, he having deserted her.
The mother must not have applied to the parish for the maintenance of the child, though her petition is not now rejected in consequence of her having been in the workhouse during her confinement; no money, fee, or perquisite must be taken by, or offered to, any officer of the hospital; and no petitioner is allowed to apply to any governor, officer, or servant of the charity, but must attend personally on Saturday mornings with their petitions, and await the consideration of the committee. These petitions (which are clearly printed forms, to be obtained at the hospital) being considered worthy of inquiry, such inquiries are made forthwith by officers appointed for the purpose, and, if satisfactorily answered, the mothers receive notice to bring their children.
From the moment that the infant is received within the hospital, however, the mother holds no personal [-26-] communication with her child until it leaves the institution. She receives a certificate containing the registered number of the infant; may make any inquiries at the hospital respecting it, and may visit the place and see all the children together - as, indeed, anybody may - at the proper times; but even supposing she recognises her own little one amongst that congregation of rosy, healthy-looking children, she cannot talk to it apart, and is ignorant even of the name it bears.
This name, which was formerly given from historical, fictional, and altogether fanciful sources, or was even sometimes bestowed by aristocratic godfathers and godmothers, is now probably taken by chance from the London Directory; so that the 'foundling' may, in after years, rejoice in a nominal connection with the highest or the least dignified of his countrymen. When the infant is received, it is taken to the chapel, there to be baptised, and, with a parchment-label containing its number stitched to the shoulder-strap of its tiny frock, is handed to the wet-nurse from the district in Kent, to which all the infants are consigned till they are three years old, there to be brought up by cottagers, under the inspection of the visiting officers. Of the appearance and happiness of the children in the building itself, anybody who chooses may be witness by attending the service at the chapel, where their fresh young voices ring in the choir on Sundays; of the provision made for them, anybody may judge by staying to see them at dinner afterwards; of their general healthy enjoyments, cheerfulness, and unrestrained childlikeness [-27-] (using the word in sad distinction from that dull hopeless look of premature age so often seen in some other places where children are supported by charity), anybody may have ample evidence on any visiting-day.
In the great lofty dining-halls, where above a hundred boys, a similar number of girls, and some fifty infants, of the average age of four years and a half, are eating with a will the hot roast mutton, whose savoury steam is but slightly mitigated by rice-pudding; in the long clean airy wards, where every child in its separate bed can be seen by the nurse from out of a sort of blue-check tent where she herself sleeps at the end of the room; in the great jovial kitchen, where there is evidence of good old-fashioned pies and puddings, and patent contrivances are supplemented by homelike appliances which counteract the dull mechanical appearance generally presented by the cooking-apparatus in such large establishments; in the fine light lofty schoolrooms, with their great black-boards for drawing and the chemical implements in a glass-case behind the master's rostrum; in the vast infant-school, where the flight of shallow steps, on which the little toddlers sit and sing, is large enough for a Venetian palace, and is surmounted by a pair of rampant rocking-horses, such as it does one's heart good to see:- in all these things the present condition of the 'Foundling' is worthily shown.
Amongst the boys, such a band has been organised that many of the young musicians go at once into the army when they are of an age to be apprenticed to a bandmaster; and, to judge by the admirable manner [-28-] in which they perform difficult music, they seem to deserve, and indeed often obtain, places in crack regiments.
But the Foundling would be nothing if it were not musical; for was not Mr. Handel one of its best supporters, and were not the performances of oratorios amongst the earliest means for increasing its funds?
At fourteen years of age the boys are apprenticed to such trades as they may choose, a premium of 10l. being paid with each; and, as the governors have taken the place of parents (though no governor has any privilege whatever in the introduction of a child to the hospital), careful inquiries are made before the apprenticeship is concluded. The girls, who go out at fifteen, as domestic servants, are also apprenticed for four years. It is, or was till lately, the rule that they should be placed only where another servant is kept; where there are no lodgers; and only with persons who are housekeepers, are of the Protestant religion, and can give references as to respectability. Boys as well as girls receive an outfit of clothes on leaving the institution.
Further than this, however, the governors maintain their paternal character by inviting these apprentices to visit their 'home' once a year (at Easter); and as each employer is provided with a form which he or she can fill up concerning the docility, honesty, industry, and general good conduct of the apprentice, paternal advice, reproof, or exhortation is not necessarily wanting. Should the year's report be satisfactory, the youth or girl receives a gratuity amounting sometimes to a sove-[-29-]reign; and any one who reads the various certificates, which are annually bound in a neat volume, will, as far as they are concerned, be assured that 'nobody's children' generally do credit to their adopted parents. 'Good,' 'good,' 'good,' with very few exceptions, are the replies which masters and mistresses have written to these inquiries as to character. It is no wonder that, even after forty or fifty years of work, some of the old 'foundlings' still visit their home in Lamb's Conduit-fields, and consult their good old friend (if he will forgive me for so calling him) Mr. Brownlow, the secretary, as to the best investment for their savings.
There is a separate fund, supported by special subscription, for the assistance, or even the maintenance, of such adults as, having been 'foundlings,' are incapacitated by constitutional bodily afflictions to obtain their own livelihood. This benevolent fund has lately been extended to aid sick, aged, and infirm 'foundlings,' whose character is above reproach.
I have spoken of the connection of this institution with music; still closer is its connection with painting; for, almost from the day when William Hogarth designed a 'headpiece' to a power-of-attorney authorising collectors to receive subscriptions, down to the time that he bestowed upon the hospital his great picture of 'The March to Finchley,' and organised a company of artists to decorate the walls with their works, it was the meeting-place of British painters. These meetings, indeed, may be said to have been the foundation of the first national association of British art.
[-30-] In continental cities, where there are institutions for the reception and support of deserted children, there exist no provisions analogous to our poor-law system; and a reference to statistics unmistakably shows that the mortality among the infants in those places equals, if even it does not exceed, that in our own union workhouses - the only real Foundling Hospitals which are to be found in this country, and yet only unwillingly representing such establishments. Of some 5,000 illegitimate children born in London during a year, about one-half will probably die either in the workhouse wards, by infanticide, or by such neglect as may be included in the latter term; so that it is at least consoling to know that, of the 470 little ones who have been adopted by the old charity, some at least have been saved from untimely death. During the year 1868, 63 infants, each about four months old, were received into the hospital, and the total number was 301 in the institution in London, not one of whom died, and 169 maintained in the country, of whom twelve died in the first year of their age, one in the second year, and one at sixteen years of age. It would seem therefore that, when these children are received, they are frequently in such a condition that their lives are uncertain; and it is not too much to say that, but for the care of such an institution, the mortality among them would be much greater. The entire expense of maintaining this large family was within a few shillings of 10,400l., or a little more than 22l. per head per annum. The premium paid for apprentices amounted to 570l. 15s. 4d., including cost [-31-] for outfits, gratuities, and some temporary assistance in certain cases.
In the absence of any official report, the actual income of the hospital cannot here be set down, but appeals are now being made for subscriptions to enable it to continue the work which it has for so long carried on; and it must be admitted that some misconception exists as to its endowment, since although it has an income secured on ground-rents alone equal to or perhaps more than 5,500l., the original purchase-money of the estate on which their building stands, there is yet twenty-five years to run before the leases fall in. On this income, and the interest in certain stocks, together with pew-rents, collections, and voluntary subscriptions and contributions, the maintenance of the charity depends; and as all the money is said to be spent on the object contemplated by the foundation, the appeals of the governors for help in their work may well be responded to by public benevolence.
Having said this much, however, it cannot be concealed, first, that the real 'foundlings,' the deserted children of London, either die or run the chance of becoming paupers and vagabonds, to be dealt with by other institutions; secondly, that the women who can give such satisfactory evidence of their respectability as seems by the rules to be required are not the most likely to commit infanticide; while in case of any such women only exposing their children to death by desertion, they are at once ineligible, the child being taken to the workhouse, after which it cannot be admitted to the charity.
[-32-] Of course it may be taken for granted that the inquiries instituted by the officers of the institution are complete, and that the information they obtain is satisfactory; but unless this be so, there is always the suspicion that such a charity maybe the means of enabling both men and women to be rid of the responsibilities of their immoral relation, and women to escape the evidence of shame. Nothing can well be more valuable than an organisation which will enable erring and repentant women to return to the paths of virtue and respectability by giving them an opportunity of finding employment; but it is just at this point that our unequal and inoperative law may too often find supplementary support. In any case, the woman who could obtain admission for her illegitimate child into such an institution would have a strong inducement to keep silence as to the whereabout of the father, who could not be legally compelled to contribute any adequate amount for the maintenance of their offspring. It is not therefore by any such means of relief alone that we should be satisfied to seek to diminish the present deplorable condition of women who have become depraved, or to enable them to support their children, but rather to improved legislation, by which a public prosecutor can bring the fathers to account.
Once let such a law come into operation, making the seducer a party to any consequences that may ensue from the immoral relation he has sustained, and we should place a check upon libertinism that would soon show a result in the diminution not only of infanticide, [-33-] but of the 'foundlings,' who help to make the juvenile paupers and 'gutter-children' of our streets, and afterwards develop into incurable tramps and casuals, or, worse still, into 'habitual criminals.'
The Foundling Hospital, however, is not altogether alone in its efforts to restore those women who, having given birth to illegitimate children, see nothing before them but a constant, and often a hopeless, effort to maintain themselves without aid, and dare not run the risk of incurring the expense of a prosecution. There is a small institution in Great Coram-street, called the Infant Home, which has been in existence for about six years, where the infants of such women are received in order to give the mothers a chance of supporting themselves and regaining character. When the women obtain employment, or have a situation found for them, they are expected to contribute towards the maintenance of their children, and a large amount of good has already been effected in this way, by restoring those benefited to self-respect.
We are still, however, on the horns of that terrible dilemma, the result of unjust and absurd legislation which forces us either to make the application of these charities dependent on such strict inquiries as shall necessarily include few in their benefits, or to open them almost indiscriminately, and so be under the liability of removing even the one-sided restrictions that may now operate in some degree. to prevent the evils of licentiousness, and to check the unlawful, if not illegal, devices of the destroyers of women.
It is not alone among the deserted or the wilfully
neglected children of this Great City that we look for
suffering infancy, however. What is to be done by the
hundreds of poor women on whose unremitting toil the
maintenance of their little ones mainly depends? The
worst paid and the scarcest kind of employment is that
which such women can take to their own homes; and
for the most part they go out to work in the morning,
and do not return (except occasionally for a brief visit
at midday) until six or seven o'clock in the evening. In large Italian warehouses, where they help to prepare
the pickles; as book-folders and stitchers, envelope and paper-bag makers; as tailoresses and sewing-machine
workers, boot-and-shoe binders, cigar-makers; as charwomen and laundresses, helpers at hotels and eating-houses, market-women and hucksters of fruit, fish, or
vegetables,- in a dozen different callings taking them
from home, women seek to earn their children's bread,
While their husbands also work at some factory, or seek
employment as casual and dock labourers.
In all the poor neighbourhoods of London, and too often even in some of those that are of the 'genteel' or 'respectable' character, one of the most painful sights to be witnessed by a nervously-sensitive person is the large number of babies in the care of young children- infants nursing infants, and preserving them from the terrors and dangers of the streets only by a kind of perpetual miracle. It often happens that a mere baby [-35-] of six or seven years old will have to lug about a great infant, to carry which is altogether beyond her strength; while at the mature age of eight years many a poor hungry-eyed, wistful little creature has the care of an entire family, proceeding in regular gradations from the boy only a year younger than herself, to the staring-eyed little stranger of a few weeks old, which is destined to be nursed on door-steps, and to be comforted with moist-sugar tied up in a bit of rag, while it is cutting its teeth by the aid of the ring of a street-door key, instead of a coral and bells.
Most of us remember how the two greatest novelists of our age have recorded such scenes as are presented every day in those poor homes were children have to take grown-up responsibilities with respect to other little ones not much younger than themselves. Who that has read The Curate's Walk can doubt that Thackeray had pondered almost painfully this phase of youthful life? Who that has ever heard of The Chimes and Mrs. Chickenstalker can forget how tenderly and truly Charles Dickens has depicted the motherly care of a little 'big sister'? But there cannot always be even this provision for the infants of women compelled to seek out-door work; and though it often happens (for the poor, thank God, are kind, and often tender and compassionate, to each other) that a neighbour, with enough young charges of her own to care for, will consent to look after an urchin just able to toddle about and play with a bundle of firewood in some remote corner, it is quite likely that the poor little creatures will be left with some careless [-36-] old dram-drinking hag, who is the only 'minder' to be found in an emergency.
It is worth while, then, to pay a visit to the places - alas, very few in number, and limited in operation! - where, beginning at the very outset of benevolent effort, the infant poor are cared for, and the hard-working mother, willing to make any effort rather than sink to the grade even of a casual pauper, is enabled to go out to her daily toil in the cheerful confidence that her little one is provided for, and even tenderly rnurtured, from early morning till the time when she is able to reclaim it on her return.
I am persuaded that there are hundreds of good kind-hearted people who do not know that there is such a provision, even on a small scale; I am sure that there are hundreds who, knowing it, wish that its operations could he extended, so that every small district in London should have its Cradle Home.
Just beyond Oxford-street, where the artists' colour-shops end, and a denser neighbourhood begins in Upper Rathbone-place, a rather dingy-looking house, situated in a corner, would scarcely be attractive to the ordinary visitor, except for a board on which is inscribed an announcement that the St. Andrew's Cradle Home is to be found within, and that here, instead of 'Nobody's children,' we shall be able to meet with Somebody's babies. There is nothing remarkable in the house, even after you have rapped at the door with a rather dislocated knocker, and have been admitted to a bare passage leading to a bare flight of stairs; and yet your interest [-37-] in it may well begin while you are awaiting the appearance of the matron, for through the half-open doors of the lower rooms comes the musical clamour of children's voices. It would be impossible to say how many children; for it often happens that our experiences in this respect are the reverse of those of the poet, and that instead of forty behaving like one, every six behave like forty. In this case, however, a slight tumult may well be excused; for when we are invited to enter, we find from seventy to eighty small students assembled in an infant-school, under the superintendence of a governess and two or three youthful teachers.
This infant-school, which is an advanced department of the infant-nursery, is only one of the many admirable institutions belonging to the district represented by St. Andrew's, Wells-street; a neighbourhood where, under the superintendence of the vicar, and with the aid of hearty work and untiring zeal on the part of the ladies who visit the poor and carry on the business of several societies, the benefit of the organisation of charitable relief has been exemplified, and a resistless argument has been furnished for the extension of a similar system to every district in London. It is by means of such organisation that, for a long time past, a kitchen has been established, Where poor sickly women, and especially weak mothers, only just recovered from illness, may obtain nourishing and wholesome dinners to take home with them. At this same kitchen the beef-tea, the mutton, the mealy potatoes, and gravy, the farinaceous puddings, the rice, and all those cosy little [-38-] dinners which supply the infant-nursery, are also prepared; and by a system of house-to-house visitation, and a pretty accurate knowledge of the neighbourhood, large as it is, these benefits are for the most part judiciously, and always compassionately, distributed. The relief afforded is not always strictly confined to the dwellers within a hard-and- fast line representing the parish; but it is known to whom it is dispensed, and, except in the case of an occasional false address, to be noticed presently, is kept within known limits. The Night Refuge at Newport-market, for instance, sometimes sends distressed or destitute claimants to the sick-kitchen, or to the infant-nursery; and the benevolence of St. Andrew's is always wide enough to extend over the border of its professed field of operation where there is urgent need in another district.
It is reasonable to conclude, that with so much work to do, economy is necessary; and there is some evidence of it even in this assemblage of undergraduates in the art of needlework and the sciences of words and numbers.
The broad platform, with its gradations of stairs occupied by rows of little ones from the floor almost to the ceiling, is similar to that of most other infant-schools. The classes, in each of which a score of boys assemble - some of them with pale and sickly, others with remarkably chubby, faces - offer no particular distinction; but there are two things which are worth noting. One of them is that, though the rooms are small, and certainly over-crowded, and the house itself is not particularly well adapted for its present purpose, there is none of that [-39-] faint oppressive odour which too often denotes a vitiated atmosphere. The comparatively thorough ventilation may be attributed to the fact that, while a brisk fire is burning in the grate of the back-room, the windows, both back and front, are opened for two or three inches at the top. The other characteristic of the school is the extensive manufacture of patchwork petticoats, now being taken through various stages of sewing by a class for girls; one of whom, a skilled sempstress of about six years old, is at this moment finishing a 'lining,' composed of a remarkable variety of flimsy material, to supplement a kaleidoscopic garment consisting of a selection from a great basketful of pieces, supplied by some of the lady-visitors, who do not believe that the time has yet arrived for the ultimate triumph of the sewing-machine in the abolition of the housewifely accomplishments of real hemming, darning, and stitching.
But it is to the infants, the actual little ones of all, - to,' Somebody's babies,' in fact,- that this visit was to be devoted; and we have already had some indication of their whereabouts by the sound overhead of those measured, but yet jogging, footfalls, which long experience has enabled us to connect with the brisk nursing of restless sleepers, who traditionally require to be soothed by such promenades.
Up one flight of stairs, and here we are in the very midst of a thriving family of twenty-five - rather a smaller number than can be seen on some days, when the number ranges from thirty to forty. Forty must be what is commonly called rather a tight fit, if many [-40-] unaccustomed-visitors look in; or, at all events, a male stranger might require a friendly warning lest he should unconsciously tread on a baby. There is room for the twenty-five, however; though one can scarcely wonder that the matron, the visiting lady, - who has taken off shawl and bonnet, and is just now busily engaged in hushing in her arms a rather sickly-looking infant, - the nurses, and their three or four assistant nurse-girls, should be looking forward to the spring of the present year, when the new building will be finished; and schools, kitchen, and nursery will all be under one roof, with ample accommodation even for swings and play-space for the little ones.
But it would be long before we set about works of mercy if we waited till all things were in complete order, and the means only awaited our disposal in model buildings fitted with every necessary appliance. There is something .in the aspect of these two common rooms, with their two dozen little tenants, their homely iron-guarded fireplaces, their mantelpieces full of toys and cheap ornaments, their neat little iron cots, and their attendant nurses - one of them with three babies wallowing at her feet and a fourth in her arms - which has in it a more pleasant human interest than some large and completely-furnished institutions that might be named. We may rejoice, however, that more space, and a consequent extension of the benefits of the infant-nursery, is to be secured; while we hope that the homelike character of the arrangements may be preserved. By the bye, in order to guard against the probability of [-41-] accidents, the middle of one of the rooms is fitted with a kind of circular den, consisting of a ring of slight iron bars, the centre of which is occupied by a circular bed on the floor, in which three or four little tots, just able to struggle on to their feet, may be placed for their midday doze. Between the bed and the rail itself is a pathway of floor; and on this stand two or three tiny cribs. It is one of the funniest adaptations of a den that was ever seen, but admirably adapted to secure the little creatures within it from the dangers of sudden waking and an attempt to stray about the room. Do you wish to see the inmates of this cosy cage at feeding-time? Here is their dining-table, also circular; being no less than the ordinary wooden chair and toy-tray developed into a continuous series, so as to form an unbroken ring composed of a circular form fitted with a kind of shelf coming in front of each tiny sitter, and provided with a ledge to keep the plate from slipping off. In this the little ones are seated in a ring, those who are able to use a spoon, as well as such as are only just old enough to sit up with the support of the ledge in front, and yet require to be fed. Before the former are placed platefuls of ready-cut-up dinners - meat and potatoes, or of soft puddings, or bread-and-milk; for the benefit of the latter, a nurse sits in the centre of the ring on a low revolving stool, as though she were about to play at some game like 'My Lady's Coach,' or 'Aunt Margaret's dead.' In one hand she holds a bowl of beef-tea, farinaceous food, or thickened milk, and in the other a spoon. One after another, as she revolves in [-42-] her maternal orbit, the little mouths to which she addresses her attentions open like the bills of young blackbirds, and as often as a mouth opens, so often is it dextrously filled from the ever-ready spoon. It is one of the most laughable sights in the whole institution, and yet suggests so much - is so expressive of the great wants of this Great City, that one laughs with a choky sensation in the throat, and a tendency to find merriment breaking into tears. Milk, beef-tea, and meat with potatoes are the articles most in request; but another part of the consumption, and by no means the smallest part either, is cod-liver oil, which, under the directions of a medical attendant who visits the institution once or twice a-week, is dispensed with remarkable regularity.
The need for such care is apparent enough in some of the wee wizened faces of the little strangers; the results are equally obvious in the sturdy legs and chubby cheeks of the little creatures who have become regular nurselings at the 'Creche.'
For two shillings a-week, all the advantages of this institution can be secured by the working mothers who have children to leave, even though those children be old enough to be sent down to the infant-school after their comfortable breakfasts of bread-and-milk, and their dinners of roast meat or nourishing pudding; but for these, as well as for the babes of a few weeks old, arrangements may be made by the day. In the latter case (that of little infants), the mothers are permitted to come twice a-day to nurse them; but their inter-[-43-]mediate attachment to the 'bottle' would make an interesting picture for our old friend Mr. Cruikshank, to whom we commend the subject as a new reading of an old theme.
If any one doubts the great benefits to be derived from the extension of such institutions as this, he has only to note the arrival of these nursing mothers. Here is one, a delicate, respectable young woman, whose face and dress and manner at once answer for her being above any contact with pauperism. She is holding her little one in her arms, and evidently taking a refreshing draught of maternal love, as she notes how its little wan face has plumped and brightened under the better regimen to which it has been lately submitted. Hers is a sorrowful case. A widow six months after her marriage, to a man of education and probably of refinement, she has been left to seek to earn her own bread in this great competing city. 'Indeed, I don't know what I should do without this place,' she says in answer to my inquiry; and she says it so heartily, and with such a tender earnestness in her voice, that no better evidence need be required.
There is much encouragement in the work. It is a rule, of course, that the children shall not be suffering from any contagious disease, and that they shall have been vaccinated. Another rule is, either that they shall have been baptised according to the rites of some religious belief, or that the parents shall be willing for them to be so baptised. There are occasional instances of false addresses being given, and of mothers removing [-44-] their children without payment; but these are few and are counterbalanced by other cases, like that of a hardworking but very poor creature, who, having frequent occasion to seek the aid of the institution when she goes out for 'a day's washing,' brings her little ones as clean as new pins, and always contrives, if she has a few pence in the world, to give them their breakfasts beforehand, that she may not seem too exacting for the funds of the charity.
In another place a branch has sprung out of this asylum for Somebody's baby during the working hours of the working days of the week. In connection with that church of St. Alban, about which we have heard so much, there is an infant Creche where about thirty can be assembled in two upper rooms of one of the dim old-fashioned houses in Greville-street. The subscription of threepence a-day from those mothers who can afford to pay is supplemented by contributions from the alms-offerings at the church. The meat-food is cooked at the mission-house opposite, and a visit to the place itself will be sufficient evidence that it is a boon to those women who, but for some such provision, must either be in want, or must leave their children to the neglect of a 'minder,' who would set them to play in the gutter. As I go in at the door, two or three sturdy little rogues come round me in order to make a more intimate acquaintance; one of them - a red- headed chubby fellow, with Hibernian features, looks so communicative, that I fancy he can speak more than the two or three words of greeting with which he welcomes [-45-] me; but I am presently undeceived, for he is too young even to have learnt the value of a penny, and when I give him one, is not at all impressed by a sudden sense of wealth, and would evidently prefer a brass button as a more attractive plaything.
Have you never stood to watch one of the poor little inhabitants of a low neighbourhood at slay on the doorstep, with a couple of oyster-shells, two or three bits of firewood, and a supply of odorous dirt from the gutter by way of toys? There is something strangely suggestive in the sight; and while I look at it I seem to be in the midst of a large, light, and moderately - lofty room, with a pleasant bit of playground furnished with swings and hoops and a flower-bed. In the room a hundred-and-twenty little children are divided into three or four classes. One division is busy making ornamental mats by the ingenious process of plaiting coloured paper; another is engaged in a kind of drill gymnastic exercise, with hands turning, arms waving, legs marching, bodies erect, right feet forward, heads up, and every movement helping to expand and develop their little bodies to greater strength and suppleness. In the third division there are our old playthings, the oyster-shell and firewood, but without the mud, the place of which is taken by a number of other things- pieces of metal, coal, leather, salt-all kinds of familiar objects, among which are gaily-coloured balls, cubes, and geometrical figures, drawings of animals, trees, and plants, and a pile of slates, which look like the numerous progeny of the one big slate that stands astride on [-46-] sturdy legs behind the teacher, as she holds up one after another, and talks about and explains it. In retired corner of the room, on a large low iron cot, - with a broad mattress, half-a-dozen little tired students are taking their usual afternoon siesta, and will wake up in time to join in the general song, to which the entire troop give such hearty choral effect, when they change from work to play. In a word, I am thinking of a 'kinder-garten' school-of a place where the infant life is made bright and genial, and instruction is like a pleasant round game, carried on with zest and ardent gaiety. In many infant-schools, this system of object-lessons is gaining ground; but we have not yet learnt to be liberal enough of space and air. We are too much afraid of profaning the name of 'learning' by making it easy and pleasant; we have certain theories about 'hard work,' which bind us to certain mouldy old scholastic fetishes that oppress the child-life, and make the class-room, with its dim walls and frouzy windows, still more gloomy. Happy will it be for us, and for that rising generation of Somebody's children which is to form the future men and women of England, when we ourselves have learnt the lesson of a mud-pie, and practically remember that child's play is man s work.
In every poor district of London these cradle-homes might be established with advantage, since they would tend to obviate the evils which make a dozen other charitable institutions necessary for recovering children from the effects of insufficient food and warmth, [-47-] the neglect of the means necessary to maintain even moderate health, and would at the same time relieve the poor little creatures who are now taxed beyond their childish strength in the ineffectual effort to perform the mother's duties.
[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]