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'THE BEST DINNERS IN LONDON.'
There are few more painful sights in this Great City
than that of the sickly and suffering little ones in the
homes of the labouring poor; for even where there is
no lack of maternal tenderness, the daily struggle for
bread cannot reach to the provision of such food and
drink as are necessary to restore the lost strength, or
to build-up the feeble frames of these little fading creatures. Happily this great necessity has not been altogether overlooked amongst the Labours of Love. To
many of those who dine sumptuously every day, and yet
are every day attracted by the announcements of the
bill-of-fare in the great restaurants, it would be a new
sensation to learn where they might take their place at the best dinners in London. It
is true that they
would only enjoy them by helping to fill a score of little
eager mouths - would only appreciate their exquisitely
subtle flavour by regarding them as vicarious banquets;
but if they would go and see the midday table where
their little grateful guests assembled, and listen to the
musical clatter of those thirty or forty small knives and forks, it would be, in the best sense, such a hearty meal
as would give to plain fare a taste of heavenly manna
for some time to come, especially if the cost of super-[-48-]fluous dishes were spent in adding another long table
to those that are already spread.
There are several of these glorious dinner-parties in various parts of London. As many as forty of them are held once a-week, under the auspices of the Destitute Children's Dinner Society, which provides a meat-dinner for a penny to the hungry little ones attending ragged schools. This association, the offices of which are at 25 Grosvenor Mansions, Victoria-street, is designed, however, more particularly for the hungry and destitute. The institutions which refer more particularly to children, who are neither absolutely neglected nor entirely destitute, are intended to meet the very cases where such help is in some respects most desirable, by providing good and nourishing food for sickly, puny, or underfed, and consequently dwindling children, whose parents are too poor to give them the only medicine that can prevent them from becoming diseased. At 66 Earl-street, Lisson-grove; at 60 Paddington-street, Marylebone; and at 2 Woburn-buildings, St. Pancras, may be found three of these admirable institutions. In order to see in what way they may be made to work with the best results, and with an order and completeness that cannot be without the best results on the neighbourhood, let us take the underground train to Gower-street, and await Mr. G. M. Hicks at the last-named address, where the matron is already (it being past midday) waiting for the arrival of two parties of welcome guests, while a handsome joint of roast beef and another of roast mutton give judiciously savoury promise from the kitchen.
[-49-] It is not a remarkable house on the outside; and except that the place in which it is situated is a rather cleanly-paved nook, and that the appearance of the door and its step is somehow remarkably tidy, might note be distinguished from any other 'genteel' dwelling in the same neighbourhood. There is nothing of the 'institution' in its appearance at any rate; and even when we are admitted to the passage, and find that the front and back parlours are 'knocked into one,' by the removal of the partition, and that a long clean deal-table, covered with a white cloth, and a few handy forms are the principal furniture of the front apartment, its plain homelike character is not sensibly diminished. The few common prints on the walls, the little domestic ornaments on the mantelpieces, the bright fires in the ordinary stoves, all lend their aid in this respect, and the cheerful aspect is increased by a few plants and a fern-case at the back window, beside which stands a table presently to be devoted to the beef, a large dish of potatoes, a scale and weights, and subsequently to a wholesome-looking pudding and a jug of such porter as proclaims itself fresh from the brewery, without any licensed intervention on the part of the publican. It is not at the table in the next room, however, that the sick children are to dine: we can hear their little feet pattering along the passage and up the cleanly-scrubbed stairs to a landing above, where a wash-basin, with soap and water, stands in a convenient corner. It will be a good ten minutes before grace is said; and meanwhile we can learn something about what the institu-[-50-]tion has been doing during the seven years since its establishment. To begin with, then, about 50,000 adult persons have been benefited at the 'invalid's dinner-table' in this lower room. Of these, a large proportion have been convalescent poor discharged from various hospitals, where a 'Samaritan fund' has been established for the purpose of affording such a help to perfect recovery as can only be secured by a few good and nourishing meals for a week or two. Tickets are also sold to benevolent persons who are willing to furnish them to district-visitors of the neighbourhood; to the St. Pancras Dispensary, 126 Euston-road; the Deaconesses' Institution, 50 Burton-crescent; or to hospitals and & medical institutions in the locality.
There is little need to look farther than the table itself to discover the wise beneficence of this plan. In the clear but pale faces, the feeble gait, the wasted frames of the men and women who are now quietly taking their seats, the story is told plainly enough - a story of a fight with sickness, not to be followed by a fight with famine; of men made strong for work again; of women restored to household duties, after being raised from the shadow of death, by the cheerful means of life that is afforded them without respect to creed, and with no other claim than the mute appeals of want and weakness. The one eloquent invigorating word 'Welcome,' inscribed high up on the wall above the dinner-table, is itself a restorative; and those decent, orderly, clean, but poorly-clad men and women, may well sit down to their quiet meal with thankful hearts, feeling [-51-] that the homely comfort of the place, the punctual attendance of the two active maid-servants, and the presidence of the matron, whose appearance is another health-inspiring item in the banquet, are all suggestive of an institution expressly designed not to pauperise by bounty, but to 'help the poor to help themselves.'
Of course the special objects of this charity make it necessary to keep it open all the year round; and for above seven years it has been in daily operation for the benefit of the sick and convalescent poor, mostly under the personal supervision of its first promoter or his wife.
It would be impertinent here to speak of Mr. G. M. Hicks in other words than his own; since, during the many years that he has devoted his time and purse to the organisation of the relief of distress, he has avoided the sort of publicity which would represent him as a professed philanthropist.
His whole report occupies only the space of about three sheets of note-paper, including his appeal, a clearly detailed balance-sheet, a list of subscribers, and the names of the various persons and institutions whence applicants have been sent to the institution.
The object he had in view in establishing this dinner-table may be said to be accomplished, which was to prove by practical experience how much real good could be done for a small sum of money; and the .plan adopted to secure this result is so simple, that a mere statement is sufficient to recommend it for general adoption in every district in London.
[-52-] Annual subscribers of one guinea receive a book containing forty dinner-tickets, which are available till the 24th of October in each year. These maybe given to the invalids for several weeks in advance by dating them.
Each invalid must bring the ticket, properly filled-up in ink, with the subscriber's name, as well as his or her own name, address, occupation, and the illness from which he or she has suffered or is suffering. Thus filled up, it is to be taken with twopence to the matron not later than nine o'clock in the morning. This is rendered necessary, in order that she may know for how many to provide, since there is accommodation at the table for thirty invalids to dine daily, while a number send for provisions to be carried to their own homes.
At half-past nine the matron purchases the day's provisions, and is occupied till midday in preparing for the dinner, which is at half-past twelve, and consists of bread, hot meat, vegetables, and porter.
White tickets are for dinners at table. Grace is said at half-past twelve when the dinner is served. Green tickets are only for those too ill to attend, and must be called for at twelve o'clock. Those provided with them must send a basin, mug, cloth, and twopence. Red tickets are for either beef-tea, brandy, or wine, to the value of sixpence.
The matron attends daily from nine till five o'clock, and is always ready to furnish information. Visitors are invited to call, and would oblige the promoters by leaving their names and addresses in a book provided for that purpose, accompanied with any remarks or sug-[-53-]gestions they may be pleased to make. When I add that arrangements are being made by which properly recommended invalids may be sent to Brighton - where, in addition to the benefits to be derived from sea-air, they will have the farther advantage of an invalid's dinner-table, and also a working-men's club and reading- room, with baths and other advantages for restoring them to health - I have almost literally quoted the whole report, except the too short list of subscribers. There are still a few facts to note, however; the first of them being, that the twopences of the recipients (which may of course accompany the price of the tickets if desired) support the entire expenses of management; so that the whole amount of the contributions is spent in the food and drink actually consumed. The promoter, in return for his seven years' work, asks that it may be acknowledged by the inhabitants of the parish as one of the parish-charities; and, as such, entitled to the yearly donations and subscriptions of each inhabitant who feels the claims of the sick and aged poor to be paramount to all others.
'Lastly,' says Mr. Hicks in his brief appeal, which is, after all, no more than a statement, which he leaves to do its own work,- 'lastly, as its plan of working is to allow of no expense which can be avoided, it is asked as a favour that donations and subscriptions be sent in post-office orders, instead of being called for, which, with its limited establishment, takes up time already fully occupied.
'The institution acknowledges neither parish bound-[-54-]ary nor religious distinction, and has neither a committee nor a collector; neither does it advertise - its best advertisement being, to come and see it; and its matron will receive all subscriptions and donations. This cannot be called a special charity, peculiar to a certain class or locality. Wherever the sick, aged, and convalescent poor are to be found - and where are they not - there will be the necessity for an invalid's dinner-table.'
It is cheering to know that this necessity has already been recognised in the various districts of St. John's-wood, St. Giles', Islington, Marylebone, Poplar, and Bromley; and that the good work has also begun in Dublin, Liverpool, Norwich, Bath, Clifton, and Torquay.
But the pattering of little feet has ceased, and we are forgetting that it is 'Somebody's children' that we have come to see. Children from hospital-wards, from dispensaries, from crowded dwellings, and the courts and alleys where the very air is tainted; from homes where the gaunt wolf of famine is always near the door, and little lives languish for the want of more and better food. Of course no children with infectious diseases are admitted; so you need not fear coming into the bright, well-ventilated, but warm and comfortable rooms, where at one end of the big clean white table a glorious musical-box is already twittering popular melodies with the twang of a hundred melodious birds, to a harmonious accompaniment of little knives and forks, and vivid, keen, eager glances of bright little eyes, which is wonderfully affecting. The savoury steam of that [-55-] great juicy haunch of mutton has a knack of making the eyes water a good deal, but you needn't mind. Here, hide your face by stooping over a plate or two in the useful effort of 'cutting-up' for two or three tiny diners, whose wee fingers are not quite so quick, nor their knives so sharp, as their sharpened appetites.
Nearly 18,000 little ones have been helped by this charity since it was founded, and above 5,500 in the past year.
'Scores of poor children in the immediate neighbourhood would be most thankful for even one dinner a-week.'
Yes, I should think so; shouldn't you?
I'm reading from the report-size, half a sheet of note-paper. But go on 'cutting-up.'
'A book containing ten tickets, three shillings and sixpence;' or, if you wish to include the penny which each child has to pay, let us say four shillings and four-pence; not dear that, eh? The price of a dozen cigars for entertaining a jolly little party of ten, and seeing each of them gain health and brightness before your very eyes.
'These tickets may be given to poor children not being invalids, but to whom a good meat-dinner will be very acceptable.' O, I like that little touch; it is infinitely suggestive of the fact, that every poor child to whom a meat-dinner would be very acceptable, and who cannot get a meat-dinner, is to that large extent as much an invalid as we should ever like to see a child become through any lack of giving on our part.
[-56-] 'Tickets sent to the matron will be properly applied, or given to the curates, district-visitors, or scripture-readers, as requested.' Among these forty little ones, there is not a case that I can see where real benefit is lost, for every case has had some kind of investigation; and though this is a poor sick children's dinner-table, these are not destitute. The specialty of the charity is sickness, widely interpreted to embrace that half-starvation on insufficient or improper food, which is the painful condition of so many of the poor, who fight to the death against actual pauperism, and would rather face death itself than consent to break-up a home. It is foolish of them, perhaps; but does it cost more to help them to maintain this honest effort by such means as this than to make them paupers at once, hopeless hereafter of erasing the workhouse stain, and of reuniting the ties that have been broken by the workhouse laws? But see, the musical box is playing its last tune for to-day; the bone of what once was a smoking mound of meat is retiring from the scene; and here, on a plate, is a collection of sweeties which, if I were a medical man, should find no place at a sick children's dinner-table, unless, indeed, they were to point a moral or adorn a tale. Stay a minute, that is just it. They are intended to do both, and so are the half-dozen oranges that accompany them. Girl number one approaches the door, eyeing the plate with a half-shy, half-wistful smile, and a rather ostentatious display of as clean a pair of hands as can be found on this side St. Pancras church.
[-57-] 'I'm glad to see a little girl come here to dinner with clean hands and face, and I always notice when children try to make their hair tidy,' says the lady with the kind motherly face; 'and so I shall give you a nice orange, my dear.'
Confusion, and a rather resentful attempt of a grimy-fisted boy to go out with his arms folded, in which he signally fails.
'What, don't you wish for a sweet? I don't think you deserve it, but for this once I'll give you one; and remember, if you
don't wash your hands next time, I shall leave you out.'
And so on: only two or three culprits being summarily dismissed for repeated neglect of the proper ablution, although I have really seen very respectable, and even well-to-do, folks sit down to their midday snack with fingers almost as much in need of washing as all but the very grubbiest of these little digits. However, the little moral is pointed, and so good-humouredly done, that even the culprits go out with a broad grin extending their flushed cheeks-flushed with the generous meal as much as with the generous shame. Let us too go our way, and see what moral shall be pointed, what tale adorned, by that which we have seen to-day.
Has it not often occurred to you that the mere
superficial aspect of a poverty-stricken neighbourhood
in this Great City may indicate the kind and even the [-58-] degree of misery by which it is characterised? There
is a physiognomy of the streets, varying in peculiarity
and expression, but strangely suggestive of the moral and social condition of those who live in the houses,
the features of which we have somehow tried to interpret. It
may be a mere idle fancy to invest buildings,
doorways, windows, shop-fronts, chimneys, waste spaces
even, with a kind of association that makes them receive and impart such suggestive influences as are supposed to belong only to living things; but that fancy
has seldom been stronger with me than it was on the
Tuesday after Christmas-day, when I found myself, and
in fact nearly lost myself, in the neighbourhood intersected by that long dreary street leading from Shadwell
I was still pursuing a few inquiries about 'Somebody's children.' Not convalescent, or invalid, or simply puny and hungry children; but fading children, sick children, children suffering from terrible diseases, children whose young lives had already begun to sink in the eclipse that is the shadow of death, with death itself-the dark entrance to a younger, brighter, purer, and more beautiful life-very near indeed.
We have all heard of the terrible conditions which have marked out this locality in the records of want and misery. We have most of us learned to regard this eastern portion of the Great City as a sad example of the results of depressed industry, led into chronic pauperism by the efforts of disconnected and unorganised charity seeking to relieve those for whom the poor-laws [-59-] had provided no adequate assistance, under the stress of exceptionally hard times. More than two years ago, all London responded to appeals made on behalf of an entire population; newspaper reporters, benevolent agents, government officers and inspectors, charitable commissioners, all issued their reports - first of the utter destitution which cried urgently for aid, and then of the demoralisation which followed the indiscriminate distribution of alms. 'The East-end Distress' became a regular heading for a daily column in the journals, and week by week struggling shopkeepers themselves succumbed to the heavy burden of the rates claimed on behalf of those whose custom could alone keep themselves and their children from ruin. Famine had followed plague in that afflicted district, and the dreadful visitation of cholera was succeeded by a strike for wages at a time when many employers were keeping shipyards and workshops unprofitably open, rather than deprive their labourers of all means of subsistence; while others were compelled either to go on 'half-time' or to discharge all their superfluous hands.
If this lamentable story had been ever so imperfectly known, it might be told to-day in the aspect of the streets. In a tolerably-familiar acquaintance with the most destitute neighbourhoods of London, I know of only two or three places where the tokens of utter poverty are equally significant. In some of the byways of Manchester, something like the dead unbroken silence and desertion may be witnessed; in a few of the thoroughfares about the Shoreditch end of Bethnal [-60-] Green the same paralysis of activity, the same evidences of enforced idleness and privation, are too obvious; but here these are to be observed amidst the objects which are supposed to indicate the commercial wealth and activity of the Great City. In breaks and gaps between the thoroughfares of poor neglected dwellings, the masts of ships stand cold and naked to the wintry sky, like a clump in a forest of branchless pines; behind the barred gates of docks and contractors' yards, the debris of wood and iron, timber and cordage, is rotting in the ooze, while not a sound of plane or hammer breaks the dreary stillness. In one dry dock the bowsprit of a big vessel has knocked down part of the very gates, as though the impatient monster, wondering at the unaccustomed silence, had forced its way to the street to see what could be the meaning of so strange a perversion; and had poked its huge nose half across the roadway months ago, when, smitten helpless by what it saw, it found itself astrand, and so grew into a portion of the melancholy scene-the mere lifeless carcass of a brig, without the power to set itself afloat again, and doomed to wait for the tide that is so long in turning.
Amidst long lines of small houses, - many of them with that appearance of genteel poverty which is of all poverty the most suggestive, and many that are tenantless, - the few humble shops that still remain open bear painful evidences of their owners having lived upon their stock until it has dwindled down to the few articles exposed in the windows. It would seem that, in [-61-] more prosperous times, some sanguine speculator had devised the scheme of establishing a series of small establishments for purveying ready-prepared provisions to the labourers of the district, and distinguishing each dépôt by painting the whole of its exterior a bright vermilion. But 'Red House No. 3' presents only a few square feet of blank staring scarlet shutters, while, farther on, a similar emporium, evidently turned from its original purpose, displays nothing but a strange assortment of greens, firewood, stale pastry, and the remnant of a stock of last year's ginger-beer. There is a remarkable want of butchers' shops; and even the bakers make no pretence of driving a trade by announcements that they are 'down again.' Poor fellows! they and their neighbours have been down to the very last quotation long ago. The taverns, for the most part with that slovenly air that belongs to a failing bar-trade, have a hopeless look about them, for which some people will scarcely be inclined to pity them; and at their doors, though there are a few desperate-looking viragos and a group or two of men who have somehow found the means to spend a few pence in the miserable effort to celebrate the season in rum, the general depression is expressed in dogged, painful silence. The very policeman, who looks gaunt and sickly, walks moodily to and fro, without even the relief of a case for the stationhouse to break the dull monotony of his daily beat.
The children here must have a bad time of it. Witness their poor little pale, pinched faces, as they go in and out, or creep along the bare footway. It so hap-[-62-]pens that, in the only instance where I see an open door with some few evidences of comfort in the room beyond it, a man, who seems as though he has 'cleaned himself' for the day, is engaged in 'clouting the head' of one of his progeny for an unseemly attempt to get past his legs while he is engaged in speaking to a neighbour who has made an afternoon call.
Yes, it is a bad time for the children during this season of distress, and yet there is not a rough man standing outside a tavern, not a careworn, ragged, wistful labourer, who wonders how he shall next earn a meal, not a slipshod, hopeless-looking woman, of whom I inquire the way, who does not speak in a softer tone, and point with a respectful finger, to tell me how to reach
THE EAST LONDON HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN.
The place is no more than a tall, tumbledown, shabby-
looking dwelling and warehouse, close to the Stepney
Railway-station, having nothing to distinguish it from
half-a-dozen other closed tenements in the locality except a brace of inscriptions on a black-board above each
half-blinded window, stating its double purpose as a
Sick Children's Hospital and a Dispensary for Women.
There is, however, one distinction which separates it
very decidedly from other places near at hand, and that
is, the coming and going of children with brightened
eyes and pleased looks, and the assemblage of a small
crowd of women, with the traces of recent suffering mitigated by an expression of interest in their pale faces.
Farther than this, the building is what it ever was - a [-63-]
sail-maker's counting-houses. and store-rooms, with the
sail-lofts in the upper story, where there are trap-doors
in the rough and footworn floors, to which the visitor
ascends by a rather steep and narrow stair; bulks and
balks of timber here and there in the heavy ceilings, and awkward corners to evade as best you may. It is,
you may think, about as inconvenient a place to live in
as can be found in a day's walk; and yet people do live
here, a good many people too: some eight or nine grown-up folks, and from thirty to forty children, make
a bright and cheerful home of that old dilapidated sail-
maker's warehouse, if brightness and cheerfulness are
inseparable from doing real good and loving work, as I
earnestly believe they are.
During the terrible cholera epidemic, Mr. Heckford, a young gentleman who was house-surgeon to one of the large London hospitals, had, in the course of his duties, to take an active part in the relief of the suffering population of this eastern end of the Great City; and in that arduous professional work he, as well as other medical men, was aided by the untiring energy and active skill of a few ladies, who, having themselves studied 'the healing art,' became trained nurses, devoted to the labour of love among the poor.
The present Mrs. Heckford was one of this charitable sisterhood; and when the epidemic had diminished and gradually subsided, the young husband and wife, knowing from hardly-earned experience what was the great need of the district in which they had worked together, at once set about establishing this Hospital [-64-] for Sick Children. Out of their own means they bought the only available premises for the purpose, this rough, awkward, but substantial and ventilatible sail-loft and warehouse, and there quietly established themselves as residents, with ten beds for ten little patients supported by themselyes, and the hope that some voluntary-aid from benevolent persons who knew the crying need of the neighbourhood would enable them in time to add twenty or thirty more.
That hope has been so far realised that they have been able to maintain from twenty to thirty little patients from all that teeming neighbourhood where a large hospital with ten times the number of beds would not be more than adequate to the needs of the infant population. But they have had a hard struggle, rendered all the harder by the knowledge that, in at least half of the cases where they have had to refuse admission for want of space and funds, the little applicants have been sent away to die, or to become hopeless invalids, not less from the effects of insufficient food and clothing, than from the nature of the diseases from which they have been suffering.
How this young lady and gentleman have dwelt in such a place and such a neighbourhood, and with cultivated tastes and accomplishments have submitted to the inconvenience of a room or two on the first-floor, from which they were almost ousted by the increasing need for space; how they have bent those very tastes and accomplishments to helping and cheering the noble task they undertook how the kindly graceful lady - herself [-65-] in such delicate health that anxious friends implore her now to seek the rest and change which she so obviously needs - paints pictures to hang upon the walls, and decorates the awkward nooks and corners with all kinds of Christmas bravery, to hide their clumsiness; how, after the first struggle to found a permanent charitable institution, a regular committee has been formed with a proper constitution, a treasurer, and honorary secretary; how, on the 28th of January 1868, this committee commenced its undertaking, and before the end of the year were able to receive forty little patients; and how the founders, who are still the resident medical officer and matron, hope yet to see the means provided for taking a larger building, and the East London Sick Children's Hospital become an acknowledged permanent institution,- it would take long to tell. At present the committee can only say: 'It must be remembered that this hospital was established by Mr. and Mrs. Heckford simply as an experiment. If the public would support it, so would they. It remains therefore with the public to decide whether a work of charity so worthily commenced shall come to an untimely end; or whether it shall continue its warfare against disease and death, its vigilance and zeal and labour in the great cause of good against evil, of light against darkness, of happiness and comfort against misery and pain.'
What is now being accomplished in this glorious struggle may be seen by any one who will visit these roughly-appointed but wholesome, clean, and well-tended [-66-] wards, where, in three long rooms, children in various stages of sickness or convalescence occupy the little iron bedsteads, or congregate in a smaller room, made bright and cheerful by the genial influence of a loving woman, who has gathered other loving women round her as nurses to the suffering little ones. There is no ceremony in receiving visitors; and directly I make known my desire to see the hospital, I am requested to walk upstairs, where Mrs. Heckford herself is to be found at all hours, and with an intimate knowledge of the special cases which makes one family of the forty children under her care. It is part of the painful knowledge that comes with an intimate acquaintance with this neglected district, that want and privation, unwholesome dwellings and insufficient clothing, are the causes of half the diseases that prevail amongst the children; so that the discharged patients still have a claim on the institution, and even some starving little creatures who have never been inmates of the hospital. Strangely enough, and it is a fact to be marked by those who have not yet learnt the true character of the really deserving poor, many of the distressed people about that quarter will hide their dreadful poverty and misery so long as they are able; and when at last they go to claim the benefits offered them, it is not till the case is almost hopeless; so that though there are more applications than can be received, even they do not represent the whole mass of suffering that waits for the alleviation that might be offered by a larger establishment.
Passing through the wards and noting several cases [-67-] of dire disease, some of which hold out no hope of recovery, it is pleasant to learn that the nurses - young women of from eighteen to four-and-twenty - are themselves attracted by the desire to aid in the good work, and though they receive wages, are by no means so well off pecuniarily, as they might be by taking other situations. They have one room in which they dine, and I am half ashamed to say that I intrude upon them just as they are about to sit down to the discussion of what looks like a savoury meat-pudding, in what is perhaps the best room in that queer old building - a room not without a sort of homely comfort, dim and awkward as it is in its general appearance.
It would be easy to shock the reader by detailing some of the more distressing diseases which are to be seen among these poor little patients; it is better to say at once that numbers of them have been brought though disorders that must have proved fatal but for such timely aid. In the lower ward there are some very distressing sights: one child already nearing that entrance where the shadow lies so dark, her little face flushed purple in the effort to gasp out the few remaining hours of this mortal life in an attack of acute bronchitis; another with an internal disease, recovery from which is almost impossible. The rest of the cases are more hopeful; but it is painful to know how prevalent are those disorders that come of want of 'constitution.' Disease of the hip-joint and other strumous affections are perhaps the commonest form of complaint; and water on the brain is evident in the strange look of care [-68-] and anxiety on some of the soft infant faces and in the wide wistful blue eyes. There are cheering influences, however, in the little patients just able to sit up in bed; in the jolly little suckling of the infant-ward at the very top of the house, who is pulling away at his bottle as though he meant to suck-in fresh strength at every draught ; in a wonderful rough white dog, taken-in out of the street in charity, and now rejoicing in the name of Poodles and a general playmate. 'Judge not Poodles by external appearances' is the legend on his collar, and we adopt the salutary advice, especially when we see him, as a sort of frisky welcome, leap on to one of the little beds where a boy lies with disease of the hip. It is evident enough that the boy himself thinks nothing of this strange proceeding; and he need have no fear, for Poodles avoids touching him with a dexterity that nothing but hospital practice, combined with true canine sympathy, could have imparted. Poodles and two other quite young students of puppies, who are evidently under his especial training, and do not at present venture on the beds without special permission, and for the express purpose of cheering-up a patient who is tired of inanimate toys, are among the best tokens of the place. Stay though, here is something in a small empty room opening from the end of one of the wards. Something infinitely suggestive too. A great tree which, when it is reared in the large brown pan placed there for its reception, will touch the ceiling and spread its fragrant resinous branches almost from wall to wall. A Christmas-tree to be loaded with glittering little gifts and set [-69-] aglow with gleaming tapers on a night in the coming new year, when every little creature lying in bed, as well as the convalescent, and the past patients invited to tea on the occasion, and the nurses, and the dear matron, whose pale but cheerful face and tender hand seem to pervade the whole of that rough uncomely building and light it with a loving influence, will take part in the glorification. Fancy the toys plucked from those spreading boughs and carried to the little beds to brighten dim eyes- and send a thrill through little wasted frames; fancy the tears of mothers mourning for their sick children, and blessing the institution that may save them to grow into men and women; fancy the quiet bustle and subdued activity that will be manifested in preparing for this great event. There is a little fellow up here in the infant-ward who can tell you all about it. He is the only permanent pensioner on the establishment, and was, in fact, left on the hands of the institution by a mother who, after having used him cruelly, left him altogether. On being asked where he lives, he will tell you that he lives with 'poor Mary,' that being the name he has given the nurse in charge of that particular dormitory; and though he regards Poodles as his friend and tries to tell you so, he slightly resents any interference on the part of that demonstrative quadruped with a little wheelbarrow, which is his most cherished possession.
This little waif of the great 'East-end' - this living salvage of the great tide of poverty that surges round the docks and shipyards of riverside London - has been prospectively adopted by a gentleman in Boston, and [-70-] will be taken out to America this year. The gentleman is a friend of Mr. Charles Dickens, who recorded his own visit to 'A Small Star in the East' in All the Year Round for December 19, 1868, in such tender and pathetic language as befitted an author who has introduced all the world to Tiny Tim, and the favourite pupil of the 'poor schoolmaster.'
For about 1,500l., a building, once the workhouse of - the district, could be obtained and fitted as a large and commodious hospital for this great poverty-stricken section of the metropolis. It would not be easy to exaggerate the terrible need there is for some determined effort to accept increasing applications to receive sick, suffering, and dying children.
'Two little ones, brother and sister, pleaded for admission. One was rejected because a suspicion of possible infection existed in her case. Although not so seriously diseased as her brother, she is left to die slowly, from want of adequate accommodation on our part, while he has been restored to health.
'A pet of the hospital named Waxworks, from her delicate appearance, was sent home in order to make room for an urgent case. She was readmitted as soon as possible, but too late.
'On the other hand a boy was kept here a week longer than necessary because he had no clothes, and in the end the hospital furnished him with a complete outfit. It is true he might have been sent to the union, but it is our object to discountenance at all times resort to such help. This rule, however, has an exception. [-71-] Once we were obliged to make a pauper - a child whose mother was at the time dying of consumption in the union infirmary.
'A boy had his leg crushed by a wagon-wheel close to the hospital; it was amputated, and the wound has practically healed. Fresh air is necessary to complete his cure; but he is gradually pining away, and will probably die. This points to the urgent want of a convalescent branch some few miles in the country; living, however, as we do from hand to mouth, we cannot of course afford this.
'A mother, whose child is now lying dead in the hospital, declared that, but for the relief afforded her here for the other little ones at home (she received from us one shilling a-day and food), the workhouse would have been their only resource. Being respectable, they, as so usual with the deserving poor, had incurred the risk of starvation without applying for parish assistance.' Such are some of the statements in the report.
It is not only as a hospital, however, that this institution is useful to the neighbourhood. Knowing so well what are the needs that surround them, Mr. and Mrs. Heckford have occasionally given temporary aid to these poor creatures who strive to the last against becoming paupers. In December 1868 there appeared in the British Medical Journal an account of a visit to Ratcliff-cross, in which occurs the following case, which I offer no apology for extracting:
'Another poor sufferer, of good character, dying of consumption, lay helpless and bedless in a garret, [-72-] covered with a few filthy rags. She had been discovered, insensible from literal starvation, by a fellow-lodger. She was sent specially in a cab to the Victoria-park Hospital, but was not admitted.
A poor woman had just been attended in labour. There were only a few potatoes in the house, she had not a farthing in her possession, and her husband was out of work. The relieving-officer was written to for assistance by Mr. Heckford; but he refused to recognise such recommendation. She was supplied by Mrs. Heck- ford with a fe,w necessaries. Her husband immediately afterwards obtained work sufficient to render farther assistance for the time unnecessary. - In a room of one house were a husband, wife, and three children sleeping on a torn straw mattress. There was no furniture, except the framework of a chair, improvised into a seat by a piece of rope crossed. The husband was, and had been for some time, out of work, and received no parish relief. In another room, were a father, mother, and eight children, all subsisting on 7s. 6d. a-week.'
Well may the committee of the Sick Children s Hospital say, that what that institution can now do is but little, when compared with the great waste of poverty and disease which surrounds it. Still they are hoping on, though they share the sufferings of the respectable poor, to whom help has ceased, because the indiscriminate almsgiving which produced so much degradation has produced a reaction in the public mind with regard to 'East-end Distress;' and indiscriminate almsgiving has been followed by almost complete withholding.
[-73-] Here, however, are plain facts which should need no special appeal:
The number of children in the East London parishes, from which patients are received in this hospital, is considerably over a quarter of a million. In the whole of this district there are but three other hospitals; that at Poplar, which is for men only; that at Victoria-park, for consumptive cases only; and the London Hospital, a general hospital with two wards allotted to children.
What might be effected with increased means and greater space may easily be inferred. Between 300 and 400 in-patients have been relieved since the opening of the institution; while the number of out-patients treated have been 4,624, the latter at a minimum cost of about eightpence a-head; and subtracting from the actual expenditure the items of furniture, repairs, and fixtures, and allowing 40l. for the value of instruments which remain the property of the hospital, it will be found that the average cost for each child received into the wards has been 4l. 13s. 6d. And this does not take into account the fact that many hundreds of visits have been paid to the sick in their own homes, where they have been supplied with food, wine, and medicine-treated in all respects as patients of the hospital.
Once more to quote the British Medical Journal:
'Philanthropy is infinitely more active at the West-end, where it seems to be universally admitted that thirty or forty hospitals are not too many; while the poor East-end, with a million or more inhabitants, has to be contented with two or three.'
[-74-] It may be hoped that any comparison made here between the more energetic benevolence which has made provision for sick children at the Western end of the Great City, and the want of increased help in the wretched districts of the East, will not be interpreted to mean that there is any excess of charity in the former. By a better organisation all over London, the money now spent in the relief of the poor might well be made to effect wider and more hopeful results; but this organisation would only slightly affect the present careful economy in some of the best institutions, and especially the hospitals for sick children. It is not that less is required in the West, but that more should be contributed for the establishment of a similar provision in the East. Indeed, in the one admirable institution which has long been taken to represent this most necessary of all our asylums for the sick and suffering, the work is also stayed for want of space and adequate funds to extend the present building, and to provide new wards for the little patients in a branch-hospital out of town.
THE HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN IN GREAT ORMOND-ST.
was opened nearly eighteen years ago, and its story
has been told, or partially told, two or three times
already; a story so interesting, and confirmed every
year by such an increase of loving work and successful
recognition of one of the most urgent and distressing
claims on our humanity, that we may easily wonder the
goodly subscription-list is not twice as long as it now [-75-]
is. It has, naturally enough, secured the tender regard
of all mothers, from the highest Lady in the realm to
the poorest charwoman who goes to see her little child
slowly retracing its painful journey to death's door, or to
find it surrounded in its inevitable passage through the
dark portal by every comfort that experience, skill, or earnest sympathy can secure.
The story of this children's hospital may be said to have begun twenty years ago; but long before that time the house in which it was established, and has ever since continued, belonged to the records of medical history.
More than a hundred years ago, a great physician, who had written a notable book about poisons, and had studied at some of the most celebrated medical schools in Europe, went to live in what was then a handsome new street leading out of Queen-square, and known by the aristocratic name of Great Ormond-street. Dr. Richard Mead was a royal physician, and his house, to which he had removed from a more humble dwelling at Stepney, was a stately, well-appointed mansion, with a fine garden, upon which he built a museum to contain his collection of interesting objects connected with the profession he had so ardently followed. After his death, in 1754, the house fell into other hands, and, though it could boast at least one eminent inmate in the person of the late Lord Macaulay, - whose father became its tenant, there seemed some probability of its being entirely separated from those medical associations which had originally made it famous. It happened, however, [-76-] that a few thoughtful and philanthropic gentlemen, who had long been impressed with the terrible aggregate which the bills of mortality presented in recording the number of children who died every year in the metropolis, met together on the 30th of January 1850, to consider whether we could not follow the example of some of the principal continental cities by establishing a children's hospital in London.
The first terrible fact which prompted them to make an earnest effort was that furnished by the registrar's returns, where they saw - as indeed some of them, being themselves in the medical profession, knew already - that 25,000 of London's little ones died every year, almost before they grew to boyhood or girlhood - that is to say, while they were under ten years of age; and with this was coupled the painful certainty that a large percentage of such young lives might be saved if only there were the means to afford them the necessary conditions of recovery; conditions, however, which could not be secured in any existing institution, since ordinary hospitals, even the noblest and most useful of them, are not adapted to the treatment of children, who must necessarily be regarded as an encumbrance where the. resources are often insufficient even for the needs of the adult population.
It may readily be understood, therefore, that the establishment of a children's hospital involved the adoption of some means for increasing the knowledge of those diseases to which children are peculiarly liable, and that the hospital should include some arrangement [-77-] for fulfilling the part of a medical school as well as a training establishment for nurses.
For nearly two years these nine gentlemen, who formed the first committee, worked and appealed to their friends for the attainment of the object they had set their hearts upon; and at last, in 1852, they were in a position to look about them for a suitable house in which they might make the experiment of establishing a hospital for sick children. To find such a building was no very easy matter, since it must, as they well knew, be at no great distance from the poor neighbourhoods from which the tiny patients would be carried sometimes in loving arms that could do no better for them than to bear them to a home where they might find the food and medicine, the health and strength, which would never come to them in the foul courts and alleys where they were born.
It must be a large airy house too, with great lofty rooms, and the means for air and sunlight to enter freely. Of almost equal necessity there must be a garden, where little convalescents might use their nearly-restored limbs and renovate their blood with fresh air and healthy exercise. As though for the very purpose of supplying the place they were looking for at this time, the house once occupied by the court-physician in Ormond-street became tenantless; and there, with very little adaptation, were the lofty spacious rooms, the cool wide staircases, the high windows that were needed; whilst the garden where the doctor had built his museum was still in its glory with fruit and flowers, wanting [-78-] care but with a whole world of beauty between its high walls.
Eleven months before they could open it as a hospital, the house was taken and prepared for the admission of the first patient - one little girl, who, lying there in her tiny bed, became the principal occupant of the stately old mansion, with its burnished-oak staircases, and its great high carved mantels.
Twenty-four out-patients, and eight little creatures tended within the walls, was the work of the first month; and it is rather an encouraging than a deplorable fact that the new institution had to gain the confidence of the poor mothers who brought their pining children for medical aid before the number of inmates increased. Very soon, however, the gentle compassion which was shown to the tiny patients won the hearts of these poor women who loved without the power to save; and one after another parted with the girl or boy so much the dearer for being weak and helpless, that they might receive their darling back again in renovated health and vigour.
The first year the income of the hospital was 314l., and it has been progressing ever since, the last total showing about 2,900l. as the amount of the twelve months' subscriptions, and a little over 3,500l. as donations; sums which, encouraging as they may be as an evidence of progress, are surely insignificant when we remember the noble object for which this hospital has been founded and the appeal which its very name should make to every one of us. It soon found good friends, [-79-] however; and on one notable occasion, when the funds had been reduced to 1,000l., its cause was advocated at the annual festival by Mr. Charles Dickens; and it is not wonderful that, when he urged the claims of those who are yours, ours, everybody's children, there should have been subscribed 2,850l. It is wonderful that the institution should not have grown far beyond its present limits when its urgent claims are considered.
Happily, however, the committee were able to increase their space by adding the next house and garden to that in which they commenced their philanthropic enterprise, so that there are now seventy-five beds for the reception of the little sufferers who are admitted within the walls; while the number of those relieved has amounted to 720 in-patients, and above 15,000 outpatients.. In the case of the latter, however, the experience of this, as of most other charitable institutions, has been, that great vigilance was required to prevent the benefits of a hospital intended for the relief of the really poor from being diverted to a class in far better circumstances.
It is in this out-door-relief department too that the difficulty arising from want of space is particularly felt, when the building is already too small to meet constant demands for admission, which are necessarily refused. In the hope that they will be supported by the subscriptions of the public, relying too upon the large degree of attention which royal patronage and numerous distinguished visitors have directed to the work, the committee buy a freehold house in Powis-[-80-]place, abutting on the garden of one of their houses in Great Ormond-street, and in that way extending their accommodation, not only by enlarging, but as far as possible rebuilding, the hospital. For this purpose special contributions have been made, and are still required; but without waiting for this addition to their London establishment, the committee have already completed the purchase and organisation of a branch institution, without which no hospital for children can be regarded as complete, that is to say, a country convalescent home.
It would seem that the managers of this charity have a faculty for rehabilitating old houses; for the new home is established at a no less remarkable mansion than the ancient building known as Cromwell Lodge, at Highgate - a rare place, with a rare garden, and some doubtful legends - about Cromwell's residence there, and a subterranean way leading from it to the magnificent 'mansion-house' of Sir William Amhurst, lord mayor of London in 1694. Whether Cromwell built the house or not, his son-in-law Ireton's arms were the ornament of the great room above the drawing-room; while the wide deep staircase bears grim figures of Puritan soldiers carved in oak, and balustrades with warlike emblems, to attest the ownership. It is in these old lofty rooms, made bright and cheerful now by the sounds of infant prattle and the substantial beauty of little ones being brought back to healthy life, that the cots are ranged for twenty inmates drafted from the parent hospital in Great Ormond-street, and thirty-six more will soon be added to that happy juvenile party. Assuredly [-81-] no substantial, but still ghostly, old mansion was ever put to a better or more exorcising influence; and, it must be added, that few places are better adapted to such a purpose. Not too far from town to be separated from our Labours of Love, standing four hundred feet above the Great City, surrounded by fields, and with a great airy garden of its own, it will be a rare place for a month's sojourn; and should that time be found sufficient for the recovery of each little convalescent, the twenty beds will provide for between 250 and 800 children during the year; the remaining thirty-six being available for chronic cases of disease, where slow lingering months of patient waiting will alone complete the cure when surgical skill has done its best.
It only needs a visit to the hospital in Great Ormond-street-where some of these poor little creatures lie, with spinal or hip disease that is curable - but O, so slowly - to convince us how great a boon this grand old breezy retreat will be to such sufferers. It only needs a little observation of the brightening, but still pale, faces of the tiny convalescents in the great ward, where there is such store of toys and such a big broad floor for exercise, to appreciate how perfect recovery might be accelerated by a change to country air. It only needs a very superficial acquaintance with the crowded tenements, the close courts, and reeking alleys of London, whether they be in the back neighbourhoods of the West-end, in the dismal congeries of streets Eastward, or in the slums and fever-haunts of Southwark, to startle us with the possibilities that we are neglecting, [-82-] while we fail to redeem, the little children of the poor from such perpetual influences. It is not alone in the gradual restoration to health, but in the greater intelligence, in the changed expression, in the return of childlikeness to those little faces; of love and trust to those wide-open eyes; of freshness, or at all events of cleanliness, to those pale cheeks, that we read the lesson of the hospital in Great Ormond-street. Lying, reclining, sitting in those neat cots, each with its handy tray. to slide to and fro, so that food or drink or toys may be brought close to the little feeble hands; creeping slowly, or toddling with returning vigour across the floor after wheel-footed horses, woolly dogs, or wonderful specimens of natural history that give forth asthmatic chuckles by means of artful contrivances-each one of these little patients is an appeal on behalf of 'Somebody's children.' No wonder that the institution should have become so popular: great wonder that its like should not be seen in every district of London, where kindly nurses, tender aid, and labourers for love can be found, as well as a bright airy old house, with rooms big enough for wards, and a garden full of light and air. It is this general sense of cheerful light and colour, and the sight of the rocking-horses, dolls'-houses, with dolls that would have to be doubled up to go into them, red 'garibaldis,' palatable baby-food, and above all, cheerful vigilant attention to every little plaint and cry, that may at first not only prevent our realising how serious some of the cases are, but also defer that inevitable sigh that comes when we remember to what homes some [-83-] of these little creatures will have to return when they are set up again. Well, let us do what we can to remedy that too; but meanwhile there is a box downstairs for contributions; or if you would prefer something more in accordance with what you feel such a charity demands, then in the name of your own children, or of the children you might have bad, or for the sake of those you have lost, or of those that have been spared to you- f or the sake of Him who reminds us, in words of solemn and eternal truth, that their angels do continually stand before the face of the Father, do all that you can for these little ones and their brothers and sisters in the less -prosperous institution down East. Let even poor men and women realise the fact that sixpences - that pence even- have done great things when they have been called for to fulfil much less noble purposes. Let it not be forgotten that a toy, a picture-book, a child's half-worn garment, a remnant of linen-cloth, or flannel, may help to comfort some of those little failing hearts; nay, let everybody only follow the good old custom, and save up all their odd halfpence for the tiny patients, and a larger hospital will soon arise, in which there will be more space for 'Somebody's children.'
During the past year another hospital has been built for a similar purpose, but under different circumstances, in a part of London where it was as sorely needed as in either of the districts already mentioned. Those who know anything of South London may well hear with grateful hearts that
[-84-] THE EVELINA HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN,
in the Southwark Bridge-roar is now an established
charity. Built and founded 'in memoriam' by the
munificence of a Jewish nobleman, Baron Ferdinand de
Rothschild, this institution was opened on the 21st of
June last with thirty beds, and since that time above
eighty in-patients have received its advantages, while
the out-patients number above a hundred daily. The
number of beds are to be increased to a hundred, and
the committee appointed to carry-out this most admirable scheme of unsectarian benevolence expect that the
expenditure will be about 3,000l. a-year.
This is indeed a Labour of Love which only a few men in the world could so inaugurate; but there is not one of us who may not learn from it a lesson sadly needed in many of our professedly philanthropic efforts. It is founded by a Jew, a noble-hearted man of a people always forward in works of charity and mercy in this Great City; a people with whom we associate, if not intense bigotry of belief, at least unflinching conservatism of religious opinion. In this, as in a hundred other instances where they open their hands, we find no barriers of creed set up to exclude their fellow-citizens from the benefits that they help to confer. It is strange, and well worth recording as a warning, that when this hospital was founded, the very first difficulty that presented itself was that of obtaining Gentile nurses who would not regard it as indispensable to maintain and symbolise, even if they did not inculcate, certain [-85-] pronounced religious opinions. Of course, nobody can avoid observing the fact, that it was difficult to find competent nurses at all except among those religious and really devoted sisterhoods; but apart from that, to them creditable, discovery, there was the manifest inconsistency of making a hospital built and supported by Jewish benevolence the scene of sectarian demonstration. The difficulty was surmounted amicably enough, however; and it may be regarded as a wholesome evidence that our Labours of Love are becoming truly worthy of the name, when we learn how a committee, consisting of Jews and Christians, can find nurses to aid them on the ground of human wants and Divine mercy, without insisting on any special religious observance of their own. As Mrs. Gladstone and Lady Herbert of Lea have joined some of the most eminent of their Jewish sisters in this good work, and as it will certainly turn out that the larger part of the Jewish money will go for the relief of poor suffering Gentile children, who will, it is to be hoped, become good unsectarian Christians, this arrangement is the only one that could have been reasonable. Up to the present time, indeed, not more than a tenth part of the in-patients have been of the house of Israel, though there is a Jewish kitchen, a Jewish cook, and a special Jewish ward, with its little roll of the Law hallowing the lintel of the doorway. It is perhaps in this way - in being slow to take advantage even of a Jewish charity while they can do without it - that our poor Hebrew fellow-citizens show their true conservatism; but for the founder to endow a general [-86-] hospital in such a wide spirit of beneficence that he would only retain one ward for his own people rather than seem to profane the religion of all-embracing love is a sign of the times worth recording, worth pondering, worth imitating.
There are few greater needs in all London than that for children's hospitals in each district. Not large establishments, but numerous branches of one well-systematised scheme, each supported according to its especial requirements, and the urgency and number of the claims made for aid by those to whom it is intended to afford relief. Doubtless we are far from having attained any such organisation; but the experienced visitor to either of the present hospitals for sick children will be reminded that many of the cases treated in their wards could be better cared for in a separate institution particularly adapted to their needs. In the Evelina Hospital there is a distinct ward for whooping-cough; and though this may seem to some people rather a singular exception, it really suggests the particular want of a more systematic reference of certain cases to what, for want of a better term, I must call 'special' hospitals. I apologise for the word 'special,' because I know that many eminent medical practitioners detest the term, since it is too often meant to signify something that would be better expressed by the term 'empirical.' Still, there can be no doubt that institutions for the cure of particular classes of disease are not only most desirable, but absolutely necessary when those diseases require treatment not easily ob-[-87-]tained in the wards of a general hospital, and experience only acquired by studious attention and very close observation of large numbers of cases.
Thus we have special hospitals of all kinds for adult patients, many of them achieving noble and useful work. hospitals for consumption, for various internal diseases, for diseases of the throat, for epilepsy, and two most beneficent institutions for the incurable. Why should we not have branch children's hospitals on the same plan, so that little patients requiring peculiar treatment may be received at places where the appliances, as well as the particular skill required, may secure for them more complete attention than can be afforded even in those general hospitals where a ward is at present assigned to them?
Among the patients at the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond-street, as well as at the less-prosperous institution at Ratcliff-cross, disease of the hip-joint, and those affections of the limbs which too often produce permanent deformity, and are always difficult, frequently impossible, to cure without the use of properly-constructed instruments, and great experience in that branch of surgery, are constantly present. But for the establishment of three institutions for receiving such cases, the number to be seen, both in general hospitals and in our streets, would be far more numerous. It is to be wished, therefore, that these hospitals for the cure of deformities and affections of the joints were more fully recognised.
Two of these are at the West-end: the National [-88-] Orthopoedic, in Great Portland-street, where in 1868 about 1,800 patients were relieved, at an expense of some 900l.; and the other, the Royal Orthopedic, at 315 Oxford-street, and 15 Hanover-square, where there are a number of in-door patients, as well as those receiving weekly advice and assistance. This latter institution received about 2,000 cases during the year, at an expense of about 2,600l. The National Orthopoedic was established in 1836, the Royal Orthopedic in 1838; but until 1851 there was no definite attempt to provide a similar valuable institution on the eastern side of London.
Only those who are accustomed to visit the poor in their own homes can fully know how sad is the lot of the little cripple of the household, who, sitting beside the hearth in his low chair, lifts a pale piteous wistful face with the mute inquiry whether there is any hope of his taking his place in the working world, or if he will not be trampled down in his feeble effort to join the struggling ranks of those who are straighter and stronger than he. Thank heaven that in these poor households the little creatures mostly have what share of tender pity and compassion can be afforded to those who too early learn that they are an extra burden! Our great novelist, touching with that tender hand of his the strings of human sympathy, has left the chronicle of Tiny Tim to attest the truth of this; but O, if Tiny Tim had been made strong, and instead of 'the sound of his little crutch upon the stair,' the crutch itself had been preserved among the relics of a less-happy time, the re-[-89-]minder of a great blessing, what rejoicing there would have been in that poor borne, even though Scrooge had failed to raise Bob Cratchit's salary, or bad countermanded the turkey!
MAKING THE CROOKED STRAIGHT
is, however, one of the miracles of modern science and
patient skill; and the want of a hospital for the cure of
deformities, in some place to which patients from the
eastern end of London might take their children, was
felt long before there appeared to be any means of
opening such an institution. One of the first difficulties was to find a suitable building, at any rent
which could be hopefully incurred, for what was then a
philanthropic experiment. Strangely enough, however,
this new and modern effort was commenced in one of
the oldest nooks of the Great City.
There is now some probability of the former landmarks of Hatton-garden and Ely-place being almost obliterated by the viaduct, the underground railway, the works of the Holborn valley, and the vast upheaving that is in progress in all that neighbourhood. Still, to those who love to idle about the ancient precincts of this great town, and in imagination repeople them with the historical figures from which many of them derived their name and fame, there are few more suggestive neighbourboods than that lying on the right-hand side of Holborn going westward.
Even amidst the sordid shops and reeking slums of [-90-] Leather-lane, and near neighbour to the militant church of Saint Alban the Martyr, stands the ancient mansion of Sir John Baldwin, long ago converted into a galleried hostelry, and now let as a common lodging-house, with all its glories dimmed, its chambers wrecked, and clothes-lines stretched across its dirty court-yard. The neighbourhood of Ely-place (once the bishop's great blooming garden, all aglow with roses, to which the Duke of Gloucester sent for a mess of strawberries), and Cross-street and Hatton-garden, where once the palace stood on the spot now devoted to another church, may still enable a dreamer to connect the reign of Victoria with that of Elizabeth, and to recall the dancing chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton, who skipped so gracefully into the royal favour and the poor bishop's palace and grounds, the prelate fearfully preserving the right for himself and his successors to walk in the garden, and gather twenty bushels of roses yearly. Poor bishop mulcted of his estate! poor dancing chancellor dying of debt and a broken heart! There seemed to be no good influence in the place ever after, until the estate had passed out of the hands that so unjustly held it. The nephew and heir of Sir Christopher, whose widow married Sir Edward Coke, had little happiness there; and the great lawyer wore out his life in matrimonial wretchedness with the proud lady, who defied him to the last, as well as the bishops who strove to regain the inheritance of the see. By a singular perversion, it is to this Lady Hatton that a legend has been applied, which tells of her having been suddenly taken (as it [-91-] were in execution) by the enemy of mankind, who introduced himself as a guest at a grand ball at the mansion beyond Ely-place, and, claiming his own, vanished, leaving only the heart of the unfortunate lady, which was picked up next morning in the place since know as Bleeding Heart-yard.
This terrific legend belongs in fact to another per son, and to a far earlier period; but either from the connection of the name of Hatton with dancing, or from the story having been originally applied to another Lady Hatton, or from the popular dislike of the wife of the great Coke, or from all three causes combined, the bleeding heart was referred to that lady; and though nobody knows what became of it, it gave its name to a collection of frowzy little tenements at the bottom of a flight of steps close to the supposed scene of the catastrophe.
At all events, part of the estate went back to the see of Ely after this lady's death, and the property was subject to a rent-charge on the Lords Hatton till they became extinct, and in the middle of the last century the property reverted to the Crown. Before this time, however, the great garden had disappeared; the strawberries had been eaten, and the roses had faded to bloom no more; for the orchard and pleasaunce was divided into building-plots, and great, ghostly, wide-staired, oak-balustered mansions, with wainscoted rooms and paved halls, rose all round the place. Such of these as still remain have mellowed and faded and become dim. Their glory has departed from them; rats scuffle be-[-92-]hind the wainscot, cobwebs festoon the ceilings, and the painted walls of the great staircases are so blurred by age and dust, that nothing can be made of them, even when their wreaths and ornaments have not been covered with modern paint and plaster.
They seem as though they were waiting for Time, the great eater, to close his remorseless jaws upon them; and yet in one of them there is going on daily, a work which should insure its rebuilding, a work which hundreds of the poor in this Great City, whose faces grow pinched and pale amidst the unwholesome houses and the sordid streets of 'the worst neighbourhoods,' bless in the names of themselves and of their children.
It happened that when, in the year of the first 'Great Exhibition,' a few gentlemen had had their attention directed to the terrible prevalence of bodily malformation among the children of the London poor, determined to open a hospital for its cure, the only suitable house within their means was one of these large substantial old tenements in Hatton-garden. The present house, with its large lofty rooms, its wide staircase and flagged entrance-hall, was therefore secured, together with a good-sized out-building at the back; and the City 'Orthopoedic' Hospital was established, it having been probably deemed a point of etiquette to use the word 'orthopoedic' for three reasons: first, because it is time-honoured; secondly, because very few people know what it means; and thirdly, because those who think they know find that the word itself eludes any etymological research, and needs interpretation. This [-93-] interpretation was wisely added; and the City Hospital for the cure of bodily deformities of all kinds became an established charity, where patients received advice and assistance without either payment or letter of recommendation.
Its founders, Mr. Ralph Lindsay, M.A., F.S.A., and the Rev. Thomas Gregory, B.D., had thus accomplished the first part of their design, and they were peculiarly fortunate in at once securing the cooperation of an eminent surgeon who had already had great experience in the study of the treatment of deformities, and had also been long known as a lecturer on anatomy at the medical schools. Mr. E. J. Chance at once entered into his new engagement with an ardour and a judicious skill which, before many months were over, placed the City Orthopedic Hospital amongst the most valuable charitable institutions of London. The number of patients increased so rapidly, that the co-operation of another medical gentleman of well-known ability in the same branch of his profession was solicited; and up to the present time, Mr. Chance and his colleague, Mr. N. Henry Stevens, have been compelled to devote, both at the hospital and at their own houses, a large amount of time and labour to the work they had undertaken. But it is a good work, a labour of love, and both gentlemen have remained staunch to their trust, notwithstanding the death of some of the earlier friends of the institution (including that of one of the respected founders, Mr. Ralph Lindsay), the immense increase of out-door patients, the difficulty of obtaining [-94-] funds to meet expenses, which are necessarily increasing, though they are limited with rigid economy, and- most disheartening of all- the inability of the institution to take more than twelve in-patients, although it would he possible, by an increase in the subscription-list, to make up beds for eighty adult and juvenile sufferers.
It is a wonderful sight that of the large bare waiting-room, where the out-patients come or are brought on Friday afternoons to see 'the doctor,' - wonderful not only in the terrible, one might almost say the grotesque, distortions of limb and body which are there revealed - in the deformities which seem to be almost hopeless, and would once have been incurable under the mistaken discipline of the surgeon's knife, but wonderful in the evident alleviation, the obvious growth in the process of healing, the gradual but certain and permanent making of the crooked straight, of enabling the cripple to run and the lame to dance; in the frequent recognition, by those who have been former visitors, of the face of a man, youth, or child, which has by some miraculous tenderness of science, some patient, hopeful, gentle exercise of skill, been, as it were, provided with a new body, - a body no longer gnarled and twisted and utterly helpless, but so altered and trained that it. maybe said to have been re-formed.
This is often done without the interposition of surgical 'operations,' as they are generally understood. Ingenious mechanical appliances, constant examination and adjustment of the limbs and body, attention to the [-95-] general health; and skilful appreciation of the causes of deformity, as well as its remedied, are the means employed, except some delicate operation should be necessary; and then it is still more wonderful to see how swiftly and surely it is accomplished, and to notice the almost immediate result. I do not desire to dwell upon all the strange malformations to which a human body is liable, from the contracted face and neck to the club-foot; but nobody who remembers the number of cripples formerly to be seen amongst the poor can fail to be aware of the diminution of cases now found in the streets. In this great room, full of anxious mothers with children who once might have been hopeless and useless for life, but are now becoming straight, strong, and healthy; and in these boys and girls, and men and women, who come in on crutches, or dragging their limbs, but whose hearts throb with renewed trust as their wistful eyes follow the encouraging faces, and the swift, busy, gentle hands, that seem to have the gift of healing in the name of the Divine Master, will be found the explanation of the disappearance of the halt and the maimed from our streets.
Sitting on one of the beds in the ward upstairs is an intelligent-looking youth, who a short time ago was sent, without much hope of more than a slight alleviation, from a country union, of which he had become an inmate. It will be understood how little probability there was of his becoming any other than a workhouse inmate, when we say, that the only position he could possibly assume was that of resting upon the floor or a [-96-] bed on one hip and one arm, the other hip being nearly drawn to the shoulder, and both legs utterly powerless. Even the hopeful experience and determined patience of Mr. Chance almost quailed before the difficulty of endeavouring to restore such a poor deformed body to any-. thing worth the name of voluntary action. Thank heaven! the doctor's hope and patience seldom quite fails; and in this case its reward has been, that here, in a comparatively short time, the young man who has been moving about the wards on crutches, is now sitting on the bed dressed, quite upright, and reading a book, which he puts down to speak to us with a face beaming with a joyful sense of having, as it were, found a body and limbs which will grow more shapely, and improve for some time to come. There is little time to stay to talk to the nurse, who is at present engaged with a pretty little girl, with two such tiny club-feet, that it is painful to reflect how, at one time, ignorance might have left them 'to come right somehow,' and sq have made her a hopeless cripple. So many people are already waiting below, that, as my friend points to the large building at the back, now let for a printing-office, and says how it had been hoped to fit it with beds, and so take more in-patients, I wonder whether some of the lame, who have been made to dance, ever become subscribers in their turn. It is quite likely that some of them do; but they mostly belong to the poor; and so determined have founders, patrons, and medical offi~ers been to give their aid freely and immediately on application, that no introduction is needed for those who [-97-] come weekly for relief. The result on the side of humanity has been, that since the foundation of the Hospital, above 15,000 eases have been treated for all kinds of deformities with extraordinary success; that about 1,300 patients attended last year; and that the present average is above thirty new cases a-week. The income is, however, inadequate for the demand of the suffering poor - not more than 600l; so that on the side of benevolence it may be hoped that increased subscriptions will enable the committee to extend their usefulness, by filling the wards with those who cannot now be received for want of funds, and so making better associations for the old house in Hatton-garden than that of 'the proud lady' or even of 'the dancing chancellor.'
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