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A raw damp evening, with a pale crescent peeping
now and then out of the murky clouds, as though the
moon had no intention of associating her chaste light
with the foul flaring gas that roars and quivers from
the iron pipes in the unfinished roadway of the new
bridge of Blackfriars.
[-410-] It was but a day or two ago that a royal procession passed along this now muddy and neglected-looking highway. A civic pavilion, of more or less temporary magnificence, occupied the space above the central arch. Flags, balconies, and striped awnings, with such other signs of a festive occasion as we colourless English people are permitted by fashion and a regard to our intense respectability to exhibit, gave a gay and - as a few people among the assembled multitude observed - almost a 'continental' appearance to the scene, even though the great iron railway loomed with hideous utilitarian tyranny, and shut out the seaward view of sky and stream.
To-night there is not a patch or shred which will serve as a reminiscence of the pageant. The darkly- frowning iron structure beyond is lost in gloom, and the wayfarers are so few that a score of shivering idlers, congregated round one of the open flaming jets that warns us of a deep pit in the causeway, look like a crowd, and seem to give just enough of animation to the scene to reassure us that we have not been snatched suddenly from the life and bustle of Fleet-street to be set down in a city of shadows; where there is nothing real but the mud, and tile sound of our ghostly footfalls is deadened in the misty air.
Noting the peculiarly deserted appearance of the streets in this locality, it becomes a curious speculation what has become of the vast impressive assemblage which filled every available stand-point to watch the Queen go by to open the new bridge and the great via-[-411-]duct. More curious still is the reflection that of that great army of 'the unemployed,' which was to have made its silent protestation in the face of royalty, it required a keen eye to distinguish a single representative. The exhortation, 'Come in your thousands,' produced no particular result. It is the one characteristic of real poverty and suffering that it shrinks from parading its wretchedness; and though the thousands were there, it was in the character of uncomplaining sight-seers. When the show was over they melted away; and as the light died out, and the signals of rejoicing were taken down, and the banners were furled, and the brilliant company that had made the spectacle went to the rich civic banquet, or drove home to a comfortable dinner, the crowd of houseless and hungry creatures went its way; some of its members to form dejected groups round the doors of casual wards and night refuges, and others to seek their miserable homes, where the fireless, hearths and empty cupboards contrasted so bitterly with the light and warmth and sense of comfort to be found in the brilliant gin-shops at the street-corners, where for a few pence a wretch might temporarily forget his hunger, and lull the gnawing of an empty stomach.
Taken altogether - say, in a general view from a club-window - it looked such a comfortable crowd, with so few signs of nakedness and starvation, that a foreigner altogether unacquainted with English institutions might have imagined some arrangements by which both those unpleasant elements had been kept out of sight; while [-412-] even an undiscriminating observer, selfishly sceptical about the reports of distress and suffering, could have pointed to the decent appearance and uncomplaining aspect of the masses as an evidence of the exaggeration of such appeals as are made daily for charitable relief. It was only necessary to go in and out amongst the people to dispel either illusion. Out-numbered by those who were comparatively comfortable and prosperous, but at the same time representing a proportion of the London population almost appalling in its dire necessity, the thousands stood and made no sign but that of loyal patience, and, however hopelessly, went back whence they had come-went back, many of them, to this dim tangle of streets which you and I are now traversing in the south-eastern portion of the Great City, part of which shares, with other neighbourhoods at the cardinal points of the compass, the reputation of being 'one of the worst quarters of London' - a description which too frequently implies the place where the famished and poverty-stricken, seeking some cheap dwelling, find that they are the near neighbours of vice and crime, and so are undistinguished from them in the rigid censure of the law.
There are foul streets and blind alleys enough in this district, the resort of thieves and ruffians - places near which it is dangerous to pass after nightfall, and where even in broad daylight, sudden assault and robbery are so common that the entrances to them might be marked, as the infected houses were scored in the days of the Plague. Gangs of juvenile desperadoes sally [-413-] forth from their haunts, and are the terror of the surrounding neighbourhoods. Passengers in the main thoroughfares are jostled; and should any attempt be made to follow and capture the offender, his companions are armed with stones with which to beat down and maim their opponents.
It is suggestive that there should be a locality distinctly known by the name of 'Little Hell;' but there are also wretched rows of tenements, the abodes of that section of the honest labouring class which is the first to feel the depression of trade and the vicissitudes of failing industries. Bricklayers, chairmakers, journeyman tailors, carpenters, casual and dock labourers, men employed at wharves in the lading or unlading of ships, market porters, and, not a few wretchedly-paid clerks, to whom the necessary economy of a City office, a change of partners, or the breaking-up of a large firm, mean dismissal, and the sharp pangs of want, aggravated by the knowledge that they have been brought up to no trade or handicraft by which they might earn the price of a meal for themselves and their children.
Then there are garden-women, needle-women, laundresses, servants out of place, and those who, being widows, or having been deserted by their husbands, try to subsist on such precarious work as they can obtain as charwomen, ironers, and hucksters of fruit or fish. Of the Irish colony I need say nothing now: they are not always the poorest or the most patient, though many of them suffer terribly; and about Dock-[-414-]head and the farther eastern localities they and their children are the most prominent, if not the most numerous, among the unemployed.
It is to see something of what is being done for this great multitude of people that we are out to-night; to look on while two hundred out of the thousands on the 'Surrey side' seek the relief which shall enable them to face another day, by providing them with such food and shelter as offer no inducement to any but the destitute, and, yet is more humane than the Poor-law dole, in return for which the morning's task would occupy them till they were too late to go forth on the weary search for a day's work. It is this daily task, expressly intended only for the casual tramp and the professional pauper, that presses so hardly on the destitute creatures who are willing to work if they can find work to do. The morning bread and gruel must be paid for by some unaccustomed labour, which steals the hours during which they might best hope to obtain a day's employment. The test which is meant to deter from pauperism makes the unwilling claimant of relief for the following night, and may turn the ·despairing artisan into the regular cadger. Let it be remembered that Walworth, Bermondsey, Southwark, and Lambeth represent half a million of people, and it may not be difficult to form a rough estimate of the number of destitute and starving creatures in that unfashionable quarter.
Taking only the nearer neighbourhood of the Borough, and the district lying between Waterloo and London Bridges, it needs but an afternoon's journey [-415-] to discover ample evidence of widely-spread wretchedness, which can be but partially alleviated by any present organisation. All honour then to those who, in the faith and hope of Christianity, try to do what in them lies; and without despising the day of small things, give food and shelter, if but for a single night, to a hundred, and so show the way to those who stand appalled by the magnitude of the evil which they dare not try to remedy.
We cross the boundary of the labyrinth of which we speak, and a searching wind drives a cold rain against our legs as we turn down the Southwark Bridge-road, and stop before a large wooden gateway, like the entrance to a manufactory. It is too dark to see the words 'South-London Night-Refuge,' which are painted on a board above.; and even the inscription on the gate itself, which announces that the manufacture going on inside is the concoction of soup for the benefit of the poor, is for the time obscured. There is no mistaking the place, however; for about fifty women are waiting - O how anxiously! - for six o'clock, when the gate will he opened, and as many of them admitted as can be provided for out of the funds already in hand for the purpose. Did you ever see more wistful faces as the flicker of the street-lamp falls on them for a moment? - faces wan with hunger, and many of them furrowed with the marks of suffering; but few of them bearing an impatient expression - not one with the defiant stare or the servile smirk of the regular pauper. One or two of them, with indistinct bundles, round which they [-416-] wrap their scanty shawls so carefully that we know they have brought their babies with them to get the warmth and shelter for which they know not otherwise where to turn. Young women: here and there one with a damaged crumpled flower in her bonnet; only one or two without bonnets, and they evidently unaccustomed to use the shawl as a covering for the head. None speaking except in a low tone, and then but little, as though the anxiety to be among the number chosen precluded much conversation. So they stand; and it is with a feeling of dismay that we learn how the want of necessary funds will forbid the admission of more than half the number of applicants that the place will hold. Fifty men and fifty women, instead of a hundred or more of each, are to be the guests to-night; and the rest, to whom the inviting finger of the keen-eyed manager does not point when he opens the gate, must wander other whither.
It yet wants nearly half an hour to six o'clock, however, and we have time to see what sort of a place this South-London Refuge is, and to learn how Mr. William Carter, having been 'converted' - and let those look to it who see an opportunity for a sneer in any word that has in it a righteous meaning, however it may have been perverted by the insincere - set to the work of establishing a Mission in this southern tract of London heathendom; and knowing that though man lives not, by bread alone, he yet must live his mortal life by bread, saw that food and rest, and fire and clothing, and Christian brotherly love and sympathy, must help [-417-] to expound the Christian faith as nothing else can expound it amongst the suffering poor. Hence, not only the Walworth Mission-Hall and Park Hall - which is quite close to that brimstony thoroughfare called Little Hell - and Victoria Hall and Beulah Hall, where there are preaching and school on Sundays, and mothers' meetings; - but a home for reduced or destitute servant-girls, where domestic servants applying to the Refuge, or recommended by a district-visitor, may find food and shelter till they can retrieve themselves and obtain another situation; a maternity charity and relief fund, with boxes of clothing lent to poor destitute lying-in women; and soup-kitchens, on the floor of the chief of which we are now standing, where, in two great 'jacketed' pans, 500 gallons of strong and savoury stew can be made to wobble. Not that this queer building in the Southwark Bridge-road was ever built for the purpose of board or lodging. By a remarkable foreshadowing of its present relation to bread, it was originally a flour-mill; which at once explains our going up a short flight of stone steps and down another flight before we reach the basement, where a great oven is all a-glow after the drawing of a batch of such sweet and wholesome bread as scents the whole place, as though some lingering perfume had been left behind by the fragrant meal that once fell through the upper story. It is a grateful touch of real nature in this place, that the bread baked for the women who are now waiting at the door is 'cottage;' while the men, who are to be admitted at a door on the other side of [-418-] the building next their own ward, have to put up with the ordinary half-quartern 'household.' As a connoisseur of bread - having smelt, handled, and tasted workhouse, prison, reformatory, military, naval, and other loaves - I pronounce the baker at Carter's Kitchen to be master of his craft. But it is not only with the bread we have to do. Close beside the oven is a big boiler filled with hot water, the furnace of which serves with air the great hollow shafts that go completely through the building .from basement to roof, and keep the wards at a regular temperature. Beyond the boiler in this rather warm but still draughty stone kitchen - which is more like the engine-room of a factory than any other place - stand the three pans already mentioned, heated by steam; in two of these the nourishing soup is jugged, and dispensed whenever there are funds to buy beef, pork, and mutton, barley, carrots, and seasoning; and here, against the wall, are great tin receptacles, like magnified milk-pails, destined to be filled with the steaming brew, and despatched in light carts to the New Cut, Lambeth Walk, Dockhead, and even to Deptford, if the funds will enable the supply to reach to the various stations of the institution. The system on which the soup, as well as bread and other relief, is distributed, is by the issue of tickets to the Scripture-readers, district-visitors, and others who visit the poor, and know who are really necessitous. In the winter of 1867 three-thousand of these free tickets were given away daily in Walworth, Bermondsey, Southwark, and Lambeth; and in exchange for each of them the poor [-419-] received a quart of good soup and half-a-pound of bread. Let us think: three thousand hungry mouths filled daily; and when to this are added twenty maternity-boxes in constant use, with each of which was given five shillings' worth of food to help to sustain the poor destitute mother in the time of deepest trial, peculiarities of religious phraseology, some lack of what we are apt to call 'education,' a hundred external accidents of manner, count for nothing.
'During the winter,' says the superintendent - for it is not easy to sum up the operations of Carter's Kitchen in better words - 'the applications for help were more numerous than ever, and this institution was kept in a state of constant activity. Bread was made and distributed by ticket to numberless starving families; coffee and soup was sent to their homes; clothing was given to the naked; boxes of linen were lent to poor mothers at their confinement; and money was given to the district-visitors to buy nourishment for the sick. The shelter obtained at the Night-Refuge gladdened the hearts of many thousands of the homeless; the baths brightened their faces and eased their swollen feet; the warm wards comforted those who were, cold; the bread satisfied their hunger; ;the hot coffee stimulated their emaciated bodies; the preached Gospel gave hope to the disconsolate; and in the bunks they found the rest (in sleep) they so much needed. The morning found them refreshed, and with grateful hearts. As they passed out of the gate, many said, again and again, "May God bless you!" Although the institution [-420-] will accommodate 150 men and 100 women, yet we could not receive all that came; many, very many, had to go away and seek shelter elsewhere. Some, to make their distressing circumstances known, made application by letter. Others brought recommendations from their former employers and friends. Good workmen were continually asking for help to pay their lodging, to prevent them being turned into the streets with their families.'
It may readily be imagined that, as the Refuge is open every night in the year to the homeless and destitute, the cases are various, and that many of them involve strange histories of privation and misfortune. Among the applicants are law-writers, two of whom are now employed in conducting some of the correspondence or other clerkly work, in return for their full board and lodging for the two or three days that they have begged to be allowed to remain. Some applicants, of whom it is known that they have good expectation of obtaining work if they can tide over a few days, are suffered to come nightly until they succeed; while those already known as honest and deserving cases will obtain the same boon for others whose situation will bear inquiry. Perhaps some of the applications have about them too suspicious a resemblance to the style of the begging-letter impostor; but it is necessary to remember, first, that the impostor founds his style upon his knowledge of what really needy people with some education would be likely to write; and secondly, that the help afforded would not amount to any great inducement either to idleness or misrepresentation.
[-421-] Taking as an average the account in the report before us, it would appear that among the female applicants for food and shelter needlewomen and charwomen would be by far the most numerous; then would follow general servants, in about the proportion of two-thirds; rather fewer laundresses; and then in much smaller numbers ironers, tailoresses, hawkers, bootbinders, book-folders, garden-women, dressmakers, and weavers. Among the men, 'labourers' represent by far the greater number; the next in succession being painters, who number not more than one-seventeenth as many as the labourers; while carpenters, porters, bricklayers, and clerks are about half as numerous as the painters. Tailors number about half as many as the painters; and then follow grooms, bakers, lawyers, seamen, stokers, gardeners, masons, turners, servants, and waiters; but almost all callings, and several trades, are re presented, schoolmasters, musicians, engineers, accountants, and even a fisherman and a shepherd, appearing on the list. It at first appears remarkable that costermongers should occupy almost the lowest numerical place among these destitute men; but a moment's reflection will explain it. The regular coster is a fellow of infinite wit and unexhausted resources - one of those who can turn his hand to anything, and being to some extent known both at the markets and among certain tradespeople, can often get a job of work at slack times, and knows how to lay out even a shilling in some seasonable merchandise that may turn the ready penny. Even here, however, the wide sympathy of this South-[-422-]wark Refuge is now and then displayed, by affording the shilling and a basket to help the willing worker to help himself; while, beside food and lodging, and such clothing as may be supplied by gifts of cast-off or coarse garments, some of the most deserving cases have received a little money. A few mechanics, such as carpenters, painters, plasterers, and brickmakers, have received tools to enable them to get to work; and at least one labourer, probably with the prospect of work at a granary or potato- or coal-warehouse, has had a shovel bestowed upon him for the same purpose.
But already the long hand of the clock marks past the quarter, and in a few minutes it will be time to admit those anxious applicants. The third great copper is simmering full of coffee, for which the milk stands ready in a great can, the sugar having been already added to the proper toothsome point. The loaves are each cut into four, so that every destitute creature shall have half-a-pound of bread; the bright tin pannikins hang by their handles ready to receive each their pint of warm comforting drink.
'We always make it a rule for the four officers of the house to kneel down in prayer before we open the doors,' says the superintendent; 'and we make no difference in that respect when we have visitors.' And so we go up to the counting-house, and there the wardsman and wardswoman who receive their destitute brethren and sisters, the superintendent, and the master-baker offer up their petitions, and speak like men who, perhaps without the ability to use fine phraseology, do [-423-] seem to think they may ask for what they need from their heavenly Father. When of three men, one can plainly and in so many words ask the Almighty to send them funds, and enable them to open the soup-kitchens to the poor, and another can, with a fervency in which we sincerely join, implore that, when the doors are opened, his pointing finger may be directed to those who are most in need, and can say, simply as a part of his general appeal, 'and God bless the baker,' there is more in it than mere form - more even than the niceties of turns of expression and genteel consciousness of extreme propriety of diction. It is almost improper even to allude to this part of the proceedings, so sacred a thing is prayer; but as it is the fashion to carp at any kind of religious phraseology, and speak of it as 'cant,' I venture to mention that the fastidious in this respect will not find their presence at Carter's Kitchen restrain the usual observances.
It is already time to open the door, however; and, almost, before we are aware of it, the superintendent is standing on the step, silently indicating with his finger the applicants to whom admission will first be granted. it is one of the saddest spectacles I ever witnessed, to see these decently-clad women come in one by one, and to note their worn weary faces. One of them, carrying a baby wrapped in her scanty cape, passes close to me, and I hear her deep sigh, half of relief, half of exhaustion, as she gasps, 'So glad-to get-in!' with a sob in every word. When seventeen have passed into the lobby, the gate is closed for a little while, and we go [-424-] over to the men's side, where we can see why only this number is admitted at one time. In the long stone-paved room to which they are directed immediately on entering, are two troughs, or rather gutters, supplied with warm water running along each side; and over these, against the wall, another long trough, forming a series of wash-basins, with a rack above for receiving shoes, stockings, caps, &c. Each one, as he enters, has handed to him a piece of soap and a towel, and, divesting himself of shoes and stockings, steps into the trough.
It must be a pleasant, almost a luxurious, moment for these poor fellows, when they feel the genial comfort of this foot-bath, and are at the same time able to have a good wash. They look brighter, better, more cheerful for the operation, and by the time they have finished and gone up to the dormitory, some of them are scarcely to be recognised as the same individuals who came in, looking so haggard and miserable, only ten minutes ago. Forty men and forty women are all who can be received to-night; for the funds will not. permit the dormitories to be filled with the 220 for whom room can be found, if money be forthcoming. When we speak of dormitories, we often mean places with neat white beds, on iron bedsteads, and plenty of rugs or coverlets; but the word has no such meaning at Carter's Refuge. In the great rooms, once the flour-and grain-floors of the mill, the only furniture is a wooden bench, extending round the place against the wall, and two long rows of wooden bunks or berths oc-[-425-]cupying the floor from end to end. These, with the low ceiling, crossed with heavy beams, give the place a bare look; for there is neither bed, mattress, nor cover- lid-the place of a pillow even being supplied by a slight elevation at the upper end of each bunk. Of course the inmates only partially undress, and may dispose their outer garments in any way they think proper. As for a blanket, there is a blanket of warm air in the room itself; for the temperature is kept at a point which would not be cold even to bare feet.
While the inmates are despatching their comforting food and drink, one or other of the mission-people read to them, or offer up prayer, or lead them to sing a hymn; but I am now speaking of the Kitchen only, and not of the mission-work, with some peculiarities of which I do not agree.
This and almost all similar institutions are connected with what is now called 'a Mission,' including, like that of Field-lane, a number of benevolent operations under one connected scheme; and in this tendency can we alone hope to find the solution of the present appalling question of the relief of distress.
THE ONLY WAY.
The society already established for promoting such
an organisation has not made as much progress in its
practical adoption as might have' been hoped for, it;
but its system is well-considered, and will doubtless,
with some modifications, be accepted throughout the [-426-]
metropolis - the difficulties of establishing a connection between each district, and the representation
of every district at a general central council or committee, being at present the greatest obstacles to its consolidation into a regular method of dealing with the
whole of London.
It is, however, to promote the completion of such a scheme that a number of gentlemen have founded the 'Association for organising Charitable Relief and repressing Mendicity,' under the presidency of the Bishop of London, and with the Earl of Lichfield as chairman of the council. The offices of this society are in Buckingham-street, Strand; and about twenty London district committees have been formed in accordance with its regulations.
The impossibility of meeting the actual necessities of the poor by means of parochial relief lies in the fact that it is an established principle of the poor-laws not to afford such relief except to persons actually destitute, so that no supplementary assistance to those who are suffering from temporary affliction is contemplated; and any direct relief intended to supplement that of the parish is at once taken as a reason for withholding or greatly reducing the parish allowance. It is difficult to see how this can be otherwise under the present system; but there might be such cooperation between charitable associations and the parochial machinery as to make both work harmoniously; and this the Poor-law Board strongly advises, although, from its very position, it can do no more than advise, [-427-] since it cannot materially contribute towards the funds for unofficial relief of the sick and the temporarily destitute. Such assistance as bedding, clothing, and firing, or even lodging, may be permitted to be given, even to those in receipt of parish allowances; but no money aid and no contributions of food. It would be most desirable, however, if the union workhouses should become only retreats for the care of the infirm, the aged, and those incapacitated' for work by sickness or permanent affliction; and that there should also be a school and training-home for each parochial district, and, of course, a casual ward and labour-shed for the regular tramps and the casual wayfarers until they can either be passed on to their own places or become resident. The result of such an arrangement would be a general organisation of the whole metropolis into a chain of charitable associations, separate as to the links, but united in action and harmonising in general purpose and essential details-the marriage of centralisation and local self-government.
The principal feature of the plan proposed by the society is that of separating the respectable resident poor from the vagrant and those who prey upon the funds of all charity by shifting their quarters continually and receiving relief from each. To accomplish this it would divide the present parishes into more manageable areas, so as to be able to carry out an effectual system of visitation amongst the poor. It would then establish parochial relief-offices in each district, so that the poor might not be compelled to go a long distance [-428-] to the workhouse for assistance. At the parochial relief-office a relieving-officer and a constable would be resident, and two relieving-officers would be in daily attendance, one to receive fresh cases and answer questions, the other to visit cases and report to the board at the workhouse. There would also be a store-room for bread and a room for seeing medical cases. The relieving-officer would, it is believed, soon be able to give some information about every person coming before him for relief, and could immediately distinguish between tramps and residents.
So much for the poor-law officer. But there would also be another officer - 'the charity agent' - representing the charity committee of his district, as the poor- law officer represents the guardians.
He would be expected to know the district thoroughly, and to be in constant communication with the district-visitors, and would, in cases of immediate necessity (not being poor-law cases), be empowered by his committee to grant some relief on the spot, giving an account to his committee at their weekly meeting. After a time this committee would be able to divide its cases for relief into classes, such as aged persons requiring small weekly pensions, temporarily distressed artisans needing small advances to purchase materials or to redeem tools, aid in sickness or times of special need, &c. The proper division of a district into areas would enable them to estimate the deserving character and degree of trustworthiness of the recipients of relief-a proceeding now difficult, if not impossible.
[-429-] Of course, to render this plan completely operative, it would be necessary to establish a close official understanding between the poor-law relieving-officer and the charity agent, as well as between the board of guardians and the charity committee. For the purpose of explaining the scheme, the association has already held meetings in various parts of London, and offers to assist in all matters of detail for establishing local-relief committees. It is confidently believed that if the charitably disposed would, instead of indiscriminate almsgiving in the streets, hand over a small subscription to such district committees, a vastly greater amount of good would be effected with the money than is now secured, and a great improvement would be the result, not only in the condition of the poor, but in the abolition of the trade of mendicancy.
The first information required would be what charities, both of a local and a general nature, exist, in each district, and how many persons in that and other districts are in receipt of relief from each. For this purpose a tabulated sheet would be issued with columns for the names of church, chapel, and other charities, the nature of those charities, whether for relief and provision, for religious or educational instruction, and so on; while the number of persons receiving poor-law relief would also appear in the same return. Of course we can see where this would lead to, and where the opposition to such a scheme would be likely to come from. Some resistance might be anticipated from certain clergymen and ministers of congregations, who [-430-] have hitherto been the principal almoners of charity in, the district and would not relish being reduced to the rank of influential members of a general committee. It is by no means unnatural that they should at first be loth to give up the amount of gratification which they may quite righteously experience in being the recognised dispensers of charitable trust-money and the alms of their congregations. Then again local charities, now almost unknown and in the hands of different persons who contrive to keep them particularly snug, would be brought forward, and people would be asking for accounts. The return-paper only asks for particulars of unendowed charities; but once let a system of genuine inquiry, and information be set on foot, and we shall have people asking about the old 'foundations,' and wondering what becomes of the money derived from landed property, which has increased in value tenfold since the interest of it was bequeathed to 'support four or five aged persons,' or to maintain and educate half-a-dozen children.
The great danger in writing about the abuses of charitable trusts is that with some people such disclosures tend to paralyse their sympathies, and to cause them to hold back from the blessedness of giving. It should not be so. Better even that a few unworthy should be fed and clothed than that a multitude of the suffering poor should be naked and destitute; but best of all, that our benevolence should be discriminating as well as free, orderly and generous at the same time.
It cannot be doubted that in many instances the [-431-] clerical claims to which I have referred now retard, if they will not ultimately succeed in preventing, the organisation which will alone be successful in carrying out a true scheme of charity for the whole of London.
A conference of ministers of various denominations was convened by the President and Court of Governors of Sion College in the latter part of last year, and Mr. Goschen then explained the position of the Poor-law Board in relation to relief, and commented on the obvious advantages of a system of concerted action and mutual information between the guardians and the charity committee. This, however, presents a new difficulty; for those who are at present most engaged in administering charitable relief in some districts object to make known the particulars of that relief to the guardians, suspecting (and not on any very insufficient grounds) that the amount would at once be assessed with a view to reduce the amount of parochial assistance, and so to lower the general rate at the expense of those who were willing to contribute to benevolent objects. This is in fact the difficulty. The system is not calculated to grow by slow degrees; for when once it starts,, in any district where it is all fair and above board, and its provisions are made known, the parochial authorities will at once reduce the rates in proportion to the willingness on the part of the charitably disposed to contribute voluntarily to the funds of the society, and the stingy will profit by the action of the generous. If we reflect for a moment, however, we shall remember that this is already the case to a great extent; and should [-432-] any such system be boldly adopted - ready-grown, as it were, and with all its provisions made entirely public - the absence of the names of the meaner part of the public from the charity-lists would be a sufficient stimulus to convert them into voluntary subscribers.
Now it may have occurred to the reader who has considered the claims of the Association for the Organisation of Charity, that there is one defect which will operate, like the inequality of the poor-rate, upon the very neighbourhoods where there is the greatest amount of distress - that is to say, if each district supports its own charitable-relief funds, the many people in the more poverty-stricken localities will still be at famine-point, because there will not be such a proportion of wealthy inhabitants as can contribute the necessary funds for their relief when the poor-law aid is reduced to its absolute minimum. It would seem necessary, therefore, that such a central board as I have indicated, composed of representative members of all the metropo1itan district committees, should have a large fund with which to supply such deficiencies. This is another difficulty, and though it would be better even to go on doing the best we can in separate districts, than to create a new charitable body that might relapse into inertia from despair of pleasing all parties, it is a difficulty that we should set ourselves to overcome.
THE SOCIETY FOR THE RELIEF OF DISTRESS
is, in fact, such a body, but with the power of apportioning all the funds subscribed to it, for the purpose of
affording relief in the various districts of London. The
office of this society (whose motto is 'Bis dat qui cito dat') is at 28 King-street, St. James's, and its objects
are to appoint accredited almoners in the different localities of the metropolis to distribute such relief as can
be afforded from the grant allowed them by the institution.
Unfortunately the contributions and donations on which this society is dependent were only 2,826l. for the last official year, or not much more than half the amount contributed in the year previous, though it may be hoped that the present official year, now nearly closed, will offer a more cheering balance-sheet.
The amounts granted to eighty-eight almoners - gentlemen residing in thirty-seven districts - vary from 200l. in St. Pancras to 5l. in Finsbury, the average being from 25l. to 40l.; and the mode of relief recommended so nearly resembles that of the proposed district organisation that, until some definite action be taken to establish a more general and complete local system, it would be encouraging to know that this association met with more liberal recognition.
The almoners are appointed periodically from residents in each district, and each almoner is directed, if possible, to place himself in, communication with the one whom he is to succeed, and to accompany him round the district.
He will, according to his instructions, obtain information on the following points:
'The condition df the local trades;
[-434-] The operations of the poor-law;
The working of the existing charitable agencies.
'He will place himself in communication with the clergymen of the parish, the priests of the Roman- catholic church, and with the ministers of the other denominations and their several agents; with the parish-doctor, the relieving-officer, the medical men attached to the larger dispensaries, the influential tradespeople, and the police.
'Should no system of visiting or affording relief exist in the district, he will endeavour to organise machinery for these purposes.
'When relief is to be administered, it should be given in kind, and not, except under peculiar circumstances, in money; nor should assistance be afforded towards paying back-rent or burial charges. Hospital tickets and clothes may be obtained on application at the office (28 King-street).
'When making application to the committee for a fresh grant of money, the accounts of the previous grant and the bills, as vouchers, must accompany the application; and, if possible, some information should be furnished of the state of the district, and of the machinery at work for dispensing relief.
'The grant awarded should never be exceeded, but when money is needed, an application for a fresh grant should be sent in.
'The almoner will strictly adhere to the rule of the society, that relief shall be distributed without reference to creed or nationality.'
[-435-] There can be no doubt that any extended, or at all events any complete, organisation of charity will involve not only the necessity for a more direct and personal interest in the work of relief, but a public audit of accounts, and the issue of a complete statement of income and expenses in every district. How far this may be resisted by established charities will probably depend, not necessarily on the degree of irregularity in their administration, but on their demand for certain private privileges, because of their claiming to be select charitable corporations. Such a claim, so expressed, would be damaging to their character and influence; and though there are many institutions now which do not make known their financial details, the best and most successful charities are those which are desirous of submitting their balance-sheets and account-books to inspection, and of publishing their statements at least once a-year. The practice is commendable, even though it should entail a little extra cost for printing; and I am inclined to believe that it is a very good way of increasing the number of subscribers. At any rate, it must be satisfactory to those, who desire to support some definite scheme of benevolence to have a guarantee that nobody is making a good thing out of alms intended for, the relief of distress, or the dissemination of truth. As it is, it would appear to be too often the case that certain individuals start benevolent institutions much in the same way that promoters get up public companies. Instead of a board of directors, they get together a committee of management; [-436-] instead of persuading a banking firm they interest a treasurer; and in place of securing the secretaryship for a small capitalist, who pays handsomely for the situation, they undertake the duties themselves, in a capacity honorary or otherwise, with a tolerable certainty that they will be pretty well remunerated in the long run. Nobody who is acquainted with the inner working of some of the smaller institutions, which make their claims through newspaper advertisements once or twice a-year, can fail to think with painful conviction that the very objects of charity are neglected, and that the whole affair takes the form of a private enterprise - not without some secondary intention of carrying out the wishes of the subscribers, but still with a very distinct impression that it is nobody's business to institute close inquiry into receipts and expenditure. A committee is soon got together when once a nucleus of two or three good-natured respectable people is secured; and as the majority of the members of that committee are men of business, who seldom bestow any time or trouble on the working of the charity, the arrangements are left to the almost invariable 'quorum,' consisting of the easy friends, who, for their part, are content to take the statements of the secretary for granted. It is very difficult, indeed, for any man to remain perfectly unselfish under such conditions, however pure may have been his original intentions; and to work with 'a single eye,' when no other eye carefully inspects accounts or discriminates between a detailed or a jumbled balance-sheet, is an effort of virtue to which no so-[-437-]called committee ought to subject a secretary. It is not the secretaries alone, however, who are to blame in this matter; there are institutions where the very members of the committee, conscious of shortcomings, and anxious to avoid both the degradation of an inquiry or the effort that might avert exposure by a complete reform, hush up such unpleasant occurrences as come to their notice, or cease to make any proper visitation to the institution professedly under their control. I speak advisedly when I say that there now exist some charitable societies, the working of which would, if made known, arouse so much indignation, that public benevolence itself would be for a moment retarded by its revelation. I am happily aware that the instances are not numerous ; but there are others whose true efficiency is constantly marred by the private interests that they are made to serve; and there are few, indeed, where a thorough revision of the methods of operation, and, above all, an open and complete declaration of their financial position, would not tend to increase their means of usefulness.
It is time, however, that I should refer to a subject which is just now receiving the utmost attention, although I cannot see that the class for whom philanthropy has professed to provide have at present derived any substantial benefit from its consideration. Before we can hope effectually to remedy the social condition of some of the most miserable and destitute among our neighbours, it is absolutely essential that they should be provided with the ordinary means of decency [-438-] and cleanliness in their dwellings, and that these dwellings themselves should be such as human beings might be permitted to occupy. There is an Act of Parliament the provisions of which, if carried out, would at once insure such a reformation in London interiors that half the preliminary work of 'elevating the masses' would be done, so that there might be a better hope of godliness following the cleanliness that is said to be next to it. But while local authorities preserve their vested interests, by themselves electing inspectors' who keep things pleasant, and while district surveyors pass by on the other side when a guardian's profitable hovels need re-whitening, and fever rages in the foul dens that bring in a pretty penny to their owners, - we may look in vain for its enforcement.
Let us take a walk down Bethnal-green, for instance, on a Sunday morning; not because Bethnal-green is the only, or even the very worst, example of a district where foul dwellings remain, long after their abominations have been made public, but because it is a place about which we have recently heard a good deal in reference to Sabbath desecration, and Sunday morning will be a favourable time for paying it a visit.
Nobody who thoroughly understands the conditions of the neighbourhood and of the people who live in it can hope that Sabbath desecration will be at an end there, even with the efforts of the two or three constables who march up and down from Church-street to the corner by the. Mission-house. The cause of the Sabbath desecration lies not in Club-row, not in the [-439-] Bird Fair, but in the hopeless weariness of soul, the blank indifference that comes after a week of little work, perhaps, but also, of little food; the self-neglect and deadness of spirit brought about by foul homes and streets where the means of common cleanliness and common decency are wanting.
In all the marks of decay, of dirt, and of discomfort, these turnings, leading one into the other at confusing angles, and yet not extending far as to area, are so much alike, that you wonder how a man can know his own house. The street-doors are open, or merely closed by a latch, which can be lifted by pulling a string; and, as it has often been found to the interest of landlords to turn one dwelling into two, it frequently happens that a stranger going in finds himself immediately stumbling up a flight of broken stairs, without the intervention of an entry or a passage.
There are openings here and there that look like passages leading to a side entrance, and they are so narrow that a very stout man might find it necessary go in edgewise. If you don't mind mud, and can endure that fetid odour which seems to come in a faint gust as you enter, you will see that lower deep which exists even in the depth of such misery as that of Bethnal-green, or, as we may possibly be just over a disputed boundary, we will say Shoreditch.
It is worth looking at, although it may shock every sense and cause us to wonder - not that men and women living in such a place should be indifferent, hopeless, lost to some of the best influences that ele-[-440-]vate human nature; but that they should remain human, should even be susceptible to sympathy.
Stand here and think for a moment of the two police-constables engaged to put down the Sabbath desecration in Club-row, not two hundred yards off, while man's whole nature is desecrated, his body made of immeasurably less account than that of horse or hound, in the filthy hovels where his wife starves and his children sicken and die. For this narrow passage leads to what were once the yards of two or three of the half-ruined houses in the larger street; houses teeming with lodgers from garret to cellar; and on these yards, forming a foul haunt of typhus, is built a row of hovels, so dark within, so rotten without, so full of evil influence, that it would be a flattery to call them sties.
In a muddy corner of the space on which they stand (for there is no outlet) a feeble stream of water is running from a stand-pipe near the wall, for it is Sunday morning, and the precious liquid is turned-on for an hour or so that the tenants of this dreadful place may fill such vessels as they have, and after setting aside enough to last them for drink till to-morrow noon, take the residue - a pailful among half-a-dozen, it may be - to wash themselves and clean their houses. The houses are past cleaning long ago. Nothing but fire could purge them; and the people - well, there stand two or three of them; little people, of from four to seven years old, who have come out to stare at us with their poor pinched faded faces, in which (so little [-441-] can men do to destroy the work of God) there is a childish grace beyond the power of dirt, and hunger, and disease entirely to obliterate.
There are no women about, though one slatternly wench is filling a broken tea-kettle at the feeble spout; we shall see the women presently in Poverty Market, where they go to eke out the few pence that are to buy their Sunday dinner. But what must be their daily life in such a place? Where can there be any approach to proper decency? There is the dustbin in that other frouzy corner, and adjoining it are the common conveniences of the four or five houses, close to the front-doors. It is shocking to speak of such things. Very! Fastidious gentlemen on boards and committees are horrified at the ,notion of making them a subject of conversation. Less fastidious officials at parochial meetings have declared them to be newspaper fictions. And all the time that the church-bells are pealing, and we are wondering why the poor do not go to join in the responses, and call themselves 'miserable sinners,' this foul den, which is but a sample of the 'homes' to be found in a London neighbourhood, is poisoning the air, and keeping out the light, and standing as a monument of shame to our high professions - a stone of reproach to our boasted civilisation.
THE MODEL LODGER.
It is greatly to be regretted, that half-a-million of
money left by the great American philanthropist for providing improved dwellings for the poor should be used
[-442-] for the purpose of adding to the conveniences of the
This is strong language, but I use the words advisedly. The construction of huge blocks of building, the rooms in which are charged for at a rental which will return a percentage, has not been a successful method of ameliorating the condition of that class for which they are professedly provided. Doubtless this way of spending money is a very good plan for the encouragement of philanthropic architects and contractors; it may even be a desirable means of enabling a certain class of steady and moderately well-employed artisans working at shops and manufactories to obtain apartments in a large building fitted with modern scientific appliances for the common advantage of a score of families; and in this relation a model lodging-house may be shown to pay as a philanthro-benevolent investment, because the rents charged are within the means of the craftsman earning fair weekly wages. But in what sense can any of the existing blocks of building be said to ameliorate the condition of the poor-that is to say, of the class who find it a difficult matter to pay rent for two rooms, and, because 'beggars must not be choosers,' are obliged to put up with the wretched tenements that characterise the 'low neighbourhoods'?
The kindly gracious lady whose name is in London almost synonymous with bounty has provided 'dwellings' which may be taken as the most encouraging examples of this kind of effort; but if Miss Burdett Coutts herself were really to institute a strict inquiry, she would [-443-] find that the 'model lodging-house' is just above and beyond the very people for whose especial benefit it seemed to be first intended. It is, in fact, a subject for deep regret that the wide-spread sympathies of this amiable benefactress should have taken the architectural form.
The necessity for improved dwellings for the labouring classes can scarcely be overstated; the misery entailed on thousands of men, .women, and children by the very existence of some of the vile places in which they live is being constantly brought before the public; but at present the only effort made towards meeting the want seems to be the erection of vast costly edifices, in a style of building composed of the union workhouse and barrack orders of architecture, for gathering a large number of families under one roof.
Unfortunately, too, there is something in the very character of the English poor which prevents their appreciating this sort of community. As they look at the rectangular passages leading to the various sets of rooms which stand right and left of the trim 'cut-brick' walls, they feel a sense of gloom and depression, and whisper in each other's ears, 'Why, one might a'most as well go into the house;' by which they mean the union workhouse.
This impression is scarcely dissipated by inspecting the common bath-room, or the wonderful engineering appliances, all of which are so far above the associations of ordinary ideas of domesticity, that the former occupant of a four-roomed cottage is almost appalled to [-444-] think that they are all intended for his advantage - for his, in conjunction with a hundred and thirty other people within the same high solid walls.
By the time he comes to the rules and regulations by which tenants are expected to abide, although they are no more stringent than most householders would think necessary for the maintenance of order, his heart sinks a little; and when he has got down to the porter's lodge again, and looks up at the pile of brick and stone from the outside, he rather thinks he'll wait a bit before he makes up his mind to become an inmate, even if he can scrape together the extra rental that he will have to pay for the privilege.
For, after all, this is the difficulty that is most to the purpose. That the poorer classes of the inhabitants of the metropolis should prefer 'a place they can call their own,' where they can 'go in and out without its being anybody's business,' is a small matter, perhaps. Their inclinations must yield somewhat to the necessity by which all are bound who take up their residence in great cities; and it is not to be permitted that whole neighbourhoods of foul and festering hovels should be sustained only because of their dislike to cooperative movements.
When, however,, it is discovered that the cost of the vast establishments intended for their benefit is so great as to render it necessary to transfer their advantages to the class just above them, who can afford to pay the rent, it becomes a grave question whether architectural benevolence has not been developed in a wrong direction.
[-445-] If ever a regard for providing dwellings for the really poor - those who now fill the wretched but profitable tenements in low neighbourhoods, as tenants of single rooms - should lead to definite action, it may probably take the form of building, wherever space can be had at a moderate price, plain ordinary dwellings, so substantial as to last a century or so, but large enough only for four families; the rooms lime-whited, and with plenty of window-space; the water-supply ample, and the fittings calculated for everyday use. If on a large area a square of such houses were erected, with baths and laundry as a supplementary building, and a central open space for recreation of children, they might meet the difficulty; and when once railway companies kept to the bargain of providing workmen's trains, such dwellings would pay the cost of repairs and maintenance, as well as insurance and a reserve fund for a centenary rebuilding. For it cannot be denied, that while as 'dwellings' many of the model buildings offer advantages that are almost confined to themselves; of 'homes,' as the lower class and the middle class of English people understand the word, they can scarcely be considered an example. The very community of certain conveniences, such as, lavatories, baths, laundries, drying-floors, and other domestic requirements, while they add greatly to the real comfort, take away from the accepted sentiment of English home life. It is absurd, no doubt, that people. who for the most part live in houses where they rent one or two rooms, should be fastidious, and object to live in a large building, where from [-446-] a broad stone staircase scrupulously clean they enter their two or three apartments, with walls and ceiling in perfect repair, with a proper oven-and-boiler range to the little common living -room, and windows that will open freely to let in the air, and a bath for their use at the end of the corridor, and a laundry at the top of the house, and a drying-room on the roof, and a square for the children, and a doorkeeper, and a great shute for dust from top to bottom of the place, and a rent which averages very little more than must be paid for sordid lodgings in the foul neighbourhood close by.
Well, it is absurd - granted. But let it be remembered that even these people have their ideals, and that their secret innermost cherished notion of 'home' is represented neither by the 'model dwelling,' nor by the 'two-pair;' it takes the form of a little place with four rooms and a kitchen, a strip of garden somewhere at the back, with perhaps an arbour covered with Virginia creeper, with space to smoke a pipe, and contemplate the 'missis' doing her bit of ironing in the back washhouse. It involves the old maxim, that an Englishman's house is his castle; that if a man chooses to shut his street- door, he is monarch of all he surveys within the four walls; and that if he likes to go out and put the key of that street-door in his pocket, he can do so without fear or favour, except in relation to outside depredators, who run the risk of paying a heavy penalty for housebreaking.
Those who have been through the model dwellings as visitors must, if they were accurate observers of the manners of the lower classes, have been struck no less [-447-] by the peculiarly quiet and wistful-not to say depressed air of some of the better class of lodgers, than by the evident gratification with which the officials allude to the respectability of the tenants.
Now, it is of no use to conceal the fact that these wistful - not to say depressed - people will gradually become quite uneasy, and after a few weeks, or at most three or four months, will give notice to quit, driven from the place in spite of all its acknowledged advantages by sheer ennui, almost by a kind of reasonless aversion to its regularity and completeness, and, above all, by the want of personality about the building and its arrangements.
The respectable class - those who enter upon a term of tenancy and become engrafted on the place - are very few by comparison, and they are mostly hard-headed men, who fully recognise the value of a dwelling near the place where they go to work. To be able to dine at home and return to a late tea, and thereby avoid the dangerous allurements of the public-house, and the scarcely less dangerous attractions of the debating coffee-house, is worth some sacrifice; and so these men put away from them the longing for that home which they still remotely hope will be theirs one day - the four rooms and the washhouse and the bit of garden.
As to the wistful - not to say depressed - tenants who go away after a month or two of trial, .they drift into some place in the neighbourhood - many degrees dirtier, less comfortable, and less reputable than the place from which they have pined to be free. They have had a certain kind of dread hanging over them all [-448-] the time that they have been trying to be respectable - the absurd, indefensible, utterly foolish depression associated with the corridors, the walls of spotless brick or plaster, the grim substantial staircase, the unity of pattern and design, the bigness, and, above all, the community in the vast building, where they have seemed - still absurdly and indefensibly - to lose individuality, and to have such grains of self-respect as they may have gathered sowed for a kind of general harvest for somebody else to reap.
As to the lower class still - those who most need the help afforded by the provision of decent dwellings - they can have none of it; the model buildings are to them too full of suggestions of the union and the gaol, and the rents are altogether above their means - for they live whole families in one miserable room in those houses from which the landlords of properties in low neighbourhoods make so good an income; and if they get away from there at all, it is mostly after that process which is described as breaking up their home, when the family is separated, and the workhouse wards receive its various members, thenceforward representative units in the great sum of pauperdom.
Let them say what they may about the occasional inconsistencies of religious associations, and the tendency
to proselytise with which the very benefactions of some
of them are associated, the so-called philosophers and se-[-449-]cularists, the enthusiasts of humanity, and the worshippers of intellect would, as a body, leave the sick
un-healed, the dead unrestored to life, and the poor without
any Gospel that would include them all in the glory of
the children of God. It is to associations which have
their mainspring in religious faith, their maintaining
power in religious duty, that we must always look for
the needed help; for without that faith, and the love
that comes of it, there is neither impulse nor sanction.
And the evidences that the religious spirit is undebased by something that is only another form of selfishness
will be seen by the extension of the benefits of such an
association to all who are in need. The very key-note
of Christianity is 'to all men;' and whenever relief of
physical needs is offered with one hand, on the condition that a set of doctrines, a creed, a certain profession
of faith shall be accepted from the other, the light of
true religion is beclouded with the vain traditions of
men. If our religion will not lead us to help our brother except by a temptation to hypocrisy, if our love
cannot regard him as an object of compassion and sympathy, whatever may be his professed opinions or
misbeliefs, how can it commend itself to him? At all events,
he may readily learn that it is not the religion of Christ,
and will be justified in telling us we lie when we name
and call ourselves Christians.
However, there have been many false representations on this subject; and the most successful of those societies which are now formed in most of our poverty-stricken districts for the relief of distress are religious [-450-] in their foundation and their character, without exacting any pledge whatever from those whose necessities they seek to relieve. They have religions services, and means of public worship and instruction, among their agencies; but their secular work is mainly carried on amidst those to whom, by relieving, they hope to bring, first increased temporal comfort, and following that, the happiness which they themselves have found to consist in the spiritual freedom which is eternal life.
It is most desirable, however, that the clergy, as such, should have no more direct and personal influence in dispensing the funds of charitable organisations than any other of their members who are as well acquainted with the needs of the district; and it is equally desirable that such associations should carefully avoid what is now the great tendency in certain societies - the fostering of a mischievous sensational exhibition of remarkable converts.
Unfortunately, now that this last excitement has been made so prominent, exploring 'special reporters' may try to continue the series. Two or three years ago they announced the wonderful discovery of the 'Sunday Bird Fair,' and spoke of it as though it had hitherto been unknown to the majority of Londoners. Now that they have begun to penetrate transpontine London, we may see following the accounts of the Converted Burglar some of the other celebrities in connection with 'Gospel Hall,' such as 'The One-Eyed. Costermonger,' 'The Publican's Jester,' 'The Haddock Smoker,' 'The Scolding Wife,' and 'The Drunken Brute;' all whose con-[-451-]versions have been set forth in print as well as on the platform, and any of whom, especially the last of the list, might possibly claim popularity on similar ground to that occupied by the promoter of 'thieves' suppers.'
But this is only an exceptional parenthesis, having no reference to other missions in various districts. Combining as they do, and as I have endeavoured to indicate, a complete organisation of charity both for the varied needs of destitute adults and for neglected children, they have different agencies for carrying out their objects, one of the principal of them being a system of house-to-house visitation, carried on frequently by those who volunteer for the work, but constantly by the mission-women, who report cases of distress requiring relief, to the committee, and procure some immediate help for those who are ready to perish. Even in Old Castle-street, at the back of Shoreditch Church, and so close to that foul neighbourhood of which I have so lately spoken, the Bethnal-green Mission is doing its useful and loving work, and has just contrived to build a new and comfortable schoolroom and mission-hall, in which 280 very poor children are receiving daily instruction; besides this; evening classes are held for elder scholars; and a Band of Hope meeting, in connection with which a boys' drum-and-fife band is in training. Open-air meetings are held, and evangelistic services conducted on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. For the supply of money this institution, is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions, and needs for the present year 150l. to pay the timber merchant's account, who kindly supplied [-452-] materials for the new building till the funds should be in hand; 100l. more to provide comfortable seats and repairs, and furnish seven additional rooms, which are intended to be used as a home for training poor girls for domestic service, who will be received as the funds are supplied for the purpose. The current expenses have to be met, and the committee hope to be enabled to raise the sum of 1,200l. to purchase the copyhold of the premises; in prospect of which Mr. Charles Reed, M.P., Mr. Jonathan Grubb of Sudbury, and Mr. J. McCall of Houndsditch, have consented to act as trustees. Mr. William Jarvis, 2 Derby-road, Victoria-park-road, is the secretary or superintendent.
The beneficial result of the employment of mission- women devoted to this Labour of Love among the poor is exemplified by the successful efforts of
THE PAROCHIAL MISSION-WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION,
a society which gives little or nothing away in charity,
its avowed object being to help the poor by teaching
them how they may best help themselves. Each mission costs about 80l. a-year; and as any clergyman
may write to the society for its aid if his district requires a mission, and he is partially responsible for
meeting its expenses, there are no more than are actually needed.
In a recent letter to the Times, Lord Hatherley (whose experience in connection with charitable institutions is a guarantee for his judicious advocacy) describes the operation of these missions. He says:
'The organisation is very simple. A small body of lady managers overlook the whole work. To them any clergyman desiring to establish a mission in his parish applies, and guarantees a portion of the cost, which averages 80l. a-year for each mission. He selects, subject to the approval of the managers, his own mission-woman and a "lady superintendent" of her labours among the lowest and poorest. A room is hired (or appropriated if he have a suitable one at his disposal), in which such poor women as are able to attend meet the lady superintendent at least once a-week, and enjoy a little cheerful reading under circumstances of, to them, unusual comfort, and may select and work on the articles for which they have made weekly payments to the mission-woman at her visits to their own homes. Many have first been taught to work at these meetings. The clergyman usually commences or closes them with a short service and prayer, and has the opportunity of meeting many of his poorest parishioners assembled together. The managers visit them from time to time without notice.
'The mission-woman is selected from a class little, if at all, above that in which she works. She is acquainted with the struggles and temptations of poverty, and meets the poor on their own level, observes their wants, shows by example and precept the value of decency and cleanliness, and the vice of waste; how to make their poor homes more comfortable, how best to economise their scanty means, how better to nurse their sick. She may make about a hundred visits in a [-454-] week, collecting such money as can be saved, which she delivers to her lady superintendent. Though she distributes no direct relief, it is her duty to make known to the clergyman any cases of extreme or special' distress, and under his directions to carry out food, make beef-tea, &c., or perform any like kindly office.
'It may be said, why should not all this be done by any clergyman independently of an organised association.?
'The answer is best supplied by the fact, that at least 130 districts have already been found to avail themselves of a machinery by which over 7,000l. has been collected among the poor in one year. The distinctive character of the work is best retained by being in the hands of a central body, who, having originated the scheme, and having considerable experience of its details, are best able to check the inevitable tendency of all agencies to degenerate into formality; and it is obvious that the clergy of districts most needing mission- women would be least able to maintain them without the assistance of a society. Constant communication and friendly social intercourse is kept up between the managers and superintendents. An annual week-day service, in a church kindly opened for the purpose, gives to all connected in the work an opportunity of meeting together. An annual treat (if possible, in the country) is given to the mission-women. Thus continual life is kept up in the whole body. The managers are assisted in any matter of difficulty by a gentlemen's committee of reference.
[-455-] 'Instead of distributing alms, this association has through its agency collected during the last year between 7,000l. and 8,000l. in about 130 of the poorest districts, mainly in the east and south of London. This amount has been made up principally in pence, sometimes in farthings, and represents the value of articles of clothing, bedding, and useful furniture, besides Bibles and Prayer-books, which have been supplied to the depositors at cost price, without any bonus.'
The treasurer of this institution is the Hon. W. C. Spring Rice, and the office is at 15 Cockspur-Street.
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