[text and pagination from "How the Poor Live; and Horrible London" pub. London, Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly, 1889]
HORRIBLE LONDON.* [* Originally published in the Daily News]
A GREAT subject, which for years journalists and
philanthropists have, been vainly endeavouring to interest the general public
in, has suddenly by leaps and bounds assumed the front rank in the great army of
social and political problems. The housing of the poor has long been a
smouldering question; dozens of willing hands have sought to fan it into a
flame, but hitherto with small results. At the last moment a little pamphlet
laid modestly on the dying embers has done what all the bellows-blowing of the
Press failed to accomplish, and the smouldering question has become a
brightly-burning one. It is while the flames are still at their height, and
everyone is suggesting a remedy, that I should like to say a few words on a
subject with which I have been practically and intimately acquainted for many
It is evident, after reading the many letters which have appeared in the Daily News and other journals, that the great bulk of the remedy-suggesters are writing without the slightest personal knowledge of the people who are to be washed and dressed, rehoused and regenerated, and converted by the State and the Church into wholesome, pleasant, God-fearing citizens of the most approved type. There is a capital picture on the hoardings [-114-] of London of a little black boy in a bath who has been washed white as far as the neck with Messrs. Somebody's wonderful soap. I do not for one moment dispute the excellent qualities of the moral and political soaps which kindly philanthropists are recommending as likely to accomplish a similar miracle for the Outcast Blackamoors of Horrible London; but I am inclined to think the advocates for these said soaps underestimate the blackness of the boy.
In the early part of the present year I spent some two months in visiting the worst slums of London, and in investigating the condition of the inhabitants. I not only went from cellar to attic, but I traced back the family history of many of the occupants. I followed the workers to their work, the thieves and wantons to their haunts, the children to their schools, and the homeless loafers to the holes and corners, the open passages and backyards where they herded together at night. I began my task with a light heart; I finished it with a heavy one. In that two months I saw a vision of hell more terrible than the immortal Florentine's, and this was no poet's dream - it was a terrible truth, ghastly in its reality, heartbreaking in its intensity, and the doom of the imprisoned bodies in this modern Inferno was as horrible as any that Dante depicted for his tortured souls. But the most terrible thing of all was that the case of many of these lost creatures seemed utterly hopeless. I felt this then, and, now that the Press has been flooded with suggestions, I feel it still. In writing this I trust I shall not be misunderstood. I have only ventured to intrude myself in this great discussion now to point out where I think the new forces set in motion may be most profitably employed and where they would simply be wasted.
We must remember that it is not only poverty we have to deal with in order to metamorphose Horrible London into a new Arcadia - we have to do battle with a hydra-headed monster called Vice, and vice is born and bred in tens of [-115-] thousands of these outcasts, whose lot we are trying to remedy. It taints the entire atmosphere of the slums. The people I refer to are dirty and foul and vicious, as tigers are fierce and vindictive and cruel, because it is part of their nature. Take them from their dirt to-morrow, and put them in clean rooms amid wholesome surroundings, and what would be the result? - the dirty people would not be improved, but the clean rooms would be dirtied. You cannot stamp out the result of generations of neglect in a day, or a week, or a year, any more than you can check the ravages of consumption with doses of cough mixture; whether you give it to the patient a tablespoonful or a tumblerful at a time, once an hour or once a week, the result will be the same.
The first great work of the reformers in all their schemes must be to separate the labouring from the criminal classes. At present both classes herd together, to the infinite harm of the former; and the poor artisan's children grow up with every form of crime and vice practised openly before their eyes. The pulling down of vast areas of labouring-class accommodation to make way for Metropolitan improvements is the cause of this commingling of the honest poor with their dishonest brethren. The men and women earning low wages and precarious livelihoods have been driven step by step into the Alsatias of London, because nowhere else have they been able to find shelter. The suburbs are beyond their means, not because of the rents, but because of the expense of getting to and from their daily work. Take the case of the thousands of the labouring poor who get employment at the docks. Their only chance of being taken on is to be at the dock-gates by four or five in the morning. Many of them are there as early as three. How could these men get from the suburbs at such an hour, and how could they afford the daily railway fare? Then there are the factory hands, and the men and women and children who work at home for the City houses - they too must be within walking-distance [-116-] of the factories and warehouses. At present their only chance is to live in the rookeries, and there they must pay from two-and-sixpence to four shillings for a single room. And without exception all these rookeries are largely peopled by the criminal classes, who find their security in the surrounding filth and lawlessness, which are so many fortifications against the enemy. The criminal classes will oppose all efforts at their redemption, the labouring classes will welcome them, so that, to get a good result quickly, the latter must be the first consideration with politicians, whatever the religious view of the subject may be.
Having separated the criminals from the workers, the next task must be to separate the old from the young, in planning out measures of reform and applying remedies. The condition of many of the older people, even among the poorer workers, is almost hopeless. They could never adapt themselves now to the life the philanthropist dreams for them. They could not be brought to see that marriage is any better than cohabitation, that thrift is a virtue, or that there is any higher pleasure in life than the gratification of the animal instincts. To gratify intellectual instincts, men must have intellects trained and cultivated to gratify. The older denizens of Horrible London have had their intellects dulled rather than sharpened by long years of familiarity with want, privation, and wretched surroundings. They have lived come-day, go-day, God-send-Sunday lives too long to be suddenly awakened to a taste for intellectual amusements or to higher aspirations; and, what is more, the bulk of the class I allude to are absolutely ignorant, and can neither read nor write.
But with their children the case is different ; and here is the grcat hope of the reformer. The Board schools have, through good and evil report, sown the seeds of a new era. Amid all the talk of the last few weeks, few have recognised the fact that it is by the education of the rising generation that the ground has been cleared for the brighter and better [-117-] state of things we are all hoping to see. The children who go back to the slums from the Board schools are themselves quietly accomplishing more than Acts of Parliament, missions, and philanthropic crusades can ever hope to do. Already the young race of mothers, the girls who had the benefit for a year or two of the Education Act, are tidy in their persons, clean in their homes, and decent in their language. Let the reader, who wishes to judge for himself of the physical and moral results which education has already accomplished, go to any Board school recruited from the 'slum' districts, and note the difference in the elder and the younger children, or attend a 'B' meeting, where the mothers come to plead excuses for their little ones' non-attendance, and note the difference between the old and the young mothers-between those who, before they took 'mates' or husbands, had a year or two of school training, and those who had given birth to children in the old days of widespread ignorance.
It is to the rising generation we look for that which is hopeless in the grown-up outcasts of to-day. Even education, the greatest remedy that has yet been applied to the evil, will be heavily handicapped if such home-teaching is to supplement the efforts of the schools.
I have only touched lightly upon a few points which lie on the outskirts of this great question. Knowing the nature of the task our social reformers have undertaken, I venture most earnestly to hope that nothing may be done hastily, or entrusted to well-meaning dilettanti or crotcheteers. Any scheme, to be successful, must embrace the entire question. The peculiar needs and necessities of a people who are a race by themselves must be borne in mind, and whatever is granted in the way of amelioration must be given, not as a charity to the abject poor, but as a right yielded at last to our long-neglected fellow-citizens.
IN a sermon preached in St. Paul's Cathedral, the Rev.
Prebendary Capel-Cure referred to the preceding article on 'Horrible London.'
While insisting on the necessity for State interference, the preacher went on to
say that he had read a series of papers on the 'Misery of Paris,' published in
1881, and that the unspeakable, the nameless horrors, the awful accumulation of
guilt and filth and misery which the French writer had seen with his own eyes,
and heard with his own ears, 'made even the dreadful revelation of the English
writer seem almost trivial in comparison.' Now, as a matter of fact, no English
writer conversant with the subject has dared to tell a plain unvarnished tale of
London's guilt and ~roe. There are many of us who have seen with our own eves,
and heard with our own ears, things so revolting that we can only hint at them
in vague and hesitating language. Were I, even now that public attention has
been thoroughly a roused to a great danger, to go into the details of ordinary
life in a London slum, the story would be one which no journal enjoying a
general circulation could possibly print.
There is indeed a great danger that, in endeavouring to steer clear of loathsome details, writers dealing with the question of the amelioration of the condition of the poor may fail to bring home to the public the real nature of the ills that have to be remedied. It is to the general avoidance of offensive revelations that we owe most of the impractic-[-119-]able schemes of reform with which the Press all over the country is being flooded.
Let us rehouse the poor by all means, but before we set about the task it is imperatively necessary that we should know what kind of people we are going to build for. Unless this is thoroughly understood, the result of the present agitation will be simply deplorable. We shall pull down slum after slum, not to rehouse the present inhabitants, but to drive them into still closer and closer contact, until we have massed together a huge army of famished and desperate men and women, ready, in the wild hour' that must sooner or later come, to burst their barriers at last, and to declare open and violent war against law and order and property.
The present terrible condition of affairs is mainly due to two causes-over-population and the small remuneration commanded by labour, and it is out of the former evil that the latter has grown. That drink is the curse of poverty- stricken districts no one wishes to deny, but it is a mistake to say that drink is the cause of poverty; as a matter of fact, poverty is equally the cause of drink. On this part of the question I may at some future time give the result of my experiences among the poor. For the present I want my readers to accompany me through a typical London slum, and to make a short study of the inhabitants, in order that they may form their own opinion of the remedies likely to be of permanent value.
One London slum is very like another, but for my purpose now I will select a district in Southwark, where the houses are in such a condition that they are bound to come down under any scheme of sanitary improvement, however half-hearted it may be.
We enter a narrow court, picking our way with caution over the nameless filth and garbage and the decaying vegetable matter that, flung originally in heaps outside the doors, has been trodden about by the feet of the inhabitants until [-120-] the broken flags are almost undiscernible beneath a thick paste of indescribable filth. The outside of the houses prepares us for what is to come. Inside them we find the staircases rotten and breaking away. A greasy cord stretched from flight to flight is often the sole protection they possess. Wooden rails there may originally have been, but the landlord has not replaced them. lie does not supply his tenants with firewood gratis. The windows are broken and patched with paper, or occasionally with a bit of board. The roofs are dilapidated, and the wet of a rainy season has soaked through the loose tiles, and saturated the walls and ceilings from attic to basement. And the rooms themselves! To describe them with anything like truth taxes my knowledge of euphemisms to the utmost. The rooms in these houses are pigsties, and nothing more, and in them men, women and children live and sleep and eat. More I cannot say, except that the stranger, entering one of these rooms for the first time, has every sense shocked, and finds it almost impossible to breathe the pestilent atmosphere without being instantly sick. And in such rooms as these there are men and women now living who never leave them for days and weeks together. They are sometimes discovered in an absolute state of nudity, having parted with every rag in their possession in order to keep body and soul together through times when no work is to be had.
So much for the district which is to be levelled, and the general habits of the inhabitants who are to be 'rehoused.' Let us take a few of the families who will have to be somebody's tenants under any scheme, and see what their circumstances are. The cases are all selected from the district I have endeavoured to hint at above. I will begin with the workers:
T. Harborne, stonemason, occupies two
dilapidated rooms, which are in a filthy condition, has five children. Total
weekly income through slackness, 8s. Rent, 4s. 6d.
[-121-] E. Williams, costermonger, two rooms in a court which is a hotbed of vice and disease. Has eight children. Total earnings, 17s. Rent, 5s. 6d.
T. Briggs, labourer, one room, four children. Rent, 4s. No furniture; all sleep on floor. Daughter answered knock, absolutely naked; ran in and covered herself with a sack.
Mrs. Johnson, widow, one room, three children. Earnings, 6s. Rent, 3s. 6d.
W. Leigh, fancy boxmaker, two awful rooms, four children. Earnings, 14s. Rent, 6s.
H. Walker, hawker, two rooms, seven children. Earnings, 10s. Rent, 5s. 6d.
R. Thompson, out of work, five children. Living by pawning goods and clothes. Wife drinks. Rent, 4s.
G. Garrard, labourer, out looking for work, eight children. No income. Rent, 5s. 6d. Pawning last rags. No parish relief. Starving. Declines to go into workhouse.
These people may fairly be described as
workers. They will accept employment if they can get it, but they positively
refuse to go into the workhouse when they cannot. If they fail to get the rent
together, they will go into a furnished apartment, i.e., a frightful
hovel, with an awful bed, a broken table and one chair in it. These places can
be had by the night, and vary in price from sixpence to a shilling. They are
largely used by the criminal classes, who do not care to accumulate household
goods, which their frequent temporary retirements from society would leave at
the mercy of others.
In the same district and in the same houses, mixing freely with their more honest neighbours, and quarrelling, fighting, and drinking with them, we find another class whose earnings are also precarious. I will quote one or two cases, as these people must be dislodged. when the present buildings come down:
Smith. Husband in gaol. One room, three children. She earns 6s. a week,
and pays 2s. 6d. rent. The man has been away fourteen years for burglary. The
day of his release he came home. (The manner in which the men coining from long
terms of imprisonment find their wives is marvellous.) The woman gave him what
money she had, and he went out at once and got drunk. In the evening he came
back, quarrelled with his neighbour, and stabbed a woman in a fight. He was
taken to the police- station, tried, and sentenced to twelve months'
F. Barker. One dreadful room, three children; father and mother both criminals. Have been getting three and six months at intervals for years. Sometimes both in gaol together. Their neighbours take the children and mind them till parents come out.
W. Moggs, Raspberry Court-a sweet name for a hideous place-one room, four children. Rent, 4s. Father professional thief. Constantly in and out of prison.
These cases are fair samples of the class
of people we call 'the abject poor,' people who will not go to the workhouse
under any circumstances, and who are at present herding together in the
rookeries we are all agreed must be demolished and replaced by something better.
Add to them the people carrying on objectionable trades in one or two rooms-and
who must carry them on to live wherever they go - and the reformers will have a
fair idea of the tenants for whom houses must be provided somewhere, if their
present dwellings are to be pulled down. At the first glance it seems almost
impossible to cater for them. Fancy turning these people into nice clean rooms
and expecting five per cent. for your money Besides, putting their habits on one
side, they are never sure of regular work. They may pay the rent one week and be
penniless the next. Then five per cent. philanthropy must turn them out, having
given them a [-123-] glimpse of Paradise which will
make the return to Hades a terrible trial to those who have had their better
Whichever way we look at the subject, it is fraught with difficulties, and if we are challenged to find a remedy, we have to go into a question which thousands of excellent people refuse altogether to discuss. The deserving poor could all be better housed now without a single brick being laid or a single Act of Parliament passed, if they had fewer children. Even in the slums the rents are lower and the rooms better for couples who have only two children. In dozens of instances w-here I have asked the denizens of these hovels why they pay four and five shillings for such vile accommodation, the answer is, 'They won't take us in a decent place because of the children.'
I know a case now of a man who took a house for himself and family, and found he had two rooms to spare. The house was clean and healthy, and he had dozens of applications from would-be lodgers. But, though he was poor- and the extra rent would have been a godsend to him - he remained unlet for four months because all the applicants had three or four children. His case is the case of hundreds of people who have decent rooms to let for the labouring poor.
The large families these people invariably have not only keep them in grinding poverty all their lives, but the overpopulation floods the labour market and keeps the scale of wages down to starvation point. While supply so enormously exceeds demand, how can any market be in a healthy condition?
Men and women, and boys and girls, all eager for something to do, are to be had by thousands, and labour is at a discount. If the supply diminished, and hands were more in proportion to the work to be done, labour would be at a premium.
We have reached a point when it is absolutely mischievous [-124-] to ignore this side of the question. It is not only labour that is affected by the rapid increase in the population; half of the vice and half the crime we deplore in these districts is traceable to the same cause. Did I wish to imitate the French writer and plunge the reader to his eyes in horror, I might tell how the lack of employment brings mere children in these districts into the streets - how girls of eleven and twelve are forced into sin by their wretched parents as the last desperate means of that self-preservation which we are told is the first law of nature. And as the girls in evil times sin at first for bread to eat, so the boys begin to thieve; and we are brought face to face with the fact that we have in our midst vast human warrens, which are simply places where thieves and wantons are bred, and poverty and crime increase and multiply together.
I have no desire to argue a vexed question or engage in a controversy on a subject which requires the most delicate handling, but no one who has actual experience of outcast London can keep this one great cause of the teeming misery and vice entirely out of sight. What the remedy for it may be it is no part of my purpose to discuss, but here again I believe that the great hope is in the new race that is coming to replace the old. The next generation will be more cultured, more intellectual, and more refined; mental faculties will be exercised which have been dormant in the poor of to-day, and as we increase in civilization so shall we decrease in numbers. Education will make even the lowest of our citizens something better than they are at present - mere animal reproducers of their species.
In the meantime, while we are waiting for that good day to dawn, we can be helping it on. If we begin our task by catering at once for the most hopeful class we can find, we shall make a distinct step in advance. Weed out the slums by degrees - encourage the most decent among the workers first, and get down to the lower strata step by step. Leave the poor wretches who are impossible in any but rookeries a [-125-] rookery or two to finish their careers in. Encourage everything that will keep their rents down, and encourage everything that will give labour a better return. If the process of elimination is gradual, we shall in time improve the condition of all who are not beyond help. As for the rest, they will solve the riddle in time for themselves by dying off, and leaving the ground free for the well-paid, well-educated, healthy labourer, with two little children and a contented mind, who is the dream of the modern social reformer.
A PUBLIC meeting was held at 'the Farm House,' Harrow Street,
in the Mint, some time since, to take into consideration the grievances of the
poor people whose homes were about to be demolished to make way for a new
street, a railway, and some dwellings for the accommodation of a superior class
It is necessary for a thorough understanding of the question which is agitating the entire community that every phase of it should be studied.
In and about the Mint, which is a notorious 'slum,' in addition to a very large contingent of the criminal classes, there resides a colony of industrious folks, whose livelihood must be earned in the great thoroughfares. Hawkers of fish and fruit and vegetables, penny-toy vendors, watercress and flower girls, cheapjacks, street stall-keepers of all sorts and conditions, and men and women and children who work at certain industries carried on in the neighbourhood - these are among the deserving class of the poor, earning precarious incomes, who are about to be driven out by a Metropolitan improvement and forced to seek shelter in one or other of the already densely-packed districts.
The first effect on the dishoused people themselves will be disastrous. They will not only be compelled to give up their work and their clientele in the neighbourhood, but they will lose a privilege which is absolute salvation to many of them. The injury is greatest to the most industrious, because they have established a character among the little tradespeople [-127-] of the district, and in the winter they obtain the necessaries of life on credit. In the winter, times are bad for many of the ordinary industries of the poor, and, but for the fact that local shopkeepers will trust established tenants of decent character, hundreds of them would be brought face to face with absolute starvation.
The 'characters' worked up in one district are useless in another, and thus it will be seen how severe a blow to the poor dwellers in a neighbourhood its destruction must be.
Moreover, in addition to being injured themselves, the displaced inhabitants will injure the neighbourhoods to which they migrate. A sudden rush will be made, say, on the rookeries of Bethnal Green or Whitechapel - places already overcrowded. What will be the result? Where we have one family hiving in a single room now, we shall presently find two families packed, and the rush for accommodation will send the rents of these places up another ten or fifteen per cent.
Some of the dislodged people, men and women who are never half-a-crown ahead of the world, must, as they get no compensation for the loss they will be put to by eviction, drift into the workhouse.
Now, the workhouse is utter ruin to the class who look for their work daily. A man goes into the casual ward; before he leaves it in the morning, he must do a certain amount of work. It is quite right that he should, but what is the result? When he gets out it is too late to look for work that day; the chance is gone. So he must come in again the next night, and the process is repeated. This is the way habitual loafers are too often manufactured, and one fruitful source of vagabondage is the constant disturbance of the poor from the places where they had settled down and started in business.
Another evil which must inevitably come of the poorest and the most helpless being driven farther and farther back [-128-] before the march of improvement is this: They must come into closer and closer contact with the criminal and the vicious classes. Men come into a low district because they are poor and other neighbourhoods are beyond their means. Many of them come honest and remain honest, but the children degenerate rapidly under the evil influences of the place.
Take the history of the Black Gang of the Mint as an example. It is composed of the worst desperadoes, young and old, of the metropolis. Its ranks are thinned over and over again by the arrest and conviction of the members, but their places are filled almost directly by the sons of the labourers and hard-working folks of the district. This is a painful fact which is perpetually being forced on the attention of those who do philanthropic work in the slums. The criminal classes are daily recruited from the children of the labouring classes, and this is mainly due to their enforced herding together in the rookeries. But where else are the dislodged poor with large families to go?
Those who have passed their lives among these people, and have watched area after area of labourers' dwellings disappear, know that each fresh clearance has a deteriorating effect on the character of the remaining districts. Unless some scheme be devised which will check the wholesale destruction of slum neighbourhoods and the hasty displacement of those who cannot be accommodated elsewhere, the ultimate result must be pestilence or revolution. We may frankly recognise the necessity of condemning buildings unfit for habitation without denying the hardships of the evicted tenants. All reforms injure one class at first in order to benefit another. But while public attention is so fully aroused to the question of 'Housing the Poor,' we may as well learn the lesson of the past in order to avoid a recurrence of the evil. how is it a puzzled public is asking every day that, with medical officers of health, sanitary inspectors, inspectors of nuisances, and [-129-] what not, all armed with full powers, so many districts of labouring-class accommodation have been allowed to drift into a state of dilapidation and filth which renders it imperatively necessary to raze them to the ground? The machinery to prevent such a state of things was ample. We have a right to know why it has broken down.
I will endeavour to explain as far as I can why we have at present a 'Horrible London,' and also to suggest in what way it may be possible to avoid having another. The clearance of vast spaces has sent accommodation in tenement houses up to a premium, and landlords have been able to let their rooms regardless of their condition.
The officers whose duty it is to report on sanitary neglect are appointed by the vestry, and hold their appointments at the goodwill and pleasure of the vestryman.
Much of the worst property in London is held either by vestrymen or by persons who have friends in the vestry. The first thing, as a rule, which a man does who acquires low-class and doubtful property is to try and be elected a vestryman. What chance under such circumstances has a vestry-appointed officer of doing his duty in a thorough and efficient manner? His reports, if he make them, are too often burked. Messrs. Jones and Smith and Brown are the gentlemen upon whose votes will depend that increase of salary he is going to ask for next Christmas. And Messrs. Jones and Smith and Brown are the gentlemen who will be put to considerable pecuniary loss if he insists upon the unsanitary condition of certain large blocks of property in the district.
I do not for one moment pretend that this is the case in the Mint - there some of the vestrymen are among the most earnest agitators for a new order of things.
But the evil exists in some of the worst districts, and to an extent of which the public little dreams. If some of the flagrant pieces of jobbery in this class of property, which have been the result of vestry government, could be brought [-130-] to light, the public would cease to wonder how such a condition of things could have come to pass.
Let anyone who wishes to inform himself thoroughly on the subject walk through any of the slums, and contrast the condition of the registered lodging-houses with the condition of the surrounding dwellings. The lodging-houses are almost everywhere in better repair. The floors are scrubbed continually, the walls are fairly clean, and there is proper sanitary accommodation. But these lodging-houses are under the control of the police - an officer appointed by Scotland Yard inspects them, and sees that every regulation is complied with. If the proprietor fails in his duty he loses his license.
A portion of this very Farm House in the Mint is a common lodging-house, and it is a place the most refined lady might enter and inspect without the slightest repugnance.
Within a stone's-throw of it are whole streets of houses which are sinks of all that is abominable.
If a periodical inspection of certain lodging-houses can produce such an excellent result, it must strike an observer at the first blush that a periodical inspection of houses let out to families would have a similarly beneficial effect.
I may say that the idea of licensing houses let out in rooms to the class of people whose condition we have been discussing, and placing them under the control of a police-appointed official, is a favourite one with many of the local agitators for reform.
For the accommodation of the doubtful class, buildings might be erected constructed almost entirely of brick and stone and iron; wood should be avoided wherever possible, as it harbours filth, and is easily damaged or removed to light the fire with. The rooms should be square, and without corner or crevice, and should have floors made of immaterial which could be cleansed thoroughly with a mop [-131-] and a bucket of water. No human power could ever cleanse the wooden floors of the present dens. The water-supply in such houses would of course be an efficient one. At present the bad water-supply is a source of the greatest evils. One butt in a backyard frequently has to supply the inmates of half a dozen houses, and this butt is, in nine cases out of ten, open at the top, so that it easily becomes impregnated with objectionable matter. In one instance a butt, when cleared out, was found to contain the dead body of a cat, and a playful youth of the neighbourhood confessed to having tossed it in six weeks previously. This is the water the inhabitants not only do such washing with as they occasionally indulge in, but it is also the liquid with which they make their tea. In its simple condition, water, I may state, is not largely consumed by the adult population, but the children frequently quench their thirst with it. Here at least is one evil which may be dealt with to the advantage of the very poorest denizen of the slums.
Another glaring iniquity in the present system is the insufficient accommodation of a most necessary kind, and this is an evil to which the most horrible phase of the 'domestic interior' of the slums is largely due. The only retiring-room in one place available for the 150 people who inhabit ten small houses is situated right away down another court, and in some instances the only accommodation of this kind is in the cellar of the building, and this cellar is inhabited by a family.
Such a monstrous state of things as this will, of course, never be permitted in any new property, however low class it may be; and any improvement in such matters as this - the water supply, and the adaptability of the rooms to the cleaning process - will tell advantageously on the health and cleanliness and decency of the inhabitants.
But while these improvements are being made, the old houses which arc past repair must go, and many more are to be sacrificed to railway schemes and to new streets.
[-132-] Such is the condition of affairs in the Mint, a district which teems with the poor earning precarious livelihoods, and we may look forward with interest to the views of the tenants themselves, who will be invited to speak at a proposed meeting. It is, I believe, to be the first of a series about to be held, at which the whole question will be discussed. The names of Mr. Berry, a gentleman who was born in the Mint, and carries on business there still; Mr. Hawkins, a member of the School Board, who knows all the circumstances of the inhabitants; Mr. Hunter, a local temperance worker; Mr. Andrew Dunn, and Mr. Arthur Cohen, M.P., are guarantees that the discussion will be guided into practical channels, and those who have said so much about the poor will be able to hear what the poor have to say about themselves.
If anyone interested in the question should make his way to these meetings and wish to see some of the property that is coming down, let him take Gunn Street and Martin Street en route. Through the open doors he will catch a glimpse of some curious interiors. He will see, if he goes at the right time, unsold fish, grapes, vegetables, and what not, being carried into strange backyards and queer corners, and he will be struck with the extraordinary number of fowls, geese, and ducks which are roaming about in the slush and the garbage, fattening themselves for the Christmas market of the big thoroughfares, where they will doubtless be offered by their gentle-voiced proprietors as 'prime country fed.'
As, however, the accommodation is exceedingly limited, and the 'natives' are likely to attend in large numbers, the curious outsider had better, for many reasons, wait until the committee carry out their announced intention of calling a public meeting in a larger hall.
We have passed through the period in which it was necessary to arouse general attention, and no one who reads the public journals can be ignorant of the main facts of the case. The two great questions to which reformers have [-133-] now to find a practical answer are these: What scheme will release this class of property from vestry control and compel a more efficient carrying out of the ample powers the authorities now possess? and in what way can we save the inhabitants of the scheduled areas from the loss, the misery, and the further degradation which have been the result of wholesale evictions hitherto?
IT has been asserted by several writers who have joined in
the present controversy concerning the Housing of the Poor that drink and
unthrift are the main causes of the existing distress, and some go so far as to
say that the masses live to drink, and that consequently no legislation can
improve their condition.
This is a pessimist view of the question which is by no means warranted by the facts. To deny that the poor in the rookeries drink and are unthrifty would be foolish. But I venture to assert, with a knowledge of the life-histories of hundreds of these 'outcasts,' that the drinking habits of a large percentage are due to the circumstances under which they are at present forced to live. Temptation surely enters as largely into drunkenness as into any other vice, and in the foul and fetid courts and alleys of London the temptation to every kind of vice is never absent. The complete lack of home-comforts, the necessity of dulling every finer sense in order to endure the surrounding horrors, the absence of anything to enter into competition with the light and glitter of the gin-palace, and the cheapness of drink in comparison with food-all these contribute to make the poor easy victims of intemperance. Thousands of people do undoubtedly drink for drinking's sake, but that is a phase of intemperance which is by no means confined to one class. Among the poor the constant war with fate, the harassing conditions of daily life, and the apparent hopelessness of trying to improve their conditions, do un-[-135-]doubtedly tend to make them 'drown their sorrows' and rush for relief to the fiery waters of that Lethe which the publican dispenses at so much a glass. This is no general assertion; it is a conclusion arrived at with a knowledge of the circumstances which first led many of the most notorious drunkards of a slum to contract their evil habits.
Ask any of the temperance workers in the viler districts, and they will tell you how they have watched hundreds of decent folk come into a bad neighbourhood and gradually sink under the degrading influences of their surroundings. There are few men who have worked to keep their brethren from the clutches of the drink-fiend who would not gladly hail the advent of air and light and cleanliness, and the enforcement of sanitary laws, as the best weapons with which to do doughty deeds in their combats with intemperance among the poor.
Having said so much, I am prepared to admit that drink is a contributing cause to the present condition of the poor. It is even, in a certain degree, a cause of overcrowding.
The Bishop of Bedford, in a recent speech, expressed a desire to have the drink statistics of a slum. I cannot give figures, but I can give facts. The Bishop expressed a belief that the revelation would astonish the public. I am quite sure that it will.
More than one-fourth of the daily earnings of the denizens of the slums goes over the bars of the public-houses and gin-palaces. To study the drink phase of this burning question, let us take the districts from which I have drawn the facts and figures I have previously submitted.
On a Saturday night in the great thoroughfare adjacent, there are three corner public-houses which take as much money as the whole of the other shops on both sides of the way put together. Butchers, bakers, greengrocers, clothiers, furniture dealers, all the caterers for the wants of the popu-[-136-]lace, are open till a late hour; there are hundreds of them trading round and about, but the whole lot do not take as much money as three publicans - that is a fact ghastly enough in all conscience. Enter the public-houses, and you will see them crammed. Here are artisans and labourers drinking away the wages that ought to clothe their little ones. Here are the women squandering the money that would purchase food, for the lack of which their children are dying. One group rivets the eye of an observer at once. It consists of an old gray-haired dame, a woman of forty, and a girl of about nineteen with a baby in her arms. All these are in a state which is best described as maudlin - they have finished one lot of gin, and the youngest woman is ordering another round. It is a great-grandmother, grandmother, and a mother and her baby - four generations together - and they are all dirty and dishevelled and drunk except the baby, and even that poor little mite may have its first taste of alcohol presently. It is no uncommon sight in these places to see a mother wet a baby's lips with gin-and-water. The process is called 'giving the young 'un a taste,' and the baby's father will look on sometimes and enjoy the joke immensely.
But the time to see the result of a Saturday night's heavy drinking in a low neighbourhood is after the houses are closed. Then you meet dozens of poor wretches reeling home to their miserable dens; some of them roll across the roadway and fall, cutting themselves till the blood flows. Every penny in some instances has gone in drink.
One dilapidated, ragged wretch I met last Saturday night was gnawing a baked potato. By his side stood a thinly-clad woman bearing a baby in her arms, and in hideous language she reproached him for his selfishness. She had fetched him out of a public-house with his last halfpenny in his pocket. With that halfpenny he had bought the potato, which he refused to share with her. At every corner the police are ordering or coaxing men and women to 'move on.' [-137-] Between twelve and one it is a long procession of drunken men and women, and the most drunken seem to be those whose outward appearance betokens the most abject poverty.
Turn out of the main thoroughfare and into the dimly-lighted back streets, and you come upon scene after scene to the grim, grotesque horror of which only the pencil of a Doré could do justice. Women, with hideous, distorted faces, are rolling from side to side, shrieking aloud snatches of popular songs, plentifully interlarded with the vilest expressions. Men as drunk as themselves meet them; there is a short interchange of ribald jests and foul oaths, then a quarrel and a shower of blows. Down from one dark court rings a cry of murder, and a woman, her face hideously gashed, makes across the narrow road, pursued by a howling madman. It is only a drunken husband having a row with his wife.
Far into the small hours such cries will ring here, now that of an injured wife, now that of a drunken fool trapped into a den of infamy to be robbed and hurled into the street by the professional bully who resides on the premises. As you pass the open doors of some of the houses, you may hear a heavy thud and a groan, and then stillness. It is only a drunken man who, staggering up the staircase to his attic, has missed his footing and fallen heavily.
Spend any Saturday night you like in a slum, and then say if one-tenth of the habitual horrors of the 'drunken night' have been catalogued here. And all these people who have spent so much in~ drink are undoubtedly among the class included in the description 'the abject poor.'
It is not fair to prove by facts and statistics the evil of over-population and the evil of low wages, and to shrink from revealing the evil of drink. That has to be removed as well as the others, and must be taken into account.
I have given here merely the experience of one Saturday night in the districts I have taken for a test in previous [-138-] articles. It is in the same district I will find the facts to prove that the drink curse contributes to overcrowding as well as to poverty.
Hundreds of the people crowding into a slum have no business there at all. They should be in better neighbourhoods, inhabiting superior houses; but they are people who have fallen on evil times, and become gradually impoverished. People on a downward track filter through the slums en route for the workhouse.
Come to a common lodging-house, and see what class of people fill the beds at fourpence a night. Poor labourers? Yes. Loafers and criminals? Yes. But hundreds of men who have once been in first-class positions, and who have had every chance of doing well, are to be found there also.
For my purpose I will merely take the cases which have drifted to the slum lodging-house through drink.
The following have all passed recently through one common lodging-house in one of the most notorious slums of London:
A paymaster of the Royal Navy.
Two men who had been college chums at Cambridge, and met accidentally here one night, both in the last stage of poverty. One had kept a pack of hounds, and succeeded to a large fortune.
A physician's son, himself a doctor, when lodging here sold fusees in the Strand.
A clergyman who had taken high honours. Last seen in the Borough, drunk, followed by jeering boys.
A commercial traveller and superintendent of a Sunday- school.
A member of the Stock Exchange-found to be suffering from delirium tremens - removed to workhouse.
The brother of a clergyman and scholar of European repute died eventually in this slum. Friends had exhausted [-139-] every effort to reclaim him. Left wife and three beautiful children living in a miserable den in the neighbourhood. Wife drinking herself to death. Children rescued by friends and provided for.
Brother of a vicar of large London parish - died in the slum.
These are all cases which have passed through one common
lodging-house. What would the others show, had we the same opportunity of
knowing their customers? These people have all been forced back on a rookery
through drink-sober, they need never have sunk so low as that. Now come from the
lodging-house into the hovels - the places where men, women, and children herd
together like animals.
To one fearful court we trace a master in a celebrated college, a Fellow of the Royal Society. To another a lieutenant in the army, who ekes out a miserable drunken existence as a begging-letter impostor. Among the tenants of houses that are in the last stage of dilapidation and dirt, we find the sons of officers in the army and navy, of contractors and wealthy tradesmen. Some of them are water- side labourers, and one is the potman of a low beer-shop. Perhaps the most terrible case that has drifted to this slum is the wife of a West-End physician, who became one of the lowest outcasts of the neighbourhood, and died in the workhouse.
I could multiply instances like these, but there is no necessity. They will suffice to show that drunkenness is one of the causes of overcrowding in poor districts.
But drinking goes on among the natives as well as among the immigrants. It is only when one probes this wound that one finds how deep it is. Much as I have seen of the drink evil, it was not until I came to study one special district, with a view of ascertaining how far the charge of drunkenness could be maintained against the poor as a body, [-140-] that I had any idea of the terrible extent to which this cause of poverty prevails.
In the street I saw evidence enough. From a common lodging-house and from the tenement houses I have quoted the cases given above. Come to the school and see how the drink affects the future of the children of whom we have such hopes. Let them tell their own stories:
M. L. Father drunk; struck mother and hurt
her skull. Mother went raving mad, and has been in a lunatic asylum ever since.
Father slipped off a barge when he was drunk and was drowned. Poor old
grandmother has to keep the children.
R. S. Father gets drunk and beats mother. Is in prison now for assaulting her. Children dread his coming back, he is so cruel to them when he's drunk.
S. H. Has a fearful black eye. Mother and father both drink, and hurl things at each other. Missiles often bruise and injure the children.
C. S. Mother drinks 'awful.' Dropped baby on pavement ; baby so injured it died. This is the second baby she has killed accidentally.
M.A. H. Came to school with arm broken. 'Father didn't mean no harm, but he was tight.'
S. S. Bright, lively girl of seven. Mother drinks. Shoulders and neck black with bruises. There is a curious domestic arrangement in this case which is worth recording. S.'s mother lived with a man, and had several children. The man deserted her. Mrs. S.'s sister was married to a man named D., and had also several children. One day Mrs. D. gets eighteen months for assaulting the police. Then D. takes compassion on his wife's sister, and has her to live with him, and the children of both families herd together. How the family will rearrange itself when the legitimate Mrs. D. comes out remains to be seen.
stories, told by the lips of little children, are terrible enough; but the
authorities of the district and those whose business takes them constantly into
the wretched homes can tell you worse.
A friend of mine, who is never tired of trying to urge the people of this district to temperance, not long since found a man sitting up naked on a heap of rags, shivering with the death throes on him, and crying for water for his parched throat. His wife, in a maudlin state of intoxication, was staring helplessly at her dying husband. A coat was given to wrap round the poor fellow. At night, when my friend returned, he found the man cold and dead and naked, and the woman in a state of mad intoxication. She had torn the coat from the body of the dying man and pawned it for drink. In these districts men and women who are starving will get grants of bread, and some of them ask for the bread to be wrapped in clean paper. Do you know why? That they may sell the loaf to someone for a copper or two, and get drunk with the money. Men will come and buy a pair of boots in the morning out of their earnings, and pay seven shillings for them. At night they will return to the same shop and offer to sell them back for four shillings. They have started drinking, and want the money to finish the carouse with.
Such are a few of the facts connected with the drink phase of one London slum. They might easily be multiplied and intensified did we pass from the slum to the workhouse, and then to the County Lunatic Asylum; but for my present purpose I have given the reader sufficient evidence already. I have endeavoured to prove that drink is one cause of the existing misery and overcrowding. But is it a cause which is more beyond remedy than are any of the others? All honour to the brave temperance workers who have already done so much to diminish the evil. In this district such men are labouring night and day. No one now disputes the good which temperate temperance can accomplish. It will [-142-] strengthen the hands of those who are trying to wean the thriftless poor from drink, if we give the people better homes and enforce sanitary laws. The very extent of the evil shows the necessity for immediate action. Signing the pledge is a very good thing for drunkards to do, but in this very neighbourhood a woman signed it twenty-three times and died drunk. Again, all alcohol may be poison in some good people's estimation, but there are degrees of poison. It is the vile nature of the stuff now allowed to be sold to the poor which increases the effect of drink upon them and makes their reclamation more difficult. And, having seen all I have seen, and heard all I have heard, I return to my original statement, that much of the intemperance of these people is due to their wretched surroundings. Remedy that, and you give them a chance to be sober. You pave the way for the brave soldiers of a good cause to fight under more favourable circumstances. The temperance advocates have accomplished much - they will accomplish more; but if they wish to check the evil in its hotbed, they must be among the strongest advocates of the proper Housing of the Poor. To say, because a certain proportion of the poor are drunkards, it is useless to try and improve the social condition of the masses, is like refusing to send the lifeboat to a sinking ship because half the crew are already known to be drowned.
There are drunkards, there are criminals, there are poor labourers in these districts who will never be 'improved.' No one who knows them has the slightest hope for them. But Sodom was to be spared for the sake of ten just persons; in the City of Dreadful Night, where our poor herd together, there are hundreds of just persons. For their sakes the city must be saved.
THAT the great 'Guilt Gardens' of London are overrun with the
rankest of weeds and the most poisonous of plants must by this time be the
conclusion of everyone who has studied the mass of literature which the question
of the Housing of the Poor has called forth. So thickly do crime and vice and
drink and improvidence twine and intertwine and spread themselves over the soil
upon the fertilizing juices of which they flourish and grow fouler day by day,
that to the casual observer nothing else is visible. But those who have studied
the horticulture of the slums know that deep down under all the rank luxuriance
of nettle and weed there may be found many a fair flower of humanity. And the
fairest of all is the flower which is the offshoot of a weed. The generosity of
the very poor to each other is to a great extent the outcome of their
The poor help the poor. Nowhere are the bonds of human sympathy so strong as down the courts and alleys whose horrors have lately been exhibited in as fierce a light as ever beat upon a throne. We have all painted in strong colours the vices of the people in whom such general interest is now taken-it is only right that their virtues should be brought into equal prominence on the canvas. To weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that do rejoice is the best system of co-operation as yet invented for the benefit of mankind, and it is the system of co-operation which has long been in vogue among those whom we are pleased to term 'outcasts.' Outcasts many of the abject poor are. [-144-] They are cast out by Dives to make room for his mansions, his marts, and his manufactories, his railway schemes and his splendid streets, and they are cast out by the stern philosophers who hold that before the march of improvement all who are not fit to survive must shrink back and hide in holes and corners till, in obedience to the law of nature, they pass away and cumber the earth no more. But they are not outcasts to their brethren in misfortune, or to the grade of poor immediately above them.
The poor are kinder to each other than the rich; they are bound by stronger ties of sympathy; their hearts respond more readily to generous impulses. They have greater opportunities of helping each other, and there are no barriers of pride between them. They live their lives before each other's eyes, and their joys and sorrows are the common property of the entire community. The rich man wraps his mantle about him and breaks his heart, locked in the darkest room of his house; the poor man bares his breast to the light of day, and has not a neighbour but knows the nature of his woe and has seen every link in the chain of circumstances that brought his trouble about. What is the fate of one to-day may be the fate of another to-morrow. In their sympathy they are but making common cause against a common enemy. The poor are trained by constant association to ready appreciation of the 'points' of the human drama always being enacted before their eyes, just as certain audiences are trained to appreciate the points of the theatrical drama. To expect the rich to understand and sympathize with the poor as readily as they do with each other would be as just as to turn the old Grecian audience into the St. James's Theatre, and expect them to 'take the points' of the latest society drama with the same readiness as the habitués.
It may seem harsh to say that much of the generosity of the poor springs from their improvidence, but it is true. The beggars, the lame fiddlers, the widowed warbler of street [-145-] ballads, and the crippled orphan with a crutch and a concertina, reap their richest harvests on Saturday night in poor neighbourhoods. Friendly leads, whip-rounds, and benefits are nowhere so common as among the labouring classes whose earnings are precarious. While a millionaire requires a reference from the C. O. S. before giving the 'broken-down officer' who calls on him half-a-sovereign, the street-hawker or the dock labourer flings his sixpence into the hat extended for a poor cove' he has never seen in his life without a second thought. A pitiful tale reaches the heart of the poor in a moment-their tears are as easily won as their laughter. It is the fashion to sneer at 'cheap sentiment,' and to talk about the pathos of ordinary melodrama as 'food for the gods,' but the sneerers forget that the mimic misery comes home to the poor as it can never do to the rich. To the gallery people the starvation in the garret, the separation of husband and wife, the wail of the little children for bread, the agony of the mother over the cradle of her sick baby, the struggle with poverty, the heartlessness of the cruel landlord who wants the rent, and the roughness of the officials who are called in to persecute virtue in distress, are all so many items in their own daily life. They have been familiar with such things from their birth, and they understand the true meaning of that which the stalls - justly perhaps from their point of view - call 'bosh.'
Having shown, or endeavoured to show, why the poor sympathize with and help each other, let me give a few instances to show what practical forms their sympathies invariably take. I shall not cull them haphazard here and there, but all from the same neighbourhood which has furnished the bulk of the facts on which these articles are formed. My purpose is to give the reader the complete story of a London slum and its inhabitants, that they may consider the popular question of the day in all its bearings. I have shown the vices of one of these districts; it is a pleasanter task to chronicle the virtues.
[-146-] The first thing which a visitor to the slums asks is, What becomes of the children of the men and women who are sent to prison, or who are removed to the hospitals? The answer is simple. The neighbours take them in and take care of them. Orphans are by no means rare in the slums, but they are almost always 'adopted.'
In the house of a Mrs. R. lived a family named Hinde. Mrs. Hinde died of consumption, leaving four children and a husband out of work. He set out to look for it, and Mrs. R. took the four little ones into her room to sleep with her own six. Out of her scanty earnings she fed them too, and when she was asked why she had taxed her limited resources to this extent, she answered, 'Poor young 'uns! how could I see 'em a-starvin' and their father out o' work, and no mother!' The man is still out of work, and Mrs. R. has thought it her duty to keep his children for over six months.
Orphans are not only kept, but are passed on sometimes from family to family. There is a little crippled lad I know named Dennis Sullivan. Till lately he was kept by an old watercress-seller, who had adopted him. A month or two since the poor old soul fell into the fire, and was so severely burned that she died. And when the boy was to be sent to an institution, a brother of the old watercress woman, a poor hawker, came forward and said, 'He shan't be sent away. I'll keep him for the sake o' the old woman as was so fond of him.'
One of the most touching cases of this kind I ever met I have alluded to elsewhere, but for the sake of my argument I will repeat it here. A poor woman had taken charge of three children whose father was away in the country. She had children of her own as well. Sickness came upon her, and a terrible disease almost disabled hem. Yet she refused to let time little ones go uncared for. Dying slowly of dropsy, she was found one day propped up in a chair, with a wash-tub in front of her, and with her poor weak hands making a [-147-] brave struggle to wash the little ones' clothes, that they might look clean and tidy at the school.
A servant-girl lost her place, and in the slums gave birth to an illegitimate child. She could not keep it; she must go to service. An old woman adopted the child, and brought it up, giving it her own name. The mother married, and then wanted the child. The old woman had fallen on evil days, and consented to part with it. But the real mother ill-treated the child, and it was unhappy. Off marched the old lady, and fetched it back again. 'I ain't got much to spare, God knows,' she said, 'but I ain't goin' to see the gal unhappy, and I'll keep her somehow.'
A maker of wooden toys deserted his child, and left it starving. A poor woman, with eight children of her own and an income of 15s. a week, 'felt her art bleed for the poor little thing.' She took the child into her own room, and her eight are now nine.
When these people have no money, and their friends are in distress, they will often pledge their clothes rather than see misery unrelieved.
The other day, at a police-court, a woman was fined 2s. 6d., and in default sent to the cells. Her pal went out of court, took the shawl from her shoulders, collected a few more of her garments, and, pawning the lot, returned and liberated the prisoner. Pawning is frequently resorted to by the women who attend each other in their confinements. In these districts the female neighbours, be it remembered, invariably take the place of the doctor, and their kindness and gentleness to their suffering sisters is marvellous. They will sit by the invalid day and night in a foul den, destitute of every comfort, and perform all the household duties as well. They will see to the children, get the husband's tea, and if there is, as is too often the case, a lack of all that the sufferer needs, they will go and pledge all they have and buy it.
These people do not inquire into a person's creed or moral [-148-] character before they hold out the helping hand. When a thief conies back to his district from prison, his pals find him money and food for weeks, until he either gets a job or takes to his former line of business again. A notoriously bad character has just died here, He was ill for months, amid his pals' kept him the whole time, and gave him a grand funeral when he died. I have known men, out of work and ill, kept for months amid months by the subscriptions of their poor neighbours.
A street-hawker was found last Sunday sharing his dinner with a man, his wife, and his children who lived in the same house with him, and who were penniless. The hawker's takings on the previous Saturday had been 3s. 7d., and depending on him were a wife, two children, and a donkey. How improvident! but - how kind!
Into the common lodging-houses many a man comes at night who has not the fourpence to pay for his bed. He tells his story; if he is not known as a professional cadger, and his woes appear real, round goes the hat in a minute, amid the other lodgers pay for his night's rest. In these places, too, the lodgers divide their food frequently, and a man, seeing a neighbour without anything, will hand him his teapot, and say, 'Here you are, mate; here's a bull for you.' A bull is a teapot with the leaves left in for a second brew. When Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Jones loses a baby and cannot bury it, or when Mr. Smith is in trouble and more money is wanted than one friend or two can conveniently spare, a friendly lead is organized and a general subscription made at a social gathering. Here is a card announcing one of these meetings:
'A Friendly Meeting will take place at Mr. Dash's, "The Three Stars," on Saturday evening, Oct. 27th, 1883, for the joint benefit of Mike Johnson and Fred Miller, who, through unforeseen circumstances, have been placed in rather peculiar difficulties, and solicit your kind assistance. They, [-149-] being good supporters of these Meetings, now hope their Friends will rally round them on this occasion. Chairman, Charley Mackney; Vice, Jack Dobson. Supported by the following Friends: Bros. Holland, G. Rush, Bros. Wenham, D. Purcell, T. Remmington, Bros. Poole, W. Haynes, F. McHugh, J. Beecham, Ted Dobson, Peter Mason, Jack Howard, G. Wooder, Tom Eastopp, Alf. Barron, Jemmy Welch, Jerry Casey, and a host of others. Commence at eight o'clock.'
I do not know what the 'unforeseen
circumstances' were, or the 'peculiar difficulties.' Generally the wording is
less vague. The meeting is for 'Mrs. Bousby, better known as Loo, to bury her
child;' or for 'Bill Hinkham, known as Dutchy, whose wife has died in her
confinement, leaving him with eight children;' or something of the same kind.
Apropos of the latter misfortune, it is no uncommon thing for the mothers of the
neighbourhood to suckle the babies of dead or ailing women. A foster-mother is
found in a moment, and a previous acquaintance with the family is quite
unnecessary. A woman will even lose a portion of her work during the day for
months to go and suckle a neighbour's child.
There is no difficulty in giving facts to illustrate the kindness of the poor to each other. Such stories as I have given above abound in every alley and every street. This virtue, of course, no more makes the poor wholly good than do their intemperate amid dirty habits make them wholly bad. But this phase of the character of the abject poor should be made known to those who, skimming only the surface of what has lately been written, could never discover it for themselves. The soul of goodness that lurks in things evil is apt to be lost sight of too often when from pulpit and platform the vices and errors of the masses are denounced. That a better appreciation of the fact that the poor are reckless in their generosity and full of sympathy for each [-150-] other will assist philanthropists and politicians to arrive at a speedier solution of the present dwelling-house difficulty, I do not pretend to say. But I do maintain that the poor man's virtues should be as widely discussed as his vices. If we know that beneath the rank vegetation of our guilt gardens there grows many a fair white bud struggling for the light and the air which would give it a better chance to blossom, that at least is some encouragement to reformers to go vigorously to work with rake and hoe in order to clear the noxious weeds away.
BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD