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We have considered Rookeries hitherto as means of
demoralising the present generation. We fear them for what they are,- beds of
pestilence, where the fever is generated which shall be propagated to distant
parts of the town,- rendezvous of vice, whose effects we feel in street
robberies and deeds of crime,-blots resting upon our national repute for
religion and charity. Still they are dangerous, not so much on account of what
they are, as what they may be;- they are not only the haunts where pauperism
recruits its strength-not only the lurking-places, but the nurseries of
felons. A future generation of thieves is there hatched from the viper's egg,
who shall one day astonish London by their monstrous birth. Suppose these haunts
to increase, as poverty and distress ever have a tendency to do, in the
proportion of two to one to the growth of the labouring classes, and what a
prospect have we before us! The colony of Van Dieman's Land is a penal
settlement; the number of its population 60,000, half of them convicts. Did you
ever, gentle reader, attend a public meeting, or read a report of the state of
things which prevails there,- of the desperate immorality which, to name, would
stain [-150-] our pages? Can you contemplate the
acting of such scenes here? Huge chimeras of crime, embracing in their
outstretched arms districts not yet polluted,-fresh supplies of the labour and
industry of the country dragged down to this loathsome pit,- fresh scenes of our
country's nurture going forth, trained in such schools, to bear the name of
England! Such a leaven, eating gradually into the heart of that race from which
we recruit the trade, the agriculture, the army, the navy of Great Britain. Vice
making some further inroad, and crime not content with its present per centage.
Among the more prosperous and thoughtful of the working class, marriage is a state on which prudence holds its council, and the future lifts up her mirror, and contingencies are considered,-the family that may be,- the expenses that must be; and thus the higher you go in the scale, the fewer these unions,-the less productive the classes by which the strength and numbers of the people are best recruited. But the denizens of Rookeries know not prudence,- the future suggests no fears, because the past speaks of no comforts,- the present of no hopes;- they marry; their condition, they argue, cannot be worse, it may be better; or, if marriage, as in very many cases, is dispensed with, concubinage is in its stead, numerous broods of children are reared around them, to hand down at once their features and their habits. If a man in these haunts could dismiss the idea of a wife, yet he likes a companion, and wants a servant to cook, to wash, and provide for his comfort. He [-151-] supplies this want in the mother of his children. In the classes above him, men would rather want the comfort than support the burden of a partner, that partner, too, with the family she may rear in the distance. We may look, then, for a superabundant increase of the Rookery class, with no corresponding growth of the industrious labourer, unless you check such increase by salutary laws, which strike down the nests, not where men, but rather human abortions, are produced. Grave must be the fears of the thinking man when he views the swarms of children who people the back alleys of London, - when he thinks that each of these must be clothed, fed, and supported, and ought to be thus supplied by the wants of a class daily becoming, in proportion, less than it was. What new scheme shall we - shall the next generation, put forth, to provide for the wants of its teeming millions? Yet we need not anticipate, rather let us look at things as they now are. We were wont fondly to imagine that childhood's innocence was something more than figure; that manhood goaded by want, learned strange trades, and plied strange traffic, but childhood at least had yet to imbibe poison; crime must wait, thought we, till the powers of mind and body are developed, ere it can grasp its victim. It was reserved, perhaps, for the Rookeries of our day not to rear a few anomalous instances, but whole gangs of juvenile delinquents; to send forth children trained to be adepts in wickedness; these poetic innocents calculating chances of discovery, watching times and seasons for theft, - conversant with the habits, scru-[-152-]tinising the weak and unguarded points of those by robbing whom they must thrive,-taught noiselessly to do their deeds of darkness, not singly, but in gangs, where concert aided the theft, where numbers made it difficult to trace the delinquent ; so that hours, days must have been spent to make them adepts in their calling,-oaths of fearful import administered to bind them to silence,-laws enacted to regulate these bodies corporate,- the wires carefully adjusted along which the electric fluid passes, if we may be allowed the figure,- schools, in a word, formed, whose task-book is the Newgate calendar. No one who knows Rookeries will doubt this. A case occurred some time since, which came under the writer's observation. A man and his wife died in cholera; their only child was known as a boy given to petty thefts; he was very young-there was hope he might be reclaimed; he was placed with a respectable widow, to whom a sum was paid for his board; in the day-time he was sent to school; he had not been long with her before she missed some plate; she searched more minutely, and found out the extent of her loss: a series of depredations had been carried on, and her little stock of valuables was sensibly diminished. Some of the articles were afterwards recovered from the pawnbrokers, where they had been pledged. The boy was taxed with the theft, the poor widow, from mistaken humanity, not wishing to proceed against the offender; he confessed the theft, yet soon ran away from the tutelage under which he was placed, returning at times [-153-] to annoy her. When she remonstrated with him, he said, "You had better take care, there are forty of us, and, if you offend one, you may calculate upon being annoyed by all." She was at first inclined to treat this as an idle threat, till some boys insulted her, called her names, and upbraided her; when she learnt that the youth who had been under her protection was really one of a juvenile gang, called the forty thieves, who were concerned in petty thefts in various parts of the metropolis. It is no uncommon thing for boys to stay out all night, and, when they return, not to be able to give a satistory account of themselves. Though their parents are honest, there is little doubt that they themselves have been entrapped by designing criminals, and made the instruments of nefarious practices. Thus the poor are often disgraced by their own offspring, who have fallen under the evil influence of some professor of wickedness. Boys are easily tempted by some bait suited to their years,- are initiated into the unhallowed mysteries of the craft,- are taught to deceive by plausible excuses the vigilance of their parents. A poor man is bereaved of his wife by disease,-is left with young children, his trade being one which takes him much from home; he leaves his children tinder the guardianship of a neighbour who has children of her own, and can feel no particular interest in the welfare of another's offspring. In the very Rookery which he inhabits are people of questionable occupation,-old and juvenile victimizers. What a tempting speculation, to make these poor mother-[-154-]less children - such at least as are old enough - the means of carrying out their iniquities! These harpies know the occupation of the father,- daily experience teaches them to calculate the moment of his return,- his habits are no secret, the dispositions of his family easily ascertained, - they are tempted, in their ignorance, by a bait they cannot resist, and enter gradually on the course of crime. The writer has known more than one such instance, and has had reason to be thankful that Refuges for the Destitute afforded an asylum for those thus early betrayed. Too often - hard as it may seem to write such things - female children, in haunts like these, have fallen victims to the gross passions of abandoned men, when their tender age would have seemed to have put such dangers out of the way, and when their very ignorance was the cause of their fall. And recollect, the arrangements of Rookeries foster such things. When distinction of sex is practically ignored, can you expect decency to survive? When the sexes are thrown promiscuously together, do you wonder at paradoxes in immorality? When vice bears with it little disgrace, can you expect the blush of shame? and where exclusion from society is a penalty which cannot be carried out, do you look for the virtues which are the growth of mingled fear and self-respect?
And some speculator will talk in set terms about the danger of interfering with capital, as though this capital by a native elasticity adapted itself to the necessities of those over whom its influence extended; much in the [-155-] same way in which a novel machine feeds the steam engine with just so much and no more coals than it requires. Verily men must not have faith, but credulity,-reverence for great names, and the sway of large firms, who will believe it. Confide in this, and the Stock Exchange shall discourse sublime morality, and the Bourse endow a lecturer to declaim against avarice. Confide in this, and the kitchens of the Mansion House shall glow with the fires which cook the dinners of the poor, and the rafters of Guildhall ring with cheers from the denizens of St. Giles.
What shall we say to the juvenile depravity of Rookeries? We do not deny that emigration will do much to thin them. New Zealand may invite them, a moral oasis in the social desert, climate, scenery, natural productions, large tracts of land uncultivated,-a second England to be peopled,-breathing time and breathing room afforded for our people for centuries to come. Yet has this scheme of emigration ever been taken up by the nation as a national duty or engagement? Have the poor rates been applied, in the shape of an annual per centage, to forward such schemes? With thousands willing to go, have you opened a vent for them in this direction? and if you had done so, is there no consideration due to the tens and hundreds of thousands who will even then be left behind? Some will tell us that the poor might be lodged within the same area as at present, and yet Rookeries be swept away. In Edinburgh and Paris you have houses six or seven stories high; such seems also the [-156-] rule in Antwerp and the old Flemish towns; thus, where ground is dear, room is economised; the appearance of the dwellings thus elevated is much more picturesque,- height ever adds to the magnificence of buildings, and even on the lowest ground, a change in this direction is, desirable; but who shall measure such advantages with increased space and good ventilation? In the lodging-houses in St. Pancras, the tenants do live on flats, to speak technically, and thus each family has three separate rooms at its disposal. We may not forget, whilst on this subject, the benevolent scheme proposed, by which labourers should be lodged in colonies distant ten miles from the Metropolis, to which they should go and return by railroad. Could such a proposal be carried out, and we pretend not to know how far it is feasible, their families would have the benefit of fresh air, country scenery, and all the invigorating influences of a rural residence; the pressure upon London would be relieved; the bloated rent-rolls of Rookery owners shrink again to their fair proportions. Nor would the time consumed in the journey be an object; many labourers pass quite as much time on the road between their lodgings and their work, as would be taken up in the rapid transit of the steam carriage. Yet, with all this, there are certain trades which necessarily confine the operatives to the spot where their work is obtained; shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, perhaps, must be within call, - must have rooms where they can work, though it would scarce be correct to state that they could not ply [-157-] their calling without absolutely living on the spot. Amidst the many ingenious devices of the day, there is room for a plan which would obviate this necessity. Now, supposing the panacea discovered, you would still have a large poor population around you - some from choice-some from indolence - some from habit - some because it was unavoidable, clinging to the metropolis. So that Rookeries would still be an object for legislation, and juvenile delinquents still call upon the resources of wisdom and benevolence. People are apt to be sceptical about this lamentation of ours over the early lost, and think we exaggerate in order to swell a page or point a paragraph. The following is an anecdote taken from the journal of one who conducted a Ragged School:-
"Finding it impossible to get the children to attend our school in the forenoon, we determined upon changing our hours to half-past six in the evening. We commenced our new plan on Sunday, November 26th, when we had upwards of two hundred children and youths in attendance. Under all circumstances their behaviour was good during the greater part of the evening. About ten minutes to eight o'clock, however, there was a signal given by some of the boys, and instantly there was a move in all parts of the room and a rush made to the staircase. The superintendent was amazed at this proceeding; recovering from his surprise, however, he darted across the room and was just in time to catch the last one ere he reached the door. Twenty-one had already made [-158-] their exit. The boy who was caught struggled hard to get away and loudly cried, Let me go! let me go! But, holding him fast, the teacher replied,-When you have told me what this plot means you shall. I want to go to business, said the boy. Business, why it is Sunday night. Never mind, you let me go, continued the lad. The superintendent still held firm. Well, I'll tell you the truth sir, do you see it is eight o'clock. The teacher looked at the clock and nodded assent. Well, sir, we catches them as they comes out of church and chapel. A policeman now entered. Where, said he, did you get these boys from? they are every one of them convicted thieves."
Where, then, are these Ragged Schools situated? for whom are they provided? Are not National schools sufficient for the population ? British and foreign schools, and other seminaries, for the working classes? Why these ragged schools, whose name conveys something offensive? They are situated, then, in Rookery districts. Your Bethnal Green, St. Giles's, Saffron Hill, Minories, Bermondsey Rookeries recruit their numbers. The back streets and courts behind Westminster Abbey, the Berwick Street district of St. James's, though the school there rejoices in a more euphonious appellation, fill these receptacles. Banish Rookeries, and Ragged Schools will be remembered in the chronicles of the past. They are so called because the children are ragged and dirty; a marked line between them and the offspring of the working classes. They pay nothing for their [-159-] schooling; the penny a-week, which in national schools keeps up the decent pretence of money paid for value received, is here unknown; the poverty or recklessness of their parents denies it. The working man would be annoyed if told that his child was educated by charity; his just and honest pride be wounded. Yet the lowest of the Rookeries know not this feeling; it is something Utopian, excluded by the stern and rigid poverty or the degraded condition of the parent. His child, he thinks, will there learn to read and write - will be out of the mother's way in the day time-cannot as yet be more profitably employed; and thus, as it cost him nothing, he concedes as a favour the permission to educate one whose welfare should be his dearest wish. We say not it is always so. Doubtless in the worst Rookeries there are some capable of, and still longing for, better things, and no nature is so entirely corrupted but that a lingering feeling of remorse may still be left behind ; yet our Ragged Schools seek first to obtain pupils such as these, and were devised for the lowest of the population.
Begging goes hand-in-hand with juvenile theft. Children, by the softness of their voice, the smallness of their figure, the innocence attributed to their tender age, are popular as mendicants. If the satirist of antiquity could say that we groan, as by the instinct of our nature, when the funeral of a young child passes along the streets, we cannot hear the cry of distress on the lips of the young, or see its tokens in their face, without emotion; so that infants have been hired by beggars who had none of [-160-] their own, to aid the appeal made to the pockets of the charitable. Thus our Rookeries are the refuges of mendicants, who there divide the gains of the day. In a town in Scotland, whose population is not much above fifty thousand, upwards of two hundred children were supported solely by begging; the police knew that they lived on alms or thefts. Their condition was sad, and great the annoyance they gave to the inhabitants. When these children were at length convicted of some petty theft, they were removed for a few days or weeks to gaol, and here methods for their reformation were adopted; yet so short was the time for which they were confined, that the regimen adopted had not time to display its powers, or work its changes on them. They rapidly fell back upon their old habits, till, after being imprisoned again and again, they were at length transported.
To such a class our Ragged Schools supply the best antidote at present devised; yet whilst Rookeries remain as they are, it must be up-hill work. This class must be attacked by a combined effort; all the elements of reformation blended into the plan proposed for their relief. Rookeries there still will be, whilst Rookeries are recognised as legal habitations, into which even the schoolmaster of a ragged school cannot penetrate, and from which, when entrance is obtained, he cannot drag a tenth part of the younger inhabitants; and they who are brought forth are liable to a variety of calls which check his efforts, and impede his schemes for their improvement. How long will he retain these children? [-161-] Will their attendance be regular or at intervals ? Will the parents put no impediments in their way ? Have you calculated to what extent the lessons learnt at school are neutralised by the examples of the home? Recollect, these children eat, drink, sleep in the rooms their parents inhabit. In their sports they mingle with their neighbours, several of whom go to no school. They need education we know, for the returns of prisons show how few of the felons have been humanised by early training. Some cannot read or write at all. Some even know not the name of the Saviour of the world! Few can read and write with accuracy; so that, if education were still an untried remedy, it would be worth the trial. But should not the Government carry out, in connection with the condemnation of Rookeries, some scheme for the general education of the poor? Private schemes are cramped for want of funds. The design should be tried on a grand scale.
Are you aware, gentle reader, of the snares laid to entrap these children - that they learn vice at penny theatres, which, in their cases, supply the desire felt by most of us for dramatic entertainments ? Are you aware that several sweetmeat shops exist in the neighbourhood of Rookeries, where children are enticed to gamble for the tempting articles exposed on the counter ?-that one mode of carrying on such practices, is this :-A doll is fixed to a board, the body of which is hollow; through the head of this figure a marble is passed, which, after circulating through it, falls into one of the many holes [-162-] made for it in the board beneath; these holes are numbered, and accordingly as he exceeds or falls below a given figure, the youthful gambler wins or loses? At first sight such a practice seems comparatively innocent; but too often, from the thirst for gaming in this small way, children rob their parents. Here, again, is felt the want of a public prosecutor. It is difficult to get any one to give evidence in these transactions; the children do not like to do it, their parents shrink from it, and the shopkeeper carefully shields himself as much as possible from detection. How many are the children nurtured in Rookeries, driven from their home by the cruelty and bad conduct of their parents-orphans, neglected children, and others. What becomes of them? They are taken into workhouses; and notwithstanding the care of those who have charge of such institutions, they are not adapted either for the instruction of the young or the reformation of the old. The schoolmasters of such institutions are seldom carefully selected, often very ignorant men; and the paupers too often try to demoralise the children whose age is considered mature enough to allow them to mix with the adults.
You have your model prisons in the Isle of Wight, your Millbank penitentiaries; but you forget that more than half the mischief is done before the boy is admitted into these institutions. He has gone through a training which has implanted what you must now root out; it is scarcely needful to tell you that the latter is the more difficult task of the two. Crime must have some sweets, [-163-] some attractions, if, as is too often the case, people worship Jack Sheppard and Turpin as heroes; and romance has been called in to gild their career, and novels have been written whose chief interest is in the traditions respecting them which have been revived to please the present age. These children have been already tutored under a system in whose annals these worthies are hallowed; and you have to grapple with the propensities already excited, rather than to mould and frame the virgin mind, so to speak, into the shape you wish. Your efforts are indeed most laudable, and God forbid that, with the beautiful teaching of holy writ before us, we should deny either a place for their repentance, or blot out the hope of their reformation. Why not at once put forth a comprehensive plan which nips the evil in the bud ?- why not get for yourself the first hearing in the child's mind, by teaching him before that mind be warped to crime? Instead of establishing more penltentiaries, raise schools suited to the class whom they must train; call to your aid practical men - the magistrates, the inspectors of police, and others - who by daily experience know the habits of these children. Strengthen their hands as you might do, by providing nurseries for those over whom their too prophetic eye sees hanging disgrace and ruin. When the father has paid the penalty due to the injured laws of his country, and is transported, don't let his children be left to the tender mercies of his companions, but have the school ready to receive them; let them there be fed, be clothed, be taught - taught whilst the recollection of what their fathers were shall [-164-] kindle the diligence and awake the caution of their master. Suppose an onslaught made upon Rookeries - model lodging-houses built, till rents were lowered, and the disciples of Mammon found that to build proper dwellings paid for the outlay - even then you would want schools for the poorest class; the national schools would not meet the case of the destitute; these very establishments are stunted through want of funds,-the nation is not yet half awake to the greatness of the mischief already done through want of education, nor to the still greater dangers in the prospective. We must forget our sectarian differences, if we would dare call ourselves any longer a Christian people, and save the nation from ruin; and if the Government cannot get these sections of the Christian body to unite, may the day come round when a general system of training is enacted in spite of them.
Suppose Rookeries doomed, but half the evil is crushed, if a plan is not set on foot for the well-being of the junior members of these fraternities. Do all you can, and there will still remain behind a great amount of poverty, recklessness, and crime; lay every Rookery low within the bills of mortality,- interdict them under the severest penalties, and still you will have room enough for all your wisdom and all your benevolence. The habits which Rookeries have stamped deep and burnt into the nature of those who dwelt there would still cause you anxious thought, though we might then hope that the crime of our land would not compel us to invade peaceful colonies, or to force rebellion upon our distant dependencies.
Under the most favourable circumstances, the time [-165-] allotted to the education of the poor is too short,- two or three years being very often the utmost extent which circumstances allow of; for in many trades children are soon useful. In the trade of brick-making young children are often employed, and during the summer months earn considerable sums. The poverty of their parents too soon withdraws them from our schools; their education half finished, and many of them going out into the world scarcely able to read and write.
How great, then, must be the drawbacks with the class we have described above; where they do not go to the school, but where the school must come to them - where they must be coaxed for a time from the Rookery land into the rooms open to receive them; coaxed, perhaps, when hunger indisposes them to learn - when parents forbid them to leave the house-when persons round about them are on the watch to bribe and ensnare them. Boys love play and hate work; training alone makes them quit the sports congenial to their age and disposition, and devote a portion of their time to learning. Parental authority must back the arguments of the teacher, and second his efforts on their behalf. In Rookeries, no one forbids the children to waste, in sports or other less harmless occupation, the precious seed-time of life.
Whilst Rookeries still are-whilst any of those remain who were bred amidst their purlieus, there must be Ragged Schools; but with what especial care should they be organised, if suiting themselves to the wants of those for whom they are intended. No ordinary stretch of wisdom [-166-] or benevolence will satisfy the call made on us. We should remember that Rookeries will furnish our pupils. The habits Rookeries generate must be eradicated; and, as our sectarianism has not descended to this level-as different bodies of professing Christians have not yet began to quarrel respecting the doctrinal teaching of ragged schools, and are content to proselytise birds of a higher flight, let Government with intuitive discernment seize the happy moment, occupy the vacant ground; for once, whilst the clamour is hushed, devise some plan of its own for teaching sound religion and useful learning.
It may be very well in the face of all this to plead that the miserable condition of Rookeries is owing to the habits of the labouring population; that the sum of money spent in public houses bears a large proportion (we forget the exact amount) to the poor rates of the country. Are there no Rookeries, then, in foreign cities where drunkenness is rare,-do not wretched and dear dwellings produce recklessness and disgust, which, in this country, vent themselves in intoxication rather than cabals, factions, and insurrections?
Men, even in the higher orders of society, whose homes are not comfortable, seek other resorts, though not confined to a single room, and use stimulants too, though not always such as produce inebriety. But the reading room, and the society to which the purchase of intoxicating liquor is not the passport, supply a refuge in the one case, which in the other the tap-room alone affords.
We want a large, comprehensive, national remedy. [-167-] We must have an Act of Parliament. Let it discard as much as possible that technical language which renders so many of these documents inoperative; let it be compiled by practical men. Let nuisances, Rookeries, fever courts, et hoc genus omne, die the death; let them be replaced, not by shops for the tradesman, but by dwellings for the working man; let the number of inmates for each house be fixed, the due supply of water regulated by some provision which shall bring Water Companies to their senses ; let each family have a sitting-room and at least two bed-rooms. This may be done not merely at little cost, but at a remunerative outlay; it has been proved by those lodging-houses which have been lately erected in St. Pancras and other parts of the Metropolis. On the adjuncts to such colonies we will not dwell, there is here a noble field for ingenuity, philanthropy, and religion; our space only allows us thus generally to allude to the subject. We do not say that the Legislature has done nothing, doubtless there is great opposition to contend with; it is obliged to wait for the impulse of some popular movement to display its energies rather than volunteer a measure to meet the difficulty ; but it has not done well what it has done. In 1845 an Act of Parliament came into operation, which forbade henceforth that any kitchen should be inhabited which had not an area of seven feet to each window. making also many other judicious regulations, and vesting some powers in the parish officers. Doubtless for a time these pauper landlords were alarmed, their province [-168-] invaded, their gains abridged,- but only for a time. Why? Because the poor themselves were bribed to connive at infractions by the supposed cheapness of kitchen-lodgings, - the parish officers, instead of being required to make periodical visitations, or keeping a person whose duty it was to do so, were obliged to wait till their interference was called for. We know how much the old adage is acted on, that an Englishman's home is his castle - there is then a difficulty in getting access to houses - the jealousy of the landlord, the independence of the lodger, is soon aroused, so that it is scarcely possible to make the necessary inquiries; paid informers would find it difficult to ply their calling here, and the efforts of the philanthropic are of course futile. It is only when disease breaks out, that the surgeon called in finds how the law has been broken, and for a while remedies the evil; even then there are difficulties in his way - he must lodge a formal complaint, the parish must take the matter up, indict the refractory, and be at some expense to enforce the law; and after all there is no guarantee that, when the tumult has subsided, the landlord and lodger alike shall not return to their old practice.
Nor must we forget the nature of English legislation. When some giant evil has at length broken bounds, the cause of the oppressed is taken up by the public, it gets into the newspapers. Our countrymen bear long with an evil, shut their eyes to it, till at length they have no excuse for sleeping any longer; all at once a chorus of [-169-] different, yet, on this occasion, accordant elements strikes up,- local meetings, leading articles, pamphlets, parliamentary agitation, lend their aid. Ministers listen attentively to the voice of their countrymen, and make an effort to remove the nuisance complained of. An Act is passed in all good faith, yet couched in cumbrous, technical, old-fashioned language, which errs precisely where it ought to be most direct, and is clear when clearness is not wanted. The evil is lessened, but not destroyed; frequently some new Act is needed to make up for the short-comings of its predecessor; the hotbeds of the Rookery system were for a time invaded,-they have risen again after the panic in ranker luxuriance.
In any reform proposed we have to encounter the cry of interfering with the liberty of the subject. The poor have gone on very well as things were - they desire no change. We are humanity-mongers. That laissez faire, that unreadiness to act only in great emergencies, is the bane of the English character, it will impede us. Yet recollect, at one blow rotten boroughs fell; the Corn Laws, backed by the most powerful aristocracy in Europe, are no more; let us then take courage. All legislation is, to some extent, an interference with this liberty of the subject; still it is that interference which a mother exercises for the welfare of her offspring, which the doctor wields for the recovery of the patient. This same Palladium is fearfully misconstrued, an AEgis too often used to destroy rather than protect the stronghold of those [-170-] who resist all interposition; the practical absurdity of such a theory has ever been too powerful for its adoption; we do interfere, are always interfering, sometimes most dangerously, witness the Window Tax; sometimes suicidally, witness the National Debt; sometimes to the perdition alike of taste and comfort, witness the Building Act, or at least some of its provisions the very republican calls for interference, knows it is necessary, sacrifices his favourite theory to it; and shall you hesitate, when a nation's character and a nation's safety are at stake?
Now, suppose that we throw up our cards in despair; because every inch of ground won from the selfishness or indifference of the mass is won by protracted struggle. Suppose even good men should be staggered - like the late renowned Dr. Arnold - that tired of a continual antagonism, they grew weary of the contest, disgusted by the selfishness, borne down by the opposition of the interested - and yet his sympathy ended with a life, alas! how short, and he died like the warrior, with his face to the foe, in knightly harness donned for a noble contest? Yet, if we dared to appeal to lower motives, there is much to encourage us in improving the dwellings of the working classes. The lodging-house lately established it St. Giles's finds that it can give each man a separate bed, a place to cook his victuals and wash his clothes in, a common room, where he may read and converse with others, for 2s. 3d. a week-that such a charge remu-[-171-]nerates the proprietor. In St. Pancras parish, the apartments let at 5s. a week consist of a bed-room, sitting-room, and kitchen; and the scheme is organised by a company, who have shares, and who consider it as a profitable investment, inasmuch as it yields them five per cent.; so that, supposing the plan to be carried out, and an adequate trial given to it, the annuitant would consider one of these societies a better means of investment than the funds.
The Soho model lodging house is in Compton Street, in the parish of St. Anne ; it is a commodious establishment, making up one hundred and twenty-five beds, divided into two classes; the front bed rooms (seventy. five in number) are let at 3s. 6d. a week, and the others at 2s. 6d. Attached to this institution are baths and a reading room.
The working classes do not seem hitherto to have appreciated the advantages here afforded them, as, during the first year of its course, the last mentioned establishment has unfortunately not been well filled. Some time must elapse before the comforts which it affords are fully acknowledged; yet surely a place like this, which offers each man a separate sleeping room-a kitchen where he may cook his food - and a bath where he may wash,- should meet with every support, and find favour in the eyes of those for whom it is especially intended.
In one instance where lodging-houses have been established, it is believed that the owner is an eminent [-172-] builder, who has erected them for his workmen, and who lets them at a remunerative price; though for size, cleanliness, and cheapness, they are most favourably contrasted with the usual dwellings of the poorer classes.
Shall it then be said that we shrink from the task which humanity imposes, when it finds favour in the eyes even of the capitalist?