Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - In the Slums, by the Rev. D. Rice-Jones, 1884 - Chapter 23 - Neglected Children

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CHAPTER XXIII.

NEGLECTED CHILDREN.

UNDER this heading may be classed all the children whose parents, whether only one parent or both, are addicted to habits of intemperance, that is to say, all the children of the great majority in the slums.
    Secondly, all the children whose parents, whether through their faults or through misfortune, do not earn sufficient money to support their families.
    Thirdly, all the children whose mothers are obliged to support, or to contribute towards the support of their families by going out to work. And this alone would include a very large number.
    In short, if we were to go through the whole catalogue of neglected children, classifying them under the different heads, and then, after adding them all up, deduct the sum total from the entire juvenile population, I fear that in this district, at least, if not amongst the poor generally, we should find but very few children left.
    Even supposing children to be supplied with a [-152-] sufficiency of wholesome nourishment, and to have all necessary attention and care paid to them, the air of these densely populated districts is so polluted, and the general surroundings are so unfavourable to health, that at the best it must be a difficult thing to rear children in such localities without detriment to their health and physical development, as I have already learned by sad experience. What must it be then for children who are not brought up, but only dragged up, as the great majority of the children of the poor are? - who have neither wholesome nourishment nor a sufficiency of any kind of food; who have no attention paid to their comfort or cleanliness; who spend their days about the gutters of dingy streets, and their nights in an overcrowded room, breathing its poisonous air, and sleeping together in heaps upon rags that are seldom or perhaps never washed?
    A very large percentage of the children die in infancy or in early childhood, as is proved by the statistical returns of the registrar of births and deaths. In fact, only the very strongest have any chance of surviving, while of those who do, as it were miraculously, survive, only a very small proportion grow up to a healthy and vigorous maturity.
    It is a common thing to hear a woman boast that she is the mother of seven or more children, of whom only one or two are living. And when talking [-153-] of the deaths of the children, it is not an unusual thing for the mother to remark, "And a great mercy it was that the poor little things were taken, for we find it a hard matter to live as it is, and I don't know what we should have done with so many."