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Friday, November 9, 1849
From the slop-workers of the eastern parts of London I now
come to consider the condition of the male and female operatives employed in
making the clothes of the army, navy, police, railway, customs, and post-office
servants, convicts, and such other articles of wearing apparel as are made
either by contract or in large quantities. Small as are the earnings of those
who depend for their living upon the manufacture of the ready-made clothes for
the wholesale warehouses of the Minories and the adjoining places, still the
incomings of those who manufacture the clothes of our soldiers and sailors,
Government, railway-police, and Custom-house officers, are even less calculated
to support life. I thought the force of misery could no further go than with the
waistcoat and shirt hands that I had visited last week. And yet, since then, I
have seen people so overwhelmed in suffering and so used to privations of the
keenest kind, that they had almost forgotten to complain of them. The cause of
these things, as I said before, I do not pretend to deal with. I have taken the
matter up merely with the view of laying before the public a true and unbiassed
statement of the incomings and condition of the workpeople of the metropolis;
and I can assure the reader I am at no little pains in order to arrive at a fair
average estimate of the state of those persons to whom I direct my attention. I
seek for no extreme cases. If anything is to come of this hereafter, I am well
aware that the end can be gained only by laying bare the sufferings of the class,
and not of any particular individuals belonging thereto. Moreover, I wish it
to be known, that in the course of my investigations I make a point of placing
myself under the guidance of those gentlemen who have long known the character
of the workpeople whom I visit, so that I may be led to those who are suffering
from insufficient remuneration for their labour rather than from an improvident
expenditure of their gains. Further still, whenever an extraordinary case
presents itself to me, I generally make a point of inquiring in the immediate
neighbourhood as to the character of the individual, so that I may trust to no one
man's opinion for what I assert.
With this preamble, let me now set forth as briefly as possibly the manner in which the clothing for the army is regulated. I deal with the army in particular, because it may be taken as a fair type of all the other cases of Government or contract work that appear to be considerably underpaid. For this purpose, I cannot do better than avail myself of the Government Report from the Select Committee on Army and Navy Appointments: -
"In the army estimates of this year (1833), said the Select Committee in their examination of one of the Government officers, "the sum required for clothing, exclusive of the amount required for clothing in the East Indies, is 255,010l.
"In what manner is that divided or assigned to the different colonels of regiments; begin first with the Life Guards and Horse Guards; state the rates generally assigned to each? - The clothing allowances (the answer was) "are fixed annual rates, by King's warrants of the 22nd and 30th of July. 1830, for infantry and cavalry. For the Life Guards they were fixed in 1803 at the present rate; for the Blues they were fixed in September, 1830, at the present rate; and for the Foot Guards the exact off-reckoning is taken. I believe I have already stated that the act of 1783 did not apply to the Foot Guards, and their pay used to be voted in gross down to the estimate of 1831. At that time, by an office arrangement, sanctioned by the Secretary at War, we took the off-reckoning, the part of the pay off-reckoned for clothing, and put it down as the charge for clothing the regiment, taking the exact sum off-reckoned as the allowance for each rank. In the Cavalry: for the sergeant. 5l. 19s.; corporal, 6l. 10s. 3d.; private, 4l. 0s. 3d.; drummer or trumpeter, 6l. 10s. 3d.; non-effective man, 6l. 10s. 3d.; warrant and contingent man, 4l. 0s. 3d. In the Infantry: sergeant, 7l. 9s. 2d.; corporal, 4l. l9s. 6d.; private, 2l. 6s.; drummer or trumpeter, 4l. 19s. 6d. Life Guards: sergeant, 9l. 17s. 8½d.; corporal, 9l. l7s. 8½d.; private, 9l. 17s. 8½d.; drummer or trumpeter, 9l. l7s. 8½d. Horse Guards: sergeant, 5l. 19s.; corporal, 5l. l9s.; private, 5l. l9s.; drummer or trumpeter, 5l. 19s. Foot Guards: sergeant, 5l. 9s. 0¾d.; corporal, 4l. 1s. 11 13-14d.; private, 3l. l7s. 0 13-14d.; drummer or trumpeter, 4l. 1s. 11 13-14d.; warrant and contingent man, 3l. 17s. 0 13-14d.
"State in what manner the different sums voted by Parliament for the clothing of the respective regiments are assigned to the colonels? - The colonel is required to make an assignment of the whole clothing allowance to some person, either his agent, or it may be a person empowered by that agent, or to the clothier himself, as a security to the clothier. After the estimates are voted by Parliament, the Board of General Officers are apprised by the Secretary at War of the number on the establishment of the regiments of Cavalry, Infantry, and Foot Guards, for which the colonel has the right to assign. The Life Guards and horse Guards are not so notified. The notification authorises the Clothing Board to pass the assignment. The assignment is presented to the Secretary at War afterwards, and a warrant is granted by him twice a year, in April and July, for one-half the clothing allowance each time.
Sir R. Donkin, in his examination, made the following observations: -
"We have 105 battalions of infantry; the clothing of these costs 255,0001. a year by the army estimates, of which 63,0001. a year goes to the colonels as their emoluments; that is to say, the public pay these 105 colonels 63,000l. a year more than the clothing costs, for purposes which are perfectly understood and admitted; that is, to increase the colonel's income; it amounts to 600l. a year each, that is, the 63,000l. gives 600l. a year for each of the 105 colonels; I am taking the greatest amount."
It appears, then, that the army clothing in the year above alluded to cost, for 105 battalions of infantry, £255,000. The supply of this was intrusted to 105 colonels, and they paid £192,000 for the goods, taking to themselves £63,000 profit out of the transaction. The evidence of Mr. Pearse, one of the army clothiers, before the same committee, was as follows: -
"In what manner are your contracts made with the colonels of the regiments you clothe? - In point of fact we make no contract with them, it being well known that amongst the variety of clothiers there prevails a competition amongst them to provide clothing as cheap as it is possible to be effectually done; this competition brings the prices to a point at which all the respectable clothiers from time to time make their charges to the colonels. I request to observe, that if the competition was not so very severe, and no competition prevailed, a higher price would be assuredly charged than at present, as in point of fact, the price which the clothiers charge is not adequate as compared to the profits of other branches of business, but there is no risk or adventure in it; therefore I am the more satisfied that the profit may not exceed the ordinary interest of money, five per cent., or from five to eight per cent, for commercial profit. It is to be observed, that this is a transaction which returns capital only in about sixteen months, as shown by statements delivered.
Of the evils of this competitive system, the following extract from the same gentleman's evidence may be taken as an apt illustration. Its influence upon the workpeople will be afterwards exposed: -
"When the contract was opened, Mr. Maberly took it at the same price in December, 1808. This statement shows the effect of competition. In February following, Esdailes' house, who were accoutrement- makers, and not clothiers, got knowledge of what was Mr. Maberly's price, and they tendered at 12s. 6½d. a month afterwards; it was evidently then a struggle for the price, and how the quality the least good (if we may use such a term) could pass. Mr. Maberly did not like to be outbidden by Esdailes; Esdailes stopped subsequently, and Mr. Maberly bid 12s. 6d., three months after, and Mr. Dixon bid again, and got the contract for 11s. 3d. in October; and in December of that year another public tender took place, and Messrs. A. and D. Cock took it at 11s. 5½d., and they, subsequently broke. It went on in this sort of way, changing hands every two or every three months, by bidding against each other. Presently, though it was calculated that the great coat was to wear four years, it was found that those great coats were so inferior in quality that they wore only two years, and representations were accordingly made to the Commander-in-Chief, when it was found necessary that great care should be taken to go back to the original good quality that had been established by the Duke of York, by which the colonels of regiments were governed, and which, when supplied by the colonels' clothiers, was very strictly attended to."
This leads me to the army clothiers themselves. Of the profits of these gentlemen I am in no way disposed to complain. Indeed, as a body of men, they appear to have no very exorbitant gains; and of one in particular I can state that his whole life appears to have been an anxious study, and, indeed struggle, to benefit the workpeople in his employment. The following letter sent by him as far back as the year 1845 to the several army clothiers of the metropolis, with a view of inducing them to raise the wages of the operatives engaged in the manufacture of regimentals, is a higher eulogy upon that gentleman's exertions than any it is possible for me to pronounce: -
"Dear Sir - In reference to the conversation I had with you some time ago, respecting the prices paid for the making up of our army clothing, I then mentioned to you that it was my intention to pay an additional price for making up my clothing, and you may perhaps be aware that I have since done so. Now, after making due inquiry, I have fixed upon prices which I have determined to adopt from Monday next, for the future, a statement of which I enclose, trusting that your house, and the other army clothiers, will join in giving that which is justly due to those by whose labour we live.
"It would appear that, to get our army clothing made up, the poor people must be degraded by vice and drunkenness, or pinching poverty, before the piece-masters can get the poor creatures to work for the prices given.
"Feeling that I am the humblest individual in the trade, it has been my desire, not to take the lead in any matter connected with it, and I therefore first communicated with you on this subject, and now consider it only right to communicate further to you what I am about to do. I have no desire to interfere with your business, or that of any other house. I desire to act towards you as towards my poor workpeople, to 'do as I would be done by;' and remain, dear sir, yours, very faithfully, "WM. SHAW
"34 Bloomsburv-street, Aug. 5, 1845."
Again, in the year 1848, the same gentleman, impressed with the same benevolent desire to increase the incomings of the underpaid and overworked operatives of the trade, addressed a letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Army, Navy, and Ordnance Estimates, from which the following are extracts: -
"My Lord - My object more particularly is to request your lordship will submit to the committee, as an evidence of the evils of contracts, the great coat sent herewith, made similar to those supplied to the army, and I would respectfully appeal to them as men, as gentlemen, as Christians, whether five-pence, the price now being given to poor females for making up those coats, is a fair and just price for six, seven, and eight hours' work . . . My lord, the misery amongst the workpeople is most distressing - of a mass of people, willing to work, who cannot obtain it, and of a mass, especially women, most iniquitously paid for their labour, who are in a state of oppression disgraceful to the Legislature, the Government, the Church, and the consuming public ... I would therefore most humbly and earnestly call upon your lordship, and the other members of the committee, to recommend an immediate stop to be put to the system of contracting, now pursued by the different Government departments, as being one of false economy, as a system most oppressive to the poor, and being most injurious, in every way, to the best interests of the country."
In another place the same gentleman says: -
"I could refer to the screwing down of other things, but the above will be sufficient to show how cruelly the workpeople employed in making up this clothing are oppressed; and some of the men will tell you they are tired of life; and last week I found one man making a county police coat, who said his wife and child were out begging."
With this introduction, I will now proceed to set forth the prices paid for the different articles of Army, Navy, Marine, Police, and Convict clothing, distinguishing between those that are paid, and those that ought to be paid to afford workmen even a bare subsistence. These have been furnished to me by an old-established firm, and the statement of the gentleman supplying them to me is this: - "The work is to be considered as uncertain, even with the best workmen and workwomen. I have not found one that has not been at times without work. Therefore if they are paid barely sufficient to keep body and soul together when labourtng hard, think of their situation when they are without work! Many are obliged to work on the Sabbath, and many have told me," adds my informant, "that they are in the constant habit of rising at four or five in the morning, and working till ten, eleven, or twelve at night."
LIST OF PRICES PAID TO THE WORKPEOPLE BY THE
ARMY CLOTHIERS AND CONTRACTORS, etc.
ARMY SUPPLIES (Nor BY CONTRACT)
2D AND 3D REGIMENT OF GUARDS
Private's coat (without looping), takes 15 to 16 hours to make, 2s. to 2s. 6d. Lowest price that should be paid, 3s. to 3s. 4d.
Private's trousers, take six hours, 6½d. to 8d. Lowest price that should be paid, 10d.
White kersey jacket, six hours, 6d. to 6½d. Lowest price that should be paid, 10d.
INFANTRY PRIVATES' CLOTHING (NOT BY CONTRACT)
Coats, 10 to 12 hours making, without the pocket, 1s. 2d. Lowest price that should be paid, 1s. 9d. to 2s.
Pair of trousers, four-and-a-half to five hours' work, 6d. to 7d. Lowest price that should be paid, 9d.
East India jacket, 9d. to 11d. Lowest price that should be paid, 1s. 4d.
RIFLE BRIGADE (NOT BY CONTRACT)
Coat, 1s. 9d. Lowest price that should be paid, 2s. 6d.
Trousers, 6½d. Lowest price that should be paid, 9d.
17TH LANCERS (NOT BY CONTRACT)
Blue cloak, 2s. Cannot be made under 13 hours; the cloak used to be 2s. 6d., and not so well made formerly.
ARMY NECESSARIES (NOT BY CONTRACT)
Calico shirts, take seven or eight hours each (some take a day); can make two in a day of from 14 to 16 hours long. Highest price paid, 4½d. For 14 hours' work the maker gets 9d., and six days at 9d. gives 4s. 6d. for weekly earnings; out of this she has to pay 2s. per week for a room, for candles ld. per night, or 6d. per week; for coal, 6d. per week; and for thread for shirts, 4d. per week; so that she earns 1s. 2d. clear per week, supposing she is fully employed, and that after working 14 to 16 hours each day. Lowest price that should be paid, 10d. to 1s.
Summer trousers, six to seven hours, 7d. Lowest price that should be paid, 10d. to 1s.
Undress jacket, 10d. Lowest price that should be paid, 1s. 4d.
Haversacks, coarse duck, 1s. per dozen, near two hours' work to make one. n
Duck frocks, 2½d. to 3d.; can only make four in a long day. Four frocks 3d., yield 1s.; out of this deduct, thread l½d., candle 1d., and we have the clear earnings per day 9½d.
Flannel shirts, 3d. to 4d. Can make four per day.
Flannel drawers, 3d. Make two in a day.
ARMY SUPPLIES (BY CONTRACT)
Great coat for the army and artillery, contracted for, first for the materials, and then for making up, under 1s. each, including cutting, etc., takes seven to eight hours to make one coat; some women can only make one in the day, say three in two days, paid at 5d. each: per week, 3s. 9d.; it will cost for thread 9d.; leaving for lodging, fire, candles, living, and clothes, 3s. 0d.
ROYAL ARTILLERY (BY CONTRACT)
Private's Coat, 18 to 20 hours' work, nearly two days' work each, 1s. 7d. and 1s. 8d. Lowest price that should be paid, 3s. 6d. to 4s. 0d.
Private's trousers, with scarlet stripes, take seven hours per pair, 6½d. Lowest price that should be paid, 1s. 2d. to 1s. 4d.
[The poor people who work at this clothing are compelled to work almost all night to get food, and very frequently on the Sabbeth - the day of rest!]
Great coat for Artillery, with strap behind, eight hours' work, 5½d. Lowest price that should be paid, 1s. 6d. to 2s. 0d.
MILITARY PENSIONERS (BY CONTRACT)
Blue cloth coat, double-breasted, skirt sewn on, sleeves lined with brown holland, scarlet collar and cuffs, slash on sleeves, and two buttonholes on each, two pockets, three hooks and eyes on collar, paid 2s. 2d. Takes one day and a half to make. Lowest price that should be paid, 4s. 6d. to 5s.
Blue cloth trousers, with red stripe, 6d. per pair; very bad.
CLOTHING FOR CONVICTS (BY CONTRACT)
Jacket, double stitched, takes five hours to make each garment; thread, ½d.; 3d. Lowest price that should be paid, 9d. to 1s.
Trousers, ditto, four hours, 3d. Lowest price that should be paid, 9d. to 1s.
Waistcoat, ditto, two hours, l½d. Lowest price that should be paid, 4d. to 6d.
Partly coloured overalls, two pair in 10 or 11 hours, 5d. Lowest price that should be paid, 9d. to 1s.
[Some of the people work from five o'clock in the morning until 10 at night]
CONVICTS' SHOES (BY CONTRACT)
Mr. Gotch, one of the most respectable manufacturers, gave for making, per pair 1s. 6d. Was given under the contract, 1s. 2d.
CONVICTS' SHIRTS (BY CONTRACT)
Mr. Pigott, contractor, gave for the making 2s. 3d. per dozen, or l½d. to 2d. each, to workwomen.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE CAVALRY (BY CONTRACT)
Blue cloth cloak, 2s. 3d. Takes a man from 13 to 14 hours to make. Man with assistance of wife can make one in 11 ½ hours.
NAVY (ADMIRALTY CONTRACT)
Navy jackets take 18 hours to make. Fine blue cloth jackets, paid for each, 2s. 6d. to 2s. 8d. Lowest price that should be paid, 5s. to 6s. [If made from a shop, 10s. would be paid. A man making one of these had a large family, or he said he would rather walk the streets until he dropped, before he would take the work at such a price.]
ROYAL MARINE CLOTHING (BY CONTRACT)
Private's coat and epaulettes take 13 or 15 hours to make each. Under former contractor, 1s. 1d., 1s. 2d., and 1s. 4d.; now about 1s. 9d. Lowest price that should be paid, 3s. to 3s. 6d.
Private's trousers, four to five hours, were paid, 2. and 3d.; now, 4d. and 4½d. Lowest price that should be paid, 8d. to 9d.
Waistcoat, 4d. and 4½d. Lowest price that should be paid, 10d.
Great coats, 5d. Lowest price that should be paid, 1s. to 1s. 2d.
[The workpeople find thread out of these prices, and have to work very long to get any food.]
Duck trousers, 2½d.
POLICE (BY CONTRACT)
Blue coat, price paid for making, when first supplied by Messrs. Hebbert and Co., 4s 6d. ; reduced by them 6d. at a time, to 3s.; Messrs. Dolans in 1844 gave 3s.; Messrs. Gilpin and Co., 2s. 10d. Lowest price that should be paid, 5s. to 6s.
[The coat takes 15 to 17 hours t make. Some can only make one in two days. I am informed that the price calculated to be paid, when it was first provided, was 7s. Great coat paid for manner.]
Dress trousers, nine or 10 hours, 1s. 6d.; reduced to 1s. 2d. Lowest price that should be paid, 2s. 6d. to 3s. 0d
Undress trousers, eight or nine hours, 1s. 2d; reduced to 10d. Lowest price that should be paid, 2s. to 2s. 6d.
Making the leather top and sides of the hat used to be paid 5d.; now 2½d.
Boots - Mr. Gotch, one of the best manufacturers, calculated 3½d. per pair more for the workmen than is paid now.
RAILWAY (BY CONTRACT)
Flannel waistcoats (say for Birmingham Railway) each 2½d. It takes four or five hours to make one of them. The people will only make them because employed all the year round by the middlemen. For 15 hours' work the maker only gets 6½d.
Great coats, 6d. Full seven hours' work in each. One person does not think they could make them in that time to make them well. Some take a day.
Cord jackets, 2s. 6d. to 2s. Take 15 hours each.
Trousers, 2s. Take nine hours each. each.
Railway police trousers, 1s. 6d. Take eight hours each.
Cord waistcoats, with fustian sleeves and backs, 1s 9d. Take 12 hours hard work. Fine thread 1d.; and twist, 1d.; making 1s. 7d. each clear.
CUSTOM-HOUSE (BY CONTRACT)
Tidewaiters' suits, blue cloth coat, same as gentleman's; 2½ hours to make; two long days' work 4s 9d.
Blue cloth waistcoat, single-breasted; take six or seven hours to make 10d.
Blue cloth trousers; take eight or nine hours to make 1s. 8d.
The suit [Total] 6s 10d.
[It will take a man, his wife, and child' a week to make two suits. The prices here given are those paid to the piece master. The price to maker is probably but 6s., if that.]
Tidewaiter's jacket 2s. 6d.
Tidewaiter's waistcoat 6s. 10d.
Tidewaiter's trousers 1s. 9d.
[This is much worse work than the oher suit. N.B. This price is paid by the warehouse; that given by piece master to workmen is probably under 4s.]
EAST INDIA COMPANY (BY CONTRACT)
Calico shirts, well made, say seven to eight hours' work, paid 3½d. Lowest price that should be paid, 1s.
[When the pattern was fixed, nine or 10 years ago, 8d. a shirt was paid from warehouse; now, only 4½d.; and to maker as receive. 3½d.; very likely it is lower now.]
GOVERNORS OF CHRIST S HOSPITAL (BY CONTRACT)
Linen shirts, one day to make, 2½d.
Coarse calico shirts, hard work, one day to make 2d.
I shall now in due order proceed to set before the public the
"plain unvarnished tales" of the operatives themselves. The slight
discrepancies in price that the intelligent reader may discover, he will easily
understand to arise from the fact of the different work- people working for
different houses, and of the sums paid by the clothiers being so various, that
the gentleman alluded to above (Mr. Shaw) pays as much as 5d. more on the coat
than any of the other clothiers.
Again, I wish the reader to understand that the following are the ordinary cases of the trade; they have, most assuredly, not been selected for the purpose.
The first person whom I visited was a male hand, and on entering his house I certainly found more comforts about it than I had been led to expect. He lived in a back room built over a yard. It was nicely carpetted, and on one side to my astonishment, stood a grand piano. There were several pictures hanging against the walls, and a glass full of dahlias on the mantelpiece. I could tell, however, by the "wells" beneath the two large sofas that they were occasionally used as bedsteads, and the easy-chair in which I was requested to take a seat was of so extravagant a size, that it was evident it was occasionally put to the same purpose. I had been given to understand that the man was in the habit of taking lodgers, and this in a measure accounted for the double duty assigned to the different articles of furniture in the room.
"I make the soldiers' trousers, the Foot Guards principally, said the man in answer to my questions, "gets 6d. a pair, and have to find thread. The thread costs, I should say myself, at the rate I buy it, about ¾d. for a pair of trousers. Many have to pay more, because if they can't get a quarter of a pound they have to give a greater price for a single ounce. At that rate it will take a full pennyworth to make a pair. This is the usual way in which the workpeople buy their thread, because they cannot afford to get a larger quantity at a time. The trousers, therefore, average about 5d. each. Of course a fire must be kept for pressing the trousers, and the expense of this has again to be deducted from the price paid. I can make a pair in five hours, but there isn't one in a hundred can do this, and it will take a middling worker eight hours to finish one pair. But then I put the seams out, and if I did them at home it would take me six hours to do all myself. Without the seams I can do three pair a day. In summer I can do four, working very hard, and not being taken off for anything. I cannot get work always. Now I'm sitting still - have had nothing to do this five weeks of any consequence. At the best of times, when work is very brisk, and in the summer time too, I never earn more than 8s. a week. This is the money I have for my work, and from this there is to be deducted thread for the sixteen pair, and cotton for the felling of the same, and this comes to about 16d., and the cost of fire may, with the wood and altogether, be taken at 1s. Over and above all this, I have to pay ld. per pair for the stitching of the seams, and 9d. a week for a woman to fetch and take my work to and from the warehouse. So that altogether there is 4s. 5d. to be deducted from the 8s., and so leaving only 3s. 9d. as my earnings per week at the very best of times. For weeks and weeks I don't get anything. The work isn't to be had. The year before last I was standing still full twenty weeks - couldn't get work at all at no warehouse. Last year I had full eight weeks and nothing to do all the time; and this year I have been unemployed a full month at least. During the last five weeks I have only had fifteen pair to make. It is now sealing time - that is the period when the different estimates are given in - and we are always slack then. I never keep any account of my earnings. All I know is, when the money comes in it's as much as I can do to pay my way. Taking one week with another, I'm sure I do not average, throughout the year, more than 5s. a week at the very outside; and out of this there is a full half to be paid for expenses. There's the thread and the firing and the candles, all to be paid for. (The seams I do not put out when I'm slack.) All this would come to a good half-crown, so that my clear earnings, taking one week with another, throughout the year, are 2s. 6d. per week.
"If you were to ask me what I could make, quick as I am, and putting my seams out - if I was full employed - I should say 12s. a week, including Sundays; and I am obliged to work more of Sundays than any other day. I scarce ever have a Sunday to myself, for Saturday is giving-out day, and they want them in on Monday morning. Monday's taking-in day (indeed, every other day is a giving-out day, and the day following a taking-in one). If we didn't take them in on Monday morning as directed, there would be no more work for us. If I was not to work on Sundays, I could get 10s. full work. But from this I should have to pay a penny per pair for the seams, and this would cost 2s. for the twenty-four I must make in the week to earn 12s.; and 1s. 8d. for the twenty pair I must make to get 10s.; and the thread and cotton would be another penny per pair - that is, as much as the seams. Then there's the coals, and wood, and candles: these would come to 16d. or 18d. at least. This altogether would amount to 5s. 4d. to 5s. 6d. to be deducted from the 12s per week, and 4s. 6d. or 4s. 8d. from the 10s. a week. So that if I was full of work, and kept at it from six in the morning till ten at night, and carried on all Sunday as well, I couldn't possibly earn more than 5s. 6d. to 5s. 8d. per week clear - leaving out Sundays, I might get 5s. 6d. to 5s. 8d. per week. This is the most that can be made in the trade. If you were to ask many workmen, they would say it is impossible to get as much done; but I'm one of the quickest hands at the business. The ordinary hands cannot make more than one pair of trousers in one day, which, deducting expenses, would leave 5d., to say nothing of candles, for 14 hours' labour. But even at this rate they could not earn, with their seven days, 2s. 11d., for they would lose at least in fetching the work and taking it home, which would bring their earnings to 2s. 7d. or 2s. 6d. a week, at the very outside. But this only at the briskest time; and we are generally upon an average about two months unemployed. One year we were twenty weeks without work. White trousers we don't have so much for - only 5d. a pair for them - and they take quite as much thread; and without you've a good fire you cannot work at them at all in the winter, they're so cold in the hand. If the prices were to be raised, the poor would have no work at all, for then the tailors would take them. I have never had more than 6d. for the Foot Guards. For the artillery, the gunners, I have had as much as 8d. - some are 7d.; but I would sooner make the foot guards at 6d., than the artillery at the higher price, because there is so much more work in them. At those at 6d. there has been a double cord put in within the last few years, and that has made it a great deal more trouble. You have to take two stitches where you used only to take only one; but the price never was raised. Never knew the price to be raised since I worked at it, and that's seven years ago. I get them from a person who gets them from the warehouse. These intermediate persons are called piece-masters, and they get a penny profit upon each garment, whether it be trousers, coats, or great coats, and the prices I have stated are those the piece-master pays to me. They won't give them to such little hands as me. They give out a great quantity at a time, and must have them all in at a particular day - very often the next taking-in day. I fancy at one time they used to keep a stock by them; but of late years there have been so many alterations that they're afraid to do it. The piece-masters have to give security - £50 I think it is - very often; and the single hands, before they can be taken on, must be recommended to the piece-master. Notwithstanding this, a great many of the garments have been pledged. At one time the pawnbrokers used to take them in before they was made up, but now I don't think they will. The ones with the red stripes I am certain they won't. I have got my security down at the warehouse, but it takes so much time taking and fetching, and waiting while examined, that I prefer to work for a piece-master rather than the warehouse- men. If they're not properly done, the foreman will cut the seam right up, and send them back, and there'll be no money till they're finished. The foremen, generally, have no feeling about the poor - that's true. I'm sure they haven't. If the workpeople can treat them with what they like - and that's liquor - they'll pass the things quicker. The low prices I believe to arise from the very low prices the contracts are taken at. Well, sir, look here, the soldiers, I hear, give 8s. a pair for what we get 6d. for the making of. The cloth cannot cost them more than half-a-crown. If I was to get it, I could have it for that; but they must get it considerably less from taking large quantities, which their money empowers them to do. The trimmings, including button and pockets, would cost about 6d., and the red stripes 3d. more; so that 6d. making, 9d. trimming and stripes, and cloth 2s. 6d., altogether 3s. 9d.; and the other 4s. 3d. is profit. The piece-master, out of this, gets 2d. a pair. This is their gains for taking them in and running the risk of people stealing the materials. The remaining 4s. ld. is the profit of the warehouseman and the other parties connected with the trade; so that I'm sure, if Government would take it into their hands. and give the clothes out themselves, the poor workpeople might have prices that would keep them from starving. If they was only so that with hard labour they could get double what they now earn, a person might live. Besides, they'd work, poor things, with so much more spirit. Now it's dreadful to hear them; so it is, sir. Many of them would sooner sit still and starve. It's useless working - it is - they cannot live by it, let them work till they drop - yes, indeed, they must. To get 4s. a week clear by my business the women must slave both night and day; but really the prices are so bad they won't even pay to have a candle to work by; so that to work at night is only to lose one's time and money. We had better go to bed and starve at once, and that's what most all are doing who are at this kind of work. The general class of people who work at it are old persons who have been seen better days, and have nothing left but their needle to keep them, and who won't apply for relief - their pride won't let them - their feelings objects to it - they have a dread of becoming troublesome. The other parties are wives of labourers, and those who leave off shirt making to coming to this. There are many widows with young children, and they give them the seams to do, and so manage to prolong life, because they're afraid to die, and too honest to steal. The pressing part, which is half the work, is not fit for any female to do. I don't know but very few young girls - they're most of them women with families as I've seen - poor, struggling widows a many of 'em."
If, as you say, your clear earnings throughout the year, taking one week with another, are only 2s. 6d. a week, how do you manage to support life upon that sum? - "I couldn't do it - oh, dear no; I couldn't have held till now, nor even one month upon it. But the fact is, I let a part of my place to young men at 2s. a week, and for that I find them bed, candles, soap, towels, sheets, and the use of the sitting room and the fire; and that's my dependence. But one thing I must tell you, I can't go on with that much longer unless things alter, because I can't get my sheets out of pledge to change them, and my feather-bed I've been obliged to pawn. I'll tell you, sir, I was a draper's assistant formerly; lived in the first situations in London, Bath, and other places; but, of course, their salaries are small, and one is obliged to dress well on it. Well, I got a situation in the country, so that I might save something, which I could not do in town. I remained in my country situation nearly two years, and saved close upon £50 in that time. This I allowed to remain in my master's hands, thinking it would be safe, so that I might not spend it. He broke, and I lost my whole. There was not money enough to pay the law expenses, or of course I should have had my money first, as a servant. Then I came back to London. I tried to get a situation, and found, as I was getting advanced in years, they preferred young men. Well, I couldn't starve; but I knew nothing that I could get a living at but as a draper's assistant, and that I couldn't get on account of my age. I can't tell you the distress of mind I was in, of course, for I was very anxious lest in my old age I should be left to want. We don't think of old age when we're young, I'm sorry to say. Where I was lodging then, a woman made soldiers' trousers, and as my hands were lissome, and I had occasion to use the needle frequently in the drapery trade, to tack the tickets on cloth and such like, why I thought I might get a crust by them. It was only living that I tried for, unless I'd tailor. I couldn't have done this, if it hadn't been from being accustomed to the needle. Well, I tried; and the man I did a few for was very pleased with 'em, and gave me some more. They was 3½d. a pair convicts' trousers. I soon found that, at that price, I couldn't stop in the lodgings I had, and pay my way. I was paying 2s. 6d. a week. So I takes a cellar at 1s. 6d., buys a little bit of canvas, and some straw; sleeps on the floor; had a chair and table - that was all. Then the man I had done the trousers for took me to the City, and got me some better work. He said I could do finer things. Then the warehouse gave me as many as fifty pair of artillery trousers to make. Then I found I was living too far from my work; so I sells off my things for 4s. 6d.; comes to Holborn; there was two rooms to let at 3s. 6d., and I thought I could take a lodger at 2s.; a relation of mine promised kindly to lend me the beds, which they did, and I've paid for 'em, little by little, since then. After this I scraped together, somehow or other - how I did it I don't know, but it come from God's goodness, I suppose - I got enough to buy another bed, and take another lodger at the same price. The only thing that we can make a little money of is beds; but at that you lose a good deal, as well as get. And so I went, and I am where I am now. I've four lodgers at present, but two of those I get nothing from, as they're out of situations, and they owe me a goodish sum now; but may be I shall have it all, or a good part, when they gets into work again. My two other lodgers pay me very well indeed; they bring me in my 4s. a week, and that pays my rent; and, thank God, I only owe one week. But if the work don't come in, I don't know what I shall do. A little while ago I had two brothers with me ill, during the time of the cholera. I tried all I could to get them into the hospitals, but they was ill three weeks before I could. During that time I had to provide them with everything. One was obliged to have two clean shirts a day, and I was forced to pledge my feather bed, and sheets, and blankets, to keep them. I couldn't see them lost, and let them starve under my own roof. I got them at last out of the hospital, and they've gone into the country, and I've never even heard of them. They owe me altogether, for washing, living, lodging, and food, £2 13s. 9d. I think they're honest young men, and would pay me if they could. May be they're ashamed to write to me - yes, I dare say they are - for they were good young men - though I never had their money, I'll say that of them. They was gentlemen's servants, and can't do much now. All this I shouldn't mind so much about if it wasn't for my bedding. I could get round if it wasn't for that. If I can't get my bedding back I must lose my lodgers. Their sheets has been on now nearly three months, and I'm sure they can't stand it much longer - that they won't. To my own bed I've none at all! As for myself, I ain't had a clean shirt for this month. I really can't afford to pay for the washing. I've never been able to get any new clothes since I have been at the trade. Four-pence I gave for the very coat I've got on from a gentleman's servant, and the other things has been gave to me by asking, which is very painful. The greater part of the things you see about here don't belong to me. This piano, now, belonged to a young man, a lodger of mine. His father was a musician. The young man bought it for £3 15s. He got married, and wanted a chest of drawers for his wife (oh, good gracious! if he was to hear of this he'd kill me). Well, I passed my word for the drawers, and he left this piano with me as security. That cat you see there now you'll say I have no business to have, if I'm so poor. She costs me 3½d. a week, as much as a half-quartern, and I grudge it, but a poor maiden lady, who's starving, brought her to me, and begged me, with almost tears in her eyes, to take care of it for her, for she couldn't afford to give it a meal - she hadn't one for herself. She's a teacher of music, and I'm sure she's dying for want of food. She's just of of the hospital, and, oh dear, much too proud to go into the house. I wouldn't even say such a thing to her; it would break her heart. I know she's never had anything but tea - tea, for months. She's a relation of the Pitt family, and the composer of several pieces of sacred music, but the plates are in pawn for 4s., and she can't even do anything with that. She's lost all her teaching, and is now in want of even the commonest food. I think the poor are not in such distress as persons in her circumstances of life. If she's ashamed to apply to the parish, you may depend she's ashamed to let anyone else know how badly she's off.
"The only extravagance I have that I know of is my bird, and he costs me a farthing a week. Poor dickey! I shouldn't like to part with him. It's the only company I have. The cat I'm not very fond of. As for meat, I haven't had a taste of it for the last month."
The statement of the man was of so extraordinary a nature, that, on leaving the house, I took the trouble to inquire into his character. His landlord informed me that he was one of the most worthy, benevolent, and eccentric men that he had ever known. He was punctual in the payments of his rent, and, indeed, a most sober, industrious, and exemplary person. The duplicates of the bedding the man himself showed me, and the person who directed me to his house spoke even more highly of him than did his landlord.
I was now desirous to see a piece-master, in order that I might find out whether they really did make the amount of money that they were believed to do out of the workpeople's labour, and found the family in the lowest state of destitution. The party lived in a back-kitchen in a house over Waterloo-bridge. It was midday when I got there, and the woman and her boy were dining off potatoes and some "rind" of bacon that her daughter, who was "in place," had given to her rather than it should be thrown away.
"Poor people," said he, "you know is glad to get anything." Then, observing me notice the crockery, which was arranged on a shelf in one corner she added -
"Ah, sir, you needn't look at my crockery ware. I'll show it to you," she said, taking down several basins and jugs. They were all broken on one side, but turned the best side outwards. "There isn't a whole vessel in the place; only nobody would know but they were sound, you see, to look at 'em. I get some of the army work - some of the common trousers. I has a penny a pair out of them - that's the only way of living I have, sir. I get a meal of victuals now and then from my landlady. I'm a piece-mistress. I get the work out of the warehouse, and give it to the workpeople. I has a penny a pair out of them. I has two-pence out of some - they are the sergeants. Perhaps I'd get 40 pair out in a week, perhaps 30 pair, and may be 10- when they has them I get them. Before my husband died I've had 100 pair out in a week. God bless thee, man, many people has more - they has them out by wholesale, these large hands. I've had none this fortnight and more - only one ten pair. Some one of them takes them away in cart-loads. The piece-makers have such bundles of hands they can get a good lot done. Oh, Lord, we never had £2 a week by it, nor £1 either. The pay's very bad, sir. The most my husband ever had one week by it was about £1. He had work out of four warehouses. Those that has plenty of work, and get the best, will make more by it - a good deal more. Where the piece-master draws £18 to £20 a week they must have a good profit out of that, and some of them draws more; but it's not all their own; they has their workpeople to pay out of that. So that the piece-master might draw £3 to £4 a week at the very best time - that's when the police-clothing is out. They gets more out of that than anything else; there isn't much by these pensioners at all. They get 1d. upon a pair of trousers, some 2d., but that's for the police trousers, the dress ones. Upon the police coats they get 2d. some, and some 4d. out of the price, but now I believe its only 2d. out of them. What they gets out of the soldiers' jackets I'm sure I can't say. We never had none of them. Out of the tide-waiters' coats we ought to have 6d.; the warehouse paid 7s. 6d. for them. Out of the trousers we used to have 2d.; the price the warehouse paid was ls. The waistcoat price was 10d. from the warehouse; we had nothing out of that. He used to have 8s. 6d. for the suit, and he used to pay 7s. 6d. for it; so he got 1s. out of them. Used to get nothing else. Used to have the pensioners' sometimes. Paid 1s. 9d., and we had 3d. out of them. At the time my husband lived we did pretty well. Was never out of work. If we hadn't it from one warehouse we had it from the others we worked for. He has been three years buried next Easter Sunday, and there's many a night since I've went to bed without my supper, myself and my children. Since then I've had nothing, only just a few odd trousers now and then. I had to go into the workhouse last winter, myself and my children; I couldn't get a meal of victuals for them; and this winter I suppose I shall have to go into it again. If I haven't work I can't pay my rent. Three weeks ago I had only twenty pair to make, that's 1s. 8d. for myself and boy to live upon (my other's out in the Marine School), and my rent out of that is 1s. 6d. My boy gets 1s. 6d. a week besides this, and only for that I couldn't live at all. And that's drawed before it's earned. I'm obliged to go on credit for my things and pay with my boy's money, and glad to have it to pay. I call it a good week if I get forty pair of trousers to give out. That is 3s. 4d. to me, and upon that me and my boy must both live; and there was my other boy to do the same too when I had him. I occasionally get a bit of broken victuals from those that know me round about. I little thought I should be so miserable as I am. That fender is not mine, I borrowed it of my landlady; nor that saucepan neither; I got it to boil my potatoes in. Indeed, you may say, I very often want. We should be starved entirely if it was not for my landlady, and that's the blessed truth. I belongs to Lambeth parish, and they don't even give me a ha'p'orth out of it, not even a loaf of bread. It's often we're a day and two nights without food, me and my boys together. I never did treat a foreman with rum to get any work, nor did the man ever want it from me. I'll give every one his due. He has come to see me himself, and his wife, and lent me 2s. - I shall not belie any one - and often gave me a few pence when I came into the warehouse. It is not generally believed by us that the foremen are obliged to be treated in order to get the work. I never heard of such a thing, and I'm sure I never did it. The reason why I've had so little lately is because I can't get it so well done as the others. The workpeople won't do as I tell 'em. Some makes them well, and more don't. My husband's security is at the warehouses yet. I can't tell you how much they're for, cause I never seed them. He was an honest, upright man. They often trusted him as much as £100. The workpeople misses him now, but nobody misses him so much as I do. Then I could go clean and respectable, but now I don't know where to turn my head for a meal of victuals this blessed night. The workpeople I never find making away with the work. I've lost nothing by them ever since my husband died. I didn't lose a garment since, thank God. My husband used to take a security for the workpeople from their landlord, but I don't. Can't say whether the piece-masters lose much by the workpeople. If they do, they has to pay for it. I didn't hear only of one pair of trousers being lost. My husband lost two jackets, and I had to pay so much a week for them, until they were cleared, after he died. If I'd got all the world, I haven't got a farthing of money, neither gold, silver, nor brass, nor a mouthful of victuals for myself or my boy for tonight but what's there in the plate (alluding to the remainder of the rind of bacon). I had only a pennyworth of potatoes, and that I shouldn't have had only the woman who gave me the rind gave me a penny to get some with (showing empty saucepan).
The next worker I visited was one living in an attic in Saffron- bill. The statement and condition of this woman was as dispiriting as that of the "piece-mistress."
"This is for the Marines, on board ship. Don't you think they make the Marines very fine," said she, showing the trousers she was making. "Well, I makes these for 5d. Ah, I wish you could have seen the red jackets that I make for 8d., and a blue jacket for the East India Company, full lined and sixteen silk twist boles, for 8d. I can't do one a day, not myself, and I don't have it constant every day. I generally do the jackets, the trousers, and the drill jackets for the marine soldiers that goes on board the ship, and they're 4½d. apiece. Why, there in each of them fourteen buttonholes worked with whitey-brown, and blue cuffs, blue collar, and blue epaulettes, all stitched and well-pressed. I might do one in seven hours; but I has to find my own thread, and that's ¾d. a quarter of an ounce each jacket. The soldiers' great coats, with large capes and cuffs, and half lined, are only 5d. to me, and there are eleven button-holes to make in every one of them. I don't think I could do one in nine hours, they're such large ones. The men are five feet 11 and six foot and so on, and so I leave you to judge. Ah, they don't have the army work done as they used fourteen years ago. Then they paid more money for 'em. It was 7d. a great coat then, but now, you know, they lower them always. Fourteen years ago the jackets that I am doing now I used to get 1s. 4d. for, and now they're 8d. It's the contract system you see, sir. Oh, yes, that's it. Anybody who'll take it for a few shillings less than another is sure to get it. And then it's lowered to us in course. I work for a piece-mistress. I think she gets about 7d. a pair for these trousers, that I have 5d. for. She should not by rights have more than a penny profit. It wasn't so years ago. On a soldier's red coat it was no more than 2d. profit, and now I think it's about 3d.; so that the prices have come down to the poor workpeople, and the profits of the piece-masters have gone up, and there's more work in the clothes besides. Why, sir, I tell you what I earnt last week. I was just a-casting it up. I earnt 1s. 8d. I think it was 1s. 4d. I earnt the week before. I can't recollect the week afore that, but I know it was very little. I don't think it was a shilling. Upon an average I can't make every week 3s. clear. No, I can't manage to get up to that. I hasn't done so for a length of time. I couldn't say I clear 2s. 6d. regularly, because I can't get the work. On Friday, at four o'clock, I'm obliged to take my work in, and then I get some more on Monday for the next week perhaps, for it's only a chance if there's any for me. I might, upon an average, earn 2s. clear all the year round, taking one week with another. My best work was the looping of the coats; but that's gone from me. When I looped them I had 7d., but now they only give 5d. Years ago the price was 8d. That's my little granddaughter, sir - my eldest son's daughter that is. Her father has been dead thirteen months. He left four children - she's the eldest of them (the girl was about twelve) - all unprovided for. She fetches my errands and sews me up a seam or two. I'm learning her the work. Her mother's got nothing at all for her to do. I couldn't live upon what I get if I didn't have a loaf now and then from the Scripture-reader that visits round about here. I have one generally every week. If he has got it, he generally gives it to me. I live upon coffee. It's a wonder, aye, a very great wonder, that I've got any work now. There's generally a standstill at this time of the year, and when I get no work I don't know how I do. I get through the winter as well as I can. My doctor tells me I ought to have more than I do have; but what's the use of his saying that, when I can't get it? In the winter the people in my business are generally very badly off. I have suffered dreadfully myself. I can say this - I've done for the soldier from his gaiters to his cap, and I should like the Queen to see the state I'm in. I wish she'd come, that's all. I've worked for both her uncles and her grandfather; and now, in my old age, I'm obliged to do anything I can get hold of to get a crust. As I get on in years, I find the work come harder and harder to me. Working upon the red, then upon the white, and now tonight acoming to the black - I know it makes my old eyes ache. I've worked from 11 years of age till I'm 62. My husband was a printer - a pressman. He's been dead two years the 2nd of December next. It was King William as put the white lace on. It used to be very handsome lace till then. I know it very well, for I was 15 weeks and never earnt a farden till it was settled."
As I had been informed that the convict work was the worst paid of all labour, I was anxious to obtain an interview with one who got her living by it. She lived in a small back room on the first floor. I knocked at the door, but no one answered, though I had been told the woman was within. I knocked again and again, and, hearing no one stirring, I looked through the keyhole, and observed that the key was inside the door. Fearing that some accident might have happened to the poor old soul, I knocked once more, louder than ever. At last the door was opened, and a thin aged woman stood trembling nervously as she looked at me. She stammered out with a gasp, "Oh! I beg pardon, but I thought it was the woman come for the shilling I owed her." I told her my errand, and she welcomed me in. There was no table in the room; but on a chair without a back there was an old tin tray, in which stood a cup of hot milkless tea, and a broken saucer, with some half-dozen small potatoes in it. It was the poor soul's dinner. Some tea-leaves had been given her, and she had boiled them up again to make something like a meal. She had not even a morsel of bread. In one corner of the room was a hay mattress, rolled up. With this she slept on the floor. She said,
"I work at convict work, 'the greys;' some are half yellow and half brown, but they're all paid the same price. I makes the whole suit. Gets 7¾d. for all of it - 3d. the jacket, 3d. the trousers, and 1¾d. the waistcoat, and finds my own thread out of that; they're all made with double 'whitey-brown.' I never reckoned it up, but I uses a good bit of thread when I'm a-making of 'em. Sometimes I gets an ounce, sometimes half an ounce. It takes about an ounce and a half to the suit, and that would be 3d. at 2d. an ounce; and then they'll have them well pressed, which takes a good bit for firing. Yes, it does indeed. I am obliged to have a penny candle - a cheaper one I couldn't see with. It'll take me more than a day to make the suit. If I had the suit out now I could get them in tomorrow evening. There's full a day and a half's work in a suit. I works from nine in the morning till eleven at night. [Here a sharp-featured woman entered, and said she wished to speak with the "convict worker" when she was alone. "She came," said the poor old thing when the woman had left, "because I owes her a shilling. I'm sure she can't have it, for I haven't got it. I borrowed it last week off her." ] "In a day and a half," she continued, with a deep sigh, "deducting the cost of thread and candles for the suit (to say nothing of firing), I earns 3¾d. - not 2d. a day. The other day I had to sell a cup and saucer for a halfpenny, cause crockeryware's so cheap - there was no handle to it, it's true - in order to get me a candle to work with. Sometimes for weeks I don't make anything at all. One week, at convict work, I did earn as much as 3s. That's without deducting the cost of thread or candles, which is quite half. The convicts' clothes is all one price; no one gets any better wages than this; a few has less I believe. Some of the waistcoats ain't above five fardens - two-pence halfpenny the jackets - and trousers the same. I can't tell what I average, for sometimes I have work and sometimes I ain't. I could earn 3s. a week if I had as much as I could do, but I don't have it very often. I'm very often very idle. I can assure you I've been trotting about today to see after a shilling job, and couldn't get it. [The same woman again made her appearance at the door, and seeing me still there did not stop to say a word. "What a bother there is," said the convict-clothesmaker, "if a person owes a few halfpence. That's what made me keep the door locked." ] "I suppose her mother has sent for the old shawl she lent me. I haven't no shawl to my back; no, as true as God I haven't; I haven't indeed! I'm two months idle in the course of the year." She went on again, "Oh yes, more, more than that; I've been three months at one time, and didn't earn a halfpenny. That was when I lived up at the other house. There was no work at all. We was starving one against the other. I'm generally about a quarter part of my time standing still; yes, that I am, I can assure you. About three shillings a week, I tell you, is what I generally earn at convict work when I'm fully employed; but then there's the expenses to be taken out of that. I've worked at the convict work for about fourteen or fifteen years - ever since my husband's been dead. He died fourteen years ago last February. I've nobody else dependent upon me. I hadn't need to have, I'm sure. I hadn't a bit of work all last Friday and all last Saturday - no, not till Monday. I work for a piece-master. I don't know what profit the piece-master gets. The convicts' great coats are 5d., and I can do about three of them in two days, and they will take about 1½ oz. of thread, that's 3d.; so that in two days, at that work, I can earn one shilling clear, saying nothing of candles. That's much better work than the other. [The cat, almost as thin as its mistress, here came scratching for some of the potatoes.] "Yes, there's people much worse off than me, but they gets relief from the parish. They tell me at the union I am young enough to work, and yet I am turned of 70. I find it very hard - very hard, indeed; oh, that I do, I can assure you. I very often want. I wanted all last Sunday, for I had nothing at all then. I was a-bed till twelve o'clock - lay a-bed cause I hadn't nothing to eat. There's more young girls work at the trade now. A great quantity works at it cause they can see better than us. They couldn't get the dresses they wears if they was virtuous. My husband was a file-cutter; he did pretty fairly. While he was alive I didn't want for anything, and since his death I've wanted very often; I've wanted so as I haven't had a home to put my head into. Then I slept along with different friends, and they gave me a little bit, but they were nigh as bad off as myself, and couldn't spare much. Trade is very bad now; there are a many of us starving; yes, indeed there is - the old people in particular; the young-uns make it out other ways. I pays 1s. 6d. rent. The things are my own, such as there is. I've no table; I was obliged to sell it; I've sold most everything I've got; I can't sell no more, for there's none now that will fetch anything. I only wish I could get a shawl, to keep the cold off me when I takes my work home - that's all."
After this I saw, at the house of the man whom I had first visited, a decent woman in black, with a pale face, melancholy voice, and dark sunken black eyes. She had no home to take me to. Her tale was as follows: -
"Ah, its wonderful how a poor person lives - but they don't live. My clear gains are about 1s. 6d. a week. In the summer time it's better, because I don't want no candle-light. I work second-handed for the piece-master. I don't know what he makes. I've done the basting of the Sappers at 3d. a coat; the pockets are fully made, and the shoulder-straps fully made, and for the basting of the trousers I get ld., and two button-holes worked in the waistband. Why they baste up only I don't know. Them I work for doesn't know. It would puzzle me to tell you how I do manage to live. I have nothing more than a cup of tea and a bit of dry bread twice a day, for the week round; and if I can get a red herring (three or four a penny), why it's as much as I can get. If I've got a bit better work, I may chance to get a bit of meat - 2d. or 3d. a pound. I've got no home at present. I was turned out - told I must leave - as I couldn't pay my rent, cause I've had no work, and had nothing to pay it with. I'm living now with a neighbour in the same house where I had my room. She has allowed me to stop with her till I got a bit of work; for I can't pay any rent, and she gives me a little food - part of what she's got, poor woman! She's no more than a day's charing now and then, but she makes more at that than I can at soldiers' clothes. The 1s. 4d. that I had for them two Sappers' jackets I bought three half-quartern loaves out of that, which we've eaten. All her family and myself shared together. I give her and them part, cause her family has had nothing. They're some days as short as I am myself; and the remainder of the 1s. 4d. I paid to the chandler's-shop woman. She was kind enough, when I told her I was so bad off, to let me have a little tea and sugar, and a candle, to the amount of 5d. My boy couldn't get a place, and I couldn't keep him; and he says to me, 'Mother,' says he, 'you're so poor you can't keep me, and I don't like to idle about the streets; I shall go up and ask the relieving officer if he will give me an order to come in, and get me off to sea.' With that he went before the board on the Wednesday, and asked the gentlemen would they have the goodness of sending him on board o' ship. He told them he didn't want to stop in the workhouse, and so they'd the kindness of sending him. Mr. Wilkes, the relieving officer, spoke to the guardians - went in when he went in - and then he was a very nice lad - a very pretty-behaved lad - had a good character both indoors and outdoors, and the gentlemen sent him on board last Tuesday. They've bound him for five years in a collier. He lived 15 months in a fringe and tassel manufactory. He was a very good boy to me. He did all this unbeknown to me. He went to the guardians and spoke himself, without saying a word of it to me. He said he didn't like to be about doing nothing, so he'd go sailoring. On last Saturday I was obligated to go and beg for a loaf of bread, for I'd sold to the very last thing I'd got. I've no work now, and I really do not know what to do. I had a cup of tea and a bit of bread with the person I am with, and to get that she had to send her lad's trousers to pawn for 9d. The work goes through so many hands, and all has got a profit on it, that such a person as me that makes is the sufferer. The people as I get it from has a good profit; they don't have to make it - it's me and other people that does so - and yet they can get a good living by it. They has the best of everything, as I can see, and never puts a stitch to the work; they get it from the warehouse. My husband has been dead about six years. He was a boot and shoe maker. I wanted for nothing when he was alive. I've had six children, and buried all but this one, and he's been a very honest upright boy; thank God! there's not one soul ever told me he has done wrong to them."
The last of all I saw was one who stitched the seams of trousers at 1d. per pair. She came with the woman who had got her to his house, so that I might see her, and learn from her own lips how destitute she was, told me that he could answer for her being a sober, honest, and hard-working woman. She said -
"I stitch the legs of the trousers when there's any to do, but for these five weeks I haven't earned more than 1s. 4d., for the party who gives them to me hasn't had any work himself to do. He gives me ld. a pair, and finds me the thread. Four pair is as much as I can do in the day, from six in the morning to six at night. I can't see by candle-light. It wouldn't pay me to have a candle for such work. The most I ever earned was 2s. in the week, and that my girl helped me to a good bit. Twenty-four pair is more than one hand can do. That's more than twelve months ago since I did as much as that. About 1s. a week some weeks, and some weeks 9d., and some weeks 6d., and this week it will be 3d. (laugh). My husband is living, and he's away from me three years this 25th of October last (crying). I never received a scrawl of writing or an account of him since he ran away and left me. He's an engineer, smith, and millwright. He makes the chisels for chipping the stones. He left me with four children, one little girl ailing sadly - as ill as she could be at the time. One girl is 24, another girl is 22, my boy is 17, and my youngest is 16. They're all away from me but the youngest, and none of 'em any help to me - not a farthing. My girl is earning nothing, and we must have starved if I hadn't a few frocks of hers to pawn - them has done me for the last few days. I never recollect such bad times. I'm sure I don't know what we shall do unless the girl gets a place. If I got needlework, which I have been used to, I might get on a bit, but that I can't get. All the work I have is sewing the seams of the soldiers' trousers, and that has failed me now. In the summer I went hop-picking, but I couldn't get any to do. I tried pea-picking, but that I couldn't get a day's work at. They generally keeps on their old hands. My eldest daughter never helped me to a day's food, and she's been eleven years in service. My youngest girl hasn't got clothes to go to seek after a place. If I could get her a situation, it would be a great burden off my mind - ah, that it would - it would be the greatest happiness I've known this long time. She's exposed to great temptation where she lives; still she's well-behaved as yet, thank God. The great reason why she can't get a situation is, because I've been obliged to make away with her gowns - yes, that I have. I could produce the tickets of them; and I have to keep her as long as she's out, for she earns nothing for me."