Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Morning Chronicle : Labour and the Poor, 1849-50; Henry Mayhew - Letter XVII

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Friday, December 14, 1849

I now proceed in due order to give an account of the cheap clothes trade in the East-end of London. I deal with the Eastern slop tailors first, because I am informed that the slop-trade of the West is of more recent date.
    I believe that the facts which I publish in my present communication will lay bare a system unheard of and unparalleled in the history of any country; indeed, there appears to be so deep laid a scheme for the introduction and supply of underpaid labour to the market, that it is impossible for the working man not to sink and be degraded by it to the lowest depths of wretchedness and infamy. If we wish to see the effect of this system upon the physical, intellectual, and moral character of the workpeople, we should spend a week in visiting the homes of the operative tailors connected with the honourable part of the trade, and those working for the slop-trade. The very dwellings of the people are sufficient to tell you the wide difference between the two classes. In the one you occasionally find small statues of Shakespeare beneath glass shades; in the other all is dirt and foetor. The working tailor's comfortable first-floor at the West-end is redolent with the perfume of the small bunch of violets that stands in a tumbler over the mantelpiece; the sweater's wretched garret is rank with the stench of filth and herrings. The honourable part of the trade are really intelligent artisans, while the slopworkers are generally almost brutified with their incessant toil, wretched pay, miserable food. and filthy homes.
    Nor are the shops of the two classes of tradesmen less distinct one from the other. The quiet house of the honourable tailor, with the name inscribed on the window blinds, or on the brass plate on the door, tells you that the proprietor has no wish to compete with or undersell his neighbour. But at the show and slop shops every art and trick that scheming can devise, or avarice suggest, is displayed to attract the notice of the passer-by and filch the customer from another. The quiet, unobtrusive place of business of the old-fashioned tailor is transformed into the flashy palace of the grasping tradesman. Every article in the window is ticketed- the price cut down to the quick - books of crude, bald verses are thrust in your hands, or thrown into your carriage window - the panels of every omnibus are plastered with showy placards, telling you how Messrs. defy competition.
    The principal show and slop shop at the East-end is termed the – and now occupies the ground of several houses. The windows are of rich plate glass-one window, indeed, is nearly thirty feet high-and it is said, that at the time of the attack upon the house by the mob, the damage done by breaking two of the windows amounted to £150. The business is not confined to tailor's work. The proprietors are furriers, hatters, and bootmakers, hosiers. cutlers, trunk-sellers, and milliners. They keep six horses and carts constantly employed in their business, and, I am told, pay above £1,000 a year for gas. The show-rooms are lighted by large ormolu chandeliers, having thirty-six burners each.
    In pursuance of the system I have adopted, in order to arrive at a correct estimate as to the earnings of the labouring class whose condition I may be investigating, I invited the working tailors of the East-end to meet me on Tuesday evening last, at the British and Foreign School, Shakespeare's-walk, Shadwell. A reporter was sent from the office of this journal to give an account of the meeting, and the following is his report of the statement made on the occasion: - 
    The METROPOLITAN CORRESPONDENT of The Morning Chronicle informed the meeting that he was now directing his attention to the operative tailors of the metropolis, in connection both with the honourable and the dishonourable part of the trade; and that consequently, he was anxious to arrive at certain facts in relation to their earnings and their condition, in order to lay them before the public. The objects of the meeting were the following: -1. To learn whether, and how, the slop trade influences the regular and honourable tailoring trade. 2. To ascertain the amount of the average weekly earnings of the hands engaged in the slop and regular trade. 3. To hear an account of the sufferings and privations endured by the workpeople through the low price paid for their labour. 4. To discover, if possible, whether the low prices arise from competition among the masters, or from competition among the workpeople. 5. To find out whether there is any practical remedy for the evil. It was only facts that were required. Perhaps the most important of these objects was the fourth; and he had called together those who were present for the purpose of ascertaining their opinions upon the question. Did the existing depression arise from the struggle of the trading classes to live. or from the struggle of the labour classes to live? Were masters continually underselling one another, or were workmen continually underbidding one another? This was what he wanted to learn from individuals practically acquainted with the subject. He wished to know further, whether it was acknowledged that the commencement of the system of piece work in 1834, instead of the system of day work, was the commencement of the declension in the price of their labour?
    Several men exclaimed that it was. One man added that the decline began to be more rapid after that time; but piece work as well as day work was carried on to a small extent in some shops at the West-end. He was one who joined in the strike at that period, and he remembered working in a shop where piece work was carried on at the same time with day work, but at good and fair prices. Another man said he remembered no piece work in the best shops; but there was extra work, which was paid for at the rate of sixpence the hour.
    The meeting then expressed its conviction, by a show of hands. that the cause of the declension of wages had been the change from day work to piece work; that this change had led to great competition among workmen, and to the introduction of female labour in the craft. Before this period, the meeting further signified, a journeyman tailor could support a wife and family by his own labour; and a respectable-looking elderly man declared that it could be done much better in those times, for the wages of a man then were twenty-five per cent. more than the wages now of the man and his wife put together. The depression had not arisen from an excess in the number of tailors, but from females and children, who originally did not work, being brought into the trade, as well as from the introduction of "sweaters." The depression was further promoted by a certain amount of competition from the prisons and the workhouses.
    These principles having been distinctly enunciated by the meeting, they were earnestly desired to mention nothing but facts in the statements they might make, and to abstain from all personal or offensive remarks.
    A journeyman tailor then came forward, and spoke at some length. He said the present system of labour wasted the physical and mental energies of the class to which he belonged. Their grievances were not imaginary, and he complained that the cause of the labouring poor had been hitherto neglected. He had himself just made a Wellington surtout, which took him twenty-six hours' hard work. He was paid 5s. for it, but out of this small amount he had 1s. 6d. for trimmings, thread, candles, and fire, so that there was just 3s. 6d. left. His wife was ill, being in a consumption. A physician who had seen her told him that if he did not apply for relief to the parochial officers he would be guilty of manslaughter. But he would not so degrade himself. He further complained of the misery caused by the sweating system, and mentioned some establishments at the East-end where men were apparently employed upon the premises. They were, however, merely for a deception, being only finishers. In one large shop the middle-man and sweater received 7s. 6d. for making a coat, but he only paid to the poor tailor 5s., who had to provide out of it thread, trimmings, and other materials. How, he asked, was it possible for men with families to live upon such wages?
    Another tailor here stepped forward, and said that although a great deal of distress and privation had been laid bare by the exertions of The Morning Chronicle, not one-half or one-quarter had yet been discovered. So it was with the wages of the poor. Much was known in relation to them, but not all. He attributed a large amount of distress among the London tailors to certain large establishments conducting their business through "sweaters." They were sweaters upon a large scale. These places did not work for the poor, but for the aristocracy. He was himself employed in making coats which were advertised at from five to twenty guineas. The aristocracy, not the poor, bought these coats, though the labour in making them was not half-paid. Indeed, he knew that customers belonging to the aristocracy, though they were ashamed of being seen in certain large establishments at the East-end, sent written orders for the foremen to wait upon them. The great financial economist of the age,–, was also such a customer. Such. further, were some of the principal inhabitants of –, whose names could be furnished; and even clergymen of the Church of England. A tailor who had a family needed the aid of his wife to assist him in making a living. The woman, in some cases, was absolutely needed to make three-fourths of the garments; and he knew a man who worked for one of the cheap establishments, now in almost the last stage of a consumption, who had paid to the establishment out of his miserable earnings 30s. in less than three months, in the shape of fines. Another journeyman tailor, who was known to most present, had a wife and five children, several of whom were ill with fever. He had, further, to support an aged father. This man made a coat for 8s. for the house in question; but he was half an hour behind time in taking it in. He therefore got nothing for making it, though he had found thread, candle, and fire. This was a positive fact.
    "And there are many others besides that!" exclaimed a voice. A person inquired whether it was meant that the man got nothing for making the coat?
    "Not a farthing," replied the narrator.
    "He was fined the 8s. for being behind time," observed a person in the crowd.
    An inquiry was here made whether such a custom as this was likely to become general?
    The TAILOR who made the statement said that would depend upon others. He was speaking, however, of the establishment to which he belonged, and in which he was for the present permitted to be a "captain." The same establishment sometimes put out bills, "A thousand tailors wanted," and he had been caught by them. He had been working for a very good shop at the West-end, but happened to be idle for a few weeks, consequently he was "hard up." A friend advised him to apply where the 1,000 tailors were wanted, and he got work. This was his first introduction to the slop system; and his earnings had been so small, with the assistance of a female - though he would not acknowledge himself a "sweater" - that, if he were fined as some had been, he should have to give the employer more money than he received himself. Distress among the operative tailors had been brought on to a greater extent than in other classes by female competition. He hoped public opinion would be elicited in their favour, and then he was sure the splendid palaces of beauty, erected out of the toils of the poor, would fade away.
    A PALETOT MAKER said the party for whom he worked - and he made the best coats in the establishment - had two shops, and that there was a difference in the prices paid at the two places. Coats made neat, with capes, were charged 1s. more than a dress coat at one shop; and at the other 1s. less; and the prices were so calculated. that the man who obtained it had to calculate upon his wife helping him. Drab coats with capes, stitched all round, were paid for at 12s., the man finding his own trimmings [hear, hear]. He knew it for a fact, for he had done the work and received the money himself. At the commencement of winter, a Witney coat was sent out to be made, with double seams, but because the cloth was softer, he could only obtain 8s., although the work in it was the same as in the last. First one man refused it, and then another, and then a complaint went to the employer, who was told by the men that, as they had to pay 1s. for trimmings, they could not, at such a price, get a living by it. The price was raised to 10s.. and at 10s. it now remained; but for the same description of coat, which he had made, not in the house, but in the shop, he had received 24s. There would be no difference made in the price upon account of the softness of the cloth. At the same shop 8s. was paid for extra paletots to a Jew who contracted for the whole, and 7s. 6d. for others. For exactly the same garments he had received from a regular shop 16s. Another "novelty," as it was called, had just been introduced in a coat with eight or nine rows of stitching inside and out and round the cape, for making which 18s. was paid. The ordinary price for making such a coat was 36s.; consequently, the employer paid just one-half the money he ought to do, solely from expecting women to take part in the work. In this case the workmen had to find their own trimmings and silk, which he estimated would cost 1s. 9d. He could scarcely make half of such a coat in two days, even by working extra hours.
    "You must work hard to do that," said a middle-aged man.
    One of the previous speakers said the selling price of this kind of coat was four guineas. It was made of Tweed cloth at 6s. 6d. a yard, and it would take 2― yards. He went into the shop in question, and asked what had been paid for the labour upon it, but they refused to tell him. But he should say that, taking twelve hours to be a fair day's labour, it could not be made under eight or nine days.
    An OPERATIVE TAILOR declared that the great middleman in the establishment referred to got half-a-crown out of the making of every paletot.
    "What is your opinion," it was asked, "as to the cause of the depreciation in prices?"
    The answer, prompt and ready, was- "Men of capital underselling each other."
    "Do you know," it was further inquired, "of any place where sweaters seek out for female labourers [hear]?
    "Yes," was the reply, "a man in Windmill-street sought out for females and boys; and he gave 2s. 6d. a day to a man who could finish very well. This person worked for a tailor who in his turn worked for the – of –. A coat was made for the – with thick beaver coat flaps, and stitched, and richly lined through with silk-containing nine pockets, four upon one side, five on the other, and two with flaps. For this he received only nine shillings, and found his own trimmings. The regular price would, at least, be 24s.
    "Aye, 28s. would be nearer the mark."
    The same operative tailor proceeded to state that shooting coats. single breasted, with pockets, creased, &c., were only paid, in the establishment to which he referred, 22s.; whilst in the first-rate shops in St. James's-street, at least, 35s. 6d. would be given for the same work [hear, hear].
    At this stage a young man came forward and said he lived in the neighbourhood of New-buildings, Gravel-lane, Houndsditch. There was a place, he said, kept by a well-known sweater in that vicinity, where each woman paid 3d. to have her name put down on a slate for work. The name being on the slate any foreign tailor could apply to see it, and the proprietor was thus enabled to supply either girls or women. In short, the house to which he referred was a house of call for women who were seeking for labour to compete with men. He worked for , at what was called the up-stairs trade. Last week he made a coat, double- stitched and braided, for 8s., out of which he had to find his own trimmings; but the coat was thrown back on his hands because the double stitches were not all sewn with silk. The making of the coat cost him three-and-a-half days' labour; but he might possibly have made it in three days by working sixteen or eighteen hours [hear, hear]. He had made a coat of bear-skin, which took him four days' hard work, at about eighteen hours each day, for 8s. The creasing alone was a day's work for any man. He had also made shooting-coats with eight pockets, laps, and seamed, for 7s., finding his own trimmings [hear]. But further, if work was not delivered at the exact time, there was a fine of 3d. for the first hour, and 6d. for every hour afterwards. These rules were written up in the place where the work was given out. Besides, if the garment was not in till four o'clock on Friday, they would not take it in, and you were obliged to wait till the next week for your money. He wished it to be known that only five months ago he came out of his apprenticeship. He had served six years at the business, and £7 premium was paid with him, and such had been the sort of work he had since been occupied upon. Let him work as hard as he could for eighteen hours every day he could not make more than 12s., and out of that sum trimmings cost him 2s., light 6d., and coals ls. 6d.; so that he had only 8s. for his support.
    "Lights, at this season, will cost you 3d. a night," exclaimed a bystander, "if you burn it for ten hours, as you must, expressly for your work."
    It was here asked whether this was an extra expense upon the ordinary cost of fire and lighting?
    "Yes," resounded from the whole meeting. "And rent, too," said the individual.
    "If you were working in a shop, that expense would be saved?" was the next inquiry.
    "It would," replied a number of voices; "and we should be saved the expense of irons, boards, and rent."
    A WORKMAN at one of the most extensive slop-sellers' said, that some years ago the proprietors of that establishment were in the habit of expressing their readiness to exhibit their book of wages. This book was a deception, inasmuch as each £1 or £2 entered against a name had to be divided between six or even more individuals; so that it could not be correct to ascribe these earnings to one man.
    The following statement was then read: - 

    "Gentlemen-I have worked for the firm of – about four years. About three weeks ago the foreman sent a sailor's jacket to me, about six o'clock in the evening, it was to be made with slash sleeves, double- breasted, sowed on lappel, and the price was 6d.; and it was wanted at two o clock the next day. I sent it back again, and said I could not make it by the time. He said I must make it; whereupon I sent it back again, and said I could not make it. Well, then he sent the wife about, from place to place, to see if any one else would make it, but no one else would make it in the time. So then he said he would give me longer time to make it. I undertook it; and when the job was opened, there were no sleeve linings in it. I went in for the sleeve linings, and got them. I sat up all night, and got another man to help me; and when I sent the jacket in, because he said I was behind my time, he fined me 6d., and when I went to receive my wages on the Saturday night 6d. was deducted for the sleeve linings, which I never had. I stood up there one Saturday, and in about three hours I counted 19s. of fines, some 1s., some 2s., and so on. The trimmer took it into his head one day to fine a woman 1s., because he said she was saucy. The husband went to know what was the reason his wife was fined 1s. His answer was, 'I shall fine you another, and then one cannot laugh at the other.' The man, feeling himself badly treated, goes to the head of the firm, and his answer is, 'If you do not like it, you may leave it.' So the man was obliged to put up with the consequences or lose his bread. If I had kept a proper account of all the fines that have been levied on me since I have worked for the firm, it would have amounted to not less than 3l.

     The person referred to in this communication here stood up, and said he had asked for the money back, but it was refused, and he was threatened. Having a wife and two children dependent upon him, he was obliged to submit. He had a coat given him last Thursday, to make by half-past three the next day. He sat up to do it. but fell asleep at four, and did not awake till eight on the Friday morning, so that he could not take in the coat till half-past seven at night. The establishment was then closed, but he went to the private door, where he was told the coat would do the next morning. He sent it by his wife the next morning, but when he came to receive his wages on Saturday night, he was fined 6d. out of 8s. for its being late. His fines in four years, he believed, had amounted to £4  15s., and he could hardly tell for what.
    A respectable-looking man said that till lately he had been working at the West-end, but that three weeks ago he was sought out by a master sweater, and he got work at one of the slop-establishments. He was paid 4s. for making a paletot, out of which he had to find silk, thread, and basting-cotton. A good man could not make one in less than twenty-four hours. Fourpence per hour was deducted if the garment was sent in late; so that frequently he was obliged to work all night towards the end of the week. Poor men were often obliged to work upon the Sunday. And who did these men work for? Not altogether for the poor; for last week a coat was made where he was serving for Lord --, and the week before some liveries were ordered by another noble lord, whose name he had forgotten; but he was struck with them as they were only paid 12s. 6d. for. 18s. was the price for making liveries of this description; and as they would only pay 12s. 6d. he struck. Somebody, however, was found to accept it. This was the way in which poor men were ruined. The effect of such a state of things upon morals must be injurious. Numbers of young men in the trade came up from the country to London before their characters were formed. They could find nothing to do at the West-end; they then came down in the City, and were there easily influenced to work upon the Sunday. He knew, indeed, it was a practice with some masters to give out work upon the Saturday night, with directions for it to be brought in on Monday morning [hear, hear]. Under these circumstances he expressed his gratitude for the movement that was being made to improve the condition of the class to which he belonged.
    A young man here stepped forward and told a striking tale. He said he had been apprenticed to a tailor in Ipswich; that a premium of £100 had been paid with him; and that, having finished his servitude and being out of work, he resolved to come up to London. In the first year of his apprenticeship he received 8s. a week; in the second 10s., for which he toiled from seven in the morning till ten at night. He had no friend, no home, at Ipswich: and he came to London, where the first person he met was a sweater, who told him he could produce more than 16s. a week. Well, he toiled from 7 in the morning till 12 at night. The sweater then asked whether he would work upon the Sunday? He objected: and upon the Saturday night, instead of having 2s. or 3s. in his pocket, he was brought in 6d. in debt. The sweater he found took coats from 3s. 6d., but he paid the workpeople only 2s. 6d.. out of which they had to find their own trimmings. When he complained, the sweater told him he must work on Sunday; but he said, "I'll go without my victuals first" [cheers].
    "What did you give for your food?" asked a voice in the meeting.
    "I took my teas and breakfasts with him," was the reply. "I was charged 4d. for each, 2d. for dinner, and 2d. for supper. I made five coats in the week, which came to 12s. 6d. My victuals cost 1s. a day; lodgings were 2s. 6d.; 1s. 6d. went for fire and candles; 1s. 3d. for trimmings; which makes 12s. 3d. I can't make up the remainder, and I suppose I was cheated out of it. Through my circumstances, I have been obliged to sell my shirt to get lodgings. Yesterday I went to a Frenchman that takes out work in Colchester-street, and he offered me 5s. a week to work from seven in the morning till ten at night. I asked him to give me lodgings besides, but he would not, and I was obliged to walk about. I went to three unions, but none of them would let me in; and I am now without a shirt to my back, because I sold it to get shelter, after I had walked till two o'clock in the morning.
    This statement excited great commiseration, and a spontaneous wish arose to make a subscription for the young man upon the spot. Other means, however, were found to relieve his immediate necessities.
    Several other statements were afterwards made, all showing the oppressions to which the operative tailors are subjected.
    The results of the meeting were as follows: - The average earnings of those engaged at the slop-trade were 9s. 7žd., or 8s. clear. The aggregate earnings of 71 hands last week amounted to £34  11s.  ld., or 9s. 4d. each - less than 8s. clear.
    The average earnings of the honourable part of the trade were 15s. 5d. per week, clear of all deductions. 77 hands earned last week altogether £57  6s. 10d.
    The amount in pawn was £110  5s. by the slop-trade, and £121 1s. 6d. by the members of the honourable trade - in all £231  6s.  6d. by 148 people.
    An offer was made to introduce me privately into the workshop of a large show and slop-shop at the East-end of the town, where I might see and interrogate the men at work on the premises; but to this I objected, saying I did not think it fair that I should enter any man's premises with such an object, unknown to him. I was then told that several of the workmen would willingly meet me. and state the price they received for their labour, and the unjust system upon which the establishment was conducted. This statement I said I should be very glad to listen and give publicity to. Accordingly, three of the better class of hands waited upon me, and gave me the following account: -"We work at the slop trade. We mean, by the slop trade, the cheap ready-made trade. The dishonourable part of the tailoring trade consists of two classes. viz., those who are connected with show-shops and slop-shops. The show-shops belong to the cheap 'bespoke trade,' and the slop-shops to the cheap 'ready-made trade.' Many of the large tailoring houses at the East-end of London are both show-shops and slop-shops. By a show-shop we mean one where the different styles of garments are exhibited in the window, ticketed as 'made to measure at a certain price.' By a slop-shop we mean one where the garments themselves are sold ready-made, and not a similar one made to measure at a certain price. In the cheap or ready-made trade a large number of one kind of garments is made up, either for home consumption or for exportation; whereas, in the show or cheap bespoke trade, only one of the same kind or garment is made up at one time. We all three of us work at coat-making. We are paid piece-work. The full price - that is, the highest amount paid for any coat made on the establishment - is 10s. The coat for which this price is given is a full-trimmed frock or dress coat. By 'full-trimmed' we mean lined throughout with silk and with quilted sides. The price for such a coat in the honourable trade is 18s. - that is the very lowest price: the best houses would pay from 21s. to 24s. The time that such coats will take to make is four days, estimating twelve hours' work to the day. They are, however, made in three days, but this is done by working over-hours at home. At dress and frock coat work we can make the most money. At this kind of work - if we could get it - we might earn l5s. a week. But there are other kinds of work which are much worse paid for, and we have to take these with the rest. If we object, we are told we shall have no more to do. The worst kind of work that we have to do consists of drab driving capes; these are made of thick 'box cloth,' or 'Devonshire kersey,' and have 'double-pricked' seams all through (the cloth is too hard to stitch, and consequently the needle has to be passed up and down, or double pricked, as a shoemaker would stitch leather); there are eighteen rows of pricking round the hand  - four pockets, with flaps pricked the same as the seams - and the capes are lined entirely with silk, which is quilted all through. The price for making such a description of garment is 9s., and it will take, at least, a week making. "I know I made one," said one of the men, "and I was more than six days over it." "Yes, that you must have been," said another, "and not an hour less. At the best houses at the West-end the price for such a garment would be 36s. We have all worked in the honourable trade, so we know the regular prices from our own personal experience. Taking the bad work with the good work, we might earn 11s. a week upon an average. Sometimes we do earn as much as 15s.; but to do this we are obliged to take part of our work home to our wives and daughters. We are not always fully employed. We are nearly half our time idle. Hence our earnings are, upon an average, throughout the year, not more than 5s. 6d. a week. "Very often I have made only 3s. 4d. in the week," said one. "That's common enough with us all, I can assure you," said another. "Last week my wages was 7s. 6d." declared one. "I earned 6s. 4d.," exclaimed the second. "My wages came to 9s. 2d. The week before I got 6s. 3d." "I made 7s. 9d.;" and "I, 7s. or 8s., I can't exactly remember which." "This is what we term the best part of our winter season. "The reason why we are so long idle is because more hands than are wanted are kept on the premises, so that in case of a press of work coming in our employers can have it done immediately. Under the day- work system no master tailor had more men on the premises than he could keep continually going; but since the change to the piecework system, masters make a practice of engaging double the quantity of hands that they have any need for, so that an order may be executed 'at the shortest possible notice,' if requisite. A man must not leave the premises when unemployed; if he does he loses his chance of work coming in. I have been there four days together, and not had a stitch of work to do. "Yes; that is common enough." "Aye, and then you're told, if you complain, you can go if you don't like it. I am sure twelve hands would do all they have done at home, and yet they keep forty of us. It's generally remarked, that however strong and healthy a man may be when he goes to work at that shop, in a month's time he'll be a complete shadow, and have almost all his clothes in pawn. By Sunday morning-after the workman has paid what he has run a score for - he has no money at all left, and he has to subsist till the following Saturday upon about a pint of weak tea and four slices of bread and butter per day. "There was a man there who came from Belgium," said one of the workmen; "I don't think he ever earned 5s. a week, and one week I know he got only 1s. 6d. - one half-pair of trousers was all he had to do. He came up to me, and begged bread by signs, for he could not speak a word of English. We made a subscription of halfpence for him round the shop, and his consul sent him back to his own country. There are five foreigners in our shop, and I can assert positively that in the last few years a great number of German and Polish Jew tailors have been brought over to work at the slop trade. I know positively that hundreds are not engaged at slop work, and every summer brings a fresh importation." "One of our foremen is a Hungarian Jew, and he prefers foreign hands to us. We all make for – – the 'poor man's friend,' said they, satirically. We used to have to make for for him frequently; but now he has shifted to another slop-shop near London bridge, where the same starvation prices are paid. We have also made garments for Sir – – Sir – – Alderman –, Dr.– , and Dr.– . We make for several of the aristocracy. We cannot say whom, because the tickets frequently come to us as Lord –and the Marquess of –. This could not be a Jew's trick, because the buttons on the liveries had coronets upon them. And again, we know the house is patronised largely by the aristocracy, clergy, and gentry, by the number of court suits and liveries, surplices, regimentals, and ladies' riding-habits that we continually have to make up. There are more clergymen among the customers than any other class, and often we have to work at home upon the Sunday at their clothes, in order to get a living. The customers are mostly ashamed of dealing at this house, for the men who take the clothes to the customers' houses in the cart have directions to pull up at the corner of the street. We had a good proof of the dislike of gentlefolks to have it known that they dealt at that shop for their clothes, for when the trousers buttons were stamped with the name of the firm, we used to have the garments returned daily, to have other buttons put on them; and now the buttons are unstamped. Formerly an operative tailor's wife never helped him. He worked at the shop-brought his weekly wages home-from 30s. to 36s. a week; and his wife attended to her domestic duties, and lived in ease and comfort. This was the case twenty years ago, but since that time prices have come down to such an extent, that now a man's entire family, wife and daughters, all have to work, and, with the whole of the family's work. the weekly income is not one-half what the operative could get by his own labour some years back. We are all satisfied that there is scarcely a working tailor whose wife and daughters are not engaged at some kind of slop; and that five-and-twenty years ago female labour was unknown in the trade-indeed, it was not allowed. The decline in the prices of our trade arises, in our opinion, from our wives and daughters being brought to work, and so to compete with ourselves. There is at our establishment a mode of reducing the price of our labour even lower than we have mentioned. The prices we have stated are those nominally paid for making the garments; but it is not an uncommon thing in our shop for a man to make a garment, and receive nothing at all for it. I remember a man once having a waistcoat to do, the price of making which was 2s., and when he gave the job in he was told that he owed the establishment 6d. The manner in which this is brought about is by a system of fines. We are fined, if we are behind time with our job, 6d. the first hour, and 3d. for each hour that we are late. "I have known as much as 7s. 6d. to be deducted off the price of a coat on the score of want of punctuality," one said; "and, indeed, very often the whole money is stopped. It would appear as if our employers themselves strove to make us late with our work, and so have an opportunity of cutting down the price paid for our labour. They frequently put off giving out the trimmings to us till the time at which the coat is due has expired. If to the trimmer we return an answer that is considered saucy,' we are fined 6d. or 1s., according to the trimmer's temper." "I was called a thief, another of the three declared; "and because I told the man I would not submit to such language, I was fined 6d. These are the principal of the in-door fines. The out-door fines are still more iniquitous. There are full a dozen more fines for minor offences; indeed, we are fined upon every petty pretext. We never know what we have to take on a Saturday, for the meanest advantages are taken to reduce our wages. If we object to pay these fines, we are told that we may leave; but they know full well that we are afraid to throw ourselves out of work."
    I next went to an out-door hand, employed on the superior descriptions of work, and his story was as follows: - 
    "I work at the out-door work for a large show and slop shop. I do the bespoke work - the best or superior portion of it. I get 10s. for making a sea-otter fur coat, such a one as is advertised at the selling price of 20 guineas. It takes me six days to make one of these. The trimmings are 1s.; the coals and candles are at the very least 1s.; so that at this work - the most expensive on the establishment - I should earn 8s. clear per week. Such a coat at the West-end would be 36s. making. The next description of garment that I make is a peculiar kind of coat, consisting of superfine blue cloth on one side, with silk braid; on the other side it consists of 'Witney' cloth, and is double-stitched at the seams. It has eighteen rows of stitching round the cuffs of the sleeves, and five pockets. This is made so as to be turned inside out, and admits of being worn with the superfine cloth outside for fine weather, and the 'Witney' outside should the weather be rough. There are very few hands in the trade that can make this kind of garment. I receive 12s. for making each of them. The trimmings would be about 1s. 6d.; the expenses 1s. Hence I should get 9s. 6d. clear, and it would take me seven days to make one of them. I also make dress and frock coats of the best description. The one you saw me working at last week, and which had four pockets, and was faced with black satin through the front, and had the body and back lined throughout with lustre, thickly quilted, and the seams sewn plain and then stitched on each side, so that there were three sewings to each seam, I received 11s. for. Out of the 11s. I had to find trimmings; these came to 9d., and the expenses to 1s.. so that I got out of this 9s. 3d. clear. It took me six days to make, and in the honourable part of the trade would have been £1 16s. The remainder of my work consists of dress and frocks coats of the best description. For these I get from 8s. to 10s.. or, deducting 1s. 6d. for the trimmings and expenses of these - they are mostly made in summer, when the coals and candles are not so expensive - I make from 6s. 6d. to 8s. 6d. in three days. This is the best kind of work I have. I can make at it from 13s. to 17s. per week. Last week my earnings were 8s. clear. I received 19s. from the establishment, but out of that I had to pay 3s. for trimmings and expenses, and 8s. to the party who helped me. The week before I made 9s. clear; I took 21s., and paid 3s. for trimmings and expenses, and 9s. to my fellow-workman. He is here to answer to the truth of this statement. [The "fellow-workman" assured me that he always shared equally in the earnings of my informant: that he did not lodge with him, nor did he have his breakfast or tea on the premises.] "My average clear earnings, I think, are 10s. I am fully employed all the year round, and never lose a day. I am not fined to that extent to which I know some men are, for the reason that I am one of the very best hands, and they would not like me to leave them. But I know the system of fines to he most iniquitous; on an average, I should say each male hand that works for the establishment is docked 1s. 6d. per week. I myself have been fined as much as 2s. on one garment for being behind time with it, because I objected to work on a Sunday. "Last Christmas week," said the man who was working with my informant, "I stood in the cage (that is the name of the place where the work is given in), and saw no less than twenty fined in two hours, and I am sure the whole amount of the fines stopped in that time must have been at least £3. I am quite satisfied, taking one man with another, the prices that are said to be paid for the coats are reduced by the system of fines at least 15 per cent." "Another part of the fraud and deception of the slop system consists in the mode in which the public are made to believe that the men working for such establishments earn more money than they really do. The plan practised is similar to that adopted by the army clothier, who made out that the loopers working on his establishment made per week from 15s. to 17s. each; whereas, on inquiry. it was found that a considerable sum was paid out of that to others who helped to do the looping for those who took it home. When a coat is given to me to make, a ticket is handed to me with the garment, similar to this one which I have obtained from a friend of mine:


        Mr. Smith 6675 Made by M
     Zc = 12s. = lined lustre quilted double
                             stitched each side seams
44s. No. 6675.
         o'clock Friday
Mr. Smith

 On this you see the price is marked at 12s.," continued my informant, "and supposing that I, with two others, could make three of these garments in the week, the sum of thirty-six shillings would stand in the books of the establishment as the amount earned by me in that space of time. This would be sure to be exhibited to the customers, immediately there was the last outcry as to the starvation price they paid for their work, as a proof that the work- people engaged in their establishment received the full prices~ whereas out of 36s. entered against my name, I should have had to pay 24s. to those who assisted me; besides this, my share of the trimmings and expenses would be 1s. 6d., and probably my share of the fines would be 1s. more; so that the real fact would be. that I should make 9s. 6d. clear, and this it would be almost impossible for me to do if I did not work long over-hours. I am obliged to keep my wife continually at work helping me to make the garments in order to live. I am in a far worse condition now than when I first began the trade. At first I could earn near upon 36s. My wife then attended to her home, but now, though we both work at the trade and longer hours, I cannot make more than one third what I did then. I am quite satisfied that the low prices paid in my trade do not arise from too many hands; but there is a wholesale importation of cheap labour every year. The German and Polish Jew tailors, Prussians, Austrians, Belgians, and Hungarians are brought to this country every summer like the Italian boys; and besides this, women, who before, owing to the fair and honourable prices paid for our work, were able to attend solely to their family duties, have now, owing to the unjust prices, been drafted into the tailoring business, and it is this cheap foreign and female labour being brought into competition with ours that reduces the wages of the male hands.
    The s1op system is rapidly extending all over England, more particularly in the manufacturing districts. The effect of this is. that the system of indoor work is gradually being changed throughout into the sweating system, and the operative tailors in the provinces must consequently be shortly reduced to the same state of distress as the slop-workers of the metropolis.
    My next visit was to an outdoor worker of the inferior description, from whom I received the following account: - "I work at the inferior work for the slop-trade. This kind of work is never done 'in doors' - that is, on the premises of the master. The inferior work consists of shooting coats, fishing coats. oxonian coats, paletots, reefing jackets, pilot coats, chesterfields, codringtons, bullers, sacks, sailors' jackets, and Spanish cloaks. The last-mentioned garment is the worst paid of all the work I have to do. For making a large Spanish cloak, with a hood to come over the head, and with six holes on each side of the garment. and three banyan plaits at the hips, I get 2s. The cloak has more work in it than an ordinary great-coat; indeed, it is than an ordinary great coat; indeed, it is similar in make to an old-fashioned great coat with a hood to it. It takes two days - working 17 hours each day - or very nearly three ordinary days - to make one of these cloaks. I could earn at this kind of work from 4s. to 4s. 6d., and out of this I should have to pay 7d. for trimmings and about 1s. for lighting and firing. Hence my clear weekly earnings would be from 2s. 6d. to 3s. These garments are given out only at a very slack time of the year, when they know that the men must do them at the employer's own price. About five years ago the price paid for making these garments began to be reduced. They were before that time 2s. 6d., and they have since gradually fallen to 2s. The best-paid work that I do is the shooting coats. The Oxonians are almost as good as they are, but I prefer the shooting coats. These, I think, are the best paid of all the inferior kinds of slopwork. I get 3s. for making one of these. I can make one in two days of twelve hours each; but 1 am a very quick hand. At this kind of work I could get 9s. per week. I could earn more by working longer time, of course. Out of the 9s. it would cost me 9d. for trimmings, and the expenses of firing and lighting is. My clear earnings, therefore, would be 7s. 3d. per week. Taking the good with the bad work that I do, I should say that I make on an average about 5s. or 6s. a week clear. I do make more occasionally, hut then I have to work longer time to get it. By working over-hours and Sundays, I manage to make from 8s. to 9s. clear. To get this much, I must begin work at six in the morning, and sit close at it till eleven at night. This statement includes, of course, the necessary loss of time consequent on going backwards and forwards. taking work in, and getting fresh work out, and having to make alterations as well. I work first-handed - that is, I am not employed by any sweater. I originally belonged to the honourable part of the trade. I have made shooting coats for masters at the West-end. and had 14s. for making the very same garment as I now get 3s. for. When working at the honourable trade, my average weekly earnings were about LI, including vacation. Now I don't get half that amount. It is six or seven years ago since I worked for the West-end shops. My wife did no work then. I could maintain her in comfort by the produce of my labour. Now she slaves night and day, as I do: and very often she had less rest than myself, for she has to stop up after I have gone to bed to attend to her domestic duties. The two of us, working these long hours, and the Sundays as well, can get only 15s.- that is to say, the two of us slaving night and day, and all the Sabbath long, can earn only three- quarters as much as I alone could get by working twelve hours each day for six days in the week, and that but seven years ago. I believe mine to be about an average of the condition and earnings of the male hands engaged in the slop-trade. Many are much worse off than I am, but some are better. I attribute the decline in the wages of the operative tailor to the introduction of cheap Irish. foreign, and female labour. Before then we could live and keep our families by our own exertions; now our wives and children must work as well as ourselves to get less money than we alone could earn a few years back. My comforts have not in any way increased with the decrease in the price of provisions. Bread, tea, meat, sugar, are all much cheaper than they were five years ago. Bread, three years since this winter, was 11d, and 11―d. the quartern, now it is 4―d. and 5d.- that is more than half as cheap, and yet I can safely say I am twice as badly off now as I was then; and so I know are all the people in my trade. Our wages have gone down more than provisions; that is to say, we and our wives work more than twice as hard, and we get less food and less comfort by our labour. Fifteen or twenty years ago such a thing as a journeyman tailor having to give security before he could get work was unknown: but now I and such as myself could not get a stitch to do first- handed, if we did not either procure the security of some householder, or deposit £5 in the hands of the employer. The reason of this is, the journeymen are so badly paid that the employers know they can barely live on what they get, and consequently they are often driven to pawn the garments given out to them, in order to save themselves and their families from starving. If the journeyman can manage to scrape together £5, he has to leave it in the hands of his employer all the time that he is working for the house. I know one person who gives out the work for a fashionable West-end slop-shop who will not take household security, and requires £5 from each hand. I am informed by one of the parties who worked for this man that he has as many as 150 hands in his employ, and that each of these has placed £5 in his hands, so that altogether the poor people have handed over £750, to increase the capital upon which he trades, and for which he pays no interest whatsoever. [The reader will remember a similar case (mentioned by the poor stay-stitcher in a former letter) of a large wholesale staymaker in the City who had amassed a large fortune by beginning to trade upon the 5s. which he demanded to be left in his hands by his workpeople before he gave them employment.] "Two or three years back one of the slop-sellers at the East-end became bankrupt, and the poor people lost all the money that had been deposited as security for work in his hands. The journeymen who get the security of householders are enabled to do so by a system which is now in general practice at the East-end. Several bakers, publicans, chandler's-shop keepers, and coal-shed keepers make a trade of becoming security for those seeking slop-work. They consent to be responsible for the workpeople upon the condition of the men dealing at their shops. The workpeople who require such security are generally very good customers, from the fact of their either having large families, all engaged in the same work, or else several females or males working under them, and living at their house. The parties becoming securities thus not only greatly increase their trade, but furnish a second-rate article at a first-rate price. It is useless to complain of the bad quality or high price of the articles supplied by the securities, for the shopkeepers know as well as the workpeople that it is impossible for the hands to leave them without losing their work. I know one baker whose security was refused at the slop-house because he was already responsible for so many, and he begged the publican to be his deputy, so that by this means the workpeople were obliged to deal at both baker's and publican's too. I never heard of a butcher making a trade of becoming security, because the slopwork people cannot afford to consume much meat. The same system is also pursued by lodging-house keepers. They will become responsible if the workmen requiring security will undertake to lodge at their house. Concerning the system of fines adopted at the lower class of slop houses, I know that within the last week a new practice has been introduced of stopping ld. out of the wages for each garment that is brought in after eleven o'clock on the Saturday. By this means upwards of £1 was collected last Saturday night. This the proprietor of the shop pretends to distribute in charity; but if he does so, the charitable gift passes as his own money, and we have no means of knowing how much he collects and how much he distributes. There is also a fine of 4d. for each louse found on the garments brought in. The fine for vermin at other houses is sometimes as high as 6d., and at others as low as 3d. The poor people are obliged to live in the cheapest and filthiest places, and have, even if they felt inclined, little or no time to 'clean themselves.' If a louse is found on the garments brought in by any of the 'lady sweaters,' who are generally much better dressed than the poor workpeople, it is wrapped up in a piece of clean paper, and presented to the 'lady' in an under tone, so that the other parties present may not be aware of the circumstance. If the vermin he found upon the garments brought in by the poor people, the foremen make no secret of it, and fine them 4d., in the presence of all in the shop. When the wife of a sweater returns home, and tells the hands working under her husband that 4d. has been stopped for a louse found upon the garments taken in, an angry discussion often arises among the workpeople as to whose it was."
    My informant tells me that the wives of many sweaters make a practice of being continually on the look-out to entrap young and inexperienced hands from the country. If they see a youth whom they know to be a tailor by the peculiarity of his walk, and he appears to be a stranger in London, they stop him, and inquire if he has come to town for work. if he answers in the affirmative, they tell him that their husband will give him as much as he wants - that if he chooses to come and live and lodge with them he shall be very comfortable, and may earn as much as 16s. a week. The youth is generally inveigled by what he hears, is taken home to the sweater's house, and once in there it is impossible to extricate himself. His coat is soon pledged, and he is forced to remain working with the sweater for the merest pittance, living on the worst food and inhabiting the foulest rooms for months, and perhaps years. My informant assures me that he knows many such cases, and indeed this, he says, has now become so general a practice, that even the old hands in the trade are frequently stopped in the street, and accosted by these women. He himself has had such overtures made to him several times. The system of importing cheap Irish and foreign labour is also very extensively carried on. Letters are sent to Ireland to the friends of the London sweaters, telling them that they are in want of hands, and then a supply is shipped off to the sweater on the promise of good wages. This is the cause, I am assured, of so many Irish hands being at present working at the trade. I hope to he able to bring forward, in my next letter, several cases in proof of this. At present I shall content myself by referring to the speech of the poor shirtless youth who made his appearance, and by citing the following instances: -
     I now come to the narrative of a man assuredly a type of a very numerous class - a journeyman tailor, who adhered as long as possible to the "honourable" trade and the rules of the society, but who had to become a sweater with a family: - "I am 49, and had been a journeyman tailor for 30 years. My experience of the business in London extends over 25 years. I came to London 25 years ago, and the average of my wages was 36s.; indeed, I've many a week earned £2 and more by my own labour alone. This was the case for eight or nine years. I was very seldom out of work in those days. I was then a married man with a family; but I could and did support and educate my family well and comfortably by my own labour. After the term I have mentioned I felt a difference. Trade fell off gradually, and kept falling, dragging down men's earnings with it, until it's as bad as we find it now. Wages fell more after the change in 1834. A had job that ever it happened - it was indeed. Wages, or earnings, kept still falling, and, my family growing up, 1 was compelled to become a sweater. putting my two boys and two girls to work to assist me, as well as my wife, when her health permitted. With all these five hands and my own labour I could not on slop-work, working every day and long hours, earn more than 30s. a week; and I had the best of the work that was given out. A man regularly employed by a slop master cannot earn more than 12s. a week by his own labour. out of which he must find his own sewing-trimmings, candles, &c. Provisions are cheaper than they were, certainly; but wages, I have found, fall faster and sooner than provisions - so cheap tea and sugar's little benefit. I worked for , but was only once in their shop in my life. I always sent my wife or one of my children for and with the work. I couldn't spare time to go myself. If I had had only myself I could not have earned more than 10s. at twelve hours' work every day. I have no doubt that the low-priced ticketing' shops have brought about this hard state of things. bringing females into the trade, and forcing men to work for almost any wages. If any good soul were to leave me £100 now. or even £500, it would be no use my attempting to do any good with it as a small master. I could not get enough custom. A man could at one time live comfortably under one of them. I have not tasted spirits for seven years come Easter, but with all my endeavours and my family's I cannot save anything. My rent is 3s. 6d. a week for two rooms. If I ever ran off tipping, somebody must want. I left because I was employed to make three frock coats, lined through with silk and quilted, for which I received 10s. each (the regular pay would be 21s.), and from the 30s. I earned my employer wanted to deduct 6s. - that is, 2s. on each coat as a fine. I might take less and keep my work, or be paid the 30s. and lose my work. That's the way they gradually lower wages still more. Such masters always take advantage of a slack time. What can men with families do? Men must submit. 
      From an intelligent man I learned how some employers still further reduced the low wages paid by fines, and by deductions from the usual charge for garments in the case of men below the average height or bulk, saying that they must be paid for at the same rate as boy's clothing. "If I give way," said the man, "next time, perhaps, a rather bigger man's trowsers would be reckoned as boys', and so it creeps on." On the subject of fines, I will relate what was told me by another workman - several representing the same thing to me as very common. His wife had taken up work at –'s, and when she went home, some part of the stuff was found wanting: It had not been given out by the "trimmer." She went back, but could not get the stuff wanted unless she would pay for it. On her demurring, she was fined Is., and on the husband's going to expostulate, he was fined 1s., that, as he was told, he might not have the laugh against his wife! He complained to the superintendent of the shop who told him he must put up with such things. He had his choice - pay the fines, and keep his work, or to refuse to pay them, and leave it. The "trimmer£ pronounced him drunk and abusive, but the man declares he went straight from his work, and was perfectly sober and civil. This same man was fined 1s. for being an hour too late with a jacket, at which he had worked all night, and had not a reasonable time allowed to finish the job. Many men complained of the utter disregard of their convenience shown by some employers or their shopmen; such as getting work in the evening, and being compelled to work all night, without a farthing extra for fire or candle.
    The following is the statement of a master in the City, to whom I was referred as a very intelligent man, and one greatly respected: -"I have been in business fifteen years. When I commenced I used to get good prices, but now I am compelled to give as good an article at a lower price - fully twenty per cent. lower - in order to compete with ready-made and cheap clothes shops. I have not in consequence reduced the wages of the men in my employ, so that my profits are considerably reduced, while my exertions, and those of other tradesmen similarly circumstanced, to keep together a 'connection,' which may yield fair prices and a fair remuneration, have to be more strenuous than ever. Year by year I have found the cheap establishments affect my business, and it seems to me that if the system pursued by the show and slop houses be not checked, it will swamp all the honourable trade, which becomes every year smaller. Customers bargain now more than ever as to price, their constant remark being, I can get it for so much at –'s'. When I began business the cheap system had not been started. Slopsellers formerly were those who made inferior clothing, badly cut and badly made, and paid for accordingly. Now, there must be - for these great cheap houses - good work for bad wages. Some years ago a great part of the slopseller's business was to make clothes for the slaves in the West Indies, for East Indian regiments, jackets for sailors, and such like. When I began business the slop trade was a distinct thing from what is understood as the 'regular' trade of the tailor. Tailoring was then kept to itself. There were not half the good hands to be got then that there are now. A really first-rate hand was comparatively scarce. Now I can get any number of first- rate hands, as I give full wages. I could get twenty such hands, if I wanted them, in a few hours. My business, to compete with the slopsellers, requires the most incessant attention, or I am sure it would fall. I cannot now afford to give such a term of credit as formerly. My regular hands earn the same wages as they have earned all along; they perhaps average 25s. to 30s. a week through the year. My trade is looked upon as an exception to the general lowering of price and wretched payment of the workmen round about here. I find the effects of the ready-made trade most at holiday times, Easter and Christmas, when business used to be the best. People at those times now run to the slop-shops. I have worked my business up in my own way, but I am convinced that if I had to begin it now, instead of fifteen years ago, I could not have established myself with a body of respectable and regular customers, at fair prices; not even with more capital at my command, I must have adopted the low-priced system. As businesses 'of the old school' fall off, the customers go to the slop-sellers. Such businesses as mine are becoming fewer; tailors' shops now must be on a very large scale, or they are not to be carried on profitably at all.  
    A card was put into my hands on my rounds: it ran as follows: - 

to be raffled
on Monday, the 17TH of December, at the
Angel and Crown, Ship Alley, Wellclose Square
the property of W. W., who has had a Long fit of Sickness.
Chairman Mr. J. F. - Dep. Mr. P. C.
Tickets 6d. Each     Music Provided.

    I lost no time in seeking out the sick man, and found him truly destitute. I was directed to one of the back streets of the Commercial-road; and there, in a small, close, and bare, unfurnished room, stretched on a bed scantily covered, I found the poor sick slopworker. On the floor sat a man cross-legged at work, who had no place to carry on his trade. He had come to sit in the dying man's room, and to use the sleeve-boards and irons that the invalid has no use for. .On the narrow wooden mantel-shelf stood a row of empty physic bottles and an old wine glass; beside the man's bed was a small deal table, on which was a mildewed orange, half peeled. The ceiling was browned in patches with the wet that had leaked through from the roof. The wife followed me upstairs. There was no chair in the room, and one was borrowed from below for my accommodation. She told me the house was "dreadful damp;" it was never dry, winter or summer; the wet often streamed down the walls. I had seen many squalid, desolate homes, but this was more wretched than all. I asked why the sick man was not taken to the hospital. The man himself could not speak for coughing. The wife told me he could not go to the hospital, his clothes were all in pledge; they had been taken to the pawnshop for the subsistence of the family. "If it hadn't been for that we must all have starved," she said. "This last five weeks he has been confined to his bed, and we have been obliged to make away with all we had. I have pawned all my under-clothing. I have five children; the eldest fourteen, and the youngest two years and a half old. I have pledged almost all their clothes, and if I could have taken anything else off the poor little things, I should have done it to get victuals for them." The man himself now raised his head from below the bed-clothes. His long black hair was thrown off his forehead, and his face, which had once been handsome, was suffused with perspiration. His black unshorn beard made him look paler perhaps than he was. He breathed hard and quickly. He told me he could not go to the hospital because he should lose his work if he did so. "I worked at the out-door work for a large slop-shop. I did the bespoke work" said he. "Look here," cried one of his friends, dragging a coat from off the sick man's bed; "see here; the man has no covering, and so he throws this garment over him as a shelter." [It was a new pilot coat that was to be taken in that evening for the shop.] I expressed my surprise that the bed of the sick man should be covered with the new garment, and was informed that such in the winter time was a common practice among the workpeople. When the weather was very cold, and their blankets had gone to the pawnshop, the slopworkers often went to bed, I was told, with the sleeves of the coat they were making drawn over their arms, or else they would cover themselves with the trowsers or paletots, according to the description of garment they had in hand. The ladies riding habits in particular, I was assured, were used as counterpanes to the poor people's beds, on account of the quantity of cloth in the skirts. "He will get 3s. for making such a coat as this," continued the sick man's friend, still holding up the garment, "and out of that he will have to pay 6d. for trimmings and expenses. It will take him two days to make such a coat, working twelve hours each day. But in the slop trade we hardly understand 12 hours work in a day; our time for labour is mostly 18 hours every day. Doing 12 hours work a day he could make 7s. 6d. a week clear at such work, and out of that he has to keep himself, a wife, and five children, and pay rent. I can earn upon an average," he said, "by my own labour, from 9s. to 10s. a week clear." Here my attention was distracted by a loud voice below stairs. It was one of the servants of the slop-house, come to demand a certain garment that had been given out to the sick man to make, and which he had employed a party to finish for him. It had been pawned when completed to keep the sick man's family from starving, and when the poor fellow was told the cause of the noise below stairs, he trembled like a leaf, and the perspiration again started in large drops to his forehead. "Let me drink," he said. I asked to see the pawn tickets. They were shown me; and I was told by one of the parties present in the room that the firm, having heard of my inquiry into the condition and earnings of the workpeople, were calling in all garments, so as to prevent my seeing the prices marked upon the tickets sent out with the clothes. The same person assured me that a servant of the house had called upon him that morning, and demanded a particular garment that he had to make for them. It was in pawn, he told me, and he had been obliged to pledge the work of another employer, in order to redeem the coat demanded. Indeed, I was assured that such was the distress of the workpeople that there was scarcely one that had not work of their employers in pawn; that one coat was continually substituted for another to prevent inquiries; and that a month's interest was paid on each, though it was generally in pawn but a few days. The workpeople dreaded detection more than anything, because it was sure to be followed by the withdrawal of their security, and this was their ruin. "I came over from Ireland several years back," continued the sick man, in answer to my questions. "I worked from a house of call for about ten years after I came to England, and then I came to this slop work, at which I have been about twelve years. When I was engaged at the honourable trade I could make three times as much as I do now. I was very comfortable then." "We are not so now, God knows," said the wife. "When I fell sick I had 9s. a week from my society; now I have not a farthing from anybody, nor do I know where to get a farthing if I wanted it. Since I have been at the slop work I have neither been able to save anything, nor to keep my children as I wanted to. I couldn't even send them to church of a Sunday for the want of their clothes. I fell ill two years ago, with a pain in my chest and side, and a bad cough. It was working long hours that made me bad. My side is quite raw from blistering. There are many men who are working at this business, who have not been outside the doors and smelt the fresh air for months and months together. In some places the workmen have only one coat to put on between six. and many cannot spare the time. The wife goes to take the work in and get the work out. For two years I have fought against my complaint. I never was to say well in this house. I slept down-stairs on the ground-floor, and I think that was the cause of my  illness. There are no drains at all to the house, and the stagnant water remains underneath the boards downstairs. In the yard the standing water is like a cesspool. I went on for- two years working away, though I was barely able, and at last, five weeks ago, I was dead beat. I couldn't do a stitch more, and was obliged to take to my bed. Since then we have been living on what we pawned. There was nothing else to be done, and, as a last resource. we have got up a raffle. We generally do assist one another, if we can, but we are all so poor we have scarcely a penny for ourselves, any of us. I have come down to my very last now, and if I don't get better in health, what will become of us all I don't  know. We can't do without something to eat. My children cry for victuals as it is, and what we shall do in a little while is more than I can say." "Consider," said a fellow-workman of the man to me, "if he goes into the hospital the little employment that he has when he is well will go from him. He is afraid, therefore, to leave here." "As it is, his anxiety of mind makes him worse, for he is fretting all day long," said his wife, "about his children, and whatever will become of them all if he stops as he is much longer, I can't tell."

Henry Mayhew, letters to the Morning Chronicle, 1849-1850