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

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Monday, March 25, 1850

 In my last Letter I proved by tables, made up from the Government reports, that the number of offenders under 20 years of age taken into custody by the Metropolitan Police, since 1839, has increased from 13,587 to 16,917 per annum - or, in other words, from 1 in every 53, to 1 in every 47 of the juvenile population of London; and this, notwithstanding the great exertions that have been made, and the large sums of money that have been subscribed of late years, with a view to reforming the class. Let me, however, for the sake of greater perspicuity, place the increase of the Metropolitan Juvenile Offenders side with that of the London Ragged Schools, since the first establishment of their Union, in 1844, so that the reader may compare the one with the other: -

Increase of Ragged Schools since 1844. Increase of Juvenile Offenders since 1844.
Year Schools. Teachers. Children. Amount Collected Number of Juvenile Offenders taken into custody. Number of population under 20 to 1 Juvenile Offender.
1844 20 200 2000 61  0  0 13600 One in 56
1845 26 250 2600 320  0  0 15128 " 51
1846 44 454 4776 824  6  10 1552 " 50
1847 62 902 12823 1174  4  1 15698 " 50
1848 82 1053 17249 4142  16  8 16917 " 47

     Hence it appears that the increase in the number of Ragged Schools throughout the metropolis since 1844 has been 62; of Ragged Schools teachers, 353; of Ragged School pupils, 15,249; and of Ragged School funds, upwards if 4,000. And yet, in spite of all this vast educational machinery, the number of offenders under 20 years of age has increased in the same period to no less than 3,317 - or very nearly one for each guinea that had been subscribed in the hope of diminishing juvenile depravity.
    This stubborn array of facts and figures admits of scepticism. The increase of the Schools is calculated from the annual reports of the Union - that of the juvenile offenders from the reports of the Government. Either we must assert that the criminal returns are "cooked," or else, admitting their credibility, we must confess that the Ragged Schools are not as efficient as their benevolent founders and patrons believe. As a further assurance of the fact, however - for it is a subject upon which I am most anxious not to err - I have calculated the ratio of the annual increase or decrease for a series of years before and after the establishment of the Ragged School Union. Subjoined is the result: - Subjoined is the result: -



Years Increase per cent. Decrease per cent.
1839-40 3.2
1840-41 24.4
1841-42 - 2.5
1842-43 - 3.9
1843-44 - 16.6


Years Increase per cent. Decrease per cent.
1844-45 11.2 -
1845-46 2.8 -
1846-47 .9 -
1847-48 7.7 -

Here it will be seen that for the three years immediately preceding the establishment of the Union there was a rapid and extensive decrease in the juvenile depravity of the metropolis; whereas, during the four years that succeeded the incorporation of the schools, the number of offenders under twenty years of age increased almost as rapidly and extensively as it had previously declined. The next step was to ascertain whether this increase of juvenile offenders had prevailed generally throughout the country, or whether it had been confined principally to the metropolis. With the view of arriving at an accurate conclusion upon this point, I estimated the average of the centesimal proportion of the criminals of different ages during ten years in London and the country; and the result is given below: - 


The per centage here given is the average of ten years, from 1839 to 1848.

England and Wales. Metropolis. Excess. Deficiency.
Under 15 years 5.8 7.6 1.8 -
15 and under 20 " 23.6 28.7 5.1 -
20 " 25 " 24.2 24.1 - .1
25 " 30 " 15.0 13.1 - 1.9
30 " 40 " 16.0 14.2 - 1.8
40 " 50 " 8.0 7.6 - .4
50 " 60 " 3.6 3.2 - .4
60 and upwards ... 1.8 1.5 - .3
Age not ascertained 2.0 - - -
100.0 100.0

The above table gives us the following results: -

Average per centage of offenders under 20 years in the metropolis, from 1839 to 1848 ..............36.3 
Average per centage of offenders under 20 years in England and Wales, from 1839 to 1848 ................... 29.4
Excess of offenders under 20 years in the metropolis ............... 6.9
Average per centage of offenders above 20 years in England and Wales, from 1839 to 48 ................................70.6
Average per centage of offenders above 20 years in the metropolis, from 1839 to1848 .................................... 63.7
Deficiency of offenders above 20 years in the metropolis 6.9

    It may therefore be asserted, that there are in the metropolis (in round numbers) seven per cent, more of offenders under twenty years, and the same proportion less of offenders above twenty years, than in England and Wales.
    Let us look at the facts, then, in whatever light we may, it appears that the London Ragged Schools have not been attended with that amount of benefit which it is generally hoped would follow their establishment. But so vast a machinery, it will be said, cannot have been entirely powerless. A thousand teachers acting upon seventeen thousand scholars of the lowest and most depraved propensities and habits must have produced some effect. Assuredly they must; and operating on a mass of beings, concerning whose age and condition we have an accurate yearly register, we certainly ought to be able to discover an expression of the influence of the Ragged Schools somewhere in the criminal records of the country. Let us then, still confining ourselves rigidly to facts, endeavour to find whether the criminals of the metropolis are gradually becoming better educated through such means; for it is evident that since the Ragged Schools do not tend to decrease the number of offenders, at least they must be the means of improving the education of the class. The following table will prove to us that such is really the case:-



Year Neither read or write. Read and write imperfectly. Read and write well. Superior instruction. Total.
1839  29,418 29,864  5,853  830 65,965
1840 23,938 37,551 8,121 1,107 70,717
1841 23,331 42,128 3,009 493 63,961
1842 19,850 38,829 6,464 561 65,704
1843 16,918 39,067 5,823 669 62,477
1844 24,856 33,372  3,797  497 62,522
1845 15,263 39,659 3,615 586 59,123
1846 22,223 35,470 4,632  509 62,834
1847 22,075 35,228  4,413 465  62,181
1848 22,968 36,229 4,186  1,097 64,480

    Here it will be seen that in 1844, the number of offenders in the metropolis who could neither read nor write was 24,856 - in 1848 it had decreased to 22,968; whereas the number of those who read and write imperfectly had risen in the same space of time from 33,372 to 36,229. But we shall find the result still more forcibly expressed in the centesimal proportions of the degrees of education existing among the criminal offenders.



Year Neither read or write. Read and write imperfectly. Read and write well. Superior instruction.
1839  44.6 45.3 8.9 1.2
1840 33.8 53.1 11.5 1.6
1841 33.9 61.1 4.3 .7
1842 30.2 59.1 9.8 .9
1843 27.1 62.5 9.3 1.1
1844 39.8 53.3 6.1 .8
1845 25.8 67.1 6.1 1.0
1846 35.4 56.4 7.4 .8
1847 35.5 56.6 7.1 .8
1848 35.6 56.2 6.5 1.7

Here, then, we find that in the last ten years the proportion of those offenders who can neither read nor write has fallen from 44 to 35 per cent., while those who can read and write imperfectly has risen from 45 to 56 per cent. - or, in other words, the uneducated class of criminals has declined precisely to the same extent - 11 per cent. - as the imperfectly educated class has increased. It seems, then, that notwithstanding the vast increase of our scholastic machinery of late years, we are not reforming but merely educating our criminals. We are teaching reading and writing to thousands of the most depraved class of society in the hope of lessening our criminals; but still the number increases, year by year, at an overwhelming rate. Not one the less appears in our goals. The whole and sole difference is, that whereas, a few years back, the offender was registered among the utterly ignorant, now he takes rank among the imperfectly educated class. The returns for England and Wales show precisely the same result, though not to so great an extent. In 1839 the proportion of criminals who could neither read nor write was 33 per cent.; in 1848 the per centage had decreased to 32. In the same period the proportion who could read and write imperfectly had risen from 53 per cent. to 56. Can it then be truly said that ignorance is the cause of crime - or, vice versa, that a knowledge of reading or writing is the great panacea for all moral evil? That such is the creed of the day I am well aware; but I fear it is one of the many fallacies which arise from hasty generalization. Let us look calmly and dispassionately at this part of the subject - let us discard all preconceived notions from our minds, and see whether those counties that are the most uneducated are necessarily the most criminal. Here is a table, first, as to the relative state of crime in the different counties of England and Wales. The counties, it will be seen, are divided into two classes - those which are above the average in crime being placed in order on one side, and those which are below the average on the other.


Counties which are above the Average in Crime. Number of Offenders committed. Number of Persons to one Offender. Counties which are below the Average in Crime. Number of Offenders committed. Number of Persons to one Offender.
Middlesex 4641 339 Berkshire 250 676
Worcestershire 535 475 Hertfordshire 243 679
Northamptonshire 270 463 Suffolk 471 702
Gloucestershire 884 512 Kent 815 706
Warwickshire 799 527 Oxfordshire 228 748
Cheshire 767 541 Herefordshire 159 756
Lancashire 3072 569 Huntingdonshire 81 762
Buckinghamshire 283 578 Devonshire 721 776
Norfolk 720 601 Westmoreland 74 801
Essex 602 601 Dorsetshire 225 816
Hampshire 608 613 Rutlandshire 26 860
Bedfordshire 185 623 Lincolnshire 419 908
Wiltshire 436 623 Nottinghamshire 286 917
Cambridgeshire 276 625 Derbyshire 277 1031
Staffordshire 851 629 Yorkshire 1500 1071
Leicestershire 358 633 Shropshire 227 1106
Surrey 958 638 Cumberland 147 1271
Monmouthshire 217 650 Cornwall 280 1279
Somersetshire 701 653 Durham 249 1367
Sussex 468 672 South Wales 350 1656
Northumberland 169 1555
North Wales 220 1891

Average for England and Wales 

Number of Offenders Committed ..... 25,107
Number of Population to One Offender ..... 676

By the above, it will be seen that Middlesex is the most, and North Wales the least criminal, part of the country; the proportion in the former being 1 offender in every 339 individuals, and in the latter 1 in 1,891. Now, on consulting the returns as to the ignorance of the different districts, it will be found that many, and indeed the majority, of the places which are above the average in crime are likewise above the average in education. Thus Middlesex, which is the most highly criminal, will be found to be the least ignorant and North Wales, which is the least criminal, will be discovered to be, on the other hand, far from eminent for the education of its people - as witness the following table, framed from the returns of the Registrar General:-


Counties which are above the Average in Ignorance. Number of Persons who signed the Marriage Register with Marks. Number of Persons to One uneducated. Counties which are below the Average in Ignorance. Number of Persons who signed the Marriage Register with Marks. Number of Persons to One uneducated.
Worcestershire 4192 58 Norfolk 2964 146
Monmouthshire 1982 71 Berkshire 1437 148
Lancashire 20709 84 Cornwall 2407 148
Northamptonshire 1467 85 Hertfordshire 1102 140
South Wales 5585 97 Buckinghamshire 1073 152
Bedfordshire 1124 102 Shropshire 1541 142
Staffordshire 4920 108 Wiltshire 1642 165
Cheshire 2608 120 Essex 2163 167
Cambridgeshire 1398 123 Gloucestershire 2508 167
North Wales 3219 129 Hampshire 2135 170
Lincolnshire 2166 129 Devonshire 3221 173
Huntingdonshire 466 131 Somersetshire 2632 173
Yorkshire 2389 138 Westmoreland 321 184
Suffolk 2389 138 Derbyshire 1544 185
Warwickshire 2958 142 Oxfordshire 880 192
Leicestershire 1579 143 Kent 2855 203
Durham 2378 143 Dorsetshire 905 203
Sussex 1534 205
Herefordshire 576 207
Northumberland 1244 291
Rutlandshire 99 225
Middlesex 6163 239
Cumberland 637 288
Surrey 1447 424

Average for England and Wales

Number of Persons who signed the Marriage Register with Marks ....... 117,633
Number of Persons to One uneducated ................ 144

The above table, compared with the one immediately preceding it, gives us the following results:-


Counties Proportion above the average in Crime. Proportion above the average in Education.
Middlesex 337 95
Gloucestershire 164 23
Buckinghamshire 98 8
Norfolk 75 2
Essex 75 23
Hampshire 63 26
Wiltshire 53 21
Surrey 36 280
Somerset 23 29
Sussex 4 61


Counties Proportion below the average in Crime. Proportion below the average in Education.
North Wales 1215 15
South Wales 869 47
Durham 691 1
Yorkshire 395 13
Nottinghamshire 241 1
Lincolnshire 252 15
Huntingdonshire 86 3
Suffolk 26 6

That the crime of the country has another origin than mere ignorance, is patent to all who will read patiently and philosophically the criminal facts and records of the country. Hence institutions like the Ragged Schools, which seek to reform our juvenile offenders merely by instructing them, cannot be attended with the desired results. It becomes, however, very questionable whether the association of so many youths of the most vicious propensities may not have a tendency very different from that which the benevolent founders of the establishments originally contemplated. I have been at considerable pains in collecting the evidence of the most experienced persons upon this point. And I now append the result of my inquiries.
    A superintendent of police who had lately retired, and who had "served" principally, for many years, in the Westminster district, gave me the following account: - 
    "I have known this district for upwards of twenty years, and remember the Ragged Schools starting. Nothing worse under the sun could exist than Westminster when I first knew it in 1829. A competent authority convinced me that it was worse than St. Giles's, when St. Giles's was at its worst. And when St. Giles's was rookeried out afterwards, Westminster got worse, although I reckoned it 'worst' long before - as bad as could be. But hundreds came from St. Giles. They must go somewhere. The low lodging- houses here were crammed from cellar to garret. I can't describe the places in decent language. Crimes went on there that are not fit to be mentioned - nothing could be compared to the crime but the dirt. Male and female lay promiscuously. Such places are the great facilities of crime; they give such facilities. The lodging-houses are the policeman's hindrance. He needn't look for criminals there - they're hidden. The lodging-house beats Scotland-yard. There is a large class, too, of general dealers' who buy anything brought to them; the key of his mother's door, stolen by a child next door to the general dealer - he buys that for a halfpenny, and says, 'There's a clever boy.' I have seen decent children in those places, and went and expostulated with the man, who laughed at me, as the law was then on his side. At the time when New Oxford-street was building, the streets in Westminster swarmed with vicious boys and girls, driven from their St. Giles's haunts, and added to the Westminster vice. I knew one , living near the police-station, who regularly lived on his three daughters' prostitution; he and his wife did. The girls durstn't go home empty handed. There are lots of such in Westminster, I can tell you. Such men may have been bad mechanics, or lazy fellows, who would do anything rather than work. The general dealers, who buy door-keys or anything, are what you may call loose traders; the trading class that won't work is far the worst. They take to buying and selling, and sit idle, with their hands in their pockets. A shocking class, sir; they ought all to be registered. A working man is king to such fellows. They carry on in a cellar, or anywhere, and boast that they are respectable tradesmen, and pay their rents regularly - many of them do. All lodging-houses should be licensed like beer-shops; no doubt at all about it. They are brothels some; some thieves' houses; all bad, where anybody can be admitted. Many that keep lodging-houses are general dealers too, such as I've told you of, and so they pull both ways. Most children, not bred thieves by their parents, begin stealing at home, and go to the general dealer; they may hear of him from boys in the street who look out for decent children. When the Ragged Schools were started, the streets did seem to me rather thinned. But they want supervision. If bad poor children meet together, and go away together, they are sure to go to some mischief or some robbery. Without complete supervision, Ragged Schools are of no good effect - nothing adequate to the good meant. The intent is good, merciful, and kind; and I believe they have done good. I believe that I could have given instances of their having done good, but I can't recollect one now, with any particulars. No doubt there is a great risk run at these Ragged Schools; bad boys, in a cluster, will always corrupt good boys. Worse still with girls. A decent girl must be corrupted among bad girls. Bad women and bad girls corrupt more of their own sex than men do; that's quite obvious. (I may here remark that it is my intention, before long, to devote a series of letters to the question of juvenile and general prostitution - a question of the greatest moment.) "I never knew a girl, a scholar in a Ragged School, in the streets afterwards; but they're young when they're at the school, and would grow out of my knowledge. Many houses have been pulled down in Westminster, and that has swept away many a curse of a house - to carry a curse somewhere else, perhaps - and has made the streets less crammed with vicious boys and girls; besides that they go to the Ragged Schools, many of them, and they are then out of sight. The beer-shops are a great evil. The streets are better now; but they are too bad still. At one time, before the police began, a man could hardly go into the Almonry, or some of the streets off Orchard-street, without being robbed, or perhaps stripped; aye, even in the day-light. A man could hardly get through with a good hat, or a woman with a decent bonnet. If either was tipsy, it was all up with them. A complaint about it was laughed at, and a man was told he had no business there. At night the people there went prowling all over. I can't charge my memory with any particular boy or girl at the Ragged Schools going wrong afterwards, but no doubt there are such. My opinion altogether is this: with a proper supervision, and a prudential training, Ragged Schools do good; without it, they are dangerous. The nation loses far more in stolen property than would provide honest means of living for all the young thieves of London. There's far more property stolen than you hear of. Some won't prosecute; some compromise. I'll tell you how to help Ragged Schools better than money. Register general dealers: the young thief begins there. Just look at Orchard-street, and license the low lodging-houses, with the police to inspect them, or else our Ragged Schools haven't much chance. The clergymen may labour, and the Rector of St. John's is indefatigable in doing good, but general dealers and low lodging-houses are too much for them. Children mixed up together must turn out either thieves or prostitutes, whether they've been at a Ragged School or not; they have no other; they can't meet and mix one with another, anywhere, with out supervision, but the bad will corrupt the good. I've known numbers of thieves, grown-up fellows, go out in the morning, smoking at the corners of the courts or at some doors here in Westminster, and they talk of their doings, and what they will do - and children going to a Ragged School, perhaps, to hear something good, will stop and listen to these fellows, and know they live well, and can drink and be idle - and so they may go to the Ragged School to say to others what a fine life a thief's was. Mere reading and writing is a harm to a vicious child. It makes him steal more boldly, because with more judgment, for he sees prices marked. Without moral training it's a harm. The smartest thieves I have met with, and those having the longest run, could all read and write, and some could defend themselves at trial without a lawyer, just by having studied the newspapers. The nation is paying the penalty now for so long neglecting the care of the youth of London."
    An experienced gentleman, to whom 1 was referred as a person who could give me information as to the influence of the Ragged Schools on the criminal juvenile population of Westminster, was of opinion that they tended to increase the evil which benevolent persons, through the agency of such schools, sought to check. The congregating of so many boys, he considered, must be full of harm, as it was known that vicious boys were of the number, and they were sure to make acquaintenanceship with poor boys who were not corrupted, and the consequence was an increase of thievery. As far as his observation went, these schools had done harm, and were doing it, as one schoolmaster, however good, could not check the propensities of boys inured to thieving to corrupt other boys. He told me of the school having been robbed by the boys (as was believed), but that it was not brought before the public. Another gentleman, whose peculiar calling gave him an equal opportunity for judging of the effects of the Ragged Schools, expressed an unhesitating opinion that they were bad schools - for a small proportion of bold, vicious boys would corrupt the better-disposed boys far more readily than the schoolmaster could inculcate principles of honesty into them. The young thieves in a Ragged School knew, he said, very well how to appeal to the spirit of daring and emulation in honest poor boys whom they met in the school and talked with afterwards. Many young thieves, my informant said, went to the Ragged School just for what might be described as "a lounge," and to see if they could in any way form a connection with boys unknown to the police there.
    In the course of my inquiries I heard that several boys who had been in the Ragged Schools, had subsequently been in prison, and that some were there now. I therefore called upon Lieut. Tracy, the governor of the Tothill-fields prison, to inquire into this subject. He expressed an opinion - cursorily given he said - that Ragged Schools were not adapted to the reformation of the juvenile criminals of London who resorted there; inasmuch as the great evil to be guarded against, to arrest the progress of criminality, was the congregating of criminals. Evil always resulted, and must result, from that; and criminal offenders met in Ragged Schools and congregated afterwards. He summoned one of his principal officers who was familiar with the habits and character of juvenile offenders, and the latter expressed an opinion - unequivocally - that the boys in prison from Ragged Schools were generally worse than boys who had not been so educated. He had known above a dozen boys in that prison who had been in Ragged Schools within a recent period. He attributed great evil to vicious boys associating together, under any circumstances, at the Ragged Schools, or elsewhere. The schoolmistress of the prison stated that the girls who had been in Ragged Schools, and afterwards in prison, were neither better nor worse than other girls in prison. Through the courtesy of Lieut. Tracy, I am enabled to give two statements from children then in prison. The first was an intelligent-looking boy (who had an impediment in his speech), and declared his anxiety to speak nothing but the truth - the governor and officer being convinced that his statement might be relied on. He said: -
    "I am 12, and have been three times in prison once for stealing cigars, once for a piece of calico, and once for some pigs' feet. I have been twice whipped. I was twelve months at the Exeter-buildings Ragged School, Knightsbridge. I learned reading, writing, and Church of England there. I know I was. Because I went to church with the schoolmaster. I know it was a church. A church is bigger than a chapel, and has a steeple. I learned sums, too, and the commandments, and the catechism. I can't read well." (He was tried on an act of Parliament as to his ability to read. It began "whereas the laws now he called "the lays no." He was unable to read any word of two syllables.) At the Ragged School, there were forty or fifty boys. We went at nine, left at twelve, and went back at two. Between twelve and two I was out with the other boys, and we often made up parties to go a thieving. We thieved all sorts of things. We taught one another thieving. We liked to teach very young boys best; they're the pluckiest, and the police don't know them at first. I knew good boys at the Ragged School - good when they went there - and we taught them to thieve. If we could get a good boy at the Ragged School we taught him to thieve, for he's safe some time from the police, and we share with him. At the Ragged School I was taught that I must keep my hands from picking and stealing, but I thought it fun to steal. The schoolmaster didn't know I ever stole. God is a spirit in heaven, and is everywhere. If I do wrong I shall go and be burnt in fire. It frightens me to think of it sometimes. I was first taught and tempted to steal by a boy I met at the Ragged School. He said 'Come along, and I'll show you how to get money.' I stole some cigars, and the other boy, a little boy, kept watch. I was nailed the first time. I shouldn't have been a thief but for the Ragged Schools, I'm sure I shouldn't."
    The other boy, a healthy-looking child, said: - 
    "I am ten, and have been twice in prison, and once whipped. I was in prison for a 'fork' and 'some lead.' I sold them in rag-shops. I was three months in Pye-street Ragged School, Westminster. I was a month at the St. Margaret's National School (Westminster). At the Ragged School I learned reading, writing, tailoring, shoemaking, and cleaning the place. (He then read a verse in the Bible imperfectly, and by spelling the words, but quite as well as could be expected). There were forty of fifty boys at the Ragged School; half of them were thieves, and we used to go thieving in gangs of six. When we were away from school we went thieving. We taught any new boy how to thieve, making parties to do it. We would teach any good boy to thieve. I know four or five good boys at the Ragged Schools taught to thieve by me and others. We got them to join us, as we got afraid ourselves, and the police don't so soon suspect new boys. Thieving is wrong. Some boys where I lived taught me to thieve. They did not go to a Ragged School, that I know of."
    From a poor woman whom I visited in a garret in Westminster, I had the following statement. Her children were intelligent, and had a look of quickness without cunning, rarely seen in uneducated people. The boy I found in bed, I concluded from sickness, but the cause appears in the narrative: - 
    "My little girl," said the mother, "goes now to the Ragged School, and is a good scholar, and a very good girl, and never misses school. This is her. I consider the Ragged School here," said the mother, "has done great good. My children have had a good education. They can read and write well, and God knows how they would have learned that but for the school here. The boy said: - "I met three bad boys in my reading and tailoring class at the Ragged School, and they often tempted me to go thieving with them; beginning with knocking down apple-stalls and scrambling for the fruit. That's the way they often begin. I always remembered what my father and mother said, and refused. These boys used to try and persuade me when we were sitting in school to go and steal after school hours at night. They wouldn't say much about it, or the master might have noticed in in school. I know some boys, who were good before, and met with bad boys at the Ragged School, who tempted the good lads to go thieving. I know four, or perhaps five such. Many of the boys in the Ragged School had been in prison. I have heard them speak of it. Some said they were sorry to have been thieves, and were tired of it, and wished to do better." The mother here interposed, and said that she and her husband never allowed their children to be in the streets, or mix with others after school hours, or she wouldn't answer for the consequences. "I remember," the boy resumed, "the Ragged School being twice robbed. Once the thieves got in at the first-floor window, from the top of a small house by it, and they stole all the money in the poor-box. It was, most likely some that knew the place. They were never found out that I know of. The second time all the lead was stripped off the roof of the Ragged School, and the houses by it. That was never found out. I was well treated at the school, and encouraged to be honest and to learn. The boys often ran away. I am now in want of a place - any honest employment; but I'm here in bed because I haven't clothes to get up in. I can't go out at all. I'm forced to stay in bed, and stay day and night, except when I get up sometimes to read the Bible. On Sunday evening I manage to go to the Broadway Ragged School, but can only do that after dark, and there I get a book to read at home." The mother showed me the child's trousers and shirt, which were mere rags, his shoes hardly held together. "My husband is a costermonger," she said, "but has no money to carry on with, for he was ill six or seven months, off and on, with rheumatism. Thank God, he's better now; but we've been obliged to part with everything but what you see. I have pawned all, but all the tickets are gone now. I lost my last blanket that way last month. My husband, last week, earned just 4s. on cauliflowers. Mr. ---, a neighbour, lent him the money to trade with."
     "I think, sir," said the boy, "that if the bad boys weren't allowed to mix with the good, it would be far better for the school - there's such bad characters there - one-half of them." I may add that the room was very bare of furniture - a large bed - in which the boy, a lad of thirteen, was lying - being the principal thing there. The room was quite clean, which was the more remarkable, as these poor persons were living in a wretched neighbourhood of filth and wet, with slip-shop hair-dressed women standing at some of the doors in the courts and alleys, while boys were fighting and shoeless girls with matted hair were pelting each other with any missile, mud or anything that came to hand, and that with evident enjoyment. My visit was unexpected. The boy I have spoken of seemed proud of his little library, and showed me a book which he said had been given to him by Lord Ashley. He did not repine or murmur; he seemed to think the tedium if his life in bed was his lot as a poor boy. The father's trade was manifest, for in a sort of second small chamber or recess, were a few cauliflowers, and the leaves of fresh vegetables trimmed off to give them a marketable appearance. The door between this room and that occupied by the family was off its hinges, and the paint which had once roughly covered it had peeled off from age. The mother gave me the names of persons who she said were respectable tradesmen, who would vouch for the truth of all she had stated. She had another son, she said, who was sixteen, and who supported himself by selling flowers, but instead of being able to help his parents could hardly keep himself."
    From a good-looking and well-spoken girl I had the following statement. I called to see her father, who was absent, and the girl gave me the information I required: - 
    "I learned all I know," she said, "(and I can read any chapter in the Bible), at the Ragged School close by here. But for it I mightn't have known how to read or write. I hope it's a good place; but I'm sure I don't know, I've met such bad girls there. I've known them bring songs and notes that they'd written at night, to give to the boys when they met them out of school. I don't know what sort the songs were, or what was in the notes. I never saw either, as it was a secret among them. The schoolmistress knew nothing about it. I don't think I ever heard the girls say anything bad in school; but often when I've left at night I've seen the girls waiting for the boys, or the boys for the girls as happened. I don't know how many, but a knot of them, and they used to go away together. I don't know where they went, whether thieving or what; but if I've been behind the other girls a minute or so in leaving school, I've had to go through a little knot of them, and might stop a minute or two perhaps, and I've heard them swear and curse, and use bad words, such as no modest girl ever would use. I've never done anything a modest girl mightn't, though I've been tempted (she blushed). Nine at night is such a late hour to stay at school, that the scholars get tired and long for a change. There's too much of it. I always went straight home, and the bad girls never troubled or teased me. If I hadn't gone straight home I should have been beaten by my father. My brother went to the same Ragged School, and I'm afraid it did him harm. He has ran away every now and then, and has always come back ragged and poorly - far worse than when he left home. I don't know what made him run away, unless he was tempted to do it by boys he met at the Ragged School; but I can't speak as to that. I don't know whether he went thieving or not. He never says anything about it when he comes back, let him be punished anyhow. He is a worse boy now than when he went to the school first. I don't know if he has any young girl he runs away with when he's absent. He's about fifteen or more, perhaps. I don't know exactly how old we are. The boy and girls I've seen go away together after we left the Ragged Schools were too young to be honest sweethearts and to think of marrying. If they would only listen to the schoolmistress they would know what it was to do wrong; but some of them don't, for in going home of a night I've heard them boast of having been wicked with men and boys; but I can't, indeed. My brother is playing in the street there - shall I call him in? I requested her to do so; but on being desired to come in the youth disappeared. "My father," the girl continued, "is a tinman, but he seldom has work; my mother sweeps a crossing, and has the cleaning of two and sometimes three gentlemen's houses. My father and mother are kind to me. When I'm not washing or cleaning here, as you've found me now, I go out a hawking, chiefly with tins. We are often badly off - often wanting a meal. I can't say how much we earn in a week. I've told you nothing at all, indeed, sir, but what I know, or have seen, or heard myself."
    I was favoured with the names of some masters to whom boys had been apprenticed from the Westminster Ragged School (the premium being generally 5), and from three of these parties, all bootmakers - small masters apparently - I received the following information. One master spoke highly of the honesty, quickness, and obedience of his apprentice, of whom, indeed, except in "requiring the curb" (as it was worded to me), he had no complaint to make he was a better behaved boy, indeed, than his master's former apprentice, not from a Ragged School. The boy told me that he had been eighteen months at the Ragged School, and remembered the school having been robbed, but it was never found out, he said, by whom. He had known four or five boys, who were good when first sent to the school, led away to be thieves by their vicious schoolfellows. In leaving school at night he had sometimes seen the boys waiting for the girls, and the girls for the boys, and they went away together. He kept apart, he said, from the young thieves, and they never troubled him. A second master spoke well of his apprentice, who was tidy in his habits, honest, and sufficiently intelligent. The chief fault that he attributed to the boy was a great repugnance to go to church and school on the Sunday mornings and afternoons. On one occasion, when the master supposed that his apprentice was at a Sunday afternoon school, he found him with some other boys busy at pitch and toss. His master, however, had the best hopes of the boy's doing well. The boy told me that he had been about two years at the Ragged School, and was searched as was every other boy, the last time the school was robbed. He said the thieves were never discovered; but he supposed it was somebody who knew the premises. He had known honest boys led away by young thieves whom they had met at the Ragged School; he knew half-a- dozen at least who were so led away to thievish courses. He had a father living, to whom he used to go straight home from school, or he could not tell what alight have happened to him. He had been asked by the bad lads to go along with them, but he wouldn't listen to it he wouldn't go either with them or the girls. He (as well as the other boy I have mentioned) spoke of their having been well and kindly treated at the Ragged School, as did others whom I saw. A third master, a Frenchman, spoke well of his apprentice from the Ragged School, who had been with him 18 months, and was a very "willing" boy. The boy was not in the place when I called, so that I could not make inquiries of him, as in the other cases.
    A chandler in the neighbourhood of a Westminster Ragged School said he had noticed no great change any way in the neighbourhood while he had been there, which was only a year or so. He did not think the boys improved, as far as he could judge, by going to the Ragged School.