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THE SAD, THE SICK, AND THE HELPLESS.
Fainting by the Way - Alone in the Great City - An open Door and a helping Hand - The House of Charity - Cast Loose in London - A Holdfast and a Home - The Sick - A great Conservatory - Blooming afresh - Fading away.
IN some previous pages I have referred to that genteel poverty which suffers
and gives no sign. The sufferers who hide their necessities and bear up bravely
against misfortune are those who can seldom be reached by the charitable efforts
which attract most attention; and yet their condition should awaken our deepest
sympathy; their claims (if they made any) meet with our earnest and immediate
response. It may be argued - and I will not here dispute the position - that any
direct offer to alleviate such difficulties as are thus endured in secret would,
even if it were accepted, be impolitic, and perhaps demoralising. Let this be
granted, and we have yet to take into account cases where poverty is followed by
destitution, or where, by some sudden calamity - by sickness, the loss of
friends, or the failure of employment - those who feel an application for alms,
or [-457-] even for food and shelter, to be a degradation to which they will not
willingly submit, look in vain for such temporary help as might enable them to
begin anew the struggle in which they have been beaten down.
Surely among London's terrible sights we may include the large number of men and women who wander faint and weary in its streets, wondering where, without loss of that self-respect which is almost all they have left of their past estate, they may find even such food and shelter as would be provided by the nearest casual ward, but without its degradation; or in the night refuge, but without having to share it with those who claim it on grounds which they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge.
We do not see this sight, for the sufferers are separated by their very misfortunes. One by one they pass along the Great City's highways, fearing the light even more than the shadow; yearning for friendly companionship, but yet escaping observation; thinking how in all that vast moving crowd they are alone with sorrow and disappointment, and, sick with bewilderment and despair, envying the very beggars who whine to them for the alms that would save themselves from gnawing hunger.
Now in all this vast London of ours - with its palaces and churches, its hospitals and refuges, its asylums and prisons, its long lines, of splendid buildings, its dreary mazes of filthy hovels - I know of but one house the door of which will open to the touch of such trembling hands, but one hearth where such weary [-458-] feet may rest, but one home where such claims will meet with the response they most need.
THE HOUSE OF CHARITY
is surely so named in the scriptural sense of that last word
in its title; for there is no reminder there that its inmates are to forfeit
their claim to respect in return for alms. Plain in its simple comfort, and with
a quiet order in its family arrangements that must make it a blessed retreat for
the sorrowful, a calm resting-place for the harassed, it is all that its name
implies, and more; for it belongs not only to the charity that giveth of its
goods to feed the poor, but to that which 'thinketh no evil.'
It is a fine old house, standing at No. 1 Greek-street, Soho, and has certain historical associations belonging to it; for it was the town mansion of the celebrated Alderman Beckford, and still exhibits some of the decorations of ceiling and chimneypiece, and the breadth and ample space of staircase and passage, which distinguished the buildings of that time. By the way, it is interesting to know that the carved mantel and its supports, formerly belonging to the apartment that is now the committee- room, were so fine an example of decorative art, that the promoters of the present charity obtained a handsome sum for them when they were sold for the benefit of the good work undertaken there.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the patron of this institution; the Lord Bishop of London its visitor; [-459-] and its resident warden is the Rev. J. C. Chambers, the vicar of St. Mary, Soho, whose name has been already mentioned in connection with the work going on at the Newport-Market Refuge. Indeed, this house is one of the numerous distinct but yet associated charities which are established in that great neighbourhood of St. Mary and St. Andrew, Soho; and many of its committee are active supporters of the other institutions in the district. In the lower part of the house there are two large rooms on opposite sides of the hall, well warmed and lighted, and used as sitting-rooms, one for male, the other for female inmates. They are supplied with books and newspapers; the latter in order that those in search of situations may see the advertisements; while the women are partially employed in making or mending their clothes, or in such needlework as may be given to .the three or four more permanent residents. The large room used as a refectory is plainly furnished, the men sitting at one table, the women at another; and the quantity and description of the food is such as would be provided in a respectable family; tea or coffee, and good bread-and-butter, morning and evening; meat and vegetables for dinner; and a supper of bread and cheese. There is no limit as to quantity; and if one could forget the distress which brings them thither, one might regard the family as employés of some well-ordered establishment, with good plain meals, and a clubroom on each side for meeting in after business-hours. The dormitories, which occupy the upper floors of the two wings, are admirably contrived to secure that priv-[-460-]acy the want of which would be so repulsive a feature to persons of superior condition. Each long and lofty room is divided into a series of enclosures, or cabins, by substantial partitions of about eight feet in height; and in each of these separate rooms, all of which are lighted from several windows, or by the gas-branches in the main apartment, there is a neat comfortable bed and bedstead, with space for a seat or a box, and a small table or shelf. Between thirty and forty persons can be received here at one time; and those who are in search of employment, or who require to go out during the day, leave after breakfast, and return either to dinner or to tea. For a fortnight, or in many exceptional cases for a more extended time, the House of Charity becomes the home of those who, but for its aid, must apparently sink lower and lower, till they become not only utterly destitute, but in danger of being deeply degraded and even vicious. Here they find helping hands and judicious advice, as well as ready sympathy, and numbers of them are directed to situations; while the sick are placed in hospitals, or allowed to remain in the home, and attend as out-patients until admission can be found for them.
The poor women especially-many of whom are ladies by previous position and education-find it a refuge indeed, and learn that the sister who has charge of the whole household arrangements, as well as those who have more definite duties in relation to the female inmates themselves, and the rather arduous correspondence, accounts, and inquiries, may be appealed to with an assur-[-461-]ance of hearty sympathy. On part of the open area at the back of the building a chapel has recently been erected, where the warden himself officiates at morning and evening prayer; and it may well be believed that to many of those weary souls this sacred spot, with its pretty cathedral-like ornaments, its stained glass, and the suggestion of quiet and repose in its subdued light, may represent the retracement of the steps that have ended so disastrously, and yet so blessedly; and· may, in some sense, be associated with that outcome into renewed life for which their presence in the institution gives them reason to hope.
Standing within this building, however, I notice certain small blank unfinished spaces on the walls, and amidst the general appearance of completeness, an incompleteness not obvious at the first glance. I am pleased to learn, in explanation of this, that only the special contributions to the chapel fund are spent here, and that no more is done at the time than there is money to pay for; so that for the actual completion of details, and the addition (greatly needed) of a covered way from the house to the church-porch, funds are patiently awaited.
When I speak of the necessity for a covered way, it reminds me that many of the inmates come here sick as well as sad. To-night, in a warm and comfortable workroom near the dormitory - a room that is used, I think, as a kind of day-nursery for such children as are admitted - there are two young women sewing at a table, where they have just been supplied with tea and [-462-] bread-and-butter. One of them is suffering from a consumptive cough; the other is an out-patient at a hospital for disease of the hip, and has to wear an instrument until she can be admitted as a regular case. It may be mentioned that the expenditure is frequently increased lecause of the infirm condition of many of the female inmates, who not only require more comforts and special food, but whose inability to do the work of the house entails the necessity of employing paid substitutes. This fact accounts for a large number of cases sent to hospitals and convalescent homes. Clothing is also an item of expense; and the committee very earnestly appeals for gifts of apparel, either new or old, since without such aid many of the inmates cannot procure situations. Would you know who these inmates are? The case-book would reveal a series of affecting stories; for in it are the plain statements-needing no touches of art to make them painfully interesting - of ladies, wives of professional men, brought .to sudden widowhood and poverty; of men of education cast adrift by failure or sickness, and not knowing where to seek their bread; of children left destitute or deserted; of women removed from persecution, and girls from the tainted atmosphere of vice; of weary wanderers, who, in despair of finding such a shelter, have spent nights in the parks; of foreigners stranded on the shore of a strange city; of ministers of the Gospel brought low; of servant-girls defrauded of their wages, or discharged almost penniless, and cast loose in the giddy whirl of London streets.
[-463-] It is not alone for its temporary aid in affording a home that this most admirable House of Charity is distinguished; but it affords a good hope also by seeking situations in cases where peculiar circumstances make such a search difficult-for bereaved and impoverished ladies, for educated men, as well as for domestic and superior servants. Its supporters give this aid also to the work; and as they number amongst them many ladies and gentlemen of social influence, employment is frequently discovered for those whose misfortunes would otherwise be almost irretrievable.
Of 225 men, 351 women, and 79 children who came before the warden and council, and were admitted during the last official year, 243 were provided for more or less permanently; 110 were sent to homes, orphanages, and hospitals; 83 returned to their homes; 18 were passing on to homes or places of service, and stayed here on their way; 12 were emigrants waiting for their ships to sail; 80 left because of the expiration of the time allowed for their remaining; 13 left of their own accord; and 21 were dismissed. In the record of the social condition of the inmates, we find 17 tutors, schoolmasters, and teachers; 18 governesses and schoolmistresses; 47 clerks, shopmen, and travellers; 47 menservants, porters, and pages; 5 engineers; 2 engravers; 1 officer; 7 soldiers; 3 sailors; 7 surgeons, apothecaries, and chemists; and most of the rest representing a large number of respectable trades - including 1 'planter' - and some situations, the, most remarkable of which was that of 'master of a workhouse.' Of matrons, [-464-] housekeepers, and nurses, there were 61; of maids-of- all-work, 86; and of other servant-maids, 113; while of needlewomen there were 20.
Of course the daily provision for the family of about thirty is considerable, and the kitchen is in almost constant use, while the laundry is scarcely sufficient for the needs of the establishment; but this regular succession of meals by no means represents the culinary operations of that glorious house. For there is a 'sick-kitchen' to look after; that is to say, a kitchen adjoining the regular kitchen of the establishment, to which poor applicants from the neighbouring district bring their cloths and basins, and carry away nourishing food to their poorer invalids. At this very moment the soup for to-morrow's supply - rich in the aroma of meat and savoury vegetables - is concocting in a huge copper, from which the sister-superintendent will deftly ladle it into basins or jugs, and pass it to anxious recipients waiting at the wicket by the window.
And this is not all either, for 300 of the sick and hungry little ones of Soho sit down twice a-week to a sick-children's dinner-table in the schoolroom of St. Mary, of which our warden is the vicar; and the caldrons of stew, as well as the great pots full of mealy potatoes, are all set boiling here at the grand old mansion in Greek-street.
The greater part, if not the entire cost, of these dinners is defrayed by the contributions of children who are better off in the world; and send their savings, or a percentage of them - pence, fourpennypieces, sixpences, and [-465-]shillings - to be devoted to this purpose. Indeed, a special appeal is made to the children of well-doing parents.
While I am on this subject, I cannot refrain from mentioning in parenthesis that the committee of that admirable association, the Destitute Children's Dinners Society, in their third report, state that during the year ending September 30th, 1869, forty dining-rooms were opened in forty of the most impoverished localities of the metropolis; and 110,803 dinners supplied to the ragged and destitute children attending schools in their respective neighbourhoods. Special attention is invited to the fact, that no less a sum than 317l. 15s. 4d. was contributed in farthings, halfpence, and pence, by the poor children themselves; and that the total sum expended from the general fund of the society for the dinners during this period was 1,130l. 10s; while the working expenses of the society amounted to only 102l. 2s. 6½d.
Among those who receive the benefits of the institution in Greek-street, the large number of domestic servants respresent a class to whom such a refuge is most acceptable and most necessary. It would be well, indeed, if there were other houses of charity for temporarily destitute or distressed persons of the better class; and it would be well also if a larger number of institutions were established for the reception of female servants looking for a situation, or temporarily unemployed through sickness. There are several now in operation under the direction of the Female Servants' Home Society, the office of which is at 85 Queen-street, [-466-] Cheapside.. There is another at 132 Walworth-road, forming one of the operations of the South-London Mission; and there is the Trewint Industrial Home in Mare-street, Hackney, where thirty girls over fifteen years of age are restrained from vice, to which they had been exposed by being without situations.
It is the comparatively helpless position of the female servant out of place, and cast loose to find a home for herself, which gives these special institutions such a claim. To what kind of home' is a young woman ignorant of London and its ways - or if not entirely ignorant, with a flighty hankering after a little liberty, but with no present intention of improper companionship - likely to be introduced? Say that she takes a lodging with the charwoman, or rents a room with another girl of her own class, what is likely to come of it when her remnant of wages is nearly exhausted? Should she be of attractive appearance she is in danger of temptation every time she goes out after dark, and probably even in broad daylight; for the harpies who waylay her, know how to flatter her vanity or to work upon her fears for their own purpose. While should she come to the end of her money. and even have begun to part with a portion of her clothes and her poor little bits of finery, to pay for a lodging and a meal, her ruin probably is imminent.
Among the multitude of lost and wretched women who throng our streets, and make (next to its deserted and destitute children) London's most terrible sight, the ranks that represent domestic servants brought to [-467-] the deepest degradation of vice and misery are by far the fullest.
To attempt any description of visits to
the various London hospitals, or to dwell either on such terrible sights as may
be seen within their walls, or on the Labours of Love that are exhibited in
patient skill or miracles of healing, would require an entire volume. I must
leave the whole subject of those noble unendowed establishments for the
reception of the sick and the maimed, which are so grandly represented by the
London Hospital; the Metropolitan Free
Hospital in Devonshire-square, where no letter of recommendation is required
for immediate gratuitous relief; and King's College Hospital, where in cases of
emergency medical or surgical aid. may be obtained at any hour. I can do no more
than refer to one other representative institution, which, situated as it is on
the edge of the most destitute district in London, was established to meet the
needs of a class of patients who require just that kind of care which-likening
them to so many plants drooping for want of vigour, and, alas, too often for
want of light and warmth and air - makes its work that of a Great Conservatory,-
the Hospital for Diseases of the
But there is another kind of conservation going on - the complete restoration of those who, having left the hospital ward or the sick room, where medical skill has [-468-] done its best for them, have yet to cross that shifty ground between convalescence and recovery; the temporary transplanting of those who have only just begun to bloom a-fresh, but whose vital sap as yet flows too feebly to withstand ordinary adverse influences. There are the sick dinner-tables, of which I have already said something; but even these are not always sufficient to restore those who have been in the shadow of the valley of death.
It is to convalescent homes like that established at Woodford by Mrs. Gladstone, that we must look for the completion of the work done in our hospitals for the sick. It was during the time of the last cholera epidemic, and when the poor patients taken from the infected districts to the London Hospital were saved from death only to be sent back to their bare rooms, unable to obtain the food necessary to renew their strength, that this charitable lady first opened the pleasant house at Woodford with thirty beds. All those whose applications were received underwent an examination at the hospital, that no inmates might be accepted who were then suffering from any contagious or infectious disease; so that it was only a weakly, and riot an unhealthy, family assembled in the Forest district to drink-in fresh vigour with the clear air, and to gain strength daily from the nourishing country diet. None but those who have seen the work in progress can estimate what a boon to these poor convalescents is the opportunity of removing, if only for a week or two, from the foul neighbourhoods where they would have been in imminent [-469-] danger of a relapse, or of contracting some other disease, the result of half starvation and depressed energy.
There is now a branch home at Clapton, where children especially are received. To watch the returning colour, the brightening eyes, the more elastic step, the growing vigour, and to hear the words of grateful thanks in these institutions, would be worth a journey to either; and a visit, if it did not lead to a yearly subscription, would at least be a convincing proof that a contribution would be so well bestowed, as to make it a matter of duty either to work or give on behalf of those who have a double hold upon our sympathies, inasmuch as they are weak from sickness as well as from poverty.
As these homes are entirely free, subscriptions and contributions are both needed. The numbers of recovering patients whose health has been promoted by their short peaceful holiday-time at Woodford Hall represent a very large company of our brethren and sisters; 1,100 in the first two years, and a larger proportion since. The cost per head is not considerable; so little indeed, considering the results, that to pay for the help of a small family of recovering invalids would be a cheap luxury of benevolence. Lieutenant-Colonel Neville is the honorary secretary, to whom letters may be addressed, either at 11 Carlton-house-terrace or 30 Clarges-street.
Then there is the Seaside Hospital at Seaford, with its London office at 8 Charing-cross. This valuable institution has, since its foundation in 1860, given to about 3,000 poor persons recovering from illness the [-470-] benefits of sea-air, bathing, and nutritious diet. We all know that noble institution, the Royal Sea-bathing Infirmary at Margate, where above 800 are in the enjoyment of its excellent provisions at one time; and there have lately been set on foot Cottage Hospitals for those who, suffering from consumption or disease of the chest, require just such a transplantation, even if it be only for a season, as may help to subdue the disorder, if not utterly to extinguish it.
There are other institutions, where those who are gathered into one suffering family are not blooming afresh, but fading away. At the Royal Hospital for Incurables at Putney-heath, about 380 patients - who, if not in. a dying state, are yet by disease, accident, or deformity unable to fulfil the duties of life - are cared for, and their pain and helplessness assuaged by ministering hands. At the British Home for Incurables at Clapham-rise, more than 160 patients afflicted with incurable disease are either accepted as inmates, or receive a pension of 20l. a-year for the remainder of their lives. These are not among the terrible sights of London. The sufferings of the poor fading creatures are often very great, their condition pitiable; but most of them are going gently home-wearing away, if not painlessly, at least with those mitigations that come of kindly help, and sympathy, and the appliances that relieve and mitigate the severity of disease.
A visit to Putney-heath is a sad, but at the same time a cheering excursion; for most of the patients themselves are not sorrowful; many of them have learnt to look [-471-] Death in the face, and to have found him not the grim messenger, but the pitiful angel. They are not sad, and the sight of them is not terrible, but consoling, joyful, suggestive of the hope that maketh not ashamed, the victory over the last enemy of all-the body that dreads its dissolution.
With regard to general hospitals, or those for such diseases as afflict large numbers of patients, it is much to be regretted that two very great abuses have lately demanded a strict inquiry. One is the treatment of so large a number of out-patients, that the weakest and t most afflicted applicants have to suffer for the sake of others whose ailments are comparatively trifling, by being compelled to wait for hours without proper rest or food in order to take their turn among a multitude of applicants, who are too often necessarily knocked-off' quite in a routine way by the over-worked practitioner who devotes a large portion of his time to giving this kind of advice, and regrets extremely that he cannot get through his day's engagements if he stays to discriminate. The other is the abominable meanness of people who can well afford to pay for competent medical advice, and yet take advantage of the charity of free hospitals for themselves and their children.
THE LOWER DEEP.
The Fallen- The Depraved - The Criminal - Rescue - Restoration.
THE ROAD TO RUIN.
YES, the Road to Ruin! Ruin in this world almost
irretrievable, unless those who go so swiftly downward are arrested long before
they reach the dark abyss. For it is more than the road to ruin; it is
the road of ruin. 'Ruin' is placarded on its first gateway, that opens on
the broad, but foul and pestilent, path along which women, girls, mere children
even, are thronging in that death unto death, which, in the language of the
destroyer, is called 'seeing life.' They who form the crowd are of various
aspects. There are some rolling along in hired carriages, looking out with
shameless faces and despairing eyes upon their wretched sisters, who slouch in
faded finery and flaunt the mere rags of fashionable attire, as they gaze and
wonder, and sometimes envy, with bitter anger in their hearts. They are all
equal in the dreadful estimate that has but one name for the victims of animal
lust, the votaries of degraded passion. Do any of my readers remember that
fearful woodcut [-473-] that once appeared in Punch, drawn by the hand of
an artist who has since passed from our midst - a picture of two wretched women,
one of whom seems to have lost all womanliness, except that which is indicated
by her dress; while the other is evidently fast going on the downward journey,
with gaunt horror of the gulf that lies at the end staring from her fading face
and lurid eyes? 'How long have you been gay, dear?' asked the miserable
wretch who has drunk the poison to its dregs. It is an awful picture. There is
more in it, and in those seven words, in their grim suggestive intensity, than
in a dozen essays on 'the social evil.'
But of what avail are pictures, essays, questions, sermons? Adown that road, thronged by hundreds of those who were meant to be ministering angels in the world of God, what voice is to be heard that can stay the whirl and tumult, or arrest the rush of the crowd hurrying to destruction?
'Too far gone to stay now.' 'I can't go back: who would take me?' The mother whose heart I broke is in heaven, where I can't hope to follow her. O mother, mother! that I had died upon your breast when I was born!' 'The father, whose harshness first drove me to find a home away from his roof, would sooner see me dead than alive: do you think he'd have me?' 'The master who seduced me while I lived in his house, and waited on his wife and children, is so respectable that he rides past in his chaise, and the mud from his wheels splashes me as I stand aside, and fiercely curse him as he goes.' 'The flashy villain who followed me [-474-] in the streets nightly as I left my work, and at last persuaded me to go with him to the casino, and ruined and left me, knew that there was no law that would compel him to support me or the infant that I slew in my despair.' 'The professed seducer, who made me his victim at the expense of a night at Cremorne and a champagne-supper, is a man of fashion, and looks at me with blank unrecognising eyes, or threatens to have me locked up, when I show my gin-bloated face, and raise my voice against him to claim money to buy a meal.' Even those among us (and they are many) who set out on this journey secretly, but found no foothold, and so turned into the broad road and joined the crowd that surges downward, cannot stay to listen. The jeering laughter of their destroyers and accomplices in sin drowns the tones of warning.
'Do you know that there are mere children among us - children of such "tender" years that the law would call them infants? How do they come hither, think you? Why, they were bred prostitutes. It's an ugly word, isn't it? Well, they were each the thing that the word means almost before they knew the meaning of the word. Brought up in rooms where men, women, and children herd together at night; ignorant of what you would call common decency; debauched as soon as they had learned to speak plainly, and some of them mistresses of young thieves now that they are not more than thirteen years old; while others are of our sort. And yet none but the very worst of us like even to think what they are: children in years, with the evil [-475-] eyes and dead debauched faces of those who grow quickly old in vice. Would you see them, and so look upon the devilish work that goes on in this Great City? It may help to humble your pride, and stop the high-flown eulogium of "respectability." We know what your respectability means. It is having gained enough money to buy all sorts of comforts, to pay the butcher's and the baker's bills, and to be able to settle with then tailor and the dressmaker before the year is out, and to be ready for the landlord when he calls, and contribute to the funds of the church where you have a pew. "Owe no man anything," is your motto; and that is not the text that will suit us as you apply it.'
Are these the voices that come from the broad road? and how much of truth is there in their reproaches? We dare not deny how much of truth there is in every one of them; and those who have searched deepest the dread mysteries of London know too well that even in the half-truths they hear, there is enough to make their hearts groan within them. Granted that scores of these wretched abandoned women will tell the same kind of story with little variation. Let us lay this to our consciences, that the story is true of others if it be not true of them; that the seducer is not yet stamped out of being; the betrayer of the feeble-virtued is as often as dead to shame as the law is calculated to make him indifferent to consequences; that even the woman who - instead of being deceived, and so having fallen only to be abandoned by the seducer - has flung herself into the pit, and is abandoned only in the sense of having [-476-] flung away the promise of her womanhood, is our sister, for whom Christ died; that in the byways of the neighbourhoods where fashion congregates and wealth displays its treasures there are dens where children who have been taught prostitution lie in wait for those whose perverted manhood is chained to the foul corpse of lust. Is there nothing that can be done - no voice that can pierce the hellish din, the hollow false laughter that it breaks one's heart to hear; no word of help and hope that can arrest the profane and filthy jest on lips that writhe and tremble with the torture of memory and conscience; no hand that can yet drag back even the half - sorrowful, and reclaim the wholly penitent to a life of grace and glory? I believe that there are all these - I know it, and praise God that such a work may be done; but it needs earnest single-hearted messengers, men and women who know when to speak and when to forbear, - prompt, sagacious, sympathetic; needs the support of those who, relinquishing alike the cant of society and the cant of mere sensational curiosity, believe that to 'owe no man anything' is a precept requiring the highest Christian faith to observe and to fulfil, since it refers to a debt that a man may not fulfil, even though he should pay to the uttermost farthing all legal demands upon him, and yet leave the long arrears of human love and sympathy undischarged by efforts to sustain the weak and the wretched, to rescue the forsaken and the fallen.
Those who have had occasion carefully to observe the various aspects of what is called the 'social evil' in [-477-] large towns, and especially in London, are unanimous in the opinion that the music-hall is, above almost all others, the institution which most contributes to prostitution, both by affording opportunities for immoral companionship, and by exhibiting to young women, who are only restrained by a weak sense of virtue, a spectacle little likely to impress them with the real misery and degradation of a profligate life.
What is the sight nightly witnessed by girls out for an evening's amusement, who are either members of poor respectable families, or 'hands' employed in shops, and milliners' and dressmakers' work-rooms, or carrying on ill-paid trades, such as trimming and braid manufacturing, artificial flower-making, and others, for which the wages are only just sufficient to provide the daily necessaries of life, leaving luxuries out of the question?
In a great lofty building, ablaze with light, gorgeous with colour and gilding, a crowd of people are sitting drinking, amidst a faint haze of tobacco-smoke. Wine, spirits, ale, seem to be supplied in profusion to those who have the means of paying; and everybody looks well dressed, the glare of gas making even tawdry finery appear like elegant costumes. In the reserved portions of the balconies' really well-dressed women and fashionable men lounge with a little more than freedom as they witness the performances on the stage, - performances which would only a short time ago have caused a flush of shame to overspread the face of many who now witness them with indifference, if not with [-478-] applause. The principal object in many of the representations on the music-hall stage is obviously to outrage ordinary decency, for the amusement of those patrons whose moral depravity requires constant stimulus; and the efforts of the managers of these places seem directed to secure the appearance of those actresses or dancing women who have succeeded in divesting themselves of the last remaining attributes of their sex. Amidst the mist of tobacco-smoke, the heat and glare of gas, the excitement of strong drinks, and the unrestrained license of many of the most prominent visitors, a ballet is enacted, the very intention of which is to extinguish the last spark of that modesty which would render the music-hall a failure, and in order to insure its complete success among its supporters; - a throng of bold-eyed women, with now and then an accession to their ranks of some girl who comes fallen and degraded to the place, from her first visit to which she has to date the shipwreck of life and honour. Openly, and in defiance of law and morality, the infamous mart is ready to afford the means for prostitution to seek its customers, and vice its victims. At first modesty may turn away its head, and wonder; then curiously steal a glance, and wonder more how it comes to pass that these women, flaunting, talking, laughing, not only tolerated, but encouraged, treated, many of them eating rich food and drinking costly wines at their admirers' expense, should be so harshly spoken of in the world outside, and yet have such a gay, bright, pleasant world of their own, where they seem to rule, by lack of any [-479-] thing better or higher with which to compare them. We read daily of raids by. the police on houses where the proprietors are fined and punished for harbouring immoral characters; and yet here, in the same neighbourhood, is a great gorgeous edifice devoted to amusements that, to say the very least, destroy all the finer senses of delicacy, and where one of the apparent objects of the management is to provide ample opportunity for the trade of prostitution, with police-officers in attendance to prevent any such breach of common decency or order as might injure the attractiveness of the entertainment. Note the familiar greetings of the constables and the wretched flaunting creatures who sweep in at the doorway, and you would wonder indeed at the size of the camel swallowed by these official strainers at an occasional gnat. Listen to the coarse idiotic songs of the 'popular' music-hall 'comique.' Look, if you can, at the twoscore half-naked girls and middle-aged women, all painted and raddled, and with a brassy simper on their weary faces as they skip and prance in obedience to the applause that greets an indecent gesture or an obscene leer; and then divide your attention between the crowd of jesting, anxious, miserable, scoffing creatures, who, indifferent to the last piquant immorality, are drowning reflection in drink, and the evidently unaccustomed visitor, brought thither by a casual male acquaintance, and already with her foot on the first step within the gate leading to ruin's road.
And the evils of the music-halls have made bad worse even at the theatres. The successes of such places [-480-] as the Alhambra in Leicester-square (the directors of which declared a dividend of 25 per cent at their last half-yearly meeting) have so touched theatrical managers, that they have been anxious to acquire similar profits even by similar means, and inane dramas, written only for the purpose of exhibiting vice by means of the vicious, have taken possession of the stage. For some time it appeared imminent that notorious prostitution would become the strongest claim to a remunerative engagement to appear on the 'boards', and that at more than one London theatre no prominent dancer or 'leading lady' in certain pieces would be able to attain that position except by the sacrifice of virtue and the subsequent attraction of her wiles to admirers who became habitués of the house where she appeared. The reader will wonder that I should write so freely on such a subject; but it is time to speak plainly. No complete good can be effected in earnest efforts to reclaim the fallen, and to lessen the number of degraded women who throng our streets, until the influence of such amusements as pander to prostitution and defy all true sense of decency and morality is exposed and prevented.
The Reformatory and Refuge Union, the
office of which is at 24 New-street, Spring-gardens, occupies a similar position
to industrial schools, homes for girls and women, and reformatories, to that
sustained by the Ragged School Union to the institutions which bear its
[-481-] In connection with this valuable organisation, there are ninety homes in various parts of the country for receiving young women who have fallen from virtue, and are anxious to make an earnest endeavour to enter on an honourable and useful life. All the inmates that have been received, amounting to about 2,700 forlorn creatures, have voluntarily entered the institutions. In order to secure these results, the union has established a Female Mission to the Fallen, consisting of women who go about in the haunts of prostitutes, in order to endeavour to reclaim them.
During the past year nine of these missionaries have been at work in various parts of London, and 448 young women have been assisted by the mission, and placed in homes or service, restored to their friends, or otherwise provided for.
The whole number of cases dealt with since the formation of the mission is as follows: Placed in homes, 1,723; placed in service, 489; returned to friends, 198; placed in hospitals, 122; married, 24; died, 3; left of their own accord or farther help refused, 162; temporarily relieved, 105.; total, 2,826.
With the employment of female missionaries these valuable results have been obtained; and there may come a time when voluntary helpers may be found to take up part of this Labour of Love, and so, by acknowledging the sisterhood even of the fallen, bring the first light of redemption to those darkened souls, who see in their banishment from all social claims the deepest degradation and the worst despair of their present condition.
[-482-] The missionaries go out at about eight o'clock at night, and remain till twelve or one o'clock in the morning; and part of the day is spent in visiting hospitals and workhouses.
The parks are also visited; and here the value of the mission as a preventive agency is apparent. Girls foolishly loiter about until they are entrapped, and fall. The presence of a missionary has, in some cases, prevented this. They have also been useful in rescuing those who have not fallen, from the evil influences to which they are exposed at home, and which would in all human probability lead to their ruin.
I cannot do better than· extract from the report of the secretary of this mission some remarks on the causes that operate to bring so large a number of girls on the streets; and I may here remark, that it is a common error that any large number of them are persons of education and considerable refinement. Many of them have acquired a superficial correctness of diction; but any long conversation betrays them, and their elegant attire is not always their own property. They are the slaves of the keepers .of brothels, and their silks and satins are a part of the accursed trade to which they have sold themselves. But I will quote from the remarks already alluded to:
'I should say, then, the common opinion that a woman is first betrayed, then deserted and driven to street prostitution, is by no means so general as the universal supposition would make it appear. At the same time, it does frequently take place. Amongst the [-483-] lower order of unfortunates, their own sex - those who have already fallen - are far more frequently the agents of their ruin. They entice foolish young girls of sixteen or seventeen to remain out at night till past the permitted hour; then, when frightened to return to their homes, allure them to their dens "just for the one night." But the poor victim, once there, is either talked into "the life," or else, if she resolves to return to her home the next day, finds, when the morning comes, that any place - the streets even are preferable; for, alas, she dare not go home! The evening before she was guilty of what was comparatively a trivial fault; now she is a poor polluted lost creature, despised by others, hateful to herself.
'Another, and I think the most fruitful, source of ruin is indolence. Some girls will do anything sooner than work; and these are the least reclaimable of any.
'A third cause is vanity - a love of dress - a thirst for pleasure. I place them together because they are generally united. These, unlike those possessed by indolence, are very often open to reclamation. The poor painted butterfly sickens at its borrowed colours, and longs, for the quiet home enjoyments it once possessed, instead of the ceaseless. round, of dissipation which she knows must end in everlasting misery.
'Of course there are many instances arising from innate depravity - a love of drink, loss of character from dishonesty, and suchlike causes, which lead to the sights we nightly witness in our streets. But if our senses are shocked and our ears horrified often by the [-484-] things we see and hear, our hearts too are wrung by listening to the sad recital of some of these poor wanderers. How many of them, once innocent happy girls, were driven by dire destitution to pursue the hateful career by which they plunge their souls into everlasting misery, to gain often but the mere crust, which only just saves them from downright starvation! How many have borne up nobly and long against privation, stitched and stitched on until they could procure the ill-paid work no longer; then, driven to despair, have rushed on to crime, regardless of the consequences; or, if they sometimes think, drown the reflection in the gin- palace!
'Two efforts of a special character deserve to be noticed. One is the engagement of a missionary, conversant with French and German, to labour among the foreign women, who are so numerous in our streets. The field, though large, is not an encouraging one. Many disappointments have been experienced; but still several have been led to forsake their life of sin and shame, and placed in the way of gaining an honest livelihood here, or assisted to return to their own country.
The other special department of the work originated at the suggestion of an anonymous friend, who has very liberally contributed to the mission for several years. The desire was to rescue, if possible, some of the fallen who had attempted to commit suicide. The bridges over the river Thames being the places generally chosen, a missionary was appointed to visit those where such acts are usually attempted. Some few cases of pre-[-485-]vention from self-destruction have occurred, and provision has been made for many who have made the attempt. It is a difficult and discouraging field of labour, requiring much faith and patience, but not on that account to be abandoned.'
Beside the operations of the mission - women sent out to rescue their fallen and wretched sisters, there are other agencies at work; and it may be expected that I should give, some account of the proceedings at 'midnight-meetings.' The spectacle at one of these assemblies might be, indeed, included among London's terrible sights; and the plan is often successful in inducing poor creatures to accept the refuge of one or other of the homes; but though doubtless much misapprehension exists as to the mode of holding these meetings, and utterly false representations have been given of them, I am by no means sure that they are the best means of effecting permanent good. At any rate, whether from the midnight-meeting, by the quieter efforts of the missionary, by the compassionate remonstrance and appeal of the benevolent stranger, or in the blessed impulse, born of shame and misery, voluntarily to seek some asylum where there is a hope of redemption, - the homes for the fallen and the friendless are noble institutions worthy of earnest and continued support.
There are several of them in London, and they form a chain of institutions each ready to receive applicants whenever there is space. Let me briefly refer, first, to one of the oldest of them all, 'the Guardian,' and afterwards to the various establishments of that most [-486-] beneficent association, the 'London Female Preventive and Reformatory Institute.'
The Guardian Society's asylum occupies an old-fashioned house in what was, till lately, a large open space known as the 'Green,' at the extreme end of the Bethnal-green-road. Modern nomenclature has given the place the title of Victoria-square; and modern advancement has begun to erect a great industrial exhibition building on part of the open area. The Guardian Asylum remains, however, eminently successful in the work that it has striven to support for fifty-eight years. There are some features distinguishing it which belong more to its ancient constitution than to any real want of advancement in its progress with modern practice; so that it may be known at once by the immovable green outer blinds that conceal the windows, and effectually prevent any looking out on the part of the inmates. The inmates themselves, too, wear a peculiar dress: not by any means an unbecoming one, since it consists of some material resembling blue serge, has skirts reaching only to the ankle; and may be said to be finished off with a neat white cap of a French pattern. Indeed, the whole costume is not unlike that of the French peasantry.
There is not much to describe. From twenty to thirty women and girls, of from sixteen to thirty, form the family within its walls, all of whom have been admitted after having been cast away in the streets of the Great City. None of them, except in special cases, are received if they have previously been in a similar insti-[-487-]tution or in prison; and unless on an order, signed ,by three members of the committee, none are admitted here on immediate application, nor until their case is accepted, at the following meeting of the committee, which is held at the asylum every Monday. Temporary refuge can, however, be obtained at some other institution for any urgent case.
The employment of the inmates consists of laundry work, with which they are generally well supplied, at a fairly remunerative rate of payment; and of needlework, which is very thankfully received by the matron, and the terms for executing which are published in the report. The house affairs and the general well-being of the institution are superintended by a committee of ladies; and I can honestly record that the provision of food, the sleeping accommodation, and even the recreation and social comfort of these poor women, are adequately and sympathetically eared for. Little treats and tea-drinkings, as well as some holiday observances, are permitted; and though, of course, many restrictions are absolutely necessary, they are not made to press hardly.
Remembering from what a life of excitement and irregular license they come, it is not surprising that these women are often difficult to deal with, that they cannot easily submit even to necessary restraints, and that some of them will leave before there is any great opportunity for reformation; but a large number are penitent, and persevere in their determination to live a renewed life. For these there is no other door open [-488-] than that of such institutions; and here they are received with a welcome and sympathy that is well expressed by the very appearance of the lady who fills the situation of matron to the Guardian, and who brings a refined and genial manner, a decided but always maternal and conciliatory temper, to influence the wayward creatures under her charge. A residence of from fourteen to sixteen months, with useful employment, religious training, and the comforts of a home, has generally been found effectual in producing reformation of character.
The last report, which only gives these results to the year 1868, shows that since the institution was established, 2,761 young women have been admitted, of whom 736 have been restored to their friends; 714 have been placed in service, or otherwise satisfactorily provided for; 4 have emigrated; 58 have been sent to their respective parishes; 1,198 have been discharged or withdrawn; 2 have married; 25 have died; 24 were at the time of the report under the care of the society.
The work done in the asylum about pays for the food consumed there, and most of the other expenses have to be met by voluntary subscription; so that even with a grant from the Reformatory and Refuge Union for special cases, the greatest economy is required. It may easily be guessed, therefore, that there is no money to spend on repairs; and although the landlady of the premises lets them at a merely nominal rent as her handsome contribution to the funds, the old-fashioned house is sadly in want of mending, as well as of some [-489-] additions and extensions, for which Mr. William Edwards, the honorary secretary, earnestly asks the contributions of those who believe in the necessity for the work which the institution is doing. Mr. Edwards' address is 1 Hamilton-road, Highbury-park, N.
THE FEMALE PREVENTIVE AND REFORMATORY INSTITUTION
- the chief office and central asylum of which is at 200
Euston-road, where Mr. Edward W. Thomas, the secretary, is in
attendance-represents one of the noblest associations in London, since, under
its immediate auspices, a chain of asylums carry on the useful work of rescue
Let me at once show how earnest an effort should be made for its support-not by any graphic description of either of the dwellings or of their inmates (for the dwellings are no more than ordinary houses adapted to the purpose; the families who live in them, plainly but variously dressed girls and young women, with no peculiarity to distinguish them except the remorse in some faces, the glimmering of a better hope or the cheerful sense of restoration in others), not by any farther picture of what is being done, but by this brief statement in figures:
From January 1st to October 31st last year, 178 friendless and distressed females of good character were admitted; 279 penitents were taken from the streets; 890 poor creatures were received into the Night Recep-[-490-]tion House. In the prosecution of the work of mercy referred to in the above figures, there was expended 3,728l.; total income received, 3,003l.; leaving a deficit of 725l.
Now this Night Reception House, which is open all night for the immediate admittance of applicants, is at Nos. 7, 25, and 26 Fitzroy-place, Euston-road. The Reformatories for the Fallen are at 200 Euston-road; at 18 Cornwall-place, Holloway; at 5 Camden-street; and at 3, 4, and 5 Parson's-green; Fulham. The Home for Friendless Young Women of Good Character, in which the institution supports its protective capacity, is at 195 Hampstead-road; and the Home for Convalescents - that is to say, for young women of good character on their discharge from hospitals, &c.-is at No. 7 Parson's-green.
In these asylums, country girls left adrift in London, and orphans who are not only fallen but friendless, have the preference; but no suitable case is rejected while there is room to receive it; and the applicant who knocks at the door at 200 Euston-road, and finds no vacant space there, will receive a card to admit her to the Night Reception House, which is for young females only, neither tramps nor vagrants being admitted. With this card she receives a form addressed to the secretaries or matrons of various other asylums in London, requesting them to admit her if they have accommodation. In one column of this form are printed the names of the institutions; while in another, spaces are left for the signatures of those who cannot admit her on her [-491-]application; and, should she be unsuccessful, she may return to the Night Reception House and try again; but as there are nine asylums on the list, there is no very great probability of her being entirely excluded. This, then, is the mode of operation adopted at this most admirable institution, and in this way it has been effectual in forming an organisation that has already accomplished much in promoting the objects to which it is devoted.
Among the numerous agencies of the Reform
and Refuge Union, there is one to which I am bound specially to refer - namely,
the 'Committee for the Relief of Prisoners discharged from the Middlesex
House of Correction at Coldbath-fields and from Maidstone Gaol' - that is to
say, from the county prisons.
In the case of Coldbath-fields, the principal portion of the funds with which the operations of the committee are carried on is derived from grants (not exceeding in each case 2l.) made to them under the Act 25 and 26 Vict. cap. 44, by the visiting justices of that prison, to be applied towards the relief of such prisoners as the visiting justices select. To this is added the prisoners' 'star money,' as it is called, a gratuity given as a reward for good conduct in prison, which is placed by such prisoners as are entitled thereto in the hands of the committee. In the case of prisoners from Maidstone Gaol, the committee act as the agents of the 'Kent Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society,' taking charge of [-492-] prisoners befriended by that society who belong to those portions of the county of Kent which are within the limits of the metropolis; and that society repays to the committee the expenses thus incurred.
Other aid has also been given in certain cases, both as supplementing the prison grants, and in cases where no grant has been made, out of the funds at the disposal of the committee, as far as the extent of those funds. will allow. Small sums are also occasionally placed in the hands of the committee by the authorities of the City Prison, Holloway, by other institutions, and by the friends of prisoners, to be employed in particular cases. Wherever a grant is made from a prison or other institution, and a margin remains after all necessary assistance has been given to the prisoner, the committee make a small charge for the expenses and salaries of the agents who carry out the work. A similar charge is made, should the circumstances admit of it, where cases are undertaken by the committee at the instance and at the expense of individuals. The total sum thus received falls, however, short of that required to defray the working expenses of the committee, though those expenses are reduced to the lowest possible point. The remaining portion must therefore be met by voluntary subscriptions and donations.
The mode of the committee's operations is thus described in the report of the institution itself:
'The agent, Mr. Hayward (formerly of the London police force), is placed in communication with the prison authorities. They give him, as far as they know, every [-493-] information regarding the circumstances, habits, capabilities, and disposition of each prisoner desiring to avail himself of the committee's assistance. He ascertains from the prisoners themselves in what employment they are most likely to succeed; he verifies by inquiry their stories; and if the case appears a fitting one, the visiting justices make such a grant as they see fit, within the limits of the 2l. already mentioned. On the discharge of the prisoners from the gaol, the agent, either personally or by his assistants, takes charge of them. He makes inquiry among persons whom he thinks likely to give them work;. lie purchases articles, such as tools, clothing, &c., required for their future calling; he provides for their maintenance and lodging until they commence supporting themselves; and, finally, he furnishes continually to the committee detailed reports of all his proceedings. When a discharged prisoner has parents or near relations likely to receive him, the agent communicates with them. Frequently he persuades a former employer to receive the man again into his employment. When a discharged prisoner is suited for a seafaring life, the agent obtains a berth for him on board ship, and fits him out. . A very large number, amounting to about one-third of the whole number assisted by the committee, have been thus provided for. Ordinary labouring work has been found for some, and others have been assisted in returning to their several trades or occupations. The committee rejoice to be enabled for a fourth time to repeat the statement, that "it has never yet been found [-494-] necessary to turn a man adrift because no work could be found for him."
The work of restoring prisoners discharged from penal servitude to the position of honest labourers has been successfully effected during the last twelve years by
THE DISCHARGED PRISONERS' AID SOCIETY.
This valuable institution, of which Mr. W. Bayne Ranken, who
is associated with so many other charitable associations, fulfils the duties of
honorary secretary, has its offices at 39 Charing-cross, and though it does not
make very prominent appeals for aid, seeks the continued help of the public to
enable it to carry out its most admirable provisions.
Its operations are directed to the assistance of prisoners discharged from the convict establishments; and to this end the authorities of the prisons to which the criminals are committed learn from them whether they desire to avail themselves of the help of the society.
Should a prisoner wish to accept its provisions, a printed form, detailing his or her name, amount of money placed to the credit of good conduct, age, offence, and other particulars, is forwarded from the convict prison a short time before the expiration of the sentence; and, on the prisoner being sent back to Millbank to be discharged, a photographic portrait, with some farther details, is also forwarded to the society's offices, where the applicant has at once to attend.
The gratuity to which he is entitled for earnings [-495-] during imprisonment is handed over to the society, who in this way become his bankers; and this pecuniary guarantee, in the words of the honorary secretary, 'prevents a discharged prisoner under the supervision of the society from becoming the prey of former vicious associates and of that large class of the criminal population to whom he is a marked man. It frequently happens that a man, bewildered by the sense of newly-acquired freedom and the possession of money, is recognised by certain peculiarities in appearance and dress as having been recently discharged from prison; and, though intending to lead an honest life, is, through the influence of those more guilty than himself, thrust back, as it were, into crime.'
After being asked to what trade he can apply himself, and where his friends live, who may be able and willing to assist him to regain an honest position, he is clothed in suitable garments for the calling he chooses to follow, and is provided with a decent lodging by the agent of the society, who obtains one as far as possible from his old haunts; the prison discharge-suit (for the return of which something is allowed) being sent back to Millbank. In the ease of a female prisoner under the care of the society, she is either placed with some respectable woman or sent to a 'home,' where she remains until a situation can be found for her. So admirable an account of the method employed by this society has been reprinted from All the Year Round, to which it was contributed by Mr. William Gilbert, that I cannot bring myself to repeat in other words [-496-] what he has said plainly and forcibly on the subject.
'A very frequent excuse urged by ticket-of-leave men who are arrested on charges of dishonesty is, that they are so persecuted by the police as to have no chance of obtaining an honest livelihood. In almost every case where the convict has accepted the patronage of the society, this is entirely false. So long as these remain in London the police have no control whatever over them; and should they be known to the police, they are strictly ordered not to interfere with them, unless they have strong reasons for suspecting that they are about to commit some dishonest action. But the inspection of the convicts under the protection of the society is not one jot less stringent than if they were under the surveillance of the police. Every fact concerning them is periodically forwarded to the office of the Chief Commissioner of Police in Scotland-yard. These reports contain the name of each prisoner; the prison in which the latter part of his or her sentence was served; the date of liberation or license; the address of the house at which he is residing; the name of the place to which a license-holder intends to remove, if he purposes leaving the metropolitan district and also the place to which any license-holder goes beyond the United Kingdom, together with the date of departure. The particulars of any failure of a license-holder to make the monthly report, or to give notice of changing his address, or of any one who violates The conditions of his license, and any farther information [-497-] that may be needed by the authorities, are carefully supplied.
Not only are convicts who are resident in London obliged to report themselves monthly at the society's office, but inspectors-men of unblemished character and great tact-daily visit one or more of the men who have found employment, and furnish to the secretary a written report of their proceedings. These are all entered in a book, which is kept with great care; so that there exists a complete history of every convict's life since he has been under the charge of the society.
Let us now endeavour to ascertain the value, both moral and financial, of this society to the community at large. In the first place, it has been mainly instrumental in solving the problem as to the possibility of turning loose on a metropolis already having its full share of criminal population some thousand liberated convicts, to be kept under strict discipline by a body of a dozen gentlemen, assisted by two intelligent honorary secretaries, a secretary, two or three clerks, and perhaps as many inspectors, performing in a satisfactory manner a duty which it would require a regiment of ordinary policemen to carry out with effect. This, we believe, comprises the whole of their machinery. They find respectable situations for men and women who have lost all hold on, respectability, and whose first introduction to them was a certificate from the governor of a prison that the bearer's reputation had formerly been of the worst description, and that he had just been liberated from imprisonment for some serious crime.'
[-498-] Of course, a large number of the men follow some kind of handicrafts, or, what is more usual, become hawkers and ordinary day-labourers; but, while they are within the metropolitan district, the agent, whom they recognise as their friend, representing the society pays them occasional visits, and finds out how they are going on. Their gratuities held by the society are paid to them in regular periodical sums; and as most. of them require farther assistance than that amount will supply, those prisoners who really desire to reform and become honest members of the community recognise in this society the best means of achieving so praiseworthy an object.
The following are the particulars of the 826 cases assisted during the past twelve months:
Sent to relatives and friends living abroad, 23; obtained berths on board ship, 50; sent to different places beyond the metropolitan district and placed under the supervision of the local police, 83; obtained employment and are doing well in the. metropolitan police district, 95 ; not yet employed, but under care of the society, 13; reported to the police for failing to make the monthly report required by Act of Parliament, 44 ; reconvicted, 13; died, 2.
The average number of discharged prisoners now assisted by this society is about 26 per month; the total number of cases since May 1857, when the society first commenced its operations, being 5,876.
ROBSON AND SONS, PRINTERS, PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.
[--nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.--]