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Title: Six Years in the Prisons of England
Author: Anonymous, A  Merchant -
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Six Years in the Prisons of England" ***

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Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.



Transcriber's Note: In this text the use of an underline (_) indicates
italics, an equal sign (=) indicates a word in bold type, and a caret
(^) indicates that the following letters are superscripted. Also,
British pounds are shown as _l._ rather than the fancy £.


CHAPTER                                                          PAGE

 1.--My Commercial Antecedents--How I got into Prison               1

 2.--My Feelings on First Entering a Prison--Treatment and
     Employment before Trial--My Trial and Sentence                10

 3.--Three Months in a Scottish Prison--Begin my Study of the
     Convict and his Surroundings--An Old Jail Bird--A Soldier--An
     Innocent Convict--My First Cracksman Acquaintance--Conspiracy
     to Murder an Officer, and Escape--My Removal to England       21

 4.--My Arrival at the Yorkshire Prison--In Simpliciter
     Naturalibus--Get Animal Food--Medical Treatment--Statuesque
     Christianity--Removed to the Hospital--Death of a Prisoner--My
     Leg gets Much Worse--Removal to Surrey Prison                 34

 5.--Surrey Prison--Daily Routine of Hospital Life--Set a Thief
     to Catch a Thief--My Leg gets Worse--Amputation--Life Despaired
     of--Prison Doctors--Want of Periodical Hospital Inspection    44

 6.--I Petition the Home Secretary--Doctor pronounces me
     "Quite Well"--"Schemers," their Treatment and Fate--Death-Bed
     Scenes                                                        55

 7.--Thiefology--What the uninitiated Convict may Learn in Prison  65

 8.--Another Companion--A Career of Crime--His Opinions about
     Religion and Church Rates--An Incurable: His Opinion about
     Flogging                                                      79

 9.--Another Prisoner--Happy as a King--Cure of a Doctor--The
     Tobacco and Food Exchange--Another Jail Bird--Civil and
     Lazy--Undeserved Remission--Prison Directors, and How they
     Discharge their Duties--I Petition to Go Abroad on "Insufficient
     Grounds"                                                      93

10.--The Prison--Daily Routine--Readings in Prison--Quarrels among
     the Prisoners--Protestants _versus_ Catholics--School--Sundays
     in Prison--"Sacrament Blokes"--Turning Point in Prisoners'
     Career                                                       107

11.--Indiscriminate Association of Prisoners--Transportation, and
     the Cause of its Failure--A Gunsmith                         119

12.--How Rebels against Society are made--I am Removed to a
     Small Room, amongst Murderers--The "Highflyer" again--How a
     Young Gentleman was made a Warning to Others                 131

13.--The Act of 1864--Classification of Prisoners--The Mark System:
     Its Defects--The True Criminal Law of Restitution--The
     only Method by which Confirmed Criminals may be
     Reclaimed--Workhouses                                        144

14.--The New Arrangements as to Remissions--Artificial Legs--Another
     Interview with the Visiting Director--Compose Verses--Hospital
     once more--Fenians--Prisoners' Letters                       158

15.--A very bad Case--A self-taught Artist--A Clergyman also a
     Convict--The Clergyman is taught Tailoring--How we Punish
     Violation of the Seventh Commandment    and the Eighth       169

16.--Quackery--Food--A Chatham Prisoner eats Snails and
     Frogs--Sir Joshua Jebb's System and its Defects              181

17.--A new Governor--Bread-and-Water Jack--Severe
     Punishments--Directors again--A Herb Doctor--Extraordinary
     Story                                                        193

18.--In Prison again--I see the Prison Director for the last
     time--Gentleman Prisoners--A Will Forger--A "Warning to
     Others"--Fenians--Treatment of Political Prisoners--Another
     Jail Bird                                                    207

19.--Prisoners' Conversations--Larry and Tim get into Chokey--Big
     Croppy--What Pat gets "in for"--Malicious Gambling--Pat's
     Patent for getting a New Coat--Dick's Exploits--Ned's
     Adventures and Escapes--A New Screw arrives--A Prisoner
     empties the Wine Cup at the Altar--Ned, Dick, and Pat's
     Opinions about Badges, Classification,    Head Blokes,
     Prisoners' Aid Society and the Irish System                  220

20.--Capital Punishments--I receive my License--Strange
     Bed-fellows--My Liberation                                   236

                 *          *          *          *


Letters received by the Author--

  From the French Consul Général in London                        iii

  From M. Rouher, Ministre de l'Agriculture, du Commerce
    et des Travaux Public                                          iv

  From the Committee of Privy Council for Trade                     v

Orders of License to a Convict                                     vi




In the beginning of the year 1856 I commenced business on my own
account, as a merchant in a Northern City. Previous to that time I had
been engaged in an unsuccessful partnership, but I paid my creditors in
full with the small capital advanced to me by my friends for the
purpose of my new adventure. When I began operations, therefore, I was
literally without a shilling in the world, but I had a spotless
character, enjoyed good credit, and possessed a thorough knowledge of
my business; advantages which I easily persuaded myself would enable me
to succeed without the actual possession of capital.--My business
connections were scattered over various parts of the world, and
generally ranked among the very best class of foreign merchants. I
usually received orders by letter, sometimes I gave open credits to
houses whose orders I could not otherwise secure, but frequently I had
remittances long before the merchandise could arrive at its
destination. The trade was one of confidence, requiring both character
and position for its development, and had I been prudent enough to
confine myself strictly to this branch of the business, I would now,
without doubt, have been a wealthy and successful merchant. At the end
of my first year's operations my ledger showed a satisfactory balance
to my credit. The year 1857 opened auspiciously, and I continued to
prosper almost to the end of it, when a storm swept over the commercial
world, which involved hundreds of firms in bankruptcy and ruin.

From the nature of my business it was scarcely possible I could escape,
and although I succeeded in avoiding bad debts, I incurred indirect
losses to a very considerable amount. In May, 1858, I paid a visit to
the Continent, in order to ascertain on the spot how my connections
there had weathered the recent storm. This visit resulted in a large
increase of legitimate business, and up to this point I had taken no
false step. Shortly afterwards, however, I was induced to embark in two
different and distinct branches of trade, which led to my ruin. The
first was the manufacture of novelties, which, after a large
expenditure, I was obliged to relinquish, in consequence of my not
having sufficient capital to make it profitable. The second was a
mercantile business, managed by an agent resident on the Continent.
This agent was without means, and, as I afterwards found, without the
abilities necessary for the position. He had not long commenced
operations when a war broke out in Lombardy, which furnished his
customers with an excuse for rejecting the goods they had ordered
before prices began to recede. The consequence was that I had thousands
of pounds' worth of goods thrown upon my hands abroad, which resulted
in large direct and still larger indirect losses. It was at this
juncture that I ought to have stopped payment, but, being of a sanguine
disposition, and my regular business continuing to prosper, I hoped the
successes in the one branch would balance the losses in the other, and
I resolved to struggle on. I paid a second visit to the Continent about
this time, which resulted in the formation of a partnership with my
agent, the business to be carried on in his name. The new firm was
debited with all the stock on hand at cost prices, and in all future
business the profits were to be divided. I thought, by giving my friend
an interest in this branch of my business, that I would lessen my
losses on rejected stock and facilitate my escape from impending
bankruptcy. I arranged to draw bills on the firm at three months' date,
payable abroad, for such amounts as my partner could see his way to
meet at maturity. I also had a private arrangement with my partner for
obtaining what I called accommodation bills. These were in the form of
promissory notes, issued in my favour, and payable in London by myself;
they were not to enter into the books of the firm, and I was to be
entirely responsible for them. I may here also explain that the
partnership between me and my agent was not known, except to the
customers of the firm abroad and to my own clerks at home. Thus, under
the pressure of large obligations I was not at the moment in a position
to meet, joined to an extreme horror of the very idea of bankruptcy,
involving as it did the loss of a lucrative and steadily-increasing
branch of my regular business; I resorted to an expedient to preserve
my character and position which I afterwards found the laws of my
country declared to be a serious crime, to be expiated only by the
complete and utter ruin of both.

During all this time my private and social relations were without
reproach; neither was I without opportunity, gladly embraced, of doing
good service to the trade with which I was connected, and also to my
country. In the year 1860 I was chosen a director of the Chamber of
Commerce in the city where my business was chiefly transacted. In
connection with the international treaty between Great Britain and
France, I was selected by my co-directors to classify and place average
permanent values on the manufactures of the district, in order to
regulate their admission under that treaty with France. I performed the
task to the entire satisfaction of the Chamber, and was afterwards sent
to Paris as one of a deputation appointed for the purpose of giving Mr.
Cobden the most efficient aid towards the completion of his glorious,
and happily successful, project. Owing to the very strong protectionist
feeling on the part of the French manufacturers, great difficulties
were encountered; but, after the deputation had made two visits to
Paris, they were finally overcome. It was universally acknowledged that
if it had not been for the presence of practical men in Paris on that
occasion, the treaty would have been completely inoperative, so far as
concerned the important manufactures which I as one of the deputation
represented. For my share in these transactions I received the thanks
of the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, also the
commemorative medal from the French Government, with accompanying
letter,[1] acknowledging my services, from M. Rouher, then Minister of
Commerce and Agriculture at Paris.

      [1] See Appendix.

During my second visit to Paris, in 1860, on public duty, I formed the
resolution of breaking off my connection with the partner previously
referred to, and of starting a business in Paris. I entered into
negotiations with a gentleman highly recommended to me with a view to
partnership, and received from my father the promise of cash to assist
me in my new undertaking. Once fairly clear of the losing branch of my
business I hoped very speedily to make up my previous losses, and the
spring of 1861 was fixed upon for the opening of my Paris
establishment. But my hopes were not destined to be realised. On
looking into my affairs at the close of the year, I found,
notwithstanding the satisfactory character and position of the
legitimate branch of my business, and notwithstanding that my private
expenditure did not amount to a tenth part of the profits on that
branch, I had otherwise become almost hopelessly involved, and I
accordingly resolved to stop payment. With this view, I disclosed to my
principal creditor my position and intentions. Taking the manager of
the firm into my confidence, I informed him of the assistance I
expected to receive from my father, and the hopes I entertained of the
results of my Paris business when once in operation. The consequence_
was that the firm offered to forego 1000_l._ of their claim against
me, and to give me occasional assistance in cash to meet any other
engagements if I would continue to carry on my business. At this time I
owed them about 10,000_l._, covered to a considerable extent by the
accommodation bills I have already referred to; I must, however,
explain that the character of these bills was known to the manager of
the firm, and any banker or discounter could have readily satisfied
himself as to their value by simply writing to the house in London
where they were domiciled.

There were many considerations urging me to accept the offer now made
to me. The present of 1000_l._, the probable success of my Paris
business, the approach of my money making season, joined to my horror
of bankruptcy, all combined to induce me to alter my resolution to stop
payment, and to inspire me with the hope that I would yet be able to
retrieve my position and retain my good name. In a fatal hour I yielded
to the temptation and closed with the proposals made to me, with the
additional obligation that I was to pay off the 10,000_l._ due to the
firm I have mentioned during the approaching season, and to give them
good bills in exchange for the accommodation paper held by them. No
sooner was this arrangement completed than I set about preparations for
opening my Paris house. I refused to send any more goods to my old
partner, and ordered him to wind up the business by the following May.
I moreover resolved to having nothing more to do with accommodation
bills, tore out all the leaves in my private letter book referring to
these documents--a very fatal error, as I afterwards found--and exerted
myself to pay off the claims of those of my creditors who knew my
position. So well did I succeed, that by the end of April I had reduced
the 10,000_l._ claim to rather less than 5000_l._, or rather to
4000_l._, taking into account the 1000_l._ conceded by the firm
previously mentioned. But before this I had began to suspect that my
friends did not mean to adhere to the arrangement I had entered into
with them, one part of which was, that they were to retire and return
me the accommodation bills, on getting good paper in their place. I had
at this time placed good bills in their hands to the extent of
3500_l._, but they refused to give up those they were intended to
replace until they arrived at maturity.

I began to fear that they would now compel me to stop payment just when
they supposed I should be in possession of fresh funds for my Paris
partnership, and at a time when (with the bills in their possession,
which ought, according to agreement, to have been in mine) they could
rank on my estate for about 7000_l._, when with less than 4000_l._ I
could have settled the account. This, by the way, is what they
ultimately did, and had my estate yielded the respectable dividend they
expected, instead of losing even the 1000_l._ they promised to concede
to me, they would have been gainers to that amount by the operation.

My transactions with this firm were in the position I have described
when I started for the Continent with the view of opening my Paris
business, and of winding up my previous unlucky partnership. This was
the most successful journey I ever made. I visited Bremen, Hamburg, the
interior of Germany, crossed through Switzerland to Lyons, where I
appointed to meet my French traveller; visited with him all the large
towns in France, and with my pocket-book full of valuable orders I
found myself in London in less than four weeks from the time I left
home. I arrived in London on a Wednesday, and telegraphed to the firm
to which I have referred that I would call on them personally on the
following Friday morning, to settle their claim and receive the bills
they ought to have returned before. * * * On the Thursday evening, as I
was preparing to leave the hotel for the railway station, I was
suddenly and most unexpectedly arrested, and have not yet reached the
spot I once loved to call my Home.



It is impossible to give the faintest idea of my state of mind on
finding myself a prisoner. The circumstances of my arrest, while in the
midst of my arrangements for a long night journey to Scotland, flushed
with success beyond my most sanguine anticipations, and impatient to
accomplish my freedom from a burden which had long oppressed me, and
which had latterly threatened to utterly bear me down, gave an
overwhelming force and severity to the shock. Indeed, the sudden and
undreamt of change in my destination, the sharp and complete extinction
of all my hopes and plans, stunned me for the time, and I felt it must
be a hideous dream. I refused to credit the evidence of my senses: the
detective's touch, which still burnt upon my arm; the words of arrest,
which still rang in my ears; his actual presence by my side--were but
"false creations of the mind." I continued to think, as I walked along
in that strange company, that I must still be on my way to the railway
station; that I saw the glare of the lights, and mingled in the bustle
of the platform, when the dark outline of a London lock-up met my
bewildered eyes. We entered its grim and silent gates, the cell door
was closed behind me, the lock was turned, and I and the reality were
left alone. About that dark cheerless cell, its cold bare walls, its
grated windows, its massive door, there was to me an awful certainty.

In an access of astonishment and grief I threw myself on the solitary
bench, for they had not sought to mock my misery with the presence of a
bed, and as thoughts of my wife and friends came upon me, I covered my
face with my hands and wept. How long that flood of hot and bitter
tears continued I know not, but they partially relieved my almost
bursting head. I arose, and in the darkness paced my prison floor. Even
in these terrible hours hope did not utterly forsake me. The swift
revolution of Fortune's wheel had indeed left me crushed and mangled in
its track, but I was not actually ground to powder. As I became more
familiar with the reality of my situation, I began to take a calmer and
more hopeful view of the future. As morning dawned, I had almost
persuaded myself that I had only to see the manager of the firm who
held the bills, for uttering which I had been arrested, and make
certain explanations and proposals, to regain my liberty. With
impatience, therefore, I awaited the hour, which I knew must come, when
I would be removed from London to Scotland; and when, at last, the
detective who was to accompany me opened my cell door, I almost
welcomed him as a friend. We booked at Euston Square Station for the
place which I intended to have gone to, under such widely different
circumstances, the previous evening. My guardian performed his duty
during this long and painful journey with kindness and consideration,
and did not propose to put handcuffs upon me.

Arrived at our destination, I was marched through the police and
sheriffs office to the common prison, and, to my utter astonishment and
dismay, was prohibited for nine or ten days to have any communication
with my friends. The single ray of hope which had sustained me on my
weary journey, and illumined my darkest hour, was thus pitilessly
excluded, and for the first time since my arrest I began to realise my
true position. When I learnt that my arrest and incarceration in jail
was noticed in all the newspapers, I felt that I was utterly and
hopelessly ruined. No language could describe the anguish I endured as
I thought of my wife and my friends, of the disgrace and humiliation
which I had brought upon them, and of the separation, worse than death
itself, which was in store for us. Yet, strange as it may appear, amid
all the mental torture I then and afterwards endured, I also
experienced a certain sense of relief in my mind from considerations
which would scarcely be expected to operate on one in my situation.
Those only who have been in difficulties in business, who have borne
the ceaseless strain on body and mind which the burden of obligations,
each day rushing forward with ever increasing velocity for liquidation,
entails upon those who are honestly striving to stem the ebbing tide of
fortune, can fully understand how relieved I felt at the thought that I
had no longer any bills to pay. Then a strong sense of indignation
towards my prosecutors mingled with the wild and bitter current of my
thoughts, and prevented me from being overpowered and destroyed. It was
now but too clear to me that I was the victim of a premeditated and
heartless scheme, the successful issue of which was to protect my
creditors from loss indeed, but to involve me in utter ruin.

I saw, with feelings I cannot and dare not utter, and which I now
confess it was sinful in me to cherish, that they had lured me on to
the centre of a great sea of ice; that they had, when their opportunity
came, broken it around me, and left me alone and helpless to struggle
against inevitable doom. Three of the six long weary months during
which I waited for trial were thus passed in a state of agony bordering
on the madness of despair. The hours seemed magnified into days, and
the weeks into years; and, as they dragged their slow length along, my
mental anguish received a new and terrible ally. Although I was as yet
in the eye of the law an innocent man, the miserable allowance of
oatmeal which constituted my chief food, and which was in all respects
inferior to the penal diet of the worst-behaved convict I ever met with
in the English prisons, became loathsome to me, and the pangs of hunger
were added to the mental torture I had till then alone endured. My cup
of misery was surely filled to the brim!

With the recollection of what I suffered then, burnt, as it were, with
a hot iron on my memory, I thank Almighty God that no fiend was ever
permitted, even in my worst and weakest hour, to whisper suicide to my
ear; but I now can understand how some have listened to the fell
deceiver, and welcomed him, as friend and deliverer, to their arms.
Fortunately for me, my early training and subsequent mode of life
preserved me from any thought of this fatal solution to the problem of
my life. I read my bible almost constantly, although my reading seemed
only to add to the bitterness of my regrets and self-reproaches. These
questions would constantly suggest themselves to me: "Could I ever have
been a Christian?" and "What will the enemies of Christianity think and
say about my fall?" Until one day about noon, as I was gazing through
the window of my lonely cell, I saw, or fancied I saw, a solitary star,
and my thoughts were gradually lifted from the cross of suffering to
the throne of Mercy, and (let philosophers and theologians explain it
as they may) instantaneous peace of mind followed the sight, or fancied
sight, of that noon-tide star! The load was removed which threatened to
crush my brain into lunacy, the "salt surf waves of bitterness" were
stilled, and within me there was peace.

The preparations for my approaching trial now occupied the principal
share of my attention. I had already consulted a solicitor, and without
telling him the whole of my case, I learned from him that I could not
be tried at all if the Continental witnesses refused to come to
Scotland. So advised, I began to flatter myself with the belief that my
case would ultimately be abandoned for lack of evidence. I certainly
wished that my late partner would come over and testify to my
partnership with him, which would have cleared my name from dishonour
so far as related to the bills with which we were jointly concerned;
but, knowing there were other bills of a similar character of which he
knew nothing, I thought it would be useless to attempt to clear myself
on one set of bills when I was unable to do so on them all, and I
consented to my friend being instructed by my solicitor to remain at
home. As, of course, it was of the last importance to me that the
witnesses in connection with the other set of bills should also be
absent, my solicitor wrote to them to the same effect. I will here
explain the reasons which induced me at this crisis to adopt a course
which many of my readers, no doubt, will regard as an attempt to defeat
the ends of justice. I did not for a moment desire to justify myself
with regard to the bills in question. To utter bills of exchange for
which no real value has been given is not justifiable, however common
it may be, and to tender such bills in exchange for merchandise, and
dishonour them at maturity, is flagrant dishonesty. Whatever may have
been the amount of my guilt, of the intention to defraud any man I was
as innocent as an unborn child. If I had had any such intention, the
Bankruptcy Court would have been the safe and easy way to gratify it.
Neither in these transactions did I ever suppose that I was offending
the statute law of the country, since by the exercise of the same
caution which enabled, and still enables, other men to tread very
closely upon, but never to overstep, the limits of legality, I too
might have kept myself secure from criminal prosecution. I considered
myself justified, therefore, in availing myself of such means as were
in my power to evade the operation of laws I had never consciously
violated. But in all this I may have been, and probably was, in error;
I have no wish to extenuate or explain away any fault or crime of which
I may have been guilty; I choose, rather, the language of penitence and
confession; and although I may never perhaps be forgiven by society, I
shall cherish the hope of being more mercifully dealt with by Him who
said, with reference to a greater sin than mine, "Go, and sin no more."

Thus the days and weeks passed away, while I still hoped and believed
that no one would appear to witness against me. The prison diet now,
however, began to tell seriously upon me.

In England and America I believe a prisoner is allowed to maintain
himself, under certain restrictions, whilst he is waiting for trial;
but in Scotland he is compelled to subsist on a diet which is
considered the main ingredient in the punishment of the very lowest
class of offenders whose sentences do not exceed a few months'
imprisonment. The sense of punishment involved in this treatment--which
would kill me now--was to some extent forgotten in the greater mental
suffering I then endured, but the pangs of hunger and painful dreams
about food frequently compelled me to think of my health. On making a
complaint to the medical officer of the prison, he told me that as I
was in good health he could only give me the choice of coffee and a
slice of bread in lieu of the oatmeal breakfast; but on seeing the
small quantity of bread I was to be allowed, compared with the bulk of
the oatmeal porridge, I decided on not changing for the worse. I did
not wish to be treated differently from other prisoners, and therefore
did not appeal to any higher authority. Indeed, I then imagined that as
I was stronger and heartier than the majority of my miserable
companions, I could subsist upon a meagre diet as well, if not better,
than they. I now know from experience that I was wrong in this opinion,
and that the man of strong digestion, accustomed to a generous diet, is
likely to sustain more injury to his health by a sudden change to a
very low scale of dietary, than those of weak digestion who have not
been accustomed to any other. The only concession made to me was a
slight addition to the time for exercise in the open-air cribs provided
for that purpose. My legs, accustomed to much exertion, began to get
stiff, and after I had been incarcerated for four or five months, one
of my ankles occasionally pained me. The day fixed for my trial at last
drew nigh, and so confident had I become that I should be liberated
without a trial, that I had my clothes packed and ready to take abroad
with me. I intended to leave the country for ever, and seek a new home
in a distant land, where the prejudices of friends and society would
not debar me from all the channels of honour and usefulness. I was
removed a few days previous to the date fixed for my trial to the
prison in the city where it was appointed to take place, and I then had
my first experience of handcuffs.

At length the eventful morning arrived that I was led to believe would
set me free. I entered the court with a beating heart, and was placed
in the dock between two policemen. I felt ashamed to lift my head or to
look around me, but I had seen as I entered that the space open to the
public was crowded with the better class of citizens. The judges, of
whom there were three, soon appeared and took their seats upon the
bench, and began conversing with each other upon my indictment. One of
them was overheard saying, "It would be a very difficult case to
prove." Meanwhile some consultation was taking place amongst the legal
gentlemen in front of me, when my agent and counsel came and, for the
first time, informed me that my trial might take place without the
continental witnesses, and that supposing I was acquitted I could be
tried again on two of the bills; that already there was a warrant out
against me, and I should be arrested a second time on leaving the dock!
The crown was willing, however, they said, to accept a limited plea of
guilt; that I would be sentenced to only a few months' imprisonment,
not longer perhaps than I would have to endure in suspense, waiting a
second and perhaps a third trial, and that it would be better for me to
tender the plea of guilt the crown was willing to accept!

This advice, so unexpected and so different from what I had formerly
received, given at the very last moment, had the effect of entirely
unhinging my mind, and for the moment I seemed paralysed.

Of this I was conscious, however, that the continuance of suspense,
that most painful of all suffering, combined with the compulsory
oatmeal treatment of remanded Scottish prisoners, would kill me; still
I could not bring myself to utter the words placed in my hands for that
purpose; I waited, and hesitated, and wondered where the jury were, and
why they were giving me so long to consider before going on with the
business of the court. Time seemed to have been given me on purpose to
confuse my mind, for the longer I pondered the more bewildered I
became. At last, like a child who does almost mechanically as his
parents bid it, I read from a paper these words: "I plead guilty to
uttering two bills of exchange, knowing them to be fictitious." The
judge in the centre asked the counsel for the crown if he accepted the
plea, and on getting an answer in the affirmative, he whispered a
second or two with his brother judge, whose son I believe prepared the
case against me, and then pronounced sentence of penal servitude for a
term of years that then seemed eternity to me. I was removed from the
court to the prison, stripped of my clothes, clad in the garb of the
convict, and turned into a cell, there to writhe in tearless agony, and
to indulge in bitter and unavailing regrets.



The paroxysm of grief and indignation which followed my return to
prison gradually subsided, and after a few days I became in some
measure resigned to my fate, and determined as far as possible to make
the best of it. Indeed, in some respects the change in my circumstances
was for the better. The oatmeal treatment, it is true, was still
continued, but with this difference that I now got more of it, and a
still further and most welcome addition of a pennyworth of good milk
and a pennyworth of eatable bread per diem. I remained on this diet
during the three months and a-half which elapsed before I was removed
to England.[2] Unfortunately, during this time my stomach, though
craving for animal food, would not accept the oatmeal, or chief portion
of my diet, and accordingly I was in the practice of dividing it
amongst my fellow prisoners.

      [2] Perth, where the diet is more liberal, was not then opened
      for convicts.

I mentioned my case to the medical officer, but had to rest content
with a little quinine and the assurance that I would be sent to England
in a day or two, where I would get a few ounces of animal food daily.
To add to my troubles, one of my ankles began to swell, but after some
time, and by the application of flannel bandages, the swelling
decreased and the limb seemed quite sound again.

These were not encouraging circumstances, however, under which to
commence a long period of imprisonment, the less so, as from what I had
observed, I feared that in the event of illness I should have to submit
to a very limited amount of medical attendance. Probably, in
consequence of being frequently imposed upon by the prisoners, and
having private practice to attend to, doubtless of a more remunerative
character, the medical officer was exceedingly rapid in his progress
through the prison, and not more so in that than in his diagnosis and
prescriptions. With the pangs of hunger constantly gnawing within me,
and the dread of bad health and a ruined constitution haunting me day
and night, I endeavoured by constant occupation to obtain some
mitigation of my sufferings. I read all the books I could get hold of,
wrote farewell letters to friends, hoping and believing that I would be
sent to Western Australia, as it was then the practice to do with all
healthy convicts of my own age who had received similar sentences. I
also seized every available opportunity of conversing with the old
"lags," or convicts, about prison life, and it was here I received my
first lessons in slang and thiefology, and began my study of the
convict and his surroundings.

But I could not yet think of myself as a convict; I had the usual
prejudice, or rather horror of the species, entertained by the middle
class, and declined to accept the offer, made in kindness, of having a
neighbour in the same cell with me. I was compelled, however, to take
exercise for some minutes every day, together with another prisoner,
and I was usually best pleased when I happened to be put into the same
crib with one who had been a convict before. It was during these daily
rounds that I witnessed with sadness the evil effects of sending boys
or lads to prison for a few days or weeks for some petty theft, and
placing them in constant contact and association with the habitual and
reputed scoundrel and ruffian. These men are always willing to make a
convert, and they generally succeed, for the battle is half won ere
they bring their forces on the field. It is here that the juvenile
offender is nursed in villainy, here he learns the inducements to
crime, and from the lips of the hardened and experienced ruffian he
hears of exploits and deeds of darkness, which inflame while they
pollute his imagination, and he longs to be free that he might add some
daring feat of wickedness to the catalogue he has heard. There can be
no doubt that the indiscriminate association of all grades of criminals
is one of the most prolific sources from whence our convict prisons
receive their constant and foul supply. It was in one of these open-air
cribs that I was initiated into the mysteries of prison politics and
prison slang, for the convict has his "policy" as well as the
government, and also his official, or rather professional nomenclature,
in which he enshrouds its meaning. To be an adept in prison politics
is, first of all to know and understand all the prison rules and
regulations, not for purposes of obedience, but evasion; to discern the
disposition and habits of the prison officers, with the view of
conciliating or coercing them into trifling privileges or concessions;
to know the various methods of treatment, diet, and discipline at the
different prisons, and the character and disposition of their
governors; to contrive to be sent to the prison which is supposed to be
the most comfortable; and to know when and where good conduct and bad
conduct will be productive of the best results in the way of removal or
remission of sentence. In my solitude, and with the prospect before me
of a long experience of such company, these conversations with my
fellow-prisoners, possessed a certain kind of interest for me. I was
also always eager to learn as much as I could of their previous
history, and the cause of their imprisonment. One day, as I was taking
my daily outdoor exercise, I observed an old man in the convict dress
cleaning the prison windows a short distance from me, and I asked my
neighbour in the crib who he was. "O! that's a beauty," said he. "He
was walking down the street lately, along with another chum like
himself, when a gentleman noticed them and asked them into a
photographer's to get their portraits taken, and gave them a shilling
each as being the two ugliest specimens of the human race he had ever

"How long has he been in prison?" I enquired.

"Goodness knows!" he exclaimed; "I think about eight or nine-and-twenty
years, and the longest sentence he ever had, except the first, was
sixty days!"

"What are his offences usually?"

"Oh, nothing but kicking up rows in the streets, or smashing a window.
Last time it was for a fight with a poor man with a large family. He
got up the fight on purpose, and as both were about to be apprehended,
he says to the man he was fighting with, 'Jack, give me half-a-crown
and I'll swear all the blame on myself;' poor Jack was glad to accept
the offer, so when they were taken before the magistrate the old beauty
said--'Please sir, it was me that assaulted that man, and as I am
entirely in the fault I hope you will give me all the punishment.' So
Jack got out rejoicing, and the beauty got in, chuckling over his
half-a-crown, and speculating on the feast he would get with it when
his sixty days expired!"

"How long does he generally remain out of prison?" I then enquired.

"Why," said my friend, "two days is a long time for him; if he is
beyond that time he will come to the prison and beg a meal!"

"Why does he not go to the poorhouse?" I asked.

"Because he is more accustomed to the jail, and likes it better. He is
generally employed in cleaning windows and other parts of the prison,
and he likes a 'lark' with the prisoners, most of whom he knows!"

Finding my companion so communicative I continued my enquiries, and
asked him, "What young fellows are these in the next cell?" "They have
both been in the army," he replied. "One of them committed a small
forgery, I think he forged the captain's order for some boots. He
expected to get 'legged,'[3] and get out of the army, but he has been
sucked in. They only gave him a few months' imprisonment, and he will
have to go back to his regiment again when his time's up. His brother's
now at Chatham, doing a four years 'legging,' but he hasn't to go back
again to the army. This fellow swears he'll commit another crime as
soon as he gets out!"

      [3] Penal servitude.

Whether this threat of committing another crime was carried out or not
I cannot tell, but in the earlier years of my imprisonment I came in
contact with several prisoners who had committed offences for the
purpose of getting out of the army. Of late years I have not met with
any having been perpetrated with that motive.

Noticing a delicate, melancholy-looking young man opposite to us, I
enquired who he was. "O! I pity that man very much," said my friend.
"He has got a sentence of twenty-one years' penal servitude, and is as
innocent of the crime as the child unborn."

"How do you know he is innocent?" I asked, in amazement.

"The guilty man has turned up, now that they cannot punish him, and

Shortly after this conversation took place, I had an opportunity of
learning, from the lips of one of the principal offenders in the case
for which this young man was unjustly punished, the following
particulars in reference to it, which I give in my informant's own
words:--"I and other two miners like myself went to a horse-race a few
weeks ago. Towards evening we got a little on the spree, and I asked my
two chums to come along and see a woman of my acquaintance. This woman
was kept by a gentleman in the neighbourhood, but this was only known
to a few. She was about forty years of age, and although she was
supposed by some to be 'fast,' I knew long before that she was 'loose.'
Well; as we were all enjoying ourselves in this woman's house, who
should come in but her brother! and so, to clear her character with
him, she swore a rape against us. But the worst of it was, that that
poor married man there got convicted instead of one of us. When we ran
from the house, the other fellow split out from us, and after we got
away a bit, we met the married man. As we were chatting together we
were all three arrested. The woman, it seems, had an ill-will either to
that man or his wife, and she swore against him on that account. And we
have all three got twenty-one years a-piece."

I was glad to hear afterwards that this man got his liberty after
suffering six months' imprisonment. But had it not been for great
exertions on the part of his friends, he would have had to pay the full
penalty. I have known, in the course of my prison experience, about a
dozen well authenticated cases of innocent convictions, but only two of
them succeeded in getting a pardon. The one after enduring about
eighteen months' imprisonment, the other a shorter period, but strange
to say his pardon arrived on the very day of his death in prison.

I have generally observed in cases of rape, and crimes of that kind,
when the female was advanced in life, that the crimes were not so black
in reality as they were represented in the newspapers, and that the
offenders, if not made actually worse in prison, would be much more
easily cured than the thief genus, who require special, and as I think,
very different treatment to that which they now receive.

In this prison I also made the acquaintance of a professional
"cracksman," or burglar. He was a man of fair education, good
appearance, and considerable natural ability; much above the average of
his professional brethren. He had been living luxuriously in London, on
the fruits of his professional industry and skill. Till now he had
escaped all punishment, with the exception of a few months'
imprisonment, for a "mistake" committed at the outset of his
professional career. In answer to my enquiries as to his case, he
volunteered the following information:--

"A few weeks ago, one of my 'pals' (companions) showed me the
advertisement of a Scottish jeweller, wherein he boasted of his safe
having successfully resisted the recent efforts of a gang of burglars.
I said to my pal, 'Get Bob, and let us go down to-morrow by the mail
train to Scotland, and we will see what this man's safe is like.' We
all three came down here a few weeks ago, inspected the jeweller's
premises, and decided on doing the job through an ironmonger's shop at
the back. We had got the contents of the ironmonger's till, and were
just through the intervening back wall, when the 'copper'[4] heard us,
and signalled for another 'bobby'[4] to come and help him. Out I
sprang, and had a fight with the policeman, and got knocked down
insensible. My pal bolted and got off; Bob and I got 'copt,'[6] and as
we had first-class tools on us, new to the authorities here, they have
given it us rather hot."

      [4] Policeman.

      [5] Caught.

"Do you think you could have opened the safe? I understand those patent
locks are very difficult to pick," I remarked.

"Oh!" said he, "I would not waste time trying to pick the lock. Drill a
hole and get in the 'jack,' and I can bring power to bear on it
sufficient to open any safe. The great thing is to be able to get the
_time_, the work I can easily do; then Bob, my pal, is one of the
best blacksmiths in England, and as true as steel. I always take him
with me in a job of that sort."

It so happened that I had a very good opportunity of proving that the
burglar's high opinion of his "pal's" ability was not without
foundation. On our removal to England, the "cracksman," was leg-ironed
to me as an additional security against his making his escape. There
were five couples besides ours, and after we arrived at our
destination, and whilst the prison blacksmith was engaged hammering and
punching off my irons, Bob, with a smile of contempt at his efforts,
took up some tools that lay beside him and liberated the other five
couples before the blacksmith had freed me and my clever companion.

The chief incident which occurred during my imprisonment in Scotland,
was a conspiracy among the convicts to murder the night officer and
make their escape in a body. I was not considered "safe" for the job,
and knew nothing of it until it had miscarried. The chief conspirator
was my friend the "cracksman," who made tools out of portions of his
bedstead, that opened not only the lock of our own cell, but that of
every other cell in the prison, if required. The prisoners were
generally in couples in each cell at that time, and the plan agreed
upon was as follows: One of the convicts was an old man subject to
fits, and it was arranged that he was to feign a fit for the occasion;
the assistance of the night officer was to be called, who was to have
his "light put out" by the fellow prisoner of the one in fits, who was
a strong muscular fellow. Meanwhile the "cracksman," whose cell was
opposite, was to unlock the cell doors of all the prisoners in the
plot. This dark and desperate scheme was frustrated, however, by a
little lad, who had heard two of the convicts conversing about it. His
term of imprisonment expired on the day preceding the night fixed for
the accomplishment; and he gave information to the governor, who placed
officers with fire-arms in the ward all night. Next morning the
suspected prisoners were searched, and the lock-picking instruments
were found on the "cracksman," and there the affair ended. The only
result which followed the discovery of the plot, so far as I could
discover, was that we were removed from this prison to England rather
earlier than we otherwise should have been.

Previous to our removal, the governor, who was a very sensible man
compared with those under whom I was afterwards placed, told me that I
was about to be sent to England along with some of the worst characters
he had ever known; that they were all leaving the prison with the
character of conspirators, except myself; that he had given me the best
character he could give to any prisoner, and that he hoped and believed
I would reap the benefits attaching to good conduct, and be liberated
long before my companions. But I was not born under a fortunate star.
Almost all my companions had longer sentences than I had. Bob and the
cracksman had two years longer; but as they managed to secure the
convict's prize, they were sent out to Australia, and were liberated, I
believe, two years before me. Some prisoners with sentences twice as
long as mine were also liberated earlier than I was; and I remember
alluding to this circumstance in a letter to my friends, written when I
had been about four years and a-half in prison; and for doing so my
letter was suppressed.

The night of my departure for England at last arrived, and I found
myself for the first time placed in heavy leg-irons, along with eleven
others. We were put into the prison-van for the railway station; and as
soon as we were seated in the carriage there commenced a scene which
baffles all description. Some of my fellow-prisoners commenced
shouting, some screamed and laughed, others mocked and jeered, whilst
above all curses loud and deep hurtled through the stifling air, and
made night hideous with the sound. Their yells and oaths still ring in
my ears, and that which was to my companions a scene of the utmost
jollity and mirth was to me the nearest approach to hell my imagination
had ever conceived. It was a cold spring night that witnessed my
degrading departure; when I arrived at my destination in Yorkshire one
of my legs was considerably swollen. It is a cold spring night now;
that swollen limb has for years been in the tomb, and the dismembered
trunk, on its "Ticket of Leave," has not yet returned to its long-lost



On my arrival at the Yorkshire prison I and my companions were
subjected to a new, and to me most painful operation. I am quite well
aware that it would be next to useless, if not quite hypocritical, in
one in my position to lay claim to any considerable delicacy of
feeling, or to appear to be over scrupulous in matters of common
decency. But there will occasionally, however, be found even amongst
convicts those who will bear a pretty long period of imprisonment,
during which they are subjected to a variety of contaminating
influences, and yet not have their moral sensibilities completely
destroyed. Of these I was one, and I felt that the treatment which I
had now to undergo was conceived in a barbarous spirit, and was
well-fitted to destroy utterly any feelings of self-respect which my
previous experiences had still left me. Every part of my body was
minutely inspected immediately on my arrival, in order that I might not
take any money or tobacco into the prison.

Doubtless it is very desirable, and even necessary, that every
precaution should be taken to prevent such articles finding their way
into prisons--at least on the persons of prisoners--but the fact
remains that, notwithstanding these inspections, both money and tobacco
do find their way into prison, and are every day in common use amongst
the prisoners. Prisoners will have tobacco, and tobacco cannot be got
without money, so that both must be obtained; and the result has been
that the more rigorous the inspection, the greater the ingenuity
required to evade it. The trials of skill and invention which goes on
between the convict and the inspector, like those between artillery and
iron plates, have as yet only proved that, given the power of
resistance, the power of overcoming it will be found. One of my
fellow-prisoners verified the truth of this conclusion by taking five
sovereigns into prison with him, notwithstanding all the care and
experience exercised by the inspector.

I now got the first taste of animal food I had had for about ten
months. So keen was my appetite that I could have relished any cooked
carrion even, if it had come in my way. I also got potatoes, the very
skins of which I devoured with great gusto. It was very curious that at
this time I preferred salt to sugar, or anything that was sweet, and I
used to suck little lumps of salt for the first few days I had the
opportunity of doing so with as much relish as children do their sugar
plums. The bread at this prison was excellent, and the food generally
of good quality.

The day after my arrival I was ordered to strip a second time for the
medical inspection, and as a considerable time elapsed before my turn
came, I had to remain standing in that state with my swollen leg rather
longer than was good for me. When the inspection was concluded my leg
was ordered to be bandaged, and some medicine was given to me daily. I
now had my hair cut in the approved prison fashion, and was put into a
cell to sew mats, in a standing posture. In this employment, relieved
by a short period of daily out-of-door exercise, I passed one of the
three and a-half months I was in this prison. The two chaplains before
whom I was taken shortly after my arrival, were extremely kind to me
during the whole time I remained. One of them had done much good among
the prisoners, and had been of great service to many of them by getting
them employment after they were liberated; thus removing the greatest
obstacle in the way of a permanent reformation of the prisoner.

I recollect the first Sunday I spent in this prison. I was very nearly
getting reported to the governor for a very unintentional violation of
the prison rules. In accordance with these rules, convicts were not
allowed to turn their heads in any direction in chapel, and if they did
so they were taken by the attendant officer before the governor, who
punished them for disobedience. I cannot but suppose that those who
framed these rules had some good end in view, in being so stringent in
the matter of posture in the religious services. The difficulty with me
was to discover whether the spiritual welfare of the prisoners, or the
preservation of a more than military discipline amongst them, even in
matters of religion, had appeared to them to be of the greater

It is probable, however, that neither of these considerations decided
the question, but that the principal object of these regulations was to
preserve in the convict mind, even in the act of worship, the idea of
punishment in a perfectly lively and healthy condition. Be that as it
may, on my first Sunday in chapel, with my English prayer-book before
me, which was then quite new to me, I found myself quite unable to
follow the chaplain in the services in which he was engaged, and to
which I was also a perfect stranger. Turning over the leaves of the
prayer-book, in the vain attempt to find out the proper place, and
happening to cast my eyes over the shoulder of the prisoner in front of
me in order to find it, the movement caught the eye of the officer, who
sat watching every face, and I saw from his stare, and the frown which
gathered under it, that I had committed a grave offence. Immediately I
resumed my proper attitude and sat out the service as rigid as my
neighbours, and so escaped the threatened punishment. Only on one other
occasion did I transgress the prison rules: while at work I felt the
pain in my leg become almost insupportable, and in order to relieve it
I took rest, although still continuing to sew. For doing so I received
a short reprimand. The state of my leg now became a cause of great
anxiety to me, and rendered my out-door exercise a source of pain,
instead of a means of relief from the monotony of my prison occupation.
This exercise was taken in a circle, keeping a certain number of yards
distant from another prisoner, and we were forbidden to speak or even
to look round. Once or twice during the period of exercise we had to
run instead of walk. The running I found very painful and injurious to
my leg, and I petitioned the doctor to be excused from it, but was
refused. There was nothing for it but to hop along, every step giving
me great pain. Until one day I made a false step, the consequences of
which compelled me to give up walking altogether. My knee became
inflamed, and I was ordered to lie in my hammock in my cell. Some pills
were prescribed for me, which I soon found, from the state of my gums,
contained mercury. As I knew that the cause of my complaint was the
want of proper nourishment, I fancied the doctor had mistaken my case
when he prescribed for me, and I ventured to speak to him about it. He
did not appear pleased at my making any allusion to medicine. The pills
were discontinued, but I was put on a change of diet for a month, which
consisted in taking away my meat, soup, and potatoes, and giving me
instead a dish of what was by courtesy termed "arrow-root," but which
the prisoners more accurately designated "cobbler's paste." Under this
regimen it will readily be believed my condition every day became
worse, and at last, after being nearly two months confined to my cell,
I got the order of removal to the hospital.

I remember--oh! how well! with what pain I crawled to it on all fours,
and slid down stairs on my back without any assistance. In this way I
managed to reach the sick-room, and the first object that attracted my
attention on entering, was a convict at the point of death. A stream of
blood was rushing from his mouth, which choked him just as I was placed
in the next bed. Another convict, a Scotch shepherd, had died only a
few days previously, from the effects of the treatment he received in
the Scotch prisons previous to his trial. I may here mention that I met
with several instances of deaths occurring in English prisons in
consequence of the treatment the prisoners had received before trial in
Scotland. In the majority of these cases the period of detention before
trial was six or seven months. I also heard of one case, which did not
come within my own observation, however, where the prisoner who died
was innocent of the crime with which he was charged, and that his widow
intended to prosecute the authorities for damages. Whether she did so
or not I never learned.

For about a month I lay in this hospital, but no improvement could be
reported in the state of my health. In addition to the physical pain I
endured, I was a prey to the most acute mental agony. I could feel that
my originally strong constitution was being gradually undermined, and
that the poison of disease which would never be eradicated from my
system was, through ignorance or negligence, slowly and surely
increasing within me. And then the possibility of losing my limb
altogether was a thought which now and again forced itself upon me and
made the warm blood curdle in my veins. All this time I knew, and the
knowledge gave additional poignancy to my sufferings, that with care
and proper surgical treatment I could easily have been cured; but I
dared not open my mouth in the way of suggestion or complaint, I had
already been taught, by bitter experience, the folly of that. Through
all the hours of my imprisonment I had learnt to look forward through
the darkness of my nearer future to the day of my liberation as to a
bright unsetting star. Its clear white ray pierced the clouds which
hung dark and heavy over me, and shed light and hope within me, for it
told me that behind these clouds there was a light, and a day which
would yet dawn upon me, wherein I could work and redeem the past! But
now the strong bright spirit of hope appeared to have forsaken me. As I
lay upon my bed and gazed out of the window, watching the birds dart
hither and thither in a clear blue sky, thoughts of the time when I
should be free as they arose in my mind, but failed to cheer my
desponding heart. Through the silent hours of night I have watched,
from my bed of pain, the myriad stars shining in the midnight sky,
glancing glory from far-off worlds, but I sought in vain among that
radiant silent throng for mine. And I would think of the day when
diseased and a cripple I should be cast out into the world alone, with
the brand of the convict, like the mark of Cain, upon my brow, without
friends, without sympathy, without hope, useless, purposeless, to eat
the bread of charity, and die a beggar in the streets, with only these
cold bright eyes above to witness at the last. Can it be wondered at,
if under the influence of these feelings I began to repine against that
Providence which had so roughly shaped my life, and to think with
bitterness of the imperfection of all merely human justice? I had met
with men whose whole life had been spent in constant warfare against
society, and who had no other intention on regaining their liberty than
to continue the struggle to the bitter end--the murderer; cheerful and
complacent over the verdict of manslaughter; the professional garotter,
in whose estimation human life is of no value, troubled only at being
so foolish as to be caught; the polished thief and the skilled
housebreaker, every one of them sound in wind and limb, intent only on
their schemes and "dodges" to extract the sting from their punishment,
or in planning new and more heinous crimes, and all longing for the
time when they and society could cry "quits," and they be at liberty to
pursue their career of villainy. With these, the vilest of the vile,
and also with the hoary criminal who knew no home save the prison, who
preferred it to the poorhouse, and to whom its comforts were luxuries
and its privations but trifles of no account, I was condemned to
mingle. Repentant for what I had done in the past, capable and resolved
to make amends in the future, having already suffered for my crime loss
of friends, character, everything almost that is dear to man, I was
also condemned to lose my health, my limb, to be deprived of my only
means of future subsistence, and to endure more years of degradation
and suffering in prison than many of my wretched companions, who had
committed heinous crimes and to whom penal servitude was no punishment!

Such were some of the bitter reflections upon our criminal laws and
prison regulations in which, under the pressure of severe mental and
bodily suffering, I then indulged. Writing now, in a calmer and less
indignant mood, I still commend them, and my subsequent experiences to
the consideration of thoughtful men, and I leave it with them to decide
whether the system maintained in our "model prisons," of putting all
prisoners, whatever their character and antecedents, who have similar
sentences, on a footing of perfect equality, and in constant
association with each other, is fitted to serve the purposes of even
human justice; and whether it is not more likely to promote than to
prevent the growth of crime.

I had now been about a month in the hospital when the order came for my
removal to a regular Government Convict Establishment, in Surrey. I was
in a very unfit state for such a journey; I could not walk a single
yard, even with assistance. My knee was so swollen that no trouser
would go over it, but yet the journey had to be made, and on my arrival
in Surrey I had to be carried by two prisoners to the hospital.



The Surrey prison in which I was doomed to spend nearly five years of
my life is a somewhat spacious looking building, situated in a healthy
locality, and fitted up for the accommodation of about 660 prisoners.
It is built in the shape of the letter =E=. The centre abutments are
occupied as a chapel and work-room; the end wings are divided into
cells, with an underground flat fitted up as a school and a Roman
Catholic chapel. The upper story of the main portion of the building is
divided into cells, which are the best specimens of the human cage yet
constructed. The under flat is divided into eighteen rooms of various
dimensions, some containing seven, others eight and twelve, and the
largest twenty-four beds. The middle flat is in constant use as an
hospital, and is divided into four wards, containing accommodation for
150 patients. Very frequently, however, while I was here that number
was exceeded, and other portions of the prison were often appropriated
to hospital use.

As I was for upwards of two years after my arrival an inmate of one of
these hospital wards, I may here give an outline of the routine of our
daily life there.

At half-past five every morning the great bell rang, and the nurses and
convalescent patients started out of bed, washed and dressed, made
their beds, rubbed their metal chamber-service as bright as silver--a
remarkable contrast in that respect to the metal dinner dishes--dusted
and cleaned the ward, which was usually kept remarkably tidy and clean.
 About half-past six breakfast was on the table. This meal consisted of
very weak tea and dry bread for the majority, with an egg, or
half-an-ounce of butter for the few who were supposed to be dangerously
ill or dying. In the interval between the breakfast time and nine
o'clock the patients' wounds were dressed by the nurses, and medicines
served out by the officers of the ward; those patients not immediately
under treatment having liberty to read or chat with each other. Before
I left, however, the attempt was being made to prohibit this reading
and talking, and to combine more punishment with the cure of disease.

The two medical officers generally began their rounds of examination
about nine o'clock. As they entered the room "Attention!" was called,
when all the prisoners out of bed stood up, and as the doctors passed,
noting down on a ticket the date and remarks on each man's complaint,
they were saluted by the patients in the military fashion. The doctors'
visit over, the patients were assembled for prayers; after which, and
until the dinner-hour--a quarter to twelve--the time was spent in
out-door exercise. From twelve till two the patients sat on their
stools reading or gossiping. At two they went out again to exercise. At
half-past three they were again assembled for prayers. About five they
got tea and dry bread, as at breakfast; and at eight o'clock they were
all in bed.

The dinner of the patients varied according to the nature of their
disease. The majority were served with the regular hospital dinner,
which consisted of soup, potatoes, and what the dietary boards called
"Ten ounces of mutton." With respect to the latter item, however, I
fancy there must have been some mistake, although I have heard the
prisoners characterize it in different and much stronger terms. Whether
there be any mistake or not, _five_ ounces, or it might occasionally
be six ounces with the bone, is all the prisoners receive, and if
complaint was made the invariable answer was, that it "Lost four ounces
in the cooking." I am not sufficiently skilled in the culinary art to
be able to say whether or not ten ounces of mutton loses four ounces in
cooking, but the great majority of prisoners did not believe it; and
the evil effects of placing ten ounces on a board for the public to
see, and five or six ounces in the dish for the prisoner to eat, are
very great.

The old maxim, "Set a thief to catch a thief," was based on a shrewd
acquaintance with human nature, and convicts are usually very quick in
discovering discrepancies of the kind to which I have alluded; and it
is not to be wondered at if they put the very worst construction upon
them. In any case, if it forms any part of our prison discipline to
inculcate moral principles, or to instil into the convict mind a regard
for truth and honesty, it is surely of the utmost importance, indeed
absolutely necessary, that the prison authorities, their only
instructors, should be beyond suspicion. As entertaining books and
newspapers are not allowed him, the convict has nothing else to talk
about but the conduct of his jailers, and foolish prison gossip; and
any subject of the kind I have mentioned is eagerly discussed with very
injurious results to all concerned.

To return to my own case: after being carried upstairs to the hospital,
I was inspected by the medical officer, and ordered into one of the
largest wards, containing thirty-six beds, on one of which I was
destined to pass many long and painful months. On the following morning
my knee was examined by both the prison surgeons. Unfortunately they
seemed to differ in opinion as to the treatment it should receive. The
senior officer, who took charge of my case, wished to make a stiff
joint, whilst his junior thought it should be lanced and poulticed, to
take out the matter, which by this time was creating an abscess in the
joint. Had I been allowed to express my opinion on the subject I would
have supported the latter mode of treatment; but a convict dare not
utter a word with respect to medical treatment. I was accordingly
obliged to lie in one position for three months with my leg strapped to
a long slab, and to use a lotion which proved very injurious to it.
During these three months I suffered the most intense pain. I not only
could not get out of bed, but I could not change my position in it;
and, to add to the wretchedness of my situation, I could not read; and
finally I could not even sleep. My food, however, was better and more
abundant than it had been hitherto. At first I was allowed a little
porter and some very inferior beef-tea, in addition to the ordinary
second-class hospital diet.

Some time after, when my knee was being frequently leeched, I said to
the doctor that, if he thought it necessary to take more blood from me
I would feel very grateful for a mutton chop in lieu of the beef-tea.
This he at the time very snappishly refused, but next morning he
appeared to have seen the reasonableness of my request, and allowed me
the chop. Being always truly grateful when I obtained any concession of
this kind, and always civil and polite to those with whom I was brought
into contact, whether officers or prisoners, I received more favourable
consideration than the generality of my neighbours; and I had nothing
to complain of, so far as regarded diet, during my subsequent stay in
the hospital.

After a few weeks of great suffering to me, it became quite evident
that my leg was not to get better under the treatment prescribed for
it, but was rapidly getting worse. The knee was now so sensitive that
the tread of any person's foot passing near the bed caused me excessive
pain. I was afraid to sneeze for the same reason, and at last so
excruciating did the pain become that I begged and prayed to have my
leg cut off. The idea of losing it, so horrible to me a few months
previous, was altogether overpowered by the frightful torture, which
night and day it now entailed upon me. I was again inspected about this
time by a stranger doctor, and immediately after he left, my leg was
lanced and poulticed. But the remedy came too late, for the time had
come when I must either sacrifice my life, or give life a chance by the
sacrifice of my leg. My readers can imagine for themselves what it must
be to have the flesh cut, and the bone sawn through at the thickest
part of the thigh. I fear I cannot give a more lucid description of the
surgical operation. I was put under the influence of chloroform, which
had to be administered a second time before the surgeons had completed
their work, and with the exception of a momentary pang in the interval
between the doses, I felt no pain whatever. The operation was skilfully
performed, and occupied altogether about half-an-hour.

I was removed from the large ward, and placed in a small room by
myself, with a prisoner to wait upon me, and for three or four days
after the operation my life was despaired of by the medical officers.
Strangely enough I did not feel so hopeless about my case. I felt a
whispering within that seemed to tell me I should not die then. With
the exception of the pain caused by the first few dressings of the
wound, and a sharp violent twinge that seized the stump on my going to
sleep, causing it to start some inches from the pillow on which it
rested, I did not now experience anything to compare with my previous,
sufferings. The head surgeon also relaxed from his customary silent,
stingy, and cold hearted manner, and became generous, and even kind to
me. I had been in the habit of writing to my friends that I felt
comfortable enough under the circumstances, in order to keep up their
spirits about me, but now I could and did express genuine feelings of
gratitude, and until I wrote a letter to the late Mr. Cobden, more than
a year afterwards, I believe I remained a favourite with the chiefs of
the establishment. I had now become a cripple for life, and as I
reflected upon all that these words involved in relation to my future
history, and the circumstances which had entailed upon me a loss so
irretrievable, I thought, amongst other things how easily, and still
how fatally a little carelessness, negligence, or ill-temper on the
part of our convict surgeons, may influence the future life and conduct
of their convict patients. They are, without doubt, subjected to many
vexations, and much annoyance, and their temper receives daily
provocations. They have to deal professionally with a class of men who,
as a rule, cannot be believed or trusted; who are as likely as not to
give a false description of their complaint, and in many instances to
do all in their power to frustrate the efforts made to relieve it. They
have to discover not only what the disease is in real patients, but
also frequently to detect well planned and well sustained imposture in
those who are not diseased at all. The latter is a much more difficult
task in many cases than the former, as I will subsequently show, and it
has a tendency to sour the temper and harden the heart, which the
former does not. I do not imagine that the medical men in our convict
establishments are naturally less warm-hearted, less nobly devoted to
their profession than their brethren outside, but it will not be
disputed that the peculiar nature of their practice has a tendency to
make them so. Were one hundred doctors each to have a patient for whom
they had daily, for weeks, and even for months, been doing all that
humanity and professional skill could suggest in order to relieve him,
let us suppose of great suffering, and one fine morning to see the
patient leap out of bed, laugh, and snap his fingers in their faces,
and tell them that there had been nothing the matter with him all the
while!--ninety-nine of them would probably look upon the next patient
with some suspicion, and if deception was at all frequent, the really
diseased would come in time to suffer even at the hands of the most
tender and humane amongst them. I blame these "schemers" and
"impostors" therefore for much of the apparent sourness, indifference
to, and sometimes cruel neglect, if not positive aggravation of
suffering, which I have noticed in the manner and treatment of most of
the convict surgeons I have met with. I have seen the imperative
necessity that exists for periodical inspection of our convict
hospitals by competent medical men, not otherwise connected with them,
in order to protect the "innocent patients," if I may use the term,
from the indifference, mismanagement, and even punishment they are
often compelled to undergo, because of the prejudices contracted by the
prison officials, the result of a long experience perhaps of imposture
and deception. Under the present system the resident medical
superintendent has the lives of his patients at his sole disposal, and
it is a very dangerous thing for a convict patient to offend the
medical officers in any way, and of course the more so if they happen
to be of a cruel or vindictive disposition. My own case was in some
respects an instance of this. The experience I gained in the Yorkshire
prison, after I had ventured to insinuate to the doctor there that he
had not quite understood the nature of my complaint, kept my mouth
hermetically closed during the ill-concealed disagreement between the
two doctors here as to the method of my cure. The chief medical officer
at this prison was very much disliked by the majority of the patients,
particularly by the young prisoners in the early stages of consumption.
The cause of this, was supposed to be the desire to keep the hospital
well filled with patients, and to have the greater proportion of them
of the class who were content to be idle without craving for "extras."
He could thus keep the cost per head lower than the medical officers at
other prisons, and obtain the greater credit at head-quarters. Young
consumptive patients he found to be too expensive, and they were
accordingly made uncomfortable. His junior, on the other hand, although
blunt in his manner and speech, was held in general esteem. He seemed
to have his heart in the profession, and endeavoured to cure complaints
deemed curable without reference to the expense of the diet, if it
contributed to the end he had in view.

In another chapter I shall again allude to this subject, and give a
number of cases which came within the range of my own observation, to
prove the justice of some of the reflections I have made on the want of
periodical inspection of our prison hospitals. In the meantime my stump
continued to discharge matter. An abscess formed and retarded the
healing of the wounds and it was not till I discovered a cure myself
that it showed any symptoms of healing. The cure was to hold the stump
under a tap of cold water, using friction afterwards. This I continued
to do long after the wound had finally closed.



About two months after the amputation of my leg, feeling and believing
that my health would never be restored in confinement I wrote a
petition to the Home Secretary, in the expectation that I would be as
mercifully considered as my predecessors in misfortune. While my
petition was under consideration I was encouraged in my expectations by
the fact that one of my companions who had nothing the matter with him
but a dislocated hip joint, was liberated on medical grounds three or
four years before his time was up. My hopes were somewhat damped,
however, by another circumstance which just then occurred. The prison
director arrived on his monthly visit, and on passing through the ward,
the medical officer who accompanied him stopped at the foot of my bed
and informed him that I was the man whose leg he had amputated, and
that I was "quite well now!" The director, seeing me in bed and looking
very poorly, and noticing the general stare with which the doctor's
remark was received, asked in a somewhat doubtful way, "Is he quite
well?" "Oh! yes quite well," the doctor replied; and off they went.

I was sixteen months in hospital after the above remark was made, and I
was then unable to get up to have my bed made, nor did I leave my bed
during the whole winter and spring that succeeded! I received an answer
to my petition, shortly after the visit to which I have referred, in
the usual form of an official negative, "Not sufficient grounds." Being
now free from acute pain, I conversed freely with my companions, and
taught some of them to spell, read, and cypher. After I was able to get
out of bed I read aloud for an hour every evening, for the benefit of
all the patients. In time I became popular, and intimate with many of
them. I wrote letters and petitions for them, encouraged them with good
advice, and succeeded in obtaining considerable influence over them.

In return for these trifling services, which also to some extent
relieved the monotony of the long period I spent in hospital, they told
me their history and experiences. I learnt their slang and thiefology,
and as a theorist became tolerably conversant with all the mysteries by
which the professional thief and scoundrel preys upon society.

The first of my companions who attracted my attention was a young
Scotchman. He appeared to be a very strong hearty fellow, but when he
attempted to walk, he was the most pitiable looking cripple imaginable,
and excited the sympathy of all who saw him. His sentence was
twenty-one years, four of which he had undergone at this time. He had
been invalided home from the convict establishment at Bermuda, was
shipwrecked off the Isle of Wight on the return voyage, and had been
some months in the hospital previous to my arrival. He was in the habit
of being carried up and down stairs to exercise on the backs of the
nurses, and was getting full diet and porter. About four months after
my arrival, he one morning suddenly started out of bed, shouted
"Attention," at the top of his voice, in defiance of the prison rules,
and ran about the room like a lamplighter, to the utter amazement of
all present. This man was what the prisoners term a "schemer," and he
was certainly the very best actor of his class I ever met with. It will
be acknowledged that he played his part well, when even during the
shipwreck he had never made the slightest attempt to move, and kept up
the deception for many months in a prison hospital, where the majority
of the patients are put down as "schemers" unless they have an outward
sore, or some natural malady with palpable external symptoms. When the
doctor came his rounds, he could do nothing but stare at the fellow,
who started up and told him with a laughing countenance that he had had
a dream in the night, about being miraculously cured, and in the
morning he found he could walk as well as ever he did. The doctor never
opened his lips; the patient was discharged, and although the other
patients cried aloud that he ought to be punished, no further notice
was taken of the matter.

This "schemer," I learned, had been a great sufferer from pleurisy at
Bermuda, and was very weak when he was put on board ship, where he
commenced his scheme; and had it not been for new regulations which
were then put in force, there is no doubt he would have accomplished
his object, which was "Liberation on medical grounds." He had
petitioned the Home Secretary shortly before he threw his crutches
aside, declaring that he had met with an accident at Bermuda from a
stone falling on his back, and so injuring the spine that both his legs
were paralysed. He had received a reply to the effect that his petition
would be answered so soon as the authorities heard from Bermuda the
particulars of the accident, and it was a few days after this that the
miraculous visitation took place.

I asked him why he did not wait for the final answer to his petition
before exposing his scheme? "Oh," he replied, "I knew very well if they
wrote to Bermuda I should get no time off. I met with no accident,
although I said so in my petition." "You will be very fortunate," I
said, "if you get the customary remission after this affair, I fear
they will punish you?" "Look here," said he, "I have another scheme in
my head, and you will see I'll not fail this time. I'll get out to
Australia, and by the time I arrive I will be due for my liberty."
"Well, that will certainly be better for you than being kept eight or
nine years longer in prison here; but how are you to manage to get
abroad unless the authorities choose to send you?" "Oh! I will work
that. I'll now be as bad in my conduct as possible; and I'll half
murder some of the officers if they don't send me away; and that very
soon too."

True to his threat, the fellow commenced a course of bad conduct,
knowing it would ensure his passage to Western Australia; and in a
comparatively short time he gained his object, and I have no doubt he
is now at liberty abroad.

About the time the above conversation took place another "schemer"
arrived, and was located a few beds from me. He had been a clerk in a
government office, was respectably connected, and a very intelligent
young man. He pretended he could not use his legs. The doctor's eye
being now somewhat opened, he told him there was nothing the matter
with him, recommended him to get well again as fast as possible, and
threatened him with the electric battery, and even hot irons, if that
did not succeed. The prisoner did not take advice, however, and the
battery was tried upon him. After being stripped several times, and
made to cry out with pain, to the great amusement of his
fellow-prisoners, he ultimately took to crutches; first two, then one,
with a stick; then the stick only; then nothing at all. He was
afterwards removed to another prison.

I saw several other cases, similar to the one I have just mentioned, of
pretended loss of the use of the legs, or partial inability to walk;
but as there was no marked difference in the cases, I need not notice
them. There was, however, an amusing incident connected with one of
them which I may mention. This prisoner was allowed a little porter
every day, which was served out about one o'clock. One day at that hour
he happened to be in an adjoining room with his crutches (he could walk
a little) when another prisoner cried out, "Porter, porter; quick,
quick!" On hearing this cry, and afraid of losing his liquor, he bolted
out, ran down the room, and had swallowed his porter before he had
discovered that he had left his crutches behind him.

Such cases as these injure the really sick, particularly those whose
symptoms are not very apparent. Many prisoners adopt these schemes in
order to get into hospital, where they get better food, less work, and
have the chance of being with a favourite "pal." Others will make
themselves ill by swallowing tobacco, soap pills, or anything they know
will make them sick. There are others again who are afraid to enter the
hospital lest they should be poisoned with a sleeping draught, or some
other medicine carelessly administered; and when they hear of any
sudden death in hospital they are ready to swear "his light has been
put out by the doctor." On the other hand I have known it to happen
that a prisoner went and complained to the doctor, who roughly told him
he was a "schemer," and the following week the prisoner was dead.
Another time a healthy looking old man, with chest disease, complained
to the doctor of pain in that region. He was dosed repeatedly with
salts and senna--the medicine for schemers--and in less than a
fortnight he was buried.

I could mention many cases similar to the above, and also others where
the prisoner was his own murderer--if I may use the expression--but I
will merely mention one of them. The patient in this case was afflicted
with dropsy, and some affection of the heart. He had been receiving two
ounces of gin for a short time, which he fancied was doing him good,
and being partial to that variety of medicine, he was annoyed when it
was ordered to be discontinued. Accordingly he resolved to make himself
ill again, in order to get the allowance of gin, and swallowed a large
piece of tobacco, which brought an increase to his heart complaint; and
notwithstanding that the greatest attention was paid to his case by the
doctor, before morning he was dead.

This prisoner lay in the next bed to mine, and among the many death-bed
scenes I witnessed while in prison, I never saw one where the fear of
death was so apparent, or the state of mind so appalling to the

The man had been a bully, and an avowed infidel. The prospect of death
had now come upon him with awful suddenness. Fear and trembling took
hold upon him, and as he thought of his past life, and the possible
judgment seat, before which he might the next moment be summoned to
appear, remorse and doubt seemed to torture him more than physical
pain. At the closing scene he was evidently trying to believe, but
could not, for he kept repeating, "If there be a God, if there be a God
I hope He will forgive me; but I can't believe it, indeed I can't!" and
so saying he expired.

Another death-bed scene impressed me much. The patient was paralysed in
his lower extremities and could scarcely walk, but his general health
appeared pretty good, and he was not confined to bed. He had a talent
for mechanics and arithmetic, but a very bad temper and a very bad
heart. His crime was sacrilege. In the next bed to his there lay a
patient who was dying, and being in great pain was making a noise,
which disturbed the studies and peace of mind of the other. A quarrel
arose between the two on the subject. High words ensued. Curses, deep,
black, loud, and long, soon followed, too soon for the officer to
prevent, and there would certainly have been a fight if the dying man
could have got out of bed, but the interference of the officer put an
end to the disturbance. It was their parting words taken in connection
with what followed, that made a deep impression upon me:--"If it wasn't
that you are dying I would blacken your eyes for you," cried the
mechanic. "How do you know I am dying? You look as like dying as
anybody, you miserable cripple," retorted the other. "Ah! I'm tough
stuff, you'll not see me die in a hurry." The cripple who uttered these
words went shortly afterwards to bed, was seized with a paralytic
affection, which took the power of speech from him. He never uttered
another syllable, but lay in bed for about a week, making frantic
motions with his lips. I forget which of these two men died first, but
they were buried together in the same grave.

Another death at this time excited a good deal of conversation among
the prisoners. The patient had been tried under the Transportation Act,
one of the bye-laws of which enacted that for every prison "report," or
offence, the prisoner would lose one month of his remission. But
convicts being usually punished under the most recent law, without
reference to its being different from that under which they had
received sentence, the prisoner I now refer to was sentenced to lose
three months of his remission for one offence, that of having an inch
or two of tobacco on his person. He had undergone nearly the whole of
this additional punishment, when, only a few hours before his time came
to leave the prison to meet his motherless children, for whom he seemed
to have a very strong affection, he died suddenly of heart disease.

Some prisoners expired on the very day for their liberation. Some died
screaming aloud that they were poisoned. Many died like the brutes, and
a very few departed in peace, with a prayer on their lips. The great
majority died as they had lived, and were forgotten by the spectators
almost before their bodies had been laid in the grave.



As a means of beguiling the time while in the hospital, I used to enter
into long conversations with those of my fellow prisoners who were
willing to gratify my curiosity, with a view of ascertaining their mode
of life when out of prison. At first it was somewhat difficult for me
to follow them in their talk, in consequence of their excessive use of
"slang" terms; but in time I not only came to understand the
nomenclature of thiefology, but also to use it fluently, as I found it
more acceptable to my companions to do so, and rendered them more
favourably disposed towards me.

One of my fellow prisoners was particularly communicative and obliging,
and gave me a great deal of well-meant advice, no doubt, as to how I
might live at the public expense _outside_ the prison walls, as
well as explanations in every department of crime. I remember the
following dialogue taking place between us, which also serves to show
how an ignoramus in the science, or a young country lad, perhaps for
the first time convicted of crime, might be instructed in vice, and
incited to continue a career he had perhaps very thoughtlessly, or
under strong temptation, began.

"Harry," I asked, "what's that 'bloke'[6] here for, who occupies the
end bed?"

      [6] Man.


"Twineing! What's that?"

"Don't you know that yet? why you must be a greenhorn not to know that.
Well! I'll tell you. Suppose you start in the morning with a good
sovereign and a '_snyde_'[7] half-sovereign in your pocket; you go
into some place or other, and ask for change of the sovereign, or you
order some beer and give the sovereign in payment; it's likely you will
get half-a-sovereign and silver back in change. Then is the time to
'twine.' You change your mind, after you have 'rung'[8] your snyde half
'quid'[9] with the good one, and throwing down the 'snyde' half, say
you prefer silver; the landlord or landlady, or whoever it is, will
pick up the snyde half-quid, thinking of course it is the same one they
had given you!"

      [7] Counterfeit.

      [8] Substituted.

      [9] Sovereign.

"Is that a good game, do you think?"

"Well, that depends on the party. If he has got good 'togs' on, looks
pretty decent, and can work it well, he may make a good living at it."

"How much do you suppose?"

"If he can manage to begin every morning with yellow stuff, he may make
a couple of 'quid' a day; but if he can only muster white stuff, why of
course he can't make so much."

"Two pounds a day would do if it could be got regularly, but I suspect
there are not many who make that?"

"Oh! I have known them make much more than that, but of course it
varies, some days nothing may be done, but the great thing is to have
something to start with."

"Do you never think of trying to make money at work?"

"Work! no, by jingo! I'll never work; that's all they can make one do
in prison, and it will be time enough to work when we get there."

"I have heard you speak of 'hoisting,' how do you go about that?"

"Ah! that's a much better game, but it requires a fellow to be rigged
out like a 'toff,'[10] and they generally have a 'flash moll,'[11] with
them at that job. She can secrete articles about her dress when in a
shop looking at things, and that's one way of 'hoisting.' Jewellers'
shops are the best places for that game. I know a bloke who made
several hundreds at it; he took fine lodgings, and his moll looked
quite the lady, so he orders some jewellery to be sent on sight; he
prigs the best of it and bolts. Then you can get snyde jewellery made
to look the same as real stuff, and when you are in the shop with your
moll, she is trying on a ring perhaps, when you put the snyde one in
its place and she sticks to the right one."

      [10] Gentleman.

      [11] Prostitute of the gayest sort.

"I am afraid that game would be above my abilities?"

"Well, I'll tell you what I did once, and what you may do when you get
out, when winter sets in; you can have some other game in summer,
perhaps go hawking, and do a bit of thieving when you see the coast
clear. My brother and I and another bloke went out 'chance screwing,'
one winter, and we averaged three pounds a night each. My brother had a
spring cart and a fast trotting horse, so when it began to grow dark,
off we set to the outskirts of London. I did the screwing in this way.
Wherever I saw a lobby lighted with gas, I looked in at the key-hole.
If I saw anything worth lifting I 'screwed' the door--I'll teach you
how to do it--seized the things, into the cart with them, and off to
the next place. Now big Davey goes out about the same time as you, and
he knows a bloke with a cart, and so you may do very well all winter at
that game; but be sure to leave off by nine o'clock as you would get it
very hot if caught after that time!"

"Well! I shall see big Davey, perhaps, but don't you think 'highflying'
would suit me better, although I know little about it?"

"Oh! that's above your mark, a 'highflyer' is a bloke who dresses like
a clergyman, or some gentleman. He must be educated, for his game is to
know all the nobility and gentry, and visit them with got-up letters,
and that kind of thing, for the purpose of getting subscriptions to
some scheme. A church-building or missionary affair is the best game.
There is only one good 'highflyer' in the prison. I knew him get
150_l._ from a gentleman in Devonshire once, and he thinks nothing
of getting 30_l._ of a morning."

Finding my friend so communicative and apparently so experienced in the
various branches of his profession, I took advantage of every
convenient opportunity to ascertain from him the meaning of the slang
terms which my comrades made use of when conversing together, but
through ignorance of which I was often unable to understand exactly
what they were talking about. On another occasion I accordingly asked
him the meaning of a number of these terms which I had thus heard
bandied about from time to time amongst them. On asking him about
'macing' he replied--

"Macing means taking an office, getting goods sent to it, and then
'bolting' with them; or getting goods sent to your lodgings and then
removing. I'll tell you a game that you might try now and again as you
have a chance, and that is 'fawney dropping,' you know 'fawney' means a
ring. Well, you must have a 'pal,' and give him a 'snyde' ring with a
ticket and the price marked on it. When you are walking along the
street and see a likely 'toff' to buy the ring, your 'pal' goes on
before and drops it, you come up behind him, and in front of the
gentleman you pick up the ring, which is ticketed, say five pounds.
Well, you turn to the 'toff' and say to him that you have found a ring
which is entirely useless to you, as you never wear these articles, and
ask him to purchase it. He will most likely look at the ticket, and see
it marked five pounds, and if you say you will let him have it for
three pounds, or two pounds, or even for one pound, if he hesitates, it
is also likely he will buy it, thinking he is getting a great bargain."

"What do you mean by 'snow-dropping?'" I asked.

"Oh!" said he, "that's a poor game. It means lifting clothes off the
bleaching line, or hedges. Needy mizzlers, mumpers, shallow-blokes, and
flats may carry it on, but it's too low and paltry for you."

"Who do you mean by mumpers and shallow-blokes?" I enquired.

"Why 'mumpers' are cadgers; beggars in fact. There's old Dick over in
that bed there; he used to go 'mumping,' and when he got boosey with
too much lush he stole some paltry thing or other, and being so often
convicted they have 'legged'[12] him at last. They can't make an honest
living, and can't make a living by thieving; but, you know, it's
different with you. You could make a fair thing by 'snotter-hauling,'
even if you cannot get on at 'fly-buzzing,' which would suit you well
enough; but it's better to stick to one good game, and get as expert at
that as you can, for then you don't run so much risk, and you can keep
a sharper look out after the 'coppers'.[13] Talking of mumping: old Dick
used to go to the farm-houses with a piece of dried cow-dung, and ask
for a bit of butter to put on it. Very often they took pity on him and
gave him lots of meat; for they thought he must be very hungry to eat
the cow-dung, which of course, you know, was only a dodge. In order to
get to Liverpool once from some place up the Mersey, whence the fare
down was a shilling, Dick went on board the steamer and asked the
captain what he charged for lambs. 'A penny a-head,' says the captain.
'Oh! that will do,' says Dick; and away he goes among the passengers.
When they were collecting the fares Dick holds out his penny, which was
all the 'tin' he had in the world. 'The fare's a shilling,' said the
captain. 'Yes, it may be,' said Dick, 'but I asked you the fare for
lambs. My name is Lamb; I'm an innocent creature, and the long and the
short of it is I've only a penny. If you can't take it, just give me a
sail back again.' That chap over there with the one arm is a regular
'mumper,' and he is a strong, robust fellow, able to work with any man
in the prison; but he can make ten times more by 'mumping,' and I do
not blame the like of him going on that 'racket.' Every man for himself
in this world. Do you see that little old man with a cough on him?
Well, his game is 'needy-mizzling.' He'll go out without a shirt,
perhaps, and beg one from house to house. I have known him to get
thirty 'mill-togs'[14] in one day, which, at a 'bob' apiece, would fetch
their thirty shillings. When he can't go on that 'racket,' he'll turn
'mumper' and wood merchant (which means a seller of lucifer matches);
and sometimes he will take to rag and bone collecting."

      [12] Sentenced.

      [13] Policemen.

      [14] Shirts.

"What do you call a 'shallow-bloke?'"

"He is a cove that acts the turnpike sailor; pretends he has been
shipwrecked, and so on, or he gets his arm bandaged, and put in a
sling. I once knew two blokes who went to an old captain's house on
that game, and as they were not able to reply to some of his nautical
questions, he and his son gave them a regular horsewhipping. When they
got home they boasted to a lot of their 'chums' how much they had
screwed out of the old captain. This induced some of them to go on the
same 'racket,' and of course they met with the same warm reception.
These 'shallow-blokes' turn 'duffers' sometimes. They get some
'duffing' silk handkerchiefs and cigars, and go about selling them for
smuggled goods; or perhaps they will take to singing in the streets.
But I spoke of 'snotter-hauling.' Although I think you are too old for
that 'racket'--and unless you were very hard up and in a crowd, I would
not bother about it. It would not pay for the risk run. It does best
for 'kids.'[15] A little boy can sneak behind a 'toff' and relieve him
of his 'wipe' as easily as possible. I know a little fellow who used to
make seven 'bob' a-day at it on the average; but there were more silk
'wipes' used then than there are now."

      [15] Boys.

"What do you mean by 'lob-sneaking,' and 'Peter-screwing?"

"Why, 'lob' means the till, and 'Peter' means a safe. Stealing the till
and opening the safe is what we call 'lob-sneaking and Peter-screwing.'"

"And what is 'jumping' and 'jilting?'"

"'Jumping' is getting into a house through the window; and 'jilting' is
getting in on the sly, or on false pretences at the door, and sneaking
what you can find. It's not a bad game to go into hotels, for instance,
as a traveller, and as soon as you see a chance to sneak anything, to
bolt with it. I know some fellows who make a fair living in this way."

"Then there is 'twisting' and 'fencing?'"

"When you go into any place where hats, coats, or umbrellas are left in
the lobby, you can take a new 'tog,' or a new hat, by mistake for your
own. That is 'twisting,' or ringing the changes. Then the
'fence-master' is the fellow who buys stolen property. I will give you
the names of some of these blokes in London before you go out. You must
know where to dispose of a 'super,'[16] or whatever you get, or it would
be of no use to you. You know what 'buzzing,' or pocket-picking is, of
course; and you have heard of working on the 'stop,' most likely. Which
means picking pockets when the party is standing still; but it is more
difficult on the 'fly.' You must remember that. I remember once going
along Oxford Street, and I prigged an old woman's 'poke,'[17] on the
'fly.' She missed it very quick, and was coming after me when I slipped
it into an old countryman's pocket as I was passing. She came up and
accused me with stealing her purse. I, of course, allowed her to search
me, and asked her to fetch a 'bobby,' if she was not satisfied. Well, I
followed the old countryman and accused him of stealing my purse. And,
my Crikey! if you had only seen how the old codger looked when he found
the purse in his pocket. I threatened to give him in charge of the
first 'copper' I saw; and he was so frightened that I actually got a
'quid' out of him to let him off."

      [16] Watch.

      [17] Purse.

"Well now, tell me about 'snyde-pitching.'"

"Snyde, you know, means counterfeit or bad, anything bad we call
snydey. Snyde-pitching is passing bad money; and is a capital racket,
especially if you can get rid of 'fins.'"

"What are 'fins?'"

"Five pound notes, or flash notes. I can give you the address of one or
two fellows who make bad coins, and you can pass one or two when you
see a fair chance."

"What do they charge for sovereigns, for instance?"

"The charge depends on the quality, you can get them at from six to
fifteen shillings. Those at fifteen shillings no one can discover. They
are the weight, the size, and all that is required. The low-priced ones
of course you must run more risk with. Making bad coins is one of the
best games out, and you can carry it on with less risk. For instance
you can have your place where you work so blocked up that before anyone
can enter, you will have time to destroy all your dies and tools; and
melt or 'plant' your metal, and without them they cannot convict you. I
know a bloke in Birmingham now, who was getting up Scotch one pound
notes when I was 'copt,' and he is a capital hand at the trade. He once
made a good deal by making snyde postage stamps."

"But one would require to know something about the different metals
before they could be able to make 'snyde.'"

"Yes, that is necessary, but I think I know who will tell you. He has
got twenty years, and is not likely to get a chance of doing more at
the trade. These fellows who follow that racket are rather close, and
don't want to tell anyone."

"The other day I heard a bloke talking about a 'picking-up moll' he
used to live with. What did he mean by that?"

"O! that's a very common racket. He meant a 'flash-tail,' or prostitute
who goes about the streets at nights trying to pick up 'toffs.' When
she manages to do this her accomplice the coshman (a man who carries a
'cosh' or life preserver) comes up, when she has signed to him that she
has got the 'toff's' watch and chain, and quarrels with him for
meddling with his wife. Whilst the quarrel is going on the moll walks
off with the booty. I know one coshman who pretends to be a missionary,
and wears a white choker. Instead of quarrelling, he talks seriously to
the 'toff' about the sin of fornication, and advises him to pursue a
more becoming life in future, and finishes off by giving him a
religious tract!"

"Now I have nearly finished my questions, but whilst there is time tell
me about 'magging,' and 'mag-flying.'"

"Magging is not so good a game as it used to be. It means more
particularly, swindling a greenhorn out of his cash by the mere gift of
the gab. You know if it were not for the flats, how could the sharps
live? You can 'mag' a man at any time you are playing cards or at
billiards, and in various other ways. As for 'mag-flying,' that is not
good for much. You have seen those blokes at fairs and races, throwing
up coppers, or playing at pitch and toss? Well these are 'mag-flyers.'
The way they do it is to have a penny with two heads or two tails on
it, which they call a 'grey,' and of course they can easily dupe flats
from the country."

"How do they call it a 'grey,' I wonder?"

"I suppose they have named it after Sir George Grey, because he is a
two-faced bloke."

"Well then tell me about 'locusing,' and 'bellowsing.'"

"Locusing is putting a chap to sleep with chloroform, and bellowsing is
putting his light out. In other words, drugging and murder."

"Now then, shew me how to hang a fellow up, or put the 'flimp' on him,
as you call it."

"D'ye see that bone in the wrist? Just get that on the windpipe--so,"
(shewing me practically how to garotte). While at this interesting
experiment we heard a voice cry, "Cheese it, cheese it, Harry! there's
the 'Screw' looking at you!" which warned us that the prison warder was
also taking notes, and my lesson for that day came to a rather abrupt



Another of my companions in hospital gave me the particulars of his
history in answer to my enquiries. I give them precisely in his own

"I was about fifteen years of age before I stole any money, or got into
any trouble; but I used to 'nick' little things, such as fruit, &c.,
when I was a kid. My father kept a small shop, but I was bound an
apprentice to a very peculiar branch of the Sheffield trade; and before
I had finished my apprenticeship I committed my first crime. I was
playing at bagatelle one night, and lost all my cash, and as I was
anxious to win it back, I broke into my master's premises, and took all
the money that was in the cash-box. I got 'copt,' and was sent into the
county jail. When I came out I enlisted in the army. My father bought
me off after I had been in the regiment a short time. I then took to
hawking, but I did not make much money at that, so I enlisted
again,--deserted, and got flogged; and the flogging made me a
blackguard;--committed another crime, and got out of the army.
Afterwards I committed other crimes, and was at last copt and sentenced
to five years' penal servitude. I was sent to do most of it at
Gibraltar. After coming home I resolved I should make a fair trial to
gain an honest livelihood. I had about thirteen pounds of a gratuity
coming to me, and by the aid of the vicar I got all that at once, and
set up as a greengrocer. But as I was not very well acquainted with the
business I soon lost my little capital, and I resolved to try and get
work at my trade. I called on all the 'gaffers' in that business, but
none of them would employ me. Those who knew me would have nothing to
do with me; those who didn't wanted a character, which of course I
could not give. Well, I went two days without tasting a bit of food;
but on the third I ate some turnips. On the fourth day I became so
desperate with hunger that I determined on going on the 'cross.' I
commenced, and committed seventeen burglaries right off, in various
parts of the country. The first was in my own town, and the moment I
got the 'wedge'[18] 'planted'[19], I went to the police-office and asked
for a bed for the night, as I had no money. Next day, early, there was
a great hubbub about my job. One of the police came to the office and
swore it must have been done by me; but when the superintendent told
him that I had slept in the station-house all night, and that it could
not have been me, he never said any more about it. The next place I
robbed was a church; but all the rest were shops. I was tried for the
church and two of the other jobs; but I got off the former, as the
clergyman prosecuted me, when it ought to have been some other official
connected with it. I pleaded guilty to the second charge against me;
and it's that I'm now here for. When I was in prison, waiting for
trial, I called myself a Roman Catholic, and was visited by the priest.
One day I confessed to him that I had robbed a church, and that I was
very sorry for it--and so I was, upon my word. That's the only crime I
ever committed which gave me any trouble. Well, the priest was
thunderstruck, and looked daggers at me; but when I told him it was a
Protestant church, he gave me absolution, and said the crime was not so
bad as he at first thought."

      [18] Silver-plate.

      [19] Hidden.

"What religion do you profess now?" I enquired.

"Well, I'm down in the books now as a Protestant, or Church of England
man; but I do not believe all that churchmen believe. I think there's a
good deal of humbug about what is called Christianity altogether. I
have tried several creeds, and there's none of them squares exactly
with my ideas."

"Which of them have you tried?"

"I was eighteen months a Mormon. My uncle is an elder in their church;
but I got enough of them one night at a meeting. After the business was
concluded, one of the members proposed that the lights should be put
out during the remainder of the proceedings.--My Crikey! that night was
enough for me.... I was in earnest at first though; and when I was
baptised and anointed, I intended to have gone out to the settlement in

"What do you object to in the Church of England?"

"Oh! I don't pay much attention to these matters. I like a good man, no
matter what church he belongs to. For instance, the Presbyterian
minister at 'Gib.' was a first-rate man; and so is that chaplain at
Pentonville, the Rev. Mr. Sherman. But I am of the barber's opinion
about church-rates."

"What was his opinion?"

"Well, a certain barber opened a shop down our way, and shortly
afterwards was called on to pay the church-rates. 'Church-rates,' says
he, 'what have I to do with church-rates? I never go near the church. I
belong to the dissenters.' 'Well, but you know the church is always
open to receive you, and every Sunday the doors are open for you to
come and worship; and you ought to consider it a privilege to be
permitted to attend on the ministration of God's Holy Word,' was the
reply. 'I do not consider it a privilege to go to a church I don't
believe in,' said the barber. 'I go to a different church, which I am
pleased with, and therefore I won't pay you any rates.' 'But you know
the law will compel you to pay them.' 'Oh, then, there they are; if the
law says so, it must be done.' 'Well, as you have paid me so promptly I
shall be a regular customer of yours, and will now have a 'shave' and
my hair cut,' said the collector. He only continued for a short time,
however, to patronize the barber, having found a shop nearer home and
more convenient. But at the end of the year the barber made out his
account all the same as if he had continued his custom as he had
promised to do. When the collector got the account, he said, 'How's
this? I don't owe you a quarter of this sum; you must have made a
mistake. I have only been so many times at your shop altogether, and
yet you charge me as if I had gone all the year round.' 'My dear sir,'
replied the barber, 'you know that my shop, as by law established, is
always open to receive you, excepting Sunday, when your shop is open,
so that you may avail yourself of my skill, and you ought to consider
it a very great privilege to be permitted to do so.' 'I don't consider
it any privilege to get that from you which I can get from others that
I happen to prefer, on the same terms, and therefore I refuse to pay
your account.' 'Then, it appears, I am obliged to pay your account
whatever it may be, whether I get value for it or not, but yet you are
not obliged to pay me mine unless you do get value for it, even when
you promise to take value. Good morning.' 'Good morning,' said the
collector; and the barber retired.

"You will see from this colloquy what the barber's notions were about
church rates. Now, I have an idea that it is most unjust for one set of
religious men to force their neighbours who differ from them, to help
to pay for the support of their church, particularly when they are able
themselves to do all that is required in that way, if they were
willing. This mainstay and foundation being rotten, the fabric cannot
be secure. The churchman acts unjustly in this, and to act unjustly is
anti-christian: therefore the churchman is no Christian any more than I
am a Dutchman."

"Well, we'll leave the church question at present. Have you anything
more to tell me about yourself? Have you never thought seriously about
changing your mode of life when you get out of prison again? An
intelligent fellow like you would do well in America, and I would
strongly recommend you to leave the country as soon as you get your

"As to altering my conduct, I tell you that when I was in the separate
cells, I did resolve on it, and began to pray and read good books, but
after I got among the other prisoners I gave it all up again; I should
like to go abroad well enough, but I shall not have funds for it, so I
must stop at home."

"Then do you intend to go thieving and robbing again?"

"Well, I shall never go another day without food, that's certain. If I
can get it honestly, good and well; if not I'll steal: why should a man
starve in a Christian country?"

"You have the workhouse to go to."

"The workhouse! it's a second jail: I would nearly as soon be in
prison, and when you have a chance of getting off without being caught,
it's better to run the risk and chance it, for all the difference there
is or ever can be between the workhouse and the prison. They can't make
a man work unless they feed and clothe him, any more than they can make
a steam engine go without fuel. Well, give me food and I'll work; work
is no punishment to me, if I can get meat to support it, and if I don't
I can't, that's all about it. But what's the good of making me work for
years, at work that will not be of any use to me when I get out? I have
only learnt one trade, there are only a very few men in that trade,
they won't employ me; then what am I to do? Starve in a Christian
country? It isn't likely; and as for the workhouse, I shall never go to
it as long as I can be fed in prison, with the chance always of keeping
out of both?"

"Suppose they should flog you next time?"

"In the first place, I have a disease on me now that would prevent me
from being flogged, so that I have no fear of flogging. But, even if I
was able to stand flogging, all the difference it would make to me,
would be to make me keep a sharper eye after the 'coppers.' Small game
would not then tempt me so much. I should look after larger stakes, go
in at heavier jobs, and calculate well my chances of escape before
going to work. Once I had made up my mind to commit a crime, and saw
the coast clear, the chance of all the floggings in the world would not
deter me. I'll find you fellows in the prison to-day who will take a
good round flogging for a pound of tobacco! now do you think that the
mere chance of the lash would hinder these men from attempting to get
hold of a few hundred pounds' worth of jewellery? It's not likely.
Thieves weren't frightened into honesty by the gallows, nor would they
be now, if they were to be cut into mince-meat. Thousands might be led
into honest ways if suitable work was found for them, but it would
require to be very different work from that of the 'navvy,' and then
many of them have to be _learned_ to work before they could make a
living at all."

"Then you don't think flogging did you any good at all?"

"Certainly it did not; and what's more, you will never find a man doing
much good after being flogged. It either makes him an invalid, or a
desperado. It may make him quiet under authority, but it ensures the
very opposite when he is free."

This prisoner was a more than usually clever and intelligent type of a
numerous class of convicts--not the most difficult class to cure, but
the next to it, perhaps. Unlike the city-bred professional thief, he
had been taught to work, and such work as he could perform was no
punishment to him. Unlike the professional, he goes out of the prison
hesitating, wavering, as to his future course: willing to take work if
suitable; determined to avoid the workhouse; easily tempted to steal,
resolved to do so rather than starve; but, on the whole, anxious to
make a comfortable livelihood. He had one son, and I remember well how
glad he was when some benevolent person wrote to him to say that he had
been bound an apprentice to a respectable trade. He is now dead.
Another of my companions was of a somewhat different class, and a much
more difficult subject to deal with. He told me that he was fifty-seven
years of age. I asked him how long he had been a prisoner, not adding
his sentences together, but how long he had actually been in prison.

"Thirty-seven years," he replied.

"How old were you when you got into trouble first?"


"What was your first sentence?"

"Seven years' transportation."

"How did you like Australia?"

"Well, the place is well enough, and a man can get a living easier
abroad than he can at home. But I have been rather a queer customer in
my time. I don't believe there's a man in this prison, or in any
prison, who has gone through more hardships and punishments than I have

"Were you ever flogged?"

"Flogged! I should think I have. Just wait until night, when I am going
to bed, and I'll let you see my back all in ridges with the cat."

"What effect had the flogging on your conduct?"

"Flogging takes out one devil and puts in seven. That's the effect it
had on me. But there's not one in a hundred could stand the floggings
and punishments I have endured. I had ten years once in Australia, and
I was in the penal class most of the time, and, by jingo! they know how
to punish there."

"Suppose I were to offer you 20_l._ to be flogged, would you accept the
money and take the flogging?"

"I should think I would, and that very quick, too. I would as soon take
a bashing as bread and water for seven days."

"Then a bashing, as you call it, would not frighten you from committing
a crime?"

"If I thought I was going to be caught even, I should not commit a
crime. A 'flat' or a 'mumper' may do a job to get into prison, but I
never do anything unless I believe I am to escape. It's the getting
caught, that's the crime, the punishment you have got to chance. A
fellow needn't begin thieving if he is to be frightened at punishment;
he would never make a living at it. It requires a fellow with a good
heart to be a thief, I can tell you; and if his heart is not in the
right place, he'd better keep on the square."

"Now, tell me; do you never think seriously about your evil ways? You
are getting up in years, and although you appear to be very robust in
your general health at present, you cannot expect to live very much
longer in this world."

"Well, to tell you the truth, I do sometimes think of leading an honest
life. But I am so hardened now to all punishment that I don't care very
much what I do. It's not easy for a man at my age to change all of a
sudden to be a Christian, and then it's so difficult to get work
suitable for one's abilities, that I am almost driven to go on the
cross. I have a very good brother, who has been very kind to me, and
I've been thinking several times of going home and getting work from
him. He is the only man who ever did me a kindness since I was fourteen
years of age, and I love and respect him very much."

This man had been longer in prison than any other I met with. He had
been five times a convict. I considered him the very worst of a certain
class of prisoners that I ever knew, and feel quite convinced that he
will not be many weeks out of prison. He was constantly trafficking
with his fellow-prisoners, and when he could get a chance to steal, his
hands _would_ be at work. I remember his being in the cook-house for a
time, and almost every day he stole several pounds of mutton or beef.
He would steal anything for an inch of tobacco. He was turned out of
the cook-house on suspicion, but they never could punish him for theft
except on one occasion, which happened in the following manner.

The prisoners were in the habit of getting a pint of oatmeal gruel for
supper. This pint of gruel was supposed to contain two ounces of meal;
but in order to make it part better it was made thinner, so that every
night there was a surplus. This surplus the prisoners thought belonged
to them, and some of the officers permitted the orderlies for the day,
who served it out, to divide whatever remained amongst the prisoners in
their own wards. The authorities, however, did not allow the prisoners
more than a pint:--no matter whether it was thick or thin, no matter
whether there was only one ounce of meal in it, back to the cook-house
and the swill-tub the surplus must go. Some officers adhered to the
rule, others did not. The officer in charge of the prisoner referred to
was one of those who did, and when my friend helped himself to a pint
out of the surplus gruel he was "reported" the same evening (which
happened to be a Saturday). On Sunday the governor, departing from his
usual custom, came to his cell, and passed sentence on him there. When
the prisoner came out of 'Chokey,' as the punishment cells are called
by the prisoners, he came to me about the Sunday sentence of a hungry
man for taking a pint of gruel, which in some proportion belonged to
himself. He fancied it was not legal to pass sentence on a Sunday, and
thought he might get back the time he had forfeited, by appealing to
the director. I told him I did not approve of the conduct of the
governor, but at the same time expressed the opinion that the director
would not interfere in his case. (Whether he did so or not I am unable
to say, as I was removed before the director's visit was due.) This
prisoner was a big stout man, above thirteen stone weight, and there
was nothing the matter with him except a diseased leg. This leg was
rather a convenience to him than otherwise. If he disliked any work he
was put to, he could always get rid of it by making his leg sore, and
this could not be prevented, nor brought directly home to him. When he
was at Dartmoor prison he was always in hospital; but now, as his work
pleased him better he seldom troubled the doctor. On the contrary, when
about due to go home, that is when he arrived at his last stage, and
became entitled to beer and other privileges, he wanted to get out of
the invalid prison, where these privileges are not allowed unless the
state of the invalid requires them, and to be sent to the public works
where they would be granted.

Many convicts are so afflicted that they can almost compel the doctor
to admit them into the hospital. So whenever they are put into some
billet they like they are well, and whenever they are put into one they
dislike they send in a sick report, and the medical officer in general
must admit them. This was the case with the prisoner I have referred
to. Moreover, I question if he was ever a single day in the prison
without doing something that was considered wrong, and yet he was very
seldom detected or punished. Every day he was trafficking, frequently
he was stealing, and he told lies as a rule. Speaking the truth was
quite an exceptional matter with him. Thieves generally consider it to
be a virtue rather than a sin to tell a lie to save a 'pal' from
punishment, but in cases where their own interests are not specially at
stake, they can speak the truth as well as other men. But this prisoner
seemed utterly incapable of speaking the truth, even when falsehood
brought no advantage to him.



Another prisoner I knew had been about thirty-two years in prison--he
was paralyzed, and if he had been allowed a little tobacco daily, would
have been as happy as a king, and never sought to leave the prison. He
generally sold most of his food to other prisoners for tobacco;
occasionally he was detected and punished, and I always observed that
he came out of 'Chokey' fatter than when he went in. Neither was his an
exceptional case in this respect. The penal diet, which mainly consists
of farinaceous food, will keep up the flesh, though not the strength,
as well as the regular diet. In Scotland I have seen prisoners get
stout in appearance on the oatmeal! but on the other hand they
generally broke out in boils, after being six or nine months without
other varieties of food; and I have also known very stout men lose two
or three stone in weight in as many months. I am inclined to believe
that tobacco is beneficial in cases of insufficient food. I do not use
it myself, nor do I think it beneficial to those who have plenty of
food, but the reverse. I have known prisoners, however, who had good
health in the Scotch prisons, when they used tobacco--and fortunately
for them, the weed and many other luxuries are easily obtained there,
if you only know the way and have money. If I had known at the
commencement of my prison career what I now know, I might have had
mutton chops daily, if I had been inclined to adopt some of the
'dodges' I afterwards learnt. I knew one prisoner who obtained his end
in a somewhat questionable way. He had made some complaint to the
doctor, who, as usual, paid very little attention to it. On seeing that
he was not to receive any medical aid by fair means, he resorted to
foul, and took up a certain utensil, full to the brim, and emptied its
contents in the face and over the shirt-front of the hapless
pill-compounder. The remedy was doubtless severe, but the disease was
chronic and the improvement marked and rapid. The prisoner got good
diet and was soon after in good health.

The price of tobacco at the "Thieves' Palace or Invalid Criminal
Hotel," for so the Surrey Prison was sometimes designated by the
inmates, was about one shilling per ounce, when I left. It seldom went
below 10_d._ At first when I arrived, there were yards of it in
one place or another, but the crime of having a bit of it found on the
person, being now severely punished, the convicts keep it out of sight
more carefully and are more on their guard, seldom having more on their
person than they can swallow. All 'fly' men who use tobacco can procure
it in any convict prison; but the 'flats,' have to deny themselves the
prisoners' greatest luxury, but even they sometimes get a taste of it
by selling their food. An inch of tobacco will fetch four ounces of
cheese, or mutton, it will also procure one and a-half pounds of bread.
Sometimes it is worth more, according to the business abilities of the
trader. The exchange of food is a daily custom. One prisoner with a
good appetite requiring double the allowance of food, will give four
ounces of cheese for twenty-three ounces of bread, or five ounces of
mutton for the same quantity. In this way the man with the capacious
stomach gets it filled, and the man with a dainty appetite gets better
food. All this sort of traffic is quite contrary to the prison rules,
and in the case of tobacco it is severely punished, but prisoners will
have it, and many of them do have it regularly. The prisoner referred
to at the commencement of this chapter was remarkable for his love of
the weed, and it was not often he missed a day without getting a taste
of it, at the sacrifice, however, of nearly all his food. He was only
fit for the jail or the workhouse, and would commit a theft rather than
deny himself a single meal."

"I will mention only another of my companions in hospital, whose case
will illustrate with what wisdom and discrimination the prison
directors and governors use the powers delegated to them, encouraging
the well-behaved and reforming the penitent convict!"

This prisoner had been a long time a convict. I asked him when he was
first convicted.

"In 1838," he replied.

"What sentence did you then receive?"

"I got two sentences, one seven years and the other eight years, making
fifteen together, and I did about seven years and eight months out of
the fifteen years.

"You got a free pardon, I suppose?"


"Did they not send you abroad, then?"

"My health was not very strong and I did my time at the ships."

"How did you like them?"

"Oh, very well, there was not so much of this stupid
humbugging-us-about system as there is now, but we were not kept so
clean. The Scots-greys were frequently on the march on the clothes of
the convicts."

"What was your next sentence?"


"How many years did you have to do?"

"I got off on 'medical grounds' when I had done about two years and
a-half. I got 'copt' again, however, and was sent back to do 'life' a
second time; then I was liberated after I had done seven and a-half
years more, making ten years altogether out of two 'life's.'"

"What have you got this time?"

"Ten years."

"What do you intend to do when you get out this time?"

"Why, it's no use trying to get work; I am not able for anything very
hard now, and I think I shall make snyde half-crowns."

"You'll get caught again if you commence that game."

"No I won't. I did that when I was out last, and several times before,
and I have never been caught yet for that job. I can go and buy silver
spoons, and get tools that I can destroy in a few minutes."

"But why not go to the workhouse?"

"The workhouse! why, the workhouse in our country is as bad, if not
worse than this, and this is bad enough. No; I will never enter a
workhouse as long as I can get anything to steal. Some workhouses are
better than this; but then when you steal you are not always caught,
and you have yourself to blame if you're 'copt.' I will steal the very
first chance I get, as soon as I get out at the gates. They won't give
me work I can make a living at, and I'll not starve nor want a single
meal. I'll have better mutton the day I get out than we have here,
perhaps, and it will cost me nothing."

This prisoner was a thorough jail-bird, quiet and civil to his
officers, growling at his food, slow at work, but always doing a
little--a very good example of the type "civil and lazy." He received
his ten years' sentence about four years ago, when it was customary for
those who had revoked a licence to be refused a remission of sentence a
second time. But, in September, 1864, he was credited with
two-and-a-half years' remission, and in the summer of 1865 he was
credited with another three months, unasked, unexpected, and in the
latter case, quite inexplicable consistently with justice to others.
Indeed, the only explanation which can be given of this undeserved and
unexpected leniency is to suppose that the prison officials, like
shopkeepers, treat their "regular" customers best, and that they do not
see any reason why their business should not be encouraged, and the
prisons kept as full and quiet as possible by the same methods as other
men adopt who have to make an honest living by their trade. We have
seen the effects of cotton famine, and I am sure matters would have
come to a sad pass if we were to witness a _convict famine_, and to be
compelled to open our workhouse gates to the starving families of our
convict guardians.

It is very natural, and in a sense, laudable, that these latter should
seek by such means as are available to them to prevent the occurrence
of any such calamity. Hence, civil quiet ruffians, like the prisoner I
have referred to, are encouraged. They are an article with which they
have little trouble, and out of which they can make both profit and

My own case was somewhat different. Once out of prison I was not likely
to return; neither was I of the "sort" prison officials are accustomed
to manage. Moreover, my eyes were open, and my future was not quite so
certainly in their hands as to warrant them in feeling secure that what
I saw might not hereafter be described for the information of others.
The difficulties I experienced in gaining even the slightest concession
were great, and contrast strangely with the case I have mentioned. A
few months previous to my discharge from hospital, I gave in my name in
the usual manner as being desirous to speak with the visiting director.
I may here explain that there are four directors of convict prisons in
England. One of them had the manners and the reputation of a gentleman;
two of them may indeed have been men of ability, but their deportment
to the convicts was certainly not calculated to give them any more
exalted ideas than they already possessed of the civility and good
manners obtaining amongst those above them; the fourth was the beau
ideal of a bully, and his influence on the convict the statistics of
the prison will show to have been baneful in the extreme.

The powers of these directors are much more extensive than that of the
magistrates in our county prisons. In the latter, the visiting
magistrate will ask the prisoners if they have any complaint to make;
but this is not the case with the convict director, whom none can
approach without giving formal notice, and who generally leaves the
prison followed by the curses and maledictions of the majority of the
prisoners. In reality, the prison director holds absolute sway over
some thousands of his fellow men; there is no appeal from his
decisions; his court is held, and prisoners are sentenced and punished,
but there are no reporters for the press. The wholesome influence of
public opinion does not penetrate that secret and irresponsible
tribunal. Such being the case, it is to be lamented that we cannot or
do not find men to fill the office who are capable of discharging its
duties with fairness and civility. Before I sought an interview with
the director, I had written a letter to the late Mr. Cobden, in which,
after narrating the particulars of my case, I expressed the hope that
he might feel it consistent with his public duty to endeavour to
procure for me the same treatment with reference to liberation as had
been extended to other prisoners who had suffered the loss of a similar
limb at the same prison before me. This was considered improper
language, and the letter was suppressed. When called before the
authorities on this occasion, I asked them to point out all the
objectionable passages, in order that I might know what to omit in
writing it another time. But this they would not do, and all the
satisfaction I could get was that my letter might not only be shown to
the Home Secretary, but also be noticed in the House of Commons, and
that they might be blamed for passing it. The idea of my letter being
noticed in the House of Commons was new and not very agreeable to me,
but I also thought it very improbable that such would be the case, and
remarked in reply that there was nothing in the letter that a prisoner
could be justly blamed for writing, and that its publication could not
have an injurious effect on the public interest. This was not denied,
but the letter was suppressed nevertheless, and I presume, still lies
among many similar documents which have from time to time met with the
same fate.

On the morning following my application for an interview with the
director, I was informed that I could not see him on that occasion, as
he was expected that very day. This refusal appeared strange to me,
inasmuch as I knew of other prisoners who were permitted to speak to
the director who had not given in their names earlier than I did. There
was nothing for it, however, but to wait patiently for another month,
and to give in my name a second time, when I was permitted my first
interview with a prison director. I remember it well.

The director was seated at a desk in the governor's room, with the
governor likewise seated at his side. A large book lay on the desk, in
which the director wrote, or was supposed to write, what the prisoners
requested or complained of, what punishments he awarded, with all the
particulars regarding the offences, what answers he gave to complaints,
requests, &c. Not a very trustworthy book that, I should say. In front
of the desk stood two warders with staves in their hands, and between
these two men I was placed. I asked the director, very politely, if he
would be kind enough to look into my case, and recommend me to the Home
Secretary for the same leniency as had been extended to other three
prisoners, who had each lost a leg in prison from disease, shortly
before me.

"No prisoners have lost their legs from disease; there was some
accident connected with it."

This was the reply made to me, in a gruff, bullying tone of voice. I
then begged his pardon, and commenced to give the names of the
prisoners whose cases I had mentioned. But when the director saw that I
was familiar with the cases he would not permit me to proceed, and
refused peremptorily to look into my case. I then asked him to be kind
enough to allow me to petition the Home Secretary on the merits of my
case, as I petitioned the first time solely on the ground of having
lost my leg, and being in bad health.

"No, no, no! that will do. Call the next man."

And I was bundled out of the room, with the prayer on my lips that I
might never more be compelled to speak to such a man. Convicts, I may
add, are freely permitted to petition the Home Secretary every twelve
months; at this time nearly eighteen months had elapsed since I
petitioned first. To show that I had some grounds for my request, I
will mention the cases of the prisoners who had lost limbs at the same
prison shortly before me.

    A.--Sentence nearly double mine. Crime, rape on his own daughter.
    He had only been a short time in prison when his leg required to be
    amputated, in consequence of disease in the knee-joint. He was told
    by the doctor, before the operation, that he would be liberated on
    recovery. Patient died.

    B.--A regular thief, with many previous convictions. Lost a
    diseased limb. Was offered his liberty by the authorities, and his
    license was issued, but his father would not receive him. He
    ultimately died in prison.

    C.--A French housebreaker who had been in English prisons before.
    Sentence, seven years. Lost his leg in consequence of disease in
    the knee-joint, and recovered speedily. He was sent home a few
    months after the operation, and before he had been so long in
    prison as I had been at the time of my request.

I now felt rather unhappy under the severity with which I was treated,
and wrote a letter to my brother, in which I mentioned having seen the
visiting director; but this letter was also suppressed, and I was
warned not to mention the director's name in any letter, or inform my
friends of the suppressed letter to Mr. Cobden. I felt hurt at its
suppression, for its spirit was most unobjectionable; and the governor
seemed to think so too, for he allowed me a sheet of paper to write to
the director. My object in this letter was to obtain permission to
petition the Home Secretary for liberty to go abroad. At this time all
healthy and sound prisoners of my age, who had received the same
sentence, were about due for their "ticket," in Western Australia; and
as I did not see why the loss of a leg should cause me to be kept in
prison for years after they were liberated, I resolved to petition to
go abroad. I accordingly wrote my letter to the director, carefully
excluding any reference to my treatment in the government prison, so as
not to give any offence. An answer came back, in suspicious haste, that
I was to petition the Home Secretary in the very same language as I had
used in the letter. I was not exactly pleased with this, as I wished to
say something about the merits of my case; but there was no help for
it, and I must petition as I was told, or not petition at all. I
petitioned accordingly, in precisely the same language, merely using
the third instead of the first person singular. But it was of no use.
Indeed I do not believe the petition was ever sent to the Secretary of
State at all. All these documents go in the first instance to the
directors, and they are understood to deal with them as they think

Sometimes their machinery gets out of order, and the method by which
these things are done gets to be exposed. Two cases where answers were
received to petitions _which were never sent_, are very familiar to the
majority of convicts. In the one case the prisoner had drawn his paper,
but delayed writing the petition. The reply came notwithstanding, "Not
sufficient grounds." In the other case the petition was discovered
mislaid in the office, or some other part of the prison, after the
prisoner had received his answer. The official replies to petitions
appear to be stereotyped, and the names of the petitioners are merely
written on the margin. One reply does for any number of petitions, and
all the officials have to do is to write the name of the prisoner who
draws petition paper on the margin of the answer, about a month after
the paper has been issued. On the day I wrote the last petition I was
discharged from the hospital, and transferred down-stairs to a room
containing twenty-four prisoners.



My readers must now descend with me from the hospital, to what the
convicts termed the twenty-four bedded room in the prison. In the cells
and in the hospital, quietness reigned, but in the twenty-four bedded
room it was different. Here the prisoners talked and conducted
themselves very much as they felt inclined, and in the evenings the
noise and tumult was sometimes beyond description. The inmates were
constantly changing, some going upstairs to hospital, some coming from
it, and every now and again there were fresh arrivals from other
prisons. The daily routine observed here and in the similar wards was
as follows:--

We started out of bed at half-past five a.m., summer and winter;
washed, dressed, and made our beds, and two or three times every week
assisted in scrubbing the floor. At six o'clock the officer opened the
room door and counted us. At half-past six we had breakfast. About
twenty minutes past seven we were ranked up in the corridor, and
counted a second time. At half-past seven we were in chapel. At eight
o'clock we were on parade and counted a third time. Those who worked
outside and were receiving full diet went to their work. Those who
worked inside walked on the parade until half-past eight. They were
then ranked up and counted for the fourth time; and at nine o'clock all
were at work. At 11·45 we were counted for the fifth time, and at
twelve o'clock we were at dinner. At 12·50 we were again ranked in the
corridor and counted for the sixth time. At one o'clock we were on
parade and counted for the seventh time, before exercise commenced. At
ten minutes after two we were counted for the eighth time, and at two
we were all again at work. When we left off work in the evening we were
counted for the ninth time, amongst the party with whom we worked, and
for the tenth time when we returned to the ward. At half-past five we
got supper, and at half-past seven we were ordered to bed. At eight
o'clock we were commanded to cease talking, and at nine o'clock the
night officer counted us for the eleventh time and left us to repose. I
used to rejoice when bed-time came, for I then could be alone and at
home. Then there were no prison walls for me, for I had ceased brooding
over the past, and endeavoured to peer into and prepare for the
uncertain future. In winter and spring, when the weather was cold, it
used to be rather trying for me to stand so long on parade being
counted. About an hour or an hour-and-a-half was spent in this way each
day. Then the clothing of those of us who worked indoors was the same
on the coldest day in winter as on the hottest day in summer. This was
an excellent arrangement for keeping the hospital supplied with
patients. I knew many who suffered from this cause, and some who
attributed their death to the want of proper under-clothing. I felt the
cold more perhaps than the others, as my hands were exposed holding my
crutches, and my speed in walking could never get beyond that of a
goods train, whilst my companions could run at express speed when it
suited them.

My employment was knitting and reading aloud to the prisoners. At that
time, and up to a very recent date, it was the custom where fifty or a
hundred prisoners were at work, for one of the prisoners to read aloud
an hour every forenoon and afternoon. When I commenced this reading, my
audience were very careless about listening, unless when I read some
amusing work of fiction. Indeed, other prisoners did not attempt to
read any book of a more solid description. But during the years I was
engaged in this way I had the most abundant and satisfactory testimony
that I had obtained an influence over the minds of the prisoners, and
had succeeded in attracting their attention to general literature in a
more effectual manner than any of my predecessors.

My readers will have been accustomed, perhaps, to regard convicts as
very ignorant men, but it must be borne in mind that they belong to all
classes of society, and if I were to speak of them in the mass, I
should say that they were much more intelligent and as well educated as
the ordinary peasantry of England. When I commenced reading in prison
there were a good many works in the library, which were afterwards
withdrawn as being too amusing for the place. These were such works as
"The Last Days of Pompeii," "Now and Then," "Adam Bede," "Poor Jack,"
"Margaret Catchpole," "Irving's Sketch-book," "Dickens's Christmas
Tales," &c. There still remained periodicals with tales in them, and
these with a mixture of historical, biographical and other-works,
constituted the general reading in the work-rooms. The periodicals I
note in the order of their popularity, "Chambers's Journal," "Leisure
Hour," "Good Words," "The Quiver," "Sunday Magazine," and "Sunday at
Home." The reading of an article in the "Leisure Hour," entitled the
"Thief in the Confessional," was the chief cause of the readings being
discontinued both in the work-rooms and the hospital. As this happened
recently and the particulars are still fresh in my memory I will
narrate them here. There were readings aloud in four hospital and three
work-rooms in the prison. In the hospital the Roman Catholics were kept
by themselves, and had a Roman Catholic reader. In the prison they were
scattered among the Protestants, and in the three work-rooms referred
to, perhaps about one-fifth of the prisoners were Roman Catholics. In
these rooms a Protestant reader was appointed, and there was no
disturbance about this arrangement until the arrival of a few Fenians,
and a zealous or rather an officious priest.

Shortly after their arrival the other Roman Catholic prisoners became
for the most part Fenians, and religious animosities soon sprang up
among the prisoners. Macaulay's History of England was being read by
one of my fellow prisoners, in one of the work-rooms, or sheds, as they
were called, when one of the ignorant and bigoted members of the Roman
Catholic creed got up and objected to its being read, and complained to
the governor on the subject. The governor, anxious perhaps to please
the new visiting director, who was reported to be a Roman Catholic,
took the complainant's part. The reading of the book was discontinued,
to the great exultation of the Roman Catholics: however, I got the same
book, and it was read from beginning to end in the work-room where I
was employed! the chaplain and the more intelligent Roman Catholics
considering it a very suitable book for the purpose. About this time I
wished to be exempted from reading on account of my health, and when I
could get a substitute I did give it up for some time; but the
substitutes available were not popular with the prisoners, and it was
very difficult to find suitable readers amongst them. Two of the Roman
Catholics wanted to read, one was a Fenian and a literary man, the
other was an ignorant conceited professional thief and an avowed
infidel, but they were not allowed: meanwhile the article I have
referred to as appearing in the "Leisure Hour," was read in one of the
sheds, and it so offended some of the Roman Catholics and the
professional thief and infidel who was not allowed to read, that he
took the matter before the director, who ordered all reading aloud to
be discontinued throughout the prison!

This decision illustrates the usual method adopted by convict
authorities in dealing with questions connected with the treatment of
prisoners. If a privilege is granted to the convicts and one out of 600
abuses that privilege the 599 will be deprived of it. It was no matter
whether the privilege had a good or bad effect upon the majority of the
prisoners, if it gave the governor and the directors any trouble they
soon put an end to it. If it was a good thing for the prisoners and
tended in any way towards the diminution of crime, to have these
readings, the directors could have separated the Roman Catholics from
the Protestants without any difficulty. If it was a bad thing why was
it continued so long? The Roman Catholics had one legitimate ground of
complaint, however, in the chaplain having frequently ordered articles
to be cut out of "Chambers's Journal," "Good Words," &c. The prisoners
naturally asked "Why cut out anything? why not let us judge for
ourselves? If the books are good let us have them whole; if bad, reject
them altogether; or if there is to be cutting out, why not cut out 'The
Thief out of the Confessional,' which is so offensive to the true
Catholic?" I happened to read several of the articles which were so cut
out, and in several cases one number of a periodical got bound up and
in circulation with the condemned article in it. I here note a few
articles which were placed in the chaplain's _Index Expurgatoriam_,
1st--"Evasions of the Law," an article which appeared in "Good Words,"
and I may remark that convicts could scarcely be made worse by reading
it, for they knew all it contained and probably more than the writer of
it did. 2nd--A review of a work by a female warder, in "Chambers's
Journal." 3rd--The last half of "The Franklins," a story in the
"Leisure Hour." 4th--An article on the "Prisoners' Aid Society" which
appeared in the "Quiver," some years ago.

In addition to my employments of knitting and reading, I had to go to
school one half-day every week for about twelve months, or until a
certain class were exempted from attending. On entering the school the
prisoner sat until the roll was called, and after half-an-hour was thus
spent, he read a couple of verses from the Old Testament, and then
listened to an explanation of the passage read. This done, he wrote a
short time in his copy book, if he felt inclined, and the proceedings
were wound up by a short lecture on some scientific subject. I fear
there is not much good done in our convict schools. Teaching, or trying
to teach, men ranging from thirty to eighty years of age, who are
determined not to learn, or at least so careless about the matter that
they never can learn, seems to me a waste of public money. Young men
sometimes learn a good deal of French, arithmetic, &c., in prison, but
it is not at the school, but from their fellow prisoners that they
receive such instruction.

My Sunday routine differed from that of the other days of the week,
chiefly in having chapel-going substituted for work, and being allowed
to be in bed an hour longer in the morning.

Shortly after taking up my abode in the twenty-four-bedded room, the
diet was changed, and this was the cause of much noise among the
convicts. The day fixed for the alteration was a Sunday. The former
Sunday's dinner consisted of soup, mutton, and potatoes. The new Sunday
dinner was dry bread and four ounces of bad cheese. On being served
with this, the prisoners began cursing and swearing, and calling the
head officials all the bad names they could think of: "This is what
they call Christianity, is it, the ---- hypocrites? Starving a man on
Sundays above all days, and then taking us up to that chapel to tell us
about mercy and forgiveness and loving our neighbours! This is the way
to reform us and make us better, is it?--By jingo! I will make somebody
pay for all this yet. I'll not get my next bit for nothing," &c., &c.
Such was the burden of the conversation on this and succeeding Sunday
afternoons. To force men to go to hear the Word of God preached when
their hearts are full of evil thoughts and their mouths full of curses
is far from being a likely mode of leading men to Christ. The
chaplain's position in the pulpit used to strike me as being something
like that of a farmer sowing good seed broad-cast over a field so
overgrown with tares, that the seed could never reach the soil. If he
attempts to clear the soil of the weeds, to win the hearts of the
prisoners, he finds the whole system of prison discipline arrayed
against him. That discipline breeds and encourages the growth of every
evil passion in the heart of man, and he, the chaplain, is part of that
system: he lives by it, and he is not allowed to interfere with it, at
all events he never did so. When prisoners complained to him of some
injustice or some cruelty, they got for reply: "I am here to preach the
Gospel, and I can do nothing in the matter."

Chaplains paid by the State, and forming part of the penal
establishment, can never do much good to the prisoners, except in so
far as they operate as a check upon the cruelty or neglect of the
governor and other officers. Missionaries having no connection with
Government, might do some good amongst them. At the time I commenced to
attend the prison chapel, I learned that a score or so of convicts took
the sacrament. Some of them were truly pious, as far as one could judge
in such matters, others were unfit or unworthy partakers, the whole of
them were called by the other prisoners "Parson's men," or "Sacrament
blokes," and it used to pain me to hear them scoffed and mocked at. It
was a great victory if they could be got to swear on the evening of the
communion day: I never could make up my mind to become a "Parson's
man," for reasons perhaps not very satisfactory, even to myself. In the
first place I belonged to another branch of the church; then I had only
one leg and could not kneel at the altar, and would have felt while
standing something like a beggar in dirty rags in a fine pew among
silks and satins; then again I would have lost my influence over many
of my fellow-prisoners. I may have been wrong in all this, but as I
once said to my fellow-prisoners when appealed to on the subject of
religion, "There are only three cardinal points in my religious belief,
and these are simple and easily remembered--believe in Christ, love
God, and love my neighbour; what I do inconsistent with the last I know
to be wrong. It is inconsistent, I think, with the latter, for
Protestants to revile and speak evil of Roman Catholics, and _vice
versâ_, therefore I disapprove of discussions and arguments on
religious belief among prisoners, as they usually lead to feelings
incompatible with true neighbourly love." Such was my reply to a
question addressed to me by a convict during a hot debate between the
Protestants and Roman Catholics, and it allayed the storm instantly. As
a rule I avoided and discountenanced all discussion on theological

After I had been four weeks in the prison I began to get a little
downhearted at finding myself so far removed from sympathy. In the
hospital I had an occasional chat with a Scripture-reader, but here
there was no one with whom I could have any intellectual conversation,
and no visitors were allowed. I felt very sad and dispirited for a
time, and wrote to my friends that I should like to have a visit from a
clergyman of my own persuasion who resided in London. I got for a reply
a visit from some of my own friends, who mentioned that the gentleman
whose visit I desired was too much occupied with his own flock to look
after a lost sheep like me. I notice this chiefly in order to remark
that this was a kind of turning point in my prison career: the point at
which the generality of prisoners turn from bad to worse, and when long
imprisonment ceases to be an instrument for good; when human sympathy
is sought, and by the great majority of prisoners sought in vain, and
when in consequence they seek to obtain the sympathy of their evil
companions, and begin in earnest that downward career which knows no
shame, and finds its goal in the convict's grave.



As I have already said in a previous chapter, one of the most glaring
defects in our present system of penal servitude, viewed as a means of
reformation as well as of punishment, is the indiscriminate association
of all classes of criminals, or rather all criminals with a certain
sentence, irrespective of the nature of the crime they have committed,
the previous character of the criminal or the probability of his
re-admission into society as an honest and useful member of it. I have
met in the same ward prisoners of widely different characters and
antecedents, whose crimes afforded conclusive proofs that in habits,
disposition, and general conduct, they would never, in the natural
order of things, become associates, compelled by law to mate with each
other as equals, and to learn of each other how to injure, not how to
benefit society and themselves. There are, for instance, certain crimes
which a man may commit under the influence of strong passions, aroused
in moments of great temptation, such as rape; or of great provocation,
such as manslaughter; or committed under the pressure of misfortune, or
to avoid, impending ruin, such as forgery or embezzlement, which do not
necessarily prove the criminal to be of habitually depraved habits, or
generally of a violent and vicious disposition. I found as a rule
prisoners guilty of these crimes undergoing their first sentences.
Prison life and prison associations were new to them as to me. They had
no inclination to repeat the offence, or to pursue a career of crime,
but rather disposed to redeem their character, and live an honest and
industrious life. Yet this class of prisoners are condemned, in
addition to the loss of liberty and character, to live in constant
contact, for years it may be, with the professional thief and
house-breaker, the burglar, and the garotter, who has been frequently
convicted, and whose whole life is spent between the prison and the
"cross." The natural and inevitable result of this is contamination.
Even in the case of men possessing high principle and of great moral
fortitude the effect would be deteriorating and pernicious. With men of
weak resolution, strong passions, and a comparatively low standard of
morality, the consequences cannot be doubtful in the majority of cases.
They gradually lose self-respect, cease to think of reformation or
amendment, in time they come to envy the hardened stoicism and
"gameness" of the practised ruffian, learn his language, imbibe his
notions of life, and finally resolve, since character, self-respect,
and all else that bind them to morality and virtue are lost, that they
will compel society to make amends for the ruin it has brought upon
them. It is from this class I am persuaded that the ranks of our born
and bred convicts are so largely and so constantly supplemented. Yet
how easily and how speedily might this source of supply be diminished,
if not altogether closed.

The old Transportation Act, although it may not have provided for any
such separation as that I have just indicated, and although it was
based on what I consider pernicious principles, was undoubtedly the
most effectual plan for getting rid of our criminal population, and in
its operation the most merciful to the prisoner of any of our recent
parliamentary enactments. Had its provisions been efficiently and
judiciously administered, we might still have been sending convicts to
our colonies. But the business of exporting our "dirty linen" was
grossly mismanaged. The merchant who hopes to succeed as an exporter
must study carefully the class of goods suitable for the market he
proposes to supply, and send only those he is confident will be
approved of and meet a ready sale. But our prison authorities, by some
fatality, so organized the system of selection of convicts for
transportation that those who were, of all men, the very last a young
and virtuous community would seek, were forced upon them, whilst those
for whom there was a constant demand, and who would have regarded
transportation and liberation abroad as the opportunity for escaping
from social prejudice, of retrieving their lost character, and of
commencing anew a life of honesty and industry, were condemned to pine
in the prisons at home, and in too many cases, to adopt a career of
crime when their sentences expired. The first and great commandment the
prison authorities regarded in their selection was, that the prisoner
should be physically healthy, sound in wind and limb; and the second
was, that he should have been a certain time in prison at home after
receiving his last sentence and conducted himself well whilst there. No
enquiry was made into the prisoner's previous history, employment,
education, or general disposition and habits, which, one would
naturally have thought necessary before any intelligent opinion could
be formed as to the probabilities of his future career abroad. Now,
although the qualifications of health and good conduct might seem to be
good and sufficient grounds on which to make such a selection as was
required for transportation, those acquainted with prisoners and prison
life will at once perceive that they were very far from being so. In
the first place, a great many of the prisoners who would have adopted
an honest life and been a benefit to the colonies if they had been sent
there, but who were rejected on account of ill-health, had become
diseased in prison and in consequence of their imprisonment, and would
in all probability have recovered their usual good health before they
had reached their destination abroad. These were generally men of
education, and accustomed to generous diet, but the prison discipline
and scale of dietary soon told upon their health, and disqualified them
in the eyes of the prison officials for the boon of transportation.
Even if their health was not restored by the sea voyage and liberation
abroad, it was only exchanging the hospital abroad for the hospital at
home. If the experiment succeeded, who may estimate its value to him
who was the subject of it? Again, "good conduct," as indicated by the
standard of our prison authorities, is anything but a trustworthy
criterion of the convict's true character and disposition. It does not
mean that the prisoner has shown himself honest, industrious, or well
disposed, or in any active sense what the phrase is ordinarily supposed
to mean; indeed the system of penal servitude does not permit the
prisoner any opportunity of showing that he is so. All that "good
conduct," in prison official language means is, that the prisoner has
not broken any of the prison rules, and is therefore a purely negative
quality; scrupulous obedience to prison discipline and regulations,
with severe penalties attached to transgression, is a very sorry basis
on which to found a character of good conduct in a convict. The
consequence was, if one of the greatest ruffians that ever entered the
prison gates were to make up his mind, as I have known many of them do,
to go abroad, he knew that he had only to study the rules of the prison
and obey them for a certain length of time, and he would obtain his
object, and be let loose among the innocent colonists, to rob and
murder as he found opportunity. Thousands of such men, who had
purposely behaved themselves well in the prison at home, with the grim
determination of making amends for their restraint by a career of
increased violence and ruffianism abroad, were thus let loose upon
colonial society, and there is no wonder that the colonies rose up in
indignation and shut their ports against them. As a rule, it was the
hardened criminal whose reformation under existing laws was, I may
safely say, entirely out of the question, who, on the score of health
and good conduct, most perfectly fulfilled the conditions required by
the prison authorities, and most frequently had the boon of
transportation extended to him. Accustomed by long and frequent
experience to prison diet and discipline, and to all the "dodges" for
augmenting the one and evading or modifying the other, he could keep
himself in perfect health under circumstances which would send a less
experienced and more sensitive man to the hospital in a month; whilst
his familiarity with all the petty rules and regulations of the prison,
which the novice is in constant danger of breaking (quite
unintentionally), enabled him to steer clear of any offence that could
be reported if he thought it for his interest to strive for the
convict's prize. In fact, "good conduct," as exemplified by a convict
according to the prison standard, affords no more reliable evidence of
his moral qualities and industrious habits, than proficiency in drill
affords of the moral character of the private soldier.

It is quite clear that selection on these terms could only by a rare
accident find the suitable men for sending abroad. And yet it is my
firm conviction that I, or any other man possessing ordinary
intelligence and insight into human character and experience of convict
life, could, with the utmost ease, have selected from the inmates of
our prisons a very large number for exportation, whom our colonists
would have been glad to receive, and who would have been rescued from a
life of ignominy or crime at home. The question may very naturally be
asked--Why could not our prison officials have done the same? The only
answer I can give is that our prison officials (excepting the very
highest) are directly interested in _maintaining_ and _increasing_,
and not in _reducing_, the number of our convicts, and they are
therefore inclined to favour the liberation of those whom they are
pretty sure will soon return.

As a fair and forcible example of the advantage which might have been
taken of the "Transportation Act," in dealing with a certain class of
prisoners, and also as an illustration--not nearly so forcible as
others I have alluded to, and will yet notice--of the fault of the
authorities in the matter of selection, I will mention one case. Three
young men received sentence of twenty years' penal servitude for rape.
One of them, quite a youth, was more a spectator of than a principal in
the crime, the other two being the really guilty parties. The three
were in due course sent to Portsmouth. The guilty pair were sent
abroad, and liberated before the end of five years from the date of
their conviction. One of them is now married and settled comfortably
abroad, and the other lodges with him. The other prisoner, being young
and not very muscular, received some injury while at work and was sent
to the Invalid Criminal Hospital in Surrey, and has to remain in
prison, in a state useless to himself and to society, for eight or nine
years longer than his more guilty companions.

But the day has gone by for successful re-establishment of a penal
colony. I do not think there are many who would commit crimes for the
express purpose of getting abroad, unless the colony was very
attractive; but no country where officers can be got to reside will
ever be looked upon with dread by the majority of criminals. A penal
colony, I am convinced, would have no deterring influence on the minds
of those convicts who are most difficult to deal with. It would have
such an effect upon certain classes of prisoners, but their numbers are
small, and less expensive remedies might be found even more effectual
in their cases.

When convicts leave prison they could be divided into three classes.
First, those men who are not only determined to live honestly, but who
in all human probability will never again enter a prison; their number
may amount to about ten per cent. of the whole. Another class leave
prison with the deliberate intention of committing crime, and their
number may be about forty per cent. The third class, comprising about
fifty per cent. of the whole, belong to the hesitating, unsteady,
wavering class. Many of this class do manage to keep out of prison, but
at least one half of them return, and, along with the forty per cent.
of professionals, bring up the number of the re-convicted to seventy
per cent. Now, it must be quite clear that if we would reduce this
number, it is to the fifty per cent of waverers that our efforts must
be principally directed. The other classes either do not require or
will not benefit by our endeavours. Our present law is altogether
unable to cure the professional thief. I never heard, and I never met
with a convict who ever heard, of any of this class being converted
into honest men by the operation of our present system, nor do I
believe it possible to point to a single case. The professional thief
lacks three virtues--economy, industry, honesty. Now, under the present
system it is positively forbidden to give him any practical lesson
either in economy or honesty; industry, indeed, might be taught him,
but he rarely if ever receives an intelligent lesson, for it must be
remembered that enforced labour does not teach the labourer industry,
but is more likely to inspire him with an aversion to it. All that can
be done with the professional thief, under existing laws, beyond the
punishment of confinement and vigorous prison discipline, possibly, is
to give him such work to do as he can do, or be readily taught to do,
and that work not to be of the kind usually done in prison, but such as
will compensate to some extent for his maintenance in prison, and
enable him to live honestly out of it should he so elect.

On my right hand, in the twenty-four-bedded room, lay a city-bred
professional thief, acquainted with all the brothels and sinks of
iniquity in London, and his disgusting conversation chiefly related to
such places. Like many of his class, his constitution was delicate, and
his appetite somewhat dainty. The prison fare and hard work were
undoubtedly severe punishment to him; but no punishment could frighten
him into honesty. He knew no honest trade by which he could support
himself, but if he had been taught one in prison such as suited his
strength and talents, and had been taught only the _policy_ of
honesty, and been then sent to a country far removed from his old
haunts, where his newly-organized trade would be more profitable than
thieving, the possibility is he would have become a useful man in the
world. On the expiration of his sentence, which was three years, he
went home and wrote back to one of his "pals" in prison, under an
assumed name, that he had been to the Prisoners' Aid Society, and had
obtained as much of his gratuity as he could, to buy a barrow and some
fruit, as he meant to turn costermonger. He added, however, that he did
not like fruit-selling, and returned to his old trade of "gunsmith,"
gunning being the slang term for thieving, or going on the cross. The
real fact was, that he never intended anything else than being a
"gunsmith," but only used the deception in order to obtain a little
more money from the Aid Society than he otherwise could. As soon as he
got his barrow and stock he sold all off, and in a very few months I
had him for a companion again, with a seven years' sentence. I remember
asking whether he preferred a sentence of seven years' penal servitude,
or three years in Coldbath Fields?

"Three years in Coldbath Fields! why that would kill me. I would as
soon have fifteen years here."

The only good trait discoverable in his character was his ardent
affection for his mother. When he has completed about five years and
three months he will be liberated again, if he is alive, and again he
will return to crime; and it is almost impossible that such a man can
do otherwise; and as long as our prison authorities regard convicts as
mere living automatons, all modelled after the same fashion in
iniquity, our convict and county prisons, viewed as reformatories, will
remain quite inoperative for good, but very potent for evil.



A certain class of criminals--it would be very wrong to say all--may be
looked upon as rebels against society, and assuming that they are so,
it would be difficult to conceive a more effective method of promoting
and disseminating the spirit of rebellion than that which is adopted in
our convict establishments. We collect all these rebels from the
various counties into a few localities, 600 here, 1000 there, and 1500
somewhere else, and along with them we place a certain proportion of
comparatively untainted men. We subject them to a course of rigorous
discipline in matters of diet and exercise, the sole effect of which is
to stimulate them still more against society. We allow them a certain
amount of intercourse with each other; liberty to the old to
contaminate the young; to the veteran ruffian to enlist and drill the
new recruit; to all to plan their new campaigns, and hatch new
conspiracies, and then disperse them throughout the country to sow the
seeds of sedition, and raise the standard of rebellion wherever they
may go. This is really what is being done in our convict prisons. Take
an extreme case, and keep out of sight altogether the characters and
dispositions of our criminals, and imagine a hundred of England's most
steady, honest, and industrious working men placed in our convict
establishments for a few years, and what would be the result? It would
most probably be this: if they were young, and had only received an
imperfect education, fifty of them would join some branch of the thief
profession if kept by force in convict society for three years; seventy
of them would do so if kept for six years; and if kept ten years, they
would almost all be corrupted, and become when liberated a source of
corruption themselves.

But if the hardened and incorrigible criminals were really punished in
any proportion to the others the system would have a kind of consistent
iniquity about it which it does not possess. My left-hand companion was
an old agricultural labourer, one of a large class to whom a convict
prison is no punishment. He had been brought up to work, and although
an old man, he could work far more than a city thief, and yet not work
hard. He had brought up a family who were all scattered abroad. He had
now no real home when out of prison, and his third penal sentence of
fourteen years was very much lighter punishment to him than fourteen
days, with loss of character, would be to anyone in the upper or middle
classes of society. I met many such men in prison, and I used to ask
them how much money they would take to do my sentence in addition to
their own? One would say 100_l._, another, 50_l._, another 40_l._, and
some would even take considerably less.

Imprisonment with hard labour will never have the slightest effect in
deterring such men from committing crime. Labour that would soon kill
many other men would not punish them, but they would prefer it even to
sitting in school. Rough fare they can do with, as long as it fills the
belly. They have no other ambition to gratify. With the stomach
distended and a quid of tobacco in their mouths, they are as happy as
kings, and very careless about liberty. Many of them when they leave
the prison, leave home. To such men, and to all the class of vagrant
and pauper criminals, a convict prison means a comfortable home, where
they are fed and clothed, and bathed and physicked, and have all their
wants supplied, without trouble or care, in exchange for their liberty
and such labour as they can easily and cheaply perform. To the
professional thieves a convict prison is a Court of Bankruptcy, to be
avoided if possible, and to be made the most of when unavoidable. A
place of punishment no doubt, but punishment nearly useless and
entirely misdirected. To the man who has wrought for his living at some
honest trade, up to the commission of his first known offence, who has
been accounted respectable by his neighbours, and who belongs to a
class of society with whom loss of character is utter ruin--a convict
prison is a Hell. If he happen also to be a man of thought and
education, it will in addition appear to be an institution for robbing
honest tax-payers, and a nursery of vice and crime, which all good men
should endeavour to reform or destroy.

In the small room to which I was now removed, the lodgers were quiet,
inoffensive men, and in a few cases apparently religious.

During my residence in the prison I was frequently removed from one
room to another, to suit the convenience of the prison authorities.
Fortunately I had no rent to pay, no economy to study, no opportunity
to practice honesty, and my effects were easily carried about.
Obedience--the soldiers' virtue--and civility, were all I had to study,
and these were not difficult to practice in my own case. One class of
prisoners in these rooms were elderly men, who had committed murder, or
manslaughter, and who, from their age and infirmities had missed being
sent to Western Australia. I knew upwards of twenty of them, and
generally speaking, they were quiet, inoffensive men, with no
inclination to steal or to do wrong. Several of them had very hot
tempers, all of them, indeed, who committed their crimes under the
influence of anger; others I sympathized with a good deal, inasmuch as
they had been sorely tempted, and seemed penitent and honest.

One of them had brought up a family of honest working men. After the
death of their mother, he married and lived with another woman, who was
addicted to intemperance, and he was so annoyed at her conduct and by
her tongue, that his passion obtained the mastery over him, and in a
moment of frenzy he killed her. This prisoner had had his arm broken at
Portland, which prevented his being sent abroad, whence he would have
been liberated by this time.

Another case was that of a comparatively young man, who shot his
sweetheart because she had chosen another man just as the prisoner was
looking forward to his marriage with her. He tried to shoot himself at
the same time, but the shot passed through the jaw and cheek bones,
leaving him in a sadly disfigured condition to meet his doom of penal
servitude for life.

I met several cases where murder was committed through jealousy. One
man murdered his wife for flirting or cohabiting with another man. A
second murdered the paramour and spared his wife, and so on. In the
majority of these cases, the prisoners were very unlikely to commit a
second offence.

There was one very peculiar case which I will here mention. The
prisoner was the worst cripple perhaps in the prison, and the quietest
man in it. He rarely spoke to anyone unless he was first spoken to, and
his answers were very brief. This man committed a deliberate murder;
although he had only one arm and but one good leg. He lay in wait for
his victim, and his motive for perpetrating the deed was not money but
revenge. The person he killed had injured or defrauded his father
before he died, and being unable to obtain justice he took revenge, and
is now paying the full penalty. He sits in the workroom along with the
others, but being paralyzed he is not compelled to work at anything.

Another peculiar case was that of a man who had starved his mother to
death, in order to obtain possession of her money. He was a miser, and
was often taunted for his crime by the thief fraternity. He was the
filthiest neighbour I ever had. Most of the prisoners are cleanly in
their habits, but this one was the reverse. He would have his food
stored away beside him, rather than give it to a fellow prisoner. He
was not a great eater, and at one time there was more food about than
the prisoners could consume; but whatever he got he kept until it was
taken from him. After being confined for about thirteen years, he was
allowed to go to North America, on a conditional pardon, to a son who
lived there. Among the many petitions I drew out for prisoners to copy,
his was the only one that ever succeeded. I have written petitions for
dying men to the Home Secretary, for permission to go out and die at
home, and many without any just grounds at all, but none succeeded,
save the one I have mentioned above.

I have repeatedly asked prisoners under sentences of penal servitude
for life whether they would prefer that sentence to being hanged. The
general reply was "I would rather be 'topt' at once, and be out of my
misery, than remain in prison all my days." "It's bad enough when I
have the prospect of liberty in twelve years." "If they are going to
keep men in prison all their days, and torture them besides, they'll
commit suicide or murder in prison. Look at Townley, who threw himself
over the stair-railings at Pentonville and killed himself."

Such would be the answers I would receive to my questions on this
subject. With reference to Townley's case I was told by an intelligent
prisoner, who knew him and saw him commit suicide, that it was
committed mainly in consequence of the cruel, absurd and childish
system of suppressing a prisoner's letters to his friends, on grounds
usually hostile to the interests of society, viz., the concealment of

Another class of prisoners were "coiners." These were generally
"fly-men." They knew every point of the law on the subject, and as a
rule returned to their profession as soon as they got their "ticket."
Prison is no doubt a great punishment to such men, because they can
make a good living at their business; but I question if ever there was
a reformed coiner. They are usually well-conducted prisoners, that is,
they are civil and do what they are told, but their influence over
others is very pernicious. A very considerable number of the convicts
left the prison with the intention of "hawking" from place to place,
and doing a little bit on the "cross" when they saw the coast clear,
which meant either stealing or "snyde-pitching." These hawkers found
friends in the coiners, who would tell them where they could get the
bad money, so that if they could not work themselves they could do a
friend a turn in the way of business. I knew several instances of
prisoners with a first conviction getting a second in consequence of
being told where to get bad money; and I knew many more who will, in
all human probability, meet with the same fate from the same cause.

Another of my fellow prisoners was a singular specimen. I have already
referred to him as being almost the only "highflyer" in the prison, as
being the man who once obtained 150_l._ from a gentleman in Devonshire
under false pretences. This man was not ranked among the "_aristoes_"
in prison society, although he was in many respects their equal or
superior in certain branches of education. And here I may remark that
on parade, where all the prisoners exercised together, they associated
in classes as they would do outside--the "roughs," the "prigs," the
"needy-mizzlers," and the "aristoes," keeping, not always, but pretty
much among themselves. There were only a few of the class termed
"aristoes," and they comprised men who had been clergymen, merchants,
bankers, editors, surgeons, &c. These were usually my associates during
the exercise time. Now the "highflyer" I have referred to did not
belong to this class, but except in his principles and habits and
tastes, his education was quite equal to theirs. He spoke German and
French fluently, knew Latin and Greek, a smattering of Italian, and the
higher branches of mathematics. What first surprised me about him was
his pretended intimacy with some German merchants of the highest
standing I knew in London, and with whom I had done business. To know
such men I afterwards found was part of his profession. He could tell
me not only the names and titles of the nobility and gentry, but the
names of their families, where many of them were educated, to whom they
were married, and many other particulars of their private history. His
sentence was three years, and I believe he got it something in this
way. He had been in the country following his profession, and had
obtained some money, I think thirty pounds, from a gentleman of "his
acquaintance." In the country he was the Reverend Dr. So and So, with a
white neck-tie and all the surroundings of a clergyman. In London he
was a "swell," with a cigar in his mouth.

It so happened that the benevolent gentleman from whom he had obtained
the money came to town and recognized the "Doctor," when cutting the
swell, and had him apprehended and punished. He had been several times
in county prisons, but, as he always changed his name and his
localities, this fact was not known officially. He was an avowed
infidel, and seemed to delight in spreading his opinions among the
prisoners, who were generally too willing to listen to him. If he keeps
out of prison, it will be his cleverness in escaping detection and not
his principles that will save him. His prison influence was most
pernicious, and afforded another striking and painful illustration of
the evils of indiscriminate association of prisoners. I maintain that
it formed no part of any prisoner's sentence that, in addition to all
the other horrors of penal servitude, he should be placed within the
sphere of this man's influence and such as he; and the system which not
only permits but demands that his moral and religious interests should
be thus imperilled, if not altogether corrupted and destroyed,
undertakes a fearful responsibility.

The next case I will notice will illustrate the truth of what I have
advanced on this point. It was that of a young man, P----, who had been
respectably educated, and whose crime was simply the foolish frolic of
a giddy youth. He had engaged a dog-cart to drive to London, a distance
somewhere about fifty miles from where he resided. He had another youth
for his companion, and they both got on the "spree" in London. Some
shark picked them up, and bought the horse and dog-cart from them at a
merely nominal price. When they got sober they returned home, and this
youth went and told the proprietor of the dog-cart what he had done,
and (according to his own statement) offered, through his friends, to
pay for it. The proprietor was so enraged, however, that nothing but
the prosecution of the prisoner would satisfy him, and he was sentenced
to ten years' penal servitude. He had the character of a "fast" youth,
and met with a severe judge. This prisoner might have been easily led
into the path of honour and usefulness, if the attempt had been
honestly made. Whoever his judge was, if he were an Englishman and
father of a family, he would never again pass sentence of penal
servitude on such a youth for any offence against property, if he knew
as well as I do what the sentence involves. Shut up any such man for
seven years in a place where the only men of his own age are city-bred
thieves, and what can be expected of him? This young man elected the
smartest and cleverest of the London pickpockets for his companions.
They made a tool of him in prison, and unless his friends have managed
to get him sent abroad, he is very likely acting as a "stall" for some
of his old companions now. He never learnt anything in prison except
_knitting_. He was also one of the "readers," but most of his time
was spent in hospital. He could spit blood when he chose, and the
doctor being more liberal to him than many others, for several very
natural reasons, the prisoner used this liberality to benefit some of
his "pals" who could not manage to get the good things they wanted from
the doctor otherwise. In return for this kindness he would get an inch
or two of tobacco, or "snout," as it was usually termed. When other
means failed to procure this luxury, he would write to his friends for
a toothbrush and sell it for the weed, which caused the toothbrushes to
be withdrawn from all the prisoners. Then he would write for a pair of
spectacles, pretending that his eyes were getting weak. These he sold,
and the last were discovered passing into one of the cooks' hands in
fair exchange for mutton chops. They were taken into the governor's
room, and after being examined by that potentate they were laid on his
desk, and next morning they were nowhere to be found; they were stolen,
but _not_ by a prisoner. Of course, P---- knew nothing about his
spectacles, when examined on the subject, except that some one must
have taken them from his shelf. The result was that all spectacles
belonging to the prisoners were called in, and prison "glasses" issued
in their stead. The spectacles were intended ultimately to reach the
hands of an officer for tobacco, and if they had not been removed from
the desk, the officer might have got his discharge and the prisoner a
severe punishment. This was one of the thousand-and-one schemes which
prisoners resort to in order to get "snout," and without the aid of an
officer they can get none.

This youth was intended by his parents for the church, but was trained
in prison to be a thief, as "a warning to others"--and his was far from
being a solitary case.



The year 1864 was a marked epoch in convict life. A new Act was then
passed and fresh prison regulations were brought into force. This Act
contained one good clause, viz., the abolition of three and four years'
sentences. In one year as many as 1800 men were sentenced to three and
four years' penal servitude, being a large proportion of the total
number. Such men are now for the most part sentenced to eighteen months
and two years' imprisonment, which will account for a decrease in the
number of convicts and an increase in the number of county prisoners.
This is a short step in the right direction. The convict directors take
credit to themselves for this reduction in the number of convicts, and
boast that they have at last found the true panacea for criminal
diseases. A report to that effect, cut out of a newspaper, was
circulated amongst the prisoners, and their indignation was great at
the way in which the public were "gulled" about themselves and prison
treatment. No doubt a few more thieves and burglars are driven to
pursue their callings in France and America by the operation of the new
police regulations, and I freely admit that a few more may annually be
sent into another world by the same means, but no one can yet point to
a reformed professional "Cracksman," "Coiner," "Hoister," or
"Screwsman," as proof of the beneficial results of the change. The most
unpopular clause in the Act was that relating to police surveillance.
The majority of the prisoners were very much annoyed at this
regulation, some of them, indeed, would much rather have remained in
prison than encounter it. For my own part, I approve of the principle
of surveillance. I see in it the germ of a system whereby a large class
of criminals may ultimately be punished entirely outside the prison
walls. I object, however, to the police being entrusted with the duty.
Their proper business is to catch the thief and preserve order. The
surveillance of liberated prisoners ought to be entrusted to those who
are directly interested in empty jails, and who would endeavour to
assist the liberated men either in getting employment or to emigrate.

With reference to the _classification_ of prisoners which commenced
under the Act of 1864, I have no hesitation in saying that it is a
gross fraud upon the public, a delusion and a snare. The error which I
pointed out in a former chapter, as being committed in the selection of
convicts for transportation, is here repeated and in a more aggravated
form, if that were possible. By the new Act the prisoners were divided
into four great classes. Into the fourth, or "probation class," all
prisoners were required to enter on being admitted into prison. After a
certain time, if the prisoner was so fortunate as to escape being
"reported" for any offence against the prison rules, he would be placed
in the third class, and again, after being a certain time in the third
class he was passed, subject to the same condition, into the second,
and so on. Should he have made any mistake and allowed himself to get
"reported," he either missed his chance of getting into the higher, or
was degraded into a lower class. The object of this classification no
doubt was to get all the well-behaved men together, but the blunder
committed was in making obedience to the prison rules the only test of
qualification for the higher classes. This, as I have already
explained, was really worse than no test at all, because the frequently
convicted criminal, who was thoroughly posted up in all points of
prison discipline and regulations, was more likely than the novice to
escape being "reported" for violation of them. The consequence is, that
in respect of character, disposition and moral quality, there is really
no difference to be found amongst the men in any of the classes. The
scheme operates in this way--suppose that a clergyman by some mischance
gets sentenced to penal servitude, and enters the prison in company
with one of the very worst villains that could be selected out of our
criminal population; both these men, the one with a first sentence, the
other with a long string of convictions against him, enter the
"probation class" at Millbank, on precisely the same terms. The "jail
bird," knowing all about the ways of the prison, would probably pass
with ease into the third class. The clergyman, being new to the
discipline, might make a mistake and get "reported," and in that way
would not be so likely to reach the third class so soon as the other;
but granting that he did so they would still be together, the man
inured to guilt and crime would still be beside the new and casual
lodger, the man who had never been in prison before would still have
the opportunity of learning the evil ways of the confirmed rogue.
Again, should the clergyman be fortunate enough in passing into the
higher classes at the usual time, the jail bird would certainly not be

If a thousand prisoners, from all parts of the country, of all ages,
habits, and antecedents, were brought to one of our convict
establishments, they would go through their time in the same way, good,
bad, and indifferent, all together. The clergyman, even if he were to
get into prison innocently, and were the best Christian in the world,
would never get rid of the jail-bird; and in the highest class his
companions would be no better than those in the lowest.

I grant that our directors could not classify convicts according to
their real merits, any more than a quack doctor could classify patients
suffering from disease; but although they cannot have the knowledge
necessary to do it properly, they might do a little in the right
direction. The quack, even, would know cholic from consumption,
diarrhæa from dropsy; so any man of sense would be able to distinguish
between a case of chronic moral disease and a case of partial or
temporary paralysis of the moral faculty!

The system of "marks," as it is called in prison, is the most prominent
feature in the new regulations, and is based upon the same absurd
principle as the classification clause. The rule relating to marks
specifies "That the time which every convict under sentence of penal
servitude must henceforth pass in prison will be regulated by a certain
number of marks, which he must earn by actual labour performed before
he can be discharged."

The method adopted is to debit the prisoner with a certain number of
marks, according to the length of his sentence, and if he performs the
whole of the work required of him he is credited with as many marks as
would represent a fourth part of his sentence.

If this law were carried out in its integrity it would be most cruel
and unjust. Fortunately for the prisoners it is not very strictly
adhered to--at least not at the prison where I was confined--the
officers making allowance for the prisoners' infirmities. To show how
it would operate, let us take the case of the clergyman and the
jail-bird once more. Assuming that the former was a stout and healthy
man, and able to work, but not having been accustomed to it, really not
able to do much of it, and that the latter had been at the work for
years--which would win in the race for liberty, if the law was strictly
enforced? The probability is that the clergyman would not earn a single
day's remission, whilst the jail-bird would get one-fourth of his time
remitted; and assuming that both had the same sentence originally,
would go a considerable way into a "fresh bit" before the poor
clergyman had finished his first sentence.

The "mark" system admits of great cruelty being practised, but on the
whole, as it is carried out, it is a more innocent piece of deception
than the classification. At the public works, however, there is much
injustice done by it, no allowance being made for a sick man, unless he
has met with some accident. If the "marks" were money, _bonâ fide_
sovereigns, and if the prisoner were permitted to exercise the
abilities God has given him in order to earn that money, there might be
some sense and justice discernable in the system. As it is there is

I may here venture to say that we might materially diminish crime and
expense connected with the prosecution and punishment of criminals by
doing away with our convict establishments altogether, except for the
confinement of political prisoners, and those having sentences for
life. In lieu of these I would suggest the introduction of the system
of remissions into our county jails, granting first offenders a
liberal, and third and fourth, an extremely small allowance. Teaching
the prisoners such trades as they are fitted for, qualifying them for
colonists, and selecting the most suitable for emigration. I would also
place the jails and workhouses under one management. Commissioners for
the prevention of crime and pauperism in each county, and subject them
to a rigid government inspection by a board responsible to Parliament
and the nation.

But even this would only be a partial reform. I would have our criminal
laws based upon the old Mosaic principle of "enforced restitution," and
carried out on the Christian principle of making the offender "pay the
uttermost farthing." Then we could fairly and justly retain the idle
and the useless in the net of justice, and allow the willing and
industrious to achieve their own freedom by satisfying the claims of
the law.

Now, when time has been strangled, and virtue repressed, we allow the
worst villains to escape, and all that has been required of them in
prison was civility to officers, obedience to a stupid discipline, and
a few years' work which neither enables them to support an honest
livelihood outside the prison, or contributes in any appreciable degree
to their maintenance inside.

Under the system I propose, every man who stole a sheep would have to
pay the same penalty before he could exercise the rights of
citizenship--no matter whether his character was good, bad, or
indifferent; no matter whether he was rich or poor, a peer or a
peasant, the voice of impartial justice would say, "You have incurred
the same debt to the State, and the same penalty must be paid."

At present every man who steals a sheep has to pay a different penalty.
This man is sentenced to six months, that other to twelve months, and
then another to fifteen years of penal servitude, according to the
discretion of the judge; and instead of being made to pay the price of
the sheep and the costs of his prosecution, he becomes a grievous
burden to the honest tax-payer, who has to supply him with chaplains,
schoolmasters, surgeons, cooks, bakers, tailors, and a whole host of
servants in livery to minister to his wants, and so unfit him for the
practice of economy, frugality, and other kindred virtues when his
fetters are cut. Under a law based on the principle of restitution, the
man of good character and industrious habits might be able to find
sureties to enable him to discharge his debt to the State under the
surveillance of the authorities, without being surrounded by prison
walls. The man of middling character might only have a limited amount
of liberty, such as the responsible authorities might grant him. Whilst
the man of bad character would have to discharge his debt inside prison
walls, where he might still continue a villain in habits and heart, and
increase his debt by fresh acts of dishonesty; but this would be his
own fault, and the safety-valve of the machinery.

But to return to the Act 1864. If the labour performed under the "mark"
system was either remunerative, or such as a convict might obtain an
honest living at when liberated, the system could not be condemned as
utterly bad. But if we except the tailoring and the shoemaking done for
the use of the establishment, there are really no other employments
suitable for the general class of men who find their way into prison.
The professional thief--and I am now speaking of the _reformation_
as well as the punishment of criminals--requires to be taught some
trade for which he has a natural aptitude before it is possible for him
to gain a livelihood, and he must be taught it well, for unless he is a
skilled workman he would not be worth the wages necessary to keep him
out of temptation. To go on punishing such men in the hope that we will
make them honest, is absurd; and to persevere in "reforming," them
without teaching them practically that which is indispensable to their
remaining honest, is equally ridiculous. We may train a boy to be a
labourer of almost any sort, and can impart moral and religious
instruction to an unformed mind with success, but if we attempt to do
either of them with a confirmed thief who has not been taught to work,
we must be disappointed in the result. The _first_ step to reformation,
is to interest him in some employment suitable to his abilities, and
any other step taken before this only hinders or prevents the work of
reformation. We have never yet taken this first step, consequently we
have never yet succeeded in reforming any of them. It is also essential
that such work should be also well paid, and that the money made at
such employment should be his passport to liberty. Under the present
system we only make him kill time at labour which disgusts him with all
kinds of regular industry. The county prison sentences are, moreover,
too short to enable the thief to earn such a passport to freedom, but
they are of just the requisite length and fitness for turning the
casual into the confirmed criminal. In fact, _time_ sentences are
not suitable for confirmed thieves. Their sentences ought to be so much
money to be earned in a penal workshop, where honesty and economy could
be practised as well as industry. There are two grave objections urged
against teaching thieves lucrative trades. Firstly,--it would tempt
others to commit crime; and secondly, it would interfere with free
labour. With regard to the first objection, I admit there would be some
force in it if the sentences were such as they are now, because time
runs on, whether the prisoner is industrious or not. But if the
sentence imposed a fine in addition to all the expenses incurred by the
prisoner during his incarceration, there would then be no inducement to
the commission of crime. With reference to the second objection, I
would merely state that all labour done in prison of a useful character
interferes with free labour to some extent, but I contend that if each
prisoner was employed at that kind of work for which he is best
qualified, it would interfere less with the proper and necessary
division of free labour than the present plan of keeping a large number
of men employed at work for which they have no special aptitude.

The error we have made in employing prisoners hitherto is not merely
that we have employed them at trades or other employments not suitable
to their natural abilities, but that we have entered into competition
with those trades where too much competition already exists. We should
never have allowed smart young pickpockets to compete with poor
sempstresses, whose ranks are already overcrowded. There will always be
plenty of honest people descending in the social scale to do underpaid
work, and there are thousands of petty thieves who are not fit for any
other. So that there is a greater need for elevating the clever
professional thief to the position of a skilled artisan.

The city bred thief class are far from being dunces or "flats," and it
is not possible to make them common labourers. Many of them may very
fitly be compared to the idle and dissipated "swells" of the middle and
higher classes. If we took a "fast" young nobleman, for instance, and
put him to some office agreeable to himself, so that he conceived a
decided liking to harness, it would do him a deal more good in the way
of reforming him than a course of lectures on the seventh commandment!
And assuming that by so doing he enticed other "swells" to buckle on
official armour, it might interfere with the prospects of some who had
never been "fast," but on the whole, society would benefit by the
change. I maintain that that would be the correct method to adopt with
some of those thieves who are totally irreclaimable by our present
system of prison discipline. With regard to the casual and petty
thieves, their case is somewhat different. Many of them could not be
raised above the lowest class of common labourers, but by adopting a
system of individualization, that is studying each man's natural
abilities, we could always arrive at the best results. It might be
advanced as a third objection, that it would be impossible to make
thieves pay their expenses in prison, and a fine in addition. Under our
present system I admit it would be very difficult, but in the penal
workshops, into which I would turn all our prisoners, this objection
would not hold good. The prisoner would then be stimulated to labour at
paying work agreeable to his tastes and suitable to his abilities, and
the cost of his maintenance would be less than it is at present. Those
who really could not earn a living in the penal workhouses, and those
who would not earn their living, I would transfer to the prison for
criminal incurables. I would not have any first offenders against
property in prison, I would punish them as ticket-of-leave men. In the
penal workshops I would only have persistent thieves. In the convict
prisons only great offenders against the person and traitors. All the
persistent criminals of the petty class, I would consign to the
workhouses; but the character of our workhouses would require to be
altered. There are three distinct classes of paupers. (1) Those who
have become paupers through no fault of their own. (2) Those who have
become paupers through vice; and (3) The vagrant class. I would refuse
admission to the workhouse to the first class, just as I would refuse
admission to the prison in the penal workshops to first offenders
against property. I would treat them, on the family system of
out-of-door relief, as the deserving poor. The second class I would
admit into the workhouse, and the vagrant class as well, but on the
understanding that they did not get out again till they had paid their
bill. In short we ought to make our prisons and our workhouses paying
concerns, and with the former there need be no difficulty whatever;
above all we ought to keep the deserving poor from the other classes,
and the regular thieves from those who have only erred once. Every man
found guilty of crime who can prove that he has been working at an
honest calling up to the time he committed it, should be prevented from
mixing with confirmed criminals, or even from going into prison, unless
for some great crime against the person for which enforced restitution
would not be a sufficient atonement.



Asking pardon of my readers for the rather serious digressions I have
made in the preceding chapter, I now return to my narrative.

Shortly after the new regulations were made known to the prisoners, I
wrote a letter to my brother, and in this solitary instance I confess
in a somewhat ironical strain, and as a matter of course the letter was
suppressed. I remember one passage in it was to the following effect:
"A new arrangement has lately taken place, which grants to all
frequently-convicted prisoners with the same sentence as myself, two
years of unexpected remission, so that if they should deal as leniently
with me, I shall soon be home." This was an allusion to the repeal of
an old regulation whereby convicts who had revoked a former licence
were thereby disqualified for receiving any remission from a subsequent
sentence. Prisoners, therefore, who had so disqualified themselves, and
had been re-convicted under the old regulation, were quite unprepared
for being placed on the same footing in all respects as those who had
been convicted for the first time, which was actually the case under
the new regulations. Prisoners conversant with the recommendation of
the Royal Commissioners, anticipated quite a different policy on the
part of the authorities. They expected that men who had succumbed to
strong temptation and who had never been in prison before would have
been more mercifully dealt with; and that increased severity would have
been visited upon those who had already had several opportunities of
redeeming their character, but had fully proved their determination to
continue in their evil ways; but the authorities decided otherwise.

About this time there occurred a circumstance which I must
mention:--one of my fellow-prisoners with a deformed foot, asked the
medical officer to amputate his leg below the knee. The request was
complied with, and the patient, who was a very stout fellow, was
provided with a mechanical substitute, with springs in the heel. This
man's brother was a professional thief, and both are still in the same
prison under different names. The artificial leg was altogether
unsuitable for a man in his position in life, inasmuch as he would not
be able to pay the expense of repairing it. That, however, I had
nothing to do with. The leg was made by a prisoner, and being a nice
looking article, it was exhibited to strangers in the doctor's room for
a considerable time, to show them how kind they were to the prisoners,
and to keep up that system, so dear to officials, of washing the
outside of the platter for the public gaze, whilst all uncleanliness
remained within. Another prisoner, who met with an accident at the
public works, and lost his leg in endeavouring to save an officer's
life, arrived at the prison and was also provided with a mechanical
substitute. Feeling my health failing me, I thought that an artificial
leg, by enabling me to take exercise, or get into the fields to work,
might save me from again being sent to hospital; and seeing other
prisoners getting them, I resolved to petition the director for the
same favour. I was further encouraged in my resolution by the fact that
it was a new director who was then inspecting the prison. The visiting
day arrived, and as before, I was ushered into the presence of the new
official, and placed between two warders with staves in their hands. At
the desk sat the new director, by his side stood the governor, and in
front of the desk the chief warder.

"Well! what do you want?"

I told him that I had lost my leg in prison, that I was feeling my
health giving way, that I was anxious to be in a position to move about
a little better, and would feel very grateful if he would allow me to
have an artificial leg, the same as the other prisoners had. The
governor endeavoured to deny that any artificial legs had been
furnished to prisoners; but being prepared for something of that kind,
I gave the particulars I have already mentioned, which were confirmed
by the chief warder. The result was, that the director promised to see
the doctor on the subject. I was glad to see a disposition on the part
of the new director to listen to the prisoner without any attempt to
bully him, and became sanguine of the success of my petition. Next
visit, however, it was curtly refused on the ground of expense. As it
so happened, I was obliged to go to the hospital once more after the
lapse of a few weeks, and swallowed as much quinine there as cost far
more than an artificial leg, made by a prisoner whose labour at
knitting was not worth a penny a day, would have done! The prisoner who
lost the deformed leg began to use his artificial substitute, and two
or three times it got out of repair. One of these repairs was said to
have cost 30_s._ in London. In the long run it was broken, and an
ordinary wooden-peg leg substituted, which was the only one suitable to
his position.

I now began to be exceedingly depressed in spirits, and this depression
operated prejudicially to my health. I began at this time to string
couplets together, as an exercise for my mind and my memory, and so
great was the relief which was thus afforded me that I ventured to
compose verses in earnest, and succeeded in this way in partially
forgetting my troubles. To keep them in my memory was the most
difficult task, as it was quite contrary to the prison rules to write
one's own compositions in a copy-book. If John Bunyan had been
unfortunate enough to get into one of our model prisons, the "Pilgrim's
Progress" would have been unwritten. From this time up to the close of
my imprisonment I exercised my mind in the manufacture of verses, my
stock ultimately amounting to many hundreds of lines, which my memory
faithfully retained. My chest having now become very painful and weak,
in consequence of so much reading aloud, as I was obliged to do on a
somewhat poor diet, I was compelled to enter the hospital a second
time, suffering from severe general debility accompanied by a cough,
after having been about thirteen months in the prison. On my admission
I received a change of diet and tonic medicines. For some weeks I was
confined to bed, and not till six months had elapsed was I discharged.

An event took place during my second sojourn in the hospital which
caused much excitement among the prisoners. This was the stabbing of a
Scripture-reader by one of the patients. The case was afterwards
disposed of at the Assizes, and the culprit was sentenced to five
years' penal servitude. As his former sentence had as much to run, this
was considered as a triumph on the part of the prisoner. He committed
the crime not with intent to kill, but for the purpose of bringing his
case before the public, and of being removed to another prison. He had
committed a similar crime before, but the directors had disposed of it
privately, so that the particulars of it should not reach the
newspapers. In this case to which I refer, the prisoner alleged on his
trial that the doctor would not give him treatment for his complaint;
he found that it was of no use complaining to a higher authority, that
he could not get removed to another prison, nor procure the treatment
he had been accustomed to receive for his disease. He was much beyond
the ordinary convict in point of ability. He defended himself,
cross-examined the authorities, and made some of the chiefs cut very
sorry figures under the divining rod. He at last gained his point, for
he exposed the authorities and obtained his removal to another prison,
where he would have what he considered proper medical treatment--good
food being an essential item in the prescription.

After this case occurred the governor was allowed to retire on a
pension; or, in the language of the convicts, "he got the 'sack' in a
genteel way," but in reality the doctor was the man on whom the
responsibility rested, and it was him the prisoner wished to stab and
not the Scripture-reader, but he never could get the opportunity. I
notice this case chiefly to show that our present law is inoperative in
the case of a class of prisoners of which this one was a fair type. He
was a sad cripple, walking with the assistance of two crutches, and
dragging his legs behind him; he was afflicted with spinal disease and
heart complaint; he had been a convict before, and had lived all the
time like a fighting cock; commanding medical treatment, and working
only as it suited himself; he had nothing to fear in the commission of
crime except being sent to hospital, and his diseases would compel the
majority of doctors to give him good diet, and good general treatment.
If they had refused or neglected to do so, the prisoner's life would
have been sacrificed. Whatever may have been the truth in his case, he
felt and believed that his days were being shortened, and he was one of
those who would rather have died on the scaffold than submit to a
lingering death in prison. A short time ago he was found dead in his
cell. It was asserted that he had taken some medicine internally which
was intended for external application, and that he had thus poisoned
himself; it was alleged that his object was to make himself ill in
order to obtain better treatment. This is somewhat doubtful, but as his
death took place at another prison I am unable to give more
particulars. The newspapers having commented rather severely on this
stabbing case, it was deemed necessary by the prison authorities to
have a counter current set in motion. For this purpose an inquest was
held on the body of a deceased convict; all the chief authorities were
called to this special inquest, and three prisoner-nurses were also
examined, and the result appeared in the newspapers, to the great
astonishment of the prisoners. It was reported that the coroner had
held an inquest on the body of a deceased convict, and found that the
deceased had received excellent diet and medical treatment. He further
expressed his surprise to find the prisoners received such luxuries in
prison as fish, fowl, and jellies, in addition to wines, &c! If they
had not mentioned the fish, fowls, and jellies, the prisoners might not
have taken much notice of it, but the facts being as follows, it must
be confessed that they had some grounds for making uncomplimentary
remarks. For thirty-two or thirty-three months previous to the inquest
there had been no fowls in the hospital, and there never had been
either fish or jellies served out to patients during the whole period
the prison had been in existence. Some time after the inquest there
were two or three soles cooked for dying prisoners, one of them being a

After the arrival of the Fenians and a new priest, there was a
considerable alteration in the hospital treatment--fowls became quite
common, apple pies, meat pies, and sundry other luxuries being
introduced. Fish and jellies being still wanting, however, to bear out
the newspaper report.

I do not wish it to be understood that the Fenians receive better
medical treatment than the other prisoners, nor is their position
generally much better. They sat at work in the same room with me; they
had the privilege of exercising by themselves, but judging from their
eagerness for my society and political conversation, they seemed to
consider the privilege in the light of a punishment. One concession was
made to them, however, which at first rather surprised me. They were
allowed to write to their friends as often, when they were in the third
class, as other prisoners were allowed who were in the first, and the
censorship over their letters was not very severe. One of the
head-centres, and one of the principal writers and agitators in the
would-be rebellious sister isle was a tall, bony, cadaverous-looking
man, afflicted with scrofula. He could have ate double his allowance of
food, and probably he required more than he was allowed; at all events
he thought he was not getting proper treatment, and wrote a very strong
letter on the subject to his friends. This letter was considered a
libel on the establishment, but the governor and director decreed that
the letter should pass, as it would show the Fenians outside that their
friends in prison were not on a bed of roses. This was acting in quite
a contrary direction to that which was usually followed with the
correspondence of other prisoners. Any letter that told of the comforts
of the prison, and gave the friends of the prisoner the idea that he
was in Paradise was sure to pass, and the writer of it would also get
into the good graces of the officials; but if there was any word of
complaint, especially if addressed to any person of influence, the
extinguisher was put upon it at once.

I remember one of the patients writing to his friends that he was
unwell, but that he really did not know very well what to say about his
complaint, as one doctor told him to get out of bed and "knock about,"
as there was nothing the matter with him, while another told him he was
dying, and on no account to leave his bed, and between the two he did
not know what to do. This was at the time when the two medical officers
seemed to pull against each other. The letter produced an improvement
in them, but it was never allowed to reach its destination.

Another case was that of a Quaker's letter (the only one of the creed I
met with in prison). He was a quiet old man, and for upwards of three
years had been allowed certain trifling privileges on account of his
religious opinions,--one of them was his being allowed to sit when
grace was said before meals. One day, a young consequential officer
happened to be on duty in the ward where the Quaker was domiciled, and
when he called "Attention!" for grace, the Quaker, as usual, kept his
seat. The officer ordered him to stand up, and the Quaker having
attempted to explain he was "reported," and besides being sent to
"Chokey," forfeited some of his remission for the offence. He wrote to
an influential Quaker in the North of England, explaining the
particulars of the case; but his letter contained one clause sufficient
to condemn it in the eyes of the prison officials, and it was this, "Be
good enough to send this letter to John Bright, Esq., M.P."



On one occasion during my second sojourn in hospital, my attention was
accidentally directed to a pale, sickly-looking young man, who had just
arrived with a number of other prisoners from Millbank, and whose
appearance and manner so unmistakably betrayed the genus to which he
belonged that I decided to avail myself of the first opportunity which
presented itself of learning his history. It so happened that he was
located in the next bed to mine, and I had thus no difficulty in
finding an occasion to gratify my curiosity, and the following dialogue
took place on the first day of his arrival.

"Well, what news have you brought from Millbank?"

"Oh, nothing particular; the prison's full, and a good many back on
their ticket."

"How long have you done?"

"Nine months."

"What's your sentence?"

"Seven years."

"Have you done your separates in the 'bank?"

"No; in the country--down in Somerset."

"What sort of treatment did you get?"

"Wretched! They are making it very hot now, and I got 'bashed' as

"The flogging has made your health bad, I suppose?"

"Yes, it made me spit up ever so much blood."

"Were you ever flogged before?"

"Yes, twice."

"Twice! Why, how old are you?"

"Twenty-three, and I have done two 'leggings,' and this is my third,
besides short bits in the county jails."

"During your first 'legging' I suppose you had been among the boys at
the Isle of Wight?"


"I think most of the Isle of Wight boys get into prison again? I have
seen a great many now who did their first bit there."

"Well, a good many of them went on the cross."

"You belong to London, I suppose?"


"Did you get your sentence there?"

"No, in Bristol."

"How long were you out this last time?"

"Six days, and I was half-drunk all the time."

"How long was your last sentence?"

"Three years, and I did it all."

"How did you lose your remission?"

"For striking a 'screw.'"

"Why did you not remain in London when you went out last?"

"Well, these 'flimping' fellows have alarmed the Londoners so much that
there is no chance of getting a living at thieving."

"You mean that the garotters have spoiled your trade by making people
more guarded?"

"Why, man, they are wearing steel collars and carrying fire-arms."

"But they have passed a flogging bill in Parliament for all these
crimes with violence."

"Flogging be d----d! D'ye think that would stop them? It's the people
being always on the watch, and the 'Bobbies' more expert, that makes
them afraid of being caught. But I wish they would never try that game,
for it gives the 'buzzer' no chance."

"You say you have been flogged three times: how did you like it?"

"The first time I was a kid, and cried like anything; the second time I
never uttered a word nor flinched in the least; and the last time, I
sang the bawdiest song I could lay my tongue on, and cried, 'Come on,
ye ----!'"

"Well, I think you are a very foolish fellow; you have permanently
injured your health by your conduct."

"I know all that, but my temper won't let me be quiet; and, by jingo!
if this butcher does not treat me properly, I'll make him pay for it;
I'll see now what the fish and the fowls and the jellies are like."

"You appear to be consumptive?"

"Yes, second stage."

"Now, take my advice and be as quiet as you can, and you will do very
well here."

"Well, if these fellows will let me alone, and the 'butcher' gives me
good treatment, I'll be all right; but I'll stand no nonsense--there's
no two ways with me. Is there any 'snout' knocking about? I have got
some money, and if you can tell me how I can get it I will be glad."

"I do not use it myself, but I see others dealing away in it, and I
have no doubt that some of these fellows opposite will be able to put
you on the right scent."

This was one of the men who bring odium on the whole class of
prisoners, and prejudice society against them. He was a thorough-bred
professional thief, and, in addition, he was one of the very worst
prison characters. His temper was very violent, and at times apparently
uncontrollable. The lash had been tried on him, and, as in every case I
met with, in vain. If he lives to complete the term of his imprisonment
he will, as a matter of course, return to his old practices,--the only
method he knows of making his living. The officials were afraid he
would stab or otherwise injure some of them; and he was petted and
indulged a good deal at first. His diet was changed every other day,
until they got tired of humouring him; and then he got into trouble. At
last, after he had been about eighteen months in the prison, and had
insulted and threatened to strike the governor, he was suddenly removed
to another prison, where he would no doubt repeat the same game. In all
probability he will be in the grave before he is due for liberation.
Yet with all this, he could have been _led_ like a child; but to
attempt to drive him was out of the question. I confess I was very glad
when he was removed from the bed next to mine to one further away.

My neighbour on the other side was a very different character. He was a
self-taught artist, and was gifted with considerable natural genius.
His failing had been intemperance, and his crime a "got up" case of
rape. He was quite a philosopher in his way, always happy, always
contented; nothing came amiss to him. Imprisonment was of no account
with him; he was above it altogether. He had no inclination to break
the law, and was most unlikely to enter a prison a second time. Yet
this prisoner never could manage to get such good treatment as the
other, simply because he was easily pleased. He looked upon the prison
as a place of passage to be made the best of, not as a home. He could
be liberated to-morrow with perfect safety to the public, whilst the
other prisoner, who had precisely the same sentence, will go into the
society of thieves, and the pockets of other people, the moment he is
permitted the opportunity. The artist, although a cripple, could have
earned far more in prison than would have supported himself if he had
been allowed to do so. The thief could not have supported himself
honestly anywhere, and in prison he was never taught how to do so.

Now suppose these two men had been sent to a penal workshop, each with
a fine of 50_l._ upon his head, instead of to a human cage with a
seven years' sentence; suppose that they were each debited, in addition
to the fine, with the cost of their food, lodging, &c., and credited
with their labour on the profits on their work, and liberated when the
account was balanced, what would be the result? In all probability it
would be this: that the artist, anxious for liberty, would economise,
do with as little food and drink as possible, exert his faculties to
the uttermost, and in a year or two perhaps he would have paid off the
amount of his fine, and the cost of his maintenance. He would then be
liberated in a condition to benefit society; impressed with the folly
of his conduct in having thrown away so much time and money, and
determined to keep the law for the future.

The tax-payers, instead of being as now burdened to support him, would
not only be relieved of that particular grievance, but would have the
satisfaction of seeing the criminal contributing large sums to the
right side of the public ledger. Instead of paying a quarter of a
million of hard and honest-earned money to maintain convict prisons,
and ever so much more to the county jails, we might in time make them
self-sustaining, and the offenders of the law a source of revenue to
the country.

If the casual offender regained his freedom in two years under such a
system as I have indicated, when would one of the worst members of the
most dangerous class regain his? And what would be his condition and
prospects? He would certainly get deeper into debt to begin with, and
if thoroughly determined to remain a dangerous and useless member of
society he would never regain his liberty. Perhaps he would commit an
offence against the person, and bring restraint and punishment upon
himself in every way unworthy of unrestrained freedom. But if he were
resolved to become an honest and industrious man, the opportunity and
the means for so doing would be before him; he would set to and learn a
trade, practice economy, confine his hands to his own pockets, prove
himself worthy of trust, and at the end of four or five years regain
his freedom. He could never keep pace with the other in the race for
liberty, nor would he be fitted for the proper use of his liberty until
he had practised industry under a natural and healthy stimulus up to
the paying point--the point when he becomes convinced in his own mind
that honesty is the best policy. His prospects on liberation would then
be very different from what they are under the present system. He would
then be suited for being a colonist. It would have been proved to his
own mind that he could make a living by honest industry, and in most
cases this is the all-important consideration. Removed from his old
associates, placed in circumstances where money can be made by
industry, and still keeping the cost of his transportation against him
to be paid out of the first of his own free earnings, society would
then have done its duty by him. I wish to impress this strongly on
those who take an interest in the subject of criminal reformation; and
therefore repeat, that if we can prove to the thief's own satisfaction
that he can earn an honest livelihood, at work agreeable to himself and
suited to his abilities, we shall do much towards making him an honest
man. But, let us starve him and lash him, and tyrannize over him, and
we shall send him to the grave or the gallows; and if we combine
statuesque and compulsory Christianity with such treatment, we make him
in addition a hardened unbeliever and atheist. And yet hitherto we have
sent such men prematurely into the other world, in such condition of
soul and body, with as great complacency as if the blame were all their

The next case I shall notice was a very different one indeed. The
prisoner had been a clergyman in the Church of England for upwards of
twenty years, and during that long period had discharged his duties to
the satisfaction of his flock and his superiors in the church. I
believe he had made an imprudent second marriage. His wife was beneath
him in social position and being inclined to habits of extravagance had
incurred debts which his small income could not meet. He used funds
entrusted to his care by some society for the purpose of liquidating
these debts, intending to replace them when his stipend became due.
These funds happened, however, to be wanted much sooner than had been
customary, he was not able to produce them, and the consequence was
penal servitude for a very long period. I could not help pitying the
prisoner. He had never rubbed shoulders with the world. An occasional
evening with the Squire's family or in the homes of the less exalted
among his parishioners, had been almost his only opportunity of gaining
a knowledge of life. He was apparently very penitent, and often I
noticed him shedding tears (a very unusual sight in a convict prison),
and he seemed to feel his degrading and cruel punishment very keenly
indeed. He was very kind to the prisoners and was a great favourite
with them, and in consequence not in the very best odour with the
authorities. He was, like myself, employed as a reader in the
work-rooms, but was soon removed to another prison, where he is now
employed tailoring! What will he--what can he do, when liberated? I
heard of three other clergymen who had been convicts, one of them went
abroad after he was liberated, and soon afterwards died. A second went
to a part of the country where he thought he would not be known, opened
a school which was not very successful, got into good society, and for
a time was very comfortable and happy. One day, however, a cabman who
came to drive him to a gentleman's house, recognized him as an old
prison companion, and the fact having become known he was obliged soon
after to leave the neighbourhood. The third met with a fate somewhat
similar. He happened to be at an evening party, in the house of a
friend; one of the guests would not remain in his company, and to save
the party from shipwreck he threw himself overboard into the great
ocean of life. Perhaps some friendly fish has swallowed him and cast
him on a Christian shore! I never heard of him again. The fate of these
men gives rise to many sorrowful reflections; surely there is cruel
injustice in the law which condemns a minister of the church of Christ,
who in a moment of sore temptation breaks the eighth commandment, to
years of slavery and a life of degradation and disgrace, compared with
which death itself would be mercy and kindness, and yet permits
constant and flagrant violations of the seventh, by rich and titled
transgressors, to be compromised with gold! Why do we in the one case
brand the offender with the mark of Cain, and in the other cover with a
golden veil both sin and sinner? If it is necessary, "as a warning to
others," that casual violations of the eighth commandment should be so
punished, why is it unnecessary to warn others against the frequent and
habitual violation of the seventh? Would the payment of money, together
with the loss of character, social position, &c., not be a sufficient
warning to all men in a position to commit such acts of dishonesty as
may be included under the general designation of breaches of trust? But
what does so-called justice now demand in such cases? Let ten clergymen
embezzle 100_l._ each, and hear how society indemnifies itself for
the crime and the loss! By the mouth of one judge, one of these
clergymen is sentenced to one year in prison; by the mouth of another
judge, another of these clergymen is sentenced to two years in prison;
by the mouth of a third, another is condemned to three years penal
servitude, to labour and associate with the dregs of society; by the
mouth of a fourth, four years of such humiliation; and so on.

Are all these just judges;--or is only one of them just? and which is

These are questions I will leave my readers to answer for themselves.
Of one thing I am satisfied, that our present laws on the subject
require alteration.



I have already said in a previous chapter that our prison authorities
regard the convicts as mere human machines, all made after the same
model, and that the machinery, by some abnormal defect in its original
construction constantly impels them in the wrong direction. In official
eyes they do not appear to be men having peculiarities of physical
construction and constitution, individuality of character, or to have
been so designed as to be like other men, moulded by circumstances, or
amenable to the influence of education or social position. They look at
him through the official spectacles, the lenses of which are carefully
adjusted so that the object shall present not only a perfectly uniform
appearance but also appear uniformly bad. If the convict is in good
health, the machinery working smoothly--but still by the defect in its
construction always in the wrong direction--there are the regulation
appliances, not for remedying the original defect in the machinery, it
must be remembered, and if possible getting it to work in the _right_
direction, but appliances to check, thwart, and by force drive it
backward, which in most cases it cannot and will not do, and breakages,
ruin of machinery and other appliances also are the only result. They
number and ticket the convict according to his sentence, range them all
up, count them eleven times a day and say to them, "Convicts, now here
you are, all ticketed and counted, all of you are afflicted with some
moral disease, we are here to cure you, and we have _one_ pill which
will do it, and you must swallow it."

This is the perfection of penal legislation at which, after many royal
commissions, and much parliamentary eloquence, we have arrived! One
would have imagined that a gigantic quackery and multitudes of quack
doctors could have been procured and set in motion with less trouble
and at less expense! Only on one point there is universal agreement,
let the machine be working either in the right direction or the
wrong--so long as it is working it must be oiled, that is a necessity
of machine-life, so to speak--the man or convict must be _fed_. But how
feed him? To you, my reader, and I, the natural answer would be that
the machine must be oiled, or the man fed, in greater or less
proportion to the power and capacity of the machine or man, and to the
amount of work we require from it or him. But we are both wrong. Our
prison authorities say, "Machine, big or little, you shall all have
exactly the same quantity of oil, neither more nor less. You little
machines there, with oil running all over you, how smoothly and
uncomplainingly you work! You big machines, you may creak as you
please, your journals may get hot, blaze up and produce universal
smash: but you can't get any more oil; we can't allow you to lick up
any of that which is running over your little neighbour there--that is
for the pigs, and for _us_." Is not this amazing folly? Or again,
suppose we were to take a race-horse, a dray-horse, a farmer's horse, a
broken-down hack, and a Shetland horse--for these more nearly resemble
the various classes of convicts--and say to them, "Horses, you have all
offended the laws of horsedom, and stand fully convicted of clover
stealing. For this most heinous crime you are each condemned to draw a
load, one ton weight, fifteen miles every day--Sundays excepted--for
five years, and your allowance of food will be two feeds of oats, and
one allowance of hay per diem;" and what would be the result, supposing
that the allowance of hay and oats was just barely sufficient for the
average--say the farmer's horse?

First of all the race-horse, able to eat his oats and a portion of the
hay, could do with some additional dainty bits, perhaps, but on the
whole he has his stomach filled and can live. He is yoked to his load,
and being a spirited animal, he goes at it very hard, succeeds for a
time; at last he sticks in a rut, puts on a "spurt," and breaks down.
He can't do the work. He is put down at six marks a day, or no
remission. He is spoiled for ever, and as a racer his days are ended.

The dray-horse comes next, the load is a mere toy to him, he gets his
eight marks a day, but by-and-bye he begins to feel the effects of an
empty stomach, to fill which he would require double the allowance of
food he receives; and in the long run he too breaks down and is passed
into the hands of the veterinary surgeon, and is ruined as a useful

Next comes the farmer's horse, and the load and diet being suitable to
him, he can do the punishment and easily satisfy the law.

The broken-down hack is never yoked at all, he passes into the hands of
the surgeon, and there remains. While the little Shetlander is in
clover; he never had so many oats before--has actually as much again as
he can consume--and the cart and harness being too large, and the load
altogether ridiculous for his strength, he is never put to it, and so
escapes the legal punishment. And so it is that one portion of the
inhabitants of horsedom, pointing to the Shetlander, cry out that "the
convicts have too much food, they are up to the eyes in luxuries;"
another portion, pointing to the dray horse, say "the convicts are
starved, and are dying of hunger;" whilst a third answers both by
pointing to the farm horse and saying that "he can do the work and
satisfy the law. Why should they not all be treated alike? a horse is a
horse all the world over."

Our system of dieting and working convicts is exactly similar to the
above; only at the invalid prison where I was confined the law was not
adhered to. I knew prisoners who ate double the quantity of food
allowed them, and I knew others who did not eat above half. Sometimes
it happened that a voracious prisoner could not get his food exchanged
so as to increase its bulk, and in that case he would be compelled to
seek refuge in hospital. If the diet there was not sufficient, God help
him, for from man no further aid was to be expected.

I recollect having a conversation with a prisoner who had just arrived
with eighteen others from the prison at Chatham. He had got his leg
broken accidentally while at work there, and the medical men had not
made a very good job of putting the bones together, so that he did not
expect ever to be able to use it. I asked him what sort of a place
Chatham was under the new system.

"Oh, it's the worst station out," he replied, "they are starved and
worked to death. They are even eating the candles, and one man died
lately who had twenty or thirty wicks in his stomach when the _post
mortem_ took place. In the docks I have seen fellows pick up the
dirtiest muck you ever saw, and swallow it! There are lots of fellows
there who eat all the snails and frogs they can get hold of. I have
seen one man several times swallow a live frog as easily as you could
bolt an oyster. Frogs and snails are considered delicacies at Chatham."

"How did you get on with the food yourself?"

"Well, I was never much of an eater, and I could get on middling well
with it; but then the food was better there than it is here. This is
the worst station out for 'grub.' The cook and steward must be d----
villains to rob a lot of prisoners of their food."

"Do they all get eight marks a day at Chatham?"

"No, not nearly all; many only get seven, and some not more than six.
The 'screws' there are ---- tyrants, and if they don't mind what they
are about some of them will get murdered. There are a few fellows there
would rather be 'topt' than be messed about in such a way, and have to
die in prison at last. What sort of 'screws' have you here?"

"Well, the majority of them are very civil fellows; there are a few,
perhaps, inclined to exceed their duty, but on the whole they are not
bad, and you will have yourself to blame if you get into trouble. Bad
masters make bad servants, and I have no doubt the Chatham officers are
merely carrying out the directors' orders when they tyrannise over the

"What sort of a doctor is this you have got here? he gets a very bad

"Well, he is blamed for not giving prisoners treatment until they are
just dying, but I do not pretend to be a judge of such matters myself.
My advice to you is to be civil and grateful, and do not bother him
about food. Do not ask him for anything, just tell him exactly how you
feel, and you may do very well here."

The prediction as to the murdering of some of the officers made above
by the prisoner was shortly after verified, and the culprit was hanged
at Maidstone quite recently. At the Yorkshire prison they had what
appeared to me a more sensible method of apportioning the diet. The
prisoners were weighed once a month, and if any of them lost weight
they were allowed an additional quantity of dry bread to make it up. In
the Surrey prison the practice of exchanging and trafficking in food
amongst the prisoners counteracted the evils that would otherwise have
resulted from the regulations being strictly adhered to; and in the
Scottish prisons the use of tobacco appeared to have the same effect.
While on the subject of diet, I may allude to a rule which had a very
bad effect on the minds of the prisoners who expected justice at the
hands of the officials. In the dietary scale brought out in 1864, it
was specified that when a prisoner had been two years in prison, he
would be permitted to have the option of tea and two ounces of bread in
lieu of the oatmeal gruel for supper, and when he had been three years
in prison he might have roasted or baked meat in lieu of boiled. The
convicts sentenced under the old Act were placed in the first or lowest
grade in the scale of the Act of 1864, but were denied the option of
those changes of diet which were permitted under it, and which were
considered necessary for the preservation of their health by the
medical authorities. The consequence was, and is, that there were
prisoners with life sentences who had been ten, twelve, and sixteen
years in prison on a diet inferior to those who had only been in prison
two years. No tea and bread at night for them, and no roasted meat.
This regulation was considered unjust by the prisoners, who said, very
naturally, "They took us off the good diet allowed by the old Act under
which we were sentenced, and placed us on the lowest scale of the new
dietary, and now, after being two years on the diet we ought not to
have been put on at all, we are not even allowed the changes open to
other prisoners. It is scandalous, after being ten or twelve years in
prison, to see other prisoners who have only just commenced their time
much better off than we are," &c.

Another grievance the prisoners had, of which they loudly complained.
It was the custom at the Home Office to forward the prisoners' licenses
to the prison once a month, but as a rule these documents were ten
days--sometimes three weeks--later than they ought to have been. If a
prisoner had earned his marks, and was due for his license, say on the
1st of March, he expected the authorities would keep faith with him,
and that his license would arrive on the day it was due. Whatever the
convict may be himself, he expects a good example and honourable
fulfilment of the engagements on the part of the authorities. In this,
however, he was often disappointed, and many a million curses were
heaped upon them in consequence. And after all can we wonder at a
convict being exasperated if, as it often happened, he had written to a
wife, or a father, or brother or sister to meet him on a certain day at
the railway station, when he was due for his liberty, and then was
disappointed and had to wait a fortnight or three weeks before he could
see his friends? This neglect on the part of the authorities at the
Home Office, had the effect of making all those who were due for
liberation early in the month quite regardless of the prison
regulations, as one short sentence would not have made any difference
to them under the circumstances.

In Sir Joshua Jebb's day anything of this kind seldom happened. The
prisoner's chief grievance then was the robbery of his food by the
officers, and as the discipline was lax a mutiny would be the result.
This had a good effect for a short time, and as long as the attention
of the press was directed to the question, but matters soon became as
bad as ever, and it was not until the subject came before the criminal
courts that there was any improvement. The name of Sir Joshua Jebb is
still held in great veneration by the convict, but as the duty of
carrying out his system was entrusted to men of a totally opposite
character, it was impossible for it to succeed. Independent, however,
of its moral administration, it had defects inherent in itself. No
penal bill will suit all moral complaints, and the sooner we depart
from quackery the better it will be for the prisoner and the nation as
well. Sir Joshua Jebb's system entered too largely into competition
with our workhouses and county jails. The prisoners were never taught
suitable trades, they were no doubt supplied with food in abundance,
and with some opportunities of learning to be industrious and for
improving their minds, but they were completely surrounded by far more
powerful counter-influences. Even the higher officials carried on a
system of wholesale robbery, and winked at the very large retail
business done in the same line by the prisoners and under officials. At
Bermuda and Dartmoor convict establishments I believe there were more
crimes committed by officers and prisoners together than the prisoners
could or would have committed if they had been at liberty. Prisoners
could do very much as they liked in those days, and the consequence was
that the "roughs," or the worst characters, gave the "ton" to the whole
prison. A country bumpkin who had stolen a bag of potatoes, perhaps,
soon learned the theory of picking pockets and the art of garotting in
these places, and being unequal to the former he would adopt the latter
as a means of earning a livelihood. Another cause of the increase in
the number of garotting cases, was the conduct of the directors who
visited the prisoners and punished the prisoners. Their injustice and
incivility to prisoners bore a striking contrast to the mild and
dignified civility of Sir Joshua their chief. I have known prisoners
return from the presence of a director, foaming with inward rage at
being bullied out of the room and punished without being permitted to
utter a word in their own defence. In many of these cases I have known
the prisoners to be innocent. Such men would go out of prison vowing
vengeance on some one, and ready for any deed of darkness that might
tempt them. I do not wonder that they took to garotting when I reflect
upon their character and the treatment they received in prison.
Prisoners seldom, if ever, vow vengeance against a judge or a
magistrate; the objects of their wrath are some policeman who has sworn
falsely, or some other witness who has committed perjury or betrayed
them; and we may naturally seek to inquire why the prison judge is not
as favourably regarded as his learned brother who holds open court? I
believe the reason is this, that a prison director can starve and flog
and retain prisoners in confinement for years, according to the length
of their respective remissions, and none but those directly interested
in full and quiet prisons know anything about it. If the governor and
directors of prisons had to dispense justice in presence of a reporter
for the press, how great would be the reformation immediately effected.
To the prisoner it would also be welcome, for if it ensured him of
nothing else but civility it would be a boon. A civil word goes a long
way with a convict, and it is so seldom he gets one from the chiefs of
prisons that he is apt to place a value upon it beyond its real worth.



During my second stay in hospital the governor from another prison came
to rule over our establishment. He was known to most of the prisoners
as "Bread and Water Jack," some called him "Captain Spooney," some "the
Lurcher," and others "Mr. Martinet." The patients had just completed
their out-of-door exercise, and were standing in file two deep when he
first made his appearance. Some of the prisoners whispered, "That's the
new governor," and the sound having reached his official ear, the order
was issued "Now you men, you must understand there is to be no talking
in the ranks when I pass you." Almost every week some fresh order
issued from the new governor, and the following may be taken as a fair
example of the weighty matters which troubled the official head, and
afford a very good idea of its qualifications for disposing of them.

"Prisoners must roll their neckerchiefs twice round their necks and tie
them in a particular way," and the way is then described.

"Prisoners must walk three abreast round the parade, and not pass each
other in walking."

"Prisoners must be sure to keep their hands out of their pockets in the
coldest days."

"Prisoners must not neglect to salute the governor when he passes

"Prisoners must walk only two abreast instead of three abreast, as
formerly ordered."

"The spoons and platters must be placed in this particular way." And
next week the order came to have the spoons and platters placed in
exactly the opposite way!

"Prisoners' hair must be cropped shorter; they must not go to bed so
soon as they have done: they must cease talking at work," and so on.

These were the principal orders issued, and attempted to be carried
out. I say attempted, for some of them were regularly evaded or broken
by the prisoners, and winked at by the officers. These were the orders
that were expected to be instrumental in converting thieves into honest
men! Whatever opinion might be formed of their probable efficacy out of
doors, or of the sanity of the man who sat in his office and scrawled
them out, the thieves themselves mocked and ridiculed them, and called
the small-minded military man set over them a "Barmey"[20] humbug. "What
does it matter," they would say to each other, "how we walk? What does
it matter whether our neck-ties be once or twice round? Why don't they
teach us to get an honest living and show us a good example? What good
will all this humbugging do us? We don't want to come into such places
if they will only let us live when we are out. Why don't they find us
work and try to keep us out of prison?" "Ah! that would spoil their own
trade," someone would reply. Such criticisms passed between the
prisoners on these new orders, with an accompaniment of oaths which I
cannot repeat.

      [20] Insane.

The punishment for prison offences now became more severe under the new
governor, and the following may be taken as fair examples of the manner
in which this class of offenders were dealt with. A convict just about
due for his liberation had half-an-inch of tobacco given him by another
prisoner. The officer happened to notice the gift, went to the
prisoner, found the contraband article upon him, and took him before
the governor. That gentleman sentenced him to ten days in the
refractory cells, and recommended him to the prison director for the
loss of his gratuity and three months' remission. The unfortunate
prisoner was by-and-bye called up and informed that in addition to the
governor's sentence he was condemned to lose all his gratuity money,
which amounted to about 3_l._, and three months of his remission.
Two sentences for one offence were getting very common, but this
prisoner happened to be one of those who cared very little about
liberty, and received the information very coolly. As soon as he was
out of the cells he had his "snout" again as usual, but he was
"chaffed" a good deal by his "pals" for neglecting to swallow the quid
when he saw the officer coming to him. One of the hospital nurses (a
convict) got punished, though not quite so severely, for appropriating
to his own use a mutton chop that he was ordered to carry to the pigs.
At that time the authorities kept swine, who got all the food the
patients could not eat, but now it is sold. The prisoner thought, I
presume, that the chop would do a hungry man more good than it would an
over-fed pig. Another prisoner was sentenced twice for having an onion
on his person. One of his fellow-prisoners who was working among these
luxuries gave him one, and as the officer in charge had a grudge
against him, he was taken before the governor, who gave him ten days'
punishment, to which the director afterwards considerately added three
months! Such offences as these were of daily occurrence, but the
punishments for them when detected were very unequal.

It is not often a convict is flogged, but it does happen occasionally.
I remember a young rollicking Irishman being flogged for attempting to
strike an officer, who, as often happens, was far more to blame than
the prisoner, who in this case was goaded and tempted to strike. The
majority of the officers--who are civil and sensible men, considering
their position in society--would have acted very differently.

Another case, where the prisoner not only attempted but did actually
strike his warder rather severely, met with a more lenient punishment.
In this case the prisoner was decidedly to blame, and his punishment,
in technical language, was "six months in chokey with the black dress
and slangs."

These cases were usually disposed of by the director at his monthly
sitting. That gentleman--who was fond of having nothing to
do--generally spent about twenty-four hours in prison per annum, spread
over eleven visits of an average duration of two hours each. Latterly
it was rather difficult for a prisoner to get to see him, and quite
impossible if he had a complaint to make against any of the officials,
which they thought he could establish. I have often thought that this
gentleman's duties could be performed more satisfactorily for a less
salary than one thousand pounds per annum!

Before leaving the hospital, I will now relate a few of the
conversations I had with some of the patients.

"How long have you been unwell?"

"About fifteen months."

"What is the matter with you?"

"Oh! my health has been ruined by the treatment I received in the
Scotch prison before trial."

"How long were you detained waiting trial?"

"Six months."

"Have you been to the public works?"

"Yes, I was at Chatham; but my strength and constitution gave way, and
for a working man I am now ruined for life."

"Did you enjoy your health before you got into prison?"

"I was never a day unwell, and was as stout and as fit for work as any
man in the country."

"What will you do when you get out of prison?"

"God knows! I suppose I shall have to go to the workhouse. I am very
willing to work, but if I don't mend I shall never be able to handle a
tool again."

Another case--

"How long have you been ailing?"

"Ten months."

"What is the matter with you?"

"Oh! I am dying fast. I was seven months in a Scotch jail before trial,
and that is what is killing me."

This prisoner died a few days after he uttered these words. His last
hours were spent in humming over a Scotch ballad he had learnt when a

Another case--

"Well, what's your sentence?"

"Five years."

"How old are you?"


"What did you do outside?"

"I was born in a workhouse, and lived in it for thirteen years, and I
have now been nine years in prison; so that I have not had much liberty
to do anything at all."

"What do you intend doing when you get out this time?"

"I think I shall go hawking bits of things through the country."

"I am afraid you will find it difficult to make a living at hawking?"

"Well I have the prison to come to, where I'll always get my grub."

This prisoner had a delicate constitution, and in his case "hard
labour" was a meaningless sentence, and imprisonment was no punishment
to him whatever. To have made it more severe would have been all the
same to him, as the hospital would then have been his perpetual abode.
Some prisoners were in hospital nearly the whole of their sentence. One
prisoner lay in bed with paralysis upwards of four years, and had to be
lifted out to have his bed arranged several times a day: if he had been
paid to commit a crime he could not have done it.

Another prisoner was in hospital all the years I was in prison, and had
been so for several years previous to my arrival. I only remember his
being in bed a few days on one occasion. I was much interested in
another patient, who ultimately died in prison, and whose history was
rather a singular one. I shall narrate it as he gave it to me:--

"I am what is called a herbalist, or herb doctor. I was brought up in a
workhouse, my parents having died when I was quite a child. I had a
great many brothers and sisters, all of whom died young. I had a very
delicate constitution, and was thought at one time to be dying of the
same disease as carried off my mother and sisters. The doctors gave me
up as being beyond their skill. Well, I had begun to study medical
botany by this time, and I at last discovered herbs that cured me. I
now thought of curing others, and began first with some children
belonging to poor people. I succeeded in almost every case, and as I
charged nothing at all for the medicines, I was called out by all the
poor people in the neighbourhood.

"At last my practice began to interfere with my employment as a weaver,
and my master told me that he was willing to keep me and advance my
wages, but I was on no account to have anything more to do in curing
the sick. Well, I went round my circle of friends to ask their advice,
and they unanimously agreed to support me among them rather than be
deprived of my assistance. I accordingly gave up my place and opened a
herb shop. I studied the properties of herbs constantly. I had no taste
for any other employment. I tried the effects of all of them on myself
first of all, and sometimes on my wife, before I decided on using them,
and I daresay I may have done too much in this way in order to be able
to assure my patients that I had first taken a dose myself. I have read
all the books on the subject, in addition to my own practical
experience; and I will not yield the palm to anyone for having a
knowledge of herbs--I mean as to their medical properties. Well, I
continued in my first shop for about nine years, got married, and had a
comfortable home. About this time a clergyman of my acquaintance
happened to be removing to another county, a considerable distance from
the town where I lived, and as I had cured his wife after all the
regular doctors had given the case up as hopeless, he offered me
52_l._ per annum if I would go to the same place as he was removing to
and open a shop there, and I agreed. I was unfortunate the first year
in not getting many patients, and began to regret that I had left my
old abode. But by-and-bye the news of my cures spread abroad in the
neighbourhood, and I soon had as many patients as I could attend to. I
never advertised a line, and yet I had patients as far away as
Scotland. Ultimately my patients extended to the middle classes, and
that was what brought me here. So long as I confined my labours to the
poor, the regular doctors did not interfere with me, but when I began
to take away their paying patients by the half-dozen, they tried all
they could to damage my character, and get me out of the district."

"What is your sentence?"

"Seven years, and I'll tell you how I got it. I sold a mixture composed
of four different herbs, which is the most effectual medicine for
certain diseases peculiar to females; in fact, it is invaluable to
young unmarried women subject to the complaint I refer to, but,
unfortunately for me, it has also the effect of procuring abortion.
Well, one day a young woman came to me and wished to purchase some of
this medicine. I had cured an unmarried female of her acquaintance, but
before giving her the medicine I cautioned her not to take it if she
was _enciente_, as it would procure abortion. The female who now
applied to me wished it for that very purpose; her husband was a
sailor, she had been faithless in his absence, and she now wished to
keep him in ignorance of her sin. All this, however, I learned only
when too late. I refused to sell the woman the medicine, as I could
see she was married. On being refused, she went to an old woman whose
daughter had taken the medicine, and offered her 3_l._ if she would get
her some of it. Of course, I was not aware of this when the old woman
came to me and asked me for some more of the medicine for her daughter,
as she said. I sold her the medicine, which she gave to the sailor's
wife. It had the desired effect, and she was well and going about in a
couple of days. Her husband now returned, and the old woman demanded
the 3_l._, which the sailor's wife refused to pay. Determined not
to be beaten, she went to the husband and told him all about it. He
called in doctors to report on the case, which they did, adding that
instruments had been used, which was altogether false. The medicine was
easily traced to me. Where I was wrong was, in not having a written
statement from everyone to whom I sold the herbs, in order to have
protected myself against any such charge as was now brought against me.
The doctors, no doubt, believed that instruments had been used, because
they do not know the particular herbs at all, and no one in England
knows them but myself and I do not intend to let many know either--it's
dangerous knowledge; but, as God is my judge, I never used it wilfully
except for the relief of a disease that carries thousands of our
countrywomen to the grave in the very prime of youth. I have been
called to cases over and over again, after all the doctors had given
them up, and I have often restored the pale hectic young woman, in an
advanced stage of consumption, to health and vigour, by the simple use
of herbs--the best of God's gifts to man!"

"What diseases were you most successful with?"

"There is one disease I could never cure, and that's ossification of
the heart, but in the great majority of other diseases I succeeded
wonderfully. Sometimes, of course, I would be called to a consumptive
patient within a few days or hours of his death, when life was so low
as to render it impossible for the medicine to be taken."

"What do you think of the cold-water system and homoeopathy?"

"The cold water may do for some diseases and for some patients only,
but it is nonsense to think to cure all diseases in one way. I am not a
quack. In America there are colleges for teaching my system of curing
disease, regular teachers of medical botany. As for homoeopathy, I
think very little of it. I have known it succeed in cholera cases
sometimes, however, as well as the allopathy. When patients have very
little the matter with them, homoeopathy, or any other 'pathy' they
have confidence in, does all very well, and it fills the purses of the
practitioners, but when real rooted disease has to be encountered, the
herbs that God has given for the use of man are the only trustworthy
means by which to effect a cure. To give you an idea how many are
'gulled,' I may say robbed, by regular doctors, I will give you the
particulars of two cases which happened within my own personal
knowledge. Two men were seized with the same fever, and to all
appearance the patients were about equal in health, strength, and age.
I was called to one, and a regular doctor to the other. The doctor
allowed the fever to come to its height, as it is called. He made
frequent visits, ran up as large a bill as he thought would be duly
paid, and in three or four weeks the patient was at his employment. My
patient was at his work in three days, and all it cost him was a few

"How did you manage to cure him so speedily?"

"I never allow fevers to come to the height; I strike at the root of
the disease. If you were going to build up a house that was out of
repair and encumbered with rubbish, you would naturally clear away the
rubbish first and then begin your repairs. Well, that is just how I go
to work with disease. Every pore of the skin must be cleansed, opened,
and stimulated to action. The stomach must be thoroughly emptied and
cleansed by a particular herb, and the bowels must be effectually
treated in the same way. The house cleansed, I begin my repairs, which
consist in aiding Nature with the most powerful assistance given us by
Nature's God for that purpose, and the work is soon completed. I would
undertake to cure 100 out of the 150 patients here in a fortnight."

"Do you think you could cure yourself?"

"If I had two herbs here I could prolong my days for a long time, I
most thoroughly believe, but they can never touch my disease the way
they go on here--I am dying by inches."

This prisoner (now dead) was quite an enthusiast about herbs, and
succeeded in imparting confidence in his abilities to the officers as
well as the majority of the prisoners. He was to all appearance a man
of good principles, and a Christian. How far his own statements
regarding his crime can be relied on, I cannot say, but that he
succeeded in raising himself from being a poor weaver to be a
money-making and successful herb doctor, I know to be correct. I have
noticed his case chiefly in order to remark that he turned a good many
of the prisoners into pill sellers and incipient quacks, but he never
would tell them about the abortion medicine although he gave them
prescriptions for almost all diseases. I saw them all, and know the
herbs had at least the merit of being innocent. Had he been less
honest, and had the herbs which he prescribed been poisonous, I fancy
that a good many of Her Majesty's faithful, loyal, and gullible
subjects would, long ere now, have returned to the dust from whence
they sprang.



Having recruited my strength in hospital, I was again discharged to
resume my work in prison. Shortly after my return to my old quarters, I
thought I would inform my friends that some of the companions I met
with at the commencement of my prison career, who had longer sentences
than I had, had been fortunate enough to obtain their liberty, and, in
addition, a free passage to Western Australia--which was worth about
20_l._--and that I wished them to try and do something to aid me
in my race for liberty. But my letter was again suppressed, and not
being able by this means to inform my friends of my wishes, I entered
my name once more as being desirous to see the director. I anticipated
meeting the regular visiting director, who very rarely refused a
prisoner the privilege of writing a petition to the Home Secretary, if
he had allowed the usual time (twelve months) to elapse since he had
obtained the privilege before. But I was even in this doomed to
disappointment, and instead of the director I expected to see, I found
myself confronted by the old sinister-looking friend I had been
introduced to on a former occasion. I told him on making my humble
request that I had not petitioned the Home Secretary for several years,
that, in fact, I had not petitioned on the merits of my case at all,
and that I would feel grateful if he would extend to me the privilege,
usually granted to all well-conducted prisoners, of petitioning the
Home Secretary.

Conscience did not seem to be utterly powerless within him, for his
eyes would not meet mine, they remained fixed on the desk before him;
but his head shook, and his lips muttered, "No." I pleaded for a moment
in beseeching tones which might have softened a heart of stone, but
Bassanio's appeal to Shylock was not more futile than mine to him. The
words and gesture with which my suppliant attitude was spurned, roused
all the manhood in me, and for an instant I felt as if I were a free
man and addressing my equal, and in language at once dignified and
firm, I requested a sheet of paper that I might appeal to the Board of
Directors. My altered mien and tone of voice, so unexpected, so unusual
in that secret court, arrested him; his hand trembled, he looked as
Felix might have done when he first heard of "righteousness, temperance
and judgment to come." My request was granted, and my last interview
with a prison director had come and gone. Two days afterwards I wrote a
letter to the board of directors, in suitable language, and addressed
to the chairman of the board, preferring my request. Month after month
passed away, but I waited for a reply in vain. At one time I would have
felt both surprised and annoyed that no notice had been taken of my
letter, but now I knew that I had only experienced the usual treatment
which prisoners receive who have justice on their side. I had now made
three, and only three requests to the officials during my prison
career, and all these had been denied, and I resolved to prefer no
more. I gave my mind healthy exercise in the composition of verses,
when I was not otherwise employed, and to a great extent forgot my
troubles in my puny flight to obtain a sight of the poets' mountain.

The last year of my imprisonment was marked by the arrival of a number
of Fenians, and the departure for freedom of one or two of the very few
prisoners whose society had been a pleasure to me. One of these had
been the editor and proprietor of an influential country newspaper, and
his crime was very similar to my own. He was a man of deep thought, and
far, very far, from being a criminal at heart. He was the best educated
man I met with in prison, and eminently qualified for writing a
treatise on the prevention of crime. The other had been in business in
London, and had brought up a large and respectable family. Having been
accustomed to mix in the society of some of the most eminent of the
city merchants and bankers, his company in such a place as a prison was
a great acquisition. After the departure of these two prisoners I had
only one intimate and intelligent companion left. His case excited my
sympathy, inasmuch as he was a very humble and penitent man, with a
sentence of penal servitude for life. A sentence, I believe, inflicted
not so much for the crime, but on account of the position the prisoner
formerly occupied in society, and "as a warning to others." This is a
formula which, in many cases, is made to sanction monstrous injustice,
and in all cases, I may say, is practically inoperative. The only
parties warned by the fall and punishment of such an one as the
prisoner I here refer to, are those in the same respectable position in
life, because they are the only parties who have it in their power to
commit the same crime. The punishment cannot warn those who are not in
and cannot attain to the position which makes the crime possible, and
who could not find the opportunity to commit it, even if they were paid
to seek it; then why punish such men as this prisoner the more
severely, because he was in that position?

I know it is urged in opposition to that view, that such men ought to
know better, that they have no excuse, and so on, but we must bear in
mind that all who do wrong know it, the poor and the ignorant as well
as the rich and educated, unless they are of unsound mind. Then again,
do those in a good position in society require more warning than those
who have no character or position to lose? It would be difficult, I
think, for anyone to maintain that position! The fact is, that
conviction merely, without any subsequent punishment at all, would be a
much more effective warning to the former class than the gallows even
would be to the latter! The thief plies his trade while the scaffold
frowns overhead, it does not deter him, but the lynx eye of a policeman
would, even although the penalty was a months' imprisonment instead of
the rope. As I have already more than once asserted, it is the fear of
_being caught_ that deters the thief, and this fear increases and
intensifies as we ascend the social ladder; in the case of all first
offenders of the law, the punishment is an after-thought, and on that
account, as well as on higher grounds, we ought to temper justice with
mercy in dealing with all first offenders, more especially with those
who offend against property only.

In the case of the prisoner referred to, his crime would not have
enriched him more than about twenty pounds, had he succeeded in
escaping detection. He committed will-forgery, and of course although
the amount was small, still it was a great crime, but I think there
might be other methods found for punishing such crimes than dooming the
man who commits them to perpetual slavery. I take no notice of the fact
that the prisoner in this case maintained his innocence, I assume that
he was guilty, and I consider his sentence to be unjust and
inexpedient. It is true that this man once sat on the bench and
dispensed justice himself; it is also true that he once entertained the
Queen of Great Britain in his own house, and these facts to some extent
determined the severity of his sentence; I find in them additional
reasons for leniency, inasmuch as only a very feeble warning is
necessary to prevent men in the position he occupied, and exposed to
the same temptation, from following in his steps.

I may now refer to the Fenians, of whom there were six who came to the
prison during the last year of my incarceration. They formed a class of
prisoners quite distinct from all the others, and their crime being
also essentially different, the observation I have made with reference
to the proper treatment of ordinary criminals do not apply to them. In
the phraseology of the convicts, they were a "rum lot."

They took rank between the "Aristoes," and the "Democrats," and formed
an "Irish Brigade." One of them died soon after his arrival: two of
then were head-centres, and enthusiastic in the rebel cause, another
was a literary man, Irish to the backbone, but ready to write for money
on any side of politics. The remaining two were soldiers: one an
American infidel, who cursed Catholics and Fenians alike for getting
him into trouble. He called the Pope, the King-of-the-beggars;
quarrelled with the literary Fenian on the subject of religion, and
true to his profession, enforced his arguments by giving his opponent
what the convicts called a punch in the ear-hole, and extracting the
claret from the most prominent feature in his "counting-house."
According to the literary man, Ireland had one great grievance, and if
that were remedied the Emerald Isle would grow greener than ever. "It
is a splendid country," he said "for growing tobacco, and if the Irish
were allowed to grow that fashionable weed they would be the most
prosperous of peoples." A vulgar Scotchman suggested that Ireland would
be all right if the Irish were "Scotched," and the Fenians all roasted
on a gridiron. The irascible Irishman replied that a Scotchman was the
incarnation of impudence--and hereupon a war of words ensued, until the
officers' attention was attracted and brought it to an abrupt
conclusion. The two head-centres appeared to be intelligent men, but
very unlikely to raise the standard, or maintain the dignity of an
Irish Republic.

One of them was said to be their ablest writer, but the other appeared
the most loyal and enthusiastic Fenian of them all.

With respect to the punishment of political offenders, the system of
restitution which I have advocated would not be suitable, nor would
imprisonment in the county prisons answer well. I should not object to
government acting as jailers over such men, but they ought to be
confined in a prison where they could exercise all their faculties for
their own support, and their sentences should be the "Queen's
pleasure". Some of those in prison might be liberated at once, others
not until the rebellion had been completely extinguished; and the
government, not the judge, should regulate the period of their
confinement. It may be said that the government have power to liberate
such men now, when they choose, which is true enough, but suppose that
the rebellion lasts, or breaks out afresh in four or five years, and
one of the most dangerous members of the fraternity becomes due for his
liberation, they have no power to retain him. This power they ought to
possess in all cases where the sacrifice of human life has been
perpetrated, attempted, or contemplated. I would not allow this
exceptional treatment of political prisoners to interfere, however,
with the fundamental principle I have laid down of making all our
prisons self-supporting.

I return to my numerous companions, the "regular" convicts, and the
following specimens of some of them whom I met during my last months in
prison may not be uninteresting. One day I opened the conversation with
a regular jail-bird, who had promised me some particulars of his
history some time before.

"Well, you promised to give me a little bit of your history this
morning, are you ready to begin?"

"Oh! I don't know where to begin, and I have seen so many ups and
downs, or rather so many downs and downs again, that I could not tell
you a quarter of my history."

"When did you begin to steal first?"

"When I was a kid; I was sent errands by my mother, she gave me money
to buy things for her, and I cheated her often, and a fellow that
cheats his mother, you know, is rather a hopeful youth. But to tell you
the truth I was partly spoiled by my mother, for she allowed me to do
as I liked, and when I grew up I became acquainted with others like
myself, and from prigging apples out of gardens I got to prigging
pockets, and from that I got to be a 'screwsman' and a 'cracksman.' My
first long sentence was seven years' transportation, and I never did a
day's punishment hardly. In those days the 'legs' went on board ship at
once, and were liberated or handed over to a master almost as soon as
they arrived. Well, I completed my time, was two years a whaler, and
went and settled in New Zealand, and that was the time I had most luck.
I was a brick-maker, and made money as fast as I had a mind almost. I
remained in New Zealand about fourteen years, and since I came home I
have never had a day's luck; I went on the 'cross,' and got four years;
after I had finished that bit, I went and lived with a 'moll' I knew,
and spent all my money. When it was done I went out to look for work,
and met with a young fellow who knew what sort of a 'bloke' I was, so
he says 'You are just the fellow I want, Bill; my master goes to the
bank to-morrow morning, and draws the wages money, after he draws it he
puts it in a drawer in his desk, and then goes out for about an hour,
and leaves the office without anyone in it. I have got two keys for the
door and the desk, but as I would be found out if I attempted to take
the cash, I will give you the keys, and we will divide the spoil. As
soon as the way is clear I will hang out a handkerchief and then you
will know that all is right.' Well I took the keys, and went to the
factory at the hour named, I waited some little time, and at last I saw
the signal agreed upon. Up I goes to the door, as if I had a right to
the place, marched boldly into the office, and before you could say
'Jack Robinson' I had the bag full of cash. Well, off I bolts to my
lodging, changed my clothes, and counts nearly one hundred pounds. I
got the half, as arranged, and never wrought a day's work till all was
spent--I spent about one pound per day. After that I took to hawking,
and I might have made a living at it but I got drunk, did a place over,
and got caught in the act, and here I am."

"How many robberies may you have committed?"

"Goodness knows! with the exception of the time I was in New Zealand
I've been always on the 'cross.'"

"What was the largest you ever got?"

"Five hundred pounds."

"I understand, most of these large robberies are 'put up' jobs, like
the one you have mentioned?"

"Yes, most of them are; the risk would be too great if that was not the

"Have you ever been flogged?"

"Yes, severely."

"How did you like it?"

"Like it! why not at all, of course; who would like a flogging?"

"Would the chance of getting another flogging not deter you from
committing another crime?"

"I would as soon be 'topt' as be flogged now, because a good bashing
would kill me; but no fear of punishment would deter me, if I saw my
way clear to get off. I never do a job until I feel certain I'll
escape. If I'm caught that's my fault, and I must chance the
punishment, whatever it may be. Another 'legging' would kill me, but if
I cannot get a living at hawking I will be forced to go on the 'cross,'
and 'God help the man that tries to catch me.' These places are getting
so hot that a fellow had better commit murder and be 'topt' at once."

"If you had a safe where would you place it to be most secure?"

"In the street, and then your servants couldn't put you away."

"How would you carry your gold watch if you had one?"

"Well, I would have one with a patent bow, and I would take care not to
flash my chain. If you keep your chain out of sight you are pretty safe
as long as you are sober, and every man who gets drunk ought to lose
his watch; the thief should get a reward for doing that job. It's safer
of course to carry the watch in the fob than in the waistcoat pocket,
particularly if the chain is exposed, but it can easily be taken from
any part, if the chain is seen, unless you have a catch in your pocket
to hold it. You know the way we do is to twist the bow of the watch and
it breaks in a second."

"What do you get for a watch, usually?"

"From three to six pounds, according to the value of the watch."

"That seems a very low price to get for a good gold watch?"

"Yes, but five pounds, I assure you, is considered a good price by the
man who stands 'fence,' and if a fellow can get eight or ten in a day
he may do very well at that, but I have not done any 'buzzing' for a
long time, I am too old for that game, and I can't afford to run a risk
for five pounds. This hot work in prison will make thieves look after
larger stakes."

"I would recommend you very strongly to go on the square when you get
out, and not on the cross; you might easily make a better living by
hawking than at this weary work, at all events."

"I mean to go on the square as long as I can do without working, I am
not able for hard work and I do not intend to do any more, neither in
nor out of prison; but if I can't make a living honestly you may be
sure I shall not starve."



The following are specimens of the conversations which take place among
the prisoners as they meet in the ordinary course of their prison
employment. They were quite unaware that there was anyone near
listening to them, or taking more than an ordinary interest in their
remarks to each other, and my report may be taken as a perfectly
accurate representation of ordinary convict conversation and

"Well, Dick, how are you?"

"Oh! pretty well, Ned, how's yourself?"

"Well, I'm among the middlings only. That beastly bad cheese they gave
us yesterday hasn't agreed with me, and I think I shall hook it up to
the 'farm'[21] for a week or two, and get a change of diet before going
home. I am only waiting to get a bit of 'snout,' and then I shall send
in a sick report. Have you heard what Larry and Tim have got this
morning? Larry's got three days' bread and water, seven days'
penal-class diet, and 'blued' fourteen days' remission; and Tim's got
three days."

      [21] Hospital.

"Well, Larry partly deserves it. He was a fool to let the 'screw' see
he had the 'snout;' but what was Tim's offence?"

"Speaking to a fellow in the ranks, and merely saying 'It was a fine
morning;' he'll get turned out of the cook-house, too. It's a ----
shame, when other fellows talk away in the ranks every day. I say, what
day do you go home?"

"I ought to go on the 2nd, but these ---- licenses will be late again,
no doubt, and very likely I shall not go before the 10th or 20th of the
month. Have you any message for me to carry out?"

"Do you remember 'Big Croppy?'"


"Well, he's been to my wife since he went out, and told her all manner
of lies. He's told her that I accuse her of going with another man, and
she has been to my mother and told her that she is not going to write
to me any more, nor to live with me again. I have been to ask for a
special sheet of paper to write and tell them that it is all lies
Croppy has told them; but the ---- governor won't grant me paper. So,
as I am not due to write for nearly three months, I wish you would call
on my mother and my wife, and tell them how things stand."

"I will, you may depend upon that, and I'll get some 'bloke' to give
Croppy a pair of black eyes for his pains, the ---- swine."

"Here comes Pat.--Well, Pat, have you heard that Larry and Tim have
gone to chokey?"

"Yes," replied Pat; "but what screw reported Tim?"

"That leather-skinned cranky old terrier over there reported Tim, and
the 'bloke' with the peg-top whiskers reported Larry."

"Bad 'cess to the 'terrier!' I have a good mind to punch him in the

"That would fetch a bashing, Pat."

"Troth, and I've had a bashing once afore, and what I've had once I can
do with agin."

"Did you holloa when you were bashed?"

"Holloa! by the piper, I sang out--

    'The seeds of repentance, how can they take root,
    When I'm ruled by a tyrant and flogged like a brute;
    The plant of revenge is more likely to sprout
    When such monsters of jailers go strutting about.'

"And I called them all the horrid names I could think on, and they were
wild when they saw I was game."

"Where were you bashed?"

"At Bermuda; and by the piper, they once flogged men before the altar
there, and then called the prisoners into chapel and preached to them
about forgiving one another, and showing mercy to one another, the ----

"What are you here for this time?"

"Oh, nothing at all. I am like the bloke in the song--

    'One day as I passed I looked into the kitchen,
      Where I saw a pot boiling, but not for poor Pat;
    For love and for thieving I'd always an itchin',
      So I took out the mutton and put in the cat.'"

"I understand there was a great many unnatural crimes committed at

"Oh! shocking. The young lads would go about with their pockets full of
money, and their hair decked up like girls. It was disgusting, 'pon my
word; and do you know what the authorities called it when cases were
brought before them?"


"Why, 'malicious gambling.' That was to deceive the public, you know.
There was plenty of 'snout' knocking about in all the prisons in those
days, and a fellow hadn't to go a day without a taste as he has to do
now sometimes. We used to have lots of rum at Bermuda, as well as
'snout,' and first-rate liquor, too. By the piper! I wish I had a drop

"How much could you do with?"

"A wee drop in a bucket, about two hoops up. The last time I'd a drop
o' rum in me, do you know what I did? I had on a very shabby coat, all
torn at the elbows, and only one tail to it, so I spied a country bloke
with his girl, dressed out in new toggery. I says to my pal, 'I say,
O'Shockady, there's a new coat on that bloke's back that I must have on
mine; he is just about my size. You go up and be messing about with his
girl, and you'll see he will guard and offer to fight. You take off
your coat and put up your 'props' to him, and get him to strip also.
Well, I'll come up and see fair play, and while you're at the fists
I'll leave my tog and take his, d'ye twig?' Well, up O'Shockady went,
and, my crikey! if you had seen how the bloke fired up when his girl
was insulted! why, his coat was off in a jiffey, and it was soon
farther off than he could catch, I can tell you. After I got round the
corner O'Shockady gave in to the bloke and bolted, leaving him in his
shirt-sleeves to escort the girl."

"That reminds me," said Dick, "of an affair I was once in. When I was a
lad I ran away from home. I was afraid to go back, lest I should get a
bashing. At that time there was a woman in the High Street of
Edinburgh, who took in lads situated as I was, and made them go out and
steal, to pay her for their lodging. There were about twenty of us in
the house at the time I went; some of them wenches and some of them
young chaps like myself. Well, one night we were rather hard up and we
wanted a good feed, so five or six of us set out, along with a great
stout fellow, and we actually stole a whole sheep that was hanging at a
butcher's door, and the big chap swagged it home. The old woman had it
put in the bed, and covered it with the bed-clothes, as if it was a
sick person; and the 'bobbies' found it there before she had time to
get it cooked for us, and, by jingo! we were all marched up to the
'lock-up' over it. Well, I got thirty days over that job. When I came
out of jail I went to a fair in the neighbourhood, and I prigged a
countryman's 'poke' as he was standing at one of those barrows where
they shoot for nuts; and, by the piper! the 'copper' saw me and marched
me off to the station. But just before coming out of the crowd I got
twisted round a little behind the 'bobby,' and I passed the purse into
his pocket. Well, off we marched to the station, and when we arrived
there the policeman swore that I stole a purse, and that I had it on
me, as he saw me put it into my pocket. They searched me, but of course
found nothing, and I got off. Determined not to lose the 'poke,' which
had a good many 'quids' in it, I watched the 'copper,' and prigged it
out of his pocket again. It was the same 'bobby' as got me this bit,
and I told him then all about it."

"I once," chimed in Ned, "buzzed a woman on the 'fly,' and got her poke
with eighteen bob in it; she soon missed it, and I saw her go into a
shop, and watched her crying to the shopkeeper and telling him that she
had got all her husband's earnings for the week stolen. Well, I knew
she was a poor woman by that, and I went up and asked her if she had
lost a purse, as I had found one. She said she had, and I gave it to
her again. Now, mind you, I was very hard up at the time, but I don't
hold with stealing from poor people. Men that have more than they know
what to do with in a country where thousands are starving, ought to
have some of it taken from them: that I call 'fairation.' I once
prigged a priest's pocket, and he collared me and said, 'Well, if you
think you have a better right to that purse than I have, you may keep
it.' 'Well, sir,' I said, 'I'm very hard up, and as there are only a
few shillings in it I hope you will allow me to keep them,' and, by
jingo! if the good old fellow didn't let me off, blessings on his head
for it. One of the narrowest escapes I ever had was one time I prigged
a poke with only seven shillings and sixpence in it. The copper saw me,
and chased me like Jehu. Well, I out with the money, pitched the purse
away, so that it could not be easily got again; and, one by one, I
swallowed the coins, and just as I was getting the sixpence down my
throat the 'bobby' had a hold of me by the collar. Of course he was too
late. I hadn't a rap in my pockets, but it was very near a 'legging'
for me. I had another narrow escape not long before I got this bit. I
knew a gentleman's house where they laid out the breakfast dishes on
the table for an hour before they took breakfast. During this hour the
room was left untenanted, and the window left open to let in the air.
Well, I bolted in and 'nicked' a nice silver teapot, cream jug, and one
or two other things, and off I started home, where I 'planted' the
articles, and then went to bed. Shortly afterwards a bobby came to the
door, and although I told them to say I was not at home, to get him
kept from coming in, by jingo! I soon found he was coming to search the
house. So I bolted out of bed like a shot, put my clothes into a
drawer, and up I went through a sort of trap-door on to the roof of the
house, and perched myself behind the chimney of the next house, with
nothing on but my shirt and stockings; I hadn't time even to get my
trousers pulled on. Oh! didn't I sit shivering there till they gave me
the tip that all was right in the house. The 'toff' that owned the
'wedge' made a dreadful song about it next day, and him wallowing in
wealth, what do you think of that? The copper knew I did that job, and
had me up on suspicion some time after, and gave me a drag (three
months) over it. The next bit I did was a 'sixer' (six months), and I
escaped from prison in about three weeks after I got it. Soon after
that I got this seven 'stretch' (years), and, by the piper! I'll take
care and not get the next for nothing!"

"Oh! crikey," cried Pat, "here's a new screw come; what has he been, I

"Where is he?" said Ned.

"Yonder; he is coming this way, with a tall complexion, a leg o' mutton
whisker, and a pock-marked shirt," replied Pat.

"Why, he's a big fellow?"

"Big! I should think he was. He is like a double-breasted beer barrel.
He's been a screw at some other prison; you can see that by the cut of
his jib."

"Oh! I know him," said Dick, "he's from Dartmoor; he is not a bad sort
of fellow, that. He is straightforward, and if ever he takes a prisoner
before the governor he speaks the truth, and you know they don't all do
that, by a long way."

"How long were you at the Moor, Dick?"

"Three years; but it's not like the same place now. Oh! we had rare
sport there at one time. There was an old half 'barmey' chap when I was
there, who was once admitted to the 'communion,' and it happened to be
his turn to get the wine first, and, by the piper! if he didn't drink
every drop that was in the cup, and cried, 'Oh! that's fine! I do love
this! I do love this!' We had plum pudding at Christmas in those days,
and the roughs did anything they liked almost, if they didn't strike a
screw. There was too much license there then, but now it's all the
other way. What good is this humbugging system going to do us? If they
want to keep us out of prison why don't they get work for us that we
can earn a proper living at?"

"Oh! they're a lot of jackasses, that's what they are; they don't know
what to do with us," said Ned.

"Look at this classification, and these marks and badges," said Dick,
"why, isn't it scandalous the way the public are gulled? First there
were big leather badges, that would cost probably a thousand pounds at
all the prisons. Then these were done away with, and we had badges half
the size, and then, after a few weeks, these were replaced by bits of
cloth. I wonder what they mean by all these changes of dress? Do they
think it punishes us?"

"No doubt they do."

"What fools they must be; what do we care what we wear in prison, as
long as it isn't thin rags that won't keep out the cold. Oh, have you
read that article in one of the periodicals about the Andaman Islands?"


"Well, the bloke who writes it proposes to send convicts out there, and
keep them for life and compel them to marry prostitutes or female
convicts, and then when the 'kids' are grown to take them away from
them! The fool! why, all convicts haven't life sentences, and does he
think that they would remain out there and do as he liked after their
time was up? It isn't likely."

"Why, that would be worse than the slave trade," said Ned, "and
wouldn't there be a nice crop of murders there? Why, they would require
to get a factory specially for making hemp ropes to hang the culprits."

"Who is it that writes the article?" asked Pat.

"A government commissioner, but he does not give his name."

"Troth, and I should be ashamed to give it if I was he; I propose he
should be taken and compelled to marry a 'tail,'[22] and sent out to try
it himself first; why such men are not fit to live, and these are
Christians! those are the men who do unto others as they wish to be
done by, God help us!"

      [22] Prostitute.

"Have you heard what the director did when he was down on Saturday?"
enquired Ned.

"A precious sight of good he does to be sure," replied Dick, "why he
has given orders that no prisoner is to be allowed to see him about the
food and the marks, and you must tell the chief warder what you want to
see the director about before you can be allowed to go before him.
Isn't that a pretty thing? What a nice easy way of earning a thousand a
year the director has?"

"What has caused this fresh order?"

"There were two causes--three of the convalescent invalids went to the
director to ask to be able-bodied in order to get the able-bodied diet.
They are doing as much work now, except that they are not quite so long
at it, but they are willing to work for the diet the same as the
others. The director refused to allow them to work more, and of course
they can't get the grub, and he gave orders that no more of such cases
should be allowed to come before him. Another case was this--two
fellows saved their cheese on the sly for several weeks, and in this
way managed to have each about four cheeses beside them. Well, one of
them told the officials what he was going to do, and the other kept his
intentions secret. The first one went before the director and asked him
if he would be kind enough to look at the cheese he had been supplied
with for some weeks, and see whether it was the quality it ought to
have been. The governor chimed in at once, and said that this was the
only complaint he had heard about the cheese, and that all the other
prisoners were satisfied. The prisoner was then bounced out of the
room, and threatened with a 'report' if he complained again. Well the
next man was called, and this happened to be the other 'bloke' with the
four cheeses. Before going in he took them out of his pocket, and what
do you think they did? Why, he wasn't allowed to go before the director
at all; they squared him and coaxed him, and at last persuaded him not
to insist on seeing the director at all, by threatening to send him to
the refractory cells for having four cheeses on his person, which was
quite contrary to the prison rules! Isn't it a ---- shame the way the
head blokes go on? How can they expect a fellow to reform when they rob
us of our food and show us a bad example?"

"What o'clock is it, Pat; d'ye see the clock there?"

"It wants a quarter to three; I say, Dick, will you give me a mutton
for a pudding, that beastly stuff lays heavy on my stomach, and I know
you are fond of it."

"I don't mind, but how are you to get it sent to me?"

"I'll send it by some fellow in our ward who works in your gang."

"I am hard up for snout," said Ned, "can you give us a bit, Pat? Upon
my word I've just had one old pipe head for the last three days and it
wasn't up to much, it had been too much used."

"Well, I'll lend you an inch or two, but I hope you will soon pay me
back; why there is none to be had now under a bob an ounce; but I say,
Ned, if you should get another legging I would advise you to declare
yourself a Jew. You look something like a sheeney at any rate. Why look
at that old 'Chickarlico;' he goes twice a week to school and has two
Sundays every week, besides ever so many feast days."

"Oh, I can do another 'bit,' no matter whether I am Jew, Turk, or
Christian; but if I get an easy job I mean to go on the square, upon my
word I do."

"Who'll employ you, do you think?"

"Why, I shall go to the society."

"The society be ----! they will not do you any good."

"I believe it is under new management now, and they don't cheat a
fellow out of his gratuity as they used to do; but I think it's a wrong
name to give it--The Prisoners' Aid Society! the very cases requiring
most aid they won't assist at all, and unless a fellow is stout and
hearty and has got some gratuity they won't have anything to do with
him. If I had only a few shillings coming due to me they would not aid
me, but as I have five or six pounds they will, now that looks
suspicious. Then, if I had lost a leg, like that bloke over there, they
wouldn't aid me. But if I don't go to the society I will, perhaps, go
to Ireland and give them a turn there."

"Oh!" said Pat, "you'll find nothing that wants lifting there."

"Have you been to Spike Island, Pat?"


"What sort of place is it, and what about this Irish system?"

"Oh! the place is something like the public works here, and as for the
Irish System--I can see nothing in it except that they get most of the
prisoners sent to America, and if they would send _us_ there, we
might get a living too, without going on the cross! There are not many
regular prigs in the Irish prisons. Many of them are fellows who got
into trouble in some drunken row, and the people in Ireland are not so
prejudiced against convicts as the English are, so that work is easier
got; another thing is when your time is near up you are trusted a
little, and get some liberty to go about. In this way the authorities
can see who's who. Then the numbers are fewer altogether, and a small
lot of men are easier dealt with, you know, than many thousands. It
wouldn't work quite so well here, but the great thing is sending the
prisoners abroad in some way or other. Do you know that Lafferty and
Badger are going to be sent to New Orleans, by the Catholic Aid

"No! what will Lafferty do there?"

"Oh! he must go on the cross, I expect, but Badger is able to work.
He's a very good 'buzzer,' is Lafferty, mind you, and he might do very
well out there."

"Well, the time's up Ned, I suppose you'll be going up to the 'farm'
to-night, and we sha'n't see you again. Well, old fellow, take care of
old Tommy's black draughts, and look after yourself when you get out.

"Good-bye, old fellow, good luck to ye."

"Fall in."

"There's the officer shouting 'fall in.'"

"Well, ta ta."

"Ta ta."



During the last year of my imprisonment a bill relating to the crimes
of murder and manslaughter was brought before Parliament, and the
discussion in the House of Commons which ensued was much commented upon
by the prisoners. About the same time I read a lecture touching on the
same subject, which had been delivered to the Young Men's Christian
Association, at Exeter Hall, and it may not be out of place here if I
venture to express my opinion on the subject as well, possessing as I
do the advantage over most of those who have discussed it out of doors,
in having heard the opinions of those likely to commit such crimes, and
having a familiar acquaintance with their habits, and the motives from
which they act. The reverend lecturer to whom I have referred, based
his argument for the continued infliction of capital punishment on the
perpetual obligation of the Mosaic law: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by
man shall his blood be shed." He also maintained, if I understand him
rightly, that the office of the hangman ought to be considered the
highest object of human ambition, and that the hangman himself should
take precedence of archbishops, kings, and emperors, inasmuch as he
occupied the position of Almighty God, taking vengeance for the
shedding of human blood. I confess I can scarcely conceive of a
Christian man occupying such a position, neither can I agree with the
reverend lecturer that the command given to Noah was intended to extend
to all generations and societies of men. When it was promulgated there
were only a few individuals left to people the universe, and the
command was made _absolute_. There is no intimation of any distinction
between the deliberate and the accidental shedding of human blood, and
until some such distinction is made our conceptions of the eternal
rectitude and justice of God, must be of a very peculiar and imperfect
kind. That some distinction ought to be made is a fact which men in all
ages and of all degrees of civilization have recognized, and have found
their authority for making such a distinction, not in any spoken or
written law, but in a much higher and older law than these, the
universal conscience of mankind. That such a distinction was found
necessary as the race became more numerous, is conclusively shown by
the promulgation of the Mosaic law: "He that smiteth a man so that he
die shall be surely put to death, and if a man lie not in wait, but God
deliver him into his hand, then I will appoint thee a place whither he
shall flee." (Ex. xxi., 12, 13.) This was a great modification of the
original injunction, and also shows clearly, to my mind at least, that
all human punishments should be regulated by the condition of the
people for whose benefit they are designed. Again, in the same chapter
from which I have already quoted, I find the following, "Thou shalt
give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot
for foot, &c.," a law evidently designed for a semi-barbarous people,
and admitting of prompt administration and summary execution. Turning
to the Christian law on the subject we find, "Ye have heard that it
hath been said an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, _but I_
say unto you that ye resist not evil." This would appear to introduce a
new principle of forbearance, and if we refer to the case of the woman
taken in adultery, where the legal penalty was death, we find that
mercy, and not vengeance, is the principle on which our penal code
ought to be based.

But leaving scriptural grounds and descending to those of expediency
merely. Does capital punishment deter men from committing murder more
effectually than perpetual imprisonment would? I believe that 999 out
of every 1000 of our convicts even would not commit deliberate murder,
although the penalty was only a few months' imprisonment and detection
_certain_, unless under peculiar temptation or provocation. It is
a crime naturally abhorrent even to the thief, and the majority of
those men capable of committing wilful murder would on the whole, I
believe, prefer to be hanged out of their misery, than remain in prison
all their life. If all hope of release could be utterly extinguished,
very few of such men would chance perpetual imprisonment, if they had
it in their option. Of course we could not banish hope from the minds
of all, and therefore many would at first cling to life, and after a
few years seek death as a release from bondage, and even commit suicide
rather than endure such suffering longer. I knew one prisoner who
pleaded to be hanged, and others who would certainly prefer execution
if they had no hope of ultimate liberty. The general opinion of those
who had been in prison ten or twelve years out of a 'life' sentence was
in favour of execution at once, as being the less dreadful alternative,
so that with respect to punishment as a deterring influence, I have no
doubt that perpetual imprisonment would be more efficacious than the
capital sentence.

Those who are capable of deliberately taking human life with the view
of obtaining money, may be divided into two classes. The one class
comprising such as prisoners who perpetrate the crime cunningly and in
secret, in the firm belief that they will escape detection; the other
class are the highwaymen and garotters, who go daringly and violently
to work, pretty sure in their own minds that they will be clever enough
to escape.

With regard to the former class, the deterring influence is detection.
Capital sentence, perpetual imprisonment, or even a less severe
sentence would operate equally in preventing the commission of the
crime in their case, because the idea is not generally present in their
mind when they premeditate it, or is completely outweighed by the fear
of detection or discovery. With reference to the second and bolder
class, a lingering imprisonment would appear more horrible in their
estimation, and exercise an equal if not a greater deterring influence
than the scaffold. Some of those men with whom I have met would glory
in dying 'game' as they term it. Those who commit murder in order to
gratify feelings of revenge, usually, I believe, find the gratification
of the passion so sweet that they are for the time quite regardless of
their own lives; and when jealousy is the cause of murder, it often
happens that the murderer takes the law into his own hands and visits
upon himself the penalty. I met cases in point, and in none of them did
the fear of the death sentence operate against the perpetration of
crime. They had made up their minds to lose their lives, and did not
calculate on escape. Such cases are not common, however, and perhaps it
is not possible to prevent them occurring.

Those murders perpetrated for the love of money might to some extent be
prevented by the general elevation of the mass of society, and by
increasing the swiftness and certainty of detection; and I have come,
after long study of the subject, and from frequent contact with those
saved from the gallows, to the conclusion that capital punishment may
now be safely abolished in this country. In all countries where
secondary punishments are severe and capital punishments rigorously
inflicted, murders are numerous, and in countries where the machinery
for the detection of crime is defective it may be the same. Earl
Russell, in a late edition of his work on the constitution, expresses
opinions on this subject with which I coincide, but I disagree with him
when he prescribes imprisonment and hard labour as being the most
suitable method of dealing with criminals not capitally punished; I
refer, of course, to imprisonment and hard labour as generally

There are three systems of imprisonment: the solitary, the separate and
silent, and the promiscuous association of all prisoners at the public

The solitary system feeds the lunatic asylums, the separate system has
its advantages, if not too long continued, and of the promiscuous
association system I have already at some length given my opinion.

In my humble estimation a prison ought to be a place for extracting as
much usefulness as possible out of a prisoner for the benefit of that
society whose laws he has offended; but the "hard labour" in our
prisons is not useful in any sense of the word, either to the prisoner
or society, it is sheer waste of energy, which is in itself an evil,
and it gives the prisoner an aversion to labour of all kinds, which is
another and a much greater evil. Moreover, long imprisonments are
injurious to the prisoner under any discipline. If you take a bird, and
place it in a cage, and next day liberate it, it will ever retain a
dread of confinement; but, if you keep it in a prison for years, and
then open the cage door, instead of the sudden eager flight to freedom,
it will hover round its little prison, perhaps it will even re-enter
it, preferring it to that liberty which it has lost the power to enjoy.
So it is with many prisoners, keep them confined, and accustom them for
years to prison life, such as it is in the most approved "models," or
indeed under any conceivable mode of discipline consistent with
unshortened life in such a place, and they will re-enter the world in a
great measure, unfitted for the business of life.

I remember having a conversation with an intelligent prisoner who was
by no means a criminal at heart. He asked me what means would I
recommend for the destruction of these schools of crime?--for so he
called the convict prisons.

"Sentence Charles Dickens to ten years' penal servitude, and allow him
to use his pen," I replied.

"Well," he said, "I daresay that might do, especially if those intended
for our future judges were sentenced along with him; but why should we
not try to enlighten the public when we are liberated?"

"You might do so," I replied, "and I sincerely hope you will do so; but
I fear, like the down of a thistle on an elephant's back, so would the
words of a convict fall upon the public ear!"

"Look at Napoleon III.," said my friend, "he is an ex-convict, and do
his words fall lightly on the public ear?"

"His is hardly a case in point," I said; "the greater the criminal, or
rather the higher the object he endeavours unlawfully to obtain, the
less prejudiced is society against him. They regard these Fenians for
instance in a different light to us, yet these men at bottom are or
would be wholesale destroyers of human life, whilst we had no intention
of doing anyone any injury either in person or property. We are loyal,
they are traitors. We would willingly lay down our lives to regain our
lost characters and attain to an honourable and useful position in
society; they will go out of prison rebels, ready to take up arms
against all authority save that of their misguided chiefs, whenever
they can do so with apparent safety! Yet these men will be more
favourably received by society than you or I will be. You will find
when you get free that your position will be very different from what
it was, and that anything you say will be viewed with suspicion, as
coming from a prejudiced and untrustworthy person, and a well-told
falsehood by an official will far outweigh the whole truth if related
by a prisoner."

"I could now prove," said my friend, "by the Blue Books, that most of
the reports sent to the Home Office regarding these establishments are
unreliable, and calculated to deceive and mislead the public as well as
the government."

"You will require to be very guarded," I replied; "and above all things
adhere strictly to the truth, and if you can gain the ear of some
eminent man who takes an interest in the question, you might be the
means of doing your country much service."

In consequence of such conversations as the one I have just related, I
was led to form the idea of giving this narrative to the public. If it
should lead to any change or modification in our criminal law,
conducive to the welfare and security of society, I shall consider that
my labours have not been altogether vain and unprofitable.

A change of government having taken place during the last year of my
imprisonment I had the good fortune to get a few months' more remission
of sentence than might otherwise have been the case.

While I feel truly thankful to those noblemen and gentlemen and other
friends who interceded for me, my special gratitude is due to Mr.
Walpole, for the promptitude he displayed in acknowledging my claim to
the few months' mitigation of punishment it was in his power to bestow.

On a Friday morning I was unexpectedly called before the governor, and
informed that my license had arrived. I was asked certain particulars
in reference to my future intentions and address. I was next measured
for a shoe, the only decent and honest article of clothing I ever
received in prison; tried on a suit of clothes, and had my portrait
taken. On the Saturday morning I was weighed and measured, and taken
before the chaplain to receive a few formal words of parting advice. On
the following Monday I was again taken before the governor to hear my
license read. On Tuesday morning I was removed to Millbank Prison, and
lodged there for the night, in a cell along with two other prisoners
going to liberty like myself. We slept on narrow dirty mattresses, laid
on the floor, so close as to be touching each other. One of my new
companions had been nearly four years in the lunatic asylum at
Fisherton, and had recovered. The other was a young professional thief,
belonging to London, whose mind was just on the verge of insanity,
through long confinement in separate cells. To sleep on the floor of a
dusty cell, between two such companions, was not quite so comfortable
as a bed in the Hotel Meurice, at Paris, where I had spent my last free
night. Every moment that divided me from the hour of my liberation now
seemed magnified into days. Wednesday morning at last dawned upon me. I
was taken out and placed before a regiment of policemen, who each
scrutinized me, and that done I received my license. With feelings of
inexpressible thankfulness and gratitude to God I heard the heavy
prison doors close behind me, and once more I inhaled the sweet free
air of Heaven!

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I trudged along the streets, in my
shabby clothes and with my deal crutch. I felt a new punishment
creeping over me, even whilst the glorious sun of freedom was shedding
its welcome rays on my dishonoured head.

With nineteen shillings and threepence in my pocket, but with my
reputation lost, my health ruined, alone and a cripple, whom no
"Prisoners' Aid Society" would assist, I was expected to begin anew the
battle of life!

While I write these lines the bitterness of my new punishment has
already visited me. Repulsed from every door where I seek employment,
waiting patiently for the replies to my applications for advertised
situations, which never come, the brand of the convict has indeed
become the very mark of Cain, and I feel as if my fellowmen shrink from
me as they pass. Fortunately I found at the post-office a few pounds
sent to me from my brother, which, with slight additions, have enabled
me to procure a mechanical leg, and to live till I have completed this
narrative. But what is the fate of the many so situated, with no
friends to help them, save the workhouse or the prison once again? A
dreary life amongst paupers, or a short life of pleasure and crime, and
long years of bondage to atone for it. Do you wonder if some choose the
latter?... May you, gentle reader, never know what it is to lose your
limb, your liberty, your character, or your home. May my history prove
a beacon to warn you from the quicksands of ambition, on which so many
human souls are wrecked, and may your little barque, wafted by gentle
sunny gales, be safely steered across the great ocean of life, and at
last be securely moored in that haven where blessedness and peace for
ever reign!


_Consultat Général de France en Angleterre._

Londres, le 1^er September, 1863.

Le Consul Général de France a Londres a l'honneur de transmettre á
Monsieur ----, avec prière de vouloir bien lui en accuser réception,
une lettre et une médaille qui lui sont destinées.

Monsieur ----, _Negociant_.

_Ministere de l'Agriculture du Commerce, et des Travaux
Public--Secrétarian Général, Mèdaille._

Paris, le 22 Juin, 1863.

Monsieur à la suite du traité de commerce conclu le 23 Janvier, 1860,
entre la France et la Grande Bretagne, le Gouvernement de Sa Majesté
l'Empereur a du procéder à une enquète dont les résultats devaient le
mettre à mème de determiner les Tarifs des droit d'importation en
France des produits fabriqués en Angleterre. Pour Consacrer le Souvenir
de cette enquête, l'une des plus importantes de ce genre qui aient été
faites en France, le Gouvernement à fait frapper une médaille
commemorative et il a décidé qu'un exemplaire en bronze de cette
médaille serait mis à la disposition des Industriels qui ont déposé
dans l'enquéte. J'ai l'honneur, Monsieur, de vous adresser à ce titre
l'exemplaire qui vous est destiné. Recevez, Monsieur, l'assurance de ma
consideration tres distinguée.

Le Ministre de l'Agriculture, du Commerce et des Travaux Public,


Monsieur ----, _Negociant_.

[It is requested that any further communication on the subject be
addressed to the Secretary to the Board of Trade, Whitehall, London,

_Office of Committee of Privy Council for Trade_,

Whitehall, 9th May, 1861.


I am directed by the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade
to transmit to you the accompanying Volume, which contains the evidence
taken by the Counseil Supêrieur du Commerce on the Industries of
England and France, during their recent enquiry at Paris, in connection
with the Commercial Treaty between the two countries. In requesting
your acceptance of this Work, of which a limited number of Copies has
been placed at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government by the
Government of France, I am to convey to you the best thanks of this
Board for the valuable assistance which you rendered upon that
occasion, both to the Counseil Supêrieur and to the British

I am, Sir,

Your obedient Servant,


_Order of License to a Convict, made under the Statutes 16 & 17 Vic.,
c. 99, s. 9; and 27 & 28 Vic., c. 47, s. 4._

        Whitehall, ---- day of ---- 18--

Her Majesty is graciously pleased to grant to ---- who was convicted of
---- on the ---- day of ---- 18--, and was then and there sentenced to
be kept in penal servitude for the term of ----, and is now confined
in the ---- Her Royal License to be at large from the day of his
liberation under this order, during the remaining portion of his said
term of penal servitude, unless the said ---- shall, before the
expiration of the said term, be convicted of some indictable offence
within the United Kingdom, in which case such License will be
immediately forfeited by law, or unless it shall please Her Majesty
sooner to revoke or alter such License.

This License is given subject to the conditions endorsed upon the same,
upon the breach of any of which it shall be liable to be revoked,
whether such breach is followed by a conviction or not. And Her Majesty
hereby orders that the said ---- be set at liberty within Thirty days
from the date of this order.

Given under my hand and seal.

Signed, S. H. WALPOLE.

_True Copy_              } E. Y. W. HENDERSON,
_License to be at large._} Chairman of the Directors of Convict Prisons.

                 *      *      *      *      *      *


1.--The holder shall preserve his License, and produce it when called
upon to do so by a Magistrate or Police Officer.

2.--He shall abstain from any violation of the law.

3.--He shall not habitually associate with notoriously bad characters,
such as reputed thieves and prostitutes.

4.--He shall not lead an idle or dissolute life, without visible means
of obtaining an honest livelihood.

If his License is forfeited or revoked in consequence of a Conviction
for any Offence, he will be liable to undergo a term of Penal Servitude
equal to the portion of his term of ---- years which remained unexpired
when his License was granted, _viz._:--the term of two years and
eleven months.

                 *      *      *      *      *      *


He shall report himself to the Police on discharge, and subsequently
once in each month; and if he changes his residence from one Police
District to another, he shall report himself to the Police of the
locality he leaves, and to the Police of that to which he goes, within
three days of his arrival: if he fails to do so, his License will be

                 *      *      *      *      *      *

In the foregoing "Ticket-of-leave" the word Licence is spelt with an
_s._ In the Police Documents it is spelt with a _c._--So much for the
education of Government Officials.

                 *      *      *      *      *      *


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