Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Mystic London: - or, Phases of occult life in the metropolis
Author: Davies, Charles Maurice, 1828-1910
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 "Mystic London: - or, Phases of occult life in the metropolis" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



produced from images generously made available by Case
Western Reserve University Preservation Department Digital
Library)



  +------------------------------------------------------------+
  | Transcriber's Note:                                        |
  |                                                            |
  | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in        |
  | this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of   |
  | this document.                                             |
  | Text printed using the Greek alphabet in the original book |
  | is shown as follows: [Greek: pistis]                       |
  +------------------------------------------------------------+



MYSTIC LONDON:

OR,

PHASES OF OCCULT LIFE IN THE METROPOLIS.

BY

REV. CHARLES MAURICE DAVIES, D.D.
AUTHOR OF "ORTHODOX" AND "UNORTHODOX LONDON," ETC.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
 Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
                                    _Hamlet._

LONDON: TINSLEY BROTHERS, 8, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND. 1875.
[_All rights of Translation and Reproduction are reserved._]

LONDON:
SAVILL, EDWARDS AND CO., PRINTERS, CHANDOS STREET,
COVENT GARDEN.



CONTENTS.


   CHAP.                                                    PAGE

      I. LONDON ARABS                                          1

     II. EAST LONDON ARABS                                    11

    III. LONDON ARABS IN CANADA                               21

     IV. WAIFS AND STRAYS                                     29

      V. A LUNATIC BALL                                       38

     VI. A BABY SHOW                                          51

    VII. A NIGHT IN A BAKEHOUSE                               58

   VIII. A LONDON SLAVE MARKET                                67

     IX. TEA AND EXPERIENCE                                   73

      X. SUNDAY LINNET-SINGING                                85

     XI. A WOMAN'S RIGHTS DEBATE                              92

    XII. AN OPEN-AIR TICHBORNE MEETING                       100

   XIII. SUNDAY IN A PEOPLE'S GARDEN                         108

    XIV. UTILIZING THE YOUNG LADIES                          116

     XV. FAIRLOP FRIDAY                                      122

    XVI. A CHRISTMAS DIP                                     129

   XVII. BOXING-DAY ON THE STREETS                           134

  XVIII. THE VIGIL OF THE DERBY                              141

    XIX. THE WIFESLAYER'S "HOME"                             150

     XX. BATHING IN THE FAR EAST                             157

    XXI. AMONG THE QUAKERS                                   164

   XXII. PENNY READINGS                                      172

  XXIII. DARWINISM ON THE DEVIL                              179

   XXIV. PECULIAR PEOPLE                                     198

    XXV. INTERVIEWING AN ASTROLOGER                          204

   XXVI. A BARMAID SHOW                                      212

  XXVII. A PRIVATE EXECUTION                                 217

 XXVIII. BREAKING UP FOR THE HOLIDAYS                        224

   XXIX. PSYCHOLOGICAL LADIES                                228

    XXX. SECULARISM ON BUNYAN                                233

   XXXI. AL FRESCO INFIDELITY                                242

  XXXII. AN "INDESCRIBABLE PHENOMENON"                       250

 XXXIII. A LADY MESMERIST                                    260

  XXXIV. A PSYCHOPATHIC INSTITUTION                          269

   XXXV. A PHRENOLOGICAL EVENING                             277

  XXXVI. A SPIRITUAL PICNIC                                  284

 XXXVII. A GHOSTLY CONFERENCE                                290

XXXVIII. AN EVENING'S DIABLERIE                              300

  XXXIX. SPIRITUAL ATHLETES                                  307

     XL. "SPOTTING" SPIRIT MEDIUMS                           313

    XLI. A SÉANCE FOR SCEPTICS                               320

   XLII. AN EVENING WITH THE HIGHER SPIRITS                  328

  XLIII. SPIRIT FORMS                                        340

   XLIV. SITTING WITH A SIBYL                                347

    XLV. SPIRITUALISTS AND CONJURERS                         355

   XLVI. PROS AND CONS OF SPIRITUALISM                       362



INTRODUCTION.


It is perhaps scarcely necessary to say that I use the term Mystic, as
applied to the larger portion of this volume, in its technical sense to
signify my own _initiation_ into some of the more occult phases of
metropolitan existence. It is only to the Spiritualistic, or concluding
portion of my work, that the word applies in its ordinary signification.

C. M. D.



MYSTIC LONDON.



CHAPTER I.

LONDON ARABS.


Of all the protean forms of misery that meet us in the bosom of that
"stony-hearted stepmother, London," there is none that appeals so
directly to our sympathies as the spectacle of a destitute child. In the
case of the grown man or woman, sorrow and suffering are often traceable
to the faults, or at best to the misfortunes of the sufferers
themselves; but in the case of the child they are mostly, if not always,
vicarious. The fault, or desertion, or death of the natural protectors,
turns loose upon the desert of our streets those nomade hordes of
Bedouins, male and female, whose presence is being made especially
palpable just now, and whose reclamation is a perplexing, yet still a
hopeful problem. In the case of the adult Arab, there is a life's work
to undo, and the facing of that fact it is which makes some of our
bravest workers drop their hands in despair. With these young Arabs, on
the contrary, it is only the wrong bias of a few early years to
correct, leaving carte blanche for any amount of hope in youth,
maturity, and old age. Being desirous of forming, for my own
edification, some notion of the amount of the evil existing, and the
efforts made to counteract it, I planned a pilgrimage into this Arabia
Infelix--this Petræa of the London flagstones; and purpose setting down
here, in brief, a few of my experiences, for the information of
stay-at-home travellers, and still more for the sake of pointing out to
such as may be disposed to aid in the work of rescuing these little
Arabs the proper channels for their beneficence. Selecting, then, the
Seven Dials and Bethnal Green as the foci of my observation in West and
East London respectively, I set out for the former one bleak March
night, and by way of breaking ground, applied to the first
police-constable I met on that undesirable beat for information as to my
course. After one or two failures, I met with an officer literally
"active and intelligent," who convoyed me through several of that
network of streets surrounding the Seven Dials, leaving me to my own
devices when he had given me the general bearings of the district it
would be desirable to visit.

My first raid was on the Ragged School and Soup Kitchen in Charles
Street, Drury Lane, an evil-looking and unfragrant locality; but the
institution in question stands so close to the main thoroughfare that
the most fastidious may visit it with ease. Here I found some twenty
Arabs assembled for evening school. They were of all ages, from seven to
fifteen, and their clothing was in an inverse ratio to their dirt--very
little of the former, and a great deal of the latter. They moved about
with their bare feet in the most feline way, like the veritable Bedouin
himself. There they were, however, over greasy slates and grimy
copy-books, in process of civilization. The master informed me that his
special difficulties arose from the attractions of the theatre and the
occasional intrusion of wild Arabs, who came only to kick up a row. At
eight o'clock the boys were to be regaled with a brass band practice,
so, finding from one of the assembled Arabs that there was a second
institution of the kind in King Street, Long Acre, I passed on thereto.
Here I was fortunate enough to find the presiding genius in the person
of a young man engaged in business during the day, and devoting his
extra time to the work of civilizing the barbarians of this district.
Sunday and week-day services, night schools, day schools, Bands of Hope,
temperance meetings, and last, not least, the soup kitchen, were the
means at work here. Not a single officer is paid. The task is undertaken
"all for love, and nothing for reward," and it has thriven so far that
my presence interrupted a debate between the gentleman above-mentioned
and one of his coadjutors on the subject of taking larger premises. The
expenses were met by the weekly offerings, and I was surprised to see by
a notice posted in the room where the Sunday services are held, that
the sum total for the past week was only _19s. 4d._ So there must be
considerable sacrifice of something more than time to carry on this
admirable work. Under the guidance of the second gentleman mentioned
above, I proceeded to the St. George's and St. Giles's Refuge in Great
Queen Street, where boys are admitted on their own application, the only
qualification being destitution. Here they are housed, clothed, boarded,
and taught such trades as they may be fitted for, and not lost sight of
until they are provided with situations. A hundred and fifty-four was
the number of this truly miraculous draught from the great ocean of
London streets, whom I saw all comfortably bedded in one spacious
dormitory. Downstairs were the implements and products of the day's
work, dozens of miniature cobblers' appliances, machines for sawing and
chopping firewood, &c., whilst, in a spacious refectory on the first
floor, I was informed, the resident Arabs extended on a Friday their
accustomed hospitality to other tribes, to such an extent, that the
party numbered about 500. Besides the 154 who were fortunate enough to
secure beds, there were twenty new arrivals, who had to be quartered on
the floor for the night; but at all events they had a roof above them,
and were out of the cruel east wind that made Arabia Petræa that evening
an undesirable resting-place indeed. Lights were put out, and doors
closed, when I left, as this is not a night refuge; but notices are
posted, I am informed, in the various casual wards and temporary
refuges, directing boys to this. There is a kindred institution for
girls in Broad Street. Such was my first experience of the western
portion of Arabia Infelix.

The following Sunday I visited the Mission Hall belonging to Bloomsbury
Chapel, in Moor Street, Soho, under the management of Mr. M'Cree, and
the nature of the work is much the same as that pursued at King Street.
The eleven o'clock service was on this particular day devoted to
children, who were assembled in large numbers, singing their cheerful
hymns, and listening to a brief, practical, and taking address. These
children, however, were of a class above the Arab type, being generally
well dressed. I passed on thence to what was then Mr. Brock's chapel,
where I found my veritable Arabs, whom I had seen in bed the previous
evening, arrayed in a decent suit of "sober livery," and perched up in a
high gallery to gather what they could comprehend of Mr. Brock's
discourse--not very much, I should guess; for that gentleman's long
Latinized words would certainly fire a long way over their heads, high
as was their position. I found the whole contingent of children provided
for at the refuge was 400, including those on board the training ship
_Chichester_ and the farm at Bisley, near Woking, Surrey. This is
certainly the most complete way of dealing with the Arabs par
excellence, as it contemplates the case of utter destitution and
homelessness. It need scarcely be said, however, that such a work must
enlarge its boundaries very much, in order to make any appreciable
impression on the vast amount of such destitution. Here, nevertheless,
is the germ, and it is already fructifying most successfully. The other
institutions, dealing with larger masses of children, aim at civilizing
them at home, and so making each home a centre of influence.

Passing back again to the King Street Mission Hall, I found assembled
there the band of fifty missionaries, male and female, who visit every
Sunday afternoon the kitchens of the various lodging-houses around the
Seven Dials. Six hundred kitchens are thus visited every week. After
roll-call, and a brief address, we sallied forth, I myself accompanying
Mr. Hatton--the young man to whom the establishment of the Mission is
due--and another of his missionaries. I had heard much of the St.
Giles's Kitchens, but failed to realize any idea of the human beings
swarming by dozens and scores in those subterranean regions. Had it not
been for the fact that nearly every man was smoking, the atmosphere
would have been unbearable. In most of the kitchens they were beguiling
the ennui of Sunday afternoon with cards; but the game was invariably
suspended on our arrival. Some few removed their hats--for all wore
them--and a smaller number still joined in a verse or two of a hymn,
and listened to a portion of Scripture and a few words of exhortation.
One or two seemed interested, others smiled sardonically; the majority
kept a dogged silence. Some read their papers and refused the tracts and
publications offered them. These, I found, were the Catholics. I was
assured there were many men there who themselves, or whose friends, had
occupied high positions. I was much struck with the language of one
crop-headed young fellow of seventeen or eighteen, who, seeing me grope
my way, said, "They're not very lavish with the gas here, sir, are
they?" It may appear that this "experience" has little bearing on the
Arab boys; but really some of the inmates of these kitchens _were_ but
boys. Those we visited were in the purlieus of the old "Rookery," and
for these dens, I was informed, the men paid fourpence a night! Surely a
little money invested in decent dwellings for such people would be well
and even remuneratively spent. The kitchens, my informant--who has spent
many years among them--added, are generally the turning point between
honesty and crime. The discharged soldier or mechanic out of work is
there herded with the professional thief or burglar, and learns his
trade and gets to like his life.

The succeeding evening I devoted first of all to the Girls' Refuge, 19,
Broad Street, St. Giles's. Here were sixty-two girls of the same class
as the boys in Great Queen Street, who remain until provided with
places as domestic servants. A similar number were in the Home at
Ealing. The Institution itself is the picture of neatness and order. I
dropped in quite unexpectedly; and any visitor who may be induced to
follow my example, will not fail to be struck with the happy, "homely"
look of everything, the clean, cheerful appearance of the female Arabs,
and the courtesy and kindness of the matron. These girls are considered
to belong to St. Giles's parish, as the boys to Bloomsbury Chapel. So
far the good work has been done by the Dissenters and Evangelical party
in the Established Church. The sphere of the High Church--as I was
reminded by the Superintendent Sergeant--is the Newport Market Refuge
and Industrial Schools. Here, besides the male and female refuges, is a
Home for Destitute Boys, who are housed and taught on the same plan as
at St. Giles's. Their domicile is even more cosy than the other, and
might almost tempt a boy to act the part of an "amateur Arab." I can
only say the game that was going on, previously to bed, in the large
covered play room, with bare feet and in shirt sleeves, was enough to
provoke the envy of any member of a Dr. Blimber's "Establishment." The
Institution had just had a windfall in the shape of one of those
agreeable _1000l._ cheques that have been flying about lately, or their
resources would have been cramped; but the managers are wisely sensible
that such windfalls do not come every day, and so forbear enlarging
their borders as they could wish.

Strangely enough, the Roman Catholics, who usually outdo us in their
work among the poor, seemed a little behindhand in this special
department of settling the Arabs. They have schools largely attended in
Tudor Place, Tottenham Court Road, White Lion Street, Seven Dials, &c.,
but, as far as I could ascertain, nothing local in the shape of a
Refuge. To propagate the faith may be all very well, and will be only
the natural impulse of a man sincere in his own belief; but we must not
forget that these Arabs have bodies as well as souls, and that those
bodies have been so shamefully debased and neglected as to drag the
higher energies down with them; and it is a great question whether it is
not absolutely necessary to begin on the very lowest plane first, and so
to work towards the higher. Through the body and the mind we may at last
reach the highest sphere of all.

Without for one moment wishing to write down the "religious" element, it
is, I repeat, a grave question whether the premature introduction of
that element does not sometimes act as a deterrent, and frustrate the
good that might otherwise be done. Still there is the great fact, good
_is_ being done. It would be idle to carp at any means when the end is
so thoroughly good. I could not help, as I passed from squalid kitchen
to kitchen that Sunday afternoon, feeling Lear's words ring through my
mind:--

                            O, I have ta'en
    Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp,
    Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
    That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
    And show the heavens more just.

And now "Eastward ho!" for "experiences" in Bethnal Green.



CHAPTER II.

EAST LONDON ARABS.


Notwithstanding my previous experiences among the Western tribes of
Bedouins whose locale is the Desert of the Seven Dials, I must confess
to considerable strangeness when first I penetrated the wilderness of
Bethnal Green. Not only was it utterly terra incognita to me, but, with
their manifold features in common, the want and squalor of the East have
traits distinct from those of the West. I had but the name of one
Bethnal Green parish and of one lady--Miss Macpherson--and with these
slender data I proceeded to my work, the results of which I again
chronicle seriatim.

Passing from the Moorgate Street Station I made for the Eastern Counties
Terminus at Shoreditch, and soon after passing it struck off to my right
in the Bethnal Green Road. Here, amid a pervading atmosphere of
bird-fanciers and vendors of live pets in general, I found a Mission
Hall, belonging to I know not what denomination, and, aided by a
vigorous policeman, kicked--in the absence of knocker or bell--at all
the doors, without result. Nobody was there. I went on to the Bethnal
Green parish which had been named to me as the resort of nomade tribes,
and found the incumbent absent in the country for a week or so, and the
Scripture-reader afraid, in his absence, to give much information. He
ventured, however, to show me the industrial school, where some forty
children were employed in making match-boxes for Messrs. Bryant and May.
However, as I was told that the incumbent in question objected very
decidedly to refuges and ragged schools, and thought it much better for
the poor to strain a point and send their little ones to school, I felt
that was hardly the regimen to suit my Arabian friends, who were
evidently teeming in that locality. I was even returning home with the
view of getting further geographical particulars of this Eastern Arabia
Petræa, when, as a last resource, I was directed to a refuge in
Commercial Street. I rang here, and found myself in the presence of the
veritable Miss Macpherson herself, with whom I passed two pleasant and
instructive hours.

At starting, Miss Macpherson rather objected to being made the subject
of an article--first of all, for the very comprehensible reason that
such publicity would draw down upon her a host of visitors; and when I
suggested that visitors probably meant funds, she added a second, and
not quite so comprehensible an objection--that these funds themselves
might alloy the element of Faith in which the work had been so far
carried on. She had thoroughly imbibed the spirit of Müller, whose Home
at Bristol was professedly the outcome of Faith and Prayer alone.
However, on my promise to publish only such particulars--name, locality,
&c.--as she might approve, this lady gave me the details of her truly
wonderful work. The building in which I found her had been erected to
serve as large warehouses, and here 110 of the most veritable Arabs were
housed, fed, taught, and converted into Christians, when so convertible.
Should they prove impressionable, Miss Macpherson then contemplates
their emigration to Canada. Many had already been sent out; and her idea
was to extend her operations in this respect: not, be it observed, to
cast hundreds of the scum of the East End of London upon Canada--a
proceeding to which the Canadians would very naturally object--but to
form a Home on that side to be fed from the Homes on this, and so to
remove from the old scenes of vice and temptation those who had been
previously trained in the refuges here. She has it in contemplation to
take a large hotel in Canada, and convert it into an institution of this
kind; and I fancy it was the possibility that publicity might aid this
larger scheme which eventually induced the good lady to let the world so
far know what she is doing. At all events, she gave me carte blanche to
publish the results of my observations.

In selecting and dealing with the inmates of her refuges, Miss
Macpherson avails herself of the science of phrenology, in which she
believes, and she advances good reason for so doing. I presume my
phrenological development must have been satisfactory, since she not
only laid aside her objection to publicity, but even allowed me to carry
off with me her MS. "casebooks," from which I cull one or two of several
hundred:--

"1. T. S., aged ten (March 5, 1869).--An orphan. Mother died in St.
George's Workhouse. Father killed by coming in contact with a diseased
sheep, being a slaughterman. A seller of boxes in the street. Slept last
in a bed before Christmas. Slept in hay-carts, under a tarpaulin. Says
the prayers his mother 'teached him.'"

"2. J. H., aged twelve (March 5).--No home but the streets. Father
killed by an engine-strap, being an engineer. Mother died of a broken
heart. Went into ---- Workhouse; but ran away through ill-treatment last
December. Slept in ruins near Eastern Counties Railway. _Can't remember_
when he last lay in a bed."

"3. A. R., aged eleven (March 5).--Mother and father left him and two
brothers in an empty room in H---- Street. Policeman, hearing them
crying, broke open the door and took them to the workhouse. His two
brothers died. Was moved from workhouse by grandmother, and she, unable
to support him, turned him out on the streets. Slept in railway ruins;
lived by begging. July 24, sent to Home No. 1 as a reward for good
conduct."

Besides thus rescuing hundreds of homeless ones, Miss Macpherson has in
many instances been the means of restoring runaway children of
respectable parents. Here is an instance:--

"Feb. 25th.--S. W. T., aged fourteen, brought into Refuge by one of the
night teachers, who noticed him in a lodging-house respectably dressed.
Had walked up to London from N----, in company with two sailors
(disreputable men, whom the lodging-house keeper declined to take in).
Had been reading sensational books. Wrote to address at N----. Father
telegraphed to keep him. Uncle came for him with fresh clothes and took
him home. He had begun to pawn his clothes for his night's lodging. His
father had been for a fortnight in communication with the police."

The constables in the neighbourhood all know Miss Macpherson's Refuge,
and her readiness to take boys in at any time; so that many little
vagrants are brought thither by them and reclaimed, instead of being
locked up and sent to prison, to go from bad to worse. Besides this
receptacle for boys, Miss Macpherson has also a Home at Hackney, where
girls of the same class are housed. The plan she adopts is to get a
friend to be responsible for one child. The cost she reckons at _6l.
10s._ per annum for those under ten years, and _10l._ for those above.

But this excellent lady's good works are by no means catalogued yet.
Besides the children being fed and taught in these Homes, the parents
and children are constantly gathered for sewing classes, tea meetings,
&c. at the Refuge. Above 400 children are thus influenced; and Miss
Macpherson, with her coadjutors, systematically visits the wretched dens
and lodging-houses into which no well-dressed person, unless favourably
known like her for her work among the children, would dare to set foot.
I was also present when a hearty meal of excellent soup and a large lump
of bread were given to between three and four hundred men, chiefly dock
labourers out of employ. It was a touching sight to notice the stolid
apathy depicted on most of the countenances, which looked unpleasantly
like despair. One of the men assured me that for every package that had
to be unladen from the docks there were ten pair of hands ready to do
the work, where only one could be employed. Many of the men, he assured
me, went for two, sometimes three, days without food; and with the large
majority of those assembled the meal they were then taking would
represent the whole of their subsistence for the twenty-four-hours.
After supper a hymn was sung, and a few words spoken to them by Miss
Macpherson on the allegory of the Birds and Flowers in the Sermon on the
Mount; and so they sallied forth into the darkness of Arabia Petræa. I
mounted to the little boys' bedroom, where the tiniest Arabs of all
were enjoying the luxury of a game, with bare feet, before retiring.
Miss Macpherson dragged a mattress off one of the beds and threw it down
in the centre for them to tumble head-over-tail; and, as she truly said,
it was difficult to recognise in those merry shouts and happy faces any
remains of the veriest reprobates of the London streets.

Let us hear Miss Macpherson herself speak. In a published pamphlet, "Our
Perishing Little Ones," she says: "As to the present state of the
mission, we simply say 'Come and see.' It is impossible by words to give
an idea of the mass of 120,000 precious souls who live on this one
square mile.... My longing is to send forth, so soon as the ice breaks,
500 of our poor street boys, waifs and strays that have been gathered
in, to the warm-hearted Canadian farmers. In the meantime, who will help
us to make outfits, and collect _5l._ for each little Arab, that there
be no hindrance to the complement being made up when the spring time is
come?... Ladies who are householders can aid us much in endeavours to
educate these homeless wanderers to habits of industry by sending orders
for their firewood--_4s._ per hundred bundles, sent free eight miles
from the City." And, again, in Miss Macpherson's book called "The Little
Matchmakers," she says: "In this work of faith and labour of love among
the very lowest in our beloved country, let us press on, looking for
great things. Preventing sin and crime is a much greater work than
curing it. There are still many things on my heart requiring more
pennies. As they come, we will go forward."

Miss Macpherson's motto is, "The Word first in all things; afterwards
bread for this body." There are some of us who would be inclined to
reverse this process--to feed the body and educate the mind--not
altogether neglecting spiritual culture, even at the earliest stage, but
leaving anything like definite religious schooling until the poor mind
and body were, so to say, acclimatized. It is, of course, much easier to
sit still and theorize and criticise than to do what these excellent
people have done and are doing to diminish this gigantic evil. "By their
fruits ye shall know them" is a criterion based on authority that we are
none of us inclined to dispute. Miss Macpherson boasts--and a very
proper subject for boasting it is--that she belongs to no _ism_. It is
significant, however, that the Refuge bears, or bore, the name of the
"Revival" Refuge, and the paper which contained the earliest accounts of
its working was called the _Revivalist_, though now baptized with the
broader title of the _Christian_. Amid such real work it would be a pity
to have the semblance of unreality, and I dreaded to think of the
possibility of its existing, when little grimy hands were held out by
boys volunteering to say a text for my behoof. By far the most
favourite one was "Jesus wept;" next came "God is love"--each most
appropriate; but the sharp boy, a few years older, won approval by a
longer and more doctrinal quotation, whilst several of these held out
hands again when asked whether, in the course of the day, they had felt
the efficacy of the text given on the previous evening, "Set a watch, O
Lord, before my mouth; keep Thou the door of my lips." Such an
experience would be a sign of advanced spirituality in an adult. Is it
ungenerous to ask whether its manifestation in an Arab child must not be
an anticipation of what might be the normal result of a few years'
training? May not this kind of _forcing_ explain the cases I saw quoted
in the books--of one boy who "felt like a fish out of water, and left
the same day of his own accord;" another who "climbed out of a
three-floor window and escaped?"

However, here is the good work being done. Let us not carp at the
details, but help it on, unless we can do better ourselves. One thing
has been preeminently forced in upon me during this brief examination of
our London Arabs--namely, that individuals work better than communities
amongst these people. The work done by the great establishments, whether
of England, Rome, or Protestant Dissent, is insignificant compared with
that carried out by persons labouring like Mr. Hutton in Seven Dials and
Miss Macpherson in Whitechapel, untrammelled by any particular system.
The want, and sorrow, and suffering are individual, and need individual
care, just as the Master of old worked Himself, and sent His scripless
missionaries singly forth to labour for Him, as--on however
incommensurate a scale--they are still labouring, East and West, amongst
our London Arabs.



CHAPTER III.

LONDON ARABS IN CANADA.


In the previous chapter an account was given of the Arabs inhabiting
that wonderful "square mile" in East London, which has since grown to be
so familiar in men's mouths. The labours of Miss Macpherson towards
reclaiming these waifs and strays in her "Refuge and Home of Industry,
Commercial Street, Spitalfields," were described at some length, and
allusion was at the same time made to the views which that lady
entertained with regard to the exportation of those Arabs to Canada
after they should have undergone a previous probationary training in the
"Home." A short time afterwards it was my pleasing duty to witness the
departure of one hundred of these young boys from the St. Pancras
Station, en route for Canada; and it now strikes me that some account of
the voyage out, in the shape of excerpts from the letters of the devoted
ladies who themselves accompanied our Arabs across the Atlantic, may
prove interesting; while, at the same time, a calculation of their
probable success in their new life and homes may not improbably
stimulate those who cannot give their time, to give at least their
countenance, and it may be, their material aid, to a scheme which
recommends itself to all our sympathies--the permanent reclamation of
the little homeless wanderers of our London streets.

The strange old rambling "Home" in Commercial Street, built originally
for warehouses, then used as a cholera hospital, and now the Arab
Refuge, presented a strange appearance during the week before the
departure of the chosen hundred. On the ground-floor were the packages
of the young passengers; on the first floor the "new clothes, shirts,
and stockings, sent by kind lady friends from all parts of the kingdom,
trousers and waistcoats made by the widows, and the boots and pilot
jackets made by the boys themselves." The dormitory was the great
store-closet for all the boys' bags filled with things needful on board
ship; and on the top floor, we can well imagine, the last day was a
peculiarly melancholy one. The work attendant upon the boys' last meal
at the Refuge was over, and there, in the long narrow kitchen, stood the
cook wiping away her tears with her apron, and the six little waiting
maids around them, with the novel feeling of having nothing to
do--there, where so much cutting, buttering, and washing-up had been the
order of the day. When the summons came to start, the police had great
difficulty in clearing a way for the boys to the vans through the
surging mass of East London poverty. Some of the little match-box makers
ran all the three miles from Commercial Street to St. Pancras Station
to see the very last of their boy-friends.

Derby was the stopping-place on the journey to Liverpool, and the
attention of passengers and guards was arrested by this strange company
gathering on the platform at midnight and singing two of the favourite
Refuge hymns. Liverpool was reached at 4 A.M., and the boys filed off in
fours, with their canvas bags over their shoulders, to the river side,
where their wondering eyes beheld the _Peruvian_, which was to bear them
to their new homes.

At this point, Miss Macpherson's sister--who is carrying on the work of
the Refuge during that lady's absence--wrote as follows:--"Could our
Christian friends have seen the joy that beamed in the faces of those
hundred lads from whom we have just parted--could they know the misery,
the awful precipice of crime and sin from which they have been
snatched--we are sure their hearts would be drawn out in love for those
little ones. If still supported," she continues, "I hope to send out
another party of fifty boys and fifty girls while my sister remains in
Canada, and shall be happy to forward the name and history of a boy or
girl to any kind friend wishing to provide for a special case. In the
broad fields of that new country where the farmers are only too glad to
adopt healthy young boys or girls into their families, hundreds of our
perishing little ones may find a happy home."

On Thursday, the 12th of May, the _Peruvian_ dropped down the river;
and, as the last batch of friends left her when she passed out into the
Channel, these one hundred boys, with Miss Macpherson, leaned over the
bulwarks, singing the hymn, "Yes, we part, but not for ever."

From Derry Miss Macpherson wrote under date May 13th:--"With the
exception of two, all are on deck now, as bright as larks; they have
carried up poor Jack Frost and Franks the runner. It is most touching to
see them wrap them up in their rugs. Michael Flinn, the Shoreditch
shoeblack, was up all night, caring for the sick boys. Poor Mike! He and
I have exchanged nods at the Eastern Counties Railway corner these five
years. It is a great joy to give him such a chance for life."

The voyage out was prosperous enough, though there were some contrary
winds, and a good deal of sea-sickness among the lads. The captain seems
to have been quite won by the self-denying kindness of the ladies, and
he lightened their hands by giving occupation to the boys. Then came out
the result of training at the Refuge. Those who had been some time there
showed themselves amenable to discipline; but the late arrivals were
more fractious, and difficult to manage. These were the lads "upon
whom," as Miss Macpherson says, "the street life had left sore marks."
Even when only nearing the American coast, this indomitable lady's
spirit is planning a second expedition. "As far as I dare make plans, I
should like to return, starting from Montreal July 16th, reaching the
Home July 27th; and then return with another lot the second week in
August. This second lot must be lads who are now under influence, and
who have been not less than six months in a refuge." The finale to this
second letter, written from Canada, adds: "The boys, _to a man_, behaved
splendidly. The agent's heart is won. All have improved by the voyage,
and many are brown hearty-looking chaps fit for any toil."

In the _Montreal Herald_, of May 27th, there is an account of these boys
after their arrival, which says:--"Miss Macpherson is evidently a lady
whose capacity for organization and command is of the very highest
order; for boys, in most hands, are not too easily managed, but in hers
they were as obedient as a company of soldiers.... These boys will
speedily be placed in positions, where they will grow up respectable and
respected members of society, with access to the highest positions in
the country freely open to them.... We hope that Miss Macpherson will
place all her boys advantageously, and will bring us many more. She is a
benefactor to the Empire in both hemispheres."

The importance of this testimony can scarcely be overrated, since many
persons hold themselves aloof from a work of this nature through a
feeling that it is not fair to draft our Arab population on a colony. It
will be seen, however, that it is not proposed to export these boys
until they shall have been brought well under influence, and so have got
rid of what Miss Macpherson so graphically terms the "sore marks of
their street life."

Apropos of this subject, it may not be irrelevant to quote a
communication which has been received from Sir John Young, the
Governor-General of Canada, dated Ottawa, May 3rd, 1870:--"For emigrants
able and willing to work, Canada offers at present a very good prospect.
The demand for agricultural labourers in Ontario during the present year
is estimated at from 30,000 to 40,000; and an industrious man may expect
to make about one dollar a day throughout the year, if he is willing to
turn his hand to clearing land, threshing, &c., during the winter. But
it is of no use for emigrants to come here unless they make up their
minds to take whatever employment offers itself most readily, without
making difficulties because it is not that to which they have been
accustomed, or which they prefer."

I visited the Refuge and Home of Industry a few nights afterwards, and,
though Miss Macpherson was absent, found all in working order.
Sixty-three boys were then its occupants. The superintendent was
anxiously looking forward to be able to carry out the plan of
despatching fifty boys and fifty girls during the ensuing summer. The
sum required for an East End case is _5l._; for a special case, _10l._
The following are specimens of about sixty cases of boys whom she would
like to send out, knowing that in Canada they could readily obtain
places:--

P. E., aged seventeen.--Mother died of fever, leaving seven children;
father a dock labourer, but cannot get full employment.

L. J., aged thirteen.--Mother dead; does not know where her father is;
has been getting her living by singing songs in the lodging-houses; is
much improved by her stay in the Home, and will make a tidy little maid.
This is just one of the many who might thus be rescued from a life of
sin and misery.

Returning home through the squalid streets that night, where squatters
were vending old shoes and boots that seemed scarcely worth picking out
of the kennel, and garments that appeared beneath the notice of the rag
merchant, I saw the little Bedouins still in full force, just as though
no effort had been made for their reclamation and housing. As they
crowded the doorsteps, huddled in the gutters, or vended boxes of lights
and solicited the honour of shining "your boots, sir," I could not help
picturing them crossing the sea, under kindly auspices, to the "better
land" beyond, and anon, in the broad Canadian fields or busy Canadian
towns, growing into respectable farmers and citizens; and straightway
each little grimed, wan face seemed to bear a new interest for me, and
to look wistfully up into mine with a sort of rightful demand on my
charity, saying to me, and through me to my many readers, "Come and
help us!"

After the foregoing was written, a further letter arrived from Miss
Macpherson. All the boys were well placed. The agent at Quebec wished to
take the whole hundred in a lump, but only eleven were conceded to him.
At Montreal, too, all would have been taken, but twenty-one only were
left. All found excellent situations, many as house servants at _10l._
and _15l._ a year. Eight were in like manner left at Belleville, half
way between Montreal and Toronto. Sixty were taken on to Toronto; and
here we are told "the platform was crowded with farmers anxious to
engage them all at once. It was difficult to get them to the office." A
gentleman arrived from Hamilton, saying that sixty applications had been
sent in for boys, directly it was known that Miss Macpherson was coming
out. So there is no need of anticipating anything like repugnance on the
part of the Canadians to the reception of our superfluous Arabs.



CHAPTER IV.

WAIFS AND STRAYS.


Among the various qualifications for the festivities of Christmastide
and New Year, there is one which is, perhaps, not so generally
recognised as it might be. Some of us are welcomed to the bright
fireside or the groaning table on the score of our social and
conversational qualities. At many and many a cheery board, poverty is
the only stipulation that is made. I mean not now that the guests shall
occupy the unenviable position of "poor relations," but, in the
large-hearted charity that so widely prevails at that festive season,
the need of a dinner is being generally accepted as a title to that
staple requirement of existence. Neither of these, however, is the
distinction required in order to entitle those who bear it to the
hospitality of Mr. Edward Wright, better known under the abbreviated
title of "Ned," and without the prefatory "Mr." That one social quality,
without which a seat at Ned Wright's festive board cannot be compassed,
is Felony. A little rakish-looking green ticket was circulated a few
days previously among the members of Mr. Wright's former fraternity,
bidding them to a "Great Supper" in St. John's Chapel, Penrose Street
(late West Street), Walworth, got up under the auspices of the
South-East London Mission. The invitation ran as follows:--

     "This ticket is only available for a male person who has
     been convicted at least once for felony, and is not
     transferable. We purpose providing a good supper of bread
     and soup, after which an address will be given. At the close
     of the meeting a parcel of provisions will be given to each
     man. Supper will be provided in the lower part of the
     chapel. Boys not admitted this time.--Your friend, for
     Christ's sake,

     "NED WRIGHT."

Why juvenile felons should be excluded "this time," and whether the fact
of having been convicted more than once would confer any additional
privileges, did not appear at first sight. So it was, however; adult
felonious Walworth was bidden to the supper, and to the supper it came.
Among the attractions held out to spectators of the proceedings was the
announcement that a magistrate was to take part in them--a fact that
possibly was not made generally known among the guests, in whose regard
it is very questionable whether the presence of the dreaded "beak" might
not have proved the reverse of a "draw." However, they came, possibly in
happy ignorance of the potentate who was awaiting them, and than whom
there is one only creation of civilized life considered by the London
cadger his more natural enemy, that is the policeman.

Six o'clock was the hour appointed for the repast, and there was no need
for the wanderer in Walworth Road to inquire which was Penrose Street.
Little groups of shambling fellows hulked about the corner waiting for
some one to lead the way to the unaccustomed chapel. Group after group,
however, melted away into the dingy building where Ned was ready to
welcome them. With him I found, not one magistrate, but two; one the
expected magnate from the country, the other a well-known occupant of
the London bench, with whom, I fancy, many of the guests could boast a
previous acquaintance of a character the reverse of desirable. Penrose
Street Chapel had been formerly occupied by the Unitarians, but was then
taken permanently by Ned Wright at a rental of between _60l._ and _70l._
per annum, and formed the third of his "centres," the others being under
a railway arch in the New Kent Road, and the Mission Hall, Deptford. As
row by row filled with squalid occupants, I could but scan from my
vantage-ground in the gallery the various physiognomies. I am bound to
say the typical gaol-bird was but feebly represented. The visitors
looked like hard-working men--a little pinched and hungry, perhaps, and
in many cases obviously dejected and ashamed of the qualification which
gave them their seat. One or two, mostly of the younger, came in with a
swagger and a rough joke; but Ned and his guests knew one another, and
he quickly removed the lively young gentleman to a quiet corner out of
harm's way. A fringe of spectators, mostly female, occupied the front
seat in the gallery when proceedings commenced, which they did with a
hymn, composed by Ned Wright himself. The ladies' voices proved very
useful in this respect; but most of the men took the printed copies of
the hymns, which were handed round, and looked as if they could read
them, not a few proving they could by singing full-voiced. After the
hymn, Wright announced that he had ordered eighty gallons of soup--some
facetious gentleman suggesting, "That's about a gallon apiece"--and he
hoped all would get enough. Probably about 100 guests had by this time
assembled, and each was provided with a white basin, which was filled by
Ned and his assistants, with soup from a washing jug. A paper bag
containing half a quartern loaf was also given to each, and the contents
rapidly disappeared. As the fragrant steam mounted provokingly from the
soup-basins up to the gallery, Mr. Wright took occasion to mention that
at the last supper Mr. Clark, of the New Cut, furnished the soup
gratuitously--a fact which he thought deserved to be placed on record.

In the intervals of the banquet, the host informed me that he had
already witnessed forty genuine "conversions" as the results of these
gatherings. He had, as usual, to contend with certain obtrusive
gentlemen who "assumed the virtue" of felony, "though they had it not,"
and were summarily dismissed with the assurance that he "didn't want no
tramps." One mysterious young man came in and sat down on a front row,
but did not remain two minutes before a thought seemed to strike him,
and he beat a hasty retreat. Whether he was possessed with the idea I
had to combat on a previous occasion of the same kind, that I was a
policeman, I cannot tell, but he never reappeared. I hope I was not the
innocent cause of his losing his supper. The only "felonious" trait I
observed was a furtive glance every now and then cast around, and
especially up to the gallery. Beyond this there really was little to
distinguish the gathering from a meeting of artisans a little bit "down
on their luck," or out on strike, or under some cloud of that sort.

As supper progressed, the number of spectators in the gallery increased;
and, with all due deference to Ned Wright's good intentions, it may be
open to question whether this presence of spectators in the gallery is
wise. It gives a sort of spurious dash and bravado to the calling of a
felon to be supping in public, and have ladies looking on, just like the
"swells" at a public dinner. I am sure some of the younger men felt
this, and swaggered through their supper accordingly. There certainly
was not a symptom of shame on the face of a single guest, or any
evidences of dejection, when once the pea-soup had done its work. Some
of the very lively gentlemen in the front row even devoted themselves to
making critical remarks on the occupants of the gallery. As a rule, and
considering the antecedents of the men, the assembly was an orderly one;
and would, I think, have been more so, but for the presence of the fair
sex in the upper regions, many of whom, it is but justice to say, were
enjoying the small talk of certain oily-haired young missionaries, and
quite unconscious of being the objects of admiring glances from below.

Supper took exactly an hour, and then came another hymn, Ned Wright
telling his guests that the tune was somewhat difficult, but that the
gallery would sing it for them first, and then they would be able to do
it for themselves. Decidedly, Mr. Wright is getting "æsthetic." This
hymn was, in fact, monopolized by the gallery, the men listening and
evidently occupied in digesting their supper. One would rather have
heard something in which they could join. However, it was a lively
march-tune, and they evidently liked it, and kept time to it with their
feet, after the custom of the gods on Boxing Night. At this point Ned
and five others mounted the little railed platform, Bible in hand, and
the host read what he termed "a portion out of the Good Old Book,"
choosing appropriately Luke xv., which tells of the joy among angels
over one sinner that repenteth, and the exquisite allegory of the
Prodigal Son, which Ned read with a good deal of genuine pathos. It
reminded him, he said, of old times. He himself was one of the first
prisoners at Wandsworth when "old Brixton" was shut up. He had "done"
three calendar months, and when he came out he saw an old grey-headed
man, with a bundle. "That," said Ned, "was my godly old father, and the
bundle was new clothes in place of my old rags."

The country magistrate then came forward, and drew an ironical contrast
between the "respectable" people in the gallery and the "thieves" down
below. "God says we have all 'robbed Him.' All are equal in God's sight.
But some of us are pardoned thieves." At this point the discourse became
theological, and fired over the heads of the people down below. They
listened much as they listen to a magisterial remark from the bench; but
it was not their own language, such as Ned speaks. It was the "beak,"
not the old "pal." It was not their vernacular. It did for the
gallery--interested the ladies and the missionaries vastly, but not the
thieves. It was wonderful that they bore it as well as they did. The
magisterial dignity evidently overawed them; but they soon got used to
it, and yawned or sat listlessly. Some leant their heads on the rail in
front and slept. The latest arrivals left earliest. They had come to
supper, not to sermon.

Another of Ned Wright's hymns was then sung--Mr. Wright's muse having
been apparently prolific in the past year, no less than six hymns on the
list being written by himself during those twelve months. It is much to
be hoped that these poetical and æsthetical proclivities will not deaden
his practical energies. This hymn was pitched distressingly high, and
above the powers of all but the "gallery" and a very few indeed of the
guests; but most of them put in a final "Glory, Hallelujah," at the end
of each stanza. Mr. Wright's tunes are bright and cheerful in the
extreme, without being vulgar or offensively secular.

The host himself then spoke a few words on the moral of the Sermon on
the Mount: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." He
claimed many of those before him as old pals who had "drunk out of the
same pot and shuffled the same pack of cards," and contrasted his
present state with theirs. Then they listened, open-mouthed and
eager-eyed, though they had been sitting two full hours. He pictured the
life of Christ, and His love for poor men. "Christ died for you," he
said, "as well as for the 'big people.' Who is that on the cross beside
the Son of God?" he asked in an eloquent apostrophe. "It is a thief.
Come to Christ, and say, 'I've no character. I'm branded as a felon. I'm
hunted about the streets of London. He will accept you.'" He drew a
vivid picture of the number of friends he had when he rowed for Dogget's
Coat and Badge. He met with an accident midway; "and when I got to the
Swan at Chelsea," he said, "I had no friends left. I was a losing man.
Christ will never treat you like that. He has never let me want in the
nine years since I have been converted." After a prayer the assembly
broke up, only those being requested to remain who required advice. The
prayer was characteristic, being interspersed with groans from the
gallery; and then a paper bag, containing bread and cakes, was given to
each, Ned observing, "There, the devil don't give you that. He gives you
toke and skilly." Being desired to go quietly, one gentleman expressed a
hope that there was no policeman; another adding, "We don't want to get
lagged." Ned had to reassure them on my score once more, and then nearly
all disappeared--some ingenious guests managing to get two and three
bags by going out and coming in again, until some one in the gallery
meanly peached!

Only some half-dozen out of the hundred remained, and Ned Wright
kneeling at one of the benches prayed fervently, and entered into
conversation with them one by one. Two or three others dropped in, and
there was much praying and groaning, but evidently much sincerity. And
so with at least some new impressions for good, some cheering hopeful
words to take them on in the New Year, those few waifs and strays passed
out into the darkness, to retain, let it be hoped, some at least of the
better influences which were brought to bear upon them in that brighter
epoch in their darkened lives when Ned Wright's invitation gathered them
to the Thieves' Supper.



CHAPTER V.

A LUNATIC BALL.


One half of the world believes the other half to be mad; and who shall
decide which moiety is right, the reputed lunatics or the supposed sane,
since neither party can be unprejudiced in the matter? At present the
minority believe that it is a mere matter of numbers, and that if
intellect carried the day, and right were not overborne by might, the
position of parties would be exactly reversed. The dilemma forced itself
strongly on my consciousness for a solution when I attended the annual
ball at Hanwell Lunatic Asylum. The prevailing opinion inside the walls
was that the majority of madmen lay outside, and that the most
hopelessly insane people in all the world were the officers immediately
concerned in the management of the establishment itself.

It was a damp, muggy January evening when I journeyed to this suburban
retreat. It rained dismally, and the wind nearly blew the porter out of
his lodge as he obeyed our summons at the Dantesque portal of the
institution, in passing behind which so many had literally abandoned
hope. I tried to fancy how it would feel if one were really being
consigned to that receptacle by interested relatives, as we read in
three-volume novels; but it was no use. I was one of a merry company on
that occasion. The officials of Hanwell Asylum had been a little shy of
being handed down to fame; so I adopted the ruse of getting into Herr
Gustav Küster's corps of fiddlers for the occasion. However, I must in
fairness add that the committee during the evening withdrew the taboo
they had formerly placed on my writing. I was free to immortalize them;
and my fiddling was thenceforth a work of supererogation.

High jinks commenced at the early hour of six; and long before that time
we had deposited our instruments in the Bazaar, as the ball-room is
somewhat incongruously called, and were threading the Dædalean mazes of
the wards. Life in the wards struck me as being very like living in a
passage; but when that preliminary objection was got over, the long
corridors looked comfortable enough. They were painted in bright warm
colours, and a correspondingly genial temperature was secured by
hot-water pipes running the entire length. Comfortable rooms opened out
from the wards at frequent intervals, and there was every form of
amusement to beguile the otherwise irksome leisure of those temporary
recluses. Most of my hermits were smoking--I mean on the male side--many
were reading; one had a fiddle, and I scraped acquaintance immediately
with him; whilst another was seated at the door of his snug little
bedroom, getting up cadenzas on the flute. He was an old
trombone-player in one of the household regiments, an inmate of Hanwell
for thirty years, and a fellow-bandsman with myself for the evening. He
looked, I thought, quite as sane as myself, and played magnificently;
but I was informed by the possibly prejudiced officials that he had his
occasional weaknesses. A second member of Herr Küster's band whom I
found in durance was a clarionet-player, formerly in the band of the
Second Life Guards; and this poor fellow, who was an excellent musician
too, felt his position acutely. He apologized sotto voce for sitting
down with me in corduroys, as well as for being an "imbecile." He did
not seem to question the justice of the verdict against him, and had not
become acclimatized to the atmosphere like the old trombone-player.

That New Year's night--for January was very young--the wards, especially
on the women's side, were gaily decorated with paper flowers, and all
looked as cheerful and happy as though no shadow ever fell across the
threshold; but, alas, there were every now and then padded rooms opening
out of the passage; and as this was not a refractory ward, I asked the
meaning of the arrangement, which I had fancied was an obsolete one. I
was told they were for epileptic patients. In virtue of his official
position as bandmaster, Herr Küster had a key; and, after walking
serenely into a passage precisely like the rest, informed me, with the
utmost coolness, that I was in the refractory ward. I looked around for
the stalwart attendant, who is generally to be seen on duty, and to my
dismay found he was quite at the other end of an exceedingly long
corridor. I do not know that I am particularly nervous; but I candidly
confess to an anxiety to get near that worthy official. We were only
three outsiders, and the company looked mischievous. One gentleman was
walking violently up and down, turning up his coat-sleeves, as though
bent on our instant demolition. Another, an old grey-bearded man, came
up, and fiercely demanded if I were a Freemason. I was afraid he might
resent my saying I was not, when it happily occurred to me that the
third in our party, an amateur contra-bassist, was of the craft. I told
our old friend so. He demanded the sign, was satisfied, and, in the
twinkling of an eye, our double-bass friend was struggling in his
fraternal embrace. The warder, mistaking the character of the hug,
hastened to the rescue, and I was at ease.

We then passed to the ball-room, where my musical friends were beginning
to "tune up," and waiting for their conductor. The large room was gaily
decorated, and filled with some three or four hundred patients, arranged
Spurgeon-wise: the ladies on one side, and the gentlemen on the other.
There was a somewhat rakish air about the gathering, due to the fact of
the male portion not being in full dress, but arrayed in free-and-easy
costume of corduroys and felt boots. The frequent warders in their dark
blue uniforms lent quite a military air to the scene; and on the ladies'
side the costumes were more picturesque; some little latitude was given
to feminine taste, and the result was that a large portion of the
patients were gorgeous in pink gowns. One old lady, who claimed to be a
scion of royalty, had a resplendent mob-cap; but the belles of the
ball-room were decidedly to be found among the female attendants, who
were bright, fresh-looking young women, in a neat, black uniform, with
perky little caps, and bunches of keys hanging at their side like the
rosary of a soeur de charité, or the chatelaines with which young ladies
love to adorn themselves at present. Files of patients kept streaming
into the already crowded room, and one gentleman, reversing the order
assigned to him by nature, walked gravely in on the palms of his hands,
with his legs elevated in air. He had been a clown at a theatre, and
still retained some of the proclivities of the boards. A wizen-faced
man, who seemed to have no name beyond the conventional one of "Billy,"
strutted in with huge paper collars, like the corner man in a nigger
troupe, and a tin decoration on his breast the size of a cheeseplate. He
was insensible to the charms of Terpsichore, except in the shape of an
occasional pas seul, and laboured under the idea that his mission was to
conduct the band, which he occasionally did, to the discomfiture of
Herr Küster, and the total destruction of gravity on the part of the
executants, so that Billy had to be displaced. It was quite curious to
notice the effect of the music on some of the quieter patients. One or
two, whose countenances really seemed to justify their incarceration,
absolutely hugged the foot of my music-stand, and would not allow me to
hold my instrument for a moment when I was not playing on it, so anxious
were they to express their admiration of me as an artist. "I used to
play that instrument afore I come here," said a patient, with a squeaky
voice, who for eleven years has laboured under the idea that his mother
is coming to see him on the morrow; indeed, most of the little group
around the platform looked upon their temporary sojourn at Hanwell as
the only impediment to a bright career in the musical world.

Proceedings commenced with the Caledonians, and it was marvellous to
notice the order, not to say grace and refinement with which these
pauper lunatics went through their parts in the "mazy." The rosy-faced
attendants formed partners for the men, and I saw a herculean warder
gallantly leading along the stout old lady in the mob-cap. The larger
number of the patients of course were paired with their
fellow-prisoners, and at the top of the room the officials danced with
some of the swells. Yes, there were swells here, ball-room coxcombs in
fustian and felt. One in particular was pointed out to me as an
University graduate of high family, and on my inquiring how such a man
became an inmate of a pauper asylum the official said, "You see, sir,
when the mind goes the income often goes too, and the people become
virtually paupers." Insanity is a great leveller, true; but I could not
help picturing that man's lucid intervals, and wondering whether his
friends might not do better for him. But there he is, pirouetting away
with the pretty female organist, the chaplain standing by and smiling
approval, and the young doctors doing the polite to a few invited
guests, but not disdaining, every now and then, to take a turn with a
patient. Quadrilles and Lancers follow, but no "round dances." A popular
prejudice on the part of the majority sets down such dances as too
exciting for the sensitive dancers. The graduate is excessively irate at
this, and rates the band soundly for not playing a valse. Galops are
played, but not danced; a complicated movement termed a "Circassian
circle" being substituted in their place. "Three hours of square dances
are really too absurd," said the graduate to an innocent second fiddle.

In the centre of the room all was gravity and decorum, but the merriest
dances went on in corners. An Irish quadrille was played, and an
unmistakable Paddy regaled himself with a most beautiful jig. He got on
by himself for a figure or two, when, remembering, no doubt, that
"happiness was born a twin," he dived into the throng, selected a
white-headed old friend of some sixty years, and impressed him with the
idea of a pas de deux. There they kept it up in a corner for the whole
of the quadrille, twirling imaginary shillelaghs, and encouraging one
another with that expressive Irish interjection which it is so
impossible to put down on paper. For an hour all went merry as the
proverbial marriage bell, and then there was an adjournment of the male
portion of the company to supper. The ladies remained in the Bazaar and
discussed oranges, with an occasional dance to the pianoforte, as the
band retired for refreshment too, in one of the attendants' rooms. I
followed the company to their supper room, as I had come to see, not to
eat. About four hundred sat down in a large apartment, and there were,
besides, sundry snug supper-parties in smaller rooms. Each guest partook
of an excellent repast of meat and vegetables, with a sufficiency of
beer and pipes to follow. The chaplain said a short grace before supper,
and a patient, who must have been a retired Methodist preacher, improved
upon the brief benediction by a long rambling "asking of a blessing," to
which nobody paid any attention. Then I passed up and down the long rows
with a courteous official, who gave me little snatches of the history of
some of the patients. Here was an actor of some note in his day; there a
barrister; here again a clergyman; here a tradesman recently "gone,"
"all through the strikes, sir," he added. The shadow--that most
mysterious shadow of all--had chequered life's sunshine in every one of
these cases. Being as they are they could not be in a better place. They
have the best advice they could get even were they--as some of them
claim to be--princes. If they can be cured, here is the best chance. If
not--well, there were the little dead-house and the quiet cemetery lying
out in the moonlight, and waiting for them when, as poor maddened Edgar
Allen Poe wrote, the "fever called living," should be "over at last."
But who talks of dying on this one night in all the year when even that
old freemason in the refractory ward was forgetting, after his own
peculiar fashion, the cruel injustice that kept him out of his twelve
thousand a year and title? Universal merriment is the rule to-night. Six
or seven gentlemen are on their legs at once making speeches, which are
listened to about as respectfully as the "toast of the evening" at a
public dinner. As many more are singing inharmoniously different songs;
the fun is getting fast and furious, perhaps a little too fast and
furious, when a readjournment to the ball-room is proposed, and readily
acceded to, one hoary-headed old flirt remarking to me as he went by,
that he was going to look for his sweetheart.

A long series of square dances followed, the graduate waxing more and
more fierce at each disappointment in his anticipated valse, and Billy
giving out every change in the programme like a parish clerk, which
functionary he resembled in many respects. It was universally agreed
that this was the best party that had ever been held in the asylum, just
as the last baby is always the finest in the family. Certainly the
guests all enjoyed themselves. The stalwart attendants danced more than
ever with a will, the rosy attendants were rosier and nattier than
before, if possible. The mob-cap went whizzing about on the regal head
of its owner down the middle of tremendous country dances, hands across,
set to partners, and then down again as though it had never tasted the
anxieties of a throne, or learnt by bitter experience the sorrows of
exile. Even the academical gentleman relaxed to the fair organist,
though he stuck up his hair stiffer than ever, and stamped his felt
boots again as he passed the unoffending double-bass with curses both
loud and deep on the subject of square dances. At length came the
inevitable "God Save the Queen," which was played in one key by the
orchestra, and sung in a great many different ones by the guests. It is
no disrespect to Her Majesty to say that the National Anthem was
received with anything but satisfaction. It was the signal that the
"jinks" were over, and that was quite enough to make it unpopular.
However, they sang lustily and with a good courage, all except the old
woman in the mob-cap, who sat with a complacent smile as much as to say,
"This is as it should be, I appreciate the honour done to my royal
brothers and sisters."

This is the bright side of the picture; but it had its sombre tints
also. There were those in all the wards who stood aloof from the
merriment, and would have none of the jinks. Lean-visaged men walked
moodily up and down the passages like caged wild beasts. Their lucid
interval was upon them, and they fretted at the irksome restraint and
degrading companionship. It was a strange thought; but I fancied they
must have longed for their mad fit as the drunkard longs for the
intoxicating draught, or the opium-eater for his delicious narcotic to
drown the idea of the present. There were those in the ball-room itself
who, if you approached them with the proffered pinch of snuff, drove you
from them with curses. One fine, intellectual man, sat by the window all
the evening, writing rhapsodies of the most extraordinary character, and
fancying himself a poet. Another wrapped round a thin piece of lath with
paper, and superscribed it with some strange hieroglyphics, begging me
to deliver it. All made arrangements for their speedy departure from
Hanwell, though many in that heart-sick tone which spoke of
long-deferred hope--hope never perhaps to be realized. Most painful
sight of all, there was one little girl there, a child of eleven or
twelve years--a child in a lunatic asylum! Think of that, parents, when
you listen to the engaging nonsense of your little ones--think of the
child in Hanwell wards! Remember how narrow a line separates innocence
from idiocy; so narrow a line that the words were once synonymous!

Then there was the infirmary full of occupants on that merry New Year's
night. Yonder poor patient being wheeled in a chair to bed will not
trouble his attendant long. There is another being lifted on his
pallet-bed, and having a cup of cooling drink applied to his parched
lips by the great loving hands of a warder who tends him as gently as a
woman. It seemed almost a cruel kindness to be trying to keep that poor
body and soul together.

Another hour, rapidly passed in the liberal hospitality of this great
institution, and silence had fallen on its congregated thousands. It is
a small town in itself, and to a large extent self-dependent and
self-governed. It bakes and brews, and makes its gas; and there is no
need of a Licensing Bill to keep its inhabitants sober and steady. The
method of doing that has been discovered in nature's own law of
kindness. Instead of being chained and treated as wild beasts, the
lunatics are treated as unfortunate men and women, and every effort is
made to ameliorate, both physically and morally, their sad condition.
Hence the bright wards, the buxom attendants, the frequent jinks. Even
the chapel-service has been brightened up for their behoof.

This was what I saw by entering as an amateur fiddler Herr Küster's band
at Hanwell Asylum; and as I ran to catch the last up-train--which I did
as the saying is by the skin of my teeth--I felt that I was a wiser,
though it may be a sadder man, for my evening's experiences at the
Lunatic Ball.

One question would keep recurring to my mind. It has been said that if
you stop your ears in a ball-room, and then look at the people--reputed
sane--skipping about in the new valse or the last galop, you will
imagine they must be all lunatics. I did not stop my ears that night,
but I opened my eyes and saw hundreds of my fellow-creatures, all with
some strange delusions, many with ferocious and vicious propensities,
yet all kept in order by a few warders, a handful of girls, and all
behaving as decorously as in a real ball-room. And the question which
_would_ haunt me all the way home was, which are the sane people, and
which the lunatics?



CHAPTER VI.

A BABY SHOW.


There is no doubt that at the present moment the British baby is
assuming a position amongst us of unusual prominence and importance.
That he should be an institution is inevitable. That he grows upon us
Londoners at the rate of some steady five hundred a week, the
Registrar-General's statistics of the excess of births over deaths prove
beyond question. His domestic importance and powers of revolutionizing a
household are facts of which every Paterfamilias is made, from time to
time, unpleasantly aware. But the British baby is doing more than this
just at present. He is assuming a public position. Perhaps it is only
the faint index of the extension of women's rights to the infantile
condition of the sexes. Possibly our age is destined to hear of Baby
Suffrage, Baby's Property Protection, Baby's Rights and Wrongs in
general. It is beyond question that the British baby _is_ putting itself
forward, and demanding to be heard--as, in fact, it always had a habit
of doing. Its name has been unpleasantly mixed up with certain
revelations at Brixton, Camberwell, and Greenwich. Babies have come to
be farmed like taxes or turnpike gates. The arable infants seem to
gravitate towards the transpontine districts south of the Thames. It
will be an interesting task for our Legislature to ascertain whether
there is any actual law to account for the transfer, as it inevitably
will have to do when the delicate choice is forced upon it between
justifiable infanticide, wholesale Hospices des Enfants Trouvés, and
possibly some kind of Japanese "happy despatch" for high-minded infants
who are superior to the slow poison administered by injudicious
"farmers." At all events, one fact is certain, and we can scarcely
reiterate it too often--the British baby is becoming emphatic beyond
anything we can recollect as appertaining to the infantile days of the
present generation. It is as though a ray of juvenile "swellishness," a
scintillation of hobbledehoyhood, were refracted upon the long clothes
or three-quarter clothes of immaturity.

For, if it is true--as we may tax our infantile experiences to assure
us--that "farmed" infants were an article unknown to husbandry in our
golden age, it is equally certain that the idea of the modern Baby Show
was one which, in that remote era, would not have been tolerated. Our
mothers and grandmothers would as soon have thought of sacrificing an
innocent to Moloch as to Mammon. What meant it then--to what can it be
due--to precocity on the part of the British baby, or degeneracy on the
part of the British parent--that two Baby Shows were "on" nearly at the
same moment--one at Mr. Giovannelli's at Highbury Barn, the other at Mr.
Holland's Gardens, North Woolwich?

Anxious to keep au courant with the times, even when those times are
chronicled by the rapid career of the British baby--anxious also to blot
out the idea of the poor emaciated infants of Brixton, Camberwell, and
Greenwich, by bringing home to my experience the opposite pole of
infantile development--I paid a visit, and sixpence, at Highbury Barn
when the Baby Show opened. On entering Mr. Giovannelli's spacious hall,
consecrated on ordinary occasions to the Terpsichorean art, I found it a
veritable shrine of the "Diva triformis." Immediately on entering I was
solicited to invest extra coppers in a correct card, containing the
names, weights, and--not colours; they were all of one colour, that of
the ordinary human lobster--but weights, of the various forms of
Wackford Squeers under twelve months, who were then and there assembled,
like a lot of little fat porkers. It was, in truth, a sight to whet the
appetite of an "annexed" Fiji Islander, or any other carnivorous animal.
My correct card specified eighty "entries;" but, although the exhibition
only opened at two o'clock, and I was there within an hour after, I
found the numbers up to 100 quite full. The interesting juveniles were
arranged within rails, draped with pink calico, all arrayed in "gorgeous
attire," and most of them partaking of maternal sustenance. The
mammas--all respectable married women of the working class--seemed to
consider the exhibition of their offspring by no means infra dig., and
were rather pleased than otherwise to show you the legs and other points
of their adipose encumbrances. Several proposed that I should test the
weight, which I did tremulously, and felt relieved when the infant
Hercules was restored to its natural protector. The prizes, which
amounted in the gross to between two and three hundred pounds, were to
be awarded in sums of _10l._ and _5l._, and sometimes in the shape of
silver cups, on what principle I am not quite clear; but the decision
was to rest with a jury of three medical men and two "matrons." If
simple adiposity, or the approximation of the human form divine to that
of the hippopotamus, be the standard of excellence, there could be no
doubt that a young gentleman named Thomas Chaloner, numbered 48 in the
correct card, aged eight months, and weighing 33lbs., would be facile
princeps, a prognostication of mine subsequently justified by the event.
I must confess to looking with awe, and returning every now and then to
look again, on this colossal child. At my last visit some one asked on
what it had been fed. Shall I own that the demon of mischief prompted me
to supplement the inquiry by adding, "Oil cake, _or_ Thorley's Food for
Cattle?"

On the score, I suppose, of mere peculiarity, my own attention--I
frankly confess I am not a connoisseur--was considerably engrossed by
"two little Niggers." No doubt the number afterwards swelled to the
orthodox "ten little Niggers." One was a jovial young "cuss" of eleven
months--weighted at 29lbs., and numbered 62 on the card. He was a
clean-limbed young fellow, with a head of hair like a furze-bush, and
his mother was quite untinted. I presume Paterfamilias was a fine
coloured gentleman. The other representative of the sons of Ham--John
Charles Abdula, aged three months, weight 21lbs., and numbered 76--was
too immature to draw upon my sympathies; since I freely acknowledge such
specimens are utterly devoid of interest for me until their bones are of
sufficient consistency to enable them to sit upright and look about as a
British baby should. This particular infant had not an idea above
culinary considerations. He was a very Alderman in embryo, if there are
such things as coloured Aldermen. Then there were twins--that
inscrutable visitation of Providence--three brace of gemini. Triplets,
in mercy to our paternal feelings, Mr. Giovannelli spared us.

There was one noteworthy point about this particular exhibition. The
mothers, at all events, got a good four days' feed whilst their
infantile furniture was "on view." I heard, sotto voce, encomiums on the
dinner of the day confidingly exchanged between gushing young matrons,
and I myself witnessed the disappearance of a decidedly comfortable tea,
to say nothing of sundry pints of porter discussed sub rosâ and free of
expense to such as stood in need of sustenance; and indeed a good many
seemed to stand in need of it. Small wonder, when the mammas were so
forcibly reminded by the highly-developed British baby that, in Byron's
own words, "our life is twofold."

It is certainly passing, not from the sublime to the ridiculous, but
vice versâ, yet it is noting another testimony to the growing importance
of the British baby, if one mentions the growth of crèches, or
day-nurseries for working-men's children in the metropolis. Already an
institution in Paris, they have been recently introduced into England,
and must surely prove a boon to the wives of our working men. What in
the world does become of the infants of poor women who are forced to
work all day for their maintenance? Is it not a miracle if something
almost worse than "farming"--death from negligence, fire, or bad
nursing--does not occur to them? The good ladies who have founded, and
themselves work, these crèches are surely meeting a confessed necessity.
I paid a visit one day to 4, Bulstrode Street, where one of these useful
institutions was in full work. I found forty little toddlers, some
playing about a comfortable day-nursery, others sleeping in tiny cribs
ranged in a double line along a spacious, well-aired sleeping-room;
some, too young for this, rocked in cosy cradles; but all clean, safe,
and happy. What needs it to say whether the good ladies who tended them
wore the habit of St. Vincent de Paul, the poke-bonnet of the Puseyite
"sister," or the simple garb of unpretending Protestantism? The thing is
being done. The most helpless of all our population--the children of the
working poor--are being kept from the streets, kept from harm, and
trained up to habits of decency, at 4, Bulstrode Street, Marylebone
Lane. Any one can go and see it for himself; and if he does--if he sees,
as I did, the quiet, unostentatious work that is there being done for
the British baby, "all for love and nothing for reward"--I shall be very
much surprised if he does not confess that it is one of the best
antidotes imaginable to baby-farming, and a sight more decorous and
dignified than any Baby Show that could possibly be imagined.



CHAPTER VII.

A NIGHT IN A BAKEHOUSE.


Alarmed at the prospect of "a free breakfast table" in a sense other
than the ordinary one--that is, a breakfast table which should be minus
the necessary accompaniment of bread, or the luxury of French rolls--I
resolved to make myself master, so far as might be possible, of the pros
and cons of the question at issue between bakers and masters at the
period of the anticipated strike some years ago. I confess to having
greatly neglected the subject of strikes. I had attended a few meetings
of the building operatives; but the subject was one in which I myself
was not personally interested. I am not likely to want to build a house,
and might manage my own little repairs while the strike lasted. But I
confess to a leaning for the staff of life. There are sundry small
mouths around me, too, of quite disproportionate capacities in the way
of bread and butter, to say nothing at all of biscuits, buns, and
tartlets. The possibility of having to provide for an impending state of
siege, then, was one that touched me immediately and vitally. Should I,
before the dreaded event, initiate the wife of my bosom in the
mysteries of bread baking? Should I commence forthwith a series of
practical experiments within the limited confines of my kitchen oven? To
prevent the otherwise inevitable heaviness and possible ropiness in my
loaves of the future, some such previous process would certainly have to
be adopted. But, then, in order to calculate the probabilities of the
crisis, an examination of the status in quo was necessary. Having a
habit of going to head-quarters in such questions, I resolved to do so
on the present occasion; so I took my hat, and, as Sam Slick says, "I
off an' out."

The actual head-quarters of the men I found to be at the Pewter Platter,
White Lion Street, Bishopsgate. Thither I adjourned, and, after drinking
the conventional glass of bitter at the bar, asked for a baker. One came
forth from an inner chamber, looking sleepy, as bakers always look. In
the penetralia of the parlour which he left I saw a group of floury
comrades, the prominent features of the gathering being depression and
bagatelle. By my comatose friend I was referred to the Admiral Carter,
in Bartholomew Close, where the men's committee sat daily at four. The
society in front of the bar there was much more cheerful than that of
the Pewter Platter, and the bakers were discussing much beer, of which
they hospitably invited me to partake. Still I learned little of their
movements, save that they were to a man resolved to abide by the now
familiar platform of work from four to four, higher wages, and no Sunday
bakings. These were the principal features of the demands, the sack
money and perquisites being confessedly subsidiary. Nauseated as the
public was and is with strikes, there are certain classes of the
community with whom it is disposed to sympathize; and certainly one of
those classes is that of journeymen bakers. Bread for breakfast we must
have, and rolls we should like; but we should also like to have these
commodities with as little nightwork as possible on the part of those
who produce them. The "Appeal to the Public" put forth by the Strike
Committee on the evening of the day concerning which I write was,
perhaps, a trifle sensational; but if there was any truth in it, such a
state of things demanded careful investigation--especially if it was a
fact that the baker slept upon the board where the bread was made, and
mingled his sweat and tears with the ingredients of the staff of life.
Pardonably, I hope, I wished to eat bread without baker for my
breakfast; but how could I probe this dreadful problem? I had it--by a
visit to the bakehouse of my own baker, if possible, during the hours of
work.

So I set out afresh after supper, and was most obligingly received by
the proprietor of what one may well take as a typical West-end
shop--neither very large nor very small--what is graphically termed a
"snug" concern with a good connexion, doing, as the technical phrase
goes, from sixteen to twenty sacks a week. The resources of this
establishment were at once placed at my disposal for the night. Now, the
advantage of conferring with this particular master was, that he was not
pig-headed on the one hand, nor unduly concessive, as he deemed some of
his fellow-tradesmen to be, on the other. He did not consider a
journeyman baker's berth a bed of roses, or his remuneration likely to
make him a millionaire; but neither did he lose sight of the fact that
certain hours must be devoted to work, and a limit somewhere placed to
wage, or the public must suffer through the employer of labour by being
forced to pay higher prices. The staff of this particular establishment
consisted of four men at the following wages: A foreman at _28s._ and a
second hand at _20s._ a week, both of whom were outsiders; while,
sleeping on the premises, and, at the time of my arrival, buried in the
arms of Morpheus, were a third hand, at _16s._, and a fourth, at _12s._
Besides these wages they had certain perquisites, such as bread, butter,
sugar, flour, sack-money, yeast-money, &c.; and the master, moreover,
took his adequate share of day-work. He was seated outside his shop,
enjoying the cool breezes, not of evening, but of midnight, when I
presented myself before his astonished gaze. His wife and children had
long since retired. The foreman and second "hand" had not arrived; the
third and fourth "hands" were, as I said, sweetly sleeping, in a chamber
on the basement, well out of range of the bakehouse, to which, like a
couple of conspirators, we descended. It was not exactly the spot one
would have selected for a permanent residence if left free to choose. It
was, perhaps, as Mr. Dickens's theatrical gentleman phrased it,
pernicious snug; but the ventilation was satisfactory. There were two
ovens, which certainly kept the place at a temperature higher than might
have been agreeable on that hot September night. Kneading troughs were
ranged round the walls, and in the centre, like an altar-tomb, was the
fatal "board" where, however, I sought in vain for the traces of
perspiration or tears. All was scrupulously clean. In common phrase, you
might have "eaten your dinner" off any portion of it.

Soon after midnight the outsiders turned in, first the second hand and
then the foreman, and, plunging into the "Black Hole," made their
toilettes du soir. Then active operations commenced forthwith. In one
compartment of the kneading-trough was the "sponge," which had been
prepared by the foreman early in the evening, and which now, having
properly settled, was mixed with the flour for the first batch, and left
to "prove." The process of making the dough occupied until about one
o'clock, and then followed two hours of comparative tranquillity,
during which the men adjourned to the retirement of certain millers'
sacks hard by, which they rolled up cleverly into extempore beds, and
seemed to prefer to the board. The proving takes about two hours, but
varies with the temperature. If the dough is left too long, a sour
batch, or a "pitch in," is the result. It is then cut out, weighed, and
"handed up;" after which it stands while the dough for the second batch
is being made, and those fatal rolls, around which so much of this
contest is likely to turn, are being got forward. It must be understood
that I am here describing what took place in my typical bakehouse.
Proceedings will of course vary in details according to the
neighbourhood, the season, and other circumstances. This makes, as my
informant suggested, the race of bakers necessarily in some degree a
varium atque mutabile genus, whom it is difficult to bind by rigid "hard
and fast" lines. The first batch is in the oven at four, and is drawn
about 5.30. During the intervals there has been the preparation of fancy
bread and the "getting off" of the rolls. Then the "cottage" batch is
moulded and got off, and comes out of the oven at eight. From three
o'clock up to this hour there has been active work enough for everybody,
and I felt myself considerably in the way, adjourning ever and anon to
the master's snuggery above stairs to note down my experiences. As for
the men, they must have fancied that I was an escaped lunatic, with
harmless eccentricities; and the fourth hand, who was young, gazed at me
all night with a fixed and sleepy glare, as though on his guard lest I
should be seized with a refractory fit. At eight the close atmosphere of
the bakehouse was exchanged for the fresh morning breeze by three out of
the four hands, who went to deliver the bread. The foreman remained with
the master to work at "small goods" until about one, when he prepares
the ferment for the next night's baking. All concerned can get their
operations over about one or half-past one; so that, reckoning them to
begin at half-past twelve, and deducting two hours of "sweat and tears"
from one to three, when they can sleep if they will, there are some
eleven hours of active labour. After the delivery of the bread is over,
it should be mentioned, each man has about half an hour's bakehouse work
in the way of getting coals, cleaning biscuit tins, brushing up, &c.
When this is done, all, with the exception of the foreman, who will have
to look in and make the sponge at eight P.M., are free until the
commencement of their most untimely work at midnight.

On Sunday, the work in this particular bakehouse is comparatively nil.
The ovens have to be started on Sunday morning; but this the master does
himself, and puts in the ferment, so that there is only the sponge to
be made in the evening--a brief hour's job, taken on alternate Sundays
by the foreman and the second hand. The "undersellers," my informant
told me, made large sums by Sunday bakings, often covering their rent by
them, so that their abandonment would be a serious question; but there
was little in the way of Sabbath-breaking in my typical bakehouse. As
there were no Sunday bakings, Saturday was a rather harder day than
others, there being a general scrub-up of the premises. The work, my
informant thought, could be condensed by judicious co-operation, and the
"four to four" rule might be adopted in some establishments, but by no
means in all--as, for instance, where there was a speciality for rolls
and fancy bread. It seems, as usual, that the difficulties thicken, not
about the necessaries, but about the luxuries and kickshaws of life. The
master relieved my immediate fears by saying that he scarcely imagined
matters would come to a crisis. There was this difference between the
building and the baking trades, that all the master bakers had been
journeymen themselves, and were thus able to sympathize with the men's
difficulties. They were not, he seemed to think, disposed to haggle over
a few shillings; but he added, "This is not a question of labour against
capital only, but of labour against capital plus labour. I could," he
said, "if my men left me on the 21st, make bread enough myself to
supply all my customers, only they would have to fetch it for
themselves."

Thus my worst fears were relieved. If it only came to going out for my
loaf, and even foregoing French rolls, I could face that like a man; so
I paced the streets gaily in the morning air and arrived home safely
some time after the milk, and about the same hour as those rolls
themselves whose hitherto unguessed history I had so far fathomed by my
brief experiences in the bakehouse.



CHAPTER VIII.

A LONDON SLAVE MARKET.


There is a story called "Travellers' Wonders" in that volume which used
to be the delight of our childhood, when the rising generation was more
easily amused and not quite so wide-awake as at present. The point of
the narrative is, that a facetious old gentleman named Captain Compass
beguiles a group of juveniles--who must have been singularly gullible
even for those early days--by describing in mysterious and
alien-sounding terms the commonest home objects, such as coals, cheese,
butter, and so on. It would almost seem as though Hood must have been
perpetrating a kindred joke upon grown-up children when he wrote the
lines--

    It's O to be a slave
    Along with the barbarous Turk,
    Where woman has never a soul to save,
    If this is Christian Work!

Was he aware that here, in the heart of Christian London, without going
farther east than Bethnal Green, there had existed from time immemorial,
as there exists still, a genuine Slave Market? Such there is, and
actually so named; less romantic, indeed, than that we read of in "Don
Juan," or used to see on the Adelphi boards in the drama of the
"Octoroon"--but still interesting in its way to those who have a
penchant for that grotesque side of London life where the sublime and
the ridiculous sometimes blend so curiously.

With only the vague address of Bethnal Green and the date of Tuesday
morning to guide me, I set out for Worship Street Police Court, thinking
it possible to gain some further particulars from the police. I found
those functionaries civil, indeed, but disposed to observe even more
than official reticence about the Slave Market. They told me the
locality precisely enough, but were even more vague as to the hour than
my own impressions. In fact, the sum of what I could gain from them was,
in slightly Hibernian language, that there was nothing to see, and I
could see it any time on a Tuesday morning when I chose to go down White
Street, Bethnal Green. Leaving the Court and inquiring my route to White
Street, I found that it ran off to the right some way down the Bethnal
Green Road from Shoreditch Station. Having turned out of the main
thoroughfare, you proceed down one of those characteristic East End
streets where every small householder lives behind an elaborate bright
green door with portentous knocker, going on until an arch of the Great
Eastern Railway spans the road. Arriving at this point any time between
the hours of eight and half-past nine on a Monday or Tuesday morning,
you have no need to be told that this is the East London Slave
Market--supposing you knew such a thing as a slave market was to be seen
in East London at all.

There was, indeed, nothing resembling Byron's graphic description in
"Don Juan." Our English slaves were all apparently of one nation, and
there were no slave merchants. The hundred young ladies and gentlemen,
of all ages from seven to seventeen, were, as they would have expressed
it, "on their own hook." Ranged under the dead brick wall of the railway
arch, there was a generally mouldy appearance about them. Instead of a
picturesque difference of colour, there was on every visage simply a
greater or less degree of that peculiar neutral tint, the unmistakable
unlovely hue of London dirt. In this respect, too, they differed from
the fresh country lads and lasses one sees at a hiring in the North.
They were simply male and female City Arabs, with that superabundant
power of combining business and pleasure which characterizes their race.
The young gentlemen, in the intervals of business--and it seemed to be
all interval and no business--devoted themselves to games at buttons.
Each of the young ladies--I am afraid to say _how_ young--had her
cavalier, and applied herself to very pronounced flirtation. The
language of one and all certainly fulfilled the baptismal promise of
their sponsors, if the poor little waifs ever had any--for it was very
"vulgar tongue" indeed; and there was lots of it. The great sensation
of the morning was a broken window in an unoffending tradesman's shop--a
far from unusual occurrence, as I learnt from the sufferer. This led to
a slave hunt on the part of the single policeman who occasionally showed
himself to keep as quiet as might be the seething mass of humanity; and
the young lady or gentleman who was guilty of the damage was "off
market" for the morning--while the suffering tradesman was assailed with
a volley of abuse, couched in strongest Saxon, for meekly protesting
against the demolition of his window-pane.

The scene was most characteristic--very unlike the genteel West End
Servants' Registry, where young ladies and gentlemen's gentlemen saunter
in to find places with high wages and the work "put out." It was on
Tuesday morning, and a little late in the day, that I timed my visit;
and I was informed that the Market was somewhat flat. Certainly, one
could not apply to it the technicalities of the Stock Exchange, and say
that little boys were "dull," or girls, big or little, "inactive;" but
early on a Monday morning is, it appears, the time to see the Slave
Market in full swing. Strangely enough, so far as I could judge, it was
all slaves and no buyers--or, rather, hirers. I did not see the symptom
of a bargain being struck, though I was informed that a good many small
tradesmen do patronize the Market, for shop-boys, nurse-girls, or
household drudges. I do not know whether my appearance was particularly
attractive; but the number of offers I received from domestics of all
kinds would have sufficed to stock half-a-dozen establishments. "Want a
boy, sir?" "A girl for the childer, sir?" said the juveniles, while the
offers of the adult ladies were more emphatic and less quotable. All, of
course, was mere badinage, or, as they would have called it, "chaff,"
and it was meant good-humouredly enough; though, had I been a legitimate
hirer, I do not know that I should have been tempted to add to my
household from this source. Indeed, there were some not exactly pleasant
reflections cast on the Slave Market by those whom I consulted as to its
merits. It was not unusual, I was told, for slaves who were hired on a
Monday to turn up again on Tuesday morning, either from incompatibility
of temper on the part of domestic and superior, or from other causes
unexplained. Tuesday morning is, in fact, to a large extent, the mere
residuum either of Monday's unhired incapables, or of "returns." And
yet, as I looked around, I saw--as where does one not see?--some fair
young faces; girls who might have played with one's little children all
the better because they were so nearly children themselves; and boys of
preternatural quickness, up to any job, and capable of being useful--ay,
and even ornamental--members of society, if only that dreadful Bethnal
Green twang could have been eradicated. The abuse of the mother tongue
on the part even of these children was simply frightful. If this were so
in their playful moods, what--one could not help thinking--would it be
if any dispute arose on a contested point of domestic economy: as, for
instance, the too rapid disappearance of the cold mutton, or sudden
absence of master's boots?

There was a garrulous cobbler whose stall bordered on the Market, and
his panacea for all the evils the Slave Market brought with it was the
London School Board. "Why don't the officers come down and collar some
o' them youngsters, sir?" Why, indeed? At present the Slave Market is
undoubtedly a nuisance; but there is no reason why, under proper police
supervision, it should not become a local convenience. The ways of East
London differ in all respects from those of the West, and Servants'
Registries would not pay. Masters and servants are alike too poor to
advertise; and there seems to be no reason why the Slave Market, under a
changed name, and with improved regulations, may not as really supply a
want as the country "hirings" do. The Arab, at present, is not to be
trusted with too much liberty. Both male and female have odd Bedouin
ways of their own, requiring considerable and judicious manipulation to
mould them to the customs of civilized society. The respectable
residents, tired of the existing state of things, look not unreasonably,
as ratepayers, to the School Board to thin down the children, and the
police to keep the adults in order. Under such conditions, the Bethnal
Green Slave Market may yet become a useful institution.



CHAPTER IX.

TEA AND EXPERIENCE.


I was walking the other day in one of the pleasant western suburbs, and
rashly sought a short cut back; when, as is generally the case, I found
that the longer would have been much the nearer way home. Before I knew
it, I was involved in the labyrinths of that region, sacred to
washerwomen and kindred spirits, known as Kensal New Town; and my
further progress was barred by the intervention of the Paddington Canal,
which is spanned at rare intervals in this locality by pay-bridges, to
the great discomfort of the often impecunious natives. There was not
even one of these at hand, or my halfpenny would have been paid under
protest; so I had to wander like a lost sprite among the network of
semi-genteel streets that skirt that most ungenteel thoroughfare, the
Kensal New Town Road, and forthwith I began to find the neighbourhood
papered with placards, announcing a "Tea and Experience Meeting" at a
local hall, under the presidency of the Free Church pastor, for the
following Monday evening. Bakers' shops bristled with the handbills, and
they studded the multitudinous pork butchers' windows in juxtaposition
with cruel-looking black puddings and over-fat loin chops. I determined
I would go, if not to the tea, certainly to the "Experience," for I like
novel experiences of all kinds: and this would certainly be new, whether
edifying or not.

I got at length out of the labyrinth, and on the following Monday
ventured once more within its mazes, though not exactly at six o'clock,
which was the hour appointed for the preliminary experience of tea. I
had experienced that kind of thing once or twice before, and never found
myself in a position of such difficulty as on those occasions. In the
first place I do not care about tea, when it is good; but loathe it when
boiled in a washhouse copper, and poured out from a large tin can, of
which it tastes unpleasantly. But, then again, the quantity as well as
the quality of the viands to be consumed was literally too much for me.
I might have managed one cup of decidedly nasty tea, or what passes
muster for such, but not four or five, which I found to be the minimum.
I could stomach, or secretly dispose of in my pockets, a single slice of
leaden cake or oleaginous bread-and-butter; but I could not do this with
multitudinous slabs of either. I never went to more than one tea-meeting
where I felt at home, and that was at the Soirée Suisse, which takes
place annually in London, where pretty Helvetian damsels brew the most
fragrant coffee and hand round delicious little cakes, arrayed as they
are in their killing national costume and chattering in a dozen
different patois. I had a notion that tea at Kensal New Town would be
very much less eligible, so I stopped away. Perhaps I was prejudiced.
The tea might have been different from what I expected. The experiences
certainly were.

I got there about half-past seven, having allowed an interval of an hour
and a half, which I thought would be sufficient for the most inveterate
tea-drinker, even among the Kensal Town laundresses, should such happen
to be present. I took the precaution, however, of bespeaking a lad of
fifteen to accompany me, in case any of the fragments of the feast
should yet have to be disposed of, since I knew his powers to equal
those of the ostrich in stowing away eatables, especially in the lumpy
cake line. Arrived at the hall, however, I found no symptoms of the tea
save a steamy sort of smell and the rattle of the retreating cups and
saucers. Whether "to my spirit's gain or loss," I had escaped the
banquet and yet got in good time for the subsequent experiences.

A motherly-looking woman stood at the door, and gave me a cheery
invitation to come in. She looked rather askance at my boy, but finding
him properly convoyed by my sober self, she admitted him within the
portal. A good many young gentlemen of a similar age were evidently
excluded, and were regaling themselves with pagan sports outside. The
hall was partially filled with respectable-looking mechanics, their
wives, and families, there being more wives than mechanics, and more
families than either. Children abounded, especially babies in every
stage of infantile development. Many were taking their maternal tea; and
the boys and girls were got up in the most festive attire, the boys
particularly shining with yellow soap. Most of the mammas wore perky
hats, and many had follow-me-lads down the back, but all were
exceedingly well-dressed and well-behaved, though evidently brimful of
hilarity as well as cake and tea.

At the end of the hall was the inevitable platform, with chairs and a
large cushion spread over the front rail for convenience of praying;
since the "experiences" were to be interspersed with sacred song and
prayer. Two gentlemen--I use the term advisedly--mounted the rostrum,
one a long-bearded, middle-aged man, in a frock coat, who was the
pastor, and another an aged minister, superannuated, as I afterwards
discovered, and not altogether happy in his worldly lot. He was very
old, grey-haired, and feeble, with a worn suit of clerical black, and a
voluminous white tie. He sat humbly, almost despondingly, by the side of
his younger brother in the ministry, while the latter delivered a merry
little opening address, hoping all had made a good tea; if not, there
was still about half a can left. Nobody wanted any more; so they had a
hymn from the "Sacred Songster," a copy of which volume I purchased in
the hall for twopence halfpenny. The tune was a martial one, well sung
by a choir of men and women to the accompaniment of a harmonium, and
bravely borne part in, you may depend upon it, by the whole assembly, I
verily believe, except the babies, and one or two of these put in a note
sometimes. The hymn was called, "Oh, we are Volunteers!" and was very
Church-militant indeed, beginning thus:--

    Oh, we are volunteers in the army of the Lord,
    Forming into line at our Captain's word;
    We are under marching orders to take the battle-field,
    And we'll ne'er give o'er the fight till the foe shall yield.

Then came the chorus, repeated after every verse:--

    Come and join the army, the army of the Lord,
    Jesus is our Captain, we rally at His word:
    Sharp will be the conflict with the powers of sin,
    But with such a leader we are sure to win.

The poor old minister offered up a short prayer. The pastor read the 1st
Corinthians, chapter 13, and explained briefly what charity meant there;
adding that this gathering was very like one of the Agapæ of the early
Christians--a remark I had not expected to hear in that assembly. Then
there was another hymn, "Beautiful Land of Rest," when it did one good
to hear the unction with which the second syllable of the refrain was
given:--

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
    Beautiful land of rest.

After this the "Experiences" commenced in real earnest. Brothers and
Sisters were exhorted to lay aside shyness and mount the platform. Of
course no one would do so at first; and the poor shaky old minister had
to come to the rescue.

He told us, at rather too great length, the simple story of his
life--how he was a farmer's son, and had several brothers "besides
himself." He had to learn verses of the Bible for his father, which used
to go against the grain, until at last, instead of being "a wicked boy,"
he took up religion on his own account. He began to be afraid that, if
he died, he should go to "a bad place," and therefore started saying his
prayers. His brother George used to push him over when he was praying
half-dressed in the bedroom, or occasionally vary proceedings by
stirring him up with a sweeping brush. At last he found out a quiet
place under a haystack, and there retired to pray. The old man drew a
perfect picture of the first prayer thus offered, and told us he could
remember every little detail of the spot, and the great oak tree
spreading its branches over it. "Here I am," he said, "a poor old
pilgrim on the bright side of seventy now, and yet I can remember it
all. I say the 'bright' side, for I know it is a bright home I am soon
going to." Then he told us how God took his wife from him and all his
worldly goods, and he was quite eloquent about the comfort his religion
was to him now as he went to his little lonely lodging. He drew next too
truthful a picture of the state of things he saw around him in Kensal
New Town--mothers with infants in their arms crowding the tavern doors;
and finished up with a story, of which he did not see the irrelevancy,
about a fine lady going to the "theatre," and saying how much she had
enjoyed the anticipation, then the play itself, and, lastly, the thought
of it afterwards. She was overheard by a faithful pastor, who told her
she had omitted one detail. "No," she said, "I have told you all." "You
have told us how you enjoyed the thoughts of the theatre, and the
performance, and the recollection of it afterwards; but you have not
told us how you will enjoy the thoughts of it on your death-bed." Of
course the "fine lady" was converted on the spot, as they always are in
tracts; and the good old fellow brought his long-winded narrative of
experiences to an end by-and-by, the pastor having omitted to pull his
coat-tails, as he promised to do if any speaker exceeded the allotted
time. "The people were certainly very attentive to hear him," and one
man next my boy expressed his satisfaction by letting off little groans,
like minute guns, at frequent intervals.

Then another hymn was sung, "The Beautiful Land on High," which, by the
way, is a favourite with the spiritualists at their "Face Séances." I
half expected to see a ghostly-looking visage peep out of some corner
cupboard, as I had often done with my spiritual friends--that being
another experience which I cultivate with considerable interest and
curiosity. The hymn being over, a black-bearded, but soft-voiced man, in
a velveteen coat, got upon the platform, and told us how the chief
delight of his life was at one time making dogs fight. When the animals
were not sufficiently pugnacious of themselves, his habit was to
construct an apparatus, consisting of a pin at the end of a stick, and
so urge them to the combat, until it proved fatal to one of them. It
was, he said, dreadful work; and he now considered it the direct
machination of Satan. Another favourite pursuit was interrupting the
proceedings of open-air missionaries. One day after he had done so, he
went home with a companion who had taken a tract from one of the
missionaries. He had a quarrel with his "missis." "Not that missis
sittin' there," he said, alluding to a smart lady in front, "but my
first missis." In order to show his sulks against his missis, he took to
reading the tract, and it soon made him cry. Then he went to chapel and
heard a sermon on Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt. He was
a little exercised by this, and saw the minister in the vestry, but soon
fell back into bad habits again, singing canaries for _10s. 6d._ a side.
As he was taking his bird out one Sunday morning, the bottom of the cage
came out, and the canary escaped. This he looked upon as "God's work,"
since it caused him to go to chapel that morning. His conversion soon
followed, and he applied to that circumstance, in a very apposite
manner, the Parable of the Prodigal, concluding with a stanza from the
well-known hymn--

    God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform.

Another moustached man followed. He was exceedingly well-dressed,
though he told us he was only a common labourer. He had long given up
his "'art" to God, but to little purpose until he came to this chapel.
"But there," he said, "down in that corner under the gas-lamp, I prayed
for the first time. I prayed that God would take away my stony 'art and
give me a 'art of flesh, and renew a right sperrit within me." From that
time he led a new life. His fellow-workmen began to sneer at the change,
and said ironically they should take to going to chapel too. "I wish to
God you would," was his reply. He described the personal influence of
the pastor upon him, which strengthened the good resolutions he had
formed, and enabled him to say, "I will not let Thee go."

I could not help thinking, as I listened to the simple, earnest words of
the speaker, that here was an element the National Church is too apt to
ignore. The Roman Catholic Church would seize hold upon that man, and
put him in a working men's guild or confraternity. The Free Church found
him work to do, and gave him a chief seat in the synagogue, and an
opportunity of airing his "experiences" on a platform. Surely better
either one or the other, than sotting his life at a public-house, or
turning tap-room orator. He ended by crying shame upon himself for
having put off the change until so late in life, and added a wish that
all the labouring classes could see, as he had been brought to see,
where their chief interest as well as happiness lay.

A tall man from the choir followed, and was considerably more
self-possessed than the other two speakers. He told us at the outset
that he had been "a Christian" for fourteen years. It was generally laid
down as a rule, he said, that big men were good-tempered. He was not a
small man; but until he gave his heart to God he was never
good-tempered. He had, for thirty-two years, been brought up in the
Church of England, but had found no conversion there. He had no wish to
speak against the Church, but such was the case. He wandered about a
good deal in those years, from Roman Catholic to Old Methodist chapels;
but the latter settled him. He was attending a class meeting in Kensal
New Town one night, and suddenly a determination came over him that he
would not sleep that night until he had kneeled down and prayed with his
wife, though it would be the first time he had done so for thirty-two
years. When it came to bedtime his courage failed him. He could not get
into bed; and he did not like to tell his wife why. "That," he said,
"was the devil worritin' me." His wife said, "I know what's the matter
with you. You want to pray. We will see what we can do." His wife, he
told us, was "unconverted," but still she "throwed open the door" on
that occasion. He never knew happiness, he said, until he came to Jesus;
and he added, "Oh, I do love my Jesus." He often talked to his
fellow-workmen about the state of their souls, and they asked him how
it was he was so certain of being converted (a question I fancy others
than they would like to have solved), and he answered them, "I feel it.
I was uncomfortable before; and now I am happy. I don't wonder so much
at the old martyrs going boldly up to the stake, because I feel I could
do anything rather than give up my Jesus."

Hereupon the pastor, anticipating the departure of some of the
assembly--for the clock was pointing to ten--announced a Temperance
Meeting for the following Monday, and also said he should like the
congregation to get up these meetings entirely on their own account,
without any "clerical" element at all, and to make the Tea Meeting a
"Free and Easy" in the best sense of the word.

I went--shall I confess it?--to the experience meeting rather inclined
to scoff, and I stopped, if not altogether to pray, at least to think
very seriously of the value of the instrumentality thus brought to
bear on such intractable material as the Kensal New Town population.
The more cumbrous, even if more perfect or polished, machinery of the
Established Church has notoriously failed for a long time to affect
such raw material; and if it is beginning to succeed it is really by
"taking a leaf out of the book" of such pastors as the one whose
Tea-and-Experience Meeting I had attended. "Palmam qui meruit ferat."

Stiggins element, I must, in all justice, say there was none. The pastor
was a simple but a refined and gentlemanly man; so was the poor broken
old minister. There was no symptom of raving or rant; no vulgarity or
bad taste. A gathering at a deanery or an episcopal palace could not
have been more decorous, and I doubt if the hymns would have been sung
as heartily. There was as little clerical starch as there was of the
opposite element. Rubbing off the angles of character was one of the
objects actually proposed by the pastor as the result of these
gatherings; and I really felt as though a corner or two had gone out of
my constitution. If a man is disposed to be priggish, or a lady
exclusive, in religious matters, I would recommend the one or the other
to avail themselves of the next opportunity to attend a
Tea-and-Experience Meeting at Kensal New Town.



CHAPTER X.

SUNDAY LINNET-SINGING.


There is something very Arcadian and un-Cockney-like in the idea of
linnet-singing in Lock's Fields. Imagination pictures so readily the
green pastures and the wild bird's song, and Corydon with his pipe and
his Phyllis, that it seems a pity to disabuse that exquisite faculty of
our nature so far as to suggest that the linnets of which we speak are
not wild, but tame and caged, and the fields very much less rural than
those of Lincoln's Inn. This was the announcement that drew me to the
New Kent Road on a recent Sunday morning to hear what poor Cockney Keats
called the "tender-legged linnets:" "Bird-singing.--A match is made
between Thomas Walker (the Bermondsey Champion) and William Hart
(Champion of Walworth) to sing two linnets, on Sunday, for _2l._ a side;
birds to be on the nail precisely at two o'clock; the host to be
referee. _10s._ is now down; the remainder by nine this evening, at the
Jolly Butchers, Rodney Road, Lock's Fields. Also a copper kettle will be
sung for on the same day by six pairs of linnets; first pair up at
half-past six o'clock in the evening. Any person requiring the said
room for matches, &c., on making application to the host, will
immediately be answered."

Rodney Road, be it known, is anything but a romantic thoroughfare,
leading out of the New Kent Road, a little way from the Elephant and
Castle; and the caravanserai bearing the title of the Jolly Butchers is
an unpretending beershop, with no outward and visible signs of especial
joviality. On entering I met mine host, rubicund and jolly enough, who
politely pioneered me upstairs, when I reported myself as in quest of
the linnets. The scene of contest I found to be a largish room, where
some twenty or thirty most un-Arcadian looking gentlemen were already
assembled, the only adjunct at all symptomatic of that pastoral district
being their pipes, at which they were diligently puffing. The whole of
the tender-legged competitors, both for the money and the copper kettle,
were hanging in little square green cages over the fireplace; and the
one idea uppermost in my mind was how well the linnets must be seasoned
to tobacco smoke if they could sing at all in the atmosphere which those
Corydons were so carefully polluting. Corydon, besides his pipe, had
adopted nuts and beer to solace the tedium of the quarter of an hour
that yet intervened before the Bermondsey bird and its Walworth
antagonist were to be "on the nail;" and ever and anon fresh Corydons
kept dropping in, until some fifty or sixty had assembled. They were all
of one type. There was a "birdiness" discernible on the outer man of
each; for birdiness, as well as horseyness, writes its mark on the
countenance and the attire. In the latter department there was a
proclivity to thick pea-jackets and voluminous white comforters round
the neck, though the day was springlike and the room stuffy. The talk
was loud, but not boisterous, and garnished with fewer elegant flowers
of speech than one would have expected. Five minutes before two the
non-competing birds were carefully muffled up in pocket-handkerchiefs,
and carried in their cages out of earshot, lest their twitterings might
inspire the competing minstrels. Bermondsey and Walworth alone occupied
the nails. Scarcely any bets were made. They seemed an impecunious
assemblage, gathered for mere sport. One gentleman did, indeed, offer to
stake "that 'ere blowsy bob," as though a shilling in his possession
were a rarity of which his friends must be certainly aware. What was the
occult meaning of the epithet "Blowsy" I could not fathom, but there
were no takers; and, after the windows had been opened for a few minutes
to clear the atmosphere, they were closed again; the door locked; the
two markers took their place at a table in front of the birds, with bits
of chalk in their hands; mine host stood by as referee in case of
disputes; time was called; and silence reigned supreme for a quarter of
an hour, broken only by the vocal performances of the Bermondsey and
Walworth champions respectively. If a hapless human being did so far
forget himself as to cough or tread incontinently upon a nutshell, he
was called to silence with curses not loud but deep.

The Walworth bird opened the concert with a brilliant solo by way of
overture, which was duly reported by the musical critic in the shape of
a chalk line on the table. The length of the effusion did not matter; a
long aria, or a brilliant but spasmodic cadenza, each counted one, and
one only. The Bermondsey bird, heedless of the issue at stake, devoted
the precious moments to eating, emitting nothing beyond a dyspeptic
twitter which didn't count; and his proprietor stood by me evidently
chagrined, and perspiring profusely, either from anxiety or superfluous
attire. Nearly half the time had gone by before Bermondsey put forth its
powers. Meanwhile, Walworth made the most of the opportunity, singing in
a manner of which I did not know linnets were capable. There were notes
and passages in the répertoire of Walworth which were worthy of a
canary. The bird no doubt felt that the credit of home art was at stake,
and sang with a vigour calculated to throw foreign feathered artistes
into the shade. Bermondsey evidently sang best after dinner, so he dined
like an alderman; yet dined, alas! not wisely, but too well, or rather
too long. Then he sang, first, a defiant roulade or so, as much as to
say, "Can you beat that, Walworth?" pausing, with his head wickedly on
one side, for a reply. That reply was not wanting, for Walworth was
flushed with success; and one could not help regretting ignorance of
bird-language so as to gather exactly what the reply meant. Then came a
protracted duet between the two birds, which was the pièce de résistance
of the whole performance. The silence became irksome. I could not help
congratulating myself on the fact that no Corydon had brought his
Phyllis; for Phyllis, I am sure, would not have been able to stand it.
Phyllis, I feel certain, would have giggled. We remained mute as mice,
solemn as judges. The ghost of a twitter was hailed with mute signs of
approval by the backers of each bird; but a glance at the expressive
features of the host warned the markers that nothing must be chalked
down that did not come up to his idea of singing. Had the destinies of
empires hung upon his nod he could scarcely have looked more oracular.
But Walworth could afford to take matters easily now. For the last five
minutes the Bermondsey bird did most of the music; still it was a
hopeless case. Success was not on the cards. By-and-by, time was again
called. Babel recommenced, and the result stood as follows:

  Walworth              3 score 18
  Bermondsey            1 score 10

It was an ignominious defeat truly; and, had one been disposed to
moralize, it had not been difficult to draw a moral therefrom. It was
not a case of "no song, no supper;" but of supper--or, rather,
dinner--and no song. Bermondsey had failed in the artistic combat, not
from lack of powers, as its brilliant part in the duet and its
subsequent soli proved, but simply from a Sybaritic love for creature
comforts. I ventured to suggest it might have been expedient to remove
the seed, but was informed that, under those circumstances, the
creature--its proprietor called it an uglier name--would not have sung
at all. The remarkable part of the business to me was that they did sing
at the proper time. They had not uttered anything beyond a twitter until
silence was called, and from that moment one or the other was singing
incessantly. I suppose it was the silence. I have noticed not only caged
birds, but children--not to speak ungallantly of the fair sex--generally
give tongue most freely when one is silent, and presumably wants to keep
so.

The contest, however, was over, the stakes paid, and Corydon sought his
pastoral pipe again--not without beer. It was a new experience, but not
a very exciting one--to me, at least. It evidently had its attractions
for the very large majority of attendants. In fact, Rodney Road is
generally a "birdy" neighbourhood. Its staple products, to judge by the
shops, seemed birds and beer. I was much pressed by mine host to stay
for the evening entertainment, when six birds were to sing, and the
attendance would be more numerous. As some five hours intervened I
expressed regret at my inability to remain, reserving my opinion that
five hours in Lock's Fields might prove the reverse of attractive, and
Corydon in greater force might not have an agreeable effect on that
already stuffy chamber. So I took myself off, wondering much, by the
way, what strange association of ideas could have led any imaginative
man to propose such an incongruous reward as a copper kettle by way of
præmium for linnet-singing.



CHAPTER XI.

A WOMAN'S RIGHTS DEBATE.


There never was a time when, on all sorts of subjects, from Mesmerism to
Woman's Rights, the ladies had so much to say for themselves. There is
an ancient heresy which tells us that, on most occasions, ladies are
prone to have the last word; but certain it is that they are making
themselves heard now. On the special subject of her so-called "Rights"
the abstract Woman was, I knew, prodigiously emphatic--how emphatic,
though, I was not quite aware, until having seen from the top of a
City-bound omnibus that a lady whom I will describe by the Aristophanic
name of Praxagora would lecture at the Castle Street Co-operative
Institute. I went and co-operated so far as to form one of that lady's
audience. Her subject--the "Political Status of Women"--was evidently
attractive, not only to what we used in our innocence to call the weaker
sex, but also to those who are soon to have proved to them the fallacy
of calling themselves the stronger. A goodly assemblage had gathered in
the fine hall of the Co-operators to join in demolishing that ancient
myth as to the superiority of the male sex. My first intention was to
have reported verbatim or nearly so the oration of Praxagora on the
subject; and if I changed my scheme it was not because that lady did not
deserve to be reported. She said all that was to be said on the matter,
and said it exceedingly well too; but when the lecture, which lasted
fifty minutes, was over, I found it was to be succeeded by a debate; and
I thought more might be gained by chronicling the collision of opinion
thence ensuing than by simply quoting the words of any one speaker,
however eloquent or exhaustive.

I own with fear and trembling--for it is a delicate, dangerous
avowal--that, as a rule, I do not sympathize with the ladies who declaim
on the subject of Woman's Rights. I do not mean to say I lack sympathy
with the subject--I should like everybody to have their rights, and
especially women--but they are sometimes asserted in such a
sledge-hammer fashion, and the ladies who give them utterance are so
prone to run large and be shrill-voiced that their very physique proves
their claim either unnecessary or undesirable. I feel certain that in
whatever station of domestic life those ladies may be placed, they would
have their full rights, if not something more; and as for Parliamentary
rights, I tremble for the unprotected males should such viragos ever
compass the franchise; or, worse still, realize the ambition of the
Ecclesiazusæ of Aristophanes, and sit on the benches of St. Stephen's
clad in the nether garments of the hirsute sex. There was nothing of
that kind on Tuesday night. In manner and appearance our present
Praxagora was thoroughly feminine, and, by her very quietude of manner,
impressed me with a consciousness of power, and determination to use it.
Her voice was soft and silvery almost as that of Miss Faithfull herself;
and when, at the outset of her lecture, she claimed indulgence on the
score of never having spoken in a public hall before, we had to press
forward to the front benches to catch the modulated tones, and men who
came clumping in with heavy boots in the course of the lecture were
severely hushed down by stern-visaged females among the audience.

Disclaiming connexion with any society, Praxagora still adopted the
first person plural in speaking of the doctrines and intentions of the
down-trodden females. "We" felt so and so; "we" intended to do this or
that; and certainly her cause gained by the element of mystery thus
introduced, as well as by her own undoubted power of dealing with the
subject. When the "we" is seen to refer to the brazen-voiced ladies
aforesaid, and a few of the opposite sex who appear to have changed
natures with the gentle ones they champion, that plural pronoun is the
reverse of imposing, but the "we" of Praxagora introduced an element of
awe, if only on the omne ignotum pro magnifico principle. In the most
forcible way she went through the stock objections against giving women
the franchise, and knocked them down one by one like so many ninepins.
That coveted boon of a vote she proved to be at the basis of all the
regeneration of women. She claimed that woman should have her share in
making the laws by which she was governed, and denied the popular
assertion that in so doing she would quit her proper sphere. In fact, we
all went with her up to a certain point, and most of the audience beyond
that point. For myself I confess I felt disheartened when, having dealt
in the most consummate way with other aspects of the subject, she came
to the religious phase, and begging the question that the Bible and
religion discountenanced woman's rights, commenced what sounded to me
like a furious attack on each.

Now I happen to know--what perhaps those who look from another
standpoint do not know--that this aggressive attitude assumed so
unnecessarily by the advocates of woman's rights is calculated to keep
back the cause more than anything else; and matter and manner had been
so much the reverse of hostile up to the moment she plunged
incontinently into the religious question, that it quite took me by
surprise. I have known scores of people who, when they came under
vigorous protest to hear Miss Emily Faithfull on the same fertile
subject, went away converted because they found no iconoclasm of this
kind in her teaching. They came to scoff and stopped, not indeed to
pray, but to listen very attentively to a theme which has so much to be
said in its favour that it is a pity to complicate its advocacy by the
introduction of an extraneous and most difficult question. So it was,
however; with pale, earnest face, and accents more incisive than before,
Praxagora said if Bible and religion stood in the way of Woman's Rights,
then Bible and religion must go. That was the gist of her remarks. I
need not follow her in detail, because the supplementary matter sounded
more bitterly still; and, had she not been reading from MS. I should
have thought the lecturer was carried away by her subject; but no, she
was reading quite calmly what were clearly enough her natural and
deliberate opinions. I said I was surprised at the line she took.
Perhaps I ought scarcely to have been so, for she was flanked on one
side by Mr. Bradlaugh, on the other by Mr. Holyoake! but I never
remember being so struck with a contrast as when at one moment Praxagora
pictured the beauty of a well-regulated home, and the tender offices of
woman towards the little children, and then shot off at a tangent to
fierce invectives against the Bible and religion, which seemed so
utterly uncalled for that no adversary who wanted to damage the cause
could possibly have invented a more complete method of doing so.

The lecture over, the chairman invited discussion, and a fierce little
working man immediately mounted the platform and took Praxagora to task
for her injudicious onslaught. But, as usual, this gentleman was wildly
irrelevant and carried away by his commendable zeal. Over and over again
he had to be recalled to the question, until finally he set his whole
audience against him, and had to sit down abruptly in the middle of a
sort of apotheosis of Moses--as far as I could hear, for his zeal outran
his eloquence as well as his discretion, and rendered him barely
audible. A second speaker followed, and, though cordially sympathizing
with the address, and tracing woman's incapacity to her state of
subjugation, regretted that such a disturbing element as religion had
been mixed up with a social claim. He considered that such a subject
must inevitably prove an apple of discord. For this he was at once
severely handled by Mr. Bradlaugh, who, consistently enough, defended
the line Praxagora adopted towards the religious question, and justified
the introduction of the subject from the charge of irrelevance. He also
deprecated the surprise which the last speaker had expressed at the
excellent address of Praxagora by pointing out that in America about
one-third of the press were females, a fact which he attributed to the
plan of Mixed Education. Then a new line was opened up by a speaker--it
was as impossible to catch their names as to hear the stations announced
by porters on the Underground Railway. He predicted that if women did
get the franchise, Mr. Bradlaugh's "Temple" would be shut up in six
months, as well as those of Messrs. Voysey and Conway and Dr. Perfitt.
The ladies, he said, were swayed by Conventionalism and Priestcraft, and
until you educated them, you could not safely give them the franchise.

A youthful Good Templar mounted the rostrum, for the purpose of patting
Praxagora metaphorically on the back, and also ventilating his own
opinions on the apathy of the working man in claiming his vote. Then
somebody got up and denied that ladies were by nature theological. Their
virtues were superior to those of men just as their voices were an
octave higher. He was for having a Moral Department of the State
presided over by ladies. Only one lady spoke; a jaunty young woman in a
sailor's hat, who said that in religious persecutions men, not women,
had been the persecutors; and then Praxagora rose to reply. She first of
all explained her position with regard to the Bible, which she denied
having unnecessarily attacked. The Bible forbade a woman to speak; and,
that being so, the Bible must stand on one side, for "we" were going to
speak. That the highest intellects had been formed on Bible models she
denied by instancing Shelley. If she thought that this movement was
going to destroy the womanhood of her sex she would not move a finger
for its furtherance. She only thought it would give a higher style of
womanhood. As to women requiring to be educated before they would know
how to use the franchise, she pointed triumphantly to the Government
which men had placed in power. It was significant, she said, that the
first exercise of the working men's franchise had been to place a
Conservative Government in office.

I daresay I am wrong, but the impression left on my mind by the
discussion was that the liberty of thought and action claimed was the
liberty of thinking as "_we_" think and doing what "_we_" want to have
done--a process which has been before now mistaken for absolute freedom.
Stripped of its aggressive adjuncts, Praxagora's advocacy of her main
subject would be telling in the extreme from the fact of her blending
such thorough womanliness of person, character, and sentiment with such
vigorous championship of a doctrine against which I do not believe any
prejudice exists. Drag in the religious difficulty, however, and you
immediately array against it a host of prejudices, whether reasonable
ones or the reverse is not now the question. I am only concerned with
the unwisdom of having called them into existence. I own I thought that
Christianity had been the means of raising woman from her state of
Oriental degradation to the position she occupies in civilized
countries. But I was only there to listen, not to speak; and I confess I
came away in a divided frame of mind. I was pleased with the paper, but
irritated to think that a lady, holding such excellent cards, should
risk playing a losing game.



CHAPTER XII.

AN OPEN-AIR TICHBORNE MEETING.


When Sydney Smith, from the depths of his barbarian ignorance, sought to
rise to the conception of a Puseyite, he said in substance much as
follows:--"I know not what these silly people want, except to revive
every obsolete custom which the common sense of mankind has allowed to
go to sleep." Puseyism is not to our present purpose; but Tichborne-ism
is--for it has attained to the dignity of a veritable ism--and we may
define it much after the same method, as an attempt, not, indeed, to
revive the claims of, but to restore to society a person, who, after a
trial of unexampled length, was consigned by the verdict of a jury, and
the consequent sentence of the Lord Chief Justice, to the possibly
uncongenial retirement of Millbank Penitentiary. With the rights or
wrongs of such an event I have simply nothing to do. I abandoned the
Tichborne Trial at an early stage in a condition of utter bewilderment;
and directly an old gentleman sought to button-hole me, and argue that
he must be the man, or he couldn't be the man, I made off, or changed
the conversation as rapidly as I could.

But when the question had at length been resolved by wiser heads than
mine, and when, too, I felt I could write calmly, with no fear of an
action for contempt of court before my eyes, I confess that a poster
announcing an open-air Tichborne meeting in Mr. Warren's cricket-field,
Notting Hill, was too fascinating for me. I had heard of such gatherings
in provincial places and East End halls; but this invasion of the West
was breaking new ground. I would go; in fine I went. On the evening of
an exceptionally hot July day, I felt there might be worse places than
Mr. Warren's breezy cricket ground alongside Notting Barn Farm; so six
o'clock, the hour when the chair was to be taken, found me at the
spot--first of the outer world--and forestalled only by a solitary
Tichbornite. How I knew that the gentleman in question deserved that
appellation I say not; but I felt instinctively that such was the case.
He had a shiny black frock-coat on, like a well-to-do artisan out for a
holiday, and a roll of paper protruding from his pocket I rightly
inferred to be a Tichborne petition for signature. As soon as we got on
the ground, and I was enjoying the sensation of the crisp well rolled
turf beneath my feet, a man hove in sight with a table, and this
attracted a few observers. A gentleman in a light coat, too, who was
serenely gazing over the hedge at the Kensington Park Cricket Club in
the next ground, was, they informed me, Mr. Guildford Onslow. The
presiding genius of the place, however, was Mrs. Warren, who, arrayed
in a gown of emerald green--as though she were attending a Fenian
meeting--bustled about in a state of intense excitement until the
greengrocer's cart, which was to serve as a rostrum, had arrived. When
this occurred, the table and half a dozen Windsor chairs were hoisted
into it; another table was arranged below the van, with the Tichborne
Petition outspread upon it; and I fancied that arrangements were
complete.

Not so, however. The gentleman in the shiny coat and emerald green Mrs.
Warren between them tin-tacked up a long scroll or "legend" along the
rim of the van, consisting of the text from Psalm xxxv. 11:--"False
witnesses did rise up against me. They laid to my charge things that I
knew not." The association of ideas was grotesque, I know, but really as
Mrs. Warren and the shiny artisan were nailing this strip to the
greengrocer's van, they put me very much in mind of a curate and a lady
friend "doing decorations" at Christmas or Eastertide. Nor was this all.
When the "strange device" was duly tin-tacked, some workmen brought four
long pieces of quartering, and a second strip of white calico with
letters stuck on it was nailed to these; and when the stalwart fellows
hoisted it in air and tied the two centre pieces of wood to the wheels
of the greengrocer's cart, I found that it consisted of the Ninth
Commandment. The self-sacrificing carpenters were to hold--and did
hold--the outside poles banner-wise during the entire evening; and, with
one slight exception, this banner with the strange device, No. 2, formed
an appropriate, if not altogether ornamental background for the
greengrocer's van. Knots of people had gathered during these
proceedings; and I was confused to find that I was being generally
pointed out as Mr. Onslow, that gentleman having retired to the privacy
of Mr. Warren's neighbouring abode. Later on I was taken for a
detective, because, in my innocence, I withdrew ever and anon from the
crowd, and, sitting on a verdurous bank, jotted down a note in my
pocket-book; but this got me into such bad odour by-and-by that I felt
it better to desist, and trust to memory. Some of the smaller boys also
averred that I was Sir Roger himself, but their youthful opinions were
too palpably erroneous to carry weight.

In due course the van was occupied by Mr. Onslow, the Rev. Mr.
Buckingham (about whom I felt, of course, very curious), my shining
artisan, and a few others. A thin-faced gentleman, whose name I could
not catch, was voted to the chair, and announced to us that he should go
on talking awhile in order that Messrs. Onslow and Buckingham might
"refresh," as they had each come from the country. This they did coram
publico in the cart, while the chairman kept us amused. The wind, too,
was blowing pretty freshly, and was especially hard on the Ninth
Commandment, which gave considerable trouble to the holders of the
props. It was directly in the teeth of the speaker, too--an arrangement
which Mrs. Warren, in her zeal, had overlooked; and it was decided by
common consent to "reverse the meeting"--that is, to turn the chairs of
the speakers round, so that the Ninth Commandment was nowhere, and
looked like an Egyptian hieroglyph, as the reversed letters showed dimly
through the calico. The chairman eventually read to the meeting, which
was now a tolerably full one, the form of petition which was to serve as
the single resolution of the evening. I was struck with this gentleman's
departure from conventional legal phraseology on this occasion. Instead
of naming the cause célèbre "The Queen _versus_ Castro" (it being
written, as Sam Weller says, with a "wee") he termed it "The Queen _via_
Castro!" The petition was as follows:--

"That in the trial at Bar in the Court of Queen's Bench, on an
indictment of the Queen v. Castro, alias Arthur Orton, alias Sir Roger
Charles Doughty Tichborne, Bart., for perjury, the jury, on the 28th day
of February, 1874, brought in a verdict of guilty against him, declaring
him to be Arthur Orton, and he was sentenced to fourteen years' penal
servitude, which he is now undergoing.

"That your petitioners have reason to know and believe and are
satisfied, both from the evidence produced at the trial and furnished
since, and from their own personal knowledge that he is not Arthur
Orton.

"That though 280 witnesses were examined at the said trial in his
behalf, a very large number more, as your petitioners have been informed
and believe, were also ready to be examined, but that funds were not
available for the purpose, the defendant having been entirely dependent
on the voluntary subscriptions of the public for his defence.

"That your petitioners submit that such a large number as 280 witnesses,
most of whom gave positive evidence that the defendant was not Arthur
Orton, and whose testimony in two instances only was questioned in a
court of law--as against about 200 witnesses for the prosecution, whose
evidence was chiefly of a negative character--was of itself enough to
raise a doubt in the defendant's favour, of which doubt he ought to have
had the benefit, in accordance both with the law and the custom of the
country.

"That, under the circumstances, your petitioners submit that he had not
a fair trial, and they pray your honourable House to take the matter
into your serious consideration, with a view to memorialize her Majesty
to grant a free pardon."

The Rev. Mr. Buckingham, a cheery gentleman who bore a remarkable
resemblance to the celebrated Mr. Pickwick, rose to move the resolution;
and I could not help noticing that, not content with the ordinary white
tie of clerical life, he had "continued the idea downwards" in a white
waistcoat, which rather altered the state of things. He spoke well and
forcibly I should think for an hour, confining his remarks to the
subject of "Sir Roger" not being Arthur Orton. He (Mr. Buckingham)
belonged to some waterside mission at Wapping, and had known Arthur
Orton familiarly from earliest boyhood. His two grievances were that his
negative evidence had not been taken, and that he was now being
continually waited on by "Jesuits," who temptingly held out cheques for
_1000l._ to him if he would only make affidavit that the man in Millbank
was Arthur Orton.

Mr. Onslow, who seconded the resolution, however, made the speech of the
evening, and was so enthusiastically received that he had to recommence
several times after glowing perorations. The burden of Mr. Onslow's
prophecy was the unfairness of the trial; and his "bogies" were
detectives, just as Mr. Buckingham's were Jesuits. The Jean Luie affair
was the most infernal "plant" in the whole case; and he read records of
conflicting evidence which really were enough to make one pack up one's
traps and resolve on instant emigration. He was, however, certainly
right on one point. He said that such meetings were safety-valves which
prevented revolution. No doubt this was a safety-valve. It amused the
speakers, and Mrs. Warren and the glazed artisan; and it could do nobody
any possible harm. Whether it was likely to do the man of Millbank any
good was quite another matter, and one which, of course, it was quite
beside my purpose to discuss. There was a deal of--to me--very
interesting speaking; for I gained new light about the case, and stood
until my legs fairly ached listening to Messrs. Buckingham and Onslow.

When the editor of the _Tichborne Gazette_ claimed an innings it was
another matter; and--perhaps with lack of esprit de corps--I decamped. I
only saw this gentleman gesticulating as I left the field; but the rate
at which he was getting up the steam promised a speech that would last
till nightfall.

As I went off the ground I was struck with the clever way in which a
London costermonger will turn anything and everything to account. One of
them was going about with a truck of cherries, crying out, "Sir Roger
Tichborne cherries. Penny a lot!"

There was no symptom of overt opposition, though opponents were blandly
invited to mount the waggon and state their views; but there was a good
deal of quiet chaff on the outskirts of the crowd, which is the portion
I always select on such occasions for my observation. On the whole,
however, the assembly was pretty unanimous; and though it never assumed
the dimensions of a "monster meeting," the fact that even so many people
could be got together for such a purpose seemed to me sufficiently a
sign of the times to deserve annotation in passing.



CHAPTER XIII.

SUNDAY IN A PEOPLE'S GARDEN.


I have often thought that an interesting series of articles might be
written on the subject of "London out of Church," dealing with the
manners and customs of those people who patronize no sort of religious
establishment on the Sunday. I have seen pretty well all the typical
phases of religious London and London irreligious; but these would
rather be characterized as non-religious than as irreligious folks. They
do not belong to any of the varied forms of faith; in fact faith is from
their life a thing apart. It is in this negative way that they are
interesting. Sunday is with them only a regularly recurring Bank
Holiday. It would be interesting to know what they do with it. A special
difficulty, however, exists for me in any such inquiry, resulting from
the fact that, in my capacity of clerical casual, I am pretty generally
engaged on the Sunday; and when I am not, my Day of Rest is too valuable
to be devoted to any of the manifold forms of metropolitan
Sabbath-breaking. I have a great idea that parsons ought to be
frequently preached at; and so I generally go to some church or chapel
when out of harness myself; and if "hearing sermons" constitute the
proper carrying out of the things promised and vowed on my behalf at
baptism I must have undergone as complete a course of Christian
discipline as any man in Christendom, for I have been preached at by
everybody from Roman Catholics down to Walworth Jumpers and Plumstead
Peculiars!

But impressed with anxiety to know about the doings of the
non-Church-goers, I have for a long time cast sheep's eyes at the Sunday
League, and more than once definitely promised to join one of their
Sunday outings; but I am strongly of Tom Hood's opinion that--

    The man who's fond precociously of stirring
    Must be a _spoon_.

The Sunday League commence their excursions at untimely hours; and it is
a cardinal point in my creed that Sunday ought to be a Day of Rest, at
all events in the matter of breakfast in bed. I missed the excursion to
Shakspeare's House in this way, and the paper on the Bard of Avon, full
of the genius loci, must have been as edifying as a sermon. So, too, on
a recent Sunday, when the Sunday League on their way to Southend got
mixed up with the Volunteer Artillery going to Shoebury, I was again
found wanting. But still the old penchant remained, and Sunday was my
last free one for a long time. How could I utilize it? I had it; I would
go to the People's Garden at Willesden. I had heard that certain very
mild forms of Sabbath breaking prevailed there. I would go and see for
myself.

I had been at the People's Garden twice before; once on the occasion of
a spiritualistic picnic, and once, more recently, at a workmen's flower
show; and felt considerable interest in the place, especially as the
People had been polite enough to send me a season ticket, so that I was
one of the People myself.

This People's Garden was not exactly a Paradise yet, though it is in a
fair way of becoming one. It is a spot of some fifty acres reclaimed
from the scrubbiest part of Wormwood Scrubbs, and made the focus of a
club of working men, of whom I am very proud indeed to be one. Indeed, I
do not see why throughout the remainder of this article I should not use
the first person plural. I will. Well, then, we secured this spot, and
we have got in the first place one of the finest--I believe the
finest--dancing platforms in England, for we as a community are
Terpsichorean, though I, as an individual, am not. I felt it necessary
to give up dancing when my weight turned the balance at fourteen stone
odd. Then we can give our friends refreshments from a bottle of
champagne down to tea and cresses. We have all sorts of clubs, dramatic
and otherwise, and rather plume ourselves on having put up our
proscenium ourselves, that is with our own hands and hammers and nails.
There is the great advantage of being a Working Man or one of the
People. If you had been with me that Sunday you would have seen a glow
of conscious pride suffusing my countenance as I read the bills of our
last amateur performance, consisting of the "Waterman" and "Ici on parle
Français," played on the boards which I, in my corporate capacity, had
planed, and sawn, and nailed. My route last Sunday lay across the crisp
sward of the Scrubbs; and it was quite a pleasure to be able to walk
there without danger of falling pierced by the bullet of some erratic
volunteer; for there are three butts on Wormwood Scrubbs, which I
examined with minuteness on Sunday, and was exercised to see by marks on
the brickwork how very wide of the target a volunteer's shot can go. I
wonder there is not a wholesale slaughter of cattle in the neighbouring
fields. The garden lies on the other side of the Great Western Railway,
across which I had to trespass in order to get to it. But the man in
charge regarded me with indulgence, for was I not a working man and a
"mate?" The portion of the garden abutting on the rail is still
unreclaimed prairie. The working men have begun at the top of the hill,
and are working downwards.

There is a good-sized refreshment-room at the entrance, with all the
paraphernalia of secretary's office, &c.; and this large room, which is
exceedingly useful in wet weather, opens right on to the
dancing-platform, in the centre of which is a pretty kiosk for the band.
We have no gas; but tasty paraffin lamps at frequent intervals give
sufficient light, and, at all events, do not smell _worse_ than modern
metropolitan gas. There is a large tent standing en permanence during
the summer for flower shows, and terrace after terrace of croquet lawns,
all of which it will, I fear, shock some Sabbatarian persons to learn
were occupied on that Sunday afternoon, and the balls kept clicking like
the week-day shots of the erratic riflemen on the Scrubbs. I had a young
lady with me who was considerably severe on the way in which we workmen
male and female, handled our mallets. There was, I confess, something to
be desired in the way of position; and one group of German artisans in
the corner lawn made more noise than was necessary, howling and uttering
all sorts of guttural interjections, as though they were playing polo at
least, or taking part in a bull-fight, instead of in croquet--beloved of
curates.

And then the flowers. We are making the desert blossom like the rose. It
is really marvellous to see what has been done in so short a time. We
might have been a society of market gardeners. We don't get so many
flowers along the walk of life, we working men; so that we want to see a
bit of green sward and a flower or two on Sundays. There is a capital
gymnasium, and our observation of the young men who disport themselves
there would lead an uninitiated observer to form the opinion that the
normal condition of humanity was upside down. The way one youthful
workman hung by his legs on the trapeze was positively Darwinian to
behold. Swings attracted the attention of the ladies; and I regret to
say that the particular young lady I escorted--who was of the mature age
of twelve--passed most of the afternoon in a state of oscillation, and
was continually adjuring me to push her.

An interesting addition to the gardens--our gardens--since I was last
there, consisted of a cage of meditative monkeys, four in number, who
were stationed so near the gymnasium as inevitably to suggest the
Darwinian parallel. They had their gymnasium too, and swung gaily on
their tree-trunks at such times as they were not engaged in eating or
entomological researches. I could not help thinking what a deprivation
it was to the gymnasts that, in course of evolution, we have lost our
tails. They would have been so convenient on the horizontal bar, where
that persevering young workman was still engaged in the pursuit of
apoplexy by hanging head downwards. Soon after we got there an excellent
band commenced playing, not in the kiosk, lest we should be beguiled
into dancing. The first piece was a slow movement, which could scarcely
have been objected to by any Sabbatarian, unless he was so
uncompromising as to think all trumpets wrong. The second was the
glorious march from "Athalie;" and then--my blood runs cold as I write
it--a sort of pot pourri, in the midst of which came the "Dutchman's
Little Wee Dog," considerably disguised in the way of accompaniment and
variation, I own, but the "Little Wee Dog" beyond a doubt. Then I
understood why the band was not in the kiosk; for, fourteen stone though
I be, I felt all my toes twiddling inside my boots at that time as
wickedly as though it had been Monday morning. There were fourteen or
fifteen loud brass instruments, with a side and bass drum and cymbals.
All these were playing the "Little Wee Dog" to their brazen hearts'
content, and only one gentleman on a feeble piccolo-flute trying to
choke their impiety by tootling out a variation, just as the stringed
instruments in the glorious "Reformation Symphony" of Mendelssohn try in
vain to drown with their sensuous Roman airs the massive chords of the
old Lutheran chorale--"Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott." I really could
not bear it any longer, and was rising to go when they stopped; and as
the gentleman who played the circular bass got outside his portentous
instrument, I found he had a little wee dog of his own who retired into
the bell of the big trumpet when his master laid it on the grass.
Perhaps it was in honour of this minute animal the air was selected.
However, I could not lend myself to such proceedings; so I bribed my
youthful charge with a twopenny bottle of frothless ginger beer to come
out of her swing and return to the regions of orthodoxy. The Teutonic
gentlemen were still hooting and yelling as we crossed the corner of
their croquet lawn, until I expected to see them attack one another
with the mallets and use the balls for missile warfare; but it was only
their peculiar way of enjoying themselves.

My little friend described the action of our working men in the croquet
lawn as "spooning," and also drew my attention to the fact that two
lovers were doing the same on a seat, in the approved fashion prevalent
among us workmen, with the manly arm around the taper waist coram
publico. This arrangement is quite a necessity with us. We should often
like to forego it, especially when little boys make rude remarks about
us in the street; but it is expected of us, and we submit.

The sun was beginning to sink grandly over that magnificent panorama of
country visible from Old Oak Common as we passed down the hill and again
violated the bye-laws of the Great Western Railway Company. The spires
of the West End churches were bathed in the soft glow of departing day;
and in the distance the Crystal Palace glittered like a fairy bower. We
got back after making a little détour on account of some gentlemen who
were bathing in a very Paradisiacal way indeed--we actually got back in
time to go to church like good Christians; and I do not think either of
us felt much the worse for the hours we had spent in the People's
Garden--save and except the wicked Little Wee Dog!



CHAPTER XIV.

UTILIZING THE YOUNG LADIES.


Time was when it was accepted as an axiom that young ladies had no
object in life but to be ornamental--no mission but matrimony. The
"accomplishments" were the sum total of a genteel education, though
charged as "extras" on the half-yearly accounts; and all the finished
creature had to do, after once "coming out," was to sit down and
languidly wait for an eligible suitor.

Times changed. And, in England, when we make a change, we always rush
violently into an opposite extreme. Woman had a mission, and no mistake.
Now it was the franchise and Bloomer costume, just as aforetime it was
the pianoforte and general fascination. Blue spectacles rose in the
market. We had lady doctors and female lawyers. The only marvel is that
there was no agitation for feminine curates.

Then came reaction again. It was discovered that woman could be educated
without becoming a bluestocking, and practical without wearing bloomers
or going in for the suffrage. Still holding to the wholesome principle
that "woman is not undeveloped man, but diverse," the real friends of
the gentler sex discovered a hundred and one ways in which it could
employ itself usefully and remuneratively. It was no longer feared lest,
as Sydney Smith puts it, if a woman learnt algebra she would "desert her
infant for a quadratic equation;" and the University of Cambridge soon
fell in with the scheme for the Higher Education of Women; while Miss
Faithfull, and several others, organized methods for employing
practically the talents which education could only develope in a general
way. It was to one of these methods--not Miss Faithfull's--my attention
was drawn a short time since by a letter in the daily papers. The
Victoria Press and International Bureau are faits accomplis, and it is
well that efforts should be made for utilizing in other ways that
interesting surplus in our female population. Mrs. Fernando, of Warwick
Gardens, Kensington, has set herself to the solution of the problem, and
the shape her method takes is a Technical Industrial School for Women.

The object and aim of the institution is to examine, plan, and organize
such branches of industrial avocation as are applicable to females, and
open up new avocations of useful industry compatible with the
intellectual and mechanical capabilities of the sex, not forgetting
their delicacy, and the untutored position of females for practical
application in all industrial labour: to give the same facilities to
females as are enjoyed by males, in collective classes for special
training or special preparation for passing examinations open to women,
thereby to enable them to earn their livelihood with better success than
is attainable by mere school education only: to give special training to
females to qualify them to enter special industrial avocations with such
competency as will enable them to be successful in obtaining employment:
to apprentice females, or to employ them directly into trades where such
employers will receive them beyond the limits of the industrial school
and where females can be constantly employed, such as in composing,
embossing, illuminating, black-bordering, ticket-writing,
circular-addressing, flower-making, flower-cultivating, &c.

Being a determined sceptic in the matter of prospectuses, I determined
to go and see for myself the working of this scheme, which looked so
well on paper. The Institution occupies a large house exactly opposite
Dr. Punshon's chapel: and there is no chance of one's missing it, for it
is placarded with announcements like a hoarding at election time. I
found Mrs. Fernando an exceedingly practical lady, doing all the work of
the institution herself, with the exception of a few special subjects
such as botany, &c., which are conducted by her husband. There are no
"assistants," therefore, or deputed interests, the bane of so many
high-priced schools.

These classes are held in the evening from seven to nine o'clock, and
are intended for ladies above the age of fifteen years, who may be
engaged through the day in various occupations, and for such as suffer
from neglected education, and who wish conveniently and economically to
improve themselves, without being necessitated to mix with their juniors
in day-schools. These classes prepare ladies to meet the qualifications
necessary to enter clerkships and other official departments; to bring
them also to a standard to meet the qualifications for post offices and
telegraph departments; and also to pass certain examinations open to
them. The charge is only _2s._ per week--_8s._ per month--_1l. 4s._ per
quarter. The first course embraces spelling, reading, writing,
arithmetic, history, geography, and grammar. The second course consists
of advanced arithmetic, book-keeping and commercial instruction, so as
to qualify women to take posts of responsibility with marked success.
The third course consists of French, for practical usefulness. The
fourth course embraces simple or technical training in such departments
as are available within the limits of the class-room--to qualify women
to enter industrial avocations with competency, and to make them
successful in obtaining employment. This department will be extended to
greater usefulness as conveniences arise, by apprenticing the girls or
employing them directly in trades beyond the limits of the class-room,
where employers will receive them, or where women could be consistently
engaged--as, for instance, in the work of compositors, ticket-writers,
embossers, &c. &c.

The two classes with which I was brought into contact were the
book-keeping and embossing. In the former, more than a dozen young
ladies were being initiated in the mysteries of single and double entry,
and they posted up their books in a way that made me feel very much
ashamed of myself, when I thought how incapable I should be of doing
anything half so useful. Many girls go from this department to be
book-keepers at large hotels, places of business, &c.

I then went to the embossing room, where six presses were being worked
by as many young ladies, one in an adjoining room being reserved for
Mrs. Fernando, who not only tells her pupils what to do, but shows them
how to do it. The gilding and colouring of the stamps was most
elaborate; two monograms of the Queen's name and that of the Empress
Eugénie being perfect marvels of artistic and intricate workmanship.
Every process, from mixing the colours up to burnishing the gold, was
gone through in detail by this practical lady and her intelligent pupils
for my special edification, and I passed out a much wiser and certainly
not a sadder man than I entered this veritable hive of human bees.

No expense was spared in the education of these girls, low as are the
terms they pay. I saw quite a ruinous heap of spoilt envelopes and
fashionable sheets of thick cream-laid; for they have to make their
experiments on the best material, and the slightest alteration in the
position of a pin where the stamping process has to be several times
repeated spoils the whole result. Mrs. Fernando has also introduced
envelope and circular addressing by women, as a department of female
industrial work in the Technical Industrial School for Women, where a
number of females are employed between the hours of ten and four
o'clock, receiving satisfactory remuneration. She provides the females
employed in this department evening classes free of charge, to improve
themselves in general education.

I am an intense admirer of the female sex in general, and young ladies
in particular, but really when I came away, leaving my pretty
book-keepers and embossers to resume their normal work, and saw the
numbers of young ladies sitting listlessly over misnamed "work" at the
window, or walking languidly nowhither in the streets, I thought that,
without losing any of their attractions, nay, adding a new claim to the
many existing ones on our regard, they might with great advantage take a
turn at Mrs. Fernando's sixpenny lessons in technical education.



CHAPTER XV.

FAIRLOP FRIDAY.


Amongst those customs "more honoured in the breach than the observance"
which are rapidly being stamped out by the advancing steps of
civilization, are the institutions which we can yet remember as so
popular in the days of our childhood, called pleasure fairs. Like that
social dodo in a higher section of society, the "three-bottle man," with
the stupid Bacchanalian usages of which he was the embodiment, these
fairs are slowly but surely disappearing as education spreads among the
masses of the people. In the country a fair is a simple and a necessary
thing enough. At certain seasons of the year, according to the staple
commodities for the sale of which the assemblage was originally
instituted, our bucolic friends gather at early morning with the
products of their farms; a good deal of noisy buying, selling, and
barter takes place. Later in the day the ladies invest their profits in
a little mild finery, or in simple pleasures; and, later still, when the
public-houses have done their work, comes a greater or lesser amount of
riot, rude debauchery, and vice; and then, voilà tout--the fair is over
for a year. One can easily imagine the result of the transition when,
from the quiet country, the fair removes to the city or suburb. In such
places every utilitarian element is wanting, and the gilt ginger-bread
and gewgaws are only a speciously innocent attraction towards the
drinking and dancing booth where the mischief is done. Well-wishers to
society are unromantic enough not to regret the decidedly waning glories
of these gatherings, from the great Bartholomew Fair itself down to that
which, on the Friday of which I write, converted many miles of
thoroughfare at the East End of London, as well as one of the prettiest
forest scenes still surrounding the metropolis, into a vast al fresco
tavern, where the "worship of Bacchus" was as freely indulged as in any
heathen temple of ancient times.

Fairlop Fair--which has not yet died out, though beginning to show
satisfactory signs of decay--commenced its existence, innocently enough,
about a century ago. At that time Mr. Day, a shipbuilder, wishing to
have a day's outing in the forest with his friends and employés, fitted
up a vessel on wheels, fully rigged, in which he conveyed his picnic
party to Hainault Forest, on the outskirts of which, some distance from
Ilford, stood the famous Fairlop Oak. The holiday became an annual
custom, and gradually changed its character from the simple gathering of
a master and his men into regular saturnalia; during which, each year,
from the first Friday in July, over the ensuing Saturday and Sunday,
riot and debauchery reigned supreme in the glades of the forest and the
eastern districts of London. The example set by Mr. Day was followed by
other ship, boat, and barge builders, but of late years, more
particularly by the mast and block makers, riggers, shipwrights, and
shipyard labourers; and more recently still by the licensed victuallers.
Finding the custom good for trade, the publicans formed a society for
building or hiring these boats on wheels, which, covered with flags, and
provided each with a band of music and filled with revellers, annually
make their progress into Hainault Forest. They go no longer, alas! to
Fairlop Oak--for that is numbered with the things of the past--but now
to Barking side, where, at the Maypole Inn, the festivities of Fairlop
Fair are still kept up.

These ship and boat cars attract immense multitudes along the Mile End,
Bow, and Whitechapel Roads, down as far as Aldgate; the crowd assemble
in the morning to see the holiday people start on their expedition. The
most remarkable sight, however, is at night, when the "boats" return
lighted with coloured lanterns, red and green fires, &c.; and at every
public-house along the road similar fires are burnt, and brass bands
stationed to strike up as the cars pass, and stop at certain favoured
establishments "for the good of the house." Anxious to witness the
fading glories of Fairlop Friday myself, before the advancing tide of
civilization shall have done their inevitable work upon them, I sallied
forth to the East End, and walking along one of the finest approaches to
London, from Aldgate, by Whitechapel, to Bow and Stratford Churches,
succeeded in realizing more completely than ever before two facts:
first, how gigantic is the population of the East End of London; and,
secondly, how little is required to amuse and attract it. There were
only two of the "boats" sent to the Forest that year. Their return could
gratify the sight of these people but for a single instant; yet there,
from early dusk almost to succeeding daylight, those working men,
literally "in their thousands"--and not in the Trafalgar Square
diminutive of that expression--gathered to gratify themselves with the
sight of the pageant. In comparison, the "Boeuf Gras," which annually
sends the gamins of Paris insane, is really a tasteful and refined
exhibition. Yet there they were, women, men, and children--infants in
arms, too, to a notable extent--swarming along that vast thoroughfare,
boozing outside the public-houses, investing their pence in
"scratch-backs" and paper noses, feathers and decorations, as do their
betters on the course at Epsom, under the feeble excuse of "waiting for
the boats." The first arrived en retour at Stratford Church about ten
o'clock; and certainly the appearance of the lumbering affair as it
moved along, with its rigging brought out by means of coloured fires,
lanterns, and lamps, was odd enough. As soon as it passed me at
Stratford, I jumped outside one of the Bow and Stratford omnibuses, and
so had an opportunity of following, or rather joining in, the procession
as far as Whitechapel, where the "boat" turned off into Commercial Road.
For the whole of that space the footway was filled with one seething
mass of humanity, and the publicans were driving a rattling trade
outside and inside their establishments. As the glare of the coloured
fires lighted up the pale faces of the crowd with a ghastly hue, and I
heard the silly and too often obscene remarks bandied between the
bystanders and the returning revellers, I could not help agitating the
question, whether it would not be possible to devise some innocent
recreation, with a certain amount of refinement in it, to take the place
of these--to say the best--foolish revelries. In point of fact, they are
worse than foolish. Not only was it evident that the whole affair from
beginning to end, as far as adults were concerned, was an apotheosis of
drink; but amongst another section of the populace, the boys and girls,
or what used to be boys and girls--for, as the Parisians say, "Il n'y a
plus de garçons"--one must have been blind indeed not to see the
mischief that was being done on those East End pavements; done more
thoroughly perhaps, certainly on a vastly larger scale, than in the
purlieus of the forest. It is an uninviting subject to dwell upon; but
one could understand all about baby farms, and Lock Hospitals, and
Contagious Diseases Acts, out there that July night, in the crowded
streets of East London.

It would be unfair to dilate upon these evils, and not to mention an
organization which, for the last ten years, has been seeking to remedy
the mischief. Some hundreds of working men of a more serious stamp,
aided by a few gentlemen and ministers of various denominations, form
themselves into small bands of street preachers, and sallying forth in a
body, hold services and preach sermons at the most populous points of
the Fairlop route. Being curious to see the effect of their bold
labours--for it requires immense "pluck" to face a Whitechapel mob--I
joined one of these detachments, where the Rev. Newman Hall was the
preacher. Before starting, this gentleman gave it as the result of his
long experience with the British workman that there is no use in waiting
for him to come to church. If the church is to do anything with him, it
must go out and meet him in the streets and fields, as it originally
did. Mr. Hall gave some amusing illustrations of his experience at
Hastings, where, for several weeks, he had been preaching on the beach
to large congregations. He was idling there, he said, for health's sake,
and one evening, seeing a number of men loafing about, he proposed to
one of them that he should give them an address. This gentleman declined
the address, but added, characteristically enough, "If ye'll gie me
some beer I'll drink it." Two others, being asked if they would listen,
"didn't know as they would." Under these unpromising auspices Mr. Hall
began, and, attracting a crowd, was "moved on" by a policeman. A
gentleman who recognised him proposed an adjournment to the beach, and
there a sermon was preached, and has been repeated by Mr. Hall on
several occasions, with a congregation of thousands. He has a peculiar
knack of speaking in a tongue "understanded of the people," and his
address to the Fairlop crowd on that Friday night "told" considerably.
At its conclusion he quietly put on his hat, dropped into the crowd, and
went his way; but the tone of criticism amongst his hearers was very
favourable, and I quite agree with the critics that it's a pity we
haven't "more parsons like that." It is not, however, simply by
religious zeal such a want as that to which I allude is to be supplied,
but by the substitution of some sensible recreation for the low
attractions of the beershop and gin-palace. It is a problem worthy of
our deepest thinkers: "What shall we offer our huge populations in
exchange for the silly pageant even now being enacted in the outskirts
of the metropolis--which may well be taken to embody the pastime of the
lower orders--Fairlop Fair?"



CHAPTER XVI.

A CHRISTMAS DIP.


There are few more exhilarating things, on a breezy spring morning, than
a spurt across that wonderful rus in urbe--Kensington Gardens and Hyde
Park--for a prospective dip in the Serpentine, where, at specified hours
every morning and evening, water-loving London is privileged to disport
itself in its congenial element. So congenial is it, in fact, that some
enthusiastic individuals do not limit themselves to warm summer
mornings, or the cooler ones of springtide and autumn, but bathe all the
year round--even, it is said, when a way for their manoeuvres has to be
cut through the ice. Skirting the north bank of the Serpentine at
morning or evening in the summer, the opposite shore appears absolutely
pink with nude humanity, the younger portion dancing and gambolling very
much after the manner of Robinson Crusoe's cannibals. The bathers
occasionally look a great deal better out of their integuments than in
them. Not from this class, however, do your all-the-year-round bathers
come. The Arab is an exotic--a child of the Sun, loving not to disport
himself in water the temperature of which shocks his tentative
knuckles, as he dips them in the unaccustomed element. His wardrobe,
again, is too much after the fashion of that pertaining to Canning's
needy knife-grinder to make an al fresco toilette other than
embarrassing. From the all-the-year-round bathers, as a nucleus, there
has grown up, within the last few years, the Serpentine Swimming Club;
and on Christmas-day in the morning they have an annual match open to
all comers--though, it need scarcely be said, patronized only by those
whom, for brevity's sake, we may term all-rounders.

Now, I had often heard of this Christmas-day match, and as often, on
Christmas-eve, made up my mind to go; but the evening's resolution faded
away, as such resolutions have only too often been known to do, before
the morning's light. This year, however--principally, I believe, because
I had been up very late the previous night--I struggled out of bed
before dawn, and steered for the Serpentine. A crescent moon was
shining, and stars studded the clear spaces between ominous patches of
cloud. A raw, moist wind was blowing, and on the muddy streets were
evident traces of a recent shower. I had no notion that the gates of
Kensington Gardens were open so early; and the sensation was novel as I
threaded the devious paths in morning dawn, and saw the gas still alight
along the Bayswater Road. A solitary thrush was whistling his Christmas
carol as I struggled over the inundated sward; presently the sun threw a
few red streaks along the East, over the Abbey Tower; but, until I had
passed the Serpentine Bridge, not a single human being met my gaze.
There, however, I found some fifty men, mostly with a "sporting" look
about them. The ubiquitous boy was there, playing at some uncomfortable
game in the puddles round the seats. The inevitable dog stood pensively
by the diving board; and when, by-and-by straggling all-rounders came
and took their morning header, the quadruped rushed after them to the
very edge of the water, as though he had been a distinguished member of
the Humane Society. He shirked the element itself, however, as
religiously as though he had been one of London's great unwashed. In the
pause which preceded the race, I learned, from the Honorary Secretary of
the Serpentine Swimming Club, particulars of its history and of the race
itself. For six years it had been merely a club race; but last year it
was thrown open. Strangely enough the race had never been won twice by
one man, though the competitors had been pretty much the same every
year. I also conversed with one of the intending competitors, who showed
me on his breast with pardonable pride, five medals of the Royal Humane
Society, awarded for saving life in cases of danger from drowning. The
wearer was a Professor of Natation, and told me that, among his pupils,
he had an old lady sixty-seven years of age, who had just commenced, and
was able to swim some twenty yards already. The brave old lady's
example may do good; though it is to be hoped that she may not, at her
time of life, be compelled to exert her art for her own protection.

Names were now called, and fourteen competitors presented themselves--a
motley group, clad for the most part in trousers, horse-rug, and
wide-awake, or, more simply still, in Ulster frieze coat only. The group
of spectators had by this time grown to some hundreds, nearly all
directly interested in the noble art; and the dips became fast and
frequent. Two flags were placed in the water at the distance of 100
yards from the diving board; on this slender platform fourteen shivering
specimens of humanity ranged themselves, and at the word of the starter
plunged into the water with that downward plunge so incomprehensible to
the uninitiated. A short, sharp struggle followed, the competitors
swimming with the sidelong movement and obstreperous puffing which
likens the swimmer so closely to the traditional grampus. Eventually one
of the group is seen heading the others, and breasting the water with
calm and equable stroke in the old-fashioned style. He reaches the flag
a full yard before his nearest antagonist. Numbers two and three,
following, are about half a yard apart. The others come in pretty much
in a group. All were picked men, and there were no laggards. The names
of the winners were as follows:--1. Ainsworth; 2. Quartermain; 3. H.
Coulter. The time occupied in the race was 1 min. 24 sec. Immediately
after the race there was a rapid re-assumption of rugs and Ulsters,
though some of the more hardy walked about in the garb of Nature, making
everybody shiver who looked at them. Finally, the prizes, consisting of
three handsome medals, were distributed by Mr. H. Bedford, who stood on
a park seat and addressed a few genial words to each of the successful
candidates; then, with a cheer, and frequent wishes for a Merry
Christmas, the assembly resolved itself into its component parts.

I had taken my accustomed cold tub before coming out, yet each of these
fourteen devoted men appeared to me as a hero. They were not Herculean
individuals: several of them were mere youths. Some of the all-rounders
were grey-headed men, but there was about them all a freshness and
ruddiness which showed that their somewhat severe regimen agreed with
them. Fresh from such a Spartan exhibition, everything seemed very late
and Sybaritic in my domestic establishment, and I could not help
revolving in my mind the question, what would one of these hardy
all-the-year-rounders think of me if he knew I was ever guilty of such a
malpractice as breakfast in bed? It is a novel method; but there are
many worse ways of inaugurating the Great Holiday than by taking--what
it had been a novel sensation for me even to witness--a Christmas Dip in
the Serpentine.



CHAPTER XVII.

BOXING-DAY ON THE STREETS.


Boxing-day in the London streets, and especially a wet Boxing-day, can
scarcely fail to afford us some tableaux vivants illustrative of English
metropolitan life. In a metaphorical and technical sense, Boxing-day is
always more or less "wet"--generally more, and not less; but this year
the expression is used climatically, and in its first intention.
Christmas-eve of the year about which I write was bright and springlike;
Christmas-day dismal, dark, and un-Christmas-like; but Boxing-day that
year was essentially muggy, sloppy, drizzly, and nasty. A day to avoid
the London streets if you want to take a romantic Rosa-Matilda view of
London life; but the very day of all others, if you wish to see real
London as it is. Boxing-day will inevitably be "wetter" in every sense
than usual this year, internally and externally. So let us commence our
series of living pictures at ten o'clock in the morning. Suppose we
begin with something that shall bear reference to the past festival--the
eve and the day of the Great Birth, recollect. See, here is Grotto
Passage, Marylebone, and at its extremity Paradise Street--the names
sound promising, but alas for the reality! We are going to turn for a
moment into the Marylebone Police Court, where Mr. D'Eyncourt is
dispensing summary justice to the accumulations of the last two days.
These are the people who have been spending Christmas-eve,
Christmas-day, and some portion of Boxing-day already in the
police-cells. Let us take one as a typical case. Let that poor little
eight-year-old Arab step down from the dock and go off with his mother,
who, we hope, will take the magistrate's excellent advice, and keep the
child from begging--that is why he has spent Christmas in the
cells--lest he be sent to a school for eight years, and she have to pay
for him--God help her! she does not look as though she could afford very
high terms. A bruised and bleeding woman, not young or good-looking,
enters the box with her head bound up. Her lord and master confronts her
in the dock. It is the "old, old story." A drop of drink yesterday--the
day of the Great Nativity, never forget--series of "drops of drink" all
day long; and, at five o'clock, just when gentility was beginning to
think of dinner, the kitchen poker was used with frightful effect. A
triangular cut over the right eye, and another in the dangerous
neighbourhood of the left ear, administered with that symbol of domestic
bliss, the kitchen poker, sends the wife doubled up into a corner, with
an infant of two years old in her arms. The head of the family goes out
for a walk after his exertions. The woman lies there bleeding until the
neighbours hear her "mourning," as she terms it--the result being that
the lord and master's "constitutional" is cut short by a policeman, and
the happy pair are this morning separated for six months, at the
expiration of which period Paterfamilias is to find surety for another
six months' good behaviour. Such, starred round with endless episodes of
"drunk and disorderly," "foul language," and so on, is our first tableau
this Boxing-day. It is not a pleasant one. Let us pass on.

Along Oxford Street, despite the Bank Holidays Act, many shops are open,
chiefly those devoted to the sale of articles eatable, drinkable, and
avoidable; these last being in the shape of chemists' shops, and shops
for Christmas presents--to be shunned by miserly old bachelors. Let us
turn into the British Museum and see sensible, decorous Boxing-day
there. At the corner of Museum Street there is a lively itinerant
musician, evidently French, who plays the fiddle until his bow tumbles
all to pieces, but he goes on playing with the stick as though nothing
had happened. When his instrument has come entirely to grief he turns to
a clarionet, which he carries under his arm, and plays "Mourir pour la
Patrie" with extraordinary vocal effect and irreverent gestures.
Punch-and-Judy is largely attended at the other end; Punch is
kitchen-pokering his wife, too, like the gentleman we have just left;
but we pass in with the crowds to the Museum itself. Halting a moment
in the reading-room, to jot down there a few notes, one is struck with
the scanty show of students. _They_ are spending Boxing-day somewhere
else. Passing through the little knot of people who are permitted by
special order to come as far as the door of the reading-room, and who
evidently regard the readers as some curious sort of animal exhibited
for their special delectation--perhaps the book-"worm" of which they
have heard so much--we go up the stairs, now thronged with crowds in
unwonted broadcloth and fragrant with the odour of the inevitable
orange. Next to the drinking fountain, which is decidedly the chief
attraction, comes the gorilla, and then the extinct animals. One stout
old lady, contemplating the megatherium and mastodon, inquires in what
parts "them creeturs" are to be found, and seems considerably damped by
being informed that Nature has been "out" of such articles for several
æons. The mummies, with the bones of their toes sticking out, also come
in for a large share of admiration. There is a good deal of rough
flirtation going on; but, on the whole, the pleasure is rather of a
placid order, though still contrasting favourably with the settled gloom
visible on the faces of the attendants in the various galleries. How
well we can understand such gloom! How utterly hateful must that giant
elk and overgrown extinct armadillo be to a man condemned to spend a
lifetime in their close contemplation!

But let us pass on to the artistic Boxing-day keepers at the National
Gallery. The walk will take us through the Seven Dials, and can scarcely
fail to be suggestive. It is now one o'clock, the traditional hour of
dinner; and in Broad Street, St. Giles's, I see, for the first time
to-day, the human barometer evidently standing at "much wet." A
gentleman in a grey coat and red comforter, who bears palpable signs of
having been more than once on his back, has just reached that perplexing
point of inebriety when he can walk quickly or run, but cannot stand
still or walk steadily. He is pursued by small children, mostly girls,
after whom, every now and then, he runs hopelessly, to their intense
gratification. The poultry and bird shops in the Seven Dials are objects
of some attraction, though they savour too much of "business" to be in
very great force. The National Gallery is crowded with unaccustomed art
students. There is about the visitors a quiet air of doing their duty,
and being determined to go through with it at any price. One
brazen-faced quean speculates audibly--in fact, very audibly--as to
which "picter" she should choose if she had her "pick," and decent
matrons pass the particularly High Art of the old masters with
half-averted gaze, as though they were not quite sure of doing right in
countenancing such exhibitions. Hogarth's evergreen "Marriage à la
Mode" is a great centre of attraction, and the youngsters never tire of
listening, as "with weeping and with laughter still is the story told"
over and over again by their elders. Gainsborough's likeness of Mrs.
Siddons is also a great favourite; but perhaps the picture that attracts
most attention is Van Eyck's "John Arnolfini, of Lucca, and his Wife."
The gentleman wears a portentous hat, which tickled the fancy of the
Boxing-day people immensely. There were great speculations too among
them as to whether the curious Tuscan pictures at the top of the stairs
were "needlework" or not. Still, who shall say that these visitors were
not the better for their visit, surrounded as they were by forms of
beauty on every side, even if they did not examine them with the eyes of
connoisseurs?

Boxing-day on the river: The silent street is almost deserted. There is
no rush for the Express boat to-day. It is literally the
streets--muddier and sloppier than the Thames itself--that are the
attraction. Some little boys are making the trip from Westminster to
London Bridge as a treat; and it is an intense joke with them to pretend
to be dreadfully seasick. Boxing-day in the City is synonymous with
stagnation. It is a howling wilderness, with nobody to howl. On the
Metropolitan Railway I verily believe travellers were tripping it like
the little boys on board the penny boat. And so theatre time draws on,
and the interest of Boxing-day grows to a climax. Soon after five
o'clock groups furtively collect outside the playhouses, half-ashamed of
being so early, but gathering courage from numbers to form the
disorderly queue, so unlike that of a Parisian theatre. Boxing-night in
the theatres others will describe. It is too much to expect of one whose
mission has been the whole day long on the streets.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE VIGIL OF THE DERBY.


In those days--happily now gone by--when public strangulation was the
mode in Merry England, there was always an evident fascination
appertaining to the spot where, on the morrow, some guilty wretch was to
expiate his crimes on the gallows. Long before the erection of that
elegant apparatus commenced, and generally on a Sunday evening, when
decent citizens had newly come from houses of God, where they had heard
the message of life, crowds began to collect on that central spot in the
heart of the great City dedicated to sudden and violent death. The
coming event seemed to cast its shadow before; and throughout the night
the roisterer or belated traveller made a détour to visit the human
shambles. I confess to having felt the attraction. I could not then
bring myself to be present at the strangulation proper; so, as the
nearest approach to a "sensation," sometimes visited Newgate on the eve
of the victim elect's last morrow. In the same way, being unfortunate
enough to be London-bound on the day of our great annual holiday, and
having heard graphic accounts of the Downs on the eve of the Derby, I
determined that year, as I could not go to the race by day, to visit the
racecourse by night. Let me own the soft impeachment: I am not a racing
man--not in any degree "horsey." When I do go to the Derby it is to see
the bipeds rather than the quadrupeds; to empty the hamper from Fortnum
and Mason's, rather than to study the "names, weights, and colours of
the riders" on the "c'rect card." If you prefer to have the sentiment in
Latin--and there is no doubt Latin does go much farther than English--I
am not one of those "quos pulverem Olympicum collegisse juvat," except
in so far that "homo sum; nihil humanum alienum a me puto." It was to
see humanity under a new aspect, I took the last train to Epsom on the
eve of the Derby.

In order to combine business with pleasure, and economy with both, I
took a third-class ticket at Victoria, and was fortunate enough to find
a compartment already partially occupied by a nigger troupe. In this,
which under ordinary circumstances I should have avoided, I took my
seat, and was regaled all the way down with choice morceaux from the
répertoire of my musical friends. The "talking man" of the party, too,
enlivened the proceedings by anxiously inquiring of the porters at the
different stations what they would take in the way of refreshment, and
issuing unlimited orders to imaginary waiters on their behoof. It was a
strange sensation, being whirled away from home and bed down to a wild
heath towards midnight; and as we neared our destination, the air began
to "bite shrewdly," and the sky to look uncommonly like rain--a
contretemps which would have been fatal to my proposed experience. We
had to change carriages at Sutton, and here a sociable Aunt-Sally-man,
struggling under the implements of his craft, sought to beguile me from
my African friends by offers of a shake-down in his tent, with which he
proposed to walk across from Ewell and erect, instead of journeying on
to Epsom. My Ethiopian friends jumped at the proposal, and forthwith
fraternized with Aunt Sally. I determined to follow out my previous
plans; so having drunk to our next merry meeting, we parted, ostensibly
until to-morrow, but, I fear, for ever.

I had been led to expect "high jinks" at Epsom--a sort of Carnival in
the quiet town. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The
town, so far as outward semblance went, was almost as quiet as ever. A
few sporting men thronged the bar of the principal hotel, and stragglers
hung about the low beer-shops; but there was nothing at all to indicate
the imminence of the great event. So I fell back on my usual expedient
of applying to the executive, and found not only an active and
intelligent but exceedingly civil sergeant of police, to whom I told my
errand. He was pleased with the novelty of the idea, and as he happened
to be then going the round of the town previously to visiting the
course, I cast in my lot with him for the night. We first visited what
he termed the "German Opera," on Epsom Common. This is an encampment of
organ-grinders, hurdy-gurdy-players, German bands, &c., who pitch their
tents here instead of going to the Downs. It was, however, rather late
when we reached the spot where these artists were bivouacking, and they
had retired for the night, so we could not form much idea of them beyond
their numbers, which seemed considerable, and their odour, which was
unfragrant. Thence we passed down a short alley to a railway arch, which
was aglow with many fires, and rang with the sounds of many voices.
Bidding me make no observation, whatever might be said, and requesting
me to try and look like an officer in plain clothes, my cicerone led me
into the strange arcade, which I certainly could not have entered
without his protection. Hundreds of men, women, and boys were gathered
in groups round coke fires, some partaking of coffee, others singing,
the majority sleeping. After satisfying himself that the fires were
legitimate ones, and not composed of broken fences, my guide left this
teeming hive unmolested. We then steered for the course, not by the high
road, but skirting it along the fields. The policeman, like myself,
carried a stout stick, which really seemed to be endowed with creative
powers that night. Wherever he poked that staff--and he did poke it
everywhere--a human being growled, or snored, or cursed. Every bush
along the hedgerow bore its occupant--often its group of four or five,
sometimes a party of a dozen or a score. One shed filled with carts
yielded at least a hundred, though the sergeant informed me it must have
been already cleared several times that evening, as he had a file of men
along the road, besides a cordon inside the Park palings, which border a
great portion of it. It is with these palings the tramps chiefly do
mischief, pulling them down to make fires along their route. Wherever my
guide found these, he trampled the fires remorselessly out, and kicked
the burning embers over the sleepers in a manner that must have been
uncomfortable. The men submitted in comparative silence; but the
ladies--where there happened to be any--exerted the privilege of their
sex, and treated us to some choice specimens of the vernacular. In one
case, a female cried out that he was kicking the fire over the
"childer;" and, sure enough, we found half-a-dozen little ones huddled
up asleep. The policeman remonstrated with her for bringing them to such
a place; but she informed us it was to "make their living." In what way,
she did not add. To us, it seemed very much like reversing the process,
and causing their death. Fancy young children camping out on the road to
the Downs at midnight! Boys of thirteen and fourteen abounded, sleeping
in large groups along the hedgerows, and sometimes out in the open
fields, where the dew lay thick.

At length, after many windings, we reached the Downs. The white booths,
following the direction of the course in their sinuous lines, looked
like stately white marble streets and crescents in the dim, uncertain
light of that hour which, between May 31 and June 1, is neither day nor
night. Under the stands and around the booths, tabernacling beneath
costermongers' barrows, and even lying out openly sub dio, were still
the hundreds of human beings. In one small drinking booth was a sight
the policeman said he had never seen equalled in his twenty years'
experience. A long, narrow table ran down the centre, with benches on
each side. The table itself was occupied with recumbent figures; on the
benches the sleepers sat, bending forward over it, and under the benches
sleepers sprawled upon the grass. The whole of the front of the booth
was open, and exposed to the biting wind; but there they snored as
calmly as though on eider-down. We climbed the steps of the stand above
the ring, and waited for the day, which slowly broke to the song of the
lark and nightingale over that strange scene. With the first suspicion
of dawn the sleepers awoke and got up; what for I cannot imagine. It was
barely two o'clock, and how they were going to kill the next twelve
hours I could not guess. Rise they did however, and an itinerant vendor
of coffee, who was literally up with the lark, straightway began to
drive a roaring trade. I saw no stronger drink than this consumed; nor
did I witness a single case of drunkenness during the whole night. But
this was before the Derby! At this juncture we were all surprised by the
apparition of a hansom-lamp toiling up the hill. Two adventurous
gentlemen from Liverpool, it appeared, had arrived at the Euston
Station, and insisted upon being driven at once to an hotel on Epsom
Downs. The Jehu, secure of a fabulous fare, drove them accordingly; and,
of course, had to drive them back again to Epsom--the hotels on the
Downs quietly but firmly declining to be knocked up at that untimely
hour even by gentlemen from Liverpool. As the sun showed his first
up-slanting rays above the horizon, with the morning star hanging
impertinently near, the two gipsy encampments began to exhibit signs of
life. The Zingari encamp exclusively by themselves, and some picturesque
specimens of the male sex, looking remarkably like the lively photograph
of the Greek brigands, showed themselves on the outskirts. The ladies
reserved themselves for later in the day. My guide cautioned me not to
attempt to enter the encampment, as the men are dangerous, and their
position on the Downs a privileged one. It was only when the tramps were
trespassing, or evidently bent on mischief, that they were disturbed. On
the Downs they were monarchs of all they surveyed.

When the sun was fairly up, and the morning mists rolled away from those
glorious Downs, I felt my mission accomplished. I had seen the sun rise
on Epsom course. As it was many hours before a train would return, and
I still felt fresh, I resolved to give the coup de grace to my night's
adventure by walking home--at least, walking to the radius of workmen's
trains. The vanguard of the Derby procession now began to show strongly
in the shape of the great unwashed climbing the ridge of the hill by the
paddock; and I felt I should see some characteristic sights along the
road. Bidding good-bye, therefore, to my guide at Epsom, I set out on
foot along the now-populous road, mine being the only face turned
London-wards. Carts laden with trestles and boards for stands now began
to be in force. By-and-by the well-known paper bouquets and outrageous
head-gear showed themselves as forming the cargo of costermongers'
carts. The travellers were all chatty, many of them chaffy. Frequent
were the inquiries I had to answer as to the hour and the distance to
the course. Occasionally a facetious gentleman anxiously inquired
whether it was all over, as I was returning? I believe the majority
looked upon me as a harmless lunatic, since I was travelling away from
Epsom on the Derby morning, and pitied me accordingly. An Irishman aptly
illustrated the genial character of Hibernian chaff as compared with
English. "Good day to your honner!" he said. "It does me good to see
your honner's happy face again;" though, of course, he had never seen it
before. As I passed on with a brief salutation, he took the trouble to
run after me, and slapping me on the shoulder, added, in a beautiful
brogue: "Wait a minnit; I don't want to ax you for anything, but only to
tell you how glad I am to see yer honner's happy face agin. Good
mornin'!"

So through Ewell, Cheam, and Morden, up to Tooting; the throng
increasing at every mile. At Balham, finding no train for an hour, I
footed it again. I found preparations for endless Aunt Sally already
being made on Clapham Common. Soon after six, I jumped into a train on
the London, Chatham, and Dover, and came home "with the milk;" having
not only had a healthy night's exercise--for the weather had all along
been splendid--but having added to my experiences of London life one new
"wrinkle" at least: I had seen the life of St. Giles's kitchen and
Bethnal Green lodging-house à la campagne. What I had already seen under
the garish candlelight of the Seven Dials and Commercial Road I saw
gilded into picturesqueness by that glorious and never-to-be-forgotten
sunrise on Epsom Downs which ushered in the Derby Day.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE WIFESLAYER'S "HOME."


There is something very weird and strange in that exceptional avocation
which takes one to-day to a Lord Mayor's feast or a croquet tournament,
to-morrow to a Ritualistic service, next day to the home of a homicide.
I am free to confess that each has its special attractions for me. I am
very much disposed to "magnify my office" in this respect, not from any
foolish idea that I am "seeing life," as it is termed, but still from a
feeling that the proper study of mankind _is_ man in all his varied
aspects.

It need not always be a morbid feeling that takes one to the scene of a
murder or other horrible event, though, as we well know, the majority of
those who visit such localities do go out of mere idle curiosity. It may
be worth while, however, for some who look a little below the surface of
things, to gauge, as it were, the genius loci, and see whether, in the
influences surrounding the spot and its inhabitants there be anything to
afford a clue as to the causes of the crime.

In summing up the evidence concerning a certain tragedy at Greenwich,
where a man killed his wife by throwing a knife, the coroner "referred
to the horrible abode--a coal cellar--in which the family, nine in
number, had resided, which was unfit for human habitation, and ought to
have been condemned by the parish authorities." Having seen and
described in these pages something of how the poor are housed in the
cellars of St. Giles's and Bethnal Green, and traced the probable
influences of herding together the criminal and innocent in the low
lodging-houses, it occurred to me to visit the scene of this awful
occurrence, and see how far the account given before the coroner's jury
was correct.

With this view I took the train to Greenwich, and, consulting the first
policeman I met, was by him directed to Roan Street as the scene of the
tragedy. Roan Street I found to be a somewhat squalid by-street, running
out of Skelton Street, close--it seemed significantly close--to the old
parish church. One could not help thinking of the familiar proverb, "The
nearer the church, the farther from God." The actual locality is called
Munyard's Row, being some dozen moderate-sized houses in Roan Street,
let out in lodgings, the particular house in question being again, with
a horrible grotesqueness, next door but one to a beer-shop called the
"Hit or Miss!" I expected to find Roan Street the observed of all
observers, but the nine days' wonder was over since what Dickens called
the "ink-widge." Indeed, a homicide has ceased to be a nine days'
wonder now. This only happened on Saturday; and when I was there, on the
following Wednesday, Roan Street had settled down into its wonted
repose. A woman with a child was standing on the door-step, and, on my
inquiring if I could see the kitchen, referred me to Mrs. Bristow at the
chandler's shop, who farms the rent of these populous tenements; for
Munyard's Row is peopled "from garret to basement," and a good way
underground too.

Mrs. Bristow, a civil, full-flavoured Irishwoman, readily consented to
act cicerone, and we went through the passage into the back garden,
where all the poor household furniture of the homicide's late "home" was
stacked. It did not occupy a large space, consisting only of the
bedstead on which the poor woman sat when the fatal deed was done, two
rickety tables, and two chairs. These were all the movables of a family
of nine. The mattress was left inside--too horrible a sight, after what
had taken place, to be exposed to the light of day.

We passed--Honora Bristow and myself--with a "gossip" or two, who had
come to see what I was after, into the back kitchen, for the wifeslayer
had two rooms en suite, though the family elected to occupy only one.
The floor of this apartment was either mother earth, or, if flagged, so
grimed with filth as to be a very fair resemblance of the soil. Here
stood only that terrible memento, the drenched mattress. In the front
kitchen--which, let me state, would have been palatial in comparison
with the Seven Dials or Spitalfields, had it been only clean--there was
very little light, for the window, which was well down below the surface
of the pavement, had not a whole pane in it, and the broken ones had
been stuffed up with old rags which were very protuberant indeed. That
window alone would show that the ménage had not been a judicious one.

"He was a quiet man," said Honora, "and gave trouble to no one. He and
his wife never had a word." The gossips all believed that the story of
the throwing the knife was true, notwithstanding the medical evidence
went against it. The boy of twelve, who provoked the father to throw the
knife, was evidently the incubus of the wretched home. "Almost before
the breath was out of his mother, that boy was searching about the bed
to see if he could find any ha'pence," said Honora. That boy was
evidently not satisfactory. His evidence was refused by the Coroner,
because he could not read or write. But then what had been the child's
surroundings? They have been described above. The man himself had a
patriarchal family of seven, from a girl of seventeen down to a baby of
two, and all, as we have seen, slept in one room, though there were two,
and though a bucket of whitewash would have made the pair habitable,
besides giving the lad some useful employment.

The father was of no particular occupation, picking up odd jobs, and
leaning largely to the shrimp trade. He stood high in Honora Bristow's
regards as having regularly paid his _1s. 9d._ a week for five years,
or, at least, being some _5s._ behind now; a sum which will probably be
covered by the chattels in the back garden. The poor home was silent
then. The mother lay calmly in the dead-house, after the post-mortem
examination, "terrible cut and hacked about," said the one gossip who
had ventured to go and see her quondam friend. The father was in
Maidstone Gaol. The little children were being taken care of by the
grandmother until such time as the mother should have been buried, when
they would gravitate to the workhouse.

In the meantime the boy, æt. twelve, the cause of all the mischief,
disports himself in Munyard's Row as though nothing had happened.
Perhaps he is the most difficult part of the problem; but the whole
question of the home is a puzzling one. The boy is evidently the product
of the home. It very much concerns the community that such produce
should become extinct; and therefore the sooner some improvements can be
introduced into such homes the better. In the first place, there is
decidedly too little light. Sunshine, under any circumstances, would
have been impossible there. The advisability of human beings burrowing
underground may be questioned, whether in cellars or genteel underground
kitchens.

Then again, one bedroom--nay, one bedstead--for father, mother, and
seven children ranging from seventeen to two is decidedly deficient.
This sounds almost too horrible to be true; but I was careful to
ascertain that the eldest girl, though in domestic service in Greenwich,
slept at the "home." More horrible still is the fact disclosed, that
they had a second room, yet had not the decency to use it. "De mortuis
nil nisi bonum." They lived according to their light; but they had very
little light, literally or figuratively. Surely we want to teach our
poor the simple rules of hygiene. One of the gossips, a clean, healthy
little woman, with a fine baby at her breast, referred with pride to her
poor kitchen, identical in all respects, save dirt, with the home.

Then, again, there was one thing that struck me forcibly, and that was
the sort of qualified reprobation with which these good gossips--really
decent people in their way--spoke of the habit of throwing knives.
Honora had once thrown one at her daughter of eighteen, but never meant
to do so again. And all this under the bells of the old parish church of
Greenwich in the year of grace 1870!

Clearly, however, the first question is what to do with the boy, æt.
twelve. Comporting himself as he did in the face of the awful tragedy he
had caused, this young gentleman must clearly not be lost sight of, or
it will be the worse for himself and those with whom he is brought into
contact. Nay, in a few years, he will become a centre of influence, and
radiate around him another such "home," worse, perhaps, than the first.

Let our Social Science so far break through the programme it may have
laid down as to touch on this very appropriate subject of squalid homes,
and its next sitting may be a very useful one indeed.



CHAPTER XX.

BATHING IN THE FAR EAST.


Visions of Oriental splendour and magnificence float across the
imagination at the mere mention of the storied East. Soaring above all
the routine of ordinary existence and the commonplaces of history, that
creative faculty within us pictures Pactolus with its golden sands; or
recalls from the legendary records of childhood the pomp of Aladdin's
Princess going to her luxurious bath; or brings back to mind the almost
prosaic minuteness with which the Greek poet describes the bath of
Ulysses when he returned from his wanderings. In the East the bath has
ever been an institution--not merely a luxury, but a necessity; and it
is a proof of the eclectic tendencies of our generation that we have
domesticated here in the West that great institution, the Hammam, or
Turkish bath, which the Romans were wise enough to adopt, after their
Eastern experience, more than two thousand years ago. Of none of these
Oriental splendours, however, has the present narrative to tell. I ask
those interested in social questions to take a very early Sunday
expedition to the East End of London, and catch a glimpse of those whom,
after what I have to relate, it would be libel to call the "Great
Unwashed." We will look at East London engaged in the interesting
process of performing its ablutions.

Very enjoyable is a Saturday afternoon stroll in Victoria Park. Those
gentlemen of London who sit at home at ease are apt to think of the East
End as a collection of slums, with about as much breathing space for its
congregated thousands as that supplied to the mites in a superannuated
Cheshire cheese. Let us pass through Bethnal Green Road, and, leaving
behind the new Museum, go under a magic portal into the stately acres
which bear the name of our Sovereign. On our right is the Hospital for
Diseases of the Chest, of which the foundation-stone was laid by the
Prince Consort, and the new wing of which our Orientals hope one day to
see opened by her Majesty in person. Most convincing test of all is the
situation of this Consumptive Hospital--showing the salubrity of the
Eastern breezes. Inside the imposing gate the visitor will find
extensive cricket-grounds interspersed with broad pastures, whose flocks
are the reverse of Arcadian in hue. Cricket-balls whiz about us like
shells at Inkermann; and the suggestive "Thank you" of the scouts forces
the passer-by into unwonted activity as he shies the ball to the bowler.
Then there are roundabouts uncountable, and gymnasia abundant. There are
bosquets for the love-makers, and glassy pools, studded with islands
innumerable, over which many a Lady of the Lake steers her shallop,
while Oriental sailor-boys canoe wildly along. There are flower-beds
which need not blush to be compared with Kew or the Crystal Palace. But
it is not with such that we are now concerned. On one of those same
lakes over which, on Saturday evening, sailors in embryo float their
mimic craft--and one young gentleman, slightly in advance of the rest,
directs a very miniature steamship--we see boards suggesting that daily,
from four to eight A.M., the Orientals may immerse themselves in the
limpid and most tempting waters. The depth, they are paternally
informed, increases towards the centre, buoys marking where it is six
feet; so that our Eastern friends have no excuse for suicide by
drowning.

East London birds are early birds, and to catch them at their bath you
must be literally up with the lark. Towards six o'clock is the most
fashionable hour for our metropolitan Pactolus; and, as it is some miles
distant from what can, by any stretch of courtesy, be called the West
End, and as there are no workmen's trains on a Sunday morning, a long
walk or cab drive is inevitable for all who would witness the disporting
of our amphibious Orientals. Rising thus betimes on a recent "Sunday
morning before the bells did ring," I sped me to the bathing pond,
judiciously screened off by shrubs from the main path. It was between
the appointed hours that I arrived; and, long before I saw anything, the
ringing laughter of the young East reached me through the shrubs.
Threading the path which led to the lake, I found the water literally
alive with men, boys, and hobbledehoys, revelling in the water like
young hippopotami on the Nile. Boys were largely in the ascendant--boys
from ten to fifteen years of age swam like young Leanders, and sunned
themselves on the bank, in the absence of towels, as the preparative to
dressing, or smoked their pipes in a state of nature. It is only just to
say that while I remained, I heard little if any language that could be
called "foul." Very free and easy, of course, were the remarks, and
largely illustrative of the vulgar tongue; not without a share of light
chaff directed against myself, whose presence by the lake-side puzzled
my young friends. I received numerous invitations to "peel" and have a
dip; and one young urchin assured me in the most patronizing way
possible that he "wouldn't laugh at me" if I could not get on. The
language may not have been quite so refined as that which I heard a few
days before from the young gentlemen with tall hats and blue ties at
Lord's; but I do say advisedly that it would more than bear comparison
with that of the bathers in the Serpentine, where my ears have often
been assailed with something far worse than anything I heard in East
London. In the matter of clothes, too, the apparel of our young friends
was indeed Eastern in its simplicity; yet they left it unprotected on
the bank with a confidence that did honour to our common humanity in
general, and to the regulations of Victoria Park in particular. Swimming
in some sort was almost universal among the bathers, showing that their
visit to the water was not an isolated event in their existence, but a
constant as it is a wholesome habit. The Oriental population were for
the most part apparently well fed; and one saw there lithe and active
frames, either careering gracefully along in the old style of swimming,
or adopting the new and scientific method which causes the human form
divine to approach very nearly to the resemblance of a rather excited
grampus.

But inexorable Time warns the youthful bathers that they must sacrifice
to the Graces; and some amusing incidents occur during the process.
Generally speaking, though the amount of attire is not excessive,
considerable effort in the way of pinning and hitching is required to
get things in their proper places. A young gentleman was reduced to
inexpressible grief, and held up to the scorn of his fellow-bathers, by
the fact that, in the course of his al fresco toilette, one of his feet
went through his inexpressibles in an honourable quarter, instead of
proceeding by the proper route; the error interested his friends
vastly--for they are as critical as the most fastidious could be of any
singularity in attire, and they held the unfortunate juvenile in his
embarrassing position for a long time, to his intense despair, until he
was rescued from his ignoble position by some grown-up friend. Then,
the young East is prone to the pleasures of tobacco. It was, I presume,
before breakfast with most of the bathers, and smoking under those
conditions is a trial even to the experienced. Some, pale from their
long immersion--for theirs was no transient dip--grew paler still after
they had discussed the pipe or cigar demanded of them by rigorous
custom. Fashion reigns supreme among the gamins of the East as well as
among the ladies of the West. Off they went, however, cleaner and
fresher than before--tacitly endorsing by their matutinal amusement the
motto that has come down from the philosopher of old, and even now
reigns supreme from Bermondsey to Belgravia, that "water is a most
excellent thing."

The day may arrive perhaps when, having embanked the Thames, we shall
follow suit to the Seine and the Rhine, by tenanting it with cheap baths
for the many. Until we do so, the stale joke of the "Great Unwashed"
recoils upon ourselves, and is no less symptomatic of defective sanitary
arrangements than the possibility of a drought in Bermondsey. But we are
forgetting our bathers. They have gone, leaving the place to
solitude--some, I hope, home to breakfast, others out among the
flower-walks or on the greensward. It is a gloomy, overcast, muggy,
unseasonable July morning; and the civil attendant by the lake-side
tells me that the gathering has not been so large as usual. The young
Orientals--as is the custom of their race--love sunshine. They get
little enough of it, Heaven knows. The next bright Sunday morning, any
one who happens to be awake between the hours mentioned, and who would
like to add to his experiences of metropolitan existence, may do a worse
thing, and see many a less pleasant sight, than if he hailed a hansom
and drove by the principal entrance of Victoria Park to our Eastern
Bath.



CHAPTER XXI.

AMONG THE QUAKERS.


There is no more engaging or solemn subject of contemplation than the
decay of a religious belief. Right or wrong, by that faith men have
lived and died, perhaps for centuries; and one cannot see it pass out
from the consciousness of humanity without something more than a cursory
thought as to the reasons of its decadence. Being led by exceptional
causes to take a more than common interest in those forms of belief
which lie beyond the pale of the Church of England, I was attracted by a
notice in the public journals that on the following morning the Society
of Friends would assemble from all parts of England and open a
Conference to inquire into the causes which had brought about the
impending decay of their body. So, then, the fact of such decay stood
confessed. In most cases the very last persons to realize the unwelcome
truth are those who hold the doctrines that are becoming effete.
Quakerism must, I felt, be in a very bad condition indeed when its own
disciples called together a conference to account for its passing away.
Neither men nor communities, as a rule, act crowner's 'quest on their
own decease. That faith, it was clear, must be almost past praying for
which, disbelieving, as our modern Quietism does, the efficacy of
assemblies, and trusting all to the inward illumination of individuals,
should yet summon a sort of Quaker Oecumenical Council. I thought I
should like to probe this personal light myself, and by inquiring of one
or two of the members of the body, learn what they thought of the
matter. I was half inclined to array myself in drab, and _tutoyer_ the
first of the body I chanced to encounter in my walks abroad. But then it
occurred to me how very seldom one did meet a Quaker nowadays except in
the "month of Maying." I actually had to cast about for some time before
I could select from a tolerably wide and heterogeneous circle of
acquaintance two names of individuals belonging to the Society of
Friends; though I could readily remember half a dozen of every other
culte, from Ultramontanes down to Jumpers. These two, at all events, I
would "interview," and so forestall the Conference with a little select
synod of my own.

It was possible, of course, to find a ludicrous side to the question;
but, as I said, I approached it seriously. Sydney Smith, with his
incorrigible habit of joking, questioned the existence of Quaker
babies--a position which, if proven, would, of course, at once account
for the diminution of adult members of the sect. It was true I had never
seen a Quaker infant; but I did not therefore question their existence,
any more than I believed postboys and certain humble quadrupeds to be
immortal because I had never seen a dead specimen of either. The
question I acknowledged at once to be a social and religious, not a
physiological one. Why is Quakerism, which has lived over two hundred
years, from the days of George Fox, and stood as much persecution as any
system of similar age, beginning to succumb to the influences of peace
and prosperity? Is it the old story of Capua and Cannæ over again?
Perhaps it is not quite correct to say that it is now beginning to
decline; nor, as a fact, is this Conference the first inquiry which the
body itself has made into its own incipient decay. It is even said that
symptoms of such an issue showed themselves as early as the beginning of
the eighteenth century; and prize essays have been from time to time
written as to the causes, before the Society so far fell in with the
customs of the times as to call a council for the present very difficult
and delicate inquiry. The first prize essay by William Rountree
attributes the falling off to the fact that the early Friends, having
magnified a previously slighted truth--that of the Indwelling Word--fell
into the natural error of giving it an undue place, so depriving their
representations of Christian doctrine of the symmetry they would
otherwise have possessed, and influencing their own practices in such a
way as to contract the basis on which Christian fellowship rests. A
second prize essay, called "The Peculium," takes a still more practical
view, and points out in the most unflattering way that the Friends, by
eliminating from their system all attention to the arts, music, poetry,
the drama, &c., left nothing for the exercise of their faculties save
eating, drinking, and making money. "The growth of Quakerism," says Mr.
T. Hancock, the author of this outspoken essay, "lies in its
enthusiastic tendency. The submission of Quakers to the commercial
tendency is signing away the life of their own schism. Pure enthusiasm
and the pursuit of money (which _is_ an enthusiasm) can never coexist,
never co-operate; but," he adds, "the greatest loss of power reserved
for Quakerism is the reassumption by the Catholic Church of those
Catholic truths which Quakerism was separated to witness and to
vindicate."

I confess myself, however, so far Quaker too that I care little for the
written testimony of friends or foes. I have, in all my religious
wanderings and inquiries, adopted the method of oral examination; so I
found myself on a recent November morning speeding off by rail to the
outskirts of London to visit an ancient Quaker lady whom I knew very
slenderly, but who I had heard was sometimes moved by the spirit to
enlighten a little suburban congregation, and was, therefore, I felt the
very person to enlighten me too, should she be thereunto moved. She was
a venerable, silver-haired old lady, clad in the traditional dress of
her sect, and looking very much like a living representation of
Elizabeth Fry. She received me very cordially; though I felt as if I
were a fussy innovation of the nineteenth century breaking in upon the
sacred, old-fashioned quiet of her neat parlour. She "thee'd and thou'd"
me to my heart's content: and--to summarize the conversation I held with
her--it was to the disuse of the old phraseology and the discarding of
the peculiar dress that she attributed most of the falling off which she
was much too shrewd a woman of the world to shut her eyes to. These
were, of course, only the outward and visible signs of a corresponding
change within; but this was why the Friends fell off, and gravitated, as
she confessed they were doing, to steeple-houses, water-dipping, and
bread-and-wine-worship. She seemed to me like a quiet old Prophetess
Anna chanting a "Nunc Dimittis" of her own on the passing away of her
faith. She would be glad to depart before the glory had quite died out.
She said she did not hope much from the Conference, and, to my
amazement, rather gloried in the old irreverent title given by the
Independents to her forefathers from their "quaking and trembling" when
they heard the Word of God, though she preferred still more the older
title of "Children of the Light." She was, in fact, a rigid old
Conservative follower of George Fox, from the top of her close-bordered
cap to the skirts of her grey silk gown. I am afraid my countenance
expressed incredulity as to her rationale of the decay; for, as I rose
to go, she said, "Thou dost not agree, friend, with what I have said to
thee--nay, never shake thy head; it would be wonderful if thou didst,
when our own people don't. Stay; I'll give thee a note to my son in
London, though he will gainsay much of what I have told thee." She gave
me the letter, which was just what I wanted, for I felt I had gained
little beyond a pleasant experience of old-world life from my morning's
jaunt. I partook of her kindly hospitality, was shown over her
particularly cosy house, gardens, and hothouses, and meditated, on my
return journey, upon many particulars I learnt for the first time as to
the early history of Fox; realizing what a consensus there was between
the experiences of all illuminati. I smiled once and again over the
quaint title of one of Fox's books which my venerable friend had quoted
to me--viz., "A Battle-door for Teachers and Professors to learn Plural
and Singular. _You_ to _Many_, and _Thou_ to _One_; Singular, One,
_Thou_; Plural, Many, _You_." While so meditating, my cab deposited me
at the door of a decidedly "downy" house, at the West End, where my
prospective friend was practising in I will not mention which of the
learned professions. Both the suburban cottage of the mother and the
London ménage of the son assured me that they had thriven on Quakerism;
and it was only then I recollected that a poor Quaker was as rare a
personage as an infantile member of the Society.

The young man--who neither in dress, discourse, nor manner differed
from an ordinary English gentleman--smiled as he read his mother's
lines, and, with a decorous apology for disturbing the impressions which
her discourse might have left upon me, took precisely the view which had
been latent in my own mind as to the cause of the Society's decay.
Thoroughly at one with them still on the doctrine of the illuminating
power of the Spirit in the individual conscience, he treated the archaic
dress, the obsolete phraseology, the obstinate opposition to many
innocent customs of the age, simply as anachronisms. He pointed with
pride to the fact that our greatest living orator was a member of the
Society; and claimed for the underlying principle of Quakerism--namely,
the superiority of a conscience void of offence over written scripture
or formal ceremony--the character of being in essence the _broadest_
creed of Christendom. Injudicious retention of customs which had grown
meaningless had, he felt sure, brought down upon the body that most
fatal of all influences--contempt. "You see it in your own Church," he
said. "There is a school which, by reviving obsolete doctrines and
practices, will end in getting the Church of England disestablished as
it is already disintegrated. You see it even in the oldest religion of
all--Judaism. You see, I mean, a school growing into prominence and
power which discards all the accumulations of ages, and by going back to
real antiquity, at once brings the system more into unison with the
century, and prevents that contempt attaching to it which will accrue
wherever a system sets its face violently against the tone of current
society." He thought the Conference quite unnecessary. "There needs no
ghost come from the dead to tell us that, Horatio," he said, cheerily.
"They will find out that Quakerism is not a proselytizing religion," he
added; "which, of course, we knew before. They will point to the
fashionable attire, the gold rings, and lofty chignons of our younger
sisters as direct defiance of primitive custom. I am unorthodox
enough"--and he smiled as he used that word--"to think that the attire
is more becoming to my younger sisters, just as the Society's dress is
to my dear mother." That young man, and the youthful sisters he told me
of, stood as embodied answers to the question I had proposed to myself.
They were outward and visible evidences of the doctrine of Quaker
"development." The idea is not dead. The spirit is living still. It is
the spirit that underlies all real religion--namely, the personal
relation of the human soul to God as the source of illumination. That
young man was as good a Quaker at heart as George Fox or William Penn
themselves; and the "apology" he offered for his transformed faith was a
better one than Barclay's own. I am wondering whether the Conference
will come to anything like so sensible a conclusion as to why Quakerism
is declining.



CHAPTER XXII.

PENNY READINGS.


Who has ever penetrated beneath the surface of clerical society--meaning
thereby the sphere of divinities (mostly female) that doth hedge a
curate of a parish--without being sensible of the eligibility of Penny
Readings for a place in Mystic London? When the Silly Season is at its
very bathos; when the monster gooseberries have gone to seed and the
showers of frogs ceased to fall; after the matrimonial efforts of
Margate or Scarborough, and before the more decided business of the
Christmas Decorations, then there is deep mystery in the penetralia of
every parish. The great scheme of Penny Readings is being concocted, and
all the available talent of the district--all such as is "orthodox" and
"correct"--is laid under contribution.

It is true to a proverb that we English people have a knack of doing the
best possible things in the worst possible way; and that not
unfrequently when we do once begin doing them we do them to death. It
takes some time to convince us that the particular thing is worth doing
at all; but, once persuaded, we go in for it with all our British might
and main. The beard-and-moustache movement was a case in point. Some
years ago a moustache was looked upon by serious English people as
decidedly reckless and dissipated. A beard was fit only for a bandit.
Nowadays, the mildest youth in the Young Men's Christian Association may
wear a moustache without being denounced as "carnal," and paterfamilias
revels in the beard of a sapeur, no misopogon daring to say him nay. To
no "movement," however, does the adage "Vires acquirit eundo" apply more
thoroughly than to that connected with "Penny Readings." Originally
cropping up timidly in rustic and suburban parishes, it has of late
taken gigantic strides, and made every parish where it does _not_ exist,
rural or metropolitan, very exceptional indeed. There was a sound
principle lying at the bottom of the movement, in so far as it was
designed to bring about a fusion of classes; though, perhaps, it
involved too much of an assumption that the "working man" had to be
lectured to, or read to, by his brother in purple and fine linen. Still
the theory was so far sound. Broad cloth was to impart to fustian the
advantages it possessed in the way of reading, singing, fiddling, or
what not; and that not gratuitously, which would have offended the
working man's dignity, but for the modest sum of one penny, which,
whilst Lazarus was not too poor to afford, Dives condescended to accept,
and apply to charitable purposes.

Such being, in brief, the theory of the Penny Reading movement, it may
be interesting to see how it is carried out in practice. Now, in order
to ascertain this, I availed myself of several opportunities afforded by
the commencement of the Penny Reading season, which may be said to
synchronize very nearly with the advent of London fogs, and attended the
opening of the series in several widely different localities. In
describing my experiences it would perhaps be invidious to specify the
exact locality where they were gathered. I prefer to collate those
experiences which range from Campden Hill to Camden Town inclusive. Amid
many distinguishing traits there are common elements traceable in all,
which may enable us to form some estimate of the working of the scheme,
and possibly to offer a few words of advice to those interested therein.

In most cases the Penny Readings are organized by the parochial clergy.
We will be orthodox, and consider them so to be on the present occasion.
In that case, the series would probably be opened by the incumbent in
person. Some ecclesiastical ladies, young and middle-aged, who, rightly
or wrongly, believe their mission is music, and to whom the curate is
very probably an attraction, aid his efforts. Serious young men read,
and others of a more mundane turn of mind sing doleful "comic" songs,
culled from the more presentable of the music-hall répertoire. In many
cases skilled amateurs or professionals lend their valuable assistance;
and it is not too much to say that many a programme is presented to the
audience--ay, and faithfully carried out too--which would do credit to a
high-priced concert-room. But, then, who make up the audience? Gradually
the "penny" people have been retiring into the background, as slowly but
as surely as the old-fashioned pits at our theatres are coyly
withdrawing under the boxes to make way for the stalls. The Penny
Readings have been found to "draw" a higher class of audience than those
for whom they were originally intended. The curate himself, if
unmarried, secures the whole spinsterhood of the parish. His rendering
of the lines, "On the receipt of my mother's picture out of Norfolk," is
universally acknowledged to be "delightful;" and so, in course of time,
the Penny Readings have been found to supply a good parochial income;
and the incumbent, applying the proceeds to some local charity,
naturally wishes to augment that income as much as possible. The
consequence is that the penny people are as completely nowhere at the
Penny Readings as they are in the free seats at their parish church. The
whole of the body of the room is "stalled off," so to say, for sixpenny
people, and the penny folk are stowed away anywhere. Then, again, in
several programmes I have been at the pains to analyse, it is palpable
that, whilst the bulk of the extracts fire over the heads of the poor
people, one or two are inserted which are as studiously aimed at them as
the parson's remarks in last Sunday's sermon against public-house
loafing. Still "naming no names," I attended some readings where one of
the clergy read a long extract from Bailey's "Festus," whilst he was
succeeded by a vulgar fellow, evidently put in for "the gods," who
delivered himself of a parody on Ingoldsby, full of the coarsest
slang--nay, worse than that, abounding in immoralities which, I hope,
made the parochial clergy sit on thorns, and place the reader on their
"Index Expurgatorius" from henceforth.

Excellent in its original design, the movement is obviously degenerating
into something widely different. First, I would say, Let your Penny
Readings be really Penny Readings, and not the egregious _lucus a non_
they now are. If there is any distinction, the penny people should have
the stalls, and then, _if there were room_, the "swells" (I must use an
offensive term) could come in for sixpence, and stand at the back. But
there should be no difference at all. Dives and Lazarus should sit
together, or Dives stop away if he were afraid his fine linen may get
soiled. Lazarus, at all events, must not be lost sight of, or treated to
second best. The experiment of thus mingling them has been tried, I
know, and succeeds admirably. Dives and Lazarus _do_ hobnob; and though
the former occasionally tenders a silver coin for his entrée, he does
not feel that he is thereby entitled to a better seat. The committee
gets the benefit of his liberality; and when the accounts are audited in
the spring, Lazarus is immensely pleased at the figure his pence make.
Then, again, as to the quality of the entertainment. Let us remember
Lazarus comes there to be elevated. That was the theory we set out
with--that we, by our reading, or our singing, or fiddling, or
tootle-tooing on the cornet, could civilize our friend in fustian. Do
not let us fall into the mistake, then, of descending to his standard.
We want to level him up to ours. Give him the music we play in our own
drawing-rooms; read the choice bits of fiction or poetry to his wife and
daughters which we should select for our own. Amuse his poor little
children with the same innocent nonsense with which we treat our young
people. Above all, don't bore him. I do not say, never be serious,
because it is a great mistake to think Lazarus can only guffaw. Read
"The Death of Little Nell" or of Paul Dombey, and look at Mrs. Lazarus's
eyes. Read Tom Hood's "Song of the Shirt," and see whether the poor
seamstress out in the draughty penny seats at the back appreciates it or
not. I did hear of one parish at the West End--the very same, by the
way, I just now commended for sticking to the "penny" system--where
Hood's "Nelly Gray," proposed to be read by the son of one of our best
known actors, was tabooed as "unedifying." Lazarus does not come to be
"edified," but to be amused. If he can be at the same time instructed,
so much the better; but the bitter pill must be highly gilded, or he
will pocket his penny and spend it in muddy beer at the public-house.
If the Penny Reading can prevent this--and we see no reason why it
should not--it will have had a mission indeed. Finally, I feel sure that
there is in this movement, and lying only a very little way from the
surface, a wholesome lesson for Dives too; and that is, how little
difference there is, after all, between himself and Lazarus. I have been
surprised to see how some of the more recherché "bits" of our genuine
humorists have told upon the penny people, and won applause which the
stalest burlesque pun or the nastiest music-hall inanity would have
failed to elicit. Lazarus must be represented on the platform then, as
well as comfortably located in the audience. He must be asked to read,
or sing, or fiddle, or do whatever he can. If not, he will feel he is
being read at, or sung to, or fiddled for, and will go off to the Magpie
and Stump, instead of bringing missus and the little ones to the
"pa'son's readings." Let the Penny Reading teach us the truth--and how
true it is--that we are all "working men." What matters it whether we
work with head or with hand--with brain or muscle?



CHAPTER XXIII.

DARWINISM ON THE DEVIL.


It has been said--perhaps more satirically than seriously--that theology
could not get on without its devil. Certain it is that wherever there
has been a vivid realization of the Spirit of Light, there, as if by way
of antithesis, there has been an equally clear recognition of the Power
of Darkness. Ormuzd--under whatever name recognised--generally supposes
his opponent Ahriman; and there have even been times, as in the
prevalence of the Manichean heresy, when the Evil Spirit has been
affected in preference to the good--probably only another way of saying
that morals have been held subordinate to intellect. But I am growing at
once prosy and digressive.

The announcement that the "Liberal Social Union" would devote one of
their sweetly heretical evenings at the Beethoven Rooms, Harley Street,
to an examination of the Darwinian development of the Evil Spirit, was
one not to be scorned by an inquirer into the more eccentric and erratic
phases of theology. Literary engagements stood in the way--for the
social heretics gather on a Friday--but come what might, I would hear
them discuss diabolism. Leaving my printer's devil to indulge in
typographical errors according to his own sweet will (and I must confess
he _did_ wander), I presented myself, as I thought in good time, at the
portals of the Harley Street room, where his Satanic Majesty was to be
heretically anatomized. But, alas! I had not calculated aright the power
of that particular potentate to "draw." No sooner had I arrived at the
cloak-room than the very hats and umbrellas warned me of the number of
his votaries. Evening Dress was "optional;" and I frankly confess, at
whatever risk of his displeasure, that I had not deemed Mephistopheles
worthy of a swallow-tailed coat. I came in the garb of ordinary life;
and at once felt uncomfortable when, mounting the stairs, I was received
by a portly gentleman and an affable lady in violent tenue de soir. The
room was full to the very doors; and as soon as I squeezed into earshot
of the lecturer (who had already commenced his discourse) I was greeted
by a heterodox acquaintance in elaborate dress-coat and rose-pink
gloves. Experience in such matters had already told me--and thereupon I
proved it by renewed personal agony--that an Englishman never feels so
uncomfortable as when dressed differently from his compeers at any kind
of social gathering. Mrs. T---- asks you to dinner, and you go clad in
the correct costume in deference to the prandial meal, but find all the
rest in morning dress. Mrs. G----, on the contrary, sends you a
rollicking note to feed with a few friends--no party; and you go
straight from office to find a dozen heavily-got-up people sniggering at
your frock coat and black tie. However, as I said, on this occasion the
lecturer, Dr. Zerffi, was in the thick of what proved to be a very
attractive lecture; so I was not the observed of all observers for more
than two or three minutes, and was able to give him my whole attention
as soon as I had recovered from my confusion. Dr. Zerffi said:--

Dr. Darwin's theory of evolution and selection has changed our modern
mode of studying the inorganic and organic phenomena of nature, and
investigating the realities of truth. His theory is not altogether new,
having been first proclaimed by Leibnitz, and followed up with regard to
history by Giovanni Battista Vico. Oken and Goethe amplified it towards
the end of the last, and at the beginning of the present century.
Darwin, however, has systematized the theory of evolution, and now the
branches of human knowledge can only be advantageously pursued if we
trace in all phenomena, whether material or spiritual, a beginning and a
gradual development. One fact has prominently been established, that
there is order in the eternal change, that this order is engendered by
law, and that law and order are the criterions of an all-wise ruling
Spirit pervading the Universe. To this positive spirit of law a spirit
of negation, an element of rebellion and mischief, of mockery and
selfishness, commonly called the Devil, has been opposed from the
beginning.

It appeared, till very lately, as though God had created the world only
for the purpose of amusing the Devil, and giving him an abundance of
work, all directed to destroying the happiness of God's finest
creation--man. Treating the Devil from a Darwinian point of view, we may
assert that he developed himself from the protoplasm of ignorance, and
in the gloomy fog of fear and superstition grew by degrees into a
formidable monster, being changed by the overheated imaginations of
dogmatists into a reptile, an owl, a raven, a dog, a wolf, a lion, a
centaur, a being half monkey, half man, till, finally, he became a
polite and refined human being.

Man once having attained a certain state of consciousness, saw sickness,
evil, and death around him, and as it was usual to assign to every
effect some tangible cause, man developed the abstract notion of evil
into a concrete form, which changed with the varying impressions of
climate, food, and the state of intellectual progress. To the white man
the Devil was black, and to the black man white. Originally, then, the
Devil was merely a personification of the apparently destructive forces
of nature. Fire was his element. The Indians had their Rakshas and
Uragas, the Egyptians their Typhon, and the Persians their Devas. The
Israelites may claim the honour of having brought the theory of evil
into a coarse and sensual form, and the Christians took up this
conception, and developed it with the help of the Gnostics, Plato, and
the Fathers dogmatically into an entity.

I shall not enter on a minute inquiry into the origin of this formidable
antagonist of common sense and real piety; I intend to take up the three
principal phases of the Devil's development, at a period when he already
appears to us as a good Christian Devil, and always bearing in mind Mr.
Darwin's theory of evolution, I shall endeavour to trace spiritually the
changes in the conceptions of evil from the Devil of Luther to that of
Milton, and at last to that of Goethe.

The old Jewish Rabbis and theological doctors were undoubtedly the first
to trace, genealogically, the pedigree of the Christian Devil in its
since general form. If we take the trouble to compare chap. i. v. 27 of
Genesis with chap. ii. v. 21, we will find that two distinct creations
of man are given. The one is different from the other. In the first
instance we have the clear, indisputable statement, "So God created man
in his own image:" and to give greater force to this statement the text
goes on, "in the image of God created he him; male and female created he
them." Both man and woman were then created. Nothing could be plainer.
But as though no creation of man had taken place at all, we find, chap.
ii. v. 7: "And the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and
breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." This was evidently a
second man, differently created from the first, who is stated to have
been made "in the image of God himself." This second creature was
entrusted with the nomination and classification of all created things;
that is, with the formation of language, and the laying down of the
first principles of botany and zoology. After he had performed this
arduous task it happened that "for Adam there was not found an help meet
for him" (verse 20), and chap. ii. v. 21 tells us, "The Lord God caused
a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his
ribs and closed up the flesh instead thereof;" and verse 22, "And of the
rib which the Lord God had taken from man made He a woman, and brought
her unto man." Adam then joyfully exclaims (verse 23), "This _is_ now
bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." This cannot but lead to the
conclusion that this woman was an altogether different creature from the
first. The contradiction was most ingeniously explained by the learned
Jewish Rabbis, who considered the first woman the organic germ from
which the special Hebrew-Christian devils were evolved. The Rabbis
discovered that the name of the first woman was "Lilith"[1] (the
nightly); they knew positively--and who can disprove their
assertion?--that she was the most perfect beauty, more beautiful than
Eve; she had long waving hair, bright eyes, red lips and cheeks, and a
charmingly finished form and complexion; but having been created at the
same moment as the first man, and like him, in the image of God, she
refused to become man's wife; she objected to being subordinate to the
male part of creation--she was, in fact, the first strong-minded woman,
claiming the same rights as man, though a woman in body and form. Under
these circumstances the existence of the human race was deemed to be an
impossibility, and therefore the Lord had to make good his error, and He
created Eve as the completing part of man. The first woman left her
co-equally created male, and was changed into an enormous, most
beautiful, and seducing "She Devil," and her very thoughts brought forth
daily a legion of devils--incarnations of pride, vanity, conceit, and
unnaturalness. Happily these devils were so constituted that they
devoured one another. But in their rage they could take possession of
others, and more especially entered little children--boys under three
days old, girls under twenty days--and devoured them. This myth, by
means of evolution and the law of action and re-action, engendered the
further legend about the existence of three special angels who acted as
powerful antidotes to these devils, and whose names, "Senoi, Sansenoi,
and Sanmangeloph," if written on a piece of parchment suspended round
the neck of children afforded certain protection against them.

The origin of the Devil may thus be traced to the first vain contempt
for the eternal laws of nature. The woman, refusing to be a woman,
engenders devils; the man, trying to be a God, loses paradise and his
innocence, for the element of the supernatural intruded upon him and
abstracted his thoughts from this earth. These were the half idealistic
and half realistic elements from which the three greatest spiritual
incarnations of the Evil Spirit sprung up. Luther took the Evil Spirit
as a bodily entity, with big horns, fiery eyes, a reddish, protruding
tongue, a long tail, and the hoof of a horse. In this latter attribute
we trace at once the Kentaur element of ancient times. Through nearly
one thousand three hundred years from Tertullian and Thaumaturgus down
to Luther, every one was accustomed to look upon life as one great
battle with tens of thousands of devils, assaulting, harassing,
annoying, and seducing humanity. All fought, quarrelled, talked, and
wrestled with the Devil. He was more spoken of in the pulpits of the
Christian Churches, written about in theological and scientific books,
than God or Christ. All misfortunes were attributed to him. Thunder and
lightning, hailstorms and the rinderpest, the hooping cough and
epileptic fits were all the Devil's work. A man who suffered from
madness was said to be possessed by a legion of Evil Spirits. The Devil
settled himself in the gentle dimples of a pretty girl with the same
ease and comfort as in the wrinkles of an old woman. Everything that
was inexplicable was evil. Throughout the Middle Ages the masses and the
majority of their learned theological teachers believed the Greek and
Latin classics were inspired by Evil Spirits; that sculptures or
paintings, if beautiful, were of evil; that all cleverness in
Mathematics, Chemistry, or Medicine proved the presence of the
corrupting Evil Spirit working in man. Any bridge over a chasm or a
rapid river was the work of the Devil; even the most beautiful Gothic
cathedrals, like those of Cologne and St. Stephen at Vienna were
constructed by architects who served their apprenticeship in the
infernal regions. The Devil sat grinning on the inkstands of poets and
learned men, dictating to the poor deluded mortals, as the price for
their souls, charming love-songs or deep theological and philosophical
essays. It was extremely dangerous during this period of man's
historical evolution to be better or wiser than the ignorant masses.
Learning, talent, a superior power of reasoning, love for truth, a
spirit of inquiry, the capacity of making money by clever trading, an
artistic turn of mind, success in life, even in the Church, were only so
many proofs that the soul had been sold to some dwarfish or giant
messenger from Lucifer, who could appear in a thousand different forms.
Man was, since his assumed Fall, the exclusive property of the coarse
and vulgar conception of the Evil Spirit. Luther was full of these
ideas, he was brought up in this belief, and though he unconsciously
felt that the Devil ought to be expelled from our creed, he did not dare
to attempt the reform of humanity by annihilating the mischief-maker: he
could not rob man of his dearest spiritual possession; had he thought of
consigning the Devil to the antediluvian period of our moral and social
formation, he never could have succeeded in his reform. The Devil, in
fact, was his strongest helpmate; he could describe the ritual of the
Romish Church as the work of the Evil Spirit, produced to delude
mankind. The Devil had his Romish prayers, his processions, his worship
of relics, his remission of sins, his confessional, his infernal synods;
he was to Luther an active, rough, and material incarnation of the
roaring lion of the Scriptures in the shape of the Romish Church,
walking about visibly, tangibly, bodily amongst men, devouring all who
believed in the Pope, and who disbelieved in this stupid phantom of a
dogmatically blinded imagination.

The Evolution-theory may be clearly traced in the two next conceptions:
Milton's Satan and Goethe's Mephistopheles. They differ as strongly as
the periods and the poems in which they appear. Milton's Satan loses the
vulgar flesh and bone, horn and hoof nature--he is an epic character;
whilst Goethe's Devil is an active dramatic entity of modern times.
Milton's representative of evil is a very powerful conception--it is
evil in abstracto; whilst Mephistopheles is evil in concreto--the
intelligible, tangible Devil, evolved by the power of selection from an
antediluvian monster, and transformed through a civilizing process of at
least six thousand years into its present form. Milton's Satan is a
debased intellect who in his boundless ambition is still a supernatural
being. Mephistopheles is the incarnation of our complicated modern
social evils, full of petty tricks and learned quotations; he piously
turns up his eyes, he lies, doubts, calumniates, seduces, philosophizes,
sneers, but all in a polite and highly educated way; he is a scholar, a
divine, a politician, a diplomatist. Satan is capable of wild
enthusiasm, he sometimes remembers his bright sinless past; "from the
lowest deep," he yearns, "once more to lift himself up, in spite of
fate, nearer to his ancient seat;"--he hopes to re-enter heaven, "to
purge off his gloom;" some remnant of heavenly innocence still clings to
him, for, though _fallen_, he is still an _angel_! Mephistopheles in his
real nature is without any higher aspirations, he argues with a
sarcastic smile on his lips, he is ironical with sophisticated
sharpness. Satan has unconsciously gigantic ideas, he is ready to
wrestle with God for the dominion of heaven. Mephistopheles is perfectly
conscious of his littleness as opposed to our better intellectual
nature, and does evil for evil's sake. Satan is sublime through the
grandeur of his primitive elements, pride and ambition. Mephistopheles
is only grave in his pettiness; he does not refuse an orgie with
drunken students, indulges in jokes with monkeys, works miracles in the
witch's kitchen, delights in the witch's "one-time-one;" distributes
little tracts "to stir up the witch's heart with special fire." Satan
has nothing vulgar in him: he is capable of melancholy feelings, he can
be pathetic and eloquent. Mephistopheles laughs at the stupidity of the
world, and at his own. Satan believes in God and in himself, whilst
Mephistopheles is the "Spirit that denies;" he believes neither in God
nor in heaven nor in hell; he does not believe in his own entity--he is
no supernatural, fantastic being, but man incarnate: he is the evil part
of a good whole, which loses its entity when once seen and recognised in
its real nature; for Mephistopheles in reality is our own ignorant,
besotted, animal nature, cultivated and developed at the expense of our
intellectual part.

Luther's devil is the outgrowth of humanity in long-clothes. Man,
ignorant of the forces of the Cosmos, blinded by theological dialectics
and metaphysical subtleties, incapable of understanding the real essence
of our moral and intellectual nature, philosophically untrained to
observe that evil is but a sequence of the disturbed balance between our
double nature--spirit and matter--attributed all mischief in the
intellectual as well as in our social spheres to an absolute powerful
being who continually tormented him.

Milton's Satan is the poetical conception of man developed from an
infant in long-clothes into a boisterous but dreamy youth, ascribing to
every incomprehensible effect an arbitrary, poetical cause. Goethe's
Mephistopheles, lastly is the truthful conception of evil as it really
exists in a thousand forms, evolved from our own misunderstood and
artificially and dogmatically distorted nature.

Goethe in destroying the Devil as such, consigned him to the primeval
myths and legends of ignorance and fear, and has shown us the real
nature of the evil.

What then is the Devil?

The Devil took, as I said in the beginning, his origin in our blinded
senses, in an undue preponderance of that which is material in us over
that which is intellectual. The moment we look the Evil Spirit in the
face, he vanishes as an _absolute_ being and becomes--

                A portion of that power
    Which wills the bad and works the good at every hour.

After having been exposed during several periods of generations to new
conditions, thus rendering a great amount of variation possible, the
Devil has developed from a monster into a monkey, and from a monkey into
a man endowed with the nature of a monkey and the propensities of a
monster. In the State and in the Church, in Arts and Sciences, the Devil
is the principle of injustice, hypocrisy, ugliness, and ignorance.
Goethe has annihilated the ideal poetical grandeur of Milton's Satan; he
has stripped Luther's Devil of his vulgar realism; Goethe has driven
Satan from an imaginary hell, where he preferred to rule instead of
worshipping and serving in heaven, and with the sponge of common sense
he wiped the horned monster, drawn by the imagination of dogmatists,
from the black board of ignorance. In banishing the Evil Spirit into the
dominion of myths, Goethe showed him in his real nature. Darwin
displaced man from the exalted pedestal of a special creation, and
endeavoured to trace him as the development of cosmical elements. Darwin
enabled us to look upon man as the completing link in the great chain of
the gradual evolution of the life-giving forces of the Universe, and he
rendered thus our position more comprehensible and natural. Goethe, in
proving that the Evil Spirit of ancient and Hebrew-Christian times was a
mere phantom of an ill-regulated fantasy, taught us to look for the real
origin of evil. What was a metaphysical incomprehensibility became an
intelligible reality. The Demon can be seen in "Faust" as in a mirror,
and in glancing into it we behold our Darwinian progenitor, the animal,
face to face. Before the times of Goethe, with very few exceptions, the
Evil Spirit was an entity with whom any one might become familiar--in
fact, the "spiritus familiaris" of old. The Devil spoke, roared,
whispered, could sign contracts. We were able to yield our soul to him;
and he could bodily enter our body. The Devil was a corporeal entity.
The rack, water, and fire were used to expel him from sorcerers and
witches, and to send him into all sorts of unclean animals. Goethe, in
unmasking this phantom, introduced him not as something _without_, but
as an element _within_ us. The service rendered to humanity in showing
us the true nature of evil is as grand as the service rendered by Mr.
Darwin in assigning to man his place _in_ nature, and not _above_
nature. It is curious that those who have most of the incorrigible and
immovable animal nature in them should protest with the greatest
vehemence and clamour against this theory. They think by asserting their
superiority, based on a special creation, to become at once special and
superior beings, and prefer this position to trying, through a
progressive development in science and knowledge, in virtue and honesty,
to prove the existence of the higher faculties with which man has been
endowed through his gradual development from the lowest phases of living
creatures to the highest. In assuming the Devil to be something absolute
and positive, and not something relative and negative, man hoped to be
better able to grapple with him. Mephistopheles is nothing personal; he
can, like the Creator himself, be only traced in his works. The Devil
lurks beneath the venerable broadcloth of an intolerant and ignorant
priest; he uses the seducing smiles of a wicked beauty; he stirs the
blood of the covetous and grasping; he strides through the gilded halls
of ambitious emperors and ministers, who go with "light hearts" to kill
thousands of human beings with newly-invented infernal machines; he
works havoc in the brains of the vain. The Devil shuffles the cards for
the gambler, and destroys our peace whether he makes us win or lose on
the turf; he sits joyfully grinning on the tops of bottles and tankards
filled with alcoholic drinks; he entices us on Sundays to shut our
museums and open our gin-palaces; to neglect the education of the
masses; and then prompts us to accuse them with hypocritical
respectability of drunkenness and stupidity. It is the Devil who turns
us into friends of lapdogs and makes us enemies of the homeless. The
Devil is the greatest master in dogmatism; he creates sects who, in the
name of love and humility, foster hatred and pride; the Devil encloses
men in a magic circle on the barren heath of useless speculation; drives
them round and round like blinded horses in a mill, starting from one
point, and after miles and miles of travel and fatigue, leading us to
the point, sadder but not wiser, from which we set out. The Devil makes
us quarrel whether we ought to have schools with or without bigoted
religious teachings; he burns incense to stupefy our senses, lights
candles to obscure our sight, amuses the masses with buffooneries to
prevent them from thinking, draws us away from common-sense morality,
and leads us, under the pretext of a mystic and symbolic religion, to
the confessional, the very hothouse of mischief. Satan in all his
shapes and forms as he rules the world has been described by Goethe as
Egotism. Selfishness is his element and real nature. Selfishness not yet
realizing the divine, because so entirely _humane_ command--"Do unto
others as you wish that they should do unto you." Selfishness is the
only essence of evil. Selfishness has divided men into different
nations, and fosters in them pride, envy, jealousy, and hatred. Mr.
Darwin has shown that one animal preys on the other, that the weaker
species has to yield to the stronger. Goethe again has shown us how the
Evil Spirit drags us through life's wild scenes and its flat
unmeaningness, to seek mere sensual pleasures and to neglect altogether
our higher and better nature, which is the outgrowth of our more
complicated, more highly developed organization. Were we only to
recognise this, our real nature, we should leave less to chance and
prejudices; were we to study man from a physiological, psychological,
and honestly historical point of view, we should soon eliminate
selfishness from among us, and be able to appreciate what is really the
essence of evil. The more nearly we approach Darwin's primitive man, the
ape, the nearer do we draw to the Mephistopheles who shows us his exact
nature with impudent sincerity in Goethe's "Faust."

That which changes our Psyche, that is our intellectual faculty with its
airy wings of imagination, its yearnings for truth, into an ugly,
submissive, crawling worm, is heartless selfishness. Not without reason
is poor guileless Margaret horrified at Mephistopheles. She shudders,
hides herself on the bosom of Faust, like a dove under the wings of an
eagle, and complains that the Evil Spirit--

    ... Always wears such mocking grin,
    Half cold, half grim,
    One sees that nought has interest for him;
    'Tis writ on his brow, and can't be mistaken,
    No soul in him can love awaken.

When all goes wrong, when religious, social, and political animosities and
hatred disturb the peace; when unintelligible controversies on the
inherited sin, the origin of evil, justification, and transubstantiation,
"grace and free will," the creative and the created, mystic incantations,
real and unreal presences, the like but not equal, the affirmative and the
negative natures of God and man confuse the finite brains of infinite
talkers and repeaters of the same things; when they quarrel about the
wickedness of the hen who dared to lay an egg on the Sabbath; when the
glaring torch of warfare is kindled by the fire of petty animosities, then
the Evil Spirit of egotism celebrates its most glorious festivals.

What can banish this monster, this second and worse part of our nature?
To look upon it from a Darwinian point of view. Goethe saves his fallen
Faust through useful "occupation," through honest hard work for the
benefit of mankind. The more we make ourselves acquainted with evil, the
last remnant of our animal nature, in a rational and not mystic
dogmatical sense, the less we exalt ourselves as exceptional creatures
above nature, the easier it must be for us to dry up the source of
superstition and ignorance which serves to nourish this social monster.

Let our relations to each other be based on "mutual love," for God is
love, and selfishness as the antagonist of love, and the Devil as the
antagonist of God, will both vanish.

Let us strive to vanquish our unnatural social organization by a
natural, social, but at the same time, liberal union of all into one
common brotherhood, and the roaring lion will be silenced for ever.

Let us purify society of all its social, or rather unsocial, iniquities
and falsehoods, of all ingratitude and envy, in striving for an honest
regeneration of ourselves, and through ourselves of humanity at large,
convincing one another that man has developed by degrees into earth's
fairest creature, destined for good and happiness, and not for evil and
wretchedness, and there will be an end of the _Devil_ and all his
_devilries_.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The word is found in Isaiah xxxiv. 14. Translated in the Vulgate as
"Lamia;" in Luther's translation as "Kobold;" in the English version as
"screech-owl;" and in others as "an ugly night-bird."



CHAPTER XXIV.

PECULIAR PEOPLE.


In this title, be it distinctly understood, no reference is intended to
those anti-Æsculapian persons who, from time to time, sacrifice to
Moloch among the Essex marshes. It is not necessary to journey even as
far as Plumstead in search of peculiarity, since the most manifold and
ever-varying types of it lie at one's very doors. And here, at the
outset, without quite endorsing the maxim that genius is always
eccentric, let it be confessed that a slight deviation from the beaten
track is generally apt to be interesting. When we see the photograph of
some distinguished artist, musician, or poet, and find the features very
like those of the pork butcher in the next street, or the footman over
the way, we are conscious of a feeling of disappointment almost
amounting to a personal grievance. Mr. Carlyle and Algernon Swinburne
satisfy us. They look as we feel graphic writers and erotic poets ought
to look. Not so the literary females who affect the compartment labelled
"For ladies only," in the reading room of the British Museum or on the
Metropolitan Railway. They are mostly like one's maiden aunts, and
savour far less of the authoress than some of the charming girls who
studiously avoid their exclusive locale, and evidently use their reading
ticket only to cover with an appearance of propriety a most unmistakable
flirtation. This they carry on sotto voce with ardent admirers of the
male sex, who, though regular frequenters of the reading room, are no
more literary than themselves. One might pick out a good many peculiar
people from that learned retreat--that poor scholar's club room; but let
us rather avoid any such byways of life, and select our peculiars from
the broad highway. Hunting there, Diogenes-wise, with one's modest
lantern, in search--not of honest--but eccentric individuals.

And first of all, having duly attended to the ladies at the outset, let
there be "Place for the Clergy." There is my dear friend the Rev. Gray
Kidds, the best fellow breathing, but, from a Diogenes point of view,
decidedly eccentric. Gray Kidds is one of those individuals whose
peculiarity it is never to have been a boy. Kidds at fifteen had
whiskers as voluminous as he now has at six-and-twenty, and as he
gambolled heavily amongst his more puerile schoolfellows, visitors to
the playground used to ask the assistant masters who that man was
playing with the boys. They evidently had an uneasy notion that a
private lunatic asylum formed a branch of the educational establishment,
and that Gray Kidds was a harmless patient allowed to join the boys in
their sports. Gray Kidds was and is literally harmless. He grew up
through school and college, innocently avoiding all those evils which
proved the ruin of many who were deemed far wiser than himself. He
warbled feebly on the flute, and was adored as a curate, not only for
his tootle-tooings, but for his diligent presence at mothers' meetings,
and conscientious labours among the poor. A preacher Kidds never
pretended to be; but he had the singular merit of brevity, and crowded
more harmless heresies into ten minutes' pulpit oratory than Colenso or
Voysey could have done in double the time. The young ladies made a dead
set at him, of course, for Kidds was in every respect eligible; and he
let them stroke him like a big pet lamb, but there matters ended. Kidds
never committed himself. He is now the incumbent of a pretty church in
the suburbs, built for him by his aunt, and, strange to say, the church
fills. Whether it is that his brevity is attractive, or his transparent
goodness compensates for his other peculiarities, certainly he has a
congregation; and if you polled that congregation, the one point on
which all would agree, in addition to his eligibility or innocence,
would be that the Rev. Gray Kidds was "so funny."

And now, for our second type of peculiarity, let us beat back for one
moment to the fair sex again. Mrs. Ghoul is the reverse of spirituelle;
but she is something more--she is spiritualistic. She devoutly believes
that the spirits of deceased ancestors come at her bidding, and tilt the
table, move furniture insanely about, or write idiotic messages
automatically. She is perfectly serious. She does "devoutly" believe
this. It is her creed. It is a comfort to her. It is extremely difficult
to reconcile such a source of comfort with any respect for one's
departed relatives, but that is Mrs. Ghoul's peculiarity and
qualification for a niche amongst our originals.

Miss Deedy, on the other hand, is ecclesiastical to the backbone. Miss
Deedy ruins her already feeble health with early mattins (she insists on
the double t) and frequent fasts. Beyond an innocuous flirtation with
the curate at decorations, or a choral meeting, Miss Deedy has as few
sins as most of us to answer for; but, from her frequent penances, she
might be a monster of iniquity. She is known to confess, and is
suspected of wearing sackcloth. Balls and theatres she eschews as
"worldly," and yet she is only just out of her teens. She would like to
be a nun, she says, if the habits were prettier, and they allowed long
curls down the back, and Gainsboroughs above the brow. As it is, Miss
Deedy occupies a somewhat abnormal position, dangling, like Mahomet's
coffin, between the Church and the world. That, again, is Miss Deedy's
peculiarity.

Miss Wiggles is a "sensitive." That is a new vocation struck out by the
prolific ingenuity of the female mind. Commonplace doctors would simply
call her "hysterical;" but she calls herself magnetic. She is stout and
inclined to a large appetite, particularly affecting roast pork with
plenty of seasoning; but she passes readily into "the superior
condition" under the manipulations of a male operator. She makes
nothing, save notoriety, by her clairvoyance and other peculiarities;
but she _is_ very peculiar, though the type of a larger class than is
perhaps imagined in this highly sensational age of ours.

Peculiar boys, too--what lots of them there are! What is called
affectation in a girl prevails to quite as large an extent in the shape
of endless peculiarities among boys. A certain Dick (his name is
Adolphus, but he is universally, and for no assignable reason, known as
Dick) rejoices in endorsing Darwinism by looking and acting like a human
gorilla. Dick is no fool, but assumes that virtue though he has it not.
To see him mumbling his food at meals, or making mops and mows at the
wall, you would think him qualified for Earlswood; but if it comes to
polishing off a lesson briskly or being mulct of his pudding or
pocket-money, Master Dick accomplishes the polishing process with a
rapidity that gives the lie to his Darwinian assumption.

Well, they are a source of infinite fun, these eccentrics--the comets of
our social system. They have, no doubt, an object in their
eccentricity, a method in their madness, which we prosaic planetary
folks cannot fathom. At all events, they amuse us and don't harm
themselves. They are uniformly happy and contented with themselves. Of
them assuredly is true, and without the limitation he appends, Horace's
affirmation, _Dulce est desipere_, which Mr. Theodore Martin translates,
"'Tis pleasing at times to be slightly insane."



CHAPTER XXV.

INTERVIEWING AN ASTROLOGER.


For several years--in fact ever since my first acquaintance with these
"occult" matters whereinto I am now such a veteran investigator--my
great wish has been to become practically acquainted with some Professor
of Astral Science. One friend, indeed, I had who had devoted a long
lifetime to this and kindred subjects, and of whom I shall have to speak
anon; but he had never utilized his knowledge so as to become the guide,
philosopher, and friend of amorous housemaids on the subject of their
matrimonial alliances, or set himself to discover petty larcenies for a
fee of half-a-crown. He assured me, however, that the practice of
astrology was as rife as ever in London at this moment, and that
businesses in that line were bought and sold for sterling coin of the
realm, just as though they had been "corner" publics, or "snug concerns"
in the cheesemongery line. All this whetted my appetite for inquiry, and
seeing one Professor Wilson advertise persistently in the _Medium_ to
the effect that "the celebrated Astrologer may be consulted on the
events of life" from two to nine P.M., I wrote to Professor Wilson
asking for an interview; but the celebrated astrologer did not favour
me with a reply.

Foiled in my first attempt I waited patiently for about a year, and then
broke ground again--I will not say whether with Professor Wilson, or
some other practitioner of astral science. I will call my Archimago
Professor Smith, of Newington Causeway, principally for the reason that
this is neither the real name nor the correct address. I have no wish to
advertise any wizard gratuitously; nor would it be fair to him, since,
as will be seen from the sequel, his reception of me was such as to make
it probable that he would have an inconvenient number of applicants on
the conditions observed at my visit.

Availing myself, then, of the services of my friend above-mentioned, I
arranged that we should together pay a visit to Professor Smith, of
Newington Causeway, quite "permiscuous," as Mrs. Gamp would say. My
companion would go with his own horoscope already constructed, as he
happened to know the exact hour and minute of his birth--particulars as
to which I only possessed the vaguest information, which is all I fancy
most of us have; though there was one circumstance connected with my own
natal day which went a long way towards "fixing" it.

It was on a Monday evening that I visited this modern Delphic oracle;
and, strangely enough, as is often the case, other events seemed to lead
up to this one. The very lesson on Sunday evening was full of
astrology. It was, I may mention, the story of the handwriting on the
wall and the triumph of Daniel over the magicians. Then I took up my
Chaucer on Monday morning; and instead of the "Canterbury Tales," opened
it at the "Treatise on the Astrolabe," which I had never read before,
but devoured then as greedily as no doubt did "Little Lowis," to whom it
is addressed. All this tended to put me in a proper frame of mind for my
visit to Newington; so, after an early tea, we took my friend's figure
of his nativity with us, and went.

Professor Smith, we found, lived in a cosy house in the main road, the
parlours whereof he devoted to the purposes of a medical magnetist,
which was his calling, as inscribed upon the wire blinds of the ground
floor front. We were ushered at once into the professor's presence by a
woman who, I presume, was his wife--a quiet respectable body with
nothing uncanny about her. The front parlour was comfortably furnished
and scrupulously clean, and the celebrated Professor himself, a pleasant
elderly gentleman, was sitting over a manuscript which he read by the
light of a Queen's reading lamp. There was not, on the one hand, any
charlatan assumption in his get-up, nor, on the other, was there that
squalor and neglect of the decencies of life which I have heard
sometimes attaches to the practitioners in occult science. Clad in a
light over-coat, with spectacles on nose, and bending over his MS.,
Professor Smith might have been a dissenting parson en déshabille
"getting off" his Sunday discourse, or a village schoolmaster correcting
the "themes" of his pupils. He was neither; he was a nineteenth century
astrologer, calculating the probabilities of success for a commercial
scheme, the draft prospectus of which was the document over which he
pored. As he rose to receive us I was almost disappointed to find that
he held no wand, wore no robe, and had no volume of mystic lore by his
side. The very cat that emerged from underneath his table, and rubbed
itself against my legs was not of the orthodox sable hue, but simple
tabby and white.

My friend opened the proceedings by producing the figure of his
nativity, and saying he had come to ask a question in horary astrology
relative to a certain scheme about which he was anxious, such anxiety
constituting what he termed a "birth of the mind." Of course this was
Dutch to me, and I watched to see whether the Professor would be taken
off his guard by finding he was in presence of one thoroughly posted up
in astral science. Not in the least; he greeted him as a brother chip,
and straightway the two fell to discussing the figure. The Professor
worked a new one, which he found to differ in some slight particulars
from the one my friend had brought. Each, however, had worked it by
logarithms, and there was much talk of "trines" and "squares" and
"houses," which I could not understand; but eventually the coveted
advice was given by the Professor and accepted by my friend as devoutly
as though it had been a response of the Delphic oracle itself. The
business would succeed, but not without trouble, and possibly litigation
on my friend's part. He was to make a call on a certain day and "push
the matter" a month afterwards; all of which he booked in a
business-like manner. This took a long time, for the Professor was
perpetually making pencil signs on the figure he had constructed, and
the two also discussed Zadkiel, Raphael, and other astrologers they had
mutually known. Continual reference had to be made to the "Nautical
Almanack;" but by-and-by my friend's innings was over and mine
commenced. I have said that I did not know the exact hour and minute of
my birth, and when, with appropriate hesitation, I named the 1st of
April as the eventful day, the Professor looked at me for a moment with
a roguish twinkle of the eye as though to ascertain that I was not
poking fun at him. I assured him, however, that such was the
inauspicious era of my nativity, and moreover that I was born so closely
on the confines of March 31--I do not feel it necessary to specify the
year--as to make it almost dubious whether I could claim the honours of
April-Fooldom. This seemed enough for him--though he warned me that the
absence of the exact time might lead to some vagueness in his
communications--and he proceeded forthwith to erect my figure; which,
by the way, looked to me very much like making a "figure" in Euclid;
and I peered anxiously to see whether mine bore any resemblance to the
Pons Asinorum!

I feared I had led my philosopher astray altogether when the first item
of information he gave me was that, at about the age of twenty-one, I
had met with some accident to my arm, a circumstance which I could not
recall to memory. Several years later I broke my leg, but I did not tell
him that. Going further back, he informed me that about the age of
fourteen, if I happened to be apprenticed, or in any way placed under
authority, I kicked violently over the traces, which was quite true,
inasmuch as I ran away from school twice at that precise age, so that my
astrologer scored one. At twenty-eight I married (true), and at
thirty-two things were particularly prosperous with me--a fact which I
was also constrained to acknowledge correct. Then came a dreadful
mistake. If ever I had anything to do with building or minerals, I
should be very successful. I never had to do with building save once in
my life, and then Mr. Briggs's loose tile was nothing to the
difficulties in which I became involved. Minerals I had never dabbled in
beyond the necessary consumption of coals for domestic purposes. I had
an uncle who interested himself in my welfare some years ago--this was
correct--and something was going to happen to my father's sister at
Midsummer, 1876. This, of course, I cannot check; but I trust, for the
sake of my venerable relation, it may be nothing prejudicial. I was also
to suffer from a slight cold about the period of my birthday in that
same year, and was especially to beware of damp feet. My eldest brother,
if I had one, he said, had probably died, which was again correct; and
if my wife caught cold she suffered in her throat, which piece of
information, if not very startling, I am also constrained to confess is
quite true. Then followed a most delicate piece of information which I
blush as I commit to paper. I wished to marry when I was twenty-one, but
circumstances prevented. Then it was that memories of a certain
golden-haired first love came back through the vista of memory. I was
then a Fellow of my College, impecunious except as regarded my
academical stipend, so the young lady took advice and paired off with a
well-to-do cousin. Sic transit gloria mundi! We are each of us stout,
unromantic family people now; but the reminiscence made me feel quite
romantic for the moment in that ground floor front in Newington
Causeway; and I was inclined to say, "A Daniel come to judgment!" but I
checked myself and remarked, sotto voce, in the vernacular, "Right
again, Mr. Smith!"

Before passing on to analyse me personally he remarked that my wife's
sister and myself were not on the best of terms. I owned that words had
passed between us; and then he told me that in my cerebral development
there was a satisfactory fusion of caution and combativeness. I was not
easily knocked over, or, if so, had energy to get up again. This energy
was to tell in the future. This, I believe, is a very usual feature of
horoscopic revelation. Next year was to be particularly prosperous. I
should travel a good deal--had travelled somewhat this year, and was
just now going to take a short journey; but I should travel a great deal
more next year. I own to asking myself whether this could bear any
reference to the Pontigny Pilgrimage in which I shared this year, and
the possible pilgrimage to Rome next summer, and also a projected
journey to Scotland by the Limited Mail next Tuesday evening! On the
whole, my astrologer had scored a good many points.

The most marvellous revelation of all yet remains to be made, however.
When we rose to go we each of us endeavoured to force a fee on Professor
Smith, but nothing would induce him to receive a farthing! I had got all
my revelations, my "golden" memories of the past, my bright promises of
the future free, gratis, for nothing! It will be evident, then, why I do
not give this good wizard's address lest I inundate him with gratuitous
applicants, and why I therefore veil his personality under the
misleading title of Professor Smith of Newington Causeway.



CHAPTER XXVI.

A BARMAID SHOW.


The present age, denounced by some ungenial censors as the age of shams,
may be described by more kindly critics as emphatically an age of
"shows." Advancing from the time-honoured shows of Flora and Pomona--if
not always improving on the type--and so on from the cattle show,
suggestive of impending Christmas fare, we have had horse shows, dog
shows, and bird shows. To these the genius of Barnum added baby shows;
and, if we are not misinformed, a foreign firm, whose names have become
household words amongst us, originated, though not exactly in its
present form, the last kind of show which has been acclimatized in
England--an exhibition of barmaids. We had two baby shows in one
year--one at Highbury Barn by Mr. Giovannelli, the other at North
Woolwich Gardens by Mr. Holland; and it is to the talent of this latter
gentleman in the way of adaptation that we owe the exhibition of young
ladies "practising at the bar." From babies to barmaids is indeed a
leap, reversing the ordinary process of going from the sublime to the
ridiculous, for while to all but appreciative mammas those infantile
specimens of humanity savour largely of the ridiculous, there can be no
question that the present generation of _dames de comptoir_ is a very
sublime article indeed. I do not say this in derision, nor am I among
those who decry the improvements introduced during the last few years,
both into refreshment bars themselves, and notably into the class of
ladies who preside over them. The discriminating visitor will decidedly
prefer to receive his sandwich and glass of bitter at the hands of a
pretty barmaid rather than from an oleaginous pot-man in his
shirt-sleeves; and the sherry-cobbler acquires a racier flavour from the
arch looks of the Hebe who dispenses it. If silly young men do dawdle at
the bar for the sake of the sirens inside, and occasionally, as we have
known to be the case, take unto themselves these same sirens "for better
or for worse," we can only cite the opinion of well-informed
authorities, that very possibly the young gentlemen in question might
have gone farther and fared worse, and that it is not always the young
lady who has, in such a case, the best of the bargain.

So, then, the "Grand Barmaid Contest" opened; and in spite of the very
unmistakable appearance put in by Jupiter Fluvius, a numerous assemblage
gathered in the North Woolwich Gardens to inaugurate a festival which,
whatever else we may think of it, is at all events sui generis. Prizes
to the value of _300l._ were to be presented to the successful
candidates, varying from a purse of twenty sovereigns and a gold watch
and chain, down to "a purse of two sovereigns," with "various other
prizes, consisting of jewellery, &c."

Among the conditions it was required, that every young lady should be
over sixteen years of age; that she should be dressed in _plain_ but
_good_ articles of attire, "in which a happy blending of colours without
prominent display is most suitable;" and it was moreover stipulated that
each "young lady" should "ingratiate herself with the public in the most
affable manner at her command, without undue forwardness or frivolity,
but still retaining a strict attention to business." No young lady was
permitted to take part in the contest unless she had been in the
refreshment business for twelve months, and could produce good
testimonials of character.

Upwards of 700 applications were made, out of which Mr. Holland selected
fifty. Whence the large number of rejections "deponeth sayeth not." Of
these twenty-eight actually put in an appearance at three P.M. on the
opening day and four were expected to join in a day or two. Every
visitor is provided with a voting ticket, which he hands to the lady of
his admiration, and which counts towards the prize. Each young lady also
receives 5 per cent. on what she sells at her bar. The places are
awarded by lot; and, by a freak of fortune, the two most attractive
demoiselles happened to come together. These were Numbers One and
Fourteen. The former young lady--who desires to be known by her number
only, true genius being ever modest--was certain to stand Number One in
popular esteem; and, if chignons are taken into account, she ought
literally to "head" the list by a very long way. The room was tastefully
decorated by Messrs. Defries, and an excellent band enlivened the
proceedings. As evening drew on the meeting grew more hilarious, but
there was not the slightest impropriety of any kind, the faintest
approach thereto leading to immediate expulsion.

Many persons may be disposed to ask, in respect of such exhibitions, Cui
bono? But at all events there was nothing which the veriest Cato could
denounce as demoralizing. The "young ladies" were all most modestly
attired in "sober livery;" and certainly--though comparisons are
odious--not so pressing in their attentions as we have seen some other
young ladies at Dramatic Fêtes, or even some dévouées at charitable
bazaars. If we may judge from the large numbers that visited North
Woolwich, "in spite of wind and weather," Mr. Holland was likely to reap
an abundant harvest from this latest "idea," excogitated from his
fertile brain. As the babies have had their "show," and the stronger sex
is not likely to be equal to the task of being exhibited just yet, there
seems only one section of society open to the speculations of a skilful
entrepreneur. Why does not some one, in a more serious line than Mr.
Holland, try what Sydney Smith calls the "third sex," and open an
exhibition of curates, with a genuine competition for prizes? There
could be no possible doubt as to the success of such a display, and the
instruction to be derived from it would be equally beyond question. In
the meantime we have advanced one step towards such a consummation. The
adult human being has taken the place of the baby; and people evidently
like it. Where will the rage for exhibitions stop? Who can say to the
advancing tide of shows, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther?" Other
classes of society will probably have their turn, and may think
themselves fortunate if they show up as well as Mr. Holland's "young
ladies."



CHAPTER XXVII.

A PRIVATE EXECUTION.


I was quietly fiddling away one evening in the Civil Service band at
King's College, as was my custom while my leisure was larger than at
present, when the gorgeous porter of the college entered with a huge
billet which he placed on my music-stand with a face of awe. It was
addressed to me, and in the corner of it was written "Order for
Execution." The official waited to see how I bore it, and seemed rather
surprised that I went on with my fiddling, and smilingly said, "All
right." I knew it was an order from the authorities of Horsemonger Lane
Gaol admitting me to the private execution of Margaret Waters, the
notorious baby-farmer.

If anything is calculated to promote the views of those who advocate the
abolition of capital punishment, it is the fact of a woman meeting her
death at the hands of the common hangman. There is something abhorrent,
especially to the mind of the stronger sex, in the idea of a female
suffering the extreme penalty of the law. On the other hand, the crime
for which Margaret Waters suffered--which is too much a cause célèbre to
need recapitulation--is exactly the one that would exile her from the
sympathy of her own sex. Whilst therefore her case left the broad
question much in the same position as before, we are not surprised to
find that strenuous efforts had been made to obtain a commutation of the
sentence. Mr. Gilpin, Mr. Samuel Morley, and Mr. Baines had been
conspicuous for their efforts in the cause of mercy. All, however, had
been to no purpose. Margaret Waters was privately executed within the
walls of Horsemonger Lane Gaol at nine o'clock.

It was a thankless errand that called one from one's bed whilst the moon
was still struggling with the feeble dawn of an October morning, and
through streets already white with the incipient frost of approaching
winter, to see a fellow-creature--and that a woman--thus hurried out of
existence. On arriving at the gloomy prison-house I saw a fringe of
roughs lounging about, anxious to catch a glimpse, if only of the black
flag that should apprize them of the tragedy they were no longer
privileged to witness. Even these, however, did not muster in strong
force until the hour of execution drew near. On knocking at the outer
wicket, the orders of admission were severely scrutinized, and none
allowed to pass except those borne by the representatives of the press,
or persons in some way officially connected with the impending "event."
There was an air of grim "business" about all present, which showed
plainly that none were there from choice, nor any who would not feel
relief when the fearful spectacle was over. After assembling, first of
all, in the porter's lodge, we were conducted by the governor, Mr.
Keene, to the back of the prison, through courtyards and kitchen
gardens; and in a corner of one of the former we came upon the ghastly
instrument of death itself. Here half-a-dozen warders only were
scattered about, and Mr. Calcraft was arranging his paraphernalia with
the air of a connoisseur. I remember--so strangely does one's mind take
in unimportant details at such a crisis--being greatly struck with the
fine leeks which were growing in that particular corner of the prison
garden where the grim apparatus stood, and we--some five-and-twenty at
most, and all in the way of "business"--stood, too, waiting for the
event!

Then ensued a quarter of an hour's pause, in that cold morning air, when
suddenly boomed out the prison bell, that told us the last few minutes
of the convict's life had come. The pinioning took place within the
building; and on the stroke of nine, the gloomy procession emerged, the
prisoner walking between the chaplain and Calcraft, with a firm step,
and even mounting the steep stair to the gallows without needing
assistance. She was attired in a plaid dress with silk mantle, her head
bare, and hair neatly arranged.

As this was my first experience in private hanging, I do not mind
confessing that I misdoubted my powers of endurance. I put a small
brandy-flask in my pocket, and stood close by a corner around which I
could retire if the sight nauseated me; but such is the strange
fascination attaching to exhibitions even of this horrible kind, that I
pushed forward with the rest, and when the governor beckoned me on to a
"good place," I found myself standing in the front rank with the rest of
my confrères, and could not help picturing what that row of upturned,
unsympathizing, pitiless faces must have looked like to the culprit as
contrasted with the more sympathetic crowds that used to be present at a
public execution.

One of the daily papers in chronicling this event went so far as to
point a moral on the brutalizing effect of such exhibitions from my
momentary hesitation and subsequent struggle forward into the front
rank. The convict's perfect sang froid had a good deal to do with my own
calmness, I expect.

When the executioner had placed the rope round her neck, and the cap on
her head ready to be drawn over the face, she uttered a long and fervent
prayer, expressed with great volubility and propriety of diction, every
word of which could be distinctly heard by us as we circled the
scaffold. She could not have rounded her periods more gracefully or
articulated them more perfectly, if she had rehearsed her part
beforehand! Though most of the spectators were more or less inured to
scenes of horror, several were visibly affected, one kneeling on the
bare ground, and another leaning, overcome with emotion, against the
prison wall. At last she said to the chaplain, "Mr. Jessopp, do you
think I am saved?" A whispered reply from the clergyman conveyed his
answer to that momentous question. All left the scaffold except the
convict. The bolt was withdrawn, and, almost without a struggle,
Margaret Waters ceased to exist. Nothing could exceed the calmness and
propriety of her demeanour, and this, the chaplain informed us, had been
the case throughout since her condemnation. She had been visited on one
occasion by a Baptist minister, to whose persuasion she belonged; but he
had, at her own request, forborne to repeat his visit. The prisoner said
he was evidently unused to cases like hers, and his ministrations rather
distracted than comforted her. The chaplain of the gaol had been
unremitting in his attentions, and seemingly with happy effect. Though
she constantly persisted in saying she was not a murderess in intent,
she was yet brought to see her past conduct in its true light; and on
the previous Saturday received the Holy Communion in her cell with one
of her brothers. Two of them visited her, and expressed the strongest
feelings of attachment. In fact, the unhappy woman seemed to have been
deeply attached to and beloved by all the members of her family. She
had, since her condemnation, eaten scarcely anything, having been kept
alive principally by stimulants. Although this, of course, induced great
bodily weakness, she did not from the first exhibit any physical fear of
death. On the night before her execution--that peaceful moonlit
night--when so many thoughts must have turned to this unhappy woman, she
slept little, and rose early. The chaplain had arranged to be with her
at eight, but she sent for him an hour earlier, and he continued with
her until the end. On Monday night she penned a long statement addressed
to Mr. Jessopp. This was written with a firm hand on four sides of a
foolscap sheet, expressed with great perspicuity, and signed with the
convict's name. Whilst still repudiating the idea of being a murderess
in intent, she pleaded guilty to great deceit, and to having obtained
money under false pretences. If she had not given proper food, that, she
contended, was an error of judgment. It was hard, she thought, that she
should be held accountable for the child who died in the workhouse. She
dwelt much upon the difficulties brought upon her by her dread of the
money-lender--that fungus growth of our so-called civilization, who has
brought so many criminals to the gallows, besides ruining families every
day in each year of grace! That she had administered laudanum she
denied. The evidence as to the dirty condition of the children she
asserted to be false. She wished to avoid all bitterness; but those who
had so deposed had sworn falsely. "I feel sure their consciences will
condemn them to-night," she wrote, "for having caused the death of a
fellow-creature." In the face of the evidence, she felt the jury could
not find any other verdict, or the judge pass any other sentence than
had been done. The case had been got up, she argued, to expose a system
which was wrong. Parents wished to get rid of their ill-gotten
offspring. Their one thought was to hide their own shame. "They," she
concluded, "are the real sinners. If it were not for their sin, _we_
should not be sought after."

There must surely be some whose consciences these words will prick.
However this woman deserved the bitter penalty she has now paid, there
is indeed a tremendous truth in her assertion that she, and such as she,
are but the supply which answers their demand.

And so we filed away as the autumnal sun shone down upon that gloomy
spectacle, leaving her to the "crowner's 'quest," and the dishonoured
grave in the prison precincts. Up to the previous night strong hopes of
a commutation of the sentence were entertained. Her brothers had
memorialized the Home Secretary, and were only on the previous day
informed that the law must take its course. Let us hope that this stern
example will put a stop, not only to "baby-farming," which, as the dead
woman truly said, is but a consequence of previous crime--but also to
those "pleasant vices" which are its antecedents and encouragements.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

BREAKING UP FOR THE HOLIDAYS.


Unromantic as it sounds to say it, I know of few things more disgusting
than to revisit one's old school after some twenty or thirty years. Let
that dubious decade still remain as to the number of years that have
elapsed since I left school. In fact, it matters to nobody when I left
it; I revisited it lately. I went to see the boys break up, as I once
broke up, and I felt disgusted--not with the school, or the breaking up,
but with myself. I felt disgracefully old. In fact, I went home, and
began a poem with these words:--

    My years, I feel, are getting on:
      Yet, ere the trembling balance kicks, I
    Will imitate the dying swan,
      And sing an ode threnodic--vixi.

I never got any farther than that. By the way, I shall have to mention
eventually that the school was King's College, in the Strand. I am not
going to unbosom beyond this, or to add anything in the way of an
autobiography; but the locale would have to come out anon, and there is
no possible reason for concealment.

Well, I went to see them break up for the holidays, and only got over my
antediluvian feelings by seeing one of the masters still on the staff
who was there when I was a boy. It was a comfort to think what a
Methuselah he must be; and yet, if he will excuse the personality, he
looked as rosy and smooth-faced as when he used to stand me outside his
door with my coat-sleeves turned inside out. It was a way he had. Well,
the presence of that particular master made me feel an Adonis forthwith.

I will not go into the prizes. There were lots of them, and they were
very nice, and the boys looked very happy, and their mammas legitimately
proud. What I want to speak of is the school speeches or recitations, as
they are termed. King's College School speeches are, to my thinking, a
model of what such things ought to be.

Some schools--I name no names--go in for mere scholastic recitations
which nobody understands, and the boys hate. Others burst out in
full-blown theatricals. King's College acts on the motto, Medio
tutissimus ibis. It keeps the old scholastic recitations, but gilds the
pill by adding the accessory of costume. I can quote Latin as well as
Dr. Pangloss, and certain lines were running in my mind all the time I
was in King's College Hall. They were

  Pueris olim dant crustula blandi
  Doctores, elementa velint ut discere prima.

First we had a bit of German in the shape of an extract from Kotzebue's
"Die Schlaue Wittwe," or "Temperaments." I wish I had my programme, I
would compliment by name the lad who played the charming young Frau.
Suffice it to say the whole thing went off sparkling like a firework. It
was short, and made you wish for more--a great virtue in speeches and
sermons. The dancing-master was perfect. Then came a bit of Colman's
"Heir at Law." Dr. Pangloss--again I regret the absence of the
programme--was a creation, and--notwithstanding the proximity of King's
College to the Strand Theatre--the youth wisely abstained from copying
even so excellent a model as Mr. Clarke. Of course, the bits of Latinity
came out with a genuine scholastic ring. Then a bit of a Greek play, at
which--mirabile dictu!--everybody laughed, and with which everybody was
pleased. And why? Because the adjuncts of costume and properties added
to the correct enunciation of the text, prevented even those, who knew
little Latin and less Greek, from being one moment in the dark as to
what was going on. The passage was one from the "Birds" of Aristophanes;
and the fact of a treaty being concluded between the Olympians and
terrestrials, led to the introduction of some interpolations as to the
Washington Treaty, which, when interpreted by the production of the
American flag and English Union Jack, brought down thunders of applause.
The final chorus was sung to "Yankee Doodle," and accompanied by a
fiddle. The acting and accessories were perfect; and what poor Robson
used to term the "horgan" of Triballos, was wonderful. That youth would
be a nice young man for a small tea party. It is to be hoped that, like
Bottom the weaver, he can modulate his voice, and roar as gently as any
sucking-dove.

Most wonderful, however, of all the marvels--that met me at my old
school--was a scene from the "Critic," played by the most Lilliputian
boys. Puff--played by Powell (I don't forget that name)--was simply
marvellous. And yet Powell, if he will forgive me for saying so, was the
merest whipper-snapper. Sir Christopher Hatton could scarcely have
emerged from the nursery; and yet the idea of utter stolidity never
found a better exponent than that same homoeopathic boy.

Last of all came the conventional scene from Molière's "L'Avare." Maître
Jacques was good; Harpagon more than good. I came away well satisfied,
only regretting I had not brought my eldest boy to see it. My eldest
boy! Egad, and I was just such as he is now, when I used to creep like a
snail unwillingly to those scholastic shades. The spirit of Pangloss
came upon me again as I thought of all I had seen that day,--there was
nothing like it in my day. King's College keeps pace with the times.
"Tempora mutantur!" I mentally exclaimed; and added, not without a
pleasant scepticism, as I gazed once more on the pippin-faced master, "I
wonder whether--nos mutamur in illis?"



CHAPTER XXIX.

PSYCHOLOGICAL LADIES.


There is no doubt that the "Woman's Rights" question is going ahead with
gigantic strides, not only in social and political, but also in
intellectual matters. Boys and girls--or rather we ought to say young
ladies and young gentlemen--are grouped together on the class list of
the Oxford Local Examination, irrespective of sex. A glance at the daily
papers will show us that women are being lectured to on all subjects
down from physical sciences, through English literature and art, to the
construction of the clavecin. We had fancied, however, that what are
technically termed "the Humanities," or, in University diction,
"Science"--meaning thereby ethics and logic--were still our own. Now, we
are undeceived. We are reminded that woman can say, without a solecism,
"Homo sum," and may therefore claim to embrace even the humanities among
her subjects of study. Henceforth the realm of woman is not merely what
may be called "pianofortecultural," as was once the case. It has soared
even above art, literature, and science itself into what might at first
sight appear the uncongenial spheres of dialectics and metaphysics.

Professor G. Croom Robertson recently commenced a course of thirty
lectures to ladies on Psychology and Logic, at the Hall, 15, Lower
Seymour Street, Portman Square. Urged, it may be, rather by a desire to
see whether ladies would be attracted by such a subject, and, if so,
what psychological ladies were like, than by any direct interest in the
matters themselves, I applied to the hon. secretary, inquiring whether
the inferior sex were admissible; and was answered by a ticket admitting
one's single male self and a party of ladies à discrétion. The very
entrance to the hall--nay, the populous street itself--removed my doubts
as to whether ladies would be attracted by the subjects; and on entering
I discovered that the audience consisted of several hundred ladies, and
two unfortunate--or shall it not rather be said privileged?--members of
the male sex. The ladies were of all ages, evidently matrons as well as
spinsters, with really nothing at all approaching a "blue stocking"
element; but all evidently bent on business. All were taking vigorous
notes, and seemed to follow the Professor's somewhat difficult Scotch
diction at least as well as our two selves, who appeared to represent
not only the male sex in general, but the London press in particular.

Professor Robertson commenced by a brief and well-timed reference to the
accomplished Hypatia, familiar to ladies from Kingsley's novel--in the
days when ladies used to read novels--and also the Royal ladies whom
Descartes and Leibnitz found apter disciples than the savants. It was,
however, he remarked, an impertinence to suppose that any apology was
needed for introducing such subjects before ladies. He plunged therefore
at once in medias res, and made his first lecture not a mere isolated or
introductory one, but the actual commencement of his series. Unreasoned
facts, he said, formed but a mere fraction of our knowledge--even the
simplest processes resolving themselves into a chain of inference. Truth
is the result of logical reasoning; and not only truth, but truth _for
all_. The sciences deal with special aspects of truth. These sciences
may be arranged in the order--1. Mathematics; 2. Physics; 3. Chemistry;
4. Biology--each gradually narrowing its sphere; the one enclosed, so to
say, in the other, and each presupposing those above it. Logic was
presupposed in all. Each might be expressed by a word ending in "logy,"
therefore logic might be termed the "science of sciences." The sciences
were special applications of logic. Scientific men speak lightly of
logic, and say truth can be discovered without it. This is true, but
trivial. We may as well object to physiology because we can digest
without a knowledge of it; or to arithmetic, because it is possible to
reckon without it. Scientific progress has been great; but its course
might have been strewn with fewer wrecks had its professors been more
generally logicians. But then logic presupposes something else. We have
to investigate the origin and growth of knowledge--the laws under which
knowledge comes to be. Under one aspect this science--psychology--should
be placed highest up in the scale; but under another it would rank later
in point of development than even biology itself, because it is not
every being that thinks. This twofold aspect is accounted for by the
peculiarity of its subject-matter--viz., mind.

The sciences are comparatively modern. Mathematics but some 3000 or 4000
years old; physics, three centuries; chemistry, a thing of the last,
biology only of the present century. But men philosophized before the
sciences. The ancient Greeks had but one science--mathematics. Now men
know a little of many sciences; but what we want is men to connect--to
knit together--the sciences; to have their knowledge all of a piece. The
knowledge of the ancient Greek directed his actions, and entered far
more into his daily life than ours does. This, he observed, was
philosophy. This is what we want now; and this is what is to be got from
psychology. There is not a single thing between heaven and earth that
does not admit of a mental expression; or, in other words, possess a
subjective aspect, and therefore come under psychology.

This, in briefest outline, is a sketch of the "strong meat" offered to
the psychological ladies. A single branch of psychology--that, namely,
of the intellect, excluding that of feeling and action--is to occupy ten
lectures, the above being number one. The other twenty will be devoted
to logic.

The next lecture was devoted to an examination of the brain and nervous
system, and their office in mental processes. Alas, however, how
different was now the audience! Only some thirty ladies--scarcely more
than one-tenth of those who were present at the opening lecture--have
permanently entered for the course. It is no disrespect to the ladies to
hazard the conjecture whether the subject be not a little out of range
for the present. We are moving ahead rapidly, and many foolish ideas as
to the intellectual differences of the sexes are becoming obsolete. We
have literary and artistic ladies by thousands. Scientific ladies, in
the ordinary acceptation of the term, are coming well to the front.
Possibly we may have to "wait a little longer" before we get, on
anything like a large scale, psychological or even logical ladies.



CHAPTER XXX.

SECULARISM ON BUNYAN.


It is very marvellous to observe the number of strange and unexpected
combinations that are continually occurring in that moral kaleidoscope
we call society. I do not suppose that I am exceptional in coming across
these; nor do I use any particular industry in seeking them out. They
come to me; all I do is to keep my eyes open, and note the impressions
they make on me. I was humbly pursuing my way one Tuesday evening
towards the abode of a phrenologist with the honest intention of
discovering my craniological condition, when, in passing down Castle
Street, Oxford Market, I was made aware that Mr. G. J. Holyoake was
there and then to deliver himself on the "Literary Genius of Bunyan."
This was one of the incongruous combinations I spoke of; and forthwith I
passed into the Co-operative Hall, resolving to defer my visit to the
phrenologist. There are some facts of which it is better to remain
contentedly ignorant; and I have no doubt my own mental condition
belongs to that category.

I found the Co-operative Hall a handsome and commodious building; and a
very fair audience had gathered to listen to Mr. Holyoake, who is an
elderly thin-voiced man, and his delivery was much impeded on the
occasion in question by the circumstance of his having a bad cold and
cough. After a brief extempore allusion to the fact of the Duke of
Bedford having erected a statue to Bunyan, which he regarded as a sort
of compensation for his Grace ceasing to subscribe to the races, Mr.
Holyoake proceeded to read his treatise, which he had written on several
slips of paper--apparently backs of circulars--and laid one by one on a
chair as he finished them.

The world, he said, is a big place; but people are always forgetting
what a variety of humanity it contains. Two hundred years ago, the
authorities of Bedford made it very unpleasant for one John Bunyan,
because they thought they knew everything, and could not imagine that a
common street workman might know more. The trade of a tinker seems an
unpromising preparation for a literary career. A tinker in Bedford
to-day would not find himself much flattered by the attentions paid him,
especially if he happened to be an old gaol-bird as well. So much the
more creditable to Bunyan the ascendancy he gained. If he mended pots as
well as he made sentences he was the best tinker that ever travelled.

Bunyan had no worldly notions. His doctrine was that men were not saved
by any good they might do--a doctrine that would ruin the morals of any
commercial establishment in a month! He declared himself the "chief of
sinners;" but judged by his townsmen he was a stout-hearted,
stout-minded, scrupulous man.

He was not a pleasant man to know. He had an unrelenting sincerity which
often turned into severity. Yet he had much tenderness. He had a soul
like a Red Indian's--all tomahawk and truth, until the literary passion
came and added humour to it. He demands in his vigorous doggerel:--

    May I not write in such a style as this,
    In such a method, too, and yet not miss
    My end, thy good? Why may it not be done?
    Dark clouds bring waters, when the bright bring none.

Like all men of original genius, this stout-minded pot-mender had
unbounded confidence in himself. He was under no delusion as to his own
powers. No man knew better what he was about. He could take the measure
of all the justices about him, and he knew it. Every shallow-headed
gentleman in Bedfordshire towns and villages was made to wince under his
picturesque and satiric tongue. To clergymen, bishops, lawyers, and
judges he gave names which all his neighbours knew. Mr. Pitiless, Mr.
Hardheart, Mr. Forget-good, Mr. No-truth, Mr. Haughty--thus he named the
disagreeable dignitaries of the town of Mansoul.

At first he was regarded by his "pastors and masters" as a mere wilful,
noisy, praying sectary. Very soon they discovered that he was a
fighting preacher. As tinker or Christian he always had his sleeves
turned up. When he had to try his own cause he put in the jury-box Mr.
True-Heart, Mr. Upright, Mr. Hate-Bad, Mr. See-Truth, and other amiable
persons. His witnesses were Mr. Know-All, Mr. Tell-True, Mr. Hate-Lies,
Mr. Vouch-Truth, Mr. Did-See. His Town Clerk was Mr. Do-Right, the
Recorder was Mr. Conscience, the gaoler was Mr. True-Man, Lord
Understanding was on the bench, and the Judge bears the dainty name of
the "Golden-headed Prince."

Bunyan's adversaries are always a bad set. They live in Villain's Lane,
in Blackmouth Street, or Blasphemer's Row, or Drunkard's Alley, or
Rascal's Corner. They are the sons of one Beastly, whose mother bore
them in Flesh Square: they live at the house of one Shameless, at the
sign of the Reprobate, next door to the Descent into the Pit, whose
retainers are Mr. Flatter, Mr. Impiety, Mr. False-Peace, Mr.
Covetousness, who are housed by one Mr. Simple, in Folly's Yard.

Bunyan had a perfect wealth of sectarian scurrility at his command. His
epithets are at times unquotable and ferocious. When, however, his
friends are at the bar, the witnesses against them comprise the choicest
scoundrels of all time--Mr. Envy, Mr. Pick-thank, and others, whose
friends are Lord Carnal-Delight, Lord Luxurious, Lord Lechery, Sir
Having Greedy, and similar villanous people of quality. The Judge's
name is now Lord Hate-Good. The Jury consist of Mr. No-Good, Mr. Malice,
Mr. Love-Lust, Mr. Live-Loose, Mr. Heady, Mr. Hate-Light, Mr. Enmity,
Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, and Mr. Implacable, with Mr. Blindman for
Foreman.

Never was such an infamous gang impanelled. Rancour and rage and
vindictiveness, and every passion awakened in the breasts of the strong
by local insolence and legal injustice, is supplied by Bunyan with
epithets of immense retaliative force. He is the greatest name-maker
among authors. He was a spiritual Comanche. He prayed like a savage. He
said himself, when describing the art of the religious rhetorician--an
art of which he was the greatest master of his time:--

    You see the ways the fisherman doth take
    To catch the fish; what engines doth he make!
    Behold! how he engageth all his wits,
    Also his snares, lines, angles, hooks, and nets;
    Yet fish there be that neither hook nor line,
    Nor snare, nor net, nor engine can make thine;
    They must be grop'd for, and be tickled too,
    Or they will not be catch'd, whate'er you do.

Bunyan never tickled the sinner. It was not his way. He carried a prong.
He pricked the erring. He published a pamphlet to suggest what ought to
be done to holy pedestrians, whose difficulties lay rearward. He put
detonating balls under their feet which exploded as they stepped and
alarmed them along. He lined the celestial road with horrors. If they
turned their heads they saw a fiend worse than Lot's wife who was merely
changed into a pillar of sweet all-preserving salt. Bunyan's unfortunate
converts who looked back fell into a pit filled with fire, where they
howled and burnt for evermore.

Ah! with what pleasure must the great Bedfordshire artist have
contemplated his masterly pages as day by day he added to them the
portrait of some new scoundrel, or painted with dexterous and loving
hand the wholesome outlines of some honest man, or devised some new
phrase which like a new note or new colour would delight singer or
painter for generations yet to come. He must have strode proudly along
his cell as he put his praise and his scorn into imperishable similes.

But Bunyan had never been great had he been merely disagreeable. He had
infinite wit in him. It was his carnal genius that saved him. He wrote
sixty books, and two of them--the "Siege of the Town of Mansoul" and the
"Pilgrim's Progress"--exceed all ever written for creative swiftness of
imagination, racy English speech, sentences of literary art, cunningness
in dialogue, satire, ridicule, and surpassing knowledge of the
picturesque ways of the obscure minds of common men. In his pages men
rise out of the ground--they always come up on an open space so that
they can be seen. They talk naturally, so that you know them at once;
and they act without delay, so that you never forget them. They
surprise you, delight you, they interest you, they instruct you, and
disappear. They never linger, they never weary you. Incidents new and
strange arise at every step in his story. The scene changes like the men
and their adventures. Now it is field or morass, plain or bypath, bog or
volcano, castle or cottage, sandy scorching desert or cold river; the
smoke of the bottomless pit or bright, verdant, delectable mountains and
enchanted lands where there are no bishops, no gaols, and no tinkers;
where aboundeth grapes, calico, brides, eternal conversation, and
trumpets. The great magician's genius forsakes him when he comes to the
unknown regions, and he knoweth no more than the rest of us. But while
his foot is on the earth he steps like a king among writers. His
Christian is no fool. He is cunning of fence, suspicious, sagacious,
witty, satirical, abounding in invective, and broad, bold, delicious
insolence. Bye-Ends is a subtle, evasive knave drawn with infinite
skill.

Had Bunyan merely preached the Gospel he had no more been remembered
than thousands of his day who are gratefully forgotten--had he prayed to
this time he had won no statue; but his literary genius lives when the
preacher is very dead.

He saw with such vividness that the very passions and wayward moods of
men stood apart and distinct in his sight, and he gave names to them and
endowed them with their natural speech. He created new men out of
characteristics of mind, and sent them into the world in shapes so
defined and palpable that men know them for evermore. It was the way of
his age for writers to give names to their adversaries. Bunyan imitated
this in his life of Mr. Badman. Others did this, but Bunyan did it
better than any man. His invention was marvellous, and he had besides
the faculty of the dramatist.

If any man wrote the adventures of a Co-operator, he would have to tell
of his meeting with Mr. Obstinate, who will not listen to him, and wants
to pull him back. We all get the company of Mr. Pliable, who is
persuaded without being convinced, who at the first splash into
difficulty crawls out and turns back with a cowardly adroitness. We have
all encountered the stupidity of Mr. Ignorance, which nothing can
enlighten. We know Mr. Turnaway, who comes from the town of Apostacy,
whose face we cannot perfectly see. Others merely gave names, he drew
characters, he made the qualities of his men speak; you knew them by
their minds better than by their dress. That is why succeeding ages have
read the "Pilgrim's Progress," because the same people who met that
extraordinary traveller are always turning up in the way of every man
who has a separate and a high purpose, and is bent upon carrying it out.
Manners change, but humanity has still its old ways. It is because
Bunyan painted these that his writing lasts like a picture by one of the
old masters who painted for all time.

Such is an outline of the paper, which was interesting from its
associations, and only spoilt by the cough. We had had Bunyan in pretty
well every shape possible during the last few weeks. Certainly one of
the most original is this which presents the man of unbounded faith in
the light of utter scepticism.



CHAPTER XXXI.

AL FRESCO INFIDELITY.


In a series of papers like the present it is necessary, every now and
then, to pause and apologize, either for the nature of the work in
general, or for certain particulars in its execution calculated to shock
good people whose feelings one would wish to respect. Having so long been
engaged in the study of infidelity in London, I may, perhaps, be
permitted to speak with something like authority in the matter; and I
have no hesitation in saying that I believe the policy of shirking the
subject is the most fatal and foolish one that could be adopted. Not only
does such a course inspire people, especially young people, with the idea
that there is something very fascinating in infidelity--something which,
if allowed to meet their gaze, would be sure to attract and convince
them--than which nothing is farther from the truth--not only so, however,
but many of the statements and most of the arguments which sound
plausibly enough on the glib tongue of a popular speaker read very
differently indeed, when put down in cold-blooded letter-press, and
published in the pages of a book. I protest strongly against making a
mystery of London infidelity. It has spread and is spreading, I know,
and it is well the public should know; but I believe there would be no
such antidote to it as for people to be fully made aware how and where it
is spreading. That is the rôle I have all along proposed to myself: not
to declaim against any man or any system, not to depreciate or disguise
the truth, but simply to describe. I cannot imagine a more legitimate
method of doing my work.

I suppose no one will regard it in any way as an indulgence or a luxury
on the part of a clergyman, who be it remembered, is, during a portion
of the Sunday, engaged in ministering to Christian people, that he
should devote another portion of that day to hearing Christ vilified,
and having his own creed torn to pieces. I myself feel that my own
belief is not shaken, but in a tenfold degree confirmed by all I have
heard and seen and written of infidelity; and therefore I cannot concede
the principle that to convey my experiences to others is in any way
dangerous. Take away the halo of mystery that surrounds this subject,
and it would possess very slender attractions indeed.

It was, for instance, on what has always appeared to me among the most
affecting epochs of our Christian year, the Fifth Sunday after
Easter--Christ's last Sunday upon earth--that, by one of those violent
antitheses, I went to Gibraltar Walk, Bethnal Green Road, to hear Mr.
Ramsey there demolish the very system which, for many years, it has
been my mission to preach. I did not find, and I hope my congregation
did not find, that I faltered in my message that evening. I even venture
to think that Mr. Ramsey's statements, which I shall repeat as
faithfully as possible, will scarcely seem as convincing here as they
did when he poured them forth so fluently to the costermongers and
navvies of the Bethnal Green Road; and if this be true of Mr. Ramsey it
is certainly so of the smaller men; for he is a master in his craft, and
certainly a creditable antagonist for a Christian to meet with the mild
defensive weapons we have elected to use.

When the weather proves fine, as it ought to have done in May, 1874,
infidelity adjourns from its generally slummy halls to the street
corners, and to fields which are often the reverse of green; thus
adopting, let me remark in passing, one of the oldest instrumentalities
of Christianity itself, one, too, in which we shall do well to follow
its example. Fas est ab hoste doceri--I cannot repeat too often.
Scorning the attractions of the railway arches in the St. Pancras Road,
where I hope soon to be a listener, I sped viâ the Metropolitan Railway
and tram to Shoreditch Church, not far from which, past the Columbia
Market and palatial Model Lodging Houses, is the unpicturesque corner
called Gibraltar Walk, debouching from the main road, with a triangular
scrap of very scrubby ground, flanked by a low wall, which young
Bethnal Green is rapidly erasing from the face of the earth. When I got
here, I found an unclerical-looking gentleman in a blue great-coat and
sandy moustache erecting his rostrum in the shape of a small deal stool,
from whence I could see he was preparing to pour forth the floods of his
rhetoric by diligent study of some exceedingly greasy notes which he
held in his hand and perused at what I feel sure must have been the
windiest street corner procurable outside the cave of Æolus. I fell back
into the small but very far from select crowd which had already begun to
gather, and an old man, who was unmistakably a cobbler, having
ascertained that I had come to hear the lecture, told me he had
"listened to a good many of 'em, but did not feel much for'arder."
Undismayed by this intelligence I still elected to tarry, despite the
cruel nor'-easter that was whistling round the corner of the Bethnal
Green Road. In a few minutes I perceived a slight excitement in the
small gathering due to the fact that the Christians had put in an
appearance, so that there would be some opposition. Mr. Harrington, a
young man whom I had heard once speak fluently enough on the theistic
side at an infidel meeting, was unpacking his rostrum, which was a
patent folding one, made of deal, like that of his adversary, but neatly
folded along with a large Bible, inside a green baize case. Both
gentlemen commenced proceedings at the same time; and as they had
pitched their stools very close to one another, the result was very
much like that of two grinding organs in the same street. Of the two,
Mr. Harrington's voice was louder than Mr. Ramsey's. The latter
gentleman had a sore throat, and had to be kept lubricated by means of a
jug of water, which a brother heretic held ready at his elbow. Mr.
Harrington was in prime condition, but his congregation was smaller than
ours; for I kept at first--I was going to say religiously, I suppose I
ought to say _ir_-religiously--to the infidels.

Mr. Ramsey, who had a rooted aversion to the letter "h," except where a
smooth breathing is usual, began by saying that Christianity differed
from other religions in the fact of its having an eternal 'Ell. The
Mahometans had their beautiful ladies; the North American Indian looked
for his 'Appy 'Unting Grounds; but 'Ell was a speciality of the
Christian system. On the other side was the fact that you continually
had salvation inundated upon you. Tracts were put into your hand,
asking--"What must I do to be saved?" We had to pay for this salvation
about _11,000,000l._ a year to the Church of England, and something like
an equal amount to the Dissenters. In fact every tub-thumper went about
preaching and ruining servant girls, and for this we paid over twenty
millions a year--more than the interest on the whole National Debt.
After this elegant exordium, Mr. Ramsey said he proposed to divide his
remarks under four heads. 1. Is Salvation necessary? 2. What are we to
be saved from? 3. What for? 4. How?

1. According to the Christian theory, God, after an eternity of "doin'
nothin'," created the world. He made Adam sin by making sin for him to
commit; and then damned him for doing what He knew he would do. He
predestined you--the audience--to be damned because of Adam's sin; but
after a time God "got sick and tired of damning people," and sent His
Son to redeem mankind.

This flower of rhetoric tickled Bethnal Green immensely; but Mr.
Harrington was equal to the occasion, and thundered out his orthodoxy so
successfully that Mr. Ramsey took a longer drink than usual, and
complained that he was not having "a free platform"--it was so he
dignified the rickety stool on which he was perched. He then meandered
into a long dissection of Genesis i., appearing to feel particularly
aggrieved by the fact of the moon being said to "rule the night," though
I could not see how this was relevant to the Christian scheme of
salvation; and a superb policeman, who had listened for a moment to Mr.
Ramsey's astronomical lucubrations, evidently shared my feelings and
passed on superciliously. I devoutly wished my duty had permitted me to
do the same.

The speaker then went into a long dissertation on the primal sin; the
gist of which was that though the woman had never been warned not to eat
of the Forbidden Fruit, she had to bear the brunt of the punishment.
Then--though one is almost ashamed to chronicle such a triviality--he
waxed very wroth because the serpent was spoken of as being cursed above
all "cattle." Who ever heard of snakes being called cattle? He was
condemned to go on his belly. How did he go before? Did he go on his
back or "'op" along on the tip of his tail? These pleasantries drew all
Mr. Harrington's audience away except a few little dirty boys on the
wall. Mr. Ramsey clearly knew his audience, and "acted to the gallery."

2. But what were we to be saved from? Eternal 'Ell-fire. This 'Ell-fire
was favourite sauce for sermons, and served to keep people awake. Where
was 'Ell? It was said to be a bottomless pit; if so, he should be all
right, because he could get out at the other end! Then, again, 'Ell was
said to be a very 'ot place. When the missionaries told the Greenlanders
that, everybody wanted to go to 'Ell; so they had to change their tune
and say it was very cold. Mr. Ramsey omitted to mention his authority
for this statement.

Into his pleasantries on the monotony of life in 'Eaven, I do not feel
inclined to follow this gentleman. The Atonement, he went on to remark,
if necessary at all, came 4000 years too late. It should have been--so
we were to believe on his ipse dixit--contemporaneous with the Fall.
This atonement we were to avail ourselves of by means of faith. Idiots
could not have faith, but were allowed to be saved. Consequently, argued
Mr. Ramsey, in conclusion, the best thing for all of us would have been
to have been born idiots, and, consistently enough, Christianity tried
to turn us all into idiots.

Such were some of the statements. I refrain from quoting the most
offensive, which were deliberately put forward at this al fresco
infidels' meeting; and with what result? Though a vast population kept
moving to and fro along that great highway there were never, I am sure,
more than a hundred people gathered at the shrine of Mr. Ramsey. They
laughed at his profanities, yes; but directly he dropped these, and grew
argumentative, they talked, and had to be vigorously reduced to order.
Gallio-like they cared for none of these things, and I am quite sure a
good staff of working clergy, men like Mr. Body or Mr. Steele of St.
Thomas's, who could talk to the people, would annihilate Mr. Ramsey's
prestige. As for Mr. Harrington, he meant well, and had splendid
lung-power, but his theology was too sectarian to suit a mixed body of
listeners embracing all shades of thought and no-thought.

Supposing Mr. Ramsey to have put forth all his power that morning--and I
have no reason to doubt that he did so--I deliberately say that I should
not hesitate to take my own boy down to hear him, because I feel that
even his immature mind would be able to realize how little there was to
be said against Christianity, if that were all.



CHAPTER XXXII.

AN "INDESCRIBABLE PHENOMENON."


When the bulk of the London Press elects to gush over anything or
anybody, there are at all events, primâ facie grounds for believing that
there is something to justify such a consensus. When, moreover, the
object of such gush is a young lady claiming to be a spirit-medium, the
unanimity is so unusual as certainly to make the matter worth the most
careful inquiry, for hitherto the London Press has either denounced
spiritualism altogether, or gushed singly over individual mediums,
presumably according to the several proclivities of the correspondents.
Of Miss Annie Eva Fay, however--is not the very name fairy-like and
fascinating?--I read in one usually sober-minded journal that "there is
something not of this earth about the young lady's powers." Another
averred that she was "a spirit medium of remarkable and extraordinary
power." Others, more cautious, described the "mystery" as "bewildering,"
the "entertainment" as "extraordinary and incomprehensible," while yet
another seemed to me to afford an index to the cause of this gush by
saying that "Miss Fay is a pretty young lady of about twenty, with a
delicate spirituelle face, and a profusion of light hair, frizzled on
the forehead."

I made a point of attending Miss Annie Eva Fay's opening performance at
the Hanover Square Rooms, and found all true enough as to the pretty
face and the frizzled hair. Of the "indescribable" nature of the
"phenomenon" (for by that title is Miss Fay announced, à la Vincent
Crummles) there may be two opinions, according as we regard the young
lady as a kind of Delphic Priestess and Cumæan Sibyl rolled into one, or
simply a clever conjuror--conjuress, if there be such a word.

Let me, then, with that delightful inconsistency so often brought to
bear on the so-called or self-styled "supernatural," first describe the
"indescribable," and then, in the language of the unspiritual Dr. Lynn,
tell how it is all done; for, of course, I found it all out, like a
great many others of the enlightened and select audience which gathered
at Miss Annie Eva Fay's first drawing-room reception in the Queen's
Concert Rooms.

Arriving at the door half an hour too early, as I had misread the time
of commencement, I found at the portal Mr. Burns, of the Progressive
Library, and a gentleman with a diamond brooch in his shirt-front, whom
I guessed at once, from that adornment, to be the proprietor of the
indescribable phenomenon, and I was, in fact, immediately introduced to
him as Colonel Fay.

Passing in due course within the cavernous room which might have suited
well a Cumæan Sibyl on a small scale, I found the platform occupied by a
tiny cabinet, unlike that of the Davenports in that it was open in
front, with a green curtain, which I could see was destined to be let
down during the performance of the phenomenal manifestations. There was
a camp-stool inside the cabinet; a number of cane-bottomed chairs on the
platform, and also the various properties of a spirit séance, familiar
to me from long experience, guitar, fiddle, handbells, tambourine, &c.
One adjunct alone was new; and that was a green stable bucket, destined,
I could not doubt, to figure in what my Rimmel-scented programme
promised as the climax of Part I.--the "Great Pail Sensation." Presently
Colonel Fay, in a brief speech, nasal but fluent, introduced the
subject, and asked two gentlemen to act as a Committee of Inspection.
Two stepped forward immediately--indeed too immediately, as the result
proved; one a "citizen of this city," as Colonel Fay had requested; but
the other a Hindoo young gentleman, who, I believe, lost the confidence
of the audience at once from his foreign face and Oriental garb.
However, they were first to the front, and so were elected, and
proceeded at once to "examine" the cabinet in that obviously helpless
and imperfect way common to novices who work with the gaze of an
audience upon them. Then, from a side door, stage left, enter the
Indescribable Phenomenon. A pretty young lady, yes, and with light
frizzled hair to any extent. There was perhaps "a spirit look within her
eyes;" but then I have often found this to be the case with young ladies
of twenty. Her dress of light silk was beyond reproach. I had seen
Florence Cook and Miss Showers lately; and,--well, I thought those two,
with the assistance of Miss Annie Eva Fay, would have made a very pretty
model for a statuette of the Three Graces.

Miss Fay, after being described by the Colonel vaguely enough as "of the
United States," was bound on both wrists with strips of calico; the
knots were sewn by the European gentleman--as distinguished from the
Asiatic youth. He was not quite au fait at the needle, but got through
it in time. Miss Fay was then placed on the camp-stool, her wrists
fastened behind her, and her neck also secured to a ring screwed into
the back of the cabinet. A rope was tied round her ankles, and passed
right to the front of the stage, where the Hindoo youth was located and
bidden hold it taut, which he did conscientiously, his attitude being
what Colman describes "like some fat gentleman who bobbed for eels."

First of all, another strip of calico was placed loosely round Miss
Fay's neck; the curtain descended. Hey, presto! it was up again, sooner
than it takes to write, and this strip was knotted doubly and trebly
round her neck. A tambourine hoop was put in her lap, and this, in like
manner, was found encircling her neck, as far as the effervescent hair
would allow it.

The audience at this point grew a little fidgety; and though they did
not say anything against the Oriental young gentleman, the 'cute
American colonel understood it, adding two others from the audience to
the committee on the stage, and leaving the young gentleman to "bob"
down below as if to keep him out of mischief.

The other "manifestations" were really only different in detail from the
first. The guitar was placed on the lap, the curtain fell and it played;
so did the fiddle--out of tune, as usual--and also a little glass
harmonicon with actually a soupçon of melody. A mouth-organ
tootle-tooed, and what Colonel Fay described as a "shingle nail" was
driven with a hammer into a piece of wood. A third of a tumbler of water
laid on the lap of the Indescribable Phenomenon was drunk, and the great
Pail Sensation consisted in the bucket being put on her lap and then
discovered slung by the handle around her neck. The last "manifestation"
is the one to which I would draw attention; for it was by this I
discovered how it was all done. A knife was put on Miss Fay's lap; the
curtain lowered, the knife pitched on to the platform, and behold the
Indescribable Phenomenon stepped from the cabinet with the ligature that
had bound her wrists and neck severed.

Now, all through this portion of the entertainment the audience,
instead of sitting quiet, amused themselves with proposing idiotic
tests, or suggesting audibly how it was all done. One man behind me
pertinaciously clung to the theory of a concealed boy, and trotted him
to the front after every phase of the exhibition. He must have been
infinitesimally small; but that did not matter. It was "that boy again"
after every trick. One manifestation consisted in putting a piece of
paper and pair of scissors on Miss Fay's lap, and having several "tender
little infants" cut out, as the Colonel phrased it.

Hereupon sprang up a 'cute individual in the room, and produced a sheet
of paper he had marked. Would Miss Fay cut out a tender little infant
from that? Miss Fay consented, and of course did it, the 'cute
individual retiring into private life for the rest of the evening.
Another wanted Miss Fay's mouth to be bound with a handkerchief, and
there was no objection raised, until the common-sense and humanity of
the audience protested against such a needless cruelty on a broiling
night and in that Cumæan cave. An excited gentleman in front of me, too,
whose mission I fancy was simply to protest against the spiritual
character of the phenomena (which was never asserted) would interrupt us
all from time to time by declaring his intense satisfaction with it all.
It was a splendid trick. We tried to convince him that his individual
satisfaction was irrelevant to us, but it was, as Wordsworth says,
"Throwing words away." It was a beautiful trick; and he was satisfied,
quite satisfied.

The Dark Séance, which formed the second part of the performance, was a
dreadful mistake. It was not only unsatisfactory in result, but--and no
doubt this was the reason--it was so mismanaged as to threaten more than
once to eventuate in a riot. Twelve or fourteen persons were to form a
committee representing the audience, and to sit in a circle, with the
Indescribable Phenomenon in their centre, while we remained below in
Egyptian darkness and received their report. Of course we all felt that
we--if not on the committee--might just as well be sitting at home or in
the next parish as in the cave of Cumæ. The method of electing the
committee was briefly stated by Colonel Fay to be "first come first
served," and the consequence was a rush of some fifty excited people on
to the platform, with earnest requests on the part of the proprietary to
be "still." There was no more stillness for the rest of the evening. The
fifty were pruned down to about fifteen of the most pertinacious, who
would not move at any price; in fact, the others only descended on being
promised that the dark sitting should be divided into two, and another
committee appointed. The Indescribable Phenomenon took her seat on the
camp-stool in the centre, where she was to remain clapping her hands, to
show she was not producing the manifestations. The gas was put out and
darkness prevailed--darkness, but not silence. The disappointed and
rejected committee men--and women--first began to grumble in the freedom
which the darkness secured. The committee was a packed one. They were
Spiritualists. This was vigorously denied by somebody, who said he saw a
Press man in the circle, and therefore (such was his logic) he could not
be a Spiritualist. All this time the Indescribable Phenomenon was
clapping her hands, and now some of the more restless of the audience
clapped theirs in concert. The guitar and fiddle began to thump and
twang, and the bells to ring, and then again the more refractory
lunatics amongst us began to beat accompaniment on our hats. The whole
affair was worthy of Bedlam or Hanwell, or, let us add, an Indescribable
Phenomenon.

The committee was changed with another rush, and those who were finally
exiled from the hope of sitting took it out in the subsequent darkness
by advising us to "beware of our pockets." When Colonel Fay asked for
quietude he was rudely requested "not to talk through his nose." It was
not to be wondered at that the séance was very brief, and the meeting
adjourned.

Now to describe the indescribable. If it be a spiritual manifestation,
of course there is an end of the matter; but if a mere conjuring trick,
I would call attention to the following facts. The fastening of Miss
Fay's neck to the back of the cabinet at first is utterly gratuitous. It
offers no additional difficulty to any manifestations, and appears only
intended to prevent the scrutineers seeing behind her. A very simple
exercise of sleight of hand would enable the gallant Colonel to cut the
one ligature that binds the two wrists, when, for instance, he goes into
the cabinet with scissors to trim off the ends of the piece of calico in
the opening trick. The hands being once free all else is easy. The hands
are _never once seen_ during the performance. The committee can feel
them, and feel the knots at the wrists; but they cannot discover whether
the ligature connecting the wrists is entire.

The last trick, be it recollected, consists in the ligature being cut
and Miss Fay's coming free to the front. If my theory is incorrect--and
no doubt it _is_ ruinously wrong--will she consent to _omit the last
trick_ and come to the front with wrists bound as she entered the
cabinet? Of course, if I had suggested it, she would have done it as
easily as she cut out the tender infants for the 'cute gentleman behind
me; so, to adopt the language of Miss Fay's fellow-citizen, I "bit in my
breath and swallered it down." I adopted the course Mr. Maskelyne told
me he did with the Davenports, sat with my eyes open and my mouth shut.
It is marvellous to see how excited we phlegmatic islanders grow when
either spirits are brought to the front, or we think we have found out a
conjuring trick. I am not going to follow the example of my gushing
brethren, but I can safely say that if anybody has an afternoon or
evening to spare, he may do worse than go to the Crystal Palace or the
Hanover Square Rooms, to see a very pretty and indescribable phenomenon,
and to return as I did, a wiser, though perhaps a sadder man, in the
proud consciousness of having "found out how it is all done."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

A LADY MESMERIST.


When a man's whole existence has resolved itself into hunting up strange
people and poking his nose into queer nooks and corners, he has a sorry
time of it in London during August; for, as a rule, all the funny folks
have gone out of town, and the queer nooks and corners are howling
wildernesses. There is always, of course, a sort of borderland, if he
can only find it out, some peculiar people who never go out of town,
some strange localities which are still haunted by them; only he has to
find them out--people and places--for it is so universally allowed
now-a-days that all genteel people must be out of London in August, and
all respectable places must be covered up in old newspapers, that it is
difficult to get them to own the soft impeachment.

However, there is one queer place that is never shut up, the Progressive
Library in Southampton Row; and Mr. Burns and the Spiritualists, as a
rule, do not shut up shop even in August. Their Summerland lies
elsewhere than Margate or the Moors; and a valse with a pirouetting
table or a little gentle levitation or elongation delights them more
than all the revels of the countryside. I was getting a little blasé, I
own, on the subject of Spiritualism after my protracted experiences
during the Conference, and I do not think I should have turned my steps
in the direction of the Progressive Institution that week had not the
following announcement caught my eye as I scanned the ghostly pages of
the _Medium and Daybreak_:--

     "A MESMERIC SÉANCE.

     "We have been authorized to announce that Miss Chandos,
     whose advertisement appears in another part of this paper,
     will give a mesmeric séance at the Spiritual Institution,
     15, Southampton Row, on Wednesday evening, August 19th, at
     eight o'clock. Admission will be free by ticket, which may
     be obtained at the Institution. The object which Miss
     Chandos has in view is to interest a few truth-seekers who
     could aid her in promoting a knowledge of psychological
     phenomena. As a crowded meeting is not desired, an early
     application should be made for tickets."

I do not know that I said "Eureka!" Indeed I have considerable historic
doubts as to whether anybody ever did, but I felt it. I was a
truth-seeker forthwith. I resolved to sit at the feet of Miss Chandos,
and, should her mesmeric efforts prove satisfactory, "aid her in
promoting a knowledge of psychological phenomena." I did not go through
the prescribed process of getting a ticket beforehand, because I
thought in my innocence that everybody would be out of town, or that the
Hall of the Progressive Institute would certainly accommodate those who
remained. Never was a more fatal mistake. The psychological folks were
all in London, and the capacities of the Progressive Library are not
palatial. Miss Chandos had a crowded meeting whether she desired it or
not. Genius will not be concealed; and Miss Chandos was learning that
lesson in a very satisfactory way. It was a sultry evening when a small
boy opened the back door of the little first floor apartment in
Southampton Row, and squeezed me in like the thirteenth in an omnibus,
and I found myself walking on people's toes, and sitting down on their
hats in the most reckless manner. At length, however, I struggled to a
vacant corner, and deposited myself perspiring and expectant.

Mr. Burns was "orating" on the revival mesmerism was destined to make,
and telling us how, like the Plumstead Peculiars, we should be able to
do without doctors as soon as the healing powers of animal magnetism
were properly recognised and diffused. I did not listen very carefully,
I fear, for I was nervously looking about for Miss Chandos. Nervously, I
say, because lady mediums and mesmerizers are so apt to run to eighteen
stone, or be old and frumpish, that I had terrible fears lest I should
be scared when I met Miss Chandos in the flesh. I was very agreeably
surprised, however, for when Mr. Burns resumed--not his chair but his
table, since he sat on that article of furniture, a very pretty young
lady indeed, of not more than eighteen or twenty years of age, took his
place, and, in a few well-chosen words, said this was her first
appearance as a public mesmerist, and claimed indulgence should any
failure in the phenomena result. She also drew attention to the fact
that the apartment was "pernicious snug" (she put it, of course, in more
scientific language), and straightway proceeded to business.

When Miss Chandos invited patients to put themselves in her hands I
thought the room had risen en masse. Everybody wanted to be mesmerized.
I had no chance in my retired position; but she soon got a front row of
likely people, and I sat down once more disappointed and exuding.

She was a tall active young lady was Miss Chandos, and had a mystic crop
of long black curls, which waved about like the locks of a sibyl when
she made a lunge at an innocent looking young man who sat No. 1--and
whom, with the other patients, I shall designate thus numerically. He
seemed to like it immensely, and smiled a fatuous smile as those taper
fingers lighted on his head, while the other hand rested on the frontal
portion of his face, as though Miss Chandos were going to pull his nose.
He was off in a moment, and sat facing the audience in his magnetic
trance, looking like a figure at a waxwork show. Miss Chandos then
passed on to a gentleman, No. 2, who never succumbed during the entire
evening, though she made several onslaughts upon him. Consequently I
dismiss No. 2 as incorrigible forthwith. No. 3 was a lady who only gave
way after a lengthened attack, and did not seem to appreciate the effect
of Miss Chandos' lustrous eyes so much as No. 1 did. He gave signs of
"coming to," but Miss Chandos kept looking round at him and No. 2, while
she was attending to No. 3, and directly she did this No. 1 closed his
eyes, and slept the sleep of innocence again.

Having reduced No. 3 to a comatose condition Miss Chandos reverted to
No. 1, and by attractive passes got him on his legs and made him follow
her up and down the limited space at her disposal. She looked then like
a pretty Vivien manipulating a youthful Merlin; and I was not at all
surprised at the effect of her "woven paces and her waving hands." She
asked him his name, and he told her. It was W----. "No," she said, "it's
Jones. Mary Jones. What's your name?" But the youth was not quite so far
gone as to rebaptize himself with a female cognomen just yet. He stuck
to his W., and Miss Chandos put him into his waxwork position again, and
got No. 3 on her legs at last, but did nothing more with her than make
her walk up and down. Presently No. 3 woke up, and was put to air at the
window.

No. 4 was now selected, in the person of a big burly man; and I could
not help thinking, as she manipulated him, what a capital pose it would
have been for Hercules and Omphale. He seemed to like it exceedingly,
and I thought was dropping comfortably off when he whispered something
to his operator (I have no notion what the feminine of that word is),
who fixed her brilliant eyes on somebody near me--I feared it was
actually on me--and said, "Somebody at the back of the room is
exercising control. I shall be glad if they will refrain." I was quite
innocent of exercising conscious control, and did not quite know what
the phrase meant. I certainly had once or twice thought it must be much
pleasanter to be operated upon by so pretty a young lady than by some
bull-necked male mesmerist or aged spinster above-mentioned, but I could
scarcely believe that such a mild sentiment could affect that colossal
man. However, I recollected the delicacy of these psychological
relations, and sat down conscience-stricken and warmer than ever.

Miss Chandos selected No. 5 in the person of a young man with a nascent
moustache, who had successfully struggled into the front row at the
outset. He promised well at first; but, like other young men with
incipient moustaches, disappointed us afterwards. Then came No. 6 upon
the scene.

No. 6 was a lady who came late, and at once pushed to the front with the
air of a person who was not doing so for the first time. She went off in
a moment--far too suddenly, in fact, and then did everything she was
told in a very obedient way. Being told that she was in a beautiful
garden, she stooped down on the floral carpet and proceeded to gather
materials for a bouquet. I confess I did not care about No. 6, and was
proceeding to read Professor Tyndall's Belfast Address, which I had in
my pocket, when Miss Chandos looked up No. 1 again.

Reduced to a proper frame of mind, either by Miss Chandos' continued
attentions or the contagion of No. 6's docility, the youth was now all
submission. He walked up and down any number of times like a tame animal
at the Zoological Gardens, and now quite agreed that his name was Mary
Jones. He sang "Tom Bowling" at command, and No. 6, not to be outdone,
warbled a ditty called, I think, "The Slave Girl's Love," the refrain of
which, according to her version, was, "I cannot love, because I _ham_ a
slave." She broke down in the middle of this aspiring ditty, and then
personated a Jew old clo' man, a woman selling "ornaments for your
firestoves," and various other characters, all of which she overacted
considerably. I may be wrong, of course, but I fancied the fair
lecturess was as dissatisfied with No. 6 as I was. The audience was an
indulgent one, and thought it splendid. Mr. Burns sat on the table and
yawned. I relapsed into Tyndall, and wondered what he would have said
about it all; or, at least, I did not wonder, for I knew he would have
consigned us all to the nearest lunatic asylum as exceptions to the rule
that the European has so many more cubic inches of cerebral development
than the Papuan.

When it was drawing near ten, Miss Chandos brought the proceedings to a
close by animating--like Pygmalion--her waxwork statues. She apologized
once more, in a few well-chosen sentences, for what she was pleased to
call her "failure," but the audience would not hear of the term, and
applauded to the echo, only there was no room for an echo in the
Progressive Institute. The young man, No. 1, who I found was a spirit
medium, wound up by an address from his Indian guide on the subject of
"control."

I confess I failed to gather from the perambulating youth and maidens
No. 1 and 3, or the impersonations of No. 6, any signs of the revival
alluded to by Mr. Burns at the outset; and there was not the remotest
connexion with the healing art. In fact, nobody seemed suffering from
anything except heat.

Miss Chandos said to me, however, in a sensible conversation with which
she favoured me in private, that all she had attempted to show was but
the lowest manifestation of a power which had far higher ends in view.
She doubted almost whether it was not something like sacrilege to use
such a power for playing tricks and gratifying curiosity.

She was thoroughly in earnest; and laboured both physically during the
evening and logically in her after-discourse, with an energy which some
persons would have said was worthy of a better cause.

It was nearly eleven when I left the miniature hall of the Progressive
Institute, and as I passed along the streets, digesting what I had seen
and heard during the evening, I took myself to task severely--as it is
always well to do, if only to prevent somebody else doing it for me--and
asked whether, if the lecturess had not been a lecturess but a
lecturer--if being a lecturess she weighed eighteen stone, or was old
and wizen, or dropped her h's--whether I should have stayed three mortal
hours in that stuffy room, and I frankly own I came to the conclusion I
should _not_.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

A PSYCHOPATHIC INSTITUTION.


Reading my _Figaro_ the other day--as I hope I need not state it is my
custom devoutly to do--I came upon the following passage in the review
of a book called "Psychopathy; or, the True Healing Art. By Joseph
Ashman. London: Burns, Southampton Row. We have not the pleasure of
being personally acquainted with Joseph Ashman, and we fear that the
loss is ours. Judging him through the medium of his book, he must,
indeed, be a rara avis.... The one great thing," it went on to say,
"that Joseph Ashman wants the world to know is, that he cures disease by
very simple means. And all that the world wants to know from Joseph
Ashman is, Are these cures real--are his statements facts? Why, then,
does not Joseph content himself with his facts? He has plenty of them.
Here is one:--'Seeing one day a cabman with a swollen face standing by a
police-court ready to prosecute a man who had assaulted him, I asked if,
on condition I healed him, he would forgive his adversary. He replied
that he would, and we accordingly got into his cab together. Bringing
out the magnetized carte, I told him to look at it, and at the same
time made a few motions over the swelling with my hand. I then left him
feeling much better, and returned in an hour's time, when I found him
taking a glass of beer with his antagonist, whom he had forgiven.'"

Now as the one pursuit and end of my present existence is the discovery
of raræ aves, I need not say I at once took up the clue herein afforded,
and went in pursuit of Joseph Ashman. I found not only him but his
institution, for Mr. Ashman does not work single-handed. It is in the
Marylebone Road, almost opposite the Yorkshire Stingo; and is most
modest and unpretending in its outward semblance, being situated in one
of those semi-rustic houses so indicative of suburban London, down an
overstocked garden, into which you enter by means of a blistered iron
gate, painted violently green, and swinging heavily on its hinges. Down
a vista of decrepit dahlias one sped to the portal, alongside which was
a trio of bell-handles, one above the other, showing that the
Psychopathic Institution did not occupy the whole even of that modest
domicile. I always approach these manifold bells with considerable
diffidence, conscious that I must inevitably ring the wrong one; so, on
this occasion, I rang none at all, but knocked a faint double knock on
the knocker by way of compromise--very faint, indeed, lest I should
disturb any patients who were being "psychopathized." While I waited I
had leisure to observe that hidden among the dahlias, and thatched over
as it were with a superannuated costermonger's barrow, was a double
perambulator, which set me calculating the probabilities of Mr. Ashman
being a family man.

The door was opened before I had settled the point to my own mental
satisfaction, by a short, cheery-looking man, with long, straight flaxen
hair flowing down over the shoulders of his black frock-coat, a beard a
few shades lighter, and a merry twinkling eye, which looked more
sympathetic than psychopathic, and I should think was calculated to do
patients good directly it lighted on them. He looked as much as to ask
whether I was psychopathically wrong, when I informed him that I had not
come as a patient, but simply to inspect his institution if he would
permit me. The permission was at once accorded. "We are hard at work,"
he said, as he ushered me into the front parlour; "but come in and see
what we are about."

A man who looked like a respectable artisan was sitting at the table;
and a second, in his shirt sleeves, was astride of a chair in what
appeared to be rather an idiotic ride-a-cock-horse-to-Banbury-Cross
fashion, and Mr. Ashman was pinching him and prodding him as butchers do
fat animals at the Smithfield Show.

"That there gentleman," said Mr. Ashman, in a broad provincial dialect,
"couldn't get astride that chair when he come here half-an-hour ago. How
d'ye feel now, sir?"

"Feel as though I should like to race somebody twenty rods for five
pound a-side," answered the patient, getting up and walking about the
room as if it were a new sensation. He had been brought, it appeared, to
Mr. Ashman by his friend, who was sitting at the table, and who was an
old psychopathic patient. He assured me he had suffered from rheumatism
for twenty years, and was completely disabled without his stick until he
came into that room half-an-hour since. He walked up and down stickless
and incessantly as the carnivora at the Zoo all the time he was telling
me.

"Would you mind putting your ear to this man's back, sir?" said Mr.
Ashman to me. I did so; and when he bent, his backbone seemed to go off
with a lot of little cracks like the fog-signals of a railway. "That
there old rusty hinge we mean to grease." And away he went
psychopathizing him again. When he was done, Mr. Ashman explained to me
learnedly, and with copious illustrations from anatomical plates, his
theory of this disease, which was his favourite one for treatment,
because it yielded rapidly. Paralysis and that class of disease are much
slower. He had succeeded in acute rheumatism, and also in calculus. "I
like fat men--fighting men to heal," he said. "I leave the delicate ones
to others." The sturdy little psychopathist looked healthy enough to
heal a sick rhinoceros.

While he was lecturing me his hands were not idle. I should think they
seldom were. He was pouring salad oil from a flask on to flannel to give
to the other man who was sitting at the table, and had approached
convalescence from a chronic disease after one or two visits, and who
used this oiled flannel to keep up the influence. Both the men seemed
perfectly genuine; and the rheumatic gentleman, when he left, pronounced
the effect of his psychopathizing miraculous. The fee was five
shillings. "I shan't charge you nothin' for the flannel," he said to No.
2. I began to take quite a fancy to Joseph Ashman, and thanked _Figaro_
inwardly for directing me to the institution.

A working woman who was next in the little row of patients assembled in
the back room, came in with her wrists bound up in bits of flannel, and
her hands looking puffed and glazy. She, too, had lost the use of them
for six years, she told me, and had been pronounced incurable by the
doctors. This was her fourth visit to Mr. Ashman. "Take up the chair,
ma'am," he said to his patient; and she did carry it in rather a wobbly
fashion across the room. "Now the other hand," and she did it with the
other hand. "Now show the gentleman how you did it when you came to me.
She's rather hard o' hearin'," he explained to me; but after one or two
repetitions the poor old body comprehended, and carried it in her
crooked elbow. "Now I'll call my assistant," he said, and summoned a
ruddy, red-bearded man, who looked as though he might have just come in
from a brisk country walk. "When these cases require a good deal of
rubbing I let my assistants do the preliminary work, and then come in as
the Healing Medium myself." The rubbers, he informed me, like the
Medium, must be qualified, not only physically, but morally. Benevolence
was the great requisite; and certainly both these men seemed running
over with it, if looks meant anything. When Joseph Ashman took his turn,
working the poor old patient's stiff wrists, and pulling her fingers
till they cracked, like children playing "sweethearts," she never
winced, but actually seemed to like it, and trotted off well satisfied
with her fourth instalment of good health.

The next rubber who was introduced to me was not such a ruddy man,
being, in fact, somewhat saturnine in appearance; but I could quite
understand that he was, as he described himself, brimful of electricity.
His chevelure was like that on the little man we stick on the conductor
of an electrical machine and make each particular hair stand on end like
quills upon the fretful porcupine.

I could not for the life of me see the difference between this treatment
and simple mesmerism, except that it was much more rapid in its effects
than any magnetic treatment I have ever witnessed. Indeed, I frankly
confess I do not understand it now, though Mr. Ashman made me accept one
of his little books on Psychopathic healing, and told me I should see
the distinction when I had read it. I must be very dense, for I have
read it diligently through, and still fail to trace the distinction.

The man made a great impression on me. I felt he was just one of those
who would carry life into a sick room, and communicate vital
power--supposing it to be communicable--from the dumpy fingers of his
fat soft hand. The perambulator did not belie him. Numbers of pretty
black-eyed children were running about, and there was a Mrs. Ashman
somewhere among the poor patients in the back room. All the children
came to me except the eldest boy, who, his father told me in a
mysterious tone, had suffered some indignity at the hands of my cloth,
and dreaded a parson ever after. I believe my injudicious brother had
set him a long task (perhaps his Duty to his Neighbour), and the poor
lad was always afraid he should be dropped down upon to "say it." Mr.
Ashman's book is a little bewildering to an outsider who fails to
distinguish the _two_ vital forces. He says: "It is much rarer to find a
high development of a temperament in which the psychical element
prevails, than in which it is well blended with the vital-magnetic, or
than in which the latter excels. In nearly all popular public men there
is a blending of the two. We see it well exemplified in John Bright,
Spurgeon, and others. This is the secret of their drawing, magnetic
power. It is the secret, too, of many a physician's success: his genial
magnetism cures when his medicine is useless, although, of course, he
does not know it. As is the difference between these two forces, so is
the difference in the method of their employment for the purpose of
cure." However, when I left I promised--and I mean to keep my vow--that
if ever I am unfortunate enough to find my vertebræ creaking like "an
old hinge," I will come to Mr. Ashman and have it greased. The remark in
his book as to the success of medicine depending on the qualities of him
who administered it was, we may recollect, confirmed at the 1874 meeting
of the British Association in Belfast.

Joseph Ashman has had a chequered history. He has dwelt in the tents of
the Mormonites; has been one of the Peculiar People. In early life he
was in service in the country, where his master used to flog him until,
to use his own expression, he nearly cut him in two. His earliest
patients were cattle. "For a healer," he said, "give me a man as can
clean a window or scrub a floor. Christ himself, when He chose those who
were to be healers as well as preachers, chose fishermen, fine, deep
chested men, depend upon it, sir," and he rapped upon his own sonorous
lungs until they reverberated. He was certainly blessed with a
superabundance of good health, and looked benevolent enough to impart
all his surplus stock to anybody who wanted it.



CHAPTER XXXV.

A PHRENOLOGICAL EVENING.


The experience I am about to chronicle occurred when the Beecher-Tilton
scandal was at its height; and I was attracted by the somewhat ambiguous
title "Burns upon Beecher."

Mr. James Burns, the spirited proprietor of the Progressive Library,
Southampton Row, having devoted himself to the study of phrenology, has
for some time past held a series of craniological séances on Tuesday
evenings, at which he "takes off" the head of some well-known person, or
your own, if you like, whether you are well-known or born to blush
unseen, not in the way of physical decapitation, but by the method of
phrenological diagnosis. I greatly regretted having, on a previous
occasion, missed the analysis of Dr. Kenealy's cerebral developments. I
believe the Claimant himself was once the object of Mr. Burns' remarks;
but when Mr. Beecher's cranium was laid down for dissection at the
height of the Beecher-Tilton sensation, I could resist no longer, but,
despite all obstacles, repaired to the Institute of Progress.

About a score of people were gathered in that first-floor front where I
had seen so many strange things. Of these persons some formed the
regular phrenological class conducted there weekly by Mr. Burns. The
others were, generally speaking, of the ordinary lecture-audience type.
One stout lady occupied an easy-chair in a corner, and slept from first
to last.

The first part of the lecture was a little discursive, I fancy for my
especial benefit, and summarized Mr. Burns' system, which is to a great
extent original. Beginning by a disavowal of all dogmas, he began by
advancing what was to me the entirely novel doctrine, that the brain was
not the sole organ of the mind, but that the whole organism of man had
to be taken into account in the diagnosis of character, since the entire
body was permeated with the mind. The bones, fluids, and viscera were
all related to mental phenomena. The lecturer even questioned whether
the science he promulgated was properly termed phrenology. It certainly
did not answer to the conventional idea of that craft. Referring to a
calico diagram which was pinned to the curtains of the first-floor
front, and at which he pointed with a walking-stick, Mr. Burns notified
four divisions of the animal frame--1, the vital organs; 2, the
mechanical; 3, the nervous (which in the lower orders were ganglionic
only); 4, the cerebral apparatus. He defended the animal powers from the
debased idea usually attached to them, and pointed out their close
connexion with the spirit, nearer to which they were placed than any
portion of the economy.

He then proceeded to apply his preliminary remarks to preachers in
general. Theodore Parker, for instance, was a man of spare body and
large brain. He was surrounded by intellectual people, and his disciples
were quite sui generis. On the other hand, Spurgeon was a man of strong
animal and perceptive powers, and so able to send the Walworth
shopkeepers into ecstasies. His ganglions were big, as was the case in
all great preachers. Emotion, he said, was more a matter of bowels than
of brain. The ganglionic power carried the brain; but there were, of
course, combinations of all grades.

In the case of Henry Ward Beecher, two of whose photographs he held in
his hand, he dwelt on the disadvantage of having only the shadow instead
of the substance of his head to deal with. Here, he said, we had all the
elements on a large scale. The brain, thoracic system, osseous
structure, and abdominal development were all in excess. The face was,
as it were, the picture of all. Henry Ward Beecher was emphatically a
large man. The blood was positive; the circulation good. The digestion
was perfect, and the man enjoyed good food. Especially the length from
the ear to the front of the eyebrows denoted intellectual grasp. There
was not much will power. Whatever he had done (and Mr. Burns
emphatically disclaimed passing any judgment on the "scandal") he had
not done of determination, but had rather "slid into it." He was no
planner. He gathered people round him by the "solar" force of his mind.
If he had been a designing man--if largely developed behind the ears--he
would have gone to work in a different way. There was good development
in the intellectual, sympathetic, and emotional part of his nature; and
this combination made him a popular preacher. There was more than mere
animal magnetism needed to account for this; there was intellectual
power, but not much firmness or conscientiousness. If he were present,
he would probably acknowledge that something had led him on to do
whatever he had done in spite of himself. What was very peculiar in the
man was his youthfulness. He had been before the world for forty years.
Mr. Fowler, the phrenologist, of Ludgate Circus, had been a fellow
student of Beecher, and had measured his head, which he ascertained to
have grown an inch in ten years. Beecher was essentially a growing
man--growing like a boy. The ganglionic power was that which kept people
always growing, and was the great means of their getting a hold over
other people.

Mr. Burns then passed in review the three portraits of Beecher, Tilton,
and Mrs. Tilton respectively, in the _Pictorial World_. Mrs. Tilton he
described as a negative person, inclined to be hysterical and
"clinging." There was in her a high type of brain, morally,
intellectually, and spiritually. Still the brain, he said, did not make
us good or bad. Again repudiating all judgment as to the scandal, he
dwelt upon the close social relationships between Beecher and Mrs.
Tilton, and recurred to the strong vital influence of the former,
comparing it to that of Brigham Young upon his "spiritual affinities."
In all probability, taking into account the different natures of Beecher
and Mrs. Tilton, whatever had occurred "the people couldn't help
themselves."

Then as to Theodore Tilton. Mr. Burns had read the _Golden Age_, and
pronounced it a smart publication. There was, however, in Tilton a want
of ganglionic power; he was all brain. He was a man who might be read,
but he could not lecture or preach. His was a higher mind than
Beecher's, but not one that would command much human sympathy.

Suppose Mrs. Tilton were not the wife of either, her relations to each
might be conscientious, but still violate the laws of monogamic life.
The influence of Beecher over her would be ganglionic as well as
intellectual; that of Tilton purely intellectual: when lo, a gust of
ganglionic power would supervene on the latter, and carry all before it.

Concluding his analysis of Mr. Beecher thus, Mr. Burns discovered that
he had two clerics among his audience, and asked us--for I was one of
them--if we would be examined. I readily consented, and handed my notes
to Miss Chandos (the young lady mesmerist, whose séance I reported a
few pages back) to report progress. She, therefore, is responsible for
the diagnosis that follows.

Handling me from head to foot, much as a fancier does a prize ox at
Smithfield, Mr. Burns found the life power good, and the muscles well
nourished, the working faculties being in a high state of activity. The
head--I blushed to hear--measured one inch beyond the average of a man
of my size, and the cerebral faculties were harmoniously organized. I
had large perceptive powers; and my human nature (wherever that may be
located) was full, as was also firmness. The thinking sphere was good. I
should have made, Mr. Burns informed me, a good sculptor or artist.

Omitting one or two complimentary remarks which Miss Chandos has
faithfully, if not flatteringly, reported, and the enunciation of which
quite confused me as I sat the centre and cynosure of that wondering
group, I was glad to learn that I was an open man, though possessed of
sufficient caution and not defective in moral courage. In fact "pluck"
was large. I really wished Mr. Burns would relieve me by finding some
bad bumps; but no--the worst he could say of me was that I was restless.
What chiefly seemed to strike him, though, were my vital powers, and he
really covered me with confusion when he began to calculate my Beecher
powers on a possible Mrs. Tilton. However, he toned down this remark by
noticing that my domestic faculties were well developed. My faith and
hope were small. I was a "doubting" man. The positive and negative were
well blent in me, and I was also "mediumistic."

The diagnosis of two ladies concluded the evening's exercises, but
neither of these personages displayed any very remarkable traits; Mr.
Burns declaring he felt some difficulty in discovering the bumps under
the "back hair."



CHAPTER XXXVI.

A SPIRITUAL PICNIC.


In a volume bearing the title of _Mystic London_ it would seem perchance
that Spiritualism, as par excellence the modern mystery, should stand
first. I have thought it better, however, to defer its treatment
somewhat, working up to it as to a climax, and then gently descending to
mundane matters once more ere I close my present work.

Of London at this hour, just as of Rome in the later Republic and
Empire, it may be safely affirmed that there is in its midst an element
of the mysterious and occult utterly undreamed of by the practical
people. Many phases of this element have already been treated of in my
different works; and I add some of the more exceptional as properly
belonging to my present subject.

Now I candidly confess that, up to a recent date, I had not given
Spiritualists--quâ spiritualists--credit for being a cheerful or
convivial people. Though there exist upon the tablets of my memory
recollections of certain enjoyable dinners, cosy teas, and charming
petits soupers, eaten at the mahogany of believers in the modern
mystery, yet these were purely exceptional events, oases in the desert
of spiritualistic experiences. Generally speaking, the table, instead of
groaning under its accumulated bounties, leapt about as if from the
absence thereof; and the only adjuncts of the inhospitable mahogany were
paper tubes for the spirit voices, handbells for the spirit hands, and
occasional accordions and musical boxes for the delectation of
harmonious ghosts. It was a "flow of soul" if not always a "feast of
reason;" but, as regarded creature comforts, or any of the ordinary
delights of mundane existence, a very Siberian desert. A grave subject
of discussion (I am not, I assure you, indulging in a sepulchral pun) at
the recent Liverpool Conference was how to feed mediums, and I fancy the
preponderating opinion was that fasting was a cardinal virtue in their
case--a regimen that had come to be in my mind, perhaps unfairly,
associated with séances in general. I was glad, therefore, when I read
in the columns of the _Medium_ the announcement of the spiritual picnic
or "demonstration," at the People's Garden, Willesden. Still I wanted to
see Spiritualists enjoy themselves in the "normal condition." I
sympathized with the avowed object of the gathering, that the followers
of the new creed should know one another, as surely the disciples of a
common school ought to do. Armed, therefore, with a ticket, I proceeded,
viâ the North London Railway, to the scene of action. It was not what we
materialistic people should call a fine August day. It was cold and
dull, and tried hard to rain; but it was far more in keeping with the
character of the meeting than what Father Newman calls the "garish day"
one looks for in mid-August. In the words of the circle the "conditions
were excellent;" and as I journeyed on, reading my _Medium_ like a true
believer, I marvelled to see, by the evidence of its advertisements, how
the new creed had taken hold of a certain section, at all events, of
society. Besides a dozen public mediums who paraded their varied
attractions at terms ranging from _2s. 6d._ to _21s._, there were
spiritualistic young men who put forward their creed as a qualification
for clerkships--perhaps they had no other claim--spiritual lodging-house
keepers, and even spiritual undertakers, all pervaded by what we may
literally call a common esprit de corps.

In due course we reached the People's Garden, the popular title whereof
seemed to have been given on the lucus a non principle, for the London
folk have not, as yet, affected it largely. Why this should be so one
cannot guess, for it is the very ideal of a Cockney Paradise, and is
admirably worked by a body of shareholders, most of whom belong to the
artisan class, though under very distinguished patronage indeed. When I
got to the grounds the Spiritualists were indulging in a merry-go-round
during a refreshing drizzle. A temporary rush under cover ensued, and
then the weather became more favourable, though the skies preserved
their neutral tint. Mrs. Bullock, a suburban medium, who had become
entranced, had located herself in a bower, and beckoned people from the
audience to receive her "benediction," which was given in a remarkable
dialect. I thought it was Yorkshire, but a spiritualistic gentleman
explained to me that it was "partly North American Indian." The Osborne
Bellringers next gave a campanological concert, which was exceedingly
good of its kind, the small gentleman who played the bass bell working
so actively as to suggest the idea that he could not long survive such
hard labour in his fleshly condition. These campanologists are said to
be big mediums, and occasionally to be floated or otherwise spirited
during their performances; but nothing abnormal occurred at the People's
Garden. Then there was dancing on the monster platform, which is, I
should think, correctly described as "the largest in the world." This
was indeed a new phase of Spiritualism: the terpsichorean spiritualists
generally let their tables do the dancing for them, as Eastern
potentates hire their dancing-girls. Donkey-races, croquet, and other
unspiritual diversions varied the order of proceedings; and as for the
one-and-ninepenny teas, I can only say I should think the Garden
Committee did not get much profit out of them, for the Spiritualists
regaled themselves in the most material fashion. During the afternoon
the arrivals were fast and frequent. All the medium-power of London
seemed present; and the only wonder was that we were not all floated
bodily away. There was Mrs. Guppy, who, in answer to my demand whether
she had been "floated" from Highbury, informed me that she had come far
less romantically--"nine in a cab!" There was Dr. Monk, too, a
Nonconformist clergyman, who had lately been taking aërial journeys of
the Guppy order about Bristol. In fact, the élite of the sect were well
represented; and during the whole afternoon, despite the dirty-looking
day, the fun was fast and furious, and all went merry as the proverbial
marriage-bell.

Part of the programme was an entertainment by a gentleman bearing the
delightfully sepulchral name of Dr. Sexton, whose mission in life it is
to "expose" the tricks of Dr. Lynn and Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke. How
those gentlemen are to be "exposed," seeing they only claim to deceive
you by legerdemain, I cannot comprehend; but they made the Spiritualists
very angry by taking their names in vain on the handbills of the
Egyptian Hall, and more than insinuating that there was a family
likeness between their performances; and, consequently, the conjurors
were to be "exposed;" that is, the public were to have their visit to
the Temple of Magic spoilt by being shown beforehand how the tricks were
done. Aided by an expert assistant named Organ, Dr. Sexton soon let us
into the mysteries of the cabinet business, which seemed just as easy as
making the egg stand on end--when you know how. It is perfectly true
that, after hearing Dr. Sexton's exposition--rather than exposé--it is
quite easy for any one to frustrate the designs of these clever
conjurors, if he wishes to do so. I am not sure that the exposé is wise.
Illogical people will not see the force of Dr. Sexton's argument, and
will possibly think it "proves too much." If so much can be done by
sleight of hand and ingenious machinery, they will argue, perhaps, that
the Davenports and other mediums are only cleverer conjurors still, or
have better machinery. Alas! all my fairyland is pasteboard now. I know
how the man gets out of the corded box--I could do it myself. I know
where the gorilla goes when he seems lost in the magic cabinet. It is
all a clever combination of mirrors. The blood-red letters of some dear
departed friend are only made with red ink and a quill pen, and the name
of the "dear departed" forged. Well, I suppose _I_ am illogical, too. If
one set of things is so simple when it is shown to you, why may not all
be? I fear the Willesden outing has unsettled my convictions, and shaken
my faith in most sublunary things.

The gathering clearly proved the growth of Spiritualism in London. That
such numbers could be got together in the dead season bespeaks a very
extensive ramification indeed.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

A GHOSTLY CONFERENCE.


A distinct and well-marked epoch is reached in the history of any
particular set of opinions when its adherents begin to organize and
confer, and the individual tenets become the doctrines of a party. Such
a culmination has been attained by the believers in Modern Spiritualism.
For a long while after the date of the now historical Rochester
Rappings, the manifestations were mostly individual, and in a great
degree limited to such exercises as Mr. Home's elongation, Mrs. Guppy's
flight from Highbury to Lamb's Conduit Street, or, more recently still,
the voices and manipulations of John and Katie King, the orations of
Mrs. Hardinge, Mr. Morse, and Mrs. Tappan. But all this was spasmodic,
and not likely to take the world by storm, while Spiritualists had
adopted the time-honoured maxim--"Magna est veritas et prevalebit."
Therefore they must organize. They have done so, not without protest on
the part of some of the most noted of their adherents; but the majority
carried the day, and the result is the British National Association of
Spiritualists, which has recently been sitting in solemn conclave at
its first Annual Conference in Lawson's Rooms, Gower Street.

Now I plead guilty to being greatly interested in this subject of
Spiritualism generally, and in the doings of the Conference in
particular. I cannot help thinking that clergymen and scientists ought
to look into any set of opinions whose professors have attained the
dimensions of this body. Their doctrines have spread and are spreading.
Already the Spiritualists number among them such men as Mr. Alfred
Wallace, Mr. Varley, Mr. Crookes, Mr. S. C. Hall, &c., and are extending
their operations amongst all classes of society, notably among the
higher. I could even name clergymen of all denominations who hold
Spiritualistic views, but refrain, lest it should seem invidious, though
I cannot see why it should be incongruous for the clergy to examine
doctrines which profess to amplify rather than supplant those of
revelation, any more than I can why scientists stand aloof from what
professes to be a purely positive philosophy, based upon the inductive
method. So it is, however; Spiritualism is heterodox at once in its
religious and philosophical aspects. I suppose that is why it had such
special attraction for me. Certain it is, I have been following the
ghostly conference like a devotee.

We began on Monday evening with a musical soirée at the Beethoven Rooms,
in Harley Street; and there was certainly nothing ghostly or sepulchral
in our opening day; only then there was nothing very spiritualistic
either. For a long time I thought it was going to be all tea and muffins
and pianoforte. By-and-by, however, Mr. Algernon Joy read a report of
the organization, which was rather more interesting than reports
generally are, and Mr. Benjamin Coleman, a venerable gentleman, the
father of London Spiritualists, delivered a Presidential address. Still
there were no ghosts--not even a spirit rap to augment the applause
which followed the speakers. Once my hopes revived when two new physical
mediums, with letters of recommendation from Chicago, were introduced,
and I expected to see the young gentlemen elongate or float round the
room; but nothing of the kind occurred; and a young lady dashed my hopes
to the ground by singing "The Nightingale's Trill." Mr. Morse gave an
address in the trance state--as I was afterwards informed; but he looked
and spoke so like an ordinary mortal that I should not have found out
that he was in an abnormal condition.

I fear I went home from Harley Street not quite in so harmonious a frame
of mind as could have been wished.

The next morning (Wednesday) Dr. Gully presided at the opening of the
Conference proper in Gower Street, where the rooms were more like vaults
and smelt earthy. The President ably enough summarized the objections
which had been raised to the Association, and also the objects it
proposed to itself. He said:--"If the Association keeps clear of
dogmatic intrusion, then will there be no fear of its becoming
sectarian. Already, however, there is a signal of dogmatism among
Spiritualists--and already the dogmatizers call themselves by another
name. But the Association has nothing to do with this. It knows its
function to be the investigation of facts, and of facts only; and, as
was said, no sect was ever yet framed on undoubted facts. Now what are
the facts of Spiritualism up to this date? They are reducible to
two:--1st. The continued life and individuality of the spirit body of
man after it has quitted its body of flesh; and, 2nd. Its communion with
spirits still in the flesh, under certain conditions, by physical
exhibition and mental impression. Spirit identity cannot be regarded yet
as an established fact--at all events, not so as to warrant us in
building upon it."

I was agreeably surprised with the moderate tone of this address; and
after a brief theological discussion, Mr. W. H. Harrison, the editor of
the _Spiritualist_, followed with a paper on Organization. I do not know
what Mr. Harrison was not for organizing. Libraries, reading-rooms,
colleges, everything was to be spiritualized. Later in the day there was
a paper on Physical Manifestations. I should have preferred the
manifestations without the paper, for I fear I am a poor believer at
second hand. The reader told some "stumping" stories. Here is one as a
specimen--spiritual in more senses than one:--

"One evening I accompanied the Davenports to Mr. Guppy's residence in
Great Marlborough Street. After supper Ira, the eldest of the brothers,
Mr. Guppy, and myself, adjourned to a dark room, which Mr. Guppy had had
prepared for experimental purposes. To get to this room we had to pass
through a room that served the combined purposes of a sculptor's studio
and a billiard room. Emerging from this room we came into a yard, in one
corner of which the dark cabinet in question was constructed. Taking our
seats, we extinguished the light. Mr. Guppy was at the time smoking a
cigar. This was at once taken from his hand, and carried in the air,
where it could be seen by the light given out by its combustion. Some
whisky and water was standing on the table. This was handed to us to
drink. When it came to my turn, I found there was but little left in the
glass. This I pointed out. The glass was forthwith taken from my mouth,
and replenished and brought back again."

On Thursday Mr. Everitt read a paper on Direct Writing by Spirits,
telling us that on one occasion nine hundred and thirty-six words were
written in six seconds. Mr. Everitt must be a bold man--I don't mean
altogether for asking us to believe that, but for saying what he did
about the medium, who was his wife:--"There are many considerations why
it would be impossible for the medium to have produced these writings.
For instance, we have sixteen papers upon the same subject, and in those
papers there are a great many ancient authors referred to. Mrs. Everitt
has never read or seen a single book of any of these authors, and, with
a few exceptions, their names had never been heard by her before, much
less did she know the age they lived in, the country they belonged to,
the works they had written, or the arguments made use of for the defence
of their doctrines and teachings. Besides the above reasons there are
physical and mental difficulties which preclude the possibility of their
being produced by the medium. The physical impossibility is the
marvellous rapidity of their production, as many as 936 words having
been written in six seconds. The mental difficulty is that the medium
has not a logical mind. Like most females, she takes a short cut by
jumping to conclusions. She does not, indeed cannot, argue out any
proposition by the ordinary rules of logic. Now the papers referred to
show that the author or authors are not only well acquainted with
ancient lore and the classics, but also possessed very high ability as
logicians. For the above reasons we conclude that the medium, from sheer
incapacity, both mentally and physically, could not have written these
papers, nor any other human being under the same circumstances. We are
therefore absolutely driven, after looking at the subject from every
conceivable point of view, to conclude respecting their production that
they came from a supernatural source, and were produced by supernatural
means."

In the afternoon of this day a clergyman, whose name it would be highly
indecorous in me to mention, descanted on the aspect of Spiritualism
from his point of view in the Church of England. I understood the
purport of the paper to be (1) that he claimed the right of members of
the Church of England to investigate the phenomena; (2) that, if
convinced of their spiritual origin, such conviction need not shake the
investigator's previous faith. If the clergyman in question really said
no more than the printed reports of the Conference represent him to have
done, he rather reversed the conduct of Balaam, and cursed those he came
to bless. This is the curt résumé that went forth:--

"The Rev. ---- read a paper, in which he defined his position with
regard to Spiritualism as that of a mere inquirer, adding that even if
he became convinced of its truth, he saw no reason why he should alter
the opinions he at present held as a clergyman of the Church of England.
After eighteen months' inquiry into the subject, however, he was,
perhaps, more of a sceptic than before." If that was all the clergyman
in question had to say for the Association, they must rather regret they
ever "organized" him, and might well pray to be saved from their
friends; but I heard it whispered--presumably by a spirit voice--that
there had been a passage at arms between the lady secretary and the
clergyman in question, and that Miss--but no, I must not mention
names--the fair official punished the delinquent that most awful
penalty--silence.

Friday finished the Conference with a trance paper--I did not know there
were such things--dictated to Mrs. Cora Tappan by invisible guides, and
was read by Miss--I mean by the fair incognita above-mentioned. Not a
manifestation--literally not the ghost of one--only this very glowing
peroration:--"But it is in a larger sense of social, mental, political,
and even religious renovation, that Spiritualism is destined to work its
chief results. The abrogation of the primal terror of mankind, the most
ancient spectre in the world of thought, grim and shadowy Death, is, in
itself, so vital a change that it constitutes a revolution in the world
of mind. Chemistry has already revealed the wonderful fact that no
ultimate atom can perish. The subtle chemistry of Spiritualism steps in
where science ceases, gathering up the ultimate atoms of thought into a
spiritual entity and proving them imperishable. Already has this thought
pervaded the popular mind, tinged the decaying forms of theology and
external science with its glow, and made the life of man a heritage of
immortal glory. More than this, taking spirit as the primal basis of
life, each individual, and all members of society and humanity in the
aggregate, must for ever strive to express its highest life (i.e. the
life of the spirit). The child will be taught from within, external
methods being employed only as aids, but never as dictators of thought.
Society will be the flowing out of spiritual truths, taking shape and
substance as the expression of the soul. Governments will be the
protecting power of a parent over loving children, instead of the
dictates of force or tyranny. Religion will wear its native garb of
simplicity and truth, the offspring of the love and faith that gave it
birth. Modern Spiritualism is as great a solvent of creeds, dogmas,
codes, scientific sophisms, as is the sunlight of the substances
contained in earth and air, revealing by the stages of intermediate
life, from man, through spirits, angels, archangels, seraphim, and
cherubim, to God, the glorious destiny of every soul. There is a vine
growing in the islands of the tropic seas that thrives best upon the
ancient ruins or crumbling walls of some edifice built by man; yet ever
as it thrives, the tiny tendrils penetrate between the fibres of the
stone, cutting and cutting till the whole fabric disappears, leaving
only the verdant mass of the foliage of the living vine. Spiritualism is
to the future humanity what this vine is to the ancient ruin."

There was another paper coming on "Compound Consciousness," but the
title did not attract me. After my four days' patient waiting for ghosts
who never came and spirits that would not manifest, I felt, perhaps, a
little impatient, put on my hat and left abruptly--the fair secretary,
of whom I shall evermore stand in supreme awe, scowling at me when I did
so. As I passed into Gower Street--sweet, serene Gower Street, sacred
from the wheels of profane cabmen, I was almost surprised to see the
"materialized" forms around me; and it really was not until I got well
within sound--and smell--of the Underground Railway that I quite
realized my abased position, or got out of the spheres whither the lofty
periods of Mrs. Tappan's paper, so mellifluously delivered, had wafted
me!



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

AN EVENING'S DIABLERIE.


Mr. Spurgeon a short time since oracularly placed it on record that,
having hitherto deemed Spiritualism humbug, he now believes it to be the
devil. This sudden conversion is, of course, final; and I proceed to
narrate a somewhat exceptional endorsement of the opinion which has
recently occurred within my own experience. There was a time, how long
ago it boots not to say, when _I_ considered Spiritualism humbug; and a
good deal came in my way which might have led me to the same conclusion
as Mr. Spurgeon, if I had been disposed--which I am not--to go with a
hop, skip, and jump.

The investigator who first presented the "diabolical" theory to my
notice was a French Roman Catholic priest, who had broken discipline so
far as to enter the married state, but retained all the doctrines of his
former faith intact. He had, in fact, anticipated to some extent the
position of Père Hyacinthe; for it was several years ago I first became
acquainted with him. Individually as well as nationally this gentleman,
too, was prone to jump at conclusions. He lost a dear friend, and
immediately proceeded to communicate with the departed by means of
table-turning and rapping. For a few days he was quite convinced of the
identity of the communicating spirit; but then, and all within the
compass of a single week, he pronounced the exorcism of the Catholic
Church on the intelligence, I suppose experimentally in the first
instance; found his challenge not satisfactorily answered, and
immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was the foul fiend himself.
I sat very frequently with this gentleman afterwards, prior to the
experience I am about to narrate; and certainly the intelligence always
gave itself out to be the spirit unmentionable to ears polite, whose
presence my friend had taken for granted.

I once went with this gentleman to the Marshalls, when they were at
their zenith. We arranged previously that he should not sit at the
table, but on one side, and give me a secret signal when he was silently
pronouncing the exorcism. He did so; and certainly all manifestations at
once ceased, though we had been in full converse with the invisibles a
moment before. Old Mrs. M. had to announce with much chagrin, "The
sperrits is gone!"

My other partner in diablerie was a barrister whom I must not mention by
name, but who possessed considerable power as a writing medium. The
presiding intelligence in his case was, however, of a low character, and
given to very bad language. He avowed himself to have been a bargee in
the earth-plane--should one say the water-plane?--and certainly swore
like one.

As for myself, I am destitute of all "medium-power," whatever that may
be, though enthusiastic spirituelle ladies tell me I am "mediumistic"--a
qualification which is still more occult to me. I own to being greatly
interested in spiritualistic inquiries, except as regards dark séances,
which have a tendency to send me to sleep; and I believe that my
presence does not "stop manifestations:" so that I suppose I am not a
hopeless sceptic.

On the occasion of which I am about to speak we met in my study, where I
am in the habit of rearing a few pet snakes. I had just got a fine new
specimen; and having no proper habitation for it, had turned my
waste-basket upside-down on a small chess table, and left him to
tabernacle under it for the night. This was the table we generally used
for séances; and my legal friend, who was writing, immediately began to
use most foul language, on the subject of the snake, exhorting me to
"put him anywhere, put him in the cupboard, old boy." Such was the
edifying style of communication we always got through this worthy limb
of the law, but it was so much worse than usual on the present occasion
as to fairly make us roar at its insane abuse. The gentleman himself, I
ought to add, is by no means prone to profane swearing. My priestly
friend was making a wide-awake hat reply by tilts; and still got his old
reply that his Satanic Majesty was personally present. I did not in the
least credit this assertion, any more than I accepted as proven the
identity of the bargee, though I hold the impersonation in either case
to be a strange psychological fact. That I did not do so is best
evidenced by the circumstance that I said, "This spirit asserts himself
to be his Satanic Majesty. Have you either of you any objection to
communicate with him supposing such to be the case?"

Neither one nor the other had the slightest. My Catholic friend, I knew,
always carried a bottle of holy water in his pocket, and at my entreaty
forbore for the moment to exorcise. The legal gentleman, though a
"writer" himself, was not at all convinced about the phenomena, as was
perhaps natural, seeing the exceedingly bad company to which it
professed to relegate him. As for me, my scepticism was to me robur et
æs triplex. I disposed of the snake, put out the gas; and down we three
sat, amid profound darkness, like three male witches in "Macbeth,"
having previously locked the door to prevent any one disturbing our
hocus-pocus.

Any one who has sat at an ordinary dark séance will recollect the number
of false starts the table makes, the exclamations, "Was that a rap?"
when the wood simply cracks, or, "Did you feel a cold air?" when
somebody breathes a little more heavily than usual. I have myself made
the experiment, though not without adding an open confession
immediately afterwards. I have blown on the fingers of the sitters, and
made them feel sure it was a "spirit aura," have done the neatest of
raps with my index-finger when my little finger has been securely hooked
in that of my next neighbour. In fact, for test purposes, dark séances
are a mistake, though they are admirable for a flirtation.

On this occasion, however, we were very much in earnest, and there was
no waiting--I hope no collusion. I am quite sure I did not myself
consciously produce any manifestation. I can answer for my legal friend,
as far as any one person can answer for another; and we neither of us
suspected--or suspect--the priest of the order of St. Benedict; only we
would rather he had not pronounced such decided opinions; because the
wish might have been father to the thought, or rather the thought might,
in some utterly unaccountable way, have produced the effects that
followed. I have an idea that if Mr. Spurgeon in his present frame of
mind were to sit at a table for manifestations, he would obtain the
clearest assurance that it was "all the devil," just as it is well known
Roman Catholic sitters get communications from Roman Catholic spirits,
theists from theistic, and Mormons from the denizens of some
spiritualistic Utah.

We had not, on this occasion, a moment to wait. The table forthwith
began to plunge and career about the room as though the bargee--or the
other personage himself--had actually been "in possession." It required
all our agility to follow it in its rapid motion about the room. At last
it became comparatively quiet; and I received in reply to a question as
to who was present the exceedingly objectionable name which Mr. Spurgeon
has coupled with the whole subject. Some persons I know entertain a
certain amount of respect, or at all events awe, for the intelligence in
question. For myself I feel nothing of the kind, and therefore I added,
"If you are what you profess to be, give us some proof." We were sitting
with only the tips of our fingers on the table; but it forthwith rose up
quite perpendicularly, and came down with a crash that completely
shivered it in pieces. I have not the slightest idea how it was
done--but it certainly was done. A large portion of the table was
reduced to a condition that fitted it for Messrs. Bryant and May's
manufactory. When we lighted the gas and looked at our watches we found
we had only been sitting a very few minutes.

Of course the obvious explanation will be that the gentleman with the
diabolical theory and the evidently strong will-power (as evidenced in
the dénouement at Mrs. Marshall's) produced the diabolical effects
consciously or unconsciously. I do not think the former was the case;
and if it is possible to get such results unconsciously, that phenomenon
is quite as curious as the spiritualistic explanation. In fact I am not
sure that the psychological is not more difficult than the
pneumatological theory. My own notion is that the "Psychic Force" people
are clearly on the right track, though their cause, as at present
elaborated, is not yet equal to cover all the effects.

Mr. Spurgeon and the "diabolists" concede the whole of the
spiritualistic position. They not only say that the effects are due to
spiritual causes, but they also identify the producing spirit. I have
never been able to get as far as that. I did not feel on the occasion in
question at all as though I had been in communication with his sable
Majesty. If I was, certainly my respect for that potentate is not
increased, for I should have fancied he would have done something much
"bigger" in reply to my challenge than smash up a small chess-table.
However, there was a sort of uncanny feeling about the experience, and
it seemed to me so far illustrative of Mr. Spurgeon's position as to be
worth committing to paper. If that gentleman, however, lends such a
doctrine the sanction of his approval, he will, let him be assured, do
more to confirm the claims of Spiritualism than all the sneers of
Professors Huxley and Tyndall, and the scorn of Mr. George Henry Lewes
can undo.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

SPIRITUAL ATHLETES.


I am about for once to depart from my usual custom of narrating only
personal experiences, and in this and the two following chapters print
the communications of a friend who shares my interest in these matters,
and has frequently accompanied me in my investigations into this
mysterious Borderland. In these cases, however, he investigated on his
own account, and I am not responsible for the conclusions at which he
arrives:--

"Attracted," he says, "by an article in a popular journal on the subject
of 'Spirit Faces,' I determined, if possible, to 'assist' at a séance. I
had not hitherto taken much interest in spiritualistic matters, because
in the first place, the cui bono question remained persistently
unanswered; and, secondly, because most of the 'doings' were in the
dark; and it appears to me that, given darkness, there are few things in
the way of conjuring and ventriloquism that could _not_ be done.
Terpsichorean tables and talking hats never had any particular charm for
me, because I could always make a table dance, or a hat say anything I
wanted it to say. I saw the Davenports, and preferred Professor
Anderson. I even went to a dark séance at the Marshalls', and noticed
that when Mr. and Mrs. Marshall had perceptibly partaken of beefsteak
and onions, or some equally fragrant food, for dinner, the breath which
accompanied the spirit-voices was unmistakably impregnated with onions
too; and hence I drew my own conclusions. I am not saying I know how Mr.
and Mrs. Marshall do John King and Katie King. I don't know how
Professor Anderson or Professor Pepper do their tricks. I confess Mr.
Home and the Marshalls have the pull of the professors in one way--that
is, they don't perform on a platform but in a private room, and they let
you examine everything beforehand. Theirs is the ars celare artem.
Again, I don't know how men in the street get out of the very curious
knots in which I have tied them, but I know they do it; and therefore I
am sure the Davenports could do it without calling in the ghost of one's
deceased grandmamma as a sort of Deus--or rather Dea--ex machinâ. I have
never seen Mr. Home handle fire or elongate. I have seen him 'levitate,'
or float, and I candidly confess I don't know how he does it, any more
than I can solve Sir David Brewster's trick by which four young ladies
can lift a heavy man on the points of their fingers. It's very
mysterious, and very nice for the man.

"So it happened that I had shelved spiritualism for some time, when the
article on 'Spirit Faces' came under my notice. I did not care so much
about the face part of the matter (at least not the spirit face), but I
wanted to test it as a matter of athletics. In one respect the
physiognomy did interest me, for I read that the medium was
pretty--mediums, according to my experience, being generally very much
the reverse--and I found that report had certainly not misrepresented
the young lady in this respect. Her name is now public property, so I
need not veil it under the pseudonyms of Miss Blank, or Asterisk, or
anything of that sort. Miss Florence Cook, then, is a trim little lady
of sweet sixteen, and dwells beneath the parental roof in an eastern
suburb of London. It is quite true she does not accept payment for
séances, which I strove to impress upon her was very foolish indeed, for
she works almost as hard as Lulu twice in the week. However, she, or
rather her parents, take high ground in the matter, which of course is
very praiseworthy on their parts, and convenient for their guests if
they happen to be impecunious.

"Now, I do not purpose going through the details of the séance, which
was considerably irksome, being protracted by endless psalm singing.
What I want to do--with Miss Cook's permission--is to calculate the
chances of her being sufficiently athletic to perform the tricks
herself, without the aid of spirits. Does she not underrate her unaided
powers in assigning a supernatural cause for the effects produced?

"Well, then, this lithe little lady is arrayed in the ordinary garb of
the nineteenth century with what is technically termed a 'pannier,' and
large open sleeves, each of which, I fear, she must have found
considerably in the way, as also the sundry lockets and other nick-nacks
suspended from her neck. However, there they were. We put her in a
cupboard, which had a single Windsor chair in it, and laid a stoutish
new cord on her lap. Then came singing, which may or may not have been
intended to drown any noise in the cupboard; but, after some delay, she
was found tied around the waist, neck, and two wrists, and the ends of
the cord fastened to the back of the chair. These knots we sealed, and
consigned her to the cupboard again. Shortly after there appeared at an
aperture in the upper portion of the cupboard a face which looked
utterly unspiritual and precisely like that of the medium, only with
some white drapery thrown over the head. The aperture was just the
height that would have allowed Miss Cook to stand on the chair and peep
out. I do not say she did; I am only calculating the height. The face
remained some minutes in a strong light; then descended. We opened the
cupboard, and found the little lady tied as before with the seals
unbroken. Spiritual, or material, it was clever.

"After a pause, the same process was gone through again; only this time
stout tape was substituted for rope. The cord cut the girl's wrists; and
tape was almost more satisfactory. Again she was bound, and we sealed
the knots; and again a face appeared--this time quite black, and not
like the medium at all. I noticed that the drapery ran right round the
face, and cut it off at a straight line on the lower part. This gave the
idea of a mask. I am not saying it was a mask. I am only throwing out a
hint that, if the 'spirits' wish to convince people they should let the
neck be well seen. I am bound to say it bore a strong light for several
minutes; and some people say they saw eyelids. I did not. I do not say
they were not there. I know how impossible it is to prove a negative,
and only say I did not see them.

"What followed possessed no special interest for any but the professed
spiritualist, as it was done without any tying; Miss Cook arguing
logically enough that, if the previous manifestations were clearly
proved to have taken place by other agency than that of the medium
herself, mere multiplication of proofs was unnecessary. I had only gone
to study the matter from an athletic point of view; and I certainly came
away impressed with the idea that, if Miss Florence Cook first got into
and then got out of those knots, she was even more nimble and lithesome
than she looked, and ought to start an Amateur Ladies' Athletic Society
forthwith. As to her making faces at us through the window, I did not
care sufficiently about the matter to inquire whether she did or not,
because, if she got out of the ropes, it was easy enough to get on the
chair and make faces.

"Of course the cui bono remains. The professors make money by it; and
Miss Cook can make at most, only a little mild and scarcely enviable
notoriety. A satirical old friend of mine, when I told him the above
facts, chuckled, and said, 'That's quite enough for a girl of sixteen;
and anything that's do-able, a girl of those years will do.' It was no
use talking to him of panniers and loose sleeves, and lockets. He was an
old bachelor, and knew nothing about such things. At least, he had no
business to, if he did.

"I cannot forbear adding a domestic episode, though it is perhaps
scarcely relevant to the subject. Certain young imps in my house,
hearing what I had seen, got up an exhibition of spirit faces for my
benefit. They rigged up a kind of Punch-and-Judy erection, and the
cleanest of them did the spirit face, with a white pocket-handkerchief
over his head. He looked as stolid and unwinking as the genuine
spirit-physiognomy itself. The gas was lowered to a 'dim religious
light,' and then a black coal-scuttle, with features chalked on it,
deceived some of the circle into the idea that it was a nigger. But the
one element which interested me was wanting; there was no rope-tying
which could at all entitle the juvenile performance to be categorized
under 'Spiritual Athletics.'"



CHAPTER XL.

"SPOTTING" SPIRIT MEDIUMS.


"Among the recent utterances of spiritualistic organs is one to the
effect that 'manifestations' come in cycles--in 'great waves,' I believe
was the actual expression; and of the many fluctuations to which
spiritualistic society has been exposed of late is a very prominent
irruption of young lady mediums. The time seems to have gone by for
portly matrons to be wafted aërially from the northern suburbs to the
W.C. district, or elderly spinsters to exhibit spirit drawings which
gave one the idea of a water-colour palette having been overturned, and
the resulting 'mess' sat upon for the purposes of concealment. Even
inspirational speakers have so far 'gone out' as to subside from
aristocratic halls to decidedly second-rate institutions down back
streets. In fact, the 'wave' that has come over the spirit world seems
to resemble that which has also supervened upon the purely mundane
arrangements of Messrs. Spiers and Pond; and we anxious investigators
can scarcely complain of the change which brings us face to face with
fair young maidens in their teens to the exclusion of the matrons and
spinsters aforesaid, or the male medium who was once irreverently
termed by a narrator a 'bull-necked young man.'

"The names of these interesting young denizens of two worlds are so well
known that it is perhaps unnecessary caution or superfluous gallantry to
conceal them; but I will err, if error it be, on the safe side, and call
No. 1 Miss C. and No. 2 Miss S., premising only that each is decidedly
attractive, with the unquestioned advantage of having seen only some
sixteen or seventeen summers apiece. Miss C. has been 'out' some time;
her familiar being 'Katie King;' while Miss S. has made her debut more
recently, having for her attendant sprites one 'Florence Maple,' a young
lady spirit who has given a wrong terrestrial address in Aberdeen, and
Peter, a defunct market gardener, who sings through the young lady's
organism in a clear baritone voice. It was to me personally a source of
great satisfaction when I learnt that Miss C. had been taken in hand by
a F.R.S.--whom I will call henceforth the Professor--and Miss S. by a
Serjeant learned in the law. Now, if ever, I thought, we have a chance
of hearing what science and evidential acumen have to say on the subject
of 'Face Manifestations.' Each of these gentlemen, I ought to mention,
had written voluminously on the subject of Spiritualism, and both seemed
inclined to contest its claims in favour of some occult physical--or, as
they named it, psychic--force. This would make their verdict the more
valuable to outsiders, as it was clear they had not approached the
subject with a foregone conclusion in its favour. True, the
Spiritualists claimed both the Professor and the Serjeant persistently
as their own; but Spiritualists have a way of thinking everybody
'converted' who simply sits still in a decorous manner, and keeps his
eyes open without loudly proclaiming scepticism.

"Personally I had been, up to the date of present occurrences,
accustomed to summarize my convictions on the subject by the
conveniently elastic formula that there might be 'something in it.' I
still think so; but perhaps with a difference.

"For the former of the two exposés--if such they shall be deemed--I am
compelled to rely on documentary evidence; but I have 'sat' so many
times with Miss S., have been requested so often by the inspirational
Peter to 'listen to the whip-poor-will, a-singin' on the tree,' have
shaken the spirit hand, gazed on the spirit face, and even cut off
portions of the spirit veil of the fair Florence, that I can follow the
order of events just as though I had been present. I must confess the
wonderful similarity existing between Miss S. and Florence had exercised
me considerably, and perhaps prepared me to accept with calmness what
followed. Why delay the result? Miss S. and her mamma were invited to
the country house of the learned Serjeant. A 'cabinet' was extemporized
in the bay of the window, over which the curtains were drawn and a shawl
pinned. With a confidence which is really charming to contemplate, no
'tests' were asked of the medium, no 'conditions' imposed on the sitter.
Miss S. was put in the cabinet with only a chair, and the expectant
circle waited with patience. In due time the curtains were drawn aside,
and the spirit-face appeared at the opening. It was still the facsimile
of Miss S., with the eyes piously turned up and a ghostly head-dress
covering the hair. One by one the assembled were summoned to look more
closely. The initiated gazed and passed on, knowing they must not peep;
but, alas, one lady who was _not_ initiated, and therefore unaware of
the tacitly imposed conditions, imitated the example of Mother Eve, drew
aside the curtains and exposed the unspiritual form of Miss S. standing
on the chair; the 'spirit-hands' at the same time struggling so
convulsively to close the aperture that the head-gear fell off, and
betrayed the somewhat voluminous chignon of Miss S. herself. Hereupon
ensued a row, it being declared that the medium was killed, though
eventually order was restored by the rather incongruous process of a
gentleman present singing a comic song. The learned Serjeant still
clings to the belief that Miss S. was in a condition of 'unconscious
somnambulism.' I only hope, if ever I am arraigned before him in his
judicial capacity, he will extend his benevolent credulity to me in an
equal degree, and give me the benefit of the doubt.

"It may be in the recollection of those who follow the fluctuations of
the Spiritual 'wave' that some months ago a Dialectical gentleman seized
rudely on the spirit form of Katie, which struggled violently with him,
scratching his face and pulling out his whiskers, eventually making good
its retreat into the cupboard, where Miss C. was presumably bound hand
and foot. I must confess the fact of that escape rather prejudiced me in
favour of Katie, though I would rather she had evaporated into thin air,
and left the dialectical whiskers intact. Still it scored a point on
Katie's side, and I eagerly availed myself of the opportunity to pay my
devoirs at the shrine of Miss C.; the more so as the Professor had
asserted twice that he had seen and handled the form of the medium while
looking on and conversing with that of the spirit at the same time. If I
could retain my former faith in the Professor, of course this would be
final and my conversion an accomplished fact.

"We sat no longer in the subterranean breakfast room of Miss C.'s
parental abode; but moved up to the parlour floor, where two rooms
communicated through folding doors, the front apartment being that in
which we assembled, and the back used as a bedroom, where the ladies
took off their 'things.' This latter room, be it remembered, had a
second room communicating with the passage, and so with the universe of
space in general. One leaf of the folding doors was closed, and a
curtain hung over the other. Pillows were placed on the floor, just
inside the curtain, and the little medium, who was nattily arrayed in a
blue dress, was laid upon them. We were requested to sing and talk
during 'materialization,' and there was as much putting up and lowering
of the light as in a modern sensation drama. The Professor acted all the
time as Master of the Ceremonies, retaining his place at the aperture;
and I fear, from the very first, exciting suspicion by his marked
attentions, not to the medium, but to the ghost. When it did come it was
arrayed according to orthodox ghost fashion, in loose white garments,
and I must confess with no resemblance to Miss C. We were at the same
time shown the recumbent form of the pillowed medium, and there
certainly was something blue, which might have been Miss C., or only her
gown going to the wash. By-and-by, however, with 'lights down,' a bottle
of phosphorized oil was produced, and by this weird and uncanny radiance
one or two privileged individuals were led by the 'ghost' into the back
bedroom, and allowed to put their hands on the entranced form of the
medium. I was not of the 'elect,' but I talked to those who were, and
their opinion was that the 'ghost' was a much stouter, bigger woman than
the medium; and I must confess that certain unhallowed ideas of the
bedroom door and the adjacent kitchen stairs connected themselves in my
mind with recollections of a brawny servant girl who used to sit sentry
over the cupboard in the breakfast room. Where was she?

"As a final bonne bouche the spirit made its exit from the side of the
folding door covered by the curtain, and immediately Miss C. rose up
with dishevelled locks in a way that must have been satisfactory to
anybody who knew nothing of the back door and the brawny servant, or who
had never seen the late Mr. Charles Kean act in the 'Corsican Brothers'
or the 'Courier of Lyons.'

"I am free to confess the final death-blow to my belief that there might
be 'something in' the Face Manifestations was given by the effusive
Professor who has 'gone in' for the Double with a pertinacity altogether
opposed to the calm judicial examination of his brother learned in the
law, and with prejudice scarcely becoming a F.R.S.

"I am quite aware that all this proves nothing. Miss S. and Miss C. may
each justify Longfellow's adjuration--

    'Trust her not, she is fooling thee;'

and yet ghosts be as genuine as guano. Only I fancy the 'wave' of young
ladies will have to ebb for a little while; and I am exceedingly
interested in speculating as to what will be the next 'cycle.' From
'information I have received,' emanating from Brighton, I am strongly of
opinion that babies are looking up in the ghost market, and that our
next manifestations may come through an infant phenomenon."



CHAPTER XLI.

A SÉANCE FOR SCEPTICS.


"Attracted by the prominence recently given to the subject of
Spiritualism in the _Times_, and undeterred by that journal's subsequent
recantation, or the inevitable scorn of the _Saturday Review_, I
determined to test for myself the value of the testimony so copiously
quoted by believers in the modern marvel. Clearly if certain published
letters of the period were to be put in evidence, Spiritualism had very
much the better, and Science exceedingly little to say for itself. But
we all know that this is a subject on which scientific men are apt to be
reticent. 'Tacere tutum est' seems the Fabian policy adopted by those
who find this new Hannibal suddenly come from across sea into their
midst. It is moreover a subject about which the public will not be
convinced by any amount of writing or talking, but simply by what it can
see and handle for itself. It may be of service, then, if I put on
record the result of an examination made below the surface of this
matter.

"Like most other miracles this particular one evidently has its phases
and comes about in cycles. For a generation past, or nearly so, Modern
Spiritualism has been so far allied with Table-turning and mysterious
rappings as to have appropriated to itself in consequence certain
ludicrous titles, against which it vainly protests. Then cropped up
'levitations' and 'elongations' of the person, and Mr. Home delighted to
put red-hot coals on the heads of his friends. None of these
manifestations, however, were sufficient to make the spiritualistic
theory any other than a huge petitio principii. The Davenports were the
first to inaugurate on anything like an extended scale the alleged
appearance of the human body, or rather of certain members of the human
body, principally arms and hands, through the peep-hole of their
cabinet. Then came 'spirit-voices' with Mrs. Marshall, and aërial
transits on the part of Mrs. Guppy; then the entire 'form of the
departed' was said to be visible chez Messrs. Herne and Williams in
Lamb's Conduit Street, whose abode formed Mrs. Guppy's terminus on the
occasion of her nocturnal voyage. Then came Miss Florence Cook's spirit
faces at Hackney, which were produced under a strong light, which
submitted to be touched and tested in what seemed a very complete
manner, and even held conversations with persons in the circle. Finally,
I heard it whispered that these faces were being recognised on a
somewhat extensive scale at the séances of Mrs. Holmes, in Old Quebec
Street, where certain other marvels were also to be witnessed, which
decided me on paying that lady a visit.

"Even these, however, were not the principal attractions which drew me
to the tripod of the seeress in Quebec Street. It had been continually
urged as an argument against the claims of Modern Spiritualism, first,
that it shunned the light and clave to 'dark' circles; secondly, that it
was over-sensitive on the subject of 'sceptics.' Surely, we are all
sceptics in the sense of investigators. The most pretentious disciple of
Spiritualism does not claim to have exhausted the subject. On the
contrary, they all tell us we are now only learning the alphabet of the
craft. Perhaps the recognised Spirit-faces may have landed us in words
of one syllable, but scarcely more. However, the great advantage which
Mrs. Holmes possessed in my eyes over all professors of the new art was
that she did not object to sceptics. Accordingly to Quebec Street I
went, for the distinct purpose of testing the question of recognition.
If I myself, or any person on whose testimony I could rely, established
a single case of undoubted recognition, that, I felt, would go farther
than anything else towards solving the spiritualistic problem.

"I devoted two Monday evenings to this business; that being the day on
which Mrs. Holmes, as she phrases it, 'sits for faces.' On the former of
the two occasions twenty-seven persons assembled, and the first portion
of the evening was devoted to the Dark Séance, which presented some
novel features in itself, but was not the special object for which I
was present. Mrs. Holmes, who is a self-possessed American lady,
evidently equal to tackling any number of sceptics, was securely tied in
a chair. All the circle joined hands; and certainly, as soon as the
light was out, fiddles, guitars, tambourines and bells did fly about the
room in a very unaccountable manner, and when the candle was lighted, I
found a fiddle-bow down my back, a guitar on my lap, and a tambourine
ring round my neck. But there was nothing spiritual in this, and the
voice which addressed us familiarly during the operation may or may not
have been a spirit voice.

"Mrs. Holmes having been released from some very perplexing knots,
avowedly by Spirit power, proceeded to what is called the 'Ring Test,'
and I was honoured by being selected to make the experiment. I sat in
the centre of the room and held both her hands firmly in mine. I passed
my hands over her arms, without relaxing my grasp, so as to feel that
she had nothing secreted there; when suddenly a tambourine ring,
jinglers and all, was passed on to my arm. Very remarkable; but still
not necessarily spiritual. Certain clairvoyants present said they could
witness the 'disintegration' of the ring. I only felt it pass on to my
arm. On the occasion of my second visit this same feat was performed on
an elderly gentleman, a very confirmed sceptic indeed. This second
circle consisted of twenty persons, many of them very pronounced
disbelievers, and not a little inclined to be 'chaffy.' However all
went on swimmingly.

"After about an hour of rather riotous dark séance, lights were
rekindled and circles re-arranged for the Face Séance which takes place
in subdued light. In the space occupied by the folding doors between the
front and back room a large black screen is placed, with an aperture, or
peep-hole, about eighteen inches square, cut in it. The most minute
examination of this back room is allowed, and I took care to lock both
doors, leaving the keys crosswise in the key-hole, so that they could
not be opened from the outside. We then took our seats in the front room
in three or four lines. I myself occupied the centre of the first row,
about four feet from the screen, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes sitting at a small
table in front of the screen; the theory being that the spirits behind
collect from their 'emanations' material to form the faces. Soon after
we were in position a most ghostly-looking child's face appeared at the
aperture, but was not recognised. Several other corpse-like visages
followed with like absence of recognition. Then came a very old lady's
face, quite life-like, and Mrs. Holmes informed us that the cadaverous
people were those only recently deceased. The old lady looked anxiously
round as if expecting to be recognised, but nobody claimed acquaintance.
In fact no face was recognised at my first visit. The next was a jovial
Joe Bagstock kind of face which peered quite merrily round our circle,
and lastly came a most life-like countenance of an elderly man. This
face, which had a strange leaden look about the eyes, came so close to
the orifice that it actually _lifted_ its grey beard outside. On the
occasion of my second visit a lady present distinctly recognised this as
the face of her husband, and asked the form to show its hand as an
additional mark of identity. This request was complied with, the figure
lifting a thin, white and--as the widow expressed it--'aristocratic'
hand, and kissing it most politely. I am bound to say there was less
emotion manifested on the part of the lady than I should have expected
under the circumstances; and a young man who accompanied her, and who
from the likeness to her must have been her son, surveyed his
resuscitated papa calmly through a double-barrelled opera glass. I am
not sure that I am at liberty to give this lady's name; but, at this
second visit, Mrs. Makdougall Gregory, of 21, Green Street, Grosvenor
Square, positively identified the old lady above-mentioned as a Scotch
lady of title well known to her.

"I myself was promised that a relation of my own would appear on a
future occasion; but on neither of those when I attended did I see
anything that would enable me to test the value of the identifications.
The faces, however, were so perfectly life-like, with the solitary
exception of a dull leaden expression in the eye, that I cannot imagine
the possibility of a doubt existing as to whether they belonged to
persons one knew or not. At all events here is the opportunity of making
the test. No amount of scepticism is a bar to being present. The
appearances are not limited to a privileged few. All see alike: so that
the matter is removed out of the sphere of 'hallucinations.' Everything
is done in the light, too, as far as the faces are concerned. So that
several not unreasonable test-conditions are fulfilled in this case, and
so far a step made in advance of previous manifestations.

"We may well indeed pause--at least I know I did--to shake ourselves,
and ask whereabouts we are. Is this a gigantic imposture? or are the
Witch of Endor and the Cumæan Sibyl revived in the unromantic
neighbourhood of the Marble Arch, and under circumstances that
altogether remove them from the category of the miraculous? England will
take a good deal of convincing on this subject, which is evidently one
that no amount of 'involuntary muscular action,' or 'unconscious
cerebration,' will cover. What if the good old-fashioned ghost be a
reality after all, and Cock Lane no region of the supernatural?

"What then? Why, one may expect to meet one's deceased ancestors at any
hour of the day or night, provided only there be a screen for them to
'form' behind, and a light sufficiently subdued to prevent
disintegration; with, of course, the necessary pigeon-hole for the
display of their venerable physiognomies. On their side of the question,
it will be idle to say, 'No rest but the grave!' for there may not be
rest even there, if Delphic priestesses and Cumæan Sibyls come into
vogue again; and we may as well omit the letters R. I. P. from our
obituary notices as a purely superfluous form of speech."

     *     *     *     *     *

Speaking now in my own proper person as author, I may mention--as I have
purposely deferred doing up to this point--that a light was subsequently
struck at one of Mrs. Holmes's Dark Séances, and that the discoveries
thus made rendered the séance a final one. Mr. and Mrs. Holmes retired,
first to Brighton, and then to America.

They were, at the time of my writing, holding successful séances in the
latter place; and public (Spiritualistic) opinion still clings to the
belief that Mrs. Holmes is a genuine medium.



CHAPTER XLII.

AN EVENING WITH THE HIGHER SPIRITS.


At the head of social heresies, and rapidly beginning to take rank as a
religious heresy as well, I have no hesitation in placing modern
Spiritualism. Those who associate this latest mystery only with gyrating
articles of furniture, rapping tables, or simpering planchettes, are
simply in the abyss of ignorance, and dangerously underrate the gravity
of the subject. The later development of Spirit Faces and Spirit Forms,
each of which I have examined thoroughly, and made the results of my
observations public, fail to afford any adequate idea of the pitch to
which the mania--if mania it be--has attained. To many persons
Spiritualism forms the ultimatum, not only in science, but also in
religion. Whatever the Spirits tell them they believe and do as devoutly
as the Protestant obeys his Bible, the Catholic his Church, or the
scientific man follows up the results of his demonstrations. That is, in
fact, the position they assume. They claim to have attained in matters
of religion to demonstration as clear and infallible as the philosopher
does in pure science. They say no longer "We believe," but "We know."
These people care little for the vagaries of Dark Circles, or even the
doings of young ladies with "doubles." The flight of Mrs. Guppy through
the air, the elongation of Mr. Home's braces, the insertion of live
coals among the intricacies of Mr. S. C. Hall's exuberant locks, are but
the A B C which have led them to their present advanced position. These
physical "manifestations" may do for the neophytes. They are the
initiated. I am the initiated; or I ought to be, if patience and
perseverance constitute serving an apprenticeship. I have devoted a good
portion of my late life to the study. I have given up valuable evenings
through several consecutive winters to dark séances; have had my hair
pulled, my head thumped with paper tubes, and suffered other indignities
at the hands of the "Invisibles;" and, worse than all, my friends have
looked upon me as a lunatic for my pains, and if my enemies could have
wrought their will they would have incarcerated me as non compos, or
made an auto-da-fe of me as a heretic years ago.

Through sheer length of service, then, if on no other account, I had
grown somewhat blasé with the ordinary run of manifestations. Spirit
Faces no longer interest me; for I seek among them in vain the
lineaments of my departed friends. Spirit Hands I shake as unconcernedly
as I do those of my familiar acquaintances at the club or in the street.
I have even cut off a portion of the veil of Miss Florence Maple, the
Aberdeen Spirit, and gone away with it in my pocket: so that it was, at
all events, a new sensation when I received an invitation to be present
at a trance séance, where one of the Higher Spirits communicated to the
assembled things undreamed of in mundane philosophy. The sitting was a
strictly private one; so I must not mention names or localities; but
this does not matter, as I have no marvels in the vulgar sense of the
word to relate: only Higher Teachings, which will do just as well with
asterisks or initials as with the names in full.

The scene, then, was an artist's studio at the West End of London, and
the medium a magnetic lady with whom I had frequently sat before, though
not for the "Higher" teachings. Her instruction had so far come in the
shape of very vigorous raps, which ruined my knuckles to imitate them,
and in levitation of a small and volatile chess table, which resisted
all my efforts to keep it to the paths of propriety. This lady was not
young; and I confess frankly this was, to my thinking, an advantage.
When I once told a sceptical friend about Miss Florence Cook's séance,
and added, triumphantly, "Why, she's a pretty little simple girl of
sixteen," that clenched the doubts of this Thomas at once, for he
rejoined, "What is there that a pretty little _simple_ girl of sixteen
won't do?" Miss Showers is sweet sixteen, too; and when "Peter" sings
through her in a clear baritone voice, I cannot, despite myself, help
the thought occasionally flitting across my mind, "Would that you were
six-and-twenty, or, better still, six-and-thirty, instead of sixteen!"
Without specifying to which of the two latter classes our present medium
belonged, one might venture to say she had safely passed the former. She
was of that ripe and Rubens-like beauty to which we could well imagine
some "Higher" spirit offering the golden apple of its approval, however
the skittish Paris of the spheres might incline to sweet sixteen. I had
a short time before sat infructuously with this lady, when a distressing
contretemps occurred. We were going in for a dark séance then, and just
as we fancied the revenants were about to justify the title, we were
startled by a crash, and on my lighting up, all of the medium I could
see were two ankles protruding from beneath the table. She had fainted
"right off," as the ladies say, and it required something strong to
bring her to. In fact, we all had a "refresher," I recollect, for
sitting is generally found to be exhausting to the circle as well as to
the medium. On the present occasion, however, everything was, if not en
plein jour, en plein gaz. There was a good deal of preliminary
difficulty as to the choice of a chair for the medium. Our artist-friend
had a lot of antique affairs in his studio, no two being alike, and I
was glad to see the lady select a capacious one with arms to it, from
which she would not be likely to topple off when the spirits took
possession. The rest of us sat in a sort of irregular circle round the
room, myself alone being accommodated with a small table, not for the
purposes of turning (I am set down as "too physical") but in order to
report the utterances of the Higher Spirits. We were five "assistants"
in all--our host, a young lady residing with him, another lady well
known as a musical artiste, with her mamma and my unworthy self.
Installed in her comfortable chair, the medium went through a series of
facial contortions, most of which looked the reverse of pleasing, though
occasionally she smiled benignantly par parenthèse. I was told--or I
understood it so--that this represented her upward passage through
different spheres. She was performing, in fact, a sort of spiritualistic
"Excelsior." By way of assimilating our minds to the matter in hand, we
discussed the Apocryphal Gospels, which happened to be lying on the
table; and very soon, without any other process than the facial
contortions having been gone through, the medium broke silence, and, in
measured tones of considerable benignity, said:--"Friends, we greet you
in the name of our Lord and Master. Let us say the Lord's Prayer."

She then repeated the Lord's Prayer, with considerable alterations from
the Authorized Version, especially, I noticed, inserting the
Swedenborgian expressions, "the Heavens," "on earth;" but also altering
the order of the clauses, and omitting one altogether. She then informed
us that she was ready to answer questions on any subject, but that we
were not bound to accept any teaching which she--or let us say they,
for it was the spirits now speaking--might give us. "What did we wish to
know?" I always notice that when this question is asked at a spirit
circle everybody simultaneously shuts up, as though the desire for
knowledge were dried at its source. Nobody spoke, and I myself was not
prepared with a subject, but I had just been reviewing a Swedenborgian
book, and I softly insinuated "Spiritual Marriage." It was graciously
accepted; and our Sibyl thus delivered herself:--Mankind, the higher
Spirit or Spirits, said was originally created in pairs, and the soul
was still dual. Somehow or other--my notes are not quite clear how--the
parts had got mixed up, separated, or wrongly sorted. There were,
however, some advantages in this wrong sorting, which was so frequent an
accident of terrestrial marriage, since it was possible for people to be
too much alike--an observation I fancied I had heard before, or at least
not so profound a one as to need a ghost "Come from the dead to tell us
that, Horatio!" When the right halves did get together on earth the good
developed for good, the evil for evil, until they got to the heavens or
the other places--they were all plurals. Swedenborgianism has an
objection to the singular number; and I could not fail to identify the
teaching of the Higher Spirit at once with that of the New Jerusalem
Church. Two preliminary facts were brought before us; the Higher Spirits
were in theology Swedenborgian, and in medical practice homoeopaths. So
was the Medium. Although there was no marriage in the spiritual world,
in our sense of the term, there was not only this re-sorting and
junction of the disunited bivalves, but there were actual "nuptials"
celebrated. We were to be careful and understand that what terrestrials
called marriage celestials named nuptials--it seemed to me rather a
distinction without a difference. There was no need of any ceremony, but
still a ceremony was pleasing and also significant. I asked if it was
true, as I had read in the Swedenborgian book, that all adult angels
were married. She replied, "Yes; they married from the age of 18 to 24,
and the male was always a few years older than the female."

There was a tendency, which I continually had to check, on the part of
the Medium to wander off from matrimonial to theological subjects; and
the latter, though trite, were scarcely so heterodox as I expected. I
had found most "spiritualistic" teaching to be purely Theistic. Love to
God and man were declared to be the great essentials, and creeds to
matter little. If a man loved truth, it was no matter how wild or absurd
his ideas might be. The love of God might seem a merely abstract idea,
but it was not so. To love goodness was to love God. The love of the
neighbour, in the sense of loving all one's kind, might seem hard, too;
but it was not really so. There were in the sphere where this
Intelligence dwelt millions of angels, or good spirits, working for the
salvation of men.

I ought to mention that this lady, in her normal condition, is
singularly reticent, and that the "communications" I chronicle were
delivered fluently in one unbroken chain of what often rose into real
eloquence.

So Christ came for the good of man, and Christ was not the only Messiah
who had appeared on earth. In the millions of ages that had passed over
our globe, and in the other planets of our solar system, there had risen
up "other men filled with the spirit of good, and so Sons of God." I
here tried to get at the views of the Higher Spirits on the Divinity of
Christ, but found considerable haziness; at one time it was roundly
asserted, at another it seemed to me explained away by such expressions
as I have quoted above.

Our planet, I was informed, had been made the subject of special care
because we were more material, more "solid" than the inhabitants of any
other orb. There was an essential difference between Christ and all
other great teachers, such as Buddha; and there were no historical
records of any other manifestation of the Messiah than that we
possessed; but such manifestations had taken place.

The Spirit then gave us an account of its surroundings, which is, I
believe, purely Swedenborgian. The "celestial" angels were devoted to
truth, the "spiritual" angels to goodness; and so, too, there were the
Homes of the Satans, where falsehoods prevailed, and of the Devils,
where evils predominated. Spirits from each of these came to man and
held him in equilibrio; but gained power as his will inclined towards
them. The will was not altogether free, because affected by inherited
tendencies; but the "determination" was. I have no idea what the Higher
Spirit meant by this; and I rather fancy the Higher Spirit was in some
doubt itself. It rather put me in mind of the definition of metaphysics:
"If you are talking to me of what you know nothing about, and I don't
understand a word of what you are saying--that's metaphysics."

All can do good, continued the Sibyl. Evil cannot compel you. Utter only
such an aspiration as, "God help me," and it brings a crowd of angels
round you. From those who came to them from this world, however, they
(the Higher Spirits) found that teachers taught more about what we were
to think than what we were to do. Goodness was so easy. A right belief
made us happier; but right action was essential.

Pushed by our host, who was rather inclined to "badger" the Higher
Spirit, as to irresistible tendencies, the Intelligence said they were
_not_ irresistible. When we arrived in the Spirit World we should find
everything that had occurred in our lives photographed. You will condemn
yourselves, it was added. You will not be "had up" before an angry God.
_You_ will decide, in reference to any wrong action, whether you could
help it. Even in the act of doing it a man condemns himself; much more
so there. The doctrine of the Atonement was summarily disposed of as a
"damnable heresy." "Does the Great Spirit want one man to die? It hurts
us even to think of it!"

I then questioned the Medium with regard to the resurrection of the
body; and was told that man, as originally created, was a spiritual
being, but had "superinduced" his present body of flesh--how he managed
it I did not quite gather. As to possible sublimation of corporeal
integument, the case of ghosts was mentioned. It was to no purpose I
gently insinuated I had never seen a ghost, or had the existence of one
properly authenticated. I was told that if I fired a pistol through a
ghost only a small particle of dust would remain which could be swept
up. I was not aware that even so much would remain. Fancy "sweeping up"
a Higher Spirit!

I could not help once or twice pausing to look round on this strange
preacher and congregation. The comfortable-looking lady propped in an
arm-chair, and with an urbane smile discoursing on these tremendous
topics, our little congregation of five, myself writing away for dear
life, the young hostess nursing a weird-looking black cat; the other
young lady continually harking back to "conjugal" subjects, which
seemed to interest her; the mamma slightly flabbergastered at the rather
revolutionary nature of the communications; and our host every now and
then throwing in a rude or caustic remark. I dreaded to think what might
have been the result of a domiciliary visit paid by a Commissioner in
Lunacy to that particular studio!

Back, then, the musical young lady took us to conjugal pairs. It was
very difficult to convey to us what this conjugal love was like. Was it
Elective Affinity? I asked. Yes; something like that, but still not
that. It was the spontaneous gravitation in the spheres, either to
other, of the halves of the dual spirit dissociated on earth. Not at
all--again in reply to me--like flirting in a corner. The two, when
walking in the spheres, looked like one. This conjugal puzzle was too
much for us. We "gave it up;" and with an eloquent peroration on the
Dynamics of Prayer, the séance concluded.

The Lord's Prayer was again said, with even more varieties than before;
a few extemporaneous supplications were added. The process of coming-to
seemed even more disagreeable, if one may judge by facial expression,
than going into the trance. Eventually, to get back quite to earth, our
Sibyl had to be demesmerized by our host, and in a few minutes was
partaking of a ham sandwich and a cup of coffee as though she had never
been in nubibus at all.

What the psychological condition had been I leave for those more
learned than myself to determine. That some exaltation of the faculties
took place was clear. That the resulting intelligence was of deep
practical import few, I fancy, would aver. Happily my mission is not to
discuss, but to describe; and so I simply set down my experience in the
same terms in which it was conveyed to me as "An Evening with the Higher
Spirits."



CHAPTER XLIII.

SPIRIT FORMS.


Some years ago I contributed to the columns of a daily paper an article
on Spirit Faces, which was to me the source of troubles manifold. In the
first place, the inquirers into Spiritualism, whose name I found to be
legion, inundated me with letters, asking me to take them to the house
of pretty Miss Blank, the medium. Miss Blank might have been going on
till now, holding nightly receptions, without having exhausted her list
of self-invited guests; I had but one answer; the lady was a comparative
stranger to me, and not a professional medium; ergo, the legion must ask
some one to chaperone them elsewhere. Spirit Faces had got comparatively
common and almost gone out since I wrote. We are a long way beyond faces
now. Then, again, my second source of trouble was that forthwith, from
the date of my writing, the Spiritualists claimed me for their own, as
Melancholy did the young gentleman in Gray's elegy. Though I fancied my
paper was only a calm judicial statement of things seen, and I carefully
avoided saying whether I was convinced or not, I found myself nolens
volens enrolled among the initiated, and expected to devote about five
evenings out of the seven to séances. I did go, and do go still to a
great many; so that I feel pretty well posted up in the "Latest
Intelligence" of the Spiritual world. But the worst of all is that my
own familiar friends, in whom I trusted, have also lifted up their heels
against me--I mean metaphorically, of course. "What's the last new thing
in spirits?" they ask me out loud in omnibuses or railway carriages,
causing my fellow-travellers to look at me in doubt as to whether I am a
licensed victualler or a necromancer. As "bigots feign belief till they
believe," I really begin to have some doubts myself as to the state of
my convictions.

But I wish to make this paper again a simple statement of things heard
and seen--especially seen. I flatter myself the title is a nice, weird,
ghostly one, calculated to make people feel uncomfortable about the
small hours of the morning. Should such be the case--as they say in
prefaces--the utmost hopes of the writer will be realized. When last I
communicated my experiences, the ultimate end we had reached was the
appearance of a white counterpart of pretty Miss Blank's face at the
peep-hole of a corner cupboard. There were a good many more or
less--generally less--successful imitations of this performance in
various quarters, and the sensation subsided. Miss B. was still facile
princeps from the fact that she stood full light--I mean her spirit-face
did--whilst all the others leaned to a more or less dim religious kind
of gloom. In a short time, however, "Katie"--as the familiar of Miss B.
was termed--thought she would be able to "materialize" herself so far as
to present the whole form, if we re-arranged the corner cupboard so as
to admit of her doing so. Accordingly we opened the door, and from it
suspended a rug or two opening in the centre, after the fashion of a
Bedouin Arab's tent, formed a semicircle, sat and sang Longfellow's
"Footsteps of Angels." Therein occurs the passage: "Then the forms of
the departed enter at the open door." And, lo and behold, though we had
left Miss B. tied and sealed to her chair, and clad in an ordinary black
dress somewhat voluminous as to the skirts, a tall female figure draped
classically in white, with bare arms and feet, did enter at the open
door, or rather down the centre from between the two rugs, and stood
statue-like before us, spoke a few words, and retired; after which we
entered the Bedouin tent and found pretty Miss B. with her dress as
before, knots and seals secure, and her boots on! This was Form No. 1,
the first I had ever seen. It looked as material as myself; and on a
subsequent occasion--for I have seen it several times--we took four very
good photographic portraits of it by magnesium light. The difficulty I
still felt, with the form as with the faces, was that it seemed so
thoroughly material and flesh-and-blood like. Perhaps, I thought, the
authoress of "The Gates Ajar" is right, and the next condition of things
may be more material than we generally think, even to the extent of
admitting, as she says, pianofortes among its adjuncts. But I was to see
something much more ghostly than this.

The great fact I notice about Spiritualism is, that it is obeying the
occult impetus of all great movements, and steadily going from east to
west. From Hackney and Highbury it gravitates towards Belgravia and
Tyburnia. I left the wilds of Hackney behind, and neared Hyde Park for
my next Form. I must again conceal names and localities; I have no
desire to advertise mediums, or right to betray persons who have shown
me hospitality--and Spirit Forms. We arranged ourselves in a semicircle
around the curtains which separated the small back drawing-room from the
large front one, joined hands, sang until we were hoarse as crows, and
kept our eyes steadily fixed on an aperture left between the curtains
for the faces to show themselves. The room was in blank darkness, and,
feeling rather tired of the incantation, I looked over my shoulder into
the gloom, and lo! a shadowy form stood self-illuminated not far from
me. At last I had seen it--a good orthodox ghost in white, and visible
in the darkness. It was the form of the redoubtable John King himself,
who was, I believe, a bold buccaneer in the flesh, but who looked more
like an Arab sheikh in the spirit. He sailed about the room, talked to
us, and finally disappeared. Eventually he reappeared behind the
curtains, and for a brief space the portière was drawn aside, and the
spirit form was seen lighting up the recumbent figure of the medium,
who was stretched on a sofa, apparently in deep trance. It must be borne
in mind that we were forming a cordon round the passage from one room to
the other during the whole of this time. A trio of "spirits" generally
puts in an appearance at these séances. In this case there were John
King, whom I had now seen, as well as heard; Katie, the familiar of Miss
B.; and a peculiarly lugubrious gentleman named Peter, who, I fancy, has
not been seen, but who has several times done me the favour of grasping
my hand and hoisting me towards the ceiling, as though he were going to
carry me off bodily to spirit-land. I stand some six feet in my boots,
and have stepped upon my chair, and still felt the hand coming downwards
to me--where from I have no idea.

But my later experiences have still to be told. I was invited a few
weeks ago to a very select séance indeed, where the same medium was to
officiate. This family, who spared no expense in their investigations,
had actually got a large, handsome cabinet standing in their dining-room
as a recognised piece of furniture. It was only used, however, on this
occasion for the imprisonment of the medium. The evolutions of John
King, who soon appeared, all took place outside the cabinet door. He was
only "materialized" to the middle; and, to our utter amazement, came up
to the table, and apparently _through_ the table, into the very middle
of the circle, where he disported himself in various ways, keeping up
an animated conversation the whole time, and frequently throwing himself
into the attitude of a person swimming on his back. He also went upwards
as high as the gasalier, and altogether did a good many marvellous
things, considering that all this time he presented the appearance of
only half a man illuminated by his own light.

On one occasion only have I been seated next to the medium during the
manifestation of any of these forms. At this séance I held him firmly by
one hand, and a slightly sceptical lady had the other. We never let go
for a moment, but during the whole of the sitting, while John King,
Katie, and Peter were talking, tiny children's hands were playing with
my arm, hands, and hair. There were, of course, no children in the room.
Peter, the lugubrious, is great at light porterage. I have known him
bring a large collection of valuable Sèvres china, and a timepiece with
its glass case, from the chimney-piece to the table--no easy task in the
light, much less in blank darkness. He also frequently takes down the
pictures from the wall and puts them on the table. Katie winds up a
large musical box, and wafts it, while playing, all over the room. Of
course we rub our eyes and ask what on earth, if it be on earth, does
this mean? I have not--to keep up the diction of my subject--the _ghost_
of an idea. If it's conjuring, why don't the mediums say so, and enter
the field openly against Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke and Dr. Lynn? Even
if I had a decided opinion about it I should refrain from propounding it
here, because, in the first place, it would be an impertinence, and, in
the second, no conclusion can be arrived at upon testimony alone. People
must see for themselves and draw their own inferences. In the meantime
the thing, whatever it is, grows and grows upwards. A year ago I had to
journey down east to find it. Now I must array myself gorgeously like a
Staffordshire miner, and seek the salons of the West. The great
desideratum, it still appears to me, is that some man with a name in
science should examine the matter, honestly resolving to endorse the
facts if true, but to expose them mercilessly if there be a loophole for
suspicion. Omne ignotum pro magnifico habetur. I used to think ghosts
big things, but that was before I knew them. I should think no more of
meeting a ghost now than a donkey on a dark night, and would infinitely
sooner tackle a spirit than a burglar. People's curiosity is roused, and
the sooner somebody gets at the truth the better. It is a somewhat
irksome task, it is true; but no general principle can be arrived at
except by an induction of particulars. Let us be Baconian, even to our
ghosts. If they _are_ ghosts, they are a good deal more substantial than
I had thought. If they are not, let somebody, in the name of
nineteenth-century science, send them off as with the crow of
chanticleer, and let us hear no more of Spirit Faces or Spirit Forms.



CHAPTER XLIV.

SITTING WITH A SIBYL.


The connexion of modesty with merit is proverbial, though questioned by
Sydney Smith, who says their only point in common is the fact that each
begins with an--m. Modesty, however--waiving the question of
accompanying merit--is a trait which, in my mystic inquiries and devious
wanderings, I meet with far more frequently than might be expected. I
have just met with two instances which I hasten to put on record, if
only to confute those who say that the age in general, and spirit
mediums in particular, are not prone to be modest and retiring. My first
modest person was a Spirit Photographer; my second was a Sibyl. I might
have looked for bashfulness in the latter, but was certainly surprised
to meet with it in the former. I suddenly learnt from the Medium the
fact that a Spirit Photographer had settled down in my immediate
neighbourhood, and the appearance of his ghostly advertisement brings to
my recollection some previous mystic experiences I myself had in this
way.

A now celebrated medium, Mrs. Guppy, née Miss Nicholl, was, in the days
of her maidenhood, a practitioner of photography in Westbourne Grove;
and, as far as I know, she might have been the means of opening up to
the denizens of the Summer Land this new method of terrestrial
operations. Ever on the qui vive for anything new in the occult line, I
at once interviewed Miss Nicholl and sat for my portrait, expecting at
the least to find the attendant spirit of my departed grandmamma or
defunct maiden aunt standing sentinel over me, as I saw departed
relations doing in many cartes de visite in the room. I confess there
was a kind of made-up theatrical-property look about the attendant
spirits which gave one the idea that the superior intelligences must
have dressed in a hurry when they sat or stood for their portraits. They
looked, in fact, if it be not irreverent to say it, rather like so many
bundles of pneumatical rags than respectable domestic ghosts. However,
as long as I got the ghosts I did not care about the dress. Tenue de
soir point de rigueur, I would have said, as they do outside the cheap
casinos in Paris, or "Evening dress not required," if one must descend
to the vernacular. Well, I sat persistently and patiently through I am
afraid to say how many operations, and the operator described me as
being surrounded by spirits--I always am according to Mediums, but my
spirits must be eminently unsociable ones, for they seldom give me a
word, and on this occasion refused to be "taken" as resolutely as the
bashful gentleman in the _Graphic_ who resisted the operations of the
prison officials to obtain a sun-picture of his interesting
physiognomy. There was indeed a blotch on one of the negatives, which I
was assured was a spirit. I could not see things in that light.

Foiled on this particular occasion my anxiety was dormant, but never
died out. I still longed for a denizen of the other world to put in an
appearance, and kept on being photographed over and over again until I
might have been the vainest man alive, on the bare hope that the artist
might be a Medium malgré lui or undeveloped. I had heard there were such
beings, but they never came in my way. I was really serious in this
wish, because I felt if it could be granted, the possibility of
deception being prevented, the objectivity of the phenomena would be
guaranteed. At this time I was heretical enough to believe that most
ghosts were due to underdone pork or untimely Welsh rare-bits, and that
the raps assigned to their agency were assignable to the active toes of
the Medium which might be anywhere and up to anything with the
opportunities of a dark séance.

A short time since, however, M. Buguet, a celebrated French Spirit
Photographer came from Paris to London, and received sitters for the
modest sum of _30s._ each. This would have been much beyond my means;
but I suppose my wish had transpired, and that gentleman sent me an
invitation to sit gratis, which, I need not say, I thankfully accepted.
I felt sure that M. Buguet did not know either my long-lost grandmother
or lamented maiden aunt, so that any portraits I might get from him
would be presumably genuine. I sat; and over my manly form, when the
negative came to be cleaned, was a female figure in the act of
benediction. I have no notion how she got there--for I watched every
stage in the operation, and selected my plate myself; but neither, on
the other hand, does she bear the faintest resemblance to anybody I ever
knew.

Still M. Buguet is not my modest photographer. Elated by success so far,
I called on the local gentleman who advertised in the _Medium_; but the
local gentleman was "engaged." I wrote to the local gentleman appointing
an interview; but the local gentleman replied not. Yet still his
advertisement remains; and I see in every spiritualistic album dozens of
"property" relations in the shape of quasi-spirits, and wonder why the
local gentleman would not take me, so as to be immortalized in these
pages.

Equally modest was the advertising Sibyl. I wrote to the Sibyl, and
somebody replied, and "respectfully declined." But I was not to be done.
There is more than one Sibyl in the world. I called on No. 2 without
announcing my intention or sending in my name. This Sibyl at once
admitted me, and I mounted to the first floor front of a respectable
suburban lodging-house.

I waited anxiously for a long time, wondering whether Sibyl was
partaking of the onions, whose presence in that modest domicile was
odoriferously evidenced to my nose, though it was then scarcely
half-past one o'clock. Presently a portly middle-aged man, who might
have been Sibyl's youthful papa, or rather aged husband, entered, wiping
his mouth. He had clearly been partaking of the fragrant condiment.

Where was Sibyl?

"She would be with us directly," the gentleman said, varying the
proceedings by picking his teeth in the interim.

She _was_ with us in a minute, and never, I suppose, did picturesque
anticipations more suddenly collapse and come to grief than mine. I had
pictured Sibyl a bright ethereal being, and the realization of my ideal
weighed twelve stone, if an ounce. She was a big, fleshy, large-boned
woman of an utterly uncertain age, not without considerable good-nature
in her extensive features; but the pervading idea that you had when you
looked at Sibyl was that there was _too much of her_. I could not help
thinking of the husband who said he did not like a big wife: he
preferred two small ones; and then again I fell into wonderment as to
whether the man who was still engaged with his dental apparatus was
Sibyl's husband or papa.

I told them I was anxious to test Sibyl's powers; and, with a few passes
from his fat dumpy hands, the man soon put her to sleep. It looked to me
like an after-dinner nap, but I was told it was magnetic. It might have
been. By the way, I had unmistakable evidence from my olfactory organ
that Sibyl _had_ been eating onions.

I had provided myself with two locks of hair, as I had heard that
"psychometry" was among Sibyl's qualifications. I handed her the first,
and she immediately proceeded to describe a series of tableaux which
appeared to pass through her mind. She kept handling the lock of hair,
and said, "The person to whom this belongs is ill--weak," which was true
enough, but might, I thought, be a shot. I should mention, however, that
it was quite impossible Sibyl could know me. She had not even heard my
name. She then described a bedroom, with some person--she could not see
what person--lying in bed, and a lady in a blue dress bending over her.
This, again, I thought might flow out as a deduction from her premises
of the hair belonging to an invalid. The blue dress was correct enough,
but still so little special as to be a very possible coincidence. She
then, however, startled me by saying, "I notice this, that on the table
by the bedside, where the bottles of medicine are standing, milk has
been spilt--a large quantity--and not wiped up." This was a trivial
detail, not known to me at the time, but confirmed on subsequent
inquiry.

She then passed on to describe a second tableau, where the same person
in the blue dress was in a room _all hung over with plates_, along with
a gentleman whom she described very accurately. He was the occupant of
the house where the patient lay, and, having a hobby for old china, had
turned his dining-room into a sort of crockery shop by hanging it all
over with the delf.

This was curious enough, though not very convincing. It seemed as though
the influence of this person who had given me the hair was stronger than
that of the hair itself. With the second lock of hair we failed utterly.
She said that also came from a sick person, but a person not sick with
the same disease as the other. She was quite positive they came from
different people, and asked me to feel the difference of texture. I am
sorry, for Sibyl's sake, to say they both came from the same person, and
were cut at the same time, though from different parts of the head,
which made one look silkier than the other.

As a test of Sibyl's clairvoyance, this was not very satisfactory. She
read the inscription on a card when her eyes were bandaged, pressing it
to her forehead; but then olden experiences in the way of blindman's
buff convince me that it is very difficult to say when a person is
properly blinded.

Altogether, then, I never quite got over my previous disappointment at
Sibyl's bulk. Had she been pretty and frizzle-headed like Miss Annie Eva
Fay, or like Miss Showers or Miss Florence Cook, I might have been
disposed to make more of her coincidences and to wink at her failures.
We _are_ so liable to be led away by our feelings in these matters.
Sibyl was large, had eaten onions, and would have been improved if she
had brushed her hair, and so I am afraid I rather grudged the somewhat
exorbitant fee which the fat-handed man--not Sibyl--took and pocketed in
an interval of his dental pursuit, and I passed out from that suburban
lodging, none of us, I fancy, very well satisfied with one another. I
have an idea I unconsciously expressed my inner feelings of
disappointment with Sibyl and something stronger in reference to her
male companion.



CHAPTER XLV.

SPIRITUALISTS AND CONJURERS.


"How it's done" is the question which, in the words of Dr. Lynn, we want
to settle with reference to his own or kindred performances, and, still
more, in the production of the phenomena known as spiritual. I have
spent some years of my existence in a hitherto vain endeavour to solve
the latter problem; and the farther I go, the more the mystery seems to
deepen. Of late, the two opposed parties, the Spiritualists and the
Conjurers, have definitely entered the arena, and declared war to the
knife. Each claims to be Moses, and denounces the others as mere
magicians. Mr. Maskelyne holds a dark séance, professing to expose the
spiritualistic ones; Dr. Lynn brandishes against them his strong right
arm upon which is written in letters all of blood the name of one's
deceased grandmother, while, in return, Dr. Sexton exposes the
conjurers, and spoils one's enjoyment of a hitherto enjoyable evening,
by showing "how it's done"--how the name of one's departed relative is
forged and painted early in the afternoon, instead of "coming out" on
the spot--and in spots--like measles or nettle-rash (as we feel defunct
relations ought to come) or walking in and out of the corded box at
pleasure, and even going so far as to give the address of the clever
mechanist down a by-street near Notting-hill Gate, who will make the
mysterious packing case to order in return for a somewhat heavy
"consideration."

I accepted Dr. Lynn's invitation to be present on his "opening night;"
and wondered, in passing, why everybody should not make their cards of
invitation such thorough works of art as his. Now I am going to do
even-handed justice all the way round; and I must say that Dr. Lynn's
experiment of fastening his attendant to a sort of penitential stool
with copper wire, surrounded by scrutineers from the audience, and then
making the man's coat come off, and a ring pass over his arm, behind a
simple rug held in front of him, is quite as wonderful as anything I
have ever witnessed at a séance. It has the great advantage of being
done in the light, instead of, as in Mr. Fay's case, in darkness, and
without a cabinet. In fact, I have no idea how it's done; though I have
no doubt the first time I see Dr. Sexton he will point to something
unsatisfactory in the bolts to which that doorkeeper is fastened, and
give me the addresses of the ironmonger who will sell me some like them,
or the tailor who will manufacture me a swallow tail coat with an
imperceptible slit down the back. Then again, I have, as I said, seen
young Mr. Sexton go in and out of the corded box, and I know how that's
done; but Dr. Lynn's man goes into three, one inside the other. Well, I
can understand that if Dr. Sexton's theory be correct, it may perhaps be
as easy to get into a "nest" of three as into one box; but how, in the
name of nature--or art--does the nautical gentleman get out of the
double sack in which he is tied? I cannot bring myself to print what Dr.
Sexton's theory of the box is, because it appears to be such a wanton
cruelty to "expose" things when people go to the Egyptian Hall on
purpose to be mystified. I remember how the fact of having seen Dr.
Sexton do the trick of reading the names in the hat spoilt my enjoyment
of Dr. Lynn's experiment. He really appeared quite bungling when I knew
all he was about. He did not, on this occasion, produce the letters on
his arm; but I saw he could quite easily have done so, though the doing
it would have been no sort of reproduction of Mr. Forster's
manifestation, who showed you the name of some relative when you had
looked in on him quite unexpectedly. I can quite understand how it is
that the spiritualists, who hold these matters to be sacred as
revelation itself--in fact, to be revelation itself, are shocked at
seeing their convictions denounced as trickery and "exposed" on a public
platform; but I confess I do not quite see how they can adopt the tu
quoque principle, and "expose" Dr. Lynn and Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke
as tricksters, because they do not pretend to be anything else. It
would have been fatal if the magicians had "found out" Moses, and they
wisely refrained from trying; but it would have served no purpose for
Moses to "find out" the magicians: and it strikes me Moses would have
deemed it very infra dig. to make the attempt. The two things stand on
quite different grounds; and I cannot help thinking that the
spiritualists unwisely concede a point when they accept the challenge of
the conjurers. I am quite aware that the theory of the spiritualists
makes of many a conjurer a medium malgré lui, and says he ought to come
out in his true colours. It was so Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke were
originally introduced to a London public at the Crystal Palace under the
auspices of an eminent spiritualist; but it really appears to me that
such an assertion amounts to begging the question; for I doubt whether
it would not "pay" quite as well to come out boldly in Mr. Williams's or
Mr. Morse's line as in that of Dr. Lynn or Mr. Maskelyne.

In a lengthened confab which I once had with Mr. Maskelyne himself after
one of his performances, he told me that by constant attendance at the
séances of the Davenports he found out how that was all done; and, being
a working watchmaker, was able soon to get the necessary apparatus
constructed. I must again be just, and state that while the cabinet
séance of Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke seems to me the exact counterpart
of the Davenports', their dark séance fails to reproduce that of the
spiritualists as the performances of Professor Pepper himself. True,
this latter gentleman does all his exposés on a platform which is sacred
against all intrusion, and Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke assume to allow
as much examination as the spiritualists. But I myself, who have seen
Mr. Home float around Mr. S. C. Hall's drawing-room, and handled him
above and below in transitu, quite fail to discern any reproduction of
that phenomenon in the heavy, lumbering levitation of the lady by means
of the scissors-like apparatus behind her, which we are only privileged
to behold from the stalls. The dancing walking-stick is as palpably made
terpsichorean by a string as the chairs I have seen cross Mr. Hall's
drawing-room in full light were not drawn by strings, for I was able to
look closely at them; and I do not know how that was done.

Fresh from Dr. Lynn's really marvellous performances of recent times,
and with Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke's equally clever tricks in my
mind's eye, though not quite so recently, I still am bold to say I
believe there are still six of one to half-a-dozen of the other. If the
conjurers reproduce the spiritual phenomena in some instances, the
spiritualists distance the conjurers in others. I speak of phenomena
only. The magicians produced many of the same phenomena as Moses; but,
even so, if we are orthodox we must believe the source of such
manifestations to have been utterly different.

But I am, as I said, wise in my generation, and stick to phenomena. I
venture to think the conjurers unwise in irritating the spiritualists,
who are a growing body, by placarding their entertainment as exposés,
even though such announcements may "draw" the non-spiritual public. I
suppose, however, they understand the science of advertising better than
I do; but I feel sure the spiritualists are unwise to follow their
example, because they have got nothing to expose. Dr. Lynn or Messrs.
Maskelyne and Cooke are as much pleased as conscientious mediums would
be shocked at being proved clever tricksters. The only folks who are
injured by being told "how it's done," are the British Public, who pay
their five shillings to be mystified at the Egyptian Hall, just as the
spiritualists do in Lamb's Conduit Street.

If it is to come to a race for the championship--and seriously it would
seem that, having begun, the two parties are bound to continue the
strife--one can scarcely imagine anything more attractive than such a
combined display of talent. Dr. Lynn gets lots of people to come and see
"How it's done"--the gentleman with the mandolin is well worth a visit,
and I cannot guess how he does it--while Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke
must really be making a good thing of it. Mr. Williams's séances are
decidedly attractive (and how he does it has puzzled me for years, as I
said), nor does the Progressive Institute seem to decrease in interest;
but let us only picture the fascination of a long evening where Pepper's
Ghost should be pitted against John King, Mrs. Guppy and Messrs.
Maskelyne and Cooke's lady float in competition round the room or even
in from the suburbs, while the Davenports and Dr. Lynn's man should
wriggle out of or into iron rings and their own dress coats! Until some
such contest takes place, the public mind will probably gravitate
towards the conjurers rather than the spiritualists, and that through
the actually suicidal policy of the latter; because while the
spiritualists of necessity can show no visible source of their
manifestations, one of their own rank devotes himself to aiding the
conjurers by showing in reference to their tricks, "How it's done." It
would have been wiser, surely, to stand upon dignity, and in a truly
conservative spirit (is it too late even now to reassume it?), say,
"These men are mediums, but it does not suit their pockets to confess
it."

Well, they are signs of the times. London loves to be mystified, and
would only have one instead of manifold methods to be so if the
spiritualists and conjurers were to strike hands, and reduce us all to
the dead level of pure faith or relentless reason and cold common
sense!



CHAPTER XLVI.

PROS AND CONS OF SPIRITUALISM.


It has been repeatedly urged upon me on previous occasions, and also
during the progress of these sheets through the press, that I should
make a clean breast of my own belief or disbelief in spiritualism; that
besides being descriptive, I should go one step beyond a mere catalogue
of phenomena, and, to some extent at least, theorize on this mysterious
and generally proscribed subject.

Let me say at the outset that against the proscription of this, or
indeed any topic which does not offend against morals, I would at the
very outset protest as the height of unwisdom. Thus to taboo a subject
is at once to lend it a factitious interest, and more than half to
endorse its truth: and I believe modern spiritualism has been very
generally treated in this way. Whether truth has gained by such
indiscriminate condemnation and prejudgment is, I think, greatly open to
question.

For myself, I have, from the first, steadily refused to look upon
spiritualism in this bugbear fashion. The thing was either true or
false--or, more probably still, partly true and partly false: and I must
bring to bear on the discovery of its truth or falsehood, just the same
critical faculties that I should employ on any other problem of common
life. That, I fancy, is no transcendental view of the matter; but just
the plain common sense way of going to work. It was, at all events,
right or wrong, the method I adopted to get at such results as I proceed
to make public. I declined to be scared from the study either by Bogey
or my esteemed friend Mrs. Grundy, but went at it just in the calm
Baconian inductive method in which I should have commenced any other
study or pursuit.

What I want to do is to tabulate these results in the same order as that
in which they occurred to me; and here I am met by a preliminary
difficulty, not incidental to this subject only, but common to any
narrative where we have to take a retrospective glance over a number of
years. We are apt to view the subject from our present standpoint; and I
shall try to avoid this by quoting, whenever I can, what I published, or
committed to writing in the course of my investigations. I shall not
cull from others, because I want to make this purely a personal
narrative.

Let me add, too, I do not in the least expect persons to believe what I
say. Some, I think, will regard me as a harmless (_if_ a harmless)
lunatic, on account of certain statements I may have to make. Others
will consider the whole thing as decidedly unorthodox and "wrong." For
each of these issues I am prepared. I would not have believed any one
else if they had, prior to my experience, told me what I am going to
tell them here; and therefore I do not expect them to believe me. All I
hope to do is to interest persons sufficiently in the subject to induce
them to look into the matter on their own account; for verily I believe,
as a distinguished spiritualist once said to me, that this thing is
either an important truth or else one of the biggest swindles ever
palmed off upon humanity.

One word more, and I proceed to my narrative. Of the three aspects under
which it is possible to view spiritualism, the scientific, the
theological, and the social, I shall not touch at all on the first since
I am not a scientific man; shall only glance at the second, because this
is not the place for a theological discussion. I shall confine myself to
the third, therefore, which I call the social aspect; looking at the
subject as a question of the day, the truth about which we are as much
interested in solving as any other political or social question, but the
investigation of which need not make us get excited and angry and call
one another bad names. I venture to hope that by these means I may
manage to compile a not unedifying or uninteresting narrative, though
our subject be withal somewhat a ponderous one.

In order then to cover the preliminary part of my narrative, and to let
my readers somewhat into the state of my own mind, when I had looked at
the subject for several years, I will quote some extracts from a paper
I read before a society of spiritualists at the Beethoven Rooms a few
years ago under the title "Am I a Spiritualist?" I may mention that the
assembly was divided, and never decided whether I was or not, and what
is more, I do not think they are quite decided to the present day. I am
a patient investigator still; but I really do not feel it necessary to
issue perpetual bulletins as to the state of my convictions.

Taking as my thesis, then, the question, Am I a Spiritualist? it will
certainly appear, at first sight, I said, that the person best qualified
to answer this question is precisely the person who puts it; but a
little consideration will, I think, show that the term "Spiritualist" is
one of such wide and somewhat elastic meaning--in fact, that the word
varies so widely according to the persons who use it--that the question
may really be asked of one's self without involving an inconsistency.

When persons ask me, as they often do, with a look of unmitigated
horror, "Is it possible that you, a clergyman, are a spiritualist?" I am
often inclined to answer, "Yes, madam,"--(for it is generally a lady who
puts the question in that particular shape)--"I _am_ a spiritualist, and
precisely because I am a clergyman. I have had to express more than once
my unfeigned assent and consent to the Common Prayer Book, and the
Thirty Nine Articles; and that involves belief in the inspiration of all
the Bible (except the Apocrypha), and the whole of that (_not_ excepting
the Apocrypha) is spiritual, or spiritualistic (if you prefer the term)
from beginning to end; and therefore it is not _in spite of_ my being a
clergyman, but _because_ I am a clergyman that I am such a confirmed
spiritualist."

I could answer thus, only I do not, simply because to do so would be
dishonest. I know my questioner is using the word in an utterly
different sense from what I have thought proper to suppose. Besides such
an answer would only lead to argumentation, and the very form of the
question shows me the person who puts it has made up her mind on this,
as probably on most other subjects; and when a feminine mind is once
made up (others than ladies have feminine minds on these subjects) it is
very little use trying to alter it. I never do. I administer some
orthodox verbal sedative, and change the subject. But even accepting the
term in the way I know it is meant to be used--say, for instance, as it
comes from the mouth of some conservative old gentleman, or supposed
scientific authority--one's medical man to wit--"Do you believe in
spiritualism?" meaning "Are you such an ass as to believe in
table-turning, and rapping, and all that kind of nonsense?"--even so,
the question would admit of being answered by another question; though I
rarely enter so far on the matter with those whose minds are evidently
quite comfortably made up on the matter. It is such a pity to interfere
with cherished opinions. I have found out that there are Athanasian
creeds in science as well as in theology; and really, whilst they form
recognised formulæ in the one or the other, it is positively lost labour
to go running one's head against them. The question I want to ask--not
the gentle apothecaries, but my readers--is, What do you mean by
believing in spiritualism? Many of the phenomena of spiritualism I
cannot but believe, if I am to take my five senses as my guides in this
as in other matters, and quite setting aside any credence I may give to
respectable testimony. When, however, I pass from facts to theories, and
am asked to account for those facts, then I hesitate. There are some
here, I know, who will say that the spiritualist like the lady who
hesitates is lost--who think me as heterodox for doing so, as the
inflexible old ladies and the omniscient apothecaries did on account of
my even deigning to look into the evidence of such phenomena. I feel
really that I have set myself up like an animated ninepin to be knocked
down by the first thorough-going spiritualist who cares to bowl at me.
But whatever else they think of me--sceptical though they deem me on
subjects where perhaps you are, many of you, a little prone to
dogmatize--I claim the character at least of an honest sceptic. I do not
altogether disavow the title, but I understand it to mean "inquirer." I
confess myself, after long years of perfectly unbiassed inquiry, still
an investigator--a sceptic. It is the fashion to abuse St. Thomas
because he sought sensible proofs on a subject which it was certainly
most important to have satisfactorily cleared up. I never could read the
words addressed to him at all in the light of a rebuke--"Because thou
hast seen thou hast believed." The Church of England treats the doubt of
St. Thomas as permitted by God "for the more confirmation of the faith;"
and I feel sure that professed spiritualists will not be so inconsistent
as to censure any man for examining long and carefully matters which
they believe to admit of demonstration. I heard the most eloquent of
their advocates say, when comparing spiritual with credal conviction,
"Our motto no longer is 'I believe,' but 'I know.'" Belief may be
instantaneous, but knowledge will be gradual; and so it is that,
standing at a certain fixed point in very many years' study of
spiritualism, I pause, and--so to say, empanelling a jury--ask the
question it seems I ought to answer at others' asking--Am I a
Spiritualist?

One word of apology further before entering on the details of the
matter. It will be inevitable that the first personal pronoun shall
recur frequently in the course of this paper, and that so the paper
shall seem egotistical. The very question itself sounds so. I am not
vain enough to suppose that it matters much to anybody here whether I am
a spiritualist or not, except in so far as I may be in any sense a
representative man. I believe I am. That is, I believe, nay, am sure,
that a great many persons go as far as I do, and stop where I stop.
There is a largish body of investigators, I believe, dangling there,
like Mahomet's coffin, between heaven and earth, and it would be a
charity to land them somewhere. Of the clerical mind, I do _not_ claim
to be a representative, because the clerical mind, quâ clerical, has
made up itself that the phenomena in question are diabolical. Of course
if I accepted this theory my question would be utterly irrelevant, and I
should claim a place among the spiritualists at once. The diabolical
people not only accept the phenomena, but admit their spiritual origin,
and, more than this, identify the spirits. They are in point of fact the
most thorough-going spiritualists of all.

In sketching their creed, I have mentioned the three stages through
which most minds must go in this matter. Some few, indeed, take them by
intuition, but most minds have to plod patiently along the path of
inquiry, as I have done. The first stage is acceptance of the phenomena,
the second the assignment of those phenomena to spirits as their source,
the third is identification of these spirits.

1. On the first part of my subject I shall venture to speak with some
boldness. I am not a philosopher, therefore I can afford to do so. I
shall suppose my five senses to serve my purposes of observation, as
they would be supposed to serve me if I were giving evidence in a court
of justice. If I saw a table move, I shall say _it did_ move, not "it
appeared to move." I do this in my capacity of a commonplace instead of
a philosophical investigator; and I must say, if I were, as I supposed
myself just now, in the witness-box, with a good browbeating counsel
cross-examining me on this point, I would rather have to defend the
position of the commonplace inquirer than the philosopher, pledged to
defend the philosophy of the last fifty years, and bound hand and foot
by his philosophic Athanasian Creed, and I don't know how many articles,
more than thirty-nine, I fancy.

In the latter part of the year 1856, or beginning of 1857, then, I was
residing in Paris, that lively capital being full of Mr. Home's doings
at the Tuileries. At that time I knew nothing, even of table-turning. I
listened to the stories of Mr. Home and the Emperor as mere canards. I
never stopped to question whether the matter were true, because I in my
omniscience knew it to be impossible. It is this phase of my experience
that makes me so unwilling to argue with the omniscient people now; it
is such a waste of time. At this period my brother came to visit me, and
he had either been present himself or knew persons who had been present
at certain séances at Mr. Rymer's. He seemed staggered, if not
convinced, by what he had heard or seen, and this staggered me too, for
he was not exactly a gullible person and certainly by no means
"spiritual." I was staggered, I own, but then I was omniscient, and so I
did what is always safest, laughed at the matter. He suggested that we
should try experiments instead of laughing, and, not being a
philosopher, I consented. We sat at the little round table in our tiny
salon, which soon began to turn, then answered questions, and finally
told us that one of the three, viz., my wife, was a medium, and
consequently we could receive communications. I went to a side table and
wrote a question as to the source of the manifestations, keeping it
concealed from those at the table, and not rejoining them myself. The
answer spelt out by them was--"We, the spirits of the departed, are
permitted thus to appear to men." Again I wrote--"What object is served
by your doing so?" The answer was--"It may make men believe in God." I
have said I am not a philosopher, therefore I do not mind confessing
that I collapsed. I struck my flag at once as to the _impossibility_ of
the matter. At the same time I did not--as I know many ardent
spiritualists will think I ought--at once swallow the whole thing,
theory and all. I should not have believed if a man had told me this;
was it to be expected that I should believe a table? Honesty is my best
policy; and I had better, therefore, say I was never so utterly knocked
over by anything that occurred to me in my life before or since. My
visage of utter, blank astonishment is a joke against me to this hour.
We pursued the inquiry almost nightly during the remainder of my stay in
Paris--up to late in the summer of 1857 that is--and also on our return
to England; but, strangely as it seems to me now, considering how we
began, we did it more as a pastime than anything else. The only time we
were serious was when my wife and I sat alone, as we often did. Of
course when I came to inquire at all into the matter I was met by
Faraday's theory of involuntary muscular action, and also with the
doctrine of unconscious cerebration--I was quite ready to accept either.
My own position, as far as I can recall it, then was that the spiritual
agency was "not proven." My wife had great reluctance against admitting
the spiritual theory. I was simply passive; but two circumstances seemed
to me to militate against the theories I have mentioned: (1.) The table
we used for communicating was a little gimcrack French affair, the top
of which spun round on the slightest provocation, and no force whatever,
not even a philosopher's, applied to the surface would do more than spin
the top round; but when the table turned, _it turned bodily, legs and
all_. (2.) As to that ponderously difficult theory of unconscious
cerebration communicated by involuntary muscular action, whenever we
asked any questions as to the future, we were instantly checked, and
told it was better that the future should not be revealed to us. I was
anxious about a matter in connexion with an election to an appointment
in England, and we asked some questions as to what form the proceedings
would take. The reply was that certain candidates would be selected from
the main body, and the election made from these. I thought I had caught
the table in an inconsistency, and said--"There now you _have_ told us
something about the future." It immediately replied--"No, I have not;
the matter is already settled in the minds of the examiners." Whence
came that answer? Certainly not from our minds, for it took us both by
surprise. I could multiply a hundredfold instances of this kind, but, of
course, to educated spiritualists these are mere A B C matters; whilst
non-spiritualists would only accept them on the evidence of their own
senses. I do not mean to say they actually question the facts to the
extent of doubting one's veracity, or else nearly all testimony must go
for nothing; but there is in these matters always room for doubting
whether the narrator has not been deceived; and, moreover, even if
accepted at secondhand, I doubt whether facts so accepted ever become,
as it were, assimilated, so as to have any practical effect.

My facts at all events came at first-hand. I suppose a man need not be
considered credulous for believing in his own wife, and nearly all these
phenomena were produced by my wife's mediumship. It was not until late
in the year 1865 or early in 1866, that I ever sat with a professional
medium. My wife, moreover, from first to last, has steadily disbelieved
the spirit theory, so that she has not laid herself open to suspicion of
being prejudiced in favour of the subject. She has been emphatically an
involuntary, nay, even unwilling agent in these matters.

During these eight or nine years the communications were generally given
by automatic writing, though sometimes still by tilting of the table. I
am very much tempted to quote two, which linger in my recollection,
principally, I believe, because they were so destructive of the
cerebration theory, besides being curious in themselves. I kept no
records until a later date. At present all rests on tradition. Each of
these cases occurred in presence of myself, my wife, and a pupil. In the
former, he was a young Englishman, who had lived a great deal abroad,
whose mother was a Catholic and father a Protestant. He had been brought
up in the latter faith; and when I desired him to ask a mental question,
he asked, in French--that being the language most familiar to him--"Is
the Catholic or the Protestant religion the true one?" Mark you, he
never articulated this, or gave the least hint that he was asking in
French. He did it in fact, spontaneously. My wife immediately wrote "Ta
mère est Catholique"--so far, in French, with difficulty, and then
breaking off into English, "Respect her faith."

In the second instance, my pupil was a French youth, a Catholic, who was
living in my house, but used to go to his priest frequently to be
prepared for his first communion. One day when we were writing, this
youth asked who the communicating spirit was, and received in reply the
name of Louis D----. The name was totally unknown to us; but to our
surprise when the youth came back from his visit to the priest that day
he informed us that his reverend instructor had dwelt strongly on the
virtues of Louis D----. Seeing the boy look amazed as the name which had
just been given at our séance was pronounced, the priest inquired the
reason; and, on being informed, of course directed his catechumen never
to join in such diablerie again.

The impression, then, left on my mind by these years of desultory
dabbling with--rather than study of--the subject, was decidedly that the
phenomena of spiritualism were genuine. Looking at the matter from my
present standpoint and frame of mind, it seems to me incredible that I
should have thought so little of the source of the phenomena. It was, as
I said, that I was then dabbling with, not studying, the subject.

But even without advancing beyond this rudimentary stage, I saw a very
serious result produced. I saw men who literally believed in nothing,
and who entered on this pursuit in a spirit of levity, suddenly
staggered with what appeared to afford even possibility of demonstration
of another world, and the continued existence of the spirit after bodily
death. I believe a great many persons who have never felt doubt
themselves are unaware of the extent to which doubt prevails amongst
young men especially; and I have seen many instances of this doubt
being--if not removed--shaken to its very foundation by their witnessing
the phenomena of spiritualism. "Yes, but did it make good consistent
Christians of them?" asks one of my excellent simple-minded objectors.
Alas! my experience does not tell me that good consistent Christians are
so readily made. Does our faith--I might have asked--make _us_ the good
consistent Christians it ought to do, and would do perhaps, if we gave
it fair play?

So, then, my study of spiritualism had been purely phenomenal. It was a
very sad and serious event which drove me to look deeper. Some people
will, I daresay, think it strange that I allude to this cause here. The
fact that I do so shows, at all events, that I have looked seriously at
spiritualism since. It was none other than the loss, under painful
circumstances, of one of my children. Now I had always determined that,
in the event of my losing one near and dear to me, I would put
spiritualism to the test, by trying to communicate with that one. This
will, I think, show that, even then, if I did not accept the
spiritualistic theory, I did not by any means consider the position
untenable. The very day after my boy's death, I got his mother to sit,
and found she was writing a little loving message purporting to come
from him. This, a sceptic would say, was natural enough under the
circumstances. I said no word, but sat apart, and kept writing "Who is
it that communicates? write your name." Suddenly the sentence was
broken off, and the child's name written, though I had not expressed my
wish aloud. This was strange; but what followed was stranger still. Of
course, so far all might have been fairly attributed to cerebration--if
such a process exists. It was natural enough, it might be urged, that
the mother, previously schooled in the belief of the probability of
communication, should write in her lost child's name. For years the same
thing never occurred again, though we sat night after night for the
purpose of renewing such communications. I can certainly say of myself
that, at this time, I _was_ a spiritualist--as thorough and devout a one
as any existing; and the fact that I was so, when carried away by my
feelings, makes me the more cautious to test and try myself as to
whether my feelings may not sometimes sway my judgment even now; whether
the wish be not often father of the thought, at all events in the
identification of spiritual communications, and so, possibly, of the
spiritual nature of such communications altogether.

However, from this time--the autumn of 1865--my spiritual studies
underwent an entire change--they _were_ studies--serious studies. I now
kept a careful journal of all communications, which journal I continued
for three years, so that I can trace all my fluctuations of opinion--for
I did fluctuate--during that period. Now, too, it was necessary for me
to consult those who had already gone deeply into the subject; and the
record of my experiences would be both imperfect and ungracious if I did
not here acknowledge the prompt kindness of the two gentlemen to whom I
applied--Mr. Benjamin Coleman and Mr. Samuel Carter Hall. I was
comparatively a stranger to each of them, but they replied to my
inquiries with the most ready courtesy, and I am happy to date my
present friendship with each of them from this time. At Mr. Hall's I met
Mr. Home, and on the second occasion of my doing so, not only saw him
float, but handled him above and below during the whole of the time he
floated round Mr. Hall's drawing-room. I am unphilosophical enough to
say that I entirely credit the evidence of my senses on that occasion,
and am as certain that Mr. Home was in space for five minutes as I am of
my own existence. The ordinary solution of cranes and other cumbrous
machinery in Mr. Hall's drawing-room I cannot credit, for I think we
should have seen them, and I am sure I should have felt ropes round Mr.
Home's body. Chairs went from one end of the room to the other _in full
light_; and nobody had previously tumbled over strings and wires, so
that I don't think there could have been any there.

I fancy, as far as any order is traceable in the somewhat erratic course
of spiritualistic experiences, that most people arrive at spiritualism
viâ mesmerism. It so happened that this order was exactly inverted in
my case. It was not until 1866 that I found I possessed the power of
magnetism, and moreover, had in my house a subject whom Alphonse Didier
(with whom I afterwards put myself in communication) declared to be "one
in a thousand." Some of the details of this lady's case are very
curious, but this is scarcely the place to dilate upon them further than
as they affected my spiritualistic studies. She passed with
extraordinary ease into the condition of lucidity, when she was
conscious only of basking in light, anxious to be magnetized more deeply
so as to get more thoroughly into the light, and, moreover, aware only
of the existence of those who had passed away from earth. She knew they
were with her: said I _must_ know it, as I was there too, and that it
was I only who would not "let her" see them. The fact that "our life is
twofold" was to me most marvellously brought out by my magnetic
treatment of this lady; and, moreover, the power of influencing action
could not fail to be suggestive of the truth of one of the cardinal
doctrines of spiritualism--that we are thus influenced by disembodied
spirits, as I, an embodied spirit, could influence another spirit in the
body. Some of the likes and dislikes which I, so to say, produced then
in 1866 have remained to the present hour. For instance, one particular
article of food (I will not mention what, or it would be fatal to my
reader's gravity), for which she previously had a penchant, I rendered
so distasteful to her that the very smell of it now makes her
uncomfortable. I must plead guilty to having experimented somewhat in
this way; but what a wonderful light it sheds upon the great problem of
the motives of human action! By the simple exercise of my will I could
make my patient perform actions the most abhorrent to her. For
instance--the ladies will appreciate this power--at a time when
crinolines were extensive, I made that poor creature draggle about in a
costume conspicuous by the absence of crinoline, and making her look
like some of the ladies out of a Noah's ark.

During this period my wife and I constantly sat alone, and she wrote. It
is no disrespect to her to say that writing is not her forte, but the
communications she made in this way were exceedingly voluminous, and
couched in a particularly happy style, though on subjects far above the
range of ordinary compositions. We never obtained a single communication
purporting to come from our child, but the position claimed by the
communicating intelligence was that of his spirit-guardian.

Having now probably said enough in these confessions to convince every
non-spiritualist that I am insane, because I believed the evidence of my
senses, and even ventured to look into matters so unorthodox and
unscientific as mesmerism and spiritualism, I go on to "make a clean
breast," and set myself wrong with the other moiety of my readers. I
must candidly confess that the experiences of this year (1866) did not
confirm my sudden conviction of the spiritual agency in these phenomena.
I drifted back, in fact, to my previous position, accepting the
phenomena, but holding the cause an open question. The preface to the
book, "From Matter to Spirit," exactly expressed--shall I say
expresses?--my state of mind. There is one passage in that preface which
appears to me to clinch the difficulty--"I am perfectly convinced that I
have both seen and heard, in a manner which should make unbelief
impossible, things called spiritual, which cannot be taken by a
reasonable being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence,
or mistake. So far I feel the ground firm under me. But when it comes to
what is the cause of these phenomena I find I cannot adopt any
explanation which has yet been suggested. If I were bound to choose
among things which I can conceive, I should say that there is some sort
of action--some sort of combination of will, intellect, and physical
power, which is not that of any of the human beings present. But
thinking it very likely that the universe may contain a few agencies,
say half a million, about which no man knows anything, I cannot but
suspect that a small proportion of these agencies, say five thousand,
may be severally competent to the production of all the phenomena, or
may be quite up to the task among them. _The physical explanations which
I have seen are easy, but miserably insufficient: the spiritual
hypothesis is sufficient but ponderously difficult._" This statement is
natural enough from the scientific side of the question. Perhaps the
theological inquirer, taking the fact into consideration that Scripture
certainly concedes the spiritual origin of kindred phenomena, would
rather reverse the statement, and say (what I individually feel) that
the psychological explanation is the ponderously difficult--the
pneumatological, the comparatively easy one.

It is now no secret that the author of this excellent treatise, is
Professor De Morgan; and I can only say that if I am accused of
heterodoxy, either from the spiritualist or anti-spiritualist side of
the discussion, I am not ashamed to be a heretic in such company. Let me
put the matter in the present tense, indicative mood--that is the state
of my opinion on the cause of the phenomena. Admitting the facts, I hold
the spiritual theory to be "not proven," but still to be a hypothesis
deserving our most serious consideration, not only as being the only one
that will cover all the facts, but as the one I believe invariably given
in explanation by the intelligence that produces the phenomena, even
when, as in our case, all those present are sceptical of or opposed to
such a theory.

3. It may perhaps sound illogical if, after stating that I hold the
spiritual origin of these phenomena unproven, I go on to speak of the
identification of the communicating spirit; but I hope I have made it
clear that, even if I do not consider the spiritualistic explanation
demonstrated, it is still a hypothesis which has much in its favour.

I have already mentioned the subject of identification in the case of
the first communication purporting to come from our little child, and
how no such communications were received for a period of some years
after. In December, 1866, I went to the Marshalls', entering as an
entire stranger, and sitting down at the table. I saw some strong
physical manifestations--a large table being poised in space, in full
light, for some seconds. It was signified there was a spirit present who
wished to communicate, and the message given by raps to me was--"Will
you try to think of us more than you have done?" I asked the name, and
my child's was correctly given, though I had not been announced, and I
have no reason to believe my name was known. The place where he passed
away from earth was also correctly specified. I then asked for my
father, and his name was correctly given, and a message added, which I
cannot say was equally suggestive of individuality. It was--"Bright
inspiration will dawn upon your soul, and do not hide your light under a
bushel."

Another case in which I tested individuality strongly, with utter
absence of success, was also brought before me somewhat earlier in this
year. I was sent for by a lady who had been a member of my congregation,
and who had taken great interest in these questions. She was suddenly
smitten down with mortal disease, and I remained with her almost to the
last--indeed, I believe her last words were addressed to me, and
referred to this very subject of identification--she consulting _me_ as
to the great problem she was then on the very point of solving! As soon
as she had gone from us, I went home, and tried to communicate with her.
I was informed that her spirit was present, and yet every detail as to
names, &c., was utterly wrong.

In the spring of the following year I went again to the Marshalls', in
company with one or two other persons, my own object being to see if I
could obtain communication from the spirit of a highly-gifted lady who
had recently died--and also, I may mention--had been the medium of my
previous slight acquaintance with Mr. Coleman. She was very much
interested in these matters, and, when in this world, her great forte
had been writing. She published a volume of poems, which won the special
commendation of the late Charles Dickens, and her letters were most
characteristic ones. I mentioned that I wished to communicate with the
spirit I was thinking of, and said I should be quite satisfied if the
initials were correctly given. Not so--the whole three names were
immediately given in full. I do not feel at liberty to mention the
names; but the surname was one that nine out of ten people always spelt
wrongly (just as they do _my_ name), but on this occasion it was
correctly spelt. I asked for a characteristic message, and received the
words, "I am saved, and will now save others;"--about as unlike my
friend's ordinary style as possible. It may be said her nature had
undergone revolution, but that was not the question. The test was that
something should be given, identifying the spirit, by the style of its
_former_ writing while embodied on earth.

With one more case, bearing on this subject of identity, and bringing
the matter up to the present date, I feel I may advantageously close
this portion of my experiences--though as I do so, I am thoroughly
dissatisfied with myself to find how much I have left unsaid. It is so
difficult to put these things on paper, or in any way to convey them to
another;--most difficult of all for one unblessed with leisure, and
combining in his single self the pursuits of some three laborious
callings.

Last year, whilst sitting at Mrs. B----'s, I was touched by a hand which
seemed to me that of a small girl, and which attracted my attention by
the way it lingered in mine--this would amuse Professor Pepper--and the
pertinacity with which it took off my ring. However, I never took any
steps to identify the owner of the hand.

Some few months ago, my wife and I were sitting, and a communication
came ostensibly from our child. It was quite unexpected; and I said, "I
thought you could not communicate." "I could not before," was the reply.
"But you have not tried me for two years." This we found was true; but
we actually had to look into dates to ascertain it. He added, that he
always was present at séances where I went, and especially at Mrs.
B----'s. It will, I daresay, sound strange to non-spiritualists, but the
initiated can understand the conversational tone we adopt. I said, "But,
Johnny, that was not your hand that touched me at Mrs. B----'s. It was
too large." The answer was, "No! it was Charlie's turn." I said, "What
_do_ you mean by Charlie's turn?" The word was rewritten with almost
petulant haste and remarkable plainness, "Charlie's _twin_." Charlie is
my eldest boy, and his twin-brother was still-born. He would be between
thirteen and fourteen years of age, and that was precisely the sized
hand I felt. This was curious; as the event had occurred a year before,
and such an explanation had never even crossed my mind. I was promised
that, if I would go to Mrs. B----'s again, each of the children would
come and place a hand in mine. I went to the ordinary séance some time
before Christmas, and was then told that the test I wished--which I had
not then specified--should be given to me at a private séance. We had
the private séance, but nothing occurred.

Such is my case. To one section of my readers I shall appear credulous,
to another hard of belief. I believe that I represent the candid
inquirer. As for being scared off from the inquiry by those who call it
unorthodox, or cry out "fire and brimstone," I should as little think of
heeding them as the omniscient apothecaries who smile at my believing in
mesmerism. If a man's opinions are worth anything--if he has fought his
way to those opinions at the bayonet's point--he will not be scared off
from them by the whole bench of Bishops on the one side, or the College
of Surgeons on the other. Not that I for one moment plead guilty to
heterodoxy, either scientific or theological. I am not, as I have said
several times, a philosopher, but I believe it is scientific to hold as
established what you can prove by experiment. I don't think my creed
contains a jot or tittle beyond this. And as for theological orthodoxy,
I simply take my stand upon the Canons of the Church of England. If all
this spiritual business is delusion, how comes it that No. 72 of the
Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical says: "Neither shall any
minister, not licensed, attempt, upon any pretence whatever, either of
possession or obsession, by fasting or prayer, to cast out any devil or
devils?"

The question, however, is not of this kind of orthodoxy. It rather
refers to the creed of spiritualism. The question, in fact, to which I
and the many who think with me pause for a reply, is:--Allowing, as we
do, some of the phenomena--but considering the pneumatological
explanation hypothetical only--and therefore any identification of
communicating intelligence impossible--are we (for I am sincerely tired
of that first person singular, and glad to take refuge in a community),
are we, or are we not, spiritualists?

So far was I able to commit myself in my address to the spiritualists of
Harley Street. I was, I confess, greatly pleased when, in 1869, the
Dialectical Society took up this matter, because I felt they were just
the people to look into it dispassionately. They were bound to no set of
opinions, but regarded everything as an open question, accepting nothing
save as the conclusion of a logical argument. I joined the
Society--straining my clerical conscience somewhat to do so--and
eventually formed one of the committee appointed by the Society to
inquire into the matter, and having a sub-committee sitting at my own
house. This, however, broke up suddenly, for I found even philosophers
were not calm in their examination of unpalatable facts. One gentleman
who approached the subject with his mind fully made up, accused the lady
medium of playing tricks, and me of acting showman on the occasion. As
there was no method of shunting this person, I was obliged to break up
my sub-committee. To mention spiritualism to these omniscient gentlemen
is like shaking a red rag at a bull. As a case in point (though, of
course, I do not credit these gentlemen with the assumption of
omniscience), I may quote the replies of Professor Huxley and Mr. G. H.
Lewes to the Society's invitation to sit on their committee:--

"Sir,--I regret that I am unable to accept the invitation of the Council
of the Dialectical Society to co-operate with a committee for the
investigation of 'spiritualism;' and for two reasons. In the first
place, I have no time for such an inquiry, which would involve much
trouble and (unless it were unlike all inquiries of that kind I have
known) much annoyance. In the second place, I take no interest in the
subject. The only case of 'spiritualism' I have had the opportunity of
examining into for myself, was as gross an imposture as ever came under
my notice. But supposing the phenomena to be genuine--they do not
interest me. If anybody would endow me with the faculty of listening to
the chatter of old women and curates in the nearest cathedral town, I
should decline the privilege, having better things to do.

"And if the folk in the spiritual world do not talk more wisely and
sensibly than their friends report them to do, I put them in the same
category.

"The only good that I can see in a demonstration of the truth of
'spiritualism' is to furnish an additional argument against suicide.
Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to talk twaddle by a
'medium' hired at a guinea a séance.

"I am, Sir, &c.,
"T. H. HUXLEY.

"29th January, 1869."

Confessedly Professor Huxley only tried one experiment. I cannot help
thinking if he had not approached the subject with a certain amount of
prejudice he would have been content to "Try again." The side-hit at
curates of course I appreciate!

"Dear Sir,--I shall not be able to attend the investigation of
'spiritualism;' and in reference to your question about suggestions
would only say that the one hint needful is that all present should
distinguish between facts and inferences from facts. When any man says
that phenomena are produced by _no_ known physical laws, he declares
that he knows the laws by which they are produced.

"Yours, &c.,
"G. H. LEWES.

"Tuesday, 2nd February, 1869."

I am not, as I have said, a scientific man, nor do I advance the
slightest pretensions to genius; therefore I have no doubt it is some
mental defect on my part which prevents my seeing the force of Mr. G. H.
Lewes's concluding sentence. I have worked at it for years and am
compelled to say I cannot understand it.

I sat, however, through the two years' examination which the Society
gave to the subject; and it is not anticipating the conclusion of this
chapter to say I was fully able to concur in the report they
subsequently issued, the gist of which is continued in the final
paragraph:--

"In presenting their report, your committee taking into consideration
the high character and great intelligence of many of the witnesses to
the more extraordinary facts, the extent to which their testimony is
supported by the reports of the sub-committees, and the absence of any
proof of imposture or delusion as regards a large portion of the
phenomena; and further, having regard to the exceptional character of
the phenomena, the large number of persons in every grade of society and
over the whole civilized world who are more or less influenced by a
belief in their supernatural origin, and to the fact that no
philosophical explanation of them has yet been arrived at, deem it
incumbent upon them to state their conviction that the subject is worthy
of more serious attention and careful investigation than it has hitherto
received."

With those cautiously guarded words I venture to think that any one who
even reads the body of evidence contained in the Dialectical Society's
report will be able to coincide.

To return to my more personal narrative.

As far as I can trace any order in this somewhat erratic subject, I
think I may venture to say that the manifestations of the last few years
have assumed a more _material_ form than before. It sounds a little
Hibernian to say so, I know; but I still retain the expression.
Supposing, for the moment, that the effects were produced by spirits,
the control of the medium for the production of trance, spirit-voice,
automatic writing, or even communications through raps and tilts of the
table was much more intellectual--less physical than those of which I
now have to speak--namely, the production of the materialized Spirit
Faces and Spirit Forms.

Two phases of manifestation, I may mention in passing, I have not
seen--namely, the elongation of the body, and the fire test--both as far
as I know peculiar to Mr. Home: nor again have I had personal experience
of Mrs. Guppy's aërial transit, or Dr. Monk's nocturnal flight from
Bristol to Swindon. Nothing of the kind has ever come at all within the
sphere of my observation: therefore I forbear to speak about it.

I shall never forget the delight with which I received a letter from a
gentleman connected with the literature of spiritualism, informing me
that materialized Spirit Faces had at last been produced in full light,
and inviting me to come and see. I was wearied of dark séances, of fruit
and flowers brought to order. John King's talk wearied me; and Katie's
whispers had become fatally familiar: so I went in eagerly for the new
sensation, and communicated my results to the world in the two papers
called _Spirit Faces_ and _Spirit Forms_, the former published in
_Unorthodox London_, the latter in Chapter 43 of the present volume.
This class of manifestation has since become very common. I cannot say I
ever considered it very satisfactory. I have never discovered any
trickery--and I assure my readers I have kept my eyes and ears very wide
open--but there are in such manifestations facilities for charlatanism
which it is not pleasant to contemplate. This, let me continually
repeat, is a purely personal narrative, and I have never seen any Spirit
Face or Form that I could in the faintest way recognise. Others, I know,
claim to have done so; but I speak strictly of what has occurred to
myself. The same has been the case with Spirit Photographs. I have sat,
after selecting my own plate and watching every stage in the process;
and certainly over my form there has been a shadowy female figure
apparently in the act of benediction;[2] but I cannot trace resemblance
to any one I ever saw in the flesh. Perhaps I have been unfortunate in
this respect.

Very similar to Miss Cook's mediumship was that of Miss Showers; a young
lady whom I have met frequently at the house of a lady at the West-end
of London, both the medium and her hostess being quite above suspicion.
In this case, besides the face and full form we have singing in a clear
baritone voice presumably by a spirit called Peter--who gives himself
out as having been in earth-life, I believe, a not very estimable
specimen of a market-gardener. I am exceedingly puzzled how to account
for these things. I dare not suspect the medium; but even granting the
truth of the manifestations, they seem to me to be of a low class which
one would only come into contact with under protest and for the sake of
evidence.

Mr. Crookes used to explain, and Serjeant Cox still explains these
manifestations as being the products of a so-called Psychic Force--a
term which I below define. Although I am as little inclined to
hero-worship, and care as little for large names as any man living, yet
it is quite impossible not to attach importance to the testimony of
these gentlemen; one so eminent in the scientific world, and privileged
to write himself F.R.S., the other trained to weigh evidence and decide
between balanced probabilities. But it would seem that while Psychic
Force might cover the ground of my earlier experiences, it singularly
fails to account for the materializations, and obliges us to relegate
them to the category of fraud, unless we accept them as being what they
profess to be. This I believe Serjeant Cox ruthlessly does. He claims as
we have seen to have "caught" Miss Showers, and was not, I believe,
convinced by Miss Cook. Mr. Crookes was: and, when we remember that Mr.
Wallace, the eminent naturalist, and Mr. Cromwell Varley, the
electrician, both accept the spiritual theory, it really looks as though
the scientific mind was more open to receive--perhaps driven to
receive--this which I frankly concede to be the only adequate cause for
the effects, while the legal mind still remains hair-splitting upon
conflicting evidence. Whereabouts the theological mind is I do not quite
know--perhaps still dangling between the opposite poles of Faith and
Reason, and dubiously debating with me "Am I a Spiritualist or not?"

In a recent pamphlet reprinted from the Quarterly Journal of Science,
Mr. Crookes thus compendiously sums up the various theories which have
been invented to account for spiritualistic phenomena, and, in so doing,
incidentally defines his now discarded theory of Psychic Force which
owns Mr. Serjeant Cox for its patron:--

_First Theory._--The phenomena are all the results of tricks, clever
mechanical arrangements, or legerdemain; the mediums are impostors, and
the rest of the company fools.

It is obvious that this theory can only account for a very small
proportion of the facts observed. I am willing to admit that some
so-called mediums of whom the public have heard much are arrant
impostors who have taken advantage of the public demand for
spiritualistic excitement to fill their purses with easily earned
guineas; whilst others who have no pecuniary motive for imposture are
tempted to cheat, it would seem, solely by a desire for notoriety.

_Second Theory._--The persons at a séance are the victims of a sort of
mania or delusion, and imagine phenomena to occur which have no real
objective existence.

_Third Theory._--The whole is the result of conscious or unconscious
cerebral action.

These two theories are evidently incapable of embracing more than a
small portion of the phenomena, and they are improbable explanations for
even those. They may be dismissed very briefly.

I now approach the "spiritual" theories. It must be remembered that the
word "spirits" is used in a very vague sense by the generality of
people.

_Fourth Theory._--The result of the spirit of the medium, perhaps in
association with the spirits of some or all of the people present.

_Fifth Theory._--The actions of evil spirits or devils, personifying who
or what they please, in order to undermine Christianity and ruin men's
souls.

_Sixth Theory._--The actions of a separate order of beings, living on
this earth, but invisible and immaterial to us. Able, however,
occasionally to manifest their presence; known in almost all countries
and ages as demons not necessarily bad, gnomes, fairies, kobolds, elves,
goblins, Puck, &c.

_Seventh Theory._--The actions of departed human beings--the spiritual
theory _par excellence_.

_Eighth Theory._--(_The Psychic Force Theory_).--This is a necessary
adjunct to the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th theories, rather than a theory by
itself.

According to this theory the "medium," or the circle of people
associated together as a whole, is supposed to possess a force, power,
influence, virtue, or gift, by means of which intelligent beings are
enabled to produce the phenomena observed. What these intelligent beings
are is a subject for other theories.

It is obvious that a "medium" possesses a _something_ which is not
possessed by an ordinary being. Give this _something_ a name. Call it
"_x_" if you like. Mr. Serjeant Cox calls it Psychic Force. There has
been so much misunderstanding on this subject that I think it best to
give the following explanation in Mr. Serjeant Cox's own words:--

"The Theory of _Psychic Force_ is in itself merely the recognition of
the now almost undisputed fact that under certain conditions, as yet but
imperfectly ascertained, and within a limited, but as yet undefined,
distance from the bodies of certain persons having a special nerve
organization, a Force operates by which, without muscular contact or
connexion, action at a distance is caused, and visible motions and
audible sounds are produced in solid substances. As the presence of such
an organization is necessary to the phenomenon, it is reasonably
concluded that the Force does, in some manner as yet unknown, proceed
from that organization. As the organism is itself moved and directed
within its structure by a Force which either is, or is controlled by,
the Soul, Spirit, or Mind (call it what we may) which constitutes the
individual being we term 'the Man,' it is an equally reasonable
conclusion that the Force which causes the motions beyond the limits of
the body is the same Force that produces motion within the limits of the
body. And, inasmuch as the external force is seen to be often directed
by Intelligence, it is an equally reasonable conclusion that the
directing Intelligence of the external force is the same Intelligence
that directs the Force internally. This is the force to which the name
of _Psychic Force_ has been given by me as properly designating a force
which I thus contend to be traced back to the Soul or Mind of the Man as
its source. But I, and all who adopt this theory of Psychic Force, as
being the agent through which the phenomena are produced, do not thereby
intend to assert that this Psychic Force may not be sometimes seized and
directed by some other Intelligence than the Mind of the Psychic. The
most ardent spiritualists practically admit the existence of Psychic
Force under the very inappropriate name of Magnetism (to which it has no
affinity whatever), for they assert that the Spirits of the Dead can
only do the acts attributed to them by using the Magnetism (that is, the
Psychic Force) of the Medium. The difference between the advocates of
Psychic Force and the spiritualists consists in this--that we contend
that there is as yet insufficient proof of any other directing agent
than the Intelligence of the Medium, and no proof whatever of the agency
of Spirits of the Dead; while the spiritualists hold it as a faith, not
demanding further proof, that Spirits of the Dead are the sole agents in
the production of all the phenomena. Thus the controversy resolves
itself into a pure question of _fact_, only to be determined by a
laborious and long continued series of experiments and an extensive
collection of psychological facts, which should be the first duty of the
Psychological Society, the formation of which is now in progress."

It has frequently struck me, especially in connexion with certain
investigations that I have been making during the last few years, that
Spiritualism is going through much the same phases as Positivism. It
seemed at first impossible that the Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte
could culminate in a highly ornate Religion of Humanity, with its fall
ritual, its ninefold sacramental system. It is even curious to notice
that it was the death of Clotilde which brought about the change, by
revealing to him the gap which Philosophy always does leave between the
present and the future. So too Spiritualism is beginning to "organize"
and exhibits some symptoms of formulating a Creed and Articles of
Belief. The British National Association of Spiritualists, which has
honoured me by placing my name on its Council, thus states its
principles, under the mottoes:--

"He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame
unto him."--Proverbs xviii. 13.

"In Scripture we are perpetually reminded that the Laws of the Spiritual
World are, in the highest sense, Laws of Nature."--Argyll.

"He who asserts that, outside of the domain of pure Mathematics,
anything is impossible, lacks a knowledge of the first principles of
Logic."--Arago.


DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES.

"Spiritualism implies the recognition of an inner nature in man. It
deals with facts concerning that inner nature, the existence of which
has been the subject of speculation, dispute, and even of denial,
amongst philosophers in all ages; and in particular, with certain
manifestations of that inner nature which have been observed in persons
of peculiar organizations, now called Mediums or Sensitives, and in
ancient times Prophets, Priests, and Seers.

"Spiritualism claims to have established on a firm scientific basis the
immortality of man, the permanence of his individuality, and the Open
Communion, under suitable conditions, of the living with the so-called
dead, and affords grounds for the belief in progressive spiritual states
in new spheres of existence.

"Spiritualism furnishes the key to the better understanding of all
religions, ancient and modern. It explains the philosophy of
Inspiration, and supersedes the popular notion of the miraculous by the
revelation of hitherto unrecognised laws.

"Spiritualism tends to abrogate exaggerated class distinctions; to
reunite those who are now too often divided by seemingly conflicting
material interests; to encourage the co-operation of men and women in
many new spheres; and to uphold the freedom and rights of the
individual, while maintaining as paramount the sanctity of family life.

"Finally, the general influence of Spiritualism on the individual is to
inspire him with self-respect, with a love of justice and truth, with a
reverence for Divine law, and with a sense of harmony between man, the
universe, and God.

"The British National Association of Spiritualists is formed to unite
Spiritualists of every variety of opinion, for their mutual aid and
benefit; to promote the study of Pneumatology and Psychology; to aid
students and inquirers in their researches, by placing at their disposal
the means of systematic investigation into the now recognised facts and
phenomena, called Spiritual or Psychic; to make known the positive
results arrived at by careful scientific research; and to direct
attention to the beneficial influence which those results are calculated
to exercise upon social relationships and individual conduct. It is
intended to include spiritualists of every class, whether members of
Local and Provincial Societies or not, and all inquirers into
psychological and kindred phenomena.

"The Association, whilst cordially sympathizing with the teachings of
Jesus Christ, will hold itself entirely aloof from all dogmatism or
finalities, whether religious or philosophical, and will content itself
with the establishment and elucidation of well-attested facts, as the
only basis on which any true religion or philosophy can be built up."

This last clause has, I believe, been modified to suit certain members
of my profession who were a little staggered by its apparent
_patronizing_ of Christianity. For myself (but then, I am unorthodox) I
care little for these written or printed symbola. Having strained my
conscience to join the Dialecticians, I allow my name, without
compunction, to stand on the Council of the Association,--and shall be
really glad if it does them any good. The fact is, I care little for
formal creeds, but much for the fruit of those creeds. I stand by that
good old principle--"By their fruits ye shall know them;" and that
reminds me that to my shreds and patches of "experience" I am to append
some pros and cons of this matter. They have cropped up incidentally as
we have gone on: but I could with advantage collect them if my limits
admitted of sermonizing.

As to the fruits of Spiritualism, I can only say that I have never
witnessed any of these anti-Christianizing effects which some persons
say arise from a belief in Spiritualism. They simply have not come
within the sphere of my observation, nor do I see any tendency towards
them in the tenets of Spiritualism--rather the reverse.

Then again, to pass from practice to faith, Spiritualism professes to be
the reverse of exclusive. In addressing the Conference of 1874, and
defending my position as a clerical inquirer, I was able to say:--"On
the broad question of theology I can conceive no single subject which a
clergyman is more bound to examine than that which purports to be a new
revelation, or, at all events, a large extension of the old; and which,
if its claims be substantiated, will quite modify our notions as to what
we now call faith. It proposes, in fact, to supply in matters we have
been accustomed to take on trust, something so like demonstration, that
I feel not only at liberty, but actually bound, whether I like it or
not, to look into the thing.

     *     *     *     *     *

Whether your creed is right or wrong is not for me to tell you; but it
is most important for me that I should assure myself. And while I
recognise that my own duty clearly is to examine the principles you
profess, I find this to be eminently their characteristic, _that they
readily assimilate with those of my own Church_. I see nothing
revolutionary in them. You have no propaganda. You do not call upon me,
as far as I understand, to come out of the body I belong to and join
yours, as so many other bodies do; but you ask me simply to take your
doctrines into my own creed, and vitalize it by their means. That has
always attracted me powerfully towards you. You are the broadest
Churchmen I find anywhere."

I am not writing thus in any sense as the apologist of Spiritualism. I
am not offering anything like an Apologia pro vitâ meâ in making the
inquiries I have done, am doing, and hope to do. I have elected to take,
and I elect to maintain, a neutral position in this matter. All I have
done is to select from the Pros and Cons that present themselves to my
mind. If the Pros seem to outweigh the Cons--or vice versâ--be it so. I
cannot help it. I have scarcely decided for myself yet, and I am a
veteran investigator. Others may be more speedy in arriving at a
conclusion.

Among the more obvious "Cons" are the oft-quoted facts that some people
have lost their heads and wasted a good deal of their time on
Spiritualism. But people lose their heads by reading classics or
mathematics, or overdoing any one subject however excellent--even
falling in love: and the ingenuity displayed in wasting time is so
manifold that this is an objection that can scarcely be urged specially
against Spiritualism, though I own Dark Séances do cut terribly into
time.

Then again one is apt to be taken in by mediums or even by spirits. Yes;
but this only imposes the ordinary obligation of keeping one's eyes
open. I know spiritualists who believe in every medium quâ medium, and
others who accept as unwritten gospel the idiotic utterances of a
departed buccaneer or defunct clown: but these people are so purely
exceptional as simply to prove a rule. Do _not_ accept as final in
so-called spiritual what you would not accept in avowedly mundane
matters. Keep your eyes open and your head cool, and you will not go far
wrong. These are the simple rules that I have elaborated during my
protracted study of the subject.

"We do not believe, we know," was, as I said, the proud boast a
spiritualist once made to me. And if the facts--any of the facts--of
Spiritualism stand _as_ facts, there is no doubt that it would form the
strongest possible counterpoise to the materialism of our age. It
presses the method of materialism into its service, and meets the
doubter on his own ground of demonstration--a low ground, perhaps, but a
tremendously decisive one, the very one perhaps on which the Battle of
Faith and Reason will have to be fought out.

If--let us not forget that pregnant monosyllable--if the assumptions of
Spiritualism be true, and that we can only ascertain by personal
investigation, I believe the circumstance would be efficacious in
bringing back much of the old meaning of the word [Greek: pistis] which
was something more than the slipshod Faith standing as its modern
equivalent. It would make it really the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.

Even if the dangers of Spiritualism were much greater than they
are--aye, as great as the diabolical people themselves make out--I
should still think (in the cautious words of the Dialecticians)
Spiritualism was worth looking into, if only on the bare chance, however
remote, of lighting on some such Philosophy as that so beautifully
sketched by Mr. S. C. Hall in some of the concluding stanzas of his poem
"Philosophy," with which I may fitly conclude--

    And those we call "the dead" (who are not dead--
      Death was their herald to Celestial Life)--
    May soothe the aching heart and weary head
      In pain, in toil, in sorrow, and in strife.

    That is a part of every natural creed--
      Instinctive teaching of another state:
    When manacles of earth are loosed and freed--
      Which Science vainly strives to dissipate.

    In tortuous paths, with prompters blind, we trust
      One Guide--to lead us forth and set us free!
    Give us, Lord God! all merciful and just!
      The FAITH that is but Confidence in Thee!

THE END.

FOOTNOTES:

[2] Alluded to above, p. 350.

  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  | Transcriber's Notes:                                         |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 36: Single closing quote mark after "He will accept     |
  | you" _sic_                                                   |
  | Page 79: "next my boy" _sic_                                 |
  | Page 110: Wormwood Scrubbs _sic_; platform amended to        |
  | platforms                                                    |
  | Page 185: anatotomized amended to anatomized; full stop      |
  | following "few friends" removed                              |
  | Page 186: hooping cough _sic_                                |
  | Page 234: umpromising amended to unpromising                 |
  | Page 244: "vary scrubby ground" amended to "very scrubby     |
  | ground"                                                      |
  | Page 338: flabbergastered _sic_                              |
  | Page 341: facilè princeps amended to facile princeps         |
  | Page 360: scarely amended to scarcely                        |
  | Page 365: closing parenthesis added after "particular shape" |
  | Page 370: invesgator amended to investigator                 |
  | Page 388: closing parenthesis added after "assumption of     |
  | omniscience"                                                 |
  |                                                              |
  | In the last essay, while there are paragraphs numbered 1     |
  | and 3, there is no paragraph numbered 2 in the original.     |
  |                                                              |
  | Hyphenation has generally been standardized. However, when   |
  | hyphenated and unhyphenated versions of a word each occur    |
  | an equal number of times, both versions have been retained   |
  | (beershop/beer-shop; nowadays/now-a-days;                    |
  | reaction/re-action; reassumption/re-assumption).             |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mystic London: - or, Phases of occult life in the metropolis" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home