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Title: Eighteen Months' Imprisonment
Author: Shaw, Donald
Language: English
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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 "Eighteen Months' Imprisonment" ***

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                         [Picture: Volume Cover]

                                * * * * *

              [Picture: Crowd scene—Horse-drawn Prison Van]

                             EIGHTEEN MONTHS’

                            (WITH A REMISSION)

                                * * * * *

                                  D—  S—

                           LATE CAPTAIN — REGT.

                                * * * * *

                      _ILLUSTRATED BY WALLIS MACKAY_

                                * * * * *


                        GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS
                          BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL

                       NEW YORK: 9 LAFAYETTE PLACE


                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *


                CHAPTER I
MY ARREST                               1
               CHAPTER II
THE HOUSE OF DETENTION                 12
               CHAPTER III
“SETTLING DOWN”                        20
               CHAPTER IV
“PRISON FARE”                          31
                CHAPTER V
GEORGINA                               41
               CHAPTER VI
BOW STREET                             48
               CHAPTER VII
NEWGATE                                54
              CHAPTER VIII
THE SCAFFOLD                           67
               CHAPTER IX
A PRIVATE EXECUTION                    75
                CHAPTER X
“NEWGATE ETIQUETTE”                    88
               CHAPTER XI
THE TITLED CONVICT                     98
               CHAPTER XII
              CHAPTER XIII
“CORPULENCY”                          122
               CHAPTER XIV
COLDBATH FIELDS                       138
               CHAPTER XV
“OAKUM” LET US SING                   159
               CHAPTER XVI
THE VISITING JUSTICES                 191
              CHAPTER XVII
PRISON TRADES                         203
              CHAPTER XVIII
THE OUTER WORLD                       218
               CHAPTER XIX
THE CONVALESCENT WARD                 228
               CHAPTER XX
CRIMINAL LUNATICS                     248
               CHAPTER XXI
PRISON CELEBRITIES                    256
              CHAPTER XXII
THE TREAD-WHEEL                       270
              CHAPTER XXIII
GARDENING                             282
              CHAPTER XXIV
               CHAPTER XXV
THE HOSPITAL DEAD-HOUSE               310
              CHAPTER XXVI
BURGLARS “I HAVE MET”                 335
              CHAPTER XXVII
             CHAPTER XXVIII
RETROSPECT                            361


1.—“BLACK MARIA”                                                    _Frontispiece_.
2.—A CHEERFUL GROUP                                                              60
3.—“SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT?”                                          63
4.—THE EFFECTS OF A WARM BATH AT “COLDBATH”                                     141
5.—A CELL, 8 A.M.                                                               161
6.—A CELL, 8 P.M.                                                               178
7. —A TYPICAL TURNKEY                                                           205
(_a_) _Its Normal Expression_.
(_b_) _Corroborative Evidence_.
8.—COUNTING                                                                     241
9.—“NEGATIVES KEPT”                                                             271
10.—GARDENING—“SOMETHING APPROACHING”                                           282
11.—GARDENING—“THE LINE CLEAR”                                                  287


ON a dreary afternoon in November, cheerless and foggy as befitted the
occasion, and accompanied by that gentle rain which we are told “falleth
on the just and on the unjust,” I suddenly, though hardly unexpectedly,
found myself in the hands of the law, as represented by a burly policeman
in a waterproof cape and a strong Somersetshire accent.  The
circumstances that led up to this momentous change can be briefly
described.  I had gone to the office of a solicitor—one White, with whom
I had had previous monetary transactions—with reference to a new loan on
a bill of exchange; and it must be distinctly understood that any
allusions I may make to this individual’s vocations are not to be
misinterpreted, for I have the highest respect for his integrity and
aptitude for business, legal or otherwise, and cannot but admire (as I’m
sure every honest reader will) the horror with which any dishonest act
inspired him, which, though it did not deter him from conscientiously
completing the transaction as a matter of business, was equally swift in
retributive justice, and condemnatory (to use his own expression) of
compounding a felony.  Mr. White, in short, is a money-lender, who, in
addition to the advantages derivable from his legal assistance, is always
prepared on undoubted security—such as a bill of sale or a promissory
note—to make cash advances at the rate of 240 per cent.  I am justified
in quoting this as the gentleman’s rate of interest, for I paid him £5
for a loan of £45 for fourteen days, a transaction that his cheque on a
Holborn bank will testify.  The only marvel that suggests itself to my
mind is, that a person who is so scrupulous in refusing to “compound a
felony,” as he termed it when he assisted in involving me in the meshes
of the law, should retain the ill-gotten and usurious sum of £5 one
moment after he was aware (as he has been for a year) that it was the
proceeds of a forgery.  But perhaps I am wronging the worthy man; he may
have subscribed it towards the Hunt he honours with his patronage, or
have paid it as his subscription to the London and Discounty Club, to
which, I presume, he belongs.

At first sight this rate of interest may appear somewhat high, but a
moment’s reflection will dispel the idea.  Here was a gentleman, a member
of the honourable profession of the law—one who (as he told me) actually
hunted with Her Majesty’s hounds, and, for aught I know, may have been
honoured with a nod from the Master of the Buckhounds—one, moreover, who
occasionally dined with impecunious Irish lords, with whom he had
transacted business, and talked of such aristocratic clubs as the
“Wanderers’” and the “Beaconsfield” with as much _sang-froid_ and a
degree of familiarity such as you and I, gentle reader, might refer to
the “Magpie and Stump” at Holloway, and which to me at the time was truly
appalling; here, I say, was a gentleman endowed with all these
recommendations actually condescending to minister to one’s pecuniary
wants; and one would indeed have been unworthy of such advantages had one
carped or squabbled over such vulgar trifles as a paltry 240 per cent.
There is certainly another point of view from which this “financial”
business may be regarded; but if the Master of the Rolls and the
“Incorporated Law Society” take no exception to this occupation of one of
their members, it is clearly no business of ours to find fault with a
gentleman who materially adds to his income by combining the profitable
trade of usury with the profitless profession of the law.

It is a prevalent and very erroneous impression to associate voracity and
sharp dealings with the Hebrew race, for I’ve found from experience (and
I’m admittedly an authority) that for meanness, haggling, and exorbitant
terms, with a cloak of hypocrisy to cover this multitude of sins, the
Hebrew is considerably out-distanced by his Christian _confrère_.  I
might indeed go a step further, and add, that, barring a repellent manner
during the preliminaries of a transaction, but which is purely
superficial, the dealings of the children of Israel are based on strictly
honourable and considerate grounds.  No one has ever heard of a Jew
robbing you first and then prosecuting you; they are invariably satisfied
with one course or the other.  (I may here be permitted a slight
digression to note that I intend ere long to publish a list of usurers
never before attempted, based on my personal experience of them,
including members of almost every trade and profession, and which for
completeness and accuracy of detail will put to the blush the hitherto
feeble attempts of such society journals as _Town Talk_, _Truth_, &c.)

At about four o’clock, then, on this dreary November afternoon I found
myself with three or four others in Mr. White’s waiting-room.  I verily
believe one of my companions was a detective, a suspicion that subsequent
events tend to confirm.  In the frowzy room I found myself waiting for
more than an hour, during which time my naturally ’cute disposition,
coupled with a consciousness of guilt, convinced me with a “suspeeciun”
similar to that of the old lady at the subscription ball at Peebles,
“amoonting to a positive ceertainty” that something was up.  This
apprehension was by no means allayed by my distinctly seeing the shadow
of the burly policeman, in cape and helmet, on the frosted window, as he
ascended the stairs; and had I been so inclined, there was nothing to
have prevented me from at once burning the damning document then in my
pocket and walking down-stairs.  But I was perfectly callous and
indifferent to the result; indeed, I can only attribute my feelings at
the time to those of a madman who hailed with delight any change that
substituted incarceration and an unburthened mind for liberty and an
uneasy conscience.  The rest of the incidents in this prologue are easily
told, and the next ten minutes (which abounded with sayings and doings,
however commendable from a moral point of view, sadly out of place in a
usurer’s parlour) found me in a cab, in company with a policeman, with
Mr. White, money-lender, solicitor, and commissioner to administer oaths,
on the box, his ‘fishy’ partner inside, and driving at the rapid rate
habitual to the fleetest four-wheelers of three miles an hour en route to
Bow Street.  Luck now favoured me, and I was fortunate enough to obtain
an interview with Mr. Vaughan, who was on the eve of departure, and who,
in a few hurried and well-chosen words, and in a metallic tone of voice
that I can only, with all respect, compare to the vibrations of the
telephone, which I heard some years ago in its infancy, conveyed to me
the momentous intelligence that I was _remanded_ till Tuesday.  This was
by no means my first appearance at Bow Street Police Court, for though
not on so serious a charge as the present, I had on a former occasion
made the acquaintance (officially) of the worthy magistrate.  The
circumstances are briefly these, and though in no way bearing on my
present narrative, may be reasonably introduced, as a combination of
sweets and bitters, such as one gleans by the advertisements, are to be
associated with “chow-chow,” “nabob pickles,” &c., &c.  Some four years
ago I had the honour of accompanying a well-known but not equally
appreciated young baronet, and High Sheriff of an Irish county, notorious
for his “Orange” (and orange-bitters with a dash of gin) proclivities, to
a low music-hall.  The weather was hot, and the evening an exceptionally
warm one in June, such an one, indeed, that the most abstemious might
have been pardoned for exceeding the bounds of moderation.  About
midnight we presented ourselves at the portals of that virtuous but
defunct institution, and were refused a box on the plea of inebriation.
So indignant, however, were both myself and my blue-blooded if not
blue-ribboned companion at this monstrous insinuation that we at once
proceeded to Bow Street, and laid a formal complaint with the inspector
on night duty.  The books, and probably that official’s marginal notes,
would doubtless place facts and our respective intellectual conditions at
the time beyond the shadow of a doubt.  For my own part, I confess (with
that frankness that has always been my ruin) that if I was not absolutely
inebriated, I was decidedly “fresh.”  As regards my companion, however, I
will not presume to venture an opinion, although High Sheriffs admittedly
never get drunk;—is it likely, then, that this one, the pride of his
county and an ornament to its Bench, could so far forget himself?
Absurd!  The sequel, however, has yet to be told; and a few nights
afterwards, about 9 P.M., alone, and disguised as a gentleman in evening
clothes, I went to the Night House and requested to see the proprietor.
A bilious individual hereupon came into the passage, and, supported by a
crowd of “chuckers out,” hurled me on to the verandah, where luck and my
proximity to the worthy publican enabled me to deal one blow on a face,
which eventually turned out to be that of Barnabas Amos; but a member of
“the force” happened to be passing, and the gentle Amos, not content with
having previously taken the law into his own hands with questionable
success, now appealed to the constable, and, in short, gave me in charge
for an assault.  I will not weary the reader by a description of my
detention for twenty minutes in the police station, till I was bailed out
by a householder; nor of the proceedings next morning before the
magistrate.  Suffice it to say that the case was dismissed; that the
daily papers honoured me by devoting half a column to a report of the
case; that six months after, alone and unaided, I opposed the renewal of
the licence for the night-house; that my thirst for revenge was
thoroughly satiated; and that I had the gratification of depriving the
Amos of a weekly profit of £300, besides about £500 for legal expenses;
and that the Middlesex magistrates did their duty and proved themselves
worthy of their responsible position by almost unanimously refusing the
licence, despite the fervid and well fee’d eloquence of Solicitor-General
and voracious barristers, and thus stamped out about as festering a heap
of filth and garbage as any that had ever infested this modern Babylon.
Mr. Barnabas Amos and I were thenceforth quits, and, barring a chuckle he
no doubt had at my subsequent troubles (such as a less magnanimous person
than myself might have had at his eventual bankruptcy), I may fairly
congratulate myself on having had the best of the little encounter.  But
another feature of this case suggests itself, and I cannot dismiss this
long digression without a few words in conclusion.  My quasi friend, the
High Sheriff, did not come well out of this matter.  We had, as it were,
rowed in the same boat on this eventful night, we had both been refused a
box on the same grounds, and yet he left me to bear, not only the brunt
of the police-court row, but, by a judicious silence, got me the credit
of having tried but signally failed to lead him from the paths of
rectitude and virtue.  I am prepared to make every allowance for a man in
his position, lately married to a young and innocent wife, whose ears it
was only right should not be polluted with such revelations as a
night-house would naturally suggest if associated with her husband’s
name; and I was perfectly alive to the necessity of screening him, and
willing that my name only (as it did) should appear in the proceedings;
nevertheless, there is a right and a wrong way of attaining such an end,
and the High Sheriff will, I am convinced, on reflection, admit that he
might have attained the same result in a more straightforward manner, and
have spared the feelings of his bride and possibly her younger sisters
equally as well without leaving a “pal”—to use a vulgar expression—in the
lurch without an apology.  With this digression I will return (in the
spirit) to Bow Street, and close the chapter with a bang such as
accompanied the closing of my cell door, and await the arrival of “Black


AFTER a delay of about twenty minutes—when for the first time I found
myself an inmate of a police cell—a very civil gaoler (with the relative
rank of a Police Sergeant) announced to me, with a “Now, Captain,” the
arrival of one of Her Majesty’s carriages.  One has frequently heard of
the Queen’s carriages meeting, and not meeting, distinguished personages,
such as Mr. Gladstone, Sir Garnet Wolseley, the King of the Zulus, and
German princelings; but the carriage I refer to must not be confused with
this type.  They are far from comfortable, the accommodation is limited,
and the society questionable; and had it not been for the courteous
consideration of the conductor (a Police Sergeant) I should have been
considerably puzzled in attempting to squeeze my huge bulk of 19 stone 13
lbs. (as verified a few minutes later in Her Majesty’s scales) into a
compartment about 16 inches in breadth.  As a fact, however, I remained
in the passage, and thus obtained a view of streets and well-known haunts
under very novel and degrading conditions.  Everyone appeared to stare at
this van, and everyone seemed to me to particularly catch my eye; but
this, of course, was pure fancy, resulting, I presume, from a guilty
conscience—for within the dark tunnel of this centre passage it was
impossible that anyone in the streets could see, much less distinguish,
anyone inside.  I discovered a few weeks later that these uncomfortable
police vans were infinitely superior and more roomy than those attached
to Her Majesty’s prisons; in fact, I should say they were the only
attempt (as far as I could discover) at making a distinction between an
untried, and consequently innocent (vaunted English law—twaddle) person,
and a convicted prisoner.

My experiences at the “House of Detention” and subsequently at “Newgate”
convince me that justice demands a great alteration in the rules
regarding untried prisoners, who are allowed and disallowed certain
newspapers at the caprice of the chaplain, and actually restricted as to
the class of eatables their friends may send them.  An instance of this
occurred in my case.  A kind friend one day brought me a hamper
containing, as I was informed, a roast fowl and a tongue; the warder at
the entrance-gate, however, told him that these were luxuries in the
estimation of the Home-office, and therefore less suited to the palate of
an untried (and consequently innocent) man than a chop or steak fried in
tallow and procured from the usual eating-house; and as my friend had
dragged this white elephant of a parcel about with him for some time, he
gave it bodily to the turnkey, who consequently reaped the advantage of
the intended kindness to me.  Next morning I complained to the Governor,
who assured me he should have made no objection to the “luxury” of a
fowl; in short, I had been the victim of the zeal of an illiterate and
astute official, who, putting two and two together, and weighing the
probable effect of his veto on an inexperienced inhabitant of the outer
world, had arrived at a very happy arrangement whereby I was deprived and
he benefited to the extent of a well-selected hamper.  I found the
Governor a very good sort.  His suit of dittos was a little of the
“thunder and lightning” pattern; but if his clothes were loud, his
manners were not—in short, he was essentially a gentleman, both in
appearance and manners, a beau ideal of the heavy dragoon that existed
before the Cardwellite era.  I purposely refer to his manners being those
of a gentleman because it does not always occur that those situated in a
similar position possess the higher recommendation.

The “House of Detention” appeared to me the most awfully depressing place
to which my erring footsteps had ever led me.  The darkness, the
stillness, the novelty of the situation, all tended to this conclusion;
and I cannot do better than describe what occurred, and leave the verdict
in the hands of the reader.  Conceive then a man, who an hour previously
was a free citizen, suddenly finding himself stepping out of a police van
into a gloomy, white-washed passage, and being inspected and counted with
a dozen others by a bumptious turnkey, puffed out with his own
importance, addicted, as I have previously mentioned, to cold fowl and
tongue, but otherwise oblivious to the veriest rudiments of civilization.
Conceive, then, the sensations of a man such as I, finding himself
suddenly confronted by such a biped, who, scanning first a paper and then
you, begins to drawl out, “What’s your name?  Your age?  Married or
single?  Protestant or Romanist?” and a volley of such like rubbish,
which only tends to exasperate one, and which might well be dispensed
with, seeing that all the desired information is on the paper, and,
having been supplied by one’s self not an hour before, is sure to be
corroborated, whether correct or not, and considering, too, that this
farce is repeated every time you enter and leave the place, and which in
a case of frequent remands might occur twice a day.  One can hardly
narrate a single item regarding the treatment of an untried prisoner that
does not call for redress, _i.e._, if the absurd theory is still
persisted in that an untried man is an innocent one.  What right has an
innocent man to be debarred the privilege of seeing friends (under
reasonable restrictions) as often as he pleases, instead of being limited
to one visit of fifteen minutes a day?  Why should one be allowed to
purchase _Town Talk_ and not _Truth_?  Why should the _Graphic_ be
permitted and not the _Dramatic News_?  These are anomalies no logic can
explain away, and have no right to be left to the caprice of a prison
official.  The food supply as at present arranged is a cruel system; a
prisoner under remand is gratified at hearing that he may procure his own
food, and naturally shrinks at the idea of subsisting on prison fare till
absolutely compelled.  No greater mistake ever was made—the latter is
good, clean, and supplied gratis; the former is nasty in the extreme, and
scandalously dear.  If the doubtful “privilege” is to be continued, it is
time the government, in common fairness, controlled the tariff; at
present a prisoner is at the mercy of the eating-house keeper, and liable
to any charge he may choose to make.  I must admit that the caterers for
the “House of Detention” were civil and comparatively reasonable, whereas
those at Newgate were exactly the opposite.  I shall give a detailed
account later on of how I was fleeced at the Old Bailey, and I would
earnestly warn all prisoners awaiting trial to stick to the prison fare,
and carefully to avoid the refreshments supplied from the cat’s meat
houses in the neighbourhood.  With these slight digressions I shall
proceed to a description of the routine at the “House of Detention,” with
its rules and regulations and privileges, and the impressions they
conveyed to me; and I cannot do better than impress on the reader that
this book makes no pretensions to literary merit, but must be regarded
rather as a journal of facts, whose principle claim is based on their
having been written by a man who is probably as well known as any in
England.  I ask no praise, I’m equally oblivious to abuse; criticism I’m
absolutely indifferent to, being convinced that either my notoriety, my
popularity, my identity, or unpopularity, will procure me readers far in
excess of any book of greater merit; and it is a consolation to feel that
my friends will be glad that I got through some months with a degree of
comfort never before paralleled, and my enemies (male and especially
female) will be chagrined at discovering that “Imprisonment with Hard
Labour” in my case meant kindness from first to last hardly credible,
absolutely devoid of any labour at all, and accompanied with luxuries as
regards eating and drinking that could not have been surpassed had I been
stopping at a first-class hotel and paying thirty shillings a day for
board and lodging.  Many apparent contradictions may moreover suggest
themselves, but taken in the light of a diary, these contradictory views
must be regarded as reflecting circumstances as they appeared to me from
time to time under various phases.  Suffice it to say that I have
carefully avoided exaggeration, that everything I narrate can be fully
substantiated, and may be unhesitatingly accepted as the experiences of a
man endowed with an average amount of brains, who kept his eyes wide
open, and who had opportunities given him that no man ever had before,
whether higher or lower in the social or criminal scale, of seeing a vast
amount of the “dark side of nature.”  In my innocence I once fancied I
had seen a good deal, and knew a lot; but the following narrative will
prove that I was a very babe and suckling, before I became a “Government
ward.”  Heaven forbid that anyone should purchase his experience at such
a price; nevertheless, on the principle that has guided me through life
of trying to see everything and do everything, I can only attempt to
justify my escapades by endorsing the theory (slightly altered) of the
immortal Voltaire, that a man who would go through what I have is “_un
fois un philosophe_, _mais deux fois un criminel déterminé_.”


FRESH arrivals appear to come to this awful place at every hour of the
day and night.  The police courts belch forth their motley loads on an
average about twice a day, and when the Sessions are “on,” prisoners
arrive as late as nine and ten of a night, and the rumbling of “Black
Marias,” the shouting of warders, the turning of keys, the slamming of
doors, and a hundred other “regulations” that make night hideous, lead
one to imagine oneself in a third-class hostelry alongside a railway
station.  The absence of clocks, too, that strike (for even they are on
the silent system), combined with the primitive hour of retiring to rest,
bewilders one in arriving at anything like an approximate idea of time
between the bell at night and the bell at 6 A.M.  After my first
interview with Mr. Vaughan, and with the sound of his melodious voice
still ringing in my ears, I found myself about 6 P.M. alighting from the
police van inside a dismal courtyard.  We had just passed through a
massive gate, and had been “backed” on to the entrance of a long and
uninviting-looking corridor, but beyond that I had not the faintest idea
of where I was; and if I had been told that the House of Detention was
situated in the centre aisle of the British Museum, I should not have
been in a position to dispute it.  As we stepped out, carefully assisted
by an official actuated apparently rather by precaution than courtesy,
and carefully scanned and counted, I found myself with eight or nine
others standing in a row on a huge mat.  There was an entire absence of
“dressing” in this ragged line, and thus destiny placed me between a
ragamuffin with a wooden leg and an urchin of about twelve.  My bulk,
sandwiched between them, formed a charming picture, and filled up the
mat, if not the “background.”  My friend, the police sergeant, with a
courtesy that officialism failed to rob him of, handed us over to the
“Detentionite” barbarian, who, first inspecting us, and then “righting”
us, went through the offensive and unnecessary formula of catechizing
us—such as “What is your name?”  “Who ga”—I mean, “Your age,” &c., &c.
This to me was the first and greatest humiliation; the iron entered my
very soul, and I realized how awful it all was.  Implacable enemies,
vindictive tradesmen, revengeful women, chuckle and shout; but time is
short, and seventeen days will find me in clover, surrounded by every
consideration that is possible, and as happy as circumstances will
permit.  When we had all been counted and booked, we were escorted
downstairs and thrust into very small and separate cells.  These cells
were literally not more than three feet square, and their only furniture
consisted of a block of stone intended for a seat.  The turnkey, who
showed and carefully locked me in, explained that I should only be there
a few minutes, as we were merely awaiting the arrival of the chief
warder.  After the lapse of a few minutes, we were taken one by one into
the office, where a further scrutiny “inside and out” took place.  Here,
at a desk, sat a warder in front of a ledger; there was, moreover, a
weighing-machine and a couple of turnkeys.  This constituted the entire
furniture!  The chief warder, blazing in gold lace and pegtop trousers
that filled me with admiration at the time, now appeared, and having come
to the conclusion that I was not one of the “unwashed” division, kindly
exempted me from the usual bath, the preliminary and very necessary step
on these occasions.  The chief warder was a very decent and unaffected
little man, and comparatively free from the penny-halfpenny bounce that
characterizes the chief warder species in general.  I here underwent, for
the second time, the catechizing process, which being again carefully
booked, I was invited in the most dulcet tones to unrobe to the extent of
everything except my socks and trousers.  With my thoughts wandering to
the weighing-machine, “how careful,” thought I, “they must be in
accurately weighing one;” and my conjecture was in a measure correct, but
my inexperience did not prepare me for the accompanying formula that took
place.  As I divested myself one by one of my coat, hat, boots, vest,
shirt, &c., a pair of nimble hands ran over them with lightning rapidity,
which in their turn passed them on to another pair of equally nimble or
nimbler hands.  In the twinkling of an eye, the contents of my pockets
were laid on the table—the modest quill toothpick was not even exempted;
fingers passed over every seam and lining of my clothes, and then the
same “delicate touch” was applied to my loins and ankles.  I was then
requested to get on the machine, and the astounding fact recorded that a
mountain of humanity in his shirt and socks weighed 19 stone 13 lbs.  I
have been particular in accurately relating this fact, for later on I
treat on the subject of obesity; and the remarks I there make, and the
hints I offer, based on very careful observation and experience, will, I
am confident, commend themselves to the corpulent, and, IF ACTED ON, will
prove very beneficial to those who really desire to reduce themselves.
Every article found on me—money, toothpicks, pocket-book, watch, studs,
sleeve-links, &c.—were then carefully booked and neatly tied up, and
having resumed my clothing, I proceeded upstairs to my future abode.

I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without noting the consideration
that prompted the warder to give me a couple of bone studs to replace my
own, without which I could not have kept my shirt closed.  It was a
kindly act, and tends to show that, as a rule and with very few
exceptions, prison warders are a well-disposed race if properly treated,
and desirous of rendering any civility to men of my class.  If a prisoner
is fool enough to stand on his dignity, he must not be surprised if his
conduct is resented.  Another peculiarity I observed here for the first
time, but which I found to be the invariable rule at “Newgate” and
“Coldbath,” was, that on arrival one was always placed in a most
uncomfortable cell in the basement or even below, and gradually promoted
upwards.  I can only suppose it was intended as a kind of purgatory, with
the idea of giving one a bird’s-eye view of what might be expected should
one’s behaviour make him ineligible for the greater luxuries associated
with “apartments on the drawing-room floor.”

Having dressed, I accompanied a turnkey through innumerable passages
abounding in steel gates, which snapped like rat traps as we passed
through, till we emerged into what appeared the main passage of the
prison.  My conductor here handed me over to another warder with a “Here
you are; here’s another one;” and I again, and for the third time, had to
undergo the “abridged catechism.”

I found this warder a capital fellow.  He tried to put matters as
cheerfully as he could; and when ushering me into my cell, and noting my
horror at its bleak appearance, said in a manner that was kindly meant,
“Oh! you’ll be all right when you’ve settled down a bit.”

“Settled down a bit!”  As well ask the guinea-pig that is put into the
rattlesnake’s cage to settle down, as to expect a man suddenly deprived
of liberty to settle down in such a place.  If I had not been of a very
sanguine disposition, and one that can nerve himself to submit to
anything, I should certainly have broken down, as I verily believe many
do.  On the contrary, I began to examine the uncomfortable place, read
the notices for one’s guidance, and entered into a conversation with my
guide and gaoler.  He began by telling me that if I wanted supper I must
order it sharp; and when I expressed a wish to have something, he kindly
promised to order in a chop and a pint of beer.  The next thing that
attracted my attention was the hammock; and as my only experience of
these uncomfortable substitutes for French bedsteads was from a distant
view on a troopship, and as the idea of 20 stone suspended in mid air was
out of the question, and as the tesselated floor appeared excessively
hard, I determined not to risk a fall, for the fall of that house would
certainly have been great.  I discovered, however, that routine and
prison discipline made it absolutely impossible for any exception to be
made unless specially granted, and as none but the highest official, such
as the Governor (or even the Home Secretary, as I presumed, or perhaps
the Queen), could sanction a change of such importance as substituting a
cot for a hammock, no time was to be lost in ferreting out some one of
sufficient authority to assume the responsibility.  At length the doctor
was found, and after seeing me and hearing my weight, gave the necessary
order, subject to the Governor’s approval in the morning.

I have often wondered in how many quires of foolscap this humane act
involved the little man.  I only hope he got no wigging from the Home
Office for this assumption of responsibility, for I found him most kind
and courteous, and in return I fear I worried him out of his life by
applications for sleeping draughts, which he invariably let me have
without a murmur.  I took this opportunity also of getting his permission
to keep my gas burning all night, for I felt that sleep was out of the
question; and as I had asked for and been promised the special
_Standard_, which invariably contains some paragraphs of interest of a
world-renowned General’s, I began to hope that I might “settle down,” as
my friend the warder had suggested.  But settling down in theory and
settling down in practice, especially in the “House of Detention,” are
two distinct things.  The privilege of keeping my gas burning, too,
involved a most unpleasant consequence, diametrically opposed to
“settling down.”  Anyone whose light is left burning is supposed to be
concocting some hideous treachery, and has to be “seen” every fifteen
minutes; and thus through this long dreary winter night and every
subsequent ten nights of my stay found me being taken stock of every
quarter of an hour.  I must—without being aware of it—about this time
have commenced the “settling down” process, for I could actually bring
myself to uttering the feeblest jokes, such as “Ah! how are you, old
cockie?  Just in time; another minute and I should have burrowed through
the ventilator.”  These little sallies, I am bound to admit, did not
always meet with the reception their pungency merited.  Occasionally they
extracted a grin or a chaffy reply; at others a grunt and a bang of the
trap-door.  But I have again wandered from my first entrance into my
cell, and demonstrating (what I honestly pleaded) my utter amateurishness
in the writing of a book.  I must only hope that the tale it unfolds will
make up for this defect.  A rattle of a tin knife on a pewter vessel,
followed by the turning of the key, announced the arrival of my supper;
and, oh, shades of Romano, how “my heart beat for thee!”


A GREASY cold chop, smelling as if it had been cooked in “Benzine
collas,” and with about as much warmth as would be imparted to it by a
flat iron, a slice of bread that had evidently been cut in the early part
of the day, with salt, mustard, a lump of cheese, and a potato piled up
beside it, and a pint of the flattest, blackest, nastiest ale in a yellow
jug without a spout, with my name pasted on it and the plate, constituted
my meal, and nothing but philosophy and a certain amount of hunger could
have induced me to attempt to tackle it.  I did, however, and bolted the
food and gulped down the liquid, and continued the contemplation of my
cell.  A few minutes later my warder again appeared with the “special”
and removed my “tray;” and the ringing of the most melancholy-toned bell
I had ever heard up to then warned me that bed-time had arrived, and I
proceeded to turn in for my first night under lock and key.  Believe me,
reader, there is more in this than my words can convey.  Writing as I now
am, in a comfortable bed at six in the morning (for my past experience
has instilled very early habits into me), with the window open, and the
sea within a few yards of me, surrounded by every luxury and comfort that
an affectionate mother can think of, and in a genial climate in the South
of France, I cannot even now look back without a shudder to that fearful
first night of less than a year ago; and the chop and the hammock, and
the key turning, and the “settling down” appear as vividly before me as
the most hideous nightmare of an hour’s previous occurrence.

At 6 A.M.—and in November this means in the pitch dark—a bell rings; not
a heavy tolling bell, but a shrill, sharp hand bell, wrung with all the
vigour that a prison warder can impart to it.  He walks up and down the
long and dreary passages, the noise rising and falling as he approaches
and recedes.  I sat up on my pallet of horsehair, and took it for granted
I had better get up.  By the considerate thoughtfulness of our free and
enlightened Government every requisite for a (hurried) toilet is here
provided, obviating the very slightest necessity for ever leaving one’s
apartments.  A tap and diminutive brass basin, a water-closet
(guaranteed, I should say, to produce typhoid in a marvellously short
space of time), a piece of yellow soap the size of a postage stamp, and a
towel of the solidity of the main sheet of an ironclad, and bearing
unmistakable “marks of the beasts” that had been my immediate
predecessors, were all at hand, leaving no excuse for the most whimsical
for abstaining from a thorough good (official) wash.  I found, as my
experience increased, that the two things most neglected in Her Majesty’s
prisons are cleanliness and godliness.  A terrible make-believe
distinguishes them both; but if you only burnish up the outside of the
cup and the platter, the inside may, figuratively speaking, be full of
dead men’s bones.  I shall adduce very good reasons for these assertions
when time and my destiny have “settled me down” in Coldbath Fields.

After a delay of half-an-hour the counting process began, which consisted
of a whole cloud of turnkeys passing rapidly in front of the various cell
doors.  A little further delay, and I was invited to “exercise.”  I went
out once and only once, for as a philosopher one must pocket one’s
foolish likes and dislikes, and endeavour to see everything; but the
penance was so fearful that I had a word with the doctor, and obtained
exemption from that date.  Conceive, then, a large and bleak courtyard,
flagged and partially gravelled, bounded on three sides by the prison
walls, and on the fourth by high railings and a still higher wall beyond
it; conceive, too, a couple of hundred of the scum of London, the halt
and the lame, the black chutnee seller and the mendicant newsvendor, with
here and there some unfortunate devil like myself in the garb of a
gentleman; add to this a warder standing on a pedestal at each corner,
and another roaming round in the centre, and then cap this awful picture
by watching this frowsy tag-rag mass walking round in a circle about a
yard apart, and you may possibly form some slight notion of my feelings.
When I got to the outer door that led into the yard, I hesitated for a
moment, and I told a warder that I really did not think I could face the
ordeal; but he advised me, in what was kindly meant, to have a try, and
that if I walked round no one would take a bit of notice of me.  I found
this assurance was hardly strictly correct, for my huge size and evident
superiority (in clothes if not in morals) drew notice on me; and many a
scoundrel as he limped by asked me, in a gin-and-water voice, what I was
“in for,” and whether it was the “first” time.  I, however, ignored their
delicate overtures towards sociability, and longed for daylight and its
accompanying breakfast.  The hour’s exercise eventually passed by, and I
returned to my den, where shortly afterwards my breakfast appeared.  This
came from the eating-house over the way, and a nastier, colder, or more
revolting conglomeration of roll sliced and buttered, a fried egg, and a
piece of bacon that must have spent the night in a rat-trap, and a pint
of chicory in a yellow jug, I never saw.  I ventured to draw the warder’s
attention to the proximity that existed between these various delicacies,
but he explained that mine was only one of some seventy other breakfasts
of “privileged” prisoners, and that they had been in the passage for over
an hour.  Assuming, therefore, that my _déjeûner_ had probably been
sandwiched between a burglar’s tripe and onions and some other brother
malefactor’s tea and shrimps, I held my breath and “laid on,” and was
surprised what a hole I had made in all the good things in an incredibly
short period.  But time (especially in Houses of Detention) waits for no
man, and in a twinkling my breakfast things were removed, and a bell
summoned us to chapel.  I now found myself in church, and after a ten
minutes’ farce, which embraced every modern religious improvement—such as
singing, a sermon, and a chaplain in a white surplice—we were again
escorted back, and awaited the visit of the Governor.

The chaplain at the “House of Detention” was, I should say, rather a good
sort; he and I had frequent conversations, and as he was the man who had
once put a spoke into Bignell’s “Argyll” wheel, and as I was the humble
instrument that had “smashed, defeated, and utterly pulverized” Barnabas
Amos and his night-house, a bond of mutual interest at once sprang up
between us as enemies of immorality in general, and Bignell and Amos in
particular.  This reverend gentleman was, I should say, decidedly High
Church; he wore all day (and for aught I know all night) a black
skull-cap and gown, and possessing an enormous red beard, that came down
to his waist, he invariably inspired me with much the same amount and
sort of reverence that I entertain when contemplating stained-glass
likenesses of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  His manner at first was a
little pompous, especially when he was telling me of the sort of books he
would permit and not permit me to order in; he was, however, despite
these peculiarities, unmistakably a gentleman, both in manner and
appearance—two qualifications I subsequently discovered were sadly
deficient in more than one of his species.  And now the door was opened
with a terrific bang, and I was told by a turnkey with bated breath and
evidently suffering from excessive mental excitement, that “the Governor”
was coming round, and before I had time to shake myself together, and
rise to receive him, the great man was in my cell.  Captain — was the
beau ideal of a plunger, and had served many years in the K.D.G.’s.  He
eventually exchanged from soldiering to “prisoning,” and had served his
time as “Deputy” of Exeter and Cold Bath Fields prisons.  I was told at
this latter retreat that he was in those days excessively zealous in the
matter of dust, and that his great height enabled him to extract
infinitesimal atoms of this irrepressible commodity from shelves and
ventilators that men more of the “Zachæus” type would never have noticed.
Like most men, however, time had blunted his zeal for these trifles, and
when I saw him he had grown out of these absurdities of his novitiate,
and appeared as one who had an unpleasant duty to perform, and who was
anxious to do it as pleasantly as possible.  He accosted me as one might
expect a gentleman would, and asked me if there was anything he could do
to ameliorate my condition?  I mentioned certain things, and he at once
gave the necessary orders for my being permitted newspapers, pen, ink,
and paper, my gas at night, and exemption from chapel and exercise.  All
this brought it to near twelve o’clock, when dinners commenced being
“served;” and without detailing all the horrors I ate, suffice it to say
that another plateful of offal, such as a hyæna would jib at, duly made
its appearance, and was as duly demolished, more or less.  The first day
in this terrible place is perhaps more awful than any subsequent one;
for, irrespective of the novelty of the situation and not having “settled
down,” it must be taken into consideration that one has barely had time
to communicate with friends and solicitors, and thus the day passes
wearily away, affording ample time for reflection and the realisation of
the fact that one may be in the heart of London and yet as far away from
friends and relatives as if in the middle of the Desert of Sahara.  The
above sketch will pretty accurately convey an idea of a day’s routine in
the House of Detention, excepting perhaps a visit from a friend daily, a
restriction that is as iniquitous as it is illogical, and which I trust
the authorities will consider worthy of alteration.  Visits from
solicitors constitute another feature of this existence.  Visits from
friends are made as uncomfortable as can well be conceived; the drop
window in the cell door, 12 inches by 8, and carefully covered with zinc
netting, is opened, and with the visitor on the one side in the cold and
dark passage, and the prisoner on the other in his cell, it is really
difficult to hear all that is said, for the echo and shouting that is
going on throughout requires a very practised ear to catch the muffled
sounds.  If any reader has ever put his head into a sack (which I
haven’t) and tried to talk, or heard the ghost speak at a transpontine
theatre, some idea of the extraordinary hollow change in the voice may be
imagined.  A more inconsiderate system could hardly be adopted, and
absolutely debars respectable persons from submitting to the ordeal
entailed by such visits.  The visits of solicitors are, however, far
better managed, and permitted with a degree of comfort that quite
surprised me.  A private room is placed at your disposal, where you can
say (and, as I found, do) pretty much what you please without let or
hindrance; and beyond having a badge temporarily placed on your arm to
indicate the number of your cell, and having the door carefully locked,
you might fancy yourself having a _tête-à-tête_ on a rainy day in the
second class refreshment-room of the Crystal Palace.  Only two unusual
circumstances occurred to vary the monotony of my daily life; the one was
the being served with a writ by a foolish tailor in Pall Mall, or rather
his executors, for poor old Morris had long since paid the penalty of
affluence and good feeding.  That any men of the world, such as I
supposed them to be, should have lent themselves to anything so childish
as to serve a man with a “writ” who was awaiting his trial on a charge
that might involve a seclusion “for years or may be for ever” passes my
comprehension.  I often felt I owed an apology to the unhappy deputy of
these irrepressible snips, for he must have found it cold and very
miserable whilst awaiting my arrival in that cheerless corridor, and I
registered a vow, when the opportunity occurred, to express my regret for
the scant comfort and apparent want of courtesy he received at my hands;
but I was the victim of cruel circumstances over which I had no control.
Another event that intruded itself on the even tenor of my ways was a
letter from “Georgina”; and as the narration will involve a certain
essential digression to make matters clear, I must again ask the reader’s


WHO has not heard of Georgina?  Ask Gounod, ask Monsieur Riviere, ask Mr.
Vaughan, ask me, ask yourself, indulgent reader.  I made this lady’s
acquaintance some five years ago, about eleven P.M., outside Covent
Garden Theatre, when she was apparently being supported by her seconds
and spongeholders, after her third or fourth round (I forget which) with
the “Leicester Square Pet” or the “Regent Street Chicken,” or both.  I
was not an eye-witness of this revival of the good old days of the ring,
so my statement as to details must not be implicitly accepted.  I,
however, made one of an excited and surging mob, and gleaned that the
cause was the fair Georgina, who had lately been “removed” from inside
the theatre.  In a thoughtless moment, and with an eye to business, and
with the hope of turning an honest penny by taking this amiable creature
into the provinces (for I dabbled in things theatrical in those days) I
entered into conversation with one of her satellites, which ripened into
an intimacy of the most deplorable and expensive nature, and ended in the
climax that procured me a most abusive and threatening letter whilst in
the House of Detention, and subsequently a visit from her on my second
appearance at Bow-street, where she occupied a prominent position in the
front row.  Immediately, then, after this lady’s notoriety connected with
the above _contretemps_, it struck me that she could not fail to “draw”
in the provinces, if not on her merits as a vocalist, at least on account
of her other amiable accomplishments.  A series of visits to her
residence ended in my securing the professional services of this
inestimable treasure; and though the terms and conditions with which she
hampered her agreement to accompany me on a six weeks’ tour were
sufficient to have made a more experienced man hesitate, I at length
consented to all she proposed, and our agreement was virtually completed.
Georgina is, I should say, an implacable foe; she is also, I should
fancy, a good friend until a row—an inevitable consequence—takes place.
This latter characteristic showed itself on this occasion; she made it a
_sine quâ non_, and refused to budge an inch unless I agreed to permit
her to be accompanied by a huge French woman whom she called her
companion, and a sickly youth whom she designated her secretary.  I was
not only to cart this worthy couple about first-class, but to pay for
their board and lodgings.  As the French person was as voracious as a
cormorant, and as the secretary was apparently suffering from some
complaint that impelled him to eat inordinately three or four times a
day, and as provincial hotels are proverbially expensive when the
ordinary routine is in the least deviated from, and as nothing but the
best and most _récherché menu_ was considered good enough for this worthy
trio, my bill and my feelings after a three days’ experience may be
easier imagined than described; added to all this, Georgina’s delicate
health precluded her from abstaining from food for any length of time,
and thus when we journeyed from one town to another a hamper of prog had
to be invariably made up for sustaining nature in the transit.  Good
heavens! such appetites would have eaten one out of house and home, even
if any profits had been made; but when the takings were absolutely “nil,”
and the working expenses about £100 a week, it will not surprise the
reader to learn that I lost £400 in less than a fortnight, and returned
to London a sadder and a wiser man.  I cannot omit one absurd feature in
this “starring” tour which occurred in a town very far north, and which
happily brought my disastrous tour to an abrupt and unexpected
conclusion.  The hour that the concert was to commence was eight; the
audience had been respectfully solicited to be in their places by that
hour—a request, I am bound to admit, the entire audience present
considerately complied with—everything, in short, was done by visiting,
puffing, advertising, and personally canvassing, that ingenuity and
activity on my part could suggest; and at a quarter before eight I
awaited behind the curtain (seeing, but unseen), with throbbing heart,
the arrival of the vast crowds that I confidently expected.  The fair and
amiable one was seated on a fauteuil, radiant with smiles, and attired in
a matchless robe of white water silk and ruffles—a kind of mixture
between the “Marie Antoinette” and the “Gorgonzola” styles, or what the
cross would be, if such styles do or ever have existed—(should any lady
read this description she will, I trust, pardon any imperfections of

The female cormorant was administering some light stimulant, for Georgina
is subject to fits of nervousness, incredible as this may appear.  The
emaciated one was in front assisting in looking after the money-taker;
and I feel thankful to Providence on his account, if not on my own, that
this was far from an arduous task, for the poor fellow was evidently
delicate and physically incapable of lifting a heavy cash-box, and so,
with all my faults, blood-guiltiness cannot be laid to my charge.  Time
meanwhile was rapidly passing, and a huge clock pointed to three minutes
to eight, then two minutes, then one, and then eight o’clock struck, and,
oh horror of horrors! the _sole_ occupant of the enormous building was
the critic of the local paper.  Decency forbade our opening the concert
to this solitary unhappy man; it appeared to me to be cowardly to attack
him alone, and to pit him single-handed against the invincible Georgina,
who had demolished a conductor and his manager a week previously, and who
now showed symptoms of “annoyance” that nothing but my soothing powers
prevented bursting into a flame.  My plan of action was immediately
taken; to hesitate a moment was to be lost.  I at once sent for the
“secretary,” and first thought of telling him to make a short speech from
the stage to our solitary audience; but reflection decided me in
approaching him myself.  I apologised for the unusual occurrence (it had
in reality happened wherever we had been, though not to the extent of
less than seven or eight); I offered to return him his money, for I was
well aware his was a complimentary ticket, and verily believe that the
united purses of the entire company could not have scraped together five
shillings.  He muttered something I tried not to hear, and next day
repaid my intended courtesy by a flaming smashing article that would
effectually have ruined us had we moved elsewhere.  But events were
occurring at the same time which put it out of my power to continue this
disastrous tour.  About eleven o’clock the landlord of the hotel
presented himself at my room, said the lady and her friends had left, and
politely but firmly intimated that he could not permit me to remove my
luggage till a little bill of £8 was settled.  The rest is soon told.  I
hurried back to London, remitted the £8, and abandoned the tour.  I had
not, however, heard the last of my musical _bête noire_; she and the
“secretary” both dunned me for their railway fares, which I of course
ignored, and I heard no more of her till she dug me out at the House of
Detention, when she threatened me with legal proceedings for detaining,
as she alleged, her photographs—the real fact being that, after our last
stampede, her photographs that were displayed were seized by some
indignant creditor in expectation of a ransom.  For my part I hope I have
really heard the last of this irrepressible creature.


AN eventful day was now approaching, and on the morrow I was to appear at
Bow Street for the first time after my formal remand of the previous
Friday.  I felt an instinctive conviction that my appearance (even though
it had not appeared up to that time in the newspapers) would be generally
known, and draw together a crowd actuated by motives either of like,
dislike, or curiosity; nor was I wrong in my surmise.  An official at the
police court informed me that numbers of inquiries had been made as to
the time of my probable appearance; and as the appointed hour drew near
fresh arrivals and those that had been waiting since 10 A.M. combined in
making up a crowd that literally crammed the court.  It was, I admit, a
very trying ordeal, for I had been pretty accurately informed what
persons were in the court and waiting to see the “fun.”  I did, however,
the best (though, I fear, a very foolish) thing under the circumstances,
and primed myself with liquor, which certain friends, by dint of great
ingenuity, managed to convey to me, for the gaoler, though a most civil
and obliging man, was a terrible disciplinarian, and one that was not to
be “squared.”  Had I not taken these repeated nips—and I’m afraid to say
how much I imbibed—I firmly believe I could never have gone through the
examination with the _sang froid_ I displayed.

About 12 o’clock a hurrying of feet approaching my cell announced to me
that my turn was come; and after a momentary pause in the passage I found
myself escorted by a constable and in the dock.  I can never forget that
terrible moment.  In front, on each side, and behind me was a dense
throng, representing every class of persons I had ever had dealings with.
One expected a certain amount of hostility from the side of the
prosecution, but the array of faces I then saw opened up in me a new
train of thoughts.  Here was a room thronged with people I had befriended
and people I had never injured; men I had stood dinners to when their
funds were lower than mine; lodging-house keepers that had fleeced me,
and waiters I had tipped beyond their deserts; nameless attorneys from
the slums of the City, courting daylight and publicity in the hopeless
endeavour to get their names into print by the gratuitous offer of their
valuable but hitherto unappreciated services—all craning their necks to
stare at and exult over a poor devil, who, whatever his faults, was now
at a disadvantage.  It was the old adage of “hitting a man when he is
down;” and I’m thankful for the experience that has enabled me to form a
just estimate of the worthlessness of such professions of friendship.  On
the other hand, I heard of many persons—to their honour, be it said—who
abstained from being present through feelings of generous consideration.
My _quasi_-friend Georgina occupied a conspicuous place in the front row.
I verily believe she never took her eyes off me, but her offensive stare
had no charm for me; I had more serious matters to occupy my mind.  A
mountain of flesh that I was once on terms of intimacy with was also
present, panting with excitement, but, like the Levite of old, “he passed
over on the other side.”  I will not weary the reader with details that
repeat themselves almost daily in the police reports; suffice it to say
that I was again remanded for another week, and then formally committed
for trial at the next sessions of the Central Criminal Court.

On my two previous remands to the House of Detention I had always managed
to remain at Bow Street till the 5 o’clock van took its load of victims.
It was, at all events, a change, and infinitely more agreeable than the
depressing atmosphere of Clerkenwell.  On the day, however, of my
committal to Newgate I was informed that I could not, as before, wait
till 5 P.M., but must be ready to start at 2.  The rope was clearly
getting “tauter”; discipline was gradually assuming its sway, the circles
around me smaller and smaller.  The other occupants of the “Black Maria”
were, like myself, all committed for trial; and as we drove along I was
much surprised at the marvellous knowledge they appeared to have gained
of me and my affairs.  I was, as before, standing in the passage and not
in a compartment, and consequently could hear all that passed between the
various passengers.  My case was the sole subject of conversation;
occasionally I was the object of a little mirthful sally.  Thus, a man
who had been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment in default of paying
a fine, said, “Ah, Capting, you might give us two of them quids to pay my
fine”—referring to some money that had been alluded to in the court as
having been in my possession at the time of my arrest.  Another hinted
that I “Best take a good look at the streets, ’cos all wud be changed
like afore I cum out agin.”  Another assured me that the warm baths in
Newgate “wus fine but ’ot.”  A lady, too, graced our party; she was
tawdry, I admit, and lived in the Dials.  Her misfortune was that she had
mistaken someone’s purse for her own.  She was howling over her ill-luck
for the first part of the journey, but before we arrived at our
destination had quite recovered her usual spirits.  She told me she was
an actress—an assertion I am not in a position to dispute, though I found
her conversation quite as intellectual as that of the usual ballet-girl
class; and as she was the last “lady” I was likely to see or hear for
some time, I paid great respect to her conversation.  All these
familiarities were terribly grating to me; they were more difficult to
bear than any of my previous humiliations.  They were, as it were, the
first instalments of being addressed as an equal by inferiors who had
hitherto recognised me as a superior; and as we drove along, past objects
as familiar to me as my own face, I felt the lump rising in my throat,
and I dread to think what weakness I might have been guilty of had not a
sharp turn brought us in front of Newgate, and the opening of a huge gate
on its creaking hinges recalled me to a sense of my unenviable position.
The van, having crossed the courtyard, was backed against the door, where
a string of warders formally received us; and after again submitting to
the painful ordeal of being catechized, I found myself traversing a
dismal and nearly dark corridor; and then the hideous conviction forced
itself on me for the first time that I was actually a prisoner and
securely lodged in Newgate.


SO much has been written about this national Bastille, and so many have
gone over the building, that one feels as if writing about “a tale that
is told.”  Nevertheless, I trust my narrative may describe things never
before alluded to, and be found to contain matters of interest that came
under my personal observation.  The first thing at Newgate that a fresh
arrival has to submit to is the indispensable bath, accompanied by a very
minute and simultaneous search.  I was at once ushered downstairs and
into a very roomy and luxurious bath room, quite as good as any supplied
for eighteenpence at West End establishments, and being invited to
undress and get into the bath, had the gratification of observing my
clothes undergo, one by one, a very thorough overhauling.  Each item was
severally manipulated, and I am convinced not a pin could have escaped
detection.  Meanwhile I was splashing and thoroughly enjoying myself,
much as one has seen a duck that has been cooped up for a week when
suddenly turned into a pond.  I had not had such a revel for ten days,
and in the ecstasy of the moment I felt as if it was almost worth the
journey to Newgate for such a luxury.  This periodical bath is one of the
greatest “inflictions” the average prisoner has to submit to, and
numerous instances came under my observation at a later period, of
ingenuity displayed by frowzy malefactors to evade this regulation.
Twenty minutes found me again “clothed and in my right mind,” and I was
ushered into a cell on the same subterraneous floor.  This cell was
certainly the most empty I had ever seen; its entire furniture literally
consisted of a camp stool and a thermometer, and this latter instrument
caused me considerable annoyance, for I am not exaggerating when I assert
that an absurd make-believe display of anxiety for one’s welfare involved
a visit and calculation of the temperature every half-hour through the
night.  I utterly failed to fathom this custom, the more so as the
turnkey who made the calculation probably understood as much about it as
he did of astronomy, and can only attribute it to the inherent politeness
developed in the officials who periodically have lodgers whom they begin
by feeding up, and eventually end by launching into eternity with a hand
shake, if we are to believe the papers.  This idea is not my own, but was
suggested to me by a terrible scamp and fellow lodger whom I shall
presently introduce to the reader.  An absurd habit that prevailed at
Newgate, and which contrasted strangely with the other customs, was that
of the chief warder as he finally counted us at night.  This official,
having glared at you with an expression such as the rattlesnake may be
presumed to give the guinea-pig just before dinner, invariably said “Good
night!”  I was so struck by this unique and time-honoured custom that I
asked my friend and valet—for he cleaned out my cell and did other jobs
for me—Mr. Mike Rose what it meant.  “Well,” he said, “they gets into a
sort of perlite way like, ’cos whenever a cove swings they nigh allus
shakes hands with ’im, and maybe this is ’ow they gits perlite like.”
There was something so original in this logic that I could not but be
impressed by it, and though I failed to discover the connection between
the two circumstances, still I had realized that Mr. Mike Rose was a bit
of a character and worth cultivation.  Very shortly after my
incarceration in the thermometer-furnished cell I was visited by the
surgeon, and having obtained his permission to have a bed instead of a
hammock, a wooden tressel was brought in with sheets, bolster, and
blankets.  I at once proceeded to make my couch, deeming bed the best
place on such a cold and cheerless afternoon; and 6 o’clock P.M. found me
in bed, vainly endeavouring to get warm, with my eye fixed on the
thermometer, and muffled up to the chin with sheets and blankets, all of
which were stamped in letters three inches long with the ominous words
“NEWGATE PRISON.”  I really believed that my first night’s experience at
the “House of Detention” was sufficiently awful, but it was nothing to my
sensations here.  The associations of the place, the idea that many a
murderer had probably occupied this very cell, and possibly slept in
these identical bed-coverings, all forced themselves upon me.  The bells
of the numerous churches which abound round Newgate also seemed desirous
of adding to one’s misery by joyful peals; they were practising their
weekly bell-ringing, and one chime was repeating over and over again—in
mockery of me, as it were—Haydn’s “Hymn of the Creation,” and “The
Heavens are telling” kept floating into my ears through granite walls and
iron bars; and though I tried very hard to stifle sound by burying myself
under the “broad-arrowed” bed-clothing, all my efforts were futile, till
sleep, kind sleep, took pity on me, and I wandered in my dreams far away
from my dreadful abode, only to be recalled to the hideous reality by the
mournful prison bell, and—

    “Sorrow returned with the light of the morn,
    And the voice in my dreaming ear melted away.”

The daily routine is somewhat different to that of the “House of
Detention.”  One official only counts the prisoners of a morning, and
asks you at the time if you wish to see the doctor during the day.  I was
once tempted to express this wish with a view of procuring a sleeping
draught.  He questioned me as to my symptoms in an apparently interested
manner, and eventually ordered me a dose of “No. 2.”  No. 2, I may here
state, is a ready-made article, and is baled out of a huge jar into a
dirty tin cup.  I took my dose, and, without further detailing the
result, am extremely grateful I had not been prescribed No. 1.  If I had,
it is very doubtful whether this narrative would ever have been written.
The first day is occupied with details to which considerable importance
appear to be attached—namely, your description—every particular of which
is carefully booked by the head of each department, and a more senseless,
harassing ordeal can hardly be conceived.  Surely one inspection and
general description (this was my third within ten days) ought to suffice,
and might without much trouble be forwarded from one prison to another.
It is idle to deny that half the questions put to you are absolutely
unnecessary, and the conviction is forced on you that you are being
pumped from sheer curiosity.  Thus the Chaplain, in the blandest manner,
only to be acquired by constant attendance on murderers previous to
execution, asked me questions that appeared most impertinent—as to where
I lived, and if I had any relatives, and where they lived.  I at once
told him I considered all this quite unnecessary, and declined to
enlighten him.  Immediately after breakfast on the first morning the
prisoners are taken in packs of about twenty before the Governor.  This
man is what is known in the army as a “Ranker”—that is, one who by merit
has raised himself from the rank and file to his present position—and had
apparently brought with him many of those habits which, however
commendable in a turnkey, are beneath the dignity of a Governor and lower
the position he ought to occupy.  Acting on the habits associated with
his youth, this Governor commenced a minute examination of one’s
physiognomy.  Seizing you by the nose or ear (I forget which), and
scowling hard, he began, “Eyes grey, complexion fresh, mole on neck,
&c.;” and having further personally superintended your being measured and
weighed, you were filtered through, as it were, into the presence of the
Chaplain, who tried to pump you as before described, and who, in his
turn, passed you on to the doctor, who appeared to have a kind of roving
commission to endeavour to extract any crumbs of information omitted by
his two _confrères_.

                       [Picture: A Cheerful Group]

The whole style and system at Newgate was excessively low.  I was
moreover very much struck by the resemblance that appeared to exist
between the officials from the highest to the lowest.  Every one had the
same unpleasant expression that suggested the idea that they lived in
gloomy streets, where the drainage was bad.  I attribute this in a
measure to a commendable desire on the part of the subordinates to
imitate their chief, who had not a pleasant expression, and shows how
necessary it is that Government should select a gentleman by birth and
manners—irrespective of every other recommendation—for a position of such
delicacy as that of a prison Governor.  The next ordeal one had to submit
to was “Chapel,” and, barring the novelty of the scene, I can hardly
conceive a more absurd farce.  The pumping Chaplain was here
metamorphosed into the surpliced cleric, and it is difficult to decide in
which character he was most objectionable.  In justice I must commend him
for the brevity of his remarks, for from find to finish—from “When the
wicked man” to the end of the sermon—was all compressed into fifteen
minutes, and away we again trudged, like Alice in Wonderland, in search
of further novelty.  The Chapel of Newgate is a very awful place;
anything more calculated to banish reverential feeling and inspire horror
can hardly be conceived.  On each side is a huge cage, different from
anything I had ever seen, except, perhaps, the elephant house at the
Zoological.  In these, prisoners convicted and prisoners awaiting trial
are severally placed, thus effectually dividing the Scotland Yard sheep
from the Scotland Yard goats.  Above, protected by small red curtains,
were diminutive balconies, capable of holding three persons at most;
these were for the accommodation of murderers, from whence they receive
the consolations of religion (official) whilst awaiting strangulation.
The vibration of a curtain led me to the conclusion that one of these
mortuaries was daily occupied, a suspicion that was confirmed by events
which I subsequently heard and saw.  I discovered, indeed, that a
gentleman who had cut the throats of half his family, and who eventually
benefited by the religious consolation of the Chaplain and the delicate
attentions of Mr. Marwood, was a fellow-lodger at the same time as
myself.  I saw the poor wretch every day passing and repassing, and later
on “assisted” at certain preliminaries in his honour.  I moreover had a
bird’s-eye view of his last appearance in public, facts that I shall duly
narrate hereafter.

“Exercise” was an indispensable feature of life in Newgate, and nothing,
I believe, could have exempted one from this ordeal.  It answered,
indeed, more purposes than one.  Health was doubtless essential;
identification, however, was considerably more important.  Three times a
week, and before starting on our circus-like walk, all the prisoners
awaiting trial, amounting to over two hundred, were ranged shoulder to
shoulder round the walls, a preliminary that at first puzzled me
considerably.  I was not, however, left long in ignorance.

             [Picture: “Should old acquaintance be forgot.”]

A little way off, and apparently approaching, I heard the measured tramp
of an advancing crowd, and suddenly there appeared a long string of men
in single file; these were the detectives, some seventy or eighty in
number, bent on a mission of recognition.  Slowly they passed before us,
each one staring and occasionally stopping and addressing a prisoner, or
whispering to one of their companions.  These preliminary enquiries often
led to minuter inspections; and if they expressed the wish, a prisoner
was afterwards honoured by a private view, and carefully compared with
photographs and police descriptions.  This, no doubt, is a very essential
proceeding, and many a man “wanted” for an undiscovered crime in another
part of the kingdom, and committed months or years previously, is
recognized by this salutary custom.  As may be supposed, this inspection
had absolutely no personal interest to me.  Still the ordeal, degrading
in the extreme, never failed to inspire me with horror; and I dreaded the
mornings when the “detecs,” as they were lovingly termed, made their
appearance.  There was something so weird and uncanny in the whole
thing—the distant tramp, the solemn march past, the offensive leer, the
familiar stare, all combined to make a horrible impression.  A more
repulsive body of men than these “detecs” can hardly be conceived, got up
as they were in every kind of costume—men in pot hats and slap-bang
coats, others in shabby-genteel frock coats and tall hats; some in
fustians and others in waterproofs and leggings, but all with the same
unmistakable expression.  I hope the authorities are not under the
impression that these individuals are unknown to the law-breaking
community, for no greater fallacy can possibly exist.  I never missed an
opportunity hereafter of asking habitual criminals this question, and am
satisfied that their appearances, their beats, and their daily routine
are known to every habitual criminal in London.  I’ll prove this
hereafter.  Meanwhile, one has only to look about in the streets, and he
cannot fail to observe a civilian frequently talking to a policeman.
This man is not asking his way, but is in nineteen cases out of twenty a
“recogniser”; nor can it be wondered at if their foolish actions and
evident unwillingness to conceal their vocation makes them as
distinguishable as they are.  I will confidently assert that every
pickpocket and every “unfortunate” knows each and every one of these
detectives; and as they invariably frequent the same beat, and pursue the
same tactics at the same time every day, it can hardly be wondered at.  I
know—and it will hardly be asserted that I could know it except by having
heard it from others—that a detective is “due” daily at King’s Cross
Metropolitan Station about two P.M., and remains about an hour, and that
on race-days he is there before the return from the meeting.  If this is
true—as I believe it to be—it is natural to suppose that other facts are
equally well known.  I could adduce a hundred instances of this sort, for
I made burglars my particular study, and will disclose hereafter my ideas
of the many fallacies that at present exist on this subject, and the
causes that lead to burglaries, and how they are easiest avoided.  I
never lost the opportunity of questioning a burglar or a pickpocket, and
during the next few months I saw some very fair specimens of these
respective species.  My remarks must not be taken as referring to the
higher Scotland-yard detectives, than whom no cleverer body exists, but
to these trumpery plainclothes men, or “recognisers,” that may be seen at
every corner, and who, I verily believe, do more to impede than further


IN the corner of the yard where I daily exercised stood an unpretending
looking shed, with slate roof and large folding doors, and resembling a
coach-house more than anything I can compare it to.  This building always
puzzled me, and I enquired of my friend and fellow-lodger, Mr. Mike Rose,
what it was.  I then discovered it was the scaffold, that grim limb of
the law on which so many wretches have periodically suffered within three
weeks of their sentence at the Old Bailey Sessions, or, as they are
familiarly known, “The C. C. C.”  I was most anxious to have a minute
examination of this masterpiece of Marwood’s, for it is admitted that
that eminent manipulator of the carotid artery has brought his genius to
bear on the grim subject with such success that drop, knot, and platform
have all arrived at the highest possible degree of perfection.  It was
the custom to utilise the services of certain prisoners every day in
general cleaning and helping about the prison, and as I was convinced
that “the scaffold” would, like every other prison institution, require a
periodical clean up, I suggested to my turnkey that if the chance
occurred he should select me to assist in this cheerful and instructive
duty.  He laughed at the idea of _my_ doing such work, and added that
they only selected men whose antecedents had habituated them to scrubbing
and cleaning; but I explained to him that if Mike and I were selected,
that Mike would do all the washing, and that I would exercise a sort of
moral effect and general supervision that could not possibly make the
slightest difference to him, and was based on an agreement between Mike
and myself, whereby for a consideration of bread and butter, and my
leavings generally, he was to clean out my cell daily and make himself
useful to me, and on my behalf.  This warder was a very good sort—indeed,
about the only one that had not that offensive “bad drainage” expression
I had noticed in the others.  So he promised compliance, and one day
after dinner I found myself in company with Mike, crossing the yard—I
with a duster and he with a mop and pail _en route_ to the scaffold.
There is something horrible in this idea, and many readers will probably
consider my act and desire to participate in such a task as in the worst
possible taste, but I felt I should _never_ have such a chance again, and
being, moreover, a philosopher, and actuated, even at that early stage,
with a determination of some day writing my experiences, I lost no
opportunity from the first day of my incarceration to the last to see
_everything_ by hook or by crook.  I can fairly say I attained my object,
and saw _more_ than any other man has ever done before, and that too
under such favourable circumstances as something more than chance enabled
me to.  It may not here be out of place to say that I have read every
book, sensational or realistic, that purports to describe prison life,
and have invariably come to the conclusion that the writers never really
wrote from personal observation, or, if they did, had failed signally in
giving a correct description of what actually exists.  Many were
well-written books, but they were NOT prison life.  This narrative (to
use an advertising phrase) supplies a want long felt, and if it abounds
with faults of composition—as I readily confess it does—it compensates in
a measure for its shortcomings by the accuracy of its details.  It is
written in a vein, moreover, more likely—as I hope—to meet public
approval than that snivelling, sanctimonious style adopted by its
predecessors, and which, even if sincere, would nevertheless be palling,
but where indulged in by some scheming, anonymous, rascally jail-bird, is
as impertinent as it is nauseous.  I have no faith in converted burglars.
The entire scaffold is a most unpretending construction, and situated in
any other yard but Old Bailey might pass observation as a highly-polished
and tidy out-house.  The floor is level with the outer yard, so that the
chief actor is spared the painful necessity of trying to ascend a flight
of steps with quaking knees and an air of assumed levity.  A few steps,
quite unobservable whilst standing on the “drop,” lead down from the back
of the flooring into a bricked pit below, and a long bolt, worked by a
wheel, enables this apparently solid flooring to split from the centre
and to launch the victim in mid-air into the centre of this truly
“bottomless pit.”  I minutely examined all this, and (as its thorough
dusting necessitated) rubbed and burnished every portion I could think
of.  My _confrère_, meanwhile, was on his hands and knees, scrubbing away
like grim death, and preparing the floor for the ceremony that was to
take place a few days hence.  Mike all this time was giving me the
benefit of his vast experience; and as he appeared to hear everything
that was going on, he led me to understand that eight A.M. on Monday next
would witness one of those dreadful private executions that periodically
take place, witnessed by none but prison officials, and associated, I
verily believe, in many instances by circumstances of brutality that
would not admit of publicity.  He added that we might by luck get a view
of the procession, or at least hear a little, for, as he considerately
pointed out, our cells actually overlooked the yard.  I was most anxious
to hear how we might attain to this unusual excitement, and listened
attentively whilst Mike enlightened me in something of the following
style:—“Yer see, they’ll begin to fake the cove about eight—ah, afore
that, and none of us, see, will be allowed out that morning, you bet; so
if we can get a bit of glass out of the windey—see—and plug it round wi’
bread, why none on ’em wud be none the wiser, and we might see a rare
lot; never you mind, leave it to me, and to-morrow when I cleans your
cell, I’ll fix it for yer.”  This was indeed something to look forward
to, and next morning when Mike appeared he led me to understand, by the
most hideous grimaces, that he had succeeded on his own window, and
prepared to do the same by mine; so leaving him to himself, I withdrew
into another cell, for it is a peculiarity of prison system that if two
men are together, or even near one another, they are invariably watched,
but if alone they are comparatively unobserved, and free to prosecute any
undertaking without the least risk of detection.  Mike’s gestures,
accompanied by a rolling of his eyes in the direction of the window,
convinced me on my return that he had succeeded in his undertaking, and
having the highest opinion of his constructive and destructive
capabilities, I determined not to approach the window nor to test his
work till the supreme moment arrived.  Mike was one of those individuals
who undergo imprisonment as a matter of course, and with considerably
greater advantage than most men.  I do not here include myself, for mine
was an exceptional case; he had benefited by the experience of years, and
though only a young man, appeared to be intimate with every prison in the
kingdom; he was, moreover, a most willing and respectful man and a
capital worker, and, as such, a favourite with the warders, who knew they
could always depend on a job being well done by him; he was,
consequently, all day employed on odd jobs, which carried with them
privileges that enabled him to roam about and give the uninitiated—such
as myself—the benefit of his profound and varied experience.  Mike, I
fear, was a terrible ruffian; he was now awaiting his trial for burglary
and personal violence, and though he assured me it was a mere nothing,
and a grossly exaggerated and trumped-up charge, I gleaned from the facts
that came out at his trial that he had rifled the contents of a small
shop in the City Road, and that when the old woman who lived on the
premises had ventured to remonstrate, that Mike had marked his sense of
such an unjustifiable proceeding by half throttling her, and eventually
making away “for a little season.”  He assured me, however, it was
“nothing,” adding, however, that as it was his fourth conviction, he
quite expected penal servitude.  He informed me also that he had written
an elaborate defence, which he proposed reading to the judge and jury.
This defence he insisted on showing me, and I am bound to say that a more
damning document, or one more capable of hanging a man, I never saw; but
luck and circumstances happily (for him) prevented him carrying out his
intention of reading it, and Mike by the omission got off with two years’
hard labour.  Mr. Rose, who was about four-feet-four in his stockings,
communicated to me, amongst other interesting facts, that he was a
volunteer, and I could not help realising on various occasions after he
had been performing violent exercise in my cell, that there was some
truth in the adage that “a Rose by any name would smell as sweet.”  Mike,
in short, was a character, and whether in chapel, where he apparently led
the choir and knew every response by heart, or in the prison, where he
appeared _au courant_ with everything and everybody, I found him a most
useful neighbour, invariably obliging and respectful, and willing to turn
his hand to anything.


THE eventful day at length dawned when the scaffold was to be brought
into requisition.  “The condemned sermon” of the day before, to say
nothing of the evident bustle that was going on, had sufficiently
prepared our minds for what was about to happen; and the getting our
breakfasts half an hour earlier, and the omission of the usual passage
cleaning, all clearly pointed to some unusual occurrence.  My friend the
warder, too, kept me thoroughly _au courant_ with what was passing, and
when giving me my breakfast added, “Well, I sha’n’t be back just yet, as
I’ve got to assist at a little business down below that will take about
an hour.”  After, therefore, he had left me, I mounted my stool, and
having contemplated Mike’s handiwork with considerable satisfaction,
removed the pane of glass and awaited the procession with very much the
same sensation that I have looked out for the passing of the Lord Mayor’s
Show or Mr. Hengler’s circus.  The view I anticipated can hardly be said
to have been obtained under the most favourable circumstances.  Perched
on a stool, and liable, if detected, of getting into a very serious
scrape, was in itself sufficient to infuse a certain amount of alloy into
the transaction; but when to all this must be added my own feelings—that
here was I, ONE prisoner actually confined within the same walls, and
watching the execution of ANOTHER prisoner—it will readily be conceived
that a piquancy was introduced into the proceeding such as seldom or ever
has fallen to the lot of an individual in my position.  I could not have
had long to wait, though the discomfort of my position and the anxiety
attending it made it appear a matter of hours; and no twenty stone of
humanity ever suffered more torture than I did whilst with craned neck
and squinting through a crevice I awaited the advent of this hideous
procession.  The dismal toll of St. Sepulchre’s bell and the distant
tramp of advancing footsteps, however, announced that the “time had
come.”  I could distinctly hear the “Ordinary” repeating in very ordinary
tones portions of the Burial Service as the weird procession passed below
me; a dense fog made it very indistinct, but there it was almost beneath
me—the warders first, then the Governor, and then the condemned man
trussed like a turkey, supported by Marwood, and immediately preceded by
the chaplain.  I could have dropped a biscuit amongst the party, so near
were they, as they passed through a wicket and were lost to sight.  A
solemn silence now ensued, followed after a few moments that appeared
like hours by a terrible thud; and I pictured to myself the lately
scrubbed floor giving way, and my fellow-prisoner suspended mid-air in
that dark and bottomless pit.  The closing of the outer shed doors
recalled me to my senses, and the approaching sound of footsteps, as the
“small and early party” dispersed, some to breakfast and some to the
morning paper, but all to reassemble an hour hence for the inquest, the
quicklime, the thrusting into a hole, and the general obliteration of the
morning’s work, suggested to me the advisability of at once restoring my
apartment to its normal condition.  So with one piece of bread jammed
into the window, and another jammed into my mouth, I resumed my breakfast
as if perfectly oblivious of the terrible drama that had just taken
place.  A few hours later we were exercising in the identical yard, and
the modest coach-house with its closed doors looked as disused as the
portals of a swimming-bath on Christmas Day.

The scene just enacted and the _débris_ of my breakfast forcibly recalled
to my mind an execution I witnessed many years ago from, as I believe,
the identical eating-house that had just supplied me with my breakfast.
It was in ’65, as near as I can recollect, that myself and three or four
others engaged a room on the first floor with two windows to witness the
execution of Müller for the murder of Mr. Briggs.  A public hanging has
been so often and so graphically described that I hesitate to attempt to
add anything that is not already known.  On the night before (Sunday) we
agreed to rendezvous at 10 o’clock at the Raleigh Club.  It was raining
in torrents, and it was a question in our minds whether or no we should
brave the elements; but an empty four-wheeler standing outside settled
the point, and we proceeded on our ghastly journey.  As it turned out,
the deluge was all in our favour, for had it been fine we should never
have got near the place, and would assuredly have shared the fate of a
cab-load of young Guardsmen who had preceded us about an hour, and who
unluckily arrived between the showers and never got beyond Newgate Lane;
at this point they were politely but firmly invited to descend, stripped
to their shirts, and then asked where the cabman should drive them to.
We, however, were more fortunate.  In a sheet of water that even the
stoutest burglar found to be irresistible, we alighted in a comparatively
deserted street in front of our unpretending coffee-house; and a few
minutes found us in a cosy room with a blazing fire, and a servant who
had preceded us laying out the contents of a hamper of prog.  The scene
on the night previous to a public execution afforded a study of the dark
side of nature, not to be obtained under any other conditions.  The
lowest scum of London appeared to be here collected in dense masses,
which, as the hour of execution approached, amounted, according to the
_Times_, to at least 100,000 people.  The front of Newgate was strongly
barricaded, huge barriers of stout beams traversing the street in all
directions; they were intended as a precaution against the pressure of
the crowd; they, however, answered another purpose, not wholly
anticipated by the authorities.  As the crowd increased, so wholesale
highway robberies were of momentary occurrence; and victims in the hands
of some two or three desperate ruffians were as far from help as though
divided by a continent from the battalions of police that surrounded the

The scene that met our view as we pulled up the windows and looked out on
the black night and its still blacker accompanyists baffles description.
A surging mass, with here and there a flickering torch, rolled and roared
before us; above this weird scene arose the voices of men and women
shouting, singing, blaspheming; and as night advanced, and the liquor
gained firmer mastery, it seemed as if hell had delivered up its victims.
To approach the window was a matter of danger; volleys of mud immediately
saluted us, accompanied by more blasphemy and shouts of defiance.  It was
difficult to believe we were in the centre of a civilised capital that
vaunted its religion and yet meted out justice in such a form.

The first step towards the morning’s work was the appearance of workmen
about 4 A.M.; this was immediately followed by a rumbling sound, and we
realized that the scaffold was being dragged round.  A grim, square,
box-like apparatus was now indistinctly visible, as it was slowly backed
against the “debtors’ door.”  Lights now flickered about the scaffold; it
was the workmen fixing the crossbeams and uprights.  Every stroke of the
hammer must have vibrated through the condemned cells, and warned the
wakeful occupant that his time was nearly come.  These cells are situated
at the corner nearest Holborn, and passed by thousands daily who little
know how much misery that bleak white wall divides them from.  Gradually
as day dawned the scene became more animated, and battalions of police
marched down and surrounded the scaffold.  Meanwhile a little
unpretending door was gently opened; this is the “debtors’ door,” and
leads direct through the kitchen on to the scaffold.  The kitchen on
these occasions is turned into a temporary mausoleum, and draped with
tawdry black hangings, which conceal the pots and pans, and produce an
effect supposed to be more in keeping with the solemn occasion.  From our
standpoint everything was visible inside the kitchen and on the scaffold;
to the surging mass in the streets below this bird’s-eye view was,
however, denied.  Presently an old and decrepit man made his appearance,
and cautiously “tested” the drop; but a foolish impulse of curiosity led
him to peep over the drapery, and a yell of execration saluted him.  This
was Calcraft, the hangman, hoary-headed and tottering and utterly past
his work.

The tolling of St. Sepulchre’s about 7.30 A.M. announced the approach of
the hour of execution; meanwhile a steady rain was falling, which,
however, in no way decreased the ever-increasing crowd.  As far as the
eye could reach was a sea of human faces.  Roofs, windows, church rails,
and empty vans—all were pressed into the service, and tightly packed with
human beings eager to catch a glimpse of a fellow-creature on the last
stage of life’s journey.  The rain by this time had made the drop
slippery, and necessitated precautions on behalf of the living if not on
those appointed to die; so sand was thrown over a portion (not of the
drop—that would have been superfluous), but on the side, the only portion
that was not to give way.  It was suggestive of the pitfalls used for
trapping wild beasts—a few twigs and a handful of earth, and below a
gaping chasm.  Here, however, all was reversed; there was no need to
deceive the chief actor by resorting to such a subterfuge: he was to
expiate his crime with all the publicity a humane government could
devise.  The sand was for the benefit of the “ordinary,” the minister of
religion, who was to offer dying consolation at 8 and breakfast at 9 A.M.

The procession now appeared, winding its way through the kitchen, and in
the centre of the group walked Müller, a sickly, delicate-looking lad,
securely pinioned and literally as white as marble.  As he reached the
platform, he looked up, and placed himself immediately under the hanging
chain.  At the end of this chain was a hook, which was eventually
attached to the hemp round the poor wretch’s neck.  The concluding
ceremonies did not take long, considering how feeble the aged hangman
was.  A white cap was first placed over his face, then his ankles were
strapped together, and finally the fatal noose was put round his neck,
the end of which was then attached to the hook.  I fancy I can see
Calcraft now, laying the “slack” of the rope that was to give the fall
lightly on the doomed man’s shoulder, so as to preclude the possibility
of a hitch, and then stepping on tiptoe down the steps and disappearing
below.  The silence now was truly awful.  I felt my heart in my mouth; it
was the most terrific suspense I had ever realized.  I felt myself
involuntarily saying, “He could be saved YET, YET, YET;” and then a thud,
that vibrated through the street, announced that Müller was launched into
eternity.  My eyes were literally glued to the spot.  I was fascinated by
the awful sight; not a detail escaped me.  Calcraft meanwhile, apparently
not satisfied with his handiwork, seized hold of the wretch’s feet and
pressed on them for some seconds with all his weight, and with a last
approving look shambled back into the prison.  Meanwhile the white cap
was getting tighter and tighter, until it looked ready to burst; and a
faint blue speck that had almost immediately appeared on the carotid
artery after the drop fell gradually became more livid till it assumed
the appearance of a huge black bruise.  Death, I should say, must have
been instantaneous, for he never stirred a muscle, and the only movement
that was visible was that from the gradually stretching rope as the body
kept slowly swinging round and round.  The hanging of the body for an
hour constituted part of the sentence, an interval that was not lost upon
the multitude below.  The drunken again took up their ribald songs,
conspicuous amongst which was one that had done duty pretty well through
the night, and ended with, “Müller, Müller, he’s the man”; but the
pickpockets and the highwaymen reaped the greatest benefit.  It can
hardly be credited that respectable old City men on their way to
business, with watch-chains and scarf-pins, in clean white shirt-fronts,
and with unmistakable signs of having spent the night in bed, should have
had the foolhardiness to venture into such a crowd, but there they were
in dozens.  They had not long to wait for the reward of their temerity.
Gangs of ruffians at once surrounded them; and whilst one held them by
each arm, another was rifling their pockets.  Watches, chains, and
scarf-pins passed from hand to hand with the rapidity of an eel;
meanwhile their piteous shouts of “Murder!” “Help!” “Police!” were
utterly unavailing.  The barriers were doing their duty too well, and the
hundreds of constables within a few yards were perfectly powerless to get
through the living rampart.

From our window I saw an interesting case of mistaken identity, and I was
glad to have the opportunity of saving an innocent man from arrest.  The
incident was referred to in the next day’s papers, and was briefly this.
A well-dressed old man had had his scarf-pin pulled out, and a policeman
by this time being luckily near, a lad standing by was taxed with the
theft.  We, however, from our vantage ground had seen the whole affair,
and recognized the real culprit, who was standing coolly by whilst the
innocent man was being marched off.  By shouting and hammering with our
sticks, we eventually succeeded in attracting the notice of the
constable, and pointed out the real culprit, and the pin was then and
there found on him.

Whilst these incidents were going on, 9 o’clock was gradually
approaching, the hour when the body was to be cut down.  A few minutes
previously two prisoners had brought out the shell—a common deal one,
perforated with holes.  I remember remarking at the time how small it
looked; and my conjecture proved correct, for it was with difficulty that
the body could be squeezed in.  It showed with what consummate skill and
regard to economy the exact size of the body must have been calculated.
With its clothes on, the corpse was too big for the shell; divested of
them, however, there was doubtless ample room, not only for it, but for
the layers of quicklime that enveloped it.  And now Calcraft again
appeared, and producing a clasp-knife, with one arm he hugged the body
and with the other severed the rope.  It required two slashes of the
feeble old arm to complete this final ceremony, and then the head fell
with a flop on the old man’s breast, who, staggering under the weight,
jammed it into the shell.  The two prisoners then carried it into the
prison, the debtors’ door closed till again required to open for a
similar tragedy, and the crowd meanwhile having sufficiently decreased,
enabled us to go home to bed, and to dream of the horrors of the past
twelve hours.


VISITS at Newgate are made under great disadvantage, and have not even
the recommendation of privacy.  A few of the more respectable (as regards
clothes) prisoners, such as myself, were allowed to see our daily
visitors in a portion of the enclosure a little removed, but still so
near the regular place that it was almost impossible to hear what was
said on account of the terrible roar made by the united lungs of a
hundred malefactors and their demonstrative friends.  Visits are only
permitted between two and four o’clock, and as everybody comes about the
same hour, the babel that ensues may be readily conceived.  As, moreover,
we are untried, and consequently innocent, people, these restrictions as
to time and numbers are clearly unjust, and merit alteration.  Solicitors
are permitted to consult with their clients in glass boxes, where all can
be seen but nothing heard.  These cases are situated in the direct route
through which sight-seers are conducted.  An amusing incident occurred to
me on one occasion.  I was in deep consultation with an eminent solicitor
of Gray’s Inn Square, as a herd of some ten country bumpkins, male and
female, were being piloted about, and I distinctly saw their conductor
make a motion that evidently referred to me.  I cannot, of course, say
what that communication was, but it was evidently enough to raise the
desire on the part of one of the females to have a closer inspection of
me.  With a light step, such as a sack of coals might make on a skating
rink, the biped cautiously stalked me, and deliberately flattened her
“tip-tilted,” turn-up nose against the window.  Without a moment’s
warning, I bounded from my chair and shouted out, “Sixpence extra for the
chamber of horrors.”  The fair creature jumped as if shot from a
catapult, and I fancy I can now see her black stockings and frowzy
petticoat as she flew towards her party.  Hemma Hann had been taught a

There are certain abuses that call for immediate and rigorous suppression
at Newgate, the more so as it is a place where prisoners are, as it were,
in transit, and thus many things that might be made real advantages are
(or were a year ago) gross injustices.  I refer specially to the
“privilege” of procuring your own food.  Men awaiting trial are naturally
ignorant of the system and its details, and I cannot do better than state
what occurred to me, and the absolute injustice I was subject to; for my
case is only similar to that of many others, who have not perhaps the
same advantage as I have of ventilating the grievance.

I was asked on the first day what I would like to order, and deeming it
safest to avoid mistakes I gave one order to hold good daily.  I ordered
a pint of milk and a plate of bread and butter for breakfast; a plate of
meat and a pint of ale for dinner; and for supper a pint of milk and a
plate of bread and butter.  Now I ask any unprejudiced reader what ought
such food to have cost, supplied to a prisoner from a common coffee-house
in such a district?

I have been at the trouble of enquiring at this and similar
eating-houses, and find that their prices for the above articles are, for
a pint of milk, 4d.; bread and butter, 3d.; a plate of meat and
vegetables, 8d.; bread, 1d.; and a pint of ale, 4d.; total, 2s. 3d.  But
a free citizen and a caged prisoner are two different things, for which
there are two different prices.  For the above homely fare I was charged
3s. 6d. a day, and as my money was in the hands of the prison
authorities, I had absolutely no redress.  No notice was ever taken of a
complaint, though I made a dozen.  Often my beer did not come, but I was
charged all the same; my milk was frequently forgotten, and eventually
appeared an hour after in a boiled state—and yet this scandalous charge
was paid daily.  I ask any humane government, is not this a shame?  What
is the only inference that can possibly be drawn?  Surely it is within
the bounds of possibility that these officials, badly paid and half fed,
supplement their day’s food at the expense of the prisoner; if they do
not, would they permit the coffee-house keeper to reap such profits?
Common sense suggests there must be collusion.  I am fortified in this
opinion by what I’ve lately seen.  During the past few weeks I’ve been
round this grimy district, and seen the turnkeys running in and out from
the wicket opposite into certain of these houses that I could indicate,
and the honorary membership that appears to exist leaves no room for any
interpretation but the one suggested.  I sincerely hope this matter may
not be deemed too trivial to be looked into, and that it will be the
means of introducing an improvement of the system, whereby a prisoner can
procure articles at fixed prices, and that this tariff is hung up in
every cell.  My treatment was so glaringly unjust that I cannot lose the
opportunity of giving publicity to the sequel.  On the eve of my
departure to “Cold Bath Fields,” I was asked to sign the usual paper
which purported to show how my money, £1 5s. 4d., had been expended, and
as a proof of my being satisfied with it.  This I distinctly declined to
do; and one would have supposed that in an establishment where “justice”
plays so prominent a part, my refusal would at least have elicited an
enquiry.  On the contrary, however, pressure was actually brought to bear
on me, and even the Governor lowered himself by making it a personal
matter.  The man, as I said before, was not a gentleman by birth, but I
was hardly prepared for such violent partizanship on his part.  “So I
hear you decline to sign the receipt for your money.  Very well; I shall
retain the money, and report your conduct to the Governor of Cold Bath
Fields.”  This was the dignified speech that greeted me next morning.  In
reply, I assured him that I certainly should not sign, and he might
report me to whomsoever he pleased.  Thus ended our squabble; and it
might as well have been spared, for I found on my arrival at Cold Bath
Fields that only 4s. 5½d. had been sent with me, and that consequently
the eating-house man had been paid £1 0s. 10½d. by his patron the
Governor on my behalf, and despite my protest.  With the abolition of
Newgate as a prison, except during the sessions, it is sincerely to be
hoped that these crying scandals have been abolished too.

One thing that struck me particularly was the small number of warders in
comparison to the prisoners.  Seven or eight, from the Governor to the
lowest turnkey, comprised the entire staff, and were responsible for the
safety of some two hundred prisoners.  Such a number was clearly
inadequate, and the risk they ran, however remote, was forcibly brought
to my notice by a conversation I once overheard.  Amongst others awaiting
trial was a desperate-looking ruffian of low stature, with bull head and
black shaggy eyebrows—a man who had undergone more than one sentence of
penal servitude, and who, to judge by his appearance, was capable of any
atrocity.  This ruffian was pointing out one morning how easy it would be
to make a dash at the warders, and then, without the possibility of
opposition, simply to walk out.  The plan certainly seems feasible,
especially during chapel, where four or five warders are absolutely at
the mercy of two hundred prisoners.  One can only suppose that a moral
restraint exists, and on which the authorities rely, that would prevent
many from joining in such a mutiny, and who, if a choice had to be made,
would prefer to join issue with the warders rather than with their
unsavoury opponents.  During the sessions the regular staff is augmented
by five or six additional hands, for the most part feeble old men,
suggestive of sandwich men out of employment.  I was much amused by one
of these patriarchs who was left in absolute and sole charge, and daily
superintended the exercise of some fifty or sixty prisoners.  I never
lost an opportunity of having a chat with him, as he stood shivering in a
threadbare ulster, with a dew-drop on his nose, a ragged comforter round
his neck, and his poor old gums rattling in the drafty yard.  I found,
however, that he was not devoid of official dignity, and had a very high
conception of the position and importance of “officers,” as every turnkey
likes to be styled.  I remember saying to the poor old chap one day, “You
officers must have a very difficult duty to perform, what between
maintaining your dignity and doing your duty strictly.”  A leer, such as
one might associate with a magpie looking down a marrow-bone, was all he
vouchsafed in reply for a moment, and I feared he suspected I was pulling
his leg; but I was eventually reassured by his replying, “Yis, there’s no
responsibler dooty than an officer’s.”  “Yes,” I replied, “but I’ve
always heard that you officers are sad dogs;” and as I moved away I heard
the old gums clatter as if pleased at the compliment, and if I had had a
shilling in my pocket I should certainly have given it to the old
“officer.”  The first day of the sessions had now arrived, and I rose
with mingled feelings of anxiety and pleasure; anxiety for what the day
might bring forth, and pleasure at the thought that anything was better
than the uncertainty that at present involved my future, and hailing with
delight the prospect of knowing the worst.  I never expected, however,
that my case would be tried on the first day, and was therefore
considerably taken back when, about 3 P.M., my door was suddenly opened,
and with a “Come along, you’re wanted in the Court,” a warder made his
appearance.  The awful reality now burst on me for the first time that I
was on the point of appearing in a criminal dock to answer a charge of
forgery, and uttering forged bills.  I won’t weary the reader by saying
more than that I pleaded guilty to the uttering, but denied the forging,
as I still do, and ever shall; but being informed that the two acts were
considered synonymous, my plea was registered as “guilty,” and I was
sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment with hard labour.  I am now
entering on a phase of my career which may be considered as the
commencement proper of my narrative, and one that I expected, from the
steps that led up to it, would consist of harshness and brutality, such
as one reads of in stories of the Bastile and other prisons; whereas, on
the contrary, I was leaving all that behind, and about to experience a
kindness and consideration I can never adequately describe or be
sufficiently grateful for.  But a word or two is necessary before we
leave Newgate to enable me to describe the Old Bailey Court House and its
sombre approaches, its subterraneous passages, and dingy cells.  I must
also make a digression to narrate the heart-breaking story of a poor
wretch which he himself told me, and which I’ve reason to believe is
strictly true, and to which his position as a man of title—I shall
refrain from giving his name—imparts a considerable degree of interest.
It is a tale which demonstrates to what a contemptible state a man can
bring himself by the excessive use of stimulants, and how that
degradation is augmented when wedded to immorality, culminating in the
inevitable shipwreck that waits on bright prospects and a long rent roll
when drink and prostitution appear at the altar, only to be divorced, as
in the present case, by a term of penal servitude.


ON the morning after my arrival at Newgate it was with considerable
surprise that I saw a man in convict dress, who was apparently the object
of special watch and guard.  My curiosity was considerably increased from
the circumstance of his being the only individual out of some two hundred
in this conspicuous attire; he was moreover clearly not a novice, but
wore the dreadful suit with the apparent ease of a man to whom it was by
no means a novelty.  He looked horribly ill, and a terrible eruption that
showed itself on his neck, face, and hands gave unmistakable evidence
that the unhappy wretch was literally rotten; added to this, however,
there was a something about him, a “_je ne sais quoi_,” that marked the
gentleman and asserted the blue blood, despite the convict dress, the
loathsome disease, and the degrading surroundings.  A fixed melancholy
seemed never to desert him.  When he moved, it was with eyes cast down,
and nothing appeared to interest him; it was the motions of a human
machine, bowed down with grief or shame, or meditating some awful
vengeance.  I was so struck with all this that I determined to lose no
opportunity of scraping an acquaintance with the mysterious stranger.  I
enquired of a warder, but all he knew or pretended to know was that he
was undergoing a sentence of 20 years’ penal servitude, and had lately
been drafted there from a convict prison; that he had only been there a
few days, and would in all probability be moved elsewhere very shortly.
Chance favoured my desire to make his acquaintance.  It was on a Saturday
afternoon, a time devoted to a very general and extra clean up, and when
almost everyone is put on a job.  My warder—like a brick—had put me, at
my urgent request, to “dusting” the rails, a duty, I had observed, at
which the convict was frequently employed.  I got as near as discretion
would permit, and ventured to ask him who and what he was.  He looked at
me at first with a mingled expression of surprise and distrust, but being
apparently reassured by either my manner or my dress, began in short,
jerky sentences in something of the following style: “You ask me who I
am.  That’s a question I haven’t heard for six long years.  Since that
time I’ve been an unit, 4016 of Portland, and praying night and day that
death would release me.”  I was alarmed at his excited manner; his eyes
flashed, he quivered like a maniac, and I begged him to be calm.  This
appeal seemed to touch some long dried-up spring; kind words evidently
sounded strange to him, and a tear trickled down his seamed and hollow
cheeks.  The weakness, however, was but momentary, and wiping his eyes
with his coarse blue handkerchief, he began in a melancholy voice the
following sad story:—

“You ask me who I am, or rather who I was.  Know, then, that six years
ago I was known as —.”  I started at the name, for it was a well-known
and titled one.  “At an early age my parents died, leaving me the
possessor (under guardians) of £20,000 a year, an estate in England, and
another in Ireland, a house in London, and an ancient title.  My uncle
and guardian, alas! was actuated by no affection for me, but considered
that if he placed me under a good tutor, insured me a liberal education,
and sent me to see the world, he was fairly earning the handsome salary
allowed him by the Court of Chancery, whose ward I was.  At the age of 18
I started with my tutor on a three years’ tour, it having been decided
that I should thus have seen everything, and made a fitting termination
to the education of a man with the bright prospects I so confidently
considered were in store for me.  Would to God I had been born a navvy; I
should never then have become what you now see me.  The eventful era in
my life at length arrived.  After seeing everything and going half over
the world, I found myself in England again, and on the eve of being
invested with the absolute control of my huge estates.  I will not insult
you, nor deceive myself, by concealing any of my blemishes.  Know, then,
I was a drunkard, a confirmed sot at 21, too weak to resist the dram
bottle, and capable of every folly, every crime, when under the influence
of its fatal spell.  I moreover hated the society of gentlemen, and was
never happy except in low company.  In London, whither I came after
taking possession of my estates, I did not know a soul; the few
respectable friends or relatives of my father I studiously avoided.
Pleasure for me was only to be attained by herding with cads and
prostitutes.  My position, my title, my wealth, made this an easy task,
and I soon became acquainted with a number of that voracious, threadbare
class.  My most intimate friends were broken-down gentlemen and
spendthrifts of shady reputation; fighting men and banjo men, and
blood-suckers of every type, who flattered my vanity, and led me as it
were, with the one hand, whilst they rifled my pockets with the other.
They ate at my expense, they drank at my expense; I paid their debts in
many instances, and any rascal had only to recount to me a tissue of lies
for me to at once offer him consolation by the ‘loan’ of a cheque.  ‘What
matters it,’ thought I; ‘was I not —, and had I not more money than I
could possibly spend in a century?’  I was passionately fond of theatres,
not respectable ones where I should have had to behave decently, but low
East-end and transpontine ones, where I was a very swan amongst the
geese, and where my title and wealth obtained me the inestimable
privilege of going behind the scenes, and throwing money about in
handfuls.  On these almost nightly visits I was invariably dunned and
asked for aid by every designing knave; they saw I was a fool, and
usually drunk, and what I mistook for homage was in reality the treatment
that only a contemptible drunkard with money, such as I, ever gets.
Every scene-shifter had a harrowing tale, or an imaginary subscription
list, to all of whom I administered bounteous monetary consolation; and
any varlet with a whole hand, and a greasy rag round it, at once received
a ‘fiver’ as a mark of sympathy for his painful accident.  In short, I
was a fool, looked on as only fit to be fleeced, and simply tolerated for
the sake of my money.  Would to God I had confined myself to these
contemptible but otherwise harmless follies!

“It was on a dull foggy night—a night I can never forget—that some
half-dozen of my boon companions had been dining with me at a celebrated
restaurant.  The _débris_ of the dessert had not been removed, and they
were sipping their coffee whilst I was settling the bill, when a
suggestion was made that we should go to the ‘Sussex.’  The ‘Sussex’ was
a very disreputable theatre, situated somewhere over the water, and
supported entirely by the lowest classes and a few golden calves, such as
myself, who were serving their apprenticeship, and who were permitted the
inestimable privilege of going behind the scenes—entering the green-room,
or indeed any room, and paying ten shillings a bottle for as much fluid
of an effervescent nature in champagne bottles as anybody and everybody
chose to call for.  On these occasions we were ushered into the sacred
precincts, with a certain amount of implied caution similar to and about
as necessary as that assumed by a ragamuffin in the streets when asking
you to buy a spurious edition of the _Fruits of Philosophy_.  This,
however, in my ignorance, only enhanced the pleasure.  We were, as I
believed, participating in some illegal transaction, permitted only to
the most fortunate.  As a fact, we were violating no law; and if the Lord
Chamberlain did not object, Scotland Yard certainly didn’t.  Etiquette on
these occasions demanded that we should be formally introduced to the
various ‘ladies’ that frequented the green-room—a custom I considered
highly commendable, for in my ignorance I believed that not the slightest
difference existed between the highest exponent of tragedy and the
frowsiest ballet-girl in worsted tights and spangles.

“On this particular night, as I was watching the transformation scene
being ‘set,’ and listening to the sallies of the tawdry ‘fairies’ that
crowded the wings, my attention was attracted by a tall woman, who was
gnawing a bone with a gusto that conveyed to me the impression she hadn’t
eaten for a month.  I felt for the poor creature, and went and stood near
her.  I thought at the time (for I was very drunk) that she was the most
beautiful being I had ever seen; her pink-and-white complexion (it was in
reality dabs of paint) appeared to me to be comparable only to a
beautiful shell.  I was spellbound by the sight, and instantaneously and
hopelessly in love.  It would have been a mercy—may God forgive me!—if
that bone had choked her.  That woman eventually became ‘her ladyship.’
But I’m anticipating.”

The poor fellow here became so affected that I begged him to pause; it
was, however, useless.

“The sight of her in a measure sobered me, and I asked her who and what
she was.  She told me a harrowing tale of how she was the eldest of seven
children; that her mother was bed-ridden and her father blind; and how
she toiled at a sewing-machine all day and at the theatre all night, and
then only earned a miserable pittance, barely sufficient to keep a roof
over their heads.  The recital affected me considerably (drunken people
are easily moved to tears), as she went on to tell me how she had been in
the theatre since 11 that morning (for it was the pantomime season, and
there had been a morning performance), and how she had not tasted food
until a carpenter had kindly given her the remains of his supper.  I lost
no time in procuring a bottle of champagne, and felt happier than I had
for years as she placed a tumblerful to her parched lips and drank it off
at a gulp.  A few moments later I saw ‘little Rosie’ (for so she told me
her blind parent loved to call her) being lashed to an ‘iron,’ and posing
as an angel for the great transformation scene in course of preparation.
I subsequently discovered—though, alas! too late—that ‘little Rosie’ was
nightly to be seen outside the ‘Criterion’ and in front of the ‘Raleigh,’
and was known as ‘big Rose.’  But my mind has again got in advance of my
story.  Oh, dear! oh, dear! where am I?”

At this stage I really got alarmed, far his excitement was evidently
increasing.  Happily, however, a passing official necessitated silence,
and he eventually resumed with comparative composure.

“I will not weary you with unnecessary details; suffice it to say that
within a month we were married, and the vows that were made ’till death
should us part’ were eventually broken by the living death that consigned
me to penal servitude.  After our marriage ‘little Rosie’s’ nature
gradually began to change; and the frankness and _naïveté_ that had so
captivated me gradually gave way to habits and sentiments that astonished
and alarmed me.  I verily believe that, had I found in her the woman I
hoped and believed her to be, I should truly have reformed, and given up
that vile curse, drink.  Instead of that, however, I found at my elbow
one who was always ready to encourage me in the vice.  Port was her
favourite tipple, and though my own state seldom permitted me to judge of
her consumption, still in my lucid intervals of sobriety I was astonished
at the amount she consumed.  Gradually we began to turn night into day,
and nights of debauch regularly followed the few hours of daylight we
seldom or ever saw.  Even yet I had not abandoned all hope of reform.  My
conscience smote me when I was sober enough to heed it, and in hopes of
avoiding temptation I hurried with my wife to Ireland; but even here she
could not rest quiet.  The cloven foot persisted in showing itself, and
we were tabooed by the whole county.  In this I found further cause for
mortification—I who might have been looked up to and sought after.  I
tried to spare my wife’s feelings by concealing the real cause of our
existence being ignored; but, fool that I was, I gave way to her
importunings, and actually called on those who had avoided us.  The
well-merited reward of my temerity was not long in coming.  Some of the
county families returned our cards by post, whilst others sent them back
by a servant; and at a subscription ball that took place not long after
we received the cut dead.  This filled up the cup of my humiliation, and
I rushed back to London.  I had realised the fact that virtue won’t herd
with vice.

“A cousin about this time made his appearance, and gradually became a
daily visitor; and had my muddled faculties been more capable of forming
an opinion, I might have been puzzled how a well-dressed and apparently
gentlemanly man could be the nephew of either the blind father or the
bed-ridden mother.  Gradually, however, my suspicions were aroused, and I
employed a detective to watch them both.  He fulfilled his duty, alas!
too well, and I received incontestable proof that my wife was a —, and
that the ‘cousin’ was a man with whom she had lived for years.  A sickly
child, too, that frequently came to the house, and whom she often told
me, with tears in her eyes, was her ‘dead sister’s,’ I had reason to
suspect was a much nearer relative.  But my feelings outstride my
discretion.  I’m again going too fast, and surely you’ve heard enough?”

I begged him to continue, for I was deeply interested in his tale.

“My wife now began to display reckless extravagance; nothing was good
enough for her; the handsome settlement I had made on her failed to meet
a fraction of her expenses, and she became so degraded as to borrow money
of my very servants.  Love, they say, is blind, and in my case, I fear,
was frequently blind drunk.  On these occasions I would agree to
anything, and gradually signed away first one thing, and then another,
till I found myself divested of house, estates, everything, and a
pensioner on my wife’s bounty.  It may seem incredible that anything
should be capable of bringing the blush of shame to such as I—I who for
six long years have worn this dreadful dress—but, believe me, my cheeks
tingle even now when I think of it all.  I was at length compelled to
resort to the pawnbroker’s, and watch, chain, ring, everything, found
their way to an establishment in — Road.  My credit, once good, was
entirely gone; tradesmen to whom I owed money began to dun me; others
refused me the smallest credit; servants, washerwomen, butchers, and
bakers all were creditors; writs and County Court summonses were of daily
occurrence; and the family mansion that my ancestors had never disgraced
was in the hands of the bailiffs.  How I cried out in my anguish will
never be known.  Relations I had none to whom I could apply for sympathy
or advice.  My only friend was ‘drink,’ and in my misery I turned to it
with redoubled energy.  I have not much more to tell; the climax which
brought me here was very near at hand.  One afternoon I had returned to
our lodgings (we were then in apartments at 28, — Place) rather sooner
than expected from a fruitless endeavour to borrow a few pounds.  I had
stopped at every public-house, and gulped down a dram of cheap spirits,
in hopes of lightening my sorrow; I was, I believe, almost mad with
misery and drink.  As I entered the room the first thing that met my gaze
was the hated ‘Cousin.’  To seize a loaded pistol that always hung over
the mantel-piece was the work of a second, and, without aim, without
deliberation, I fired.  The report and my wife’s screams alarmed a
policeman who happened to be passing by; he entered and found her
swooning on the ground, but happily uninjured.  Thank God! I’m free of
that crime—and the tell-tale bullet lodged in the wall.  Concealment was
hopeless.  I was there and then arrested, and eventually sentenced, on
the evidence of my wife and her paramour, to ‘twenty years’ penal

His excited state alarmed me.  I feared we should be observed, but it was
hopeless to attempt to check him as, with eyes starting, and the tears
flowing fast, he added, pointing to his seamed and blotchy face: “The
worst has yet to be told; look at these scars that I shall carry with me
to the grave.  Can you suspect what they are?  My —.”

“Hush!” I said, “they have noticed us.”

I never saw him again, but heard, months after, that the unhappy man had
died, and that the bright expectations accruing from youth, birth, and
fortune, that had been formed six short years ago, lie buried in a
nameless convict’s grave.

Not long ago I walked round to the pawn shop in — Road, with the morbid
desire of testing the truth of some of his assertions, and found that the
watch, chain, and ring were still there.  I informed the worthy
pawnbroker of the real name and sad fate of his former customer, and was
almost tempted to purchase the cat’s-eye as a souvenir of my
quasi-friend; but more prudent counsels prevailed, and I relegated them
to the auction-room, to go forth with their crests and monograms, a sad
memento of fallen greatness.


AFTER my sudden summons to attend the Court I found myself in the yard
below, where, in company with some twenty others, I was placed in
rotation according to a list the Governor and chief warder were
“checking.”  This formula being completed, we proceeded in single file,
preceded by an “officer” and followed by a patriarch, along the
subterraneous passages that connect the prison with the Old Bailey
Court-house.  These passages are the last remnants of the old prison, and
demonstrate the change that has taken place in the accepted notions of
insuring the safety of prisoners.  Every few yards a massive iron door
some inches thick, with huge bolts and a ponderous key, bars the passage.
Having passed through all these, we came to a halt in a dark recess,
partially lighted by gas, on each side of which were arched cells,
suggestive of those of the Adelphi.  Into each of these five or six of us
were conducted, for by the prison system prisoners before trial may be
herded together; after conviction, however, all that ceases, and one is
“supposed” henceforth to be isolated.  After a delay of some twenty
minutes, and during which I was initiated into the style of society I
might expect for the future, my name was called and I was conducted up a
wooden stair.  The hum of voices—for I could see nothing—indicated to me
that I was in the vicinity of the Court and on the stair leading into the
dock—one of those mysterious boxes I had often seen from the opposite
side, where criminals popped up and popped down so suddenly and so

I had seen many murderers sentenced to death from that very dock, and was
often puzzled at the geography of the place; all this, however, was now
made perfectly clear.  It was with mingled feelings of astonishment and
bewilderment that I found myself, suddenly and without warning, the
observed of all observers.  The crowded Court, the forest of well-known
faces—vindictive prosecutors, reluctant witnesses, quasi-friends come to
gloat over my misfortune, and one or two real sympathisers—all appeared
glued together to my bewildered gaze.  Beyond, and seated against the
wall, were innumerable figures robed in flowing scarlet gowns, and
presenting to my senses so ghastly and weird a picture that I can compare
it to nothing but that impressive trial scene in “The Bells,” to which
Mr. Irving imparts such terrible reality.  It only required the mesmerist
to complete the resemblance; and he must have been there, although
invisible, for I was mesmerized, or at least completely dazed.  By
degrees, however, I recovered my senses, and embracing the whole scene,
summed up the vanity of human sympathy and the value to be attached to
friendship, as it is called.  Reader, whoever you are, take the word of a
man who has been rich and surrounded by every luxury.  Friends will
cluster round you in your prosperity as they did round me, and when they
have eaten you out of house and home, and robbed you by fair means or
foul, by card playing and racing, you must not be surprised if you
discover that the most vindictive and uncompromising are those you least
expected.  “For it was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have
borne it—neither was it he that hated me, that did magnify himself
against me; but it was a man, mine equal, my guide, and my
acquaintance—yea, mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did
eat of my bread—hath lifted up his heel against me.”

The ordeal at length had been gone through, and I was on my return
journey to the prison as a “convicted prisoner.”  A prisoner after
sentence consists of only two classes, the “convict” and the “convicted
prisoner,” and it is marvellous how soon the difference shows itself.
The “convicted prisoner” finds absolutely no change beyond being deprived
of the questionable privilege of procuring his own food at an exorbitant
rate.  With the “convict,” however, things are very different.
Immediately after sentence he is stripped of all his clothes, his hair
and beard are cropped as close as scissors can do it, and he is
metamorphosized by the assumption of the coarse brown and black striped
convict dress.  The change is so marvellous that it is difficult at first
to recognize a man.  One poor fellow I saw, a gentlemanly-looking man
from the Post-office, that I frequently spoke to, was so changed when I
saw him next morning in Chapel that I could not for the moment recognize
the poor wretch who kept grinning at me with an air of levity as assumed
as it was painful.  I am not ashamed to admit that I thanked Providence I
had escaped that fearful doom.  It is not generally known that two years’
imprisonment is the limit of a sentence of hard labour, after which the
next higher punishment involves five years’ penal servitude.  There is a
vast deal of ignorance displayed on this subject, even by those who might
be supposed to know better.  It is generally believed that imprisonment
with hard labour is a severer punishment than penal servitude.  No
greater fallacy ever existed.  I base my assertion, not so much on
personal experience (for I was exceptionally fortunate), as on what I saw
of the treatment of others; and I confidently assert—and my opinion would
be corroborated by every respectable prisoner (if such an anomaly can
exist)—that two years’ “hard labour” is an infinitely lighter punishment
than even two years of penal servitude would be; and I can only attribute
the general acceptation of this error to the fact that convicts get a
little more food than convicted prisoners, and prisoners as a rule will
do anything for “grub.”

I have now brought my experiences of Newgate to a close, and shall
briefly describe our departure to our final and respective destinations.
An unusual bustle one morning indicated that something out of the
ordinary was about to happen, and though we received no actual warning,
it was generally buzzed about that we were to make a start after
breakfast.  At breakfast-time the warder told me to put my things
together, and half an hour later found me and sixteen others marshalled
in the corridor, where, being carefully compared with our respective
descriptions, we were formally handed over to a detachment of warders
from Coldbath Fields.  Other parties were being simultaneously paraded
for Holloway and Pentonville, the latter all in convict dress and as
pitiable a looking set as can well be conceived.  I discovered, both now
and subsequently, that a human being is invariably referred to as if he
were a parcel.  Thus, on arrival, one is said to be “received,” and one’s
departure is described as being “sent out.”  This is not intended in an
offensive sense, but may be taken rather as a figure of speech.  In the
adjoining yard were half a dozen vans—indeed, I had never before seen
such a formidable array, except, perhaps, a meet of the four-in-hand club
on a rainy day—and into one of these I was politely conducted, with a
degree of precaution as unnecessary as it was absurd.

No reader can accuse me of rounding the points of this ungarnished story,
or endeavouring to conceal any incident, however unpleasant.  As,
however, my subsequent experiences may discover a treatment so kind and
exceptional as to appear almost incredible, I must only ask the reader to
credit me with the veracity that my previous frankness entitles me to
expect.  My anxiety on this point is considerably enhanced by the
contradiction it will bear to other narratives I have read, and which,
purporting to describe prison life, invariably represent it as a hot-bed
of cruelty, where prisoners are starved and otherwise ill-treated, all of
which I emphatically deny, and cause me to doubt whether one single
specimen of these so-called personal narratives is anything else but an
“idle tale,” written with a view of enlisting sympathy, and possibly
turning an honest penny.  If these writers and these prisoners had seen
as much as I have (from outside) of prisons on the Continent, in Morocco,
and in China, they would think themselves very fortunate in their present
quarters.  I—who have seen prisoners starving in prisons in Morocco, and
absolutely “unfed,” except by the charity of visitors, who usually
scramble a few shillings’ worth of bread amongst them; and who, for a
dollar to the jailor, have seen a Chinaman at Shanghai brought out, made
to kneel down and have his head sliced off like a water-melon—have no
patience with these well-fed, well-clothed, and well-housed rascals.  I
would send all these discontented burglars and their “converted”
biographers to China or Morocco, and omit to supply them with return
tickets.  I have lately read a book connected with penal servitude, by an
anonymous writer, in which this innocent lamb is whining throughout of
his hardship in being compelled to herd with criminals; and it says a
great deal for his imitative capacity that he should so naturally and so
thoroughly have adopted the almost universal “injured innocence” tactics
of the habitual criminal.  One great nuisance at all prisons is the
almost universal habit that prisoners have of protesting their innocence;
they protest it so often to everybody on every possible occasion, that
they eventually begin to believe that they really are innocent.  I found
these guileless creatures great bores; indeed I am (I am convinced) well
within the mark when I assert that there were only about three-and-twenty
guilty persons besides myself amongst the fifteen hundred prisoners in
Coldbath Fields.  This compulsory herding with innocent burglars is a
great trial, and one that never enters into the calculation of a judge.

A short drive at a good pace on this early December morning brought us to
the gates of Coldbath Fields Prison; and as I stepped out, I could not
help recalling Dante’s famous line—

    “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

It only proves how apt one is to form erroneous ideas from first
impressions.  I was never more mistaken in my life.


From my birth up to within the past twelve months I have had the
misfortune to be afflicted with one of the most dreadful diseases that
flesh is heir to.  It is one that entails suffering both to body and
mind, and from which a vast proportion of humanity suffers in a more or
less aggravated form.  It is a slow and insidious disease that never
decreases of its own accord, but on the contrary develops itself with
one’s increasing years as surely as the most virulent cancer.  It has
this advantage, however, over this latter dreadful complaint—that it
invariably yields to treatment conscientiously applied; but it has also
this disadvantage, that, whereas other afflictions invariably enlist the
sympathy of our fellow-creatures, this one never fails to be jeered and
hooted at and turned into ridicule by the coarse and vulgar of our
species.  This complaint, surprising as it may appear, is held in
contempt by most of the faculty, and I doubt whether it has ever received
baptism in the English or any other pharmacopoeia.  I will therefore
without further preamble state, for the benefit of afflicted humanity,
that it is called “obesity.”  In the course of my remarks I may be led
into the use of what may appear strong expressions; and if I should
unwittingly offend the susceptibilities of any fat reader, he or she
will, I trust, forgive it, as coming from one who has, as it were, gone
through the mill, and been subjected to the like ridicule and the like
temptations as themselves.

For thirty-eight years I’ve been a martyr to obesity.  At my birth, as I
am credibly informed, I was enormous—a freak of nature that was clearly
intended for twins.  As I developed into boyhood I still maintained the
same pronounced pattern; and when I entered the Army as an ensign, it was
said, with a certain amount of truth, that I was eighteen years of age
and 18 stone in weight.  I am particular in giving these otherwise
uninteresting details, for I am aware from experience how fat people
catch at every straw to evade a “regimen,” and invariably say as I did,
“Nothing will make me thin,” “I’ve tried everything,” “It’s natural in
our family,” “My father weighed nineteen stone,” &c., &c.  I say to these
people, “This is rubbish.  I don’t care if your father weighed forty and
your grandmother fifty stone; I’ll GUARANTEE to REDUCE you perceptibly
and with PERFECT SAFETY if you’ll guarantee to follow my instructions.”

For the past fifteen years I’ve tried every remedy, with, however, the
invariable result—that they did me no good, or at least so little that I
came to the conclusion that the result did not repay the inconvenience.
It must here be understood that when I refer to “remedies,” I do not
speak of some that aspire to that title, which, if they don’t kill, don’t
certainly cure; nor of others which will assuredly first cure and then as
certainly kill—though I confess to have given even these a trial, and
swallowed ingredients that don’t come well out of analysis.  I would warn
all zealous fat people to be careful of these concoctions, and at least
consult a physician before saturating their systems with poisons.  I do
not even refer to other “remedies,” admittedly and which I have found
safe, though before concluding my hints I shall have a word to say about
them, and give my opinion of their respective titles to merit, on the
principle that “a wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse.”  In support
of my claim to credence I may state that my appearance was known to
almost everybody, many of whom have since seen me as I now am; and though
I cannot produce testimonials from a corpulent clergyman in Australia who
weighed 40 stone and now only 14, and never felt better in his life, nor
from the fat Countess del Quackador, of Buenos Ayres, who attributes her
recovery to the sole use of —, still I can produce myself, and seeing is
usually admitted to be half way to believing.  My theory is based on that
of that excellent man and apostle of corpulency, the late Mr. Banting—a
theory which, as propounded by him, was in a crude state, but, like all
great discoveries, is capable of improvement based on experience.  In
short, I agree with him as a whole, but differ on many essential points.
I felt, whilst practising his treatment, that something was wanting, and
my experience has since discovered what that something is.  Others like
myself may have found the Banting theory deficient beyond a certain
point.  I would ask these to give mine a fair trial for three months.

Anyone who has waded through my narrative will observe that the dietary I
subsisted on for some months of my life was in itself incapable of
reducing a man; and it was thanks to the liberal margin I had to work
upon, and the facilities I enjoyed for not only weighing myself, but also
my food, that I attribute in a great measure the perfecting of my theory,
and the reliance that may be placed on it.  Banting lays down as a
principle that “quantity may fairly be left to the natural appetite,
provided the quality is rigidly adhered to.”  In this I disagree with
him, but on the contrary confidently assert that until the subject is
reduced to its proper size, it is absolutely imperative to limit the
quantity as well as the quality.  The quantity, however, is a liberal
one, both as regards solid and fluid.  At the same time it must be
remembered that great ignorance exists as to the weight of the commonest
articles of dietary, and to form an estimate of their weight by their
appearance can only be attained by experience.  One often hears of
persons that “don’t eat more than a bird,” and stout people are
invariably accredited with being small eaters.  It would astonish these
persons to find that they consume in blissful ignorance three or four
pounds a day.  I would recommend every corpulent person to purchase a set
of cheap scales capable of weighing accurately one, two, four, and eight
ounces (an ounce is a word that conveys a diminutive impression, yet
eight of them constitute half a pound); these can be procured at any
ironmonger’s at a cost of two or three shillings.  I would also suggest a
half-pint measure; this involves an outlay of about twopence.  Without
these two articles no corpulent person’s house can be considered properly
furnished.  Before commencing the experiment it is indispensable to be
accurately weighed, taking care to weigh _all_ you have on (separately
and at another time), so that your exact weight can be arrived at,
whether attired in summer or winter clothing.  By degrees this weekly
weighing becomes an amusement, and one that increases as your weight

The following table may be accepted as fairly accurate, and shows what
the respective natural weights of persons ought to be.  I do not lay down
a hard and fast rule, that in no case ought it to be exceeded.  On the
contrary, my theory, based on personal experience, convinces me that
every person has his own peculiar weight and dimensions as intended by
Nature, and when he has found his “bearings”—which he will have no
difficulty in doing, as I shall explain hereafter, by unmistakable
symptoms—any further reduction is attended with difficulty, and is,
indeed, unnecessary.  Taken, however, as something to work upon, the
following scale, obtained from a leading insurance company, may be
studied with advantage; and when the corpulent reader has arrived within
half a stone of the specified weight—a generous concession surely—he may
then, but not till then, begin to take occasional liberties, both as
regards quantity and quality.  I am offering these remarks to those only
who conscientiously intend to give my theory a fair trial.  To those
lukewarm disciples who would like to be thin, without possessing the
self-denial necessary for this most simple remedy, I cannot do better
than apply the views I once heard expressed by a piper to a cockney
officer in a Highland regiment who asked him to play the “Mabel”
valse—that “it would only be making a fool of the tune and a fool of the

Average weight for a          High
 Stones      Pounds     Feet     Inches
        8      2 or 3        5          0
        8       8 – 9        5          1
        9       1 – 2        5          2
        9       8 – 9        5          3
        9     11 – 12        5          4
       10       3 – 4        5          5
       10       6 – 7        5          6
       10      9 – 10        5          7
       11       2 – 3        5          8
       11      9 – 10        5          9
       12       4 – 5        5         10
       12     10 – 12        5         11
       13           0        6          0

When the reader has attained to within half a stone of these figures, he
will have the game in his own hands, and can regulate his system with as
much accuracy as a clock.  On November 25th, 1881, I weighed the enormous
weight of 19 stone 13 lbs.  On October 1st, 1882, I weighed 12 stone 4
lbs., and with a loss of 18 inches in girth—_i.e._, a reduction of 7
stone 9 lbs.; and as this can be verified, my opinion is at least worthy
of attention.  I consider it absolutely necessary that one should at
first limit one’s self to 2 pounds solid and 3 pints fluid daily; and I
cannot do better than give the dietary I have pursued for the past five
or six months in the south of France:—

_At_ 6 A.M.—I take half-a-pint of black coffee and one ounce of coarse
_brown_ bread or biscuit.

_At_ 9 A.M.—I breakfast off four ounces of lean meat, three ounces of
brown bread or biscuit, and half-a-pint of black coffee.

_At_ 2 P.M.—I have six ounces lean meat, three ounces brown bread or
biscuit, six ounces green vegetables, and half-a-pint of any fluid except
ale, effervescing wines, or aërated waters.

_After Dinner_—I take half-a-pint of coffee.

_At_ 6 P.M.—I take half-a-pint of coffee.

_At Supper_—I have two ounces brown bread or biscuit, and a couple of
glasses of sherry or claret.

Independently of this I eat fruit _ad lib._  I find as a broad rule that
all vegetables that grow above ground, such as cauliflower, artichokes,
sprouts, &c. (except peas and rice), are conducive to health; whereas all
that grow underground, such as potatoes, carrots, beet-root, &c., are fat
persons’ poison.  It is immaterial what meat one eats, whether fish,
flesh—except pork—or fowl, but it is necessary to avoid the fat.  Stout
persons will find, as I did, an inclination to smuggle in a little, but
they must flee from the temptation.  A severe trial at first is confining
one’s self to this quantity and quality, whilst others are indulging to a
greater extent at the same table; but the feeling soon wears off, and
must be looked on as the penalty attached to Pharaoh’s fat kine.  Fat
people never consider that if they were suffering from a cancer they
would not hesitate to submit to amputation—and amputation is not
unattended with pain—to prolong life; and yet they waver regarding the
treatment of corpulency—an equally certain enemy to life—with a painless
remedy!  Do they invariably also, in other paths of life, return good for
evil, and heap coals of fire on an enemy’s head?  And yet here is a
hideous, ungainly, deadly foe pampered and fattened at the cost of life,
comfort, and appearance.  And then the ridicule!  I ask you, amiable fat
reader, is that agreeable?  I would, in fact, make obesity penal, as
calling for special legislation, whereby the police would be justified in
arresting oleaginous pedestrians, clapping them into the scales at the
nearest police-station, and if they exceeded a certain number of feet in
circumference, or weight, at once procure their summary imprisonment,
without the option of a fine.  The streets would thus be cleared of these
fleshy obstructions; besides which, if the law recognises attempted
suicide as a crime in one way, why not in another?  The dietary I have
suggested is conducive to constipation, a result that brown bread
remedies considerably, if not entirely removes.  There are brown breads
and brown breads, however, and after trying a good many, I have come to
the conclusion that the “whole meal bread” made by Messrs. Hill and Son,
of 60, Bishopsgate Street Within, and 3, Albert Mansions, Victoria
Street, is admirably adapted to the requirements of the corpulent.  It
keeps the bowels open, is delicious in flavour, and entirely free from
the alum that finds its way into many other kinds.  Some six months ago I
had an interview with a member of this firm, and explained my views of
the advantages that would attend a biscuit made of the same meal.  I have
lately tasted some made by them, that are apparently specially adapted
for the consumption of the corpulent; and as they have agents in every
part of the kingdom, the regular supply is within the reach of all.  I
strongly commend these to all my readers.  There is one more item to
which I attach great importance, namely, the taking at bed-time of one
teaspoonful of liquorice-powder (German Pharmacopoeia) in half a tumbler
of water.  This quantity may be gradually increased, as circumstances
seem to require; and as a good deal depends on the purity and freshness
of this drug, the advisability of going to a good chemist cannot be too
strongly urged.  I have often been told that smoking is injurious to the
corpulent, but this I consider sheer nonsense.  I smoke from morning to
night, and, on the contrary, believe it makes up for the larger amount of
food one had previously been in the habit of consuming.  In America,
where I spent many happy years, I was never without “a smoke,” a habit I
still continue, though with the disadvantage of having to substitute
British for the fragrant Oronoko and Perique tobaccos.  This latter is,
in my estimation, whether used as cigar, cigarette, or in a pipe, the
finest tobacco in the world.  I have discovered, beyond doubt, that a
person afflicted with obesity is affected by the smallest transgression
of the strict _regimen_.  I have for experiment taken one lump of sugar
in my coffee at meals, and found that this single innovation has produced
an increase of a pound in my weight in a week; indeed, a person disposed
to this affliction is as sensitive as an aneroid.  It was in May last
that I first determined to reap at least one benefit from my late
incarceration, and, by a careful regard to quantity and quality, to test
effects that my position and the time at my disposal offered great
facilities for, and thus reduce corpulency to a science, and its
reduction to a certainty.  A reference to other portions of this
narrative will put it beyond a doubt that the unlimited amount of food at
my disposal made this an easy task.  I will not here go into these
particulars, as a detailed account necessary for the unbroken interest in
my narrative will be found elsewhere, but will confine myself to giving a
table of the reduction I made in myself by my own free-will and

                                I weighed
          1881.             stone     pounds
November 25th                    19         13
December 7th                     19          9
   ,,   19th                     18         12
January 10th                     18          1
   ,,   31st                     17         12
March 20th                       16         10
May 18th                         16          4
June 6th                         15         12
   ,,   20th to July 2nd         15          8
July 15th                        15          4
   ,,   29th                     14         10
September 2nd                    13          2
   ,,   9th                      12         10
   ,,   23rd                     12          6
October 1st                      12          4

Making a total loss of 107 lbs. (7 stone 9 lbs.) in 318 days.  This loss
was not obtained without great determination and self denial, but was it
not worth it?  If any corpulent reader could see my photograph of
November, 1881, and November, 1882, he would, I think, admit it was, and
receive a stimulus to persevere as I did.  A reference to the above table
will show no diminution between June 20th and July 2nd.  I attribute this
to my having found what I call my “bearings,” for though continuing in
the same course, I could not get away from 15 stone 8 lbs.  I persisted,
however, and eventually succeeded; and the next date shows a steady
decline.  I would recommend no experimentalist to transgress this bound,
and when they find that after a fortnight’s continuance of the strict
system they have obtained no perceptible diminution of weight they should
STOP; they have found their “bearings,” and any further perseverance is
attended with unnecessary inconvenience.  The time, however, has then
come for most careful watch and guard, and the slightest liberty is
accompanied by a proportionate increase.  Yielding to the kindly meant
advice of friends, I some months ago took new milk and other fattening
luxuries, with the result of increasing a stone in six weeks.  I had,
however, the remedy in my own hands, and can now play fast and loose with
an amusing degree of certainty.  I can, without an effort, reduce or
increase my weight three or four pounds in a week, and having attained
the comfortable weight of 13 stone 10 lbs, I am determined never again to
turn the scale beyond 14 stone.  I allow this margin as the legitimate
perquisite of advancing years.

In conclusion, I guarantee reduction with perfect safety to all who will
honestly try the following _regimen_ in its integrity for three months:—

_Breakfast_—Eight ounces coarse brown bread (yesterday’s baking); four
ounces lean meat; one pint coffee or other fluid.

_Dinner_.—Four and a-half ounces brown bread; six ounces any lean meat
(or, if preferred as an occasional substitute, half-pint of soup—ten
ounces); six ounces green vegetables; one pint fluid.

_Tea_.—One and a-half ounces brown bread; half a pint of coffee.

_Supper_.—One or two glasses of wine, or a glass of spirit and water
(except rum); and two ounces biscuit.

_Total_.—Two pounds solid and three pints fluid.

_Bed-time_.—One teaspoonful liquorice powder (German pharmacopoeia) in
half a tumbler of water.

I have parcelled the above out into meals to meet the ordinary taste,
though it is quite immaterial how or when the quantity is taken.  It is,
moreover, a matter of perfect indifference whether tea (no sugar or
milk), claret, or, in fact, any other fluid (except ale and aërated or
effervescing drinks), is substituted for coffee.

The principal points on which I differ from the so-called “Banting”
system are:—

(_a_) The limiting of the quantity till a proper reduction has taken

(_b_) The occasional substituting (if desired) of soup for meat, which I
have found attended with no inconvenience.

(_c_) The substitution of brown bread or brown biscuit for toast or
rusk—thereby obviating constipation.

(_d_) The taking of liquorice powder at bed-time in lieu of the alkaline
on rising.

To the uninitiated the above may appear trifles; their advantage can only
be estimated by those who have tried both systems.


AS the key turned in the ponderous door, and I found myself, with sixteen
others, standing on a huge mat in a dismal corridor, I realised that I
had arrived “home,” or at what I might consider as such, for—as I
imagined—the next eighteen months.  I had already passed one week in
Newgate, and really thought, in the sanguineness of my heart, that I had
made a considerable hole in my sentence, and that the remaining
seventy-seven weeks would soon slip by.  My first intimation that the
place was inhabited, except by mutes, was hearing a metallic voice
saying, _pro bono publico_, “You’ll find that talking is not permitted
here—you mustn’t talk.”  By peering into the gloom I discovered that the
voice belonged to a bald head, and the bald head to a venerable head
warder.  The poor old man was super-annuated shortly after, and evidently
meant to show the recruits he was not to be trifled with, and that there
was life in the old dog yet.  We were next taken through endless
corridors to the “Reception Room.”  Can any name be more suggestive of
satire, except perhaps “Mount Pleasant,” the hill so called on which the
prison stands, bounded at each corner by a public-house, and a “pop-shop”
here and there sandwiched in between!  The reception we received in the
Reception Room was far from a cordial one; it was, indeed, as cold as the
weather outside.  The Reception Room is octagon shape, with benches
arranged over the entire floor; on these we were directed to sit down,
about a yard apart.  In front was a large desk and a high stool, on which
a turnkey was perched, whose sole duty was to prevent the least
intercourse between the prisoners; in fact, the entire room and its
fittings conveyed the impression of being connected with a charity school
for mutes.  The Reception Room is the first and last place a prisoner
passes through; it is here that, on his arrival, he is transformed into
the Queen’s livery, and again on his departure reverts to citizen’s
clothing—it is, in fact, the filter through which the dregs of London
have to pass before becoming sufficiently purified to be again permitted
to mingle with the pure stream outside.  The silence of the grave is its
normal condition, where the novice receives a foretaste of the “silent

           [Picture: The Effects of a Warm Bath at “Coldbath.”]

We must have sat thus silently for at least an hour, when a door from
outside was unlocked, and a warder, accompanied by two prisoners carrying
sacks, made their appearance.  The contents of these, being thrown on the
floor, were discovered to be boots, not new ones, or even pairs, but very
old and dirty, mended and patched with lumps of leather on the soles, on
the heels, and, in fact, anywhere.  We were now invited to “fit”
ourselves, and a scramble ensued amongst a section of the prisoners.  I
selected a nondescript pair, tied by a cord, as unsuited a couple as ever
were united, the right foot of which would have fitted an elephant, and
the left have been tight for a cork leg.  With this unsavoury acquisition
on my lap I resumed my seat.  It is the custom, as I before hinted, to
show one the worst of everything at first, and the rule that applied to
the cells was clearly in force regarding the boots.  I found, however,
that after the general “fit,” and when a comparative lull ensued, that
some of the more fortunate ones had better ones supplied, and I shortly
after received a new pair in exchange for my “fit.”  The next thing that
made its appearance was a basket full of caps and stocks.  Here I was
less fortunate, and the size of my head precluded the possibility of a
fit.  The basket was followed by a bundle of wooden labels, on each of
which our various names were inscribed; with these in our hands, we were
told to “Come along.”  My label considerably puzzled me.  We now found
ourselves in the corridor devoted to baths, where each man received a
bundle of clothing.  The object of the label now manifested itself; it
was to attach to our clothes—not likely to be wanted for some time.  The
bundles consisted of a pair of blue worsted socks, a blue striped shirt,
a blue pocket-handkerchief the thickness of a tile, a towel as coarse as
a nutmeg-grater, and a suit of clothes.  The clothes, when new, are
really very good, and by no means objectionable.  There is nothing of
that conspicuous, degrading appearance about them that distinguishes the
convict dress.  On the contrary, the trousers and vest are well cut, and
made of good warm mole-skin; the jacket is a capital material, and were
it not for painful associations, and the possibility of unpleasant
attentions from zealous policemen, I would gladly have a suit of the
jacket material.  The otherwise agreeable effect is somewhat marred by
the broad-arrow Government mark, which appears to be applied regardless
of all symmetry and indeed of all expense.  No general rule apparently
exists as to the marking of this cloth, which one must conclude is left
entirely to the discretion and good taste of the individual armed with
the paint-pot.  This want of uniformity thus lends an agreeable variety
to the different appearances of individuals; for my part, I always felt
that I resembled the “Seven of Spades.”  The Baths are, as I found them
at Newgate, in themselves excellent, and if one could forget one’s
probable predecessor, the enjoyment would be considerably enhanced.  They
were, I daresay, perfectly clean, though I always fancied I detected a
Seven-Dials mouse-trap flavour in the atmosphere, and in the water.  The
bath, as an institution, admirably fulfils its twofold function; it
insures a thorough wash, and removes the last trace of one’s former self.
Entering the apartment with the bundle under my arm, I proceeded to
divest myself of my clothing.  I had not, however, been many seconds
submerged before an eye was applied to the peephole, followed by the
entrance of a turnkey, and all my clothing was carefully removed.  The
process of re-dressing was not an easy one; nothing came within a foot of
my size except the socks; the overalls declined to do anything like
meeting, and a piece of twine was pressed into the service.  The
waistcoat was another trial, necessitating the turnkey calling for the
“corpulent waistcoat.”  Trussed up in this fashion, I patiently awaited
the “corpulent” waistcoat, a marvel of tailoring.  The chest measurement
could not have exceeded thirty-six; whilst the waist (?) must have been
one hundred.  From the “corpulent” one only reaching half-way down my
chest, I concluded that its original owner must have been about
five-foot-nothing.  But the warder very good-naturedly said “he’d make it
all right,” and not long after I was measured, and within twenty-four
hours possessed a brand-new suit.  My enormous size also necessitated
special shirts; a couple were made in an incredibly short space of time,
and all through my career I experienced the benefit of wearing linen that
had never been contaminated by contact with “baser metal.”  The warder to
whom I was indebted for these delicate attentions was one of the best in
the prison, and though I never came much in contact with him, I
understood he was a great favourite.  He was connected with the stores,
and could get more done in an hour than one of the blustering kind in a
week.  Before leaving the baths, I would wish to draw attention to a
custom that calls for immediate alteration.  The system at present in
vogue is for all prisoners to have a bath immediately on arrival, _after_
which they undergo medical examination.  At these examinations, as is
well known, many creatures are found, not only to be alive with vermin,
but suffering from itch.  With these facts, that are not to be gainsaid,
common sense surely suggests a medical examination _before_ instead of
_after_ the bath, an arrangement which, however disagreeable to the
surgeons, would be a considerable benefit to the prison inmates
generally.  It is a common occurrence for men who have been in prison
three, and even six months, to be found to be suffering from itch, and it
is equally certain that they caught it in these baths, which are _pro
bono publico_ once a fortnight.  I thank God I was spared any of these
“plagues,” though I never took my periodical dip without finding my
thoughts wandering to Scotland and the Argyll (not Bignell’s).

Having joined my companions we were reconducted to the reception-room,
which by this time was crowded by contributions from the various
Police-courts.  My Newgate friend Mike was now thoroughly in his element;
he appeared to take a pride in showing his intimacy with the etiquette of
the place, and seemed quite hurt if a warder didn’t recognize him as an
old acquaintance.  As I looked down the benches now fully occupied, I
fancied I could have distinguished every new comer from the _habitué_ by
the way they wore their caps.  The new hands put them on in such a manner
that they resembled a quartern loaf, whilst the more experienced—such as
Mike—cocked them with a jaunty air as if proud of the effect.  At a later
period I observed that a great deal of vanity existed on the subject of
toilet amongst the regular jail-birds: they plastered down their hair—as
I know—with the greasy skimmings of their soup, or applications of suet
pudding; and many—incredible as it may appear—shaved regularly with their
tin knives and the back of a plate for a mirror.  Hair-cutting now
commenced, and anyone whose hair was too long was effectually operated
on.  It is a mistake to suppose that prisoners’ hair is cut in the
barbarous manner that is applied to convicts; nothing is done to them
beyond what a soldier has to submit to—namely, having his hair and beard
of moderate length.  As I have all through life kept what I have as close
as possible, the hair-cutting in my case was dispensed with, and through
the subsequent few months I had always to ask for the services of the
barber, and invariably received the same reply—“Surely, yours is short
enough!”  There was one item in the crop I was never subjected
to—probably because my moustache was small—but which I certainly should
not have liked; it was the habit of clipping the ends square to the lip.
I’ve often seen men in London and elsewhere with this distinctive crop,
which I should now invariably associate with prison life; and if I met a
Bishop who affected this style it would be difficult to convince me that
I had not met him “elsewhere.”  The next person that intruded himself
was—as I was informed—a chaplain.  His attire was far from clerical, and
consisted of a billycock hat—not a good, honest, disreputable one, but
one of your shabby-genteels, so infinitely more fatal—a coat that
suggested Crosse and Blackwell’s cut, and boots suspiciously resembling
the prison make.  He interrogated me in my turn, though I fear his
curiosity was far from satisfied.  His mania was the ceremony of
“confirmation,” and when he discovered I had omitted that essential form,
I at once passed into his black books.  Happily, I was perfectly
indifferent to his displeasure or his patronage—indeed the latter would
have been the most unbearable.  He never forgave me, however, as a
discreditable tiff we had long after conclusively proved.  As I got to
see more of this shining light I began to suspect that he must have been
a Jesuit, he did so much to make Protestantism obnoxious.

I was next passed on to a schoolmaster—a gradual improvement in
accordance with the system is here apparent—who amused me by inquiring if
I could read, how I spelt “oxen,” if I could write, and if I thought I
could “write a letter?”  This latter question was very conclusively set
at rest a week later by an incident that occurred in which I was the
chief culprit, and which necessitated the collective wisdom of the Home
Office and a full bench of the Visiting Justices to adjudicate upon.
Meanwhile, I had “passed” this scorching examination, and had to sit
quietly by and listen to illiterate costermongers and rascally
pickpockets being severally questioned.  It had its amusing features,
although I felt how degrading it was for a public school-boy and a
gentleman by birth and education to be compelled under any combination of
circumstances to submit to be catechized by such a trio.  The next person
to appear was the doctor—the dearest, kindest old gentleman I ever met.
His manner to all was alike considerate and kind; one, moreover, who
seemed to be aware that the position of a gentleman (unless usurped by a
cad) loses nothing of its dignity by a courteous bearing towards
inferiors or men placed in a painful position—a manner that inspired
respect and yet precluded the possibility of a liberty, a refreshing
contrast to a nondescript that had preceded him, and the beau idéal of a
fine old English gentleman.  Stripped to the waist and behind a screen,
we were one by one subjected to a minute examination.  A schemer had a
very sorry look-out with this eminent physician; no dodge could possibly
avail, for he was intimate with every “ailment” that criminal flesh is
heir to.  It was amusing, after hearing some rascal relate the numerous
complaints from which he was suffering, to hear the surgeon quietly say
with a smile, “Oh, you’ll soon be all right,” and to see the hospital
warder write down, “Fit, hard labour.”  This short and apparently
informal ceremony is the most momentous in one’s future career, and
though unaware of it at the time, I was not surprised later on at the
importance attached to it by the experienced criminal.  By it one’s
future treatment is entirely guided, and the class of labour is carefully
selected in accordance with its decision.  A card, then and there signed
by the surgeon, and which is always fixed on one’s cell door, decides
one’s future vocation; and “Hard labour,” or “Light labour and bed,” bear
a significance incredible to the uninitiated.  As I stood before the kind
old man stripped to the waist (or rather to where my waist now is) I was
amused by his astonishment at my enormous proportions.  I satisfied him I
was not deceiving him by a reference to an operation I had once
undergone; and this, coupled with my unnatural size, decided him I was
incapable of hard labour, and the words, “Light labour and bed,” were
recorded on my card.  Before many hours had passed I realized the benefit
of those magic words.  These preliminaries, as is always the case in
well-constructed dramas or farces, only led up to the event of the
day—the inspection by the Governor.  In Her Majesty’s prisons these
individuals are clothed in attributes something more than mortal, and
receive an amount of homage sufficient to turn the head of a fool or a
snob.  In this instance the Governor was neither, and though a strict
disciplinarian, was the justest and “straightest” man I ever met.
Prisoners and warders were equally amenable to his discipline, and the
slightest dereliction of duty brought him down on you like a load of
bricks.  There was no abuse or verbosity accompanying this discipline,
and though he was feared, I believe he was equally liked and respected by
every man in the prison.  The advent of such a personage naturally
involved a proportionate amount of preparation, and everything received
an overhaul.  Men who wore Her Majesty’s livery for the first time, and
were mere babes in the mysteries of its graceful adjustment, were told to
put their stocks “square on,” or button this button and not that of their
vests and jackets; lumps of coal that had burned crooked were carefully
straightened, and even the coal-box got a lick of whitewash at the last
moment.  We were then rehearsed in a sort of drill: every man was
informed that when “attention” was called he was at once to “spring” up
smartly and remain standing—an old vagrant, aged 100 to judge by his
appearance, “sprang” with so much zeal that I really thought he had
cricked his neck.  When all the preparations were considered complete,
and we had attained an efficiency worthy the reputation of the “North
Corks,” and as some minutes had yet to elapse before the great man’s
arrival, it was deemed advisable to fix our thoughts in the same
reverential groove by reading certain rules for our future guidance.  The
following notice is one of the half-dozen that hang up in every cell—all
of which I shall produce hereafter.  They can hardly be considered as
light reading, or such as one would select unless absolutely compelled;
nevertheless, they afforded me a certain amount of occupation by learning
them by heart during the many solitary hours I spent hereafter:—


                               RELATING TO THE

                             CRIMINAL PRISONERS.

    1.  Prisoners shall not disobey the orders of the Governor or of any
    officer of the prison, nor treat them with disrespect.

    2. They shall preserve silence, and are not to cause annoyance or
    disturbance by making unnecessary noise.

    3. They shall not communicate or attempt to do so with one another,
    or with any strangers or others who may visit the prison.

    4. They shall not disfigure any part of their cells or damage any
    property, or deface, erase, destroy, or pull down any rules or other
    papers hung up therein, or commit any nuisance, or have in their
    cells or possession any article not sanctioned by the orders and

    5. They shall not be idle, nor feign sickness to evade their work.

    6.  They shall not be guilty of profane language, of indecent or
    irreverent conduct, nor shall they use threats towards or commit
    assaults upon officers or one another.

    7.  They shall obey such regulations as regards washing, bathing,
    hair-cutting, and shaving as may from time to time be established,
    with a view to the proper maintenance of health and cleanliness.

    8.  They shall keep their cells, utensils, clothing, and bedding
    clean and neatly arranged, and shall when required clean and sweep
    the yards, passages, and other parts of the prison.

    9.  If any prisoner has any complaint to make regarding the diet, it
    must be made immediately after a meal is served and before any
    portion of it is eaten.  Frivolous and groundless complaints,
    repeatedly made, will be dealt with as a breach of prison discipline.

    10.  A prisoner may, if required for the purposes of justice, be

    11.  Prisoners shall attend divine service on Sundays, and on other
    days when such service is performed, unless they receive permission
    to be absent.  No prisoner shall be compelled to attend the religious
    service of a church to which he does not belong.

    12.  The following offences committed by male prisoners convicted of
    felony or sentenced to hard labour will render them liable to
    corporal punishment:—

    1st.  Mutiny or open incitement to mutiny in the prison, personal
    violence to any officer of the prison, aggravated or repeated
    assaults on a fellow-prisoner, repetition of insulting or threatening
    language to any officer or prisoner.

    2nd.  Wilfully and maliciously breaking the prison windows, or
    otherwise destroying the prison property.

    3rd.  When under punishment, wilfully making a disturbance tending to
    interrupt the order and discipline of the prison, and any other act
    of gross misconduct or insubordination requiring to be suppressed by
    extraordinary means.

    13.  A prisoner committing a breach of any of the regulations is
    liable to be sentenced to confinement in a punishment cell, and such
    dietary and other punishments as the rules allow.

    14.  Any gratuity granted to a prisoner may be paid to him through a
    Prisoners’ Aid Society, or in such way as the Commissioners may

    15.  Prisoners may, if they desire it, have an interview with the
    Governor or superior authority to make complaints or prefer requests;
    and the Governor shall redress any grievance or take such steps as
    may seem necessary.

    16.  Any prisoner wishing to see a member of the Visiting Committee
    shall be allowed to do so on the occasion of his next occurring visit
    to the prison.

                                * * * * *

    _Printed at H.M. Convict Prison_, _Millbank_.

                                * * * * *

A slamming of doors and turning of keys, and a perfect Babel of voices
shouting “Attention!” heralded the Governor’s approach.  I can only
compare the discord to that which invariably accompanies the progress of
an African tribe through a friendly village.  A few pop-guns and a
tom-tom or two would certainly make the resemblance more complete, though
they would probably be objected to by the Home Office on the plea of want
of precedent.

The halo of veneration that surrounds a prison governor is by no means
confined to himself, but obliquely and in a modified form imparts itself
to the humblest of his followers.  A miserable door-slammer that usually
accompanied him, and combined with this important duty the occasional
distribution of letters, amused me on one occasion when I ventured to ask
him if he had a letter for me.  Such a liberty “from the likes of me to
the likes of him” was hardly to be tolerated; and he had the cheek to
send me a message that “he objected to be spoken to when accompanying the

The door at length opened, and the great man was in the room.
“Attention!” was shrieked out as only sycophants can do, and duly
responded to; and the halt and the maim, “Old Hundred,” myself, burglars,
and pickpockets, presented one uninterrupted, swerving, rickety line.  As
a spectacle, it must have been truly imposing, during which the Governor
sat down.  Our names were then respectively called out, and we crossed
from one bench to another to show, as it were, our action.  Not a muscle
of the inspecting officer’s face moved during these scenes in the arena;
and it might have been the Sphinx inspecting the army of Pharaoh, so
little attention did he apparently pay to us.  Nothing, however, had
escaped him; and I learnt to believe there was some truth in the
assertion that he had eyes in his boots, if not in his pockets also.

As may be supposed, these various inspections took a considerable time,
and the day was drawing in before they were all ended.  We were thereupon
informed that we should occupy temporary cells for “this night only,” and
that our final allotment to various parts of the prison would be
postponed till the morrow.  The cell I now found myself in was indeed a
small one—evidently only used as a half-way house, and fitted as
sparingly as the thermometer one at Newgate.  A notice posted up warned
us not to go to bed till the bell rang at eight; and not wishing to break
a rule before I had been in the place a day, I foolishly complied with
the order.

Meanwhile it was getting dark, and though a gaspipe was fitted into the
wall, there was not the slightest indication of its being likely to be
lit.  Mike, who had frequently been here before, intimated his intention
of turning in, and, “order be blowed!” strongly advised us to do the
same.  I only regret I was weak enough not to.  The gloom gradually
increased till we were left in outer darkness.  To find the bed-clothing
would now have been a difficulty; to make any resemblance to a bed an
absolute impossibility.  Still, on the strength of the notice, I waited
through many dark and cold hours, until a brute with a human voice
shouted out from somewhere, “You chaps will get no light to-night, so you
can turn in when you please.”  I was informed afterwards this was a
favourite and utterly unauthorized assumption of authority on the part of
this bully, and I trust it has only to be noticed to preclude the
possibility of its continuance.  It was a barbarous and cowardly act, and
strictly opposed to the usual system of the prison.  How I got through
that cold night I cannot tell, for bed, bedding and light were all
strangers to me; but night, more merciful than man, threw its mantle over
me, and I slept as sound as only the weary can.


NEXT morning after breakfast we were drafted to our various localities,
and, incredible as it may appear, and to show how efficient is the
isolation system, men with whom I parted company that morning I never saw
again, though I knew they were in the same building.  Our various
destinations were indicated in a somewhat primitive style—a huge
chalk-mark on our backs.  As I threaded my way through various wards with
a C scrawled on my back, a smell of tar indicated our approach to what
might under altered circumstances have been presumed to be a
ship-chandler’s; it was, however, only the oakum district.  We were here
received by the warder in command, and I was assigned to the fifth
storey.  I was further presented with my official number—594, on a brass

I now discovered the benefit of “light labour and bed.”  This particular
ward, together with the two in its immediate vicinity, is principally
devoted to fresh arrivals; bed is the exception and oakum is the rule.
It is absolutely impossible for any accident to exempt you from
commencing your career for one month in these wards; it rests, however,
with yourself whether you pick oakum or find a substitute.  I decided on
the latter course.  The system of prison life is such a contemptible one,
and the espionage, jealousy, currying favour, and tale-bearing so general
between the officials from the highest to the lowest, that this portion
of my task is a very delicate one.  Whatever I write will be carefully
sifted; and if I give the slightest clue capable of being followed up, I
should probably injure some warder, assistant warder, or prisoner who did
me incalculable services at great personal risk; and as this is the last
thing I have the smallest intention of doing, I wish to state, once for
all, that all names and dates I give are intentionally altered, and that
any official who ever befriended me has nothing to fear from my

                        [Picture: A Cell.  8 A.M.]

As I ascended the spiral staircase a shout of “Coming up!” intimated to
the attics that a fresh victim was approaching, and I was formally
received and conducted to my cell.  The first impression of my permanent
address was not encouraging.  On a shelf was a Bible and prayer-book, a
tin plate, a tin mug, and a tin knife, a wooden spoon, a box of salt, and
a piece of soap, producing a combination such as may be seen in any of
the illustrated papers during a small war, and supposed to illustrate, as
circumstances require, the utensils in daily use amongst Zulus, Ashantis
or whatever savages we may happen to be slaughtering at the time.  In
another corner was a diminutive basin the size of a saucepan, a
slop-pail, and a can of water.  On a shelf was a rug and two blankets;
bed or bedstead was conspicuous by its absence; and on the table was a
lump of rope.  My turnkey, having examined my card, ordered in a bed and
bedstead, and explained that the rope was to be converted into oakum.  A
few words and we understood one another; in short, he was a man after my
own heart.  I have no scruple in mentioning this, for I regret to say the
man was dismissed shortly after—through no fault of mine, though
indirectly connected with me.  I can never forgive myself when I reflect
that I had any share in the transaction, though it is a consolation to
know that, had he been as careful as he ought, nothing could have brought
the offence home to him.  In the first instance, he was the victim of as
foul a piece of treachery as ever disgraced humanity, and then he lost
his head, and compromised himself when absolute silence would have
cleared him.  I shall narrate the particulars later on.  In addition to
the above-named furniture, the walls were decorated with a number of
printed notices describing your duties, diet, &c., and a prayer (!); a
wooden—so much a dozen—effort, supposed to be specially adapted to the
requirements of “awakening burglars.”  I learnt all these by heart by way
of amusement, and will give them for the benefit of the reader.  I take
especial pleasure in reproducing them, as I believe they’ve never seen
daylight before.

                                * * * * *


    1.  A prisoner shall be able to earn on each weekday 8, 7, or 6
    marks, according to the degree of his industry; and on Sunday he
    shall be awarded marks according to the degree of his industry during
    the previous week.

    2.  There shall be four stages, and every prisoner shall pass through
    them or through so much of them as the term of his imprisonment

    3.  He shall commence in the first stage, and shall remain in the
    first stage until he has earned 28 × 8, or 224 marks; in the second
    stage until he has earned 224 more marks, or 448 in the whole; in the
    third stage until he has earned 224 more marks, or 672 in the whole;
    in the fourth stage during the remainder of his sentence.

    4.  A prisoner whose term of imprisonment is twenty-eight days or
    less shall serve the whole of his term in the first stage.

    5.  A prisoner who is idle, or who misconducts himself, or is
    inattentive to instruction, shall be liable

    (1) To forfeit gratuity earned or to be earned, or

    (2) To forfeit any other stage privileges.

    (3) To detention in the stage in which he is until he shall have
    earned in that stage an additional number of marks.

    (4) To degradation to any lower stage (whether such stage is next
    below the one in which he is or otherwise) until he has earned in
    such lower stage a stated number of marks.

    As soon as the prisoner has earned the stated number, then, unless he
    has in the meantime incurred further punishment, he shall be restored
    to the stage from which he was degraded, and be credited with the
    number of marks he had previously earned therein.

    6.  None of the foregoing punishments shall exempt a prisoner from
    any other punishment to which he would be liable for conduct
    constituting a breach of prison regulations.

    7.  A prisoner in the first stage will

    (_a_) Be employed ten hours daily in strict separation on first class
    hard labour, of which six to eight hours will be on crank,
    tread-wheel, or work of a similar nature.

    (_b_) Sleep on a plank-bed without a mattress.

    (_c_) Earn no gratuity.

    8.  A prisoner in the second stage will

    (_a_) Be employed as in the first stage until he has completed one
    month of imprisonment, and afterwards on hard labour of the second

    (_b_) Sleep on a plank-bed without a mattress two nights weekly and
    have a mattress on the other nights.

    (_c_) Receive school instruction.

    (_d_) Have school books in his cell.

    (_e_) Have exercise on Sunday.

    (_f_) Be able to earn a gratuity not exceeding 1s.

    (_g_) The gratuity to a prisoner in this stage, whose sentence is not
    long enough for him to earn 224 marks in it, may be calculated at 1d.
    for every 20 marks earned.

    9.  A prisoner in the third stage will—

    (_a_) Be employed on second class hard labour.

    (_b_) Sleep on a plank-bed without a mattress one night weekly, and
    have a mattress on other nights.

    (_c_) Receive school instruction.

    (_d_) Have school books in his cell.

    (_e_) Have library books in his cell.

    (_f_) Have exercise on Sunday.

    (_g_) Be able to earn a gratuity not exceeding 1s. 6d.

    (_h_) The gratuity to a prisoner in this stage, whose sentence is not
    long enough for him to earn 224 marks in it, may be calculated at 1d.
    for every 12 marks earned.

    10.  A prisoner in the fourth stage will—

    (_a_) Be eligible for employment of trust in the service of the

    (_b_) Sleep on a Mattress every night.

    (_c_) Receive school instruction.

    (_d_) Have school books in his cell.

    (_e_) Have library books in his cell.

    (_f_) Have exercise on Sunday.

    (_g_) Be allowed to receive and write a letter and receive a visit of
    twenty minutes; and in every three months afterwards to receive and
    write a letter, and receive a visit of half-an-hour.

    (_h_) Be able to earn a gratuity not exceeding 2s.

    (_i_) The gratuity to a prisoner in this stage, whose sentence is not
    long enough for him to earn 224 marks in it, may be calculated at 1d.
    for every 10 marks earned.

    (_j_) The gratuity to a prisoner in this stage, whose sentence is
    long enough to enable him to earn more than 896 marks, may be
    calculated at the same rate, provided that it shall not in any case
    exceed 10s.

                                  * * * * *

    _Printed at H.M. Convict Prison_, _Millbank_.

                                * * * * *

The composition of this abstract, alternating as it does between threats
of punishment and hopes of “employments of trust,” clearly stamps it as
intended to appeal to the feelings and adapt itself to the capacities of
the lowest classes.  That any man of education could be roused to any
degree of ambition by such “trust” as would be likely to be placed in
him, is to suppose an impossible absurdity.  The “system” throttles any
such contingency, and leads—as all short-sighted policies do—to men
believing in no such thing as good faith, and having no inward
restraining motive for abstaining from deception.  Why will not the Chief
Commissioner of Prisons see that the brute power at their disposal is
wholly inadequate to prevent a man with a modicum of brains and a few
sovereigns from doing as he pleases?  Let them try the “confidence trick”
in a modified form with the better class of prisoners, and if it is found
to fail, revert to the hard and fast rule.  A discretionary power in the
hands of such a man as the Governor of Coldbath Fields would thoroughly
test the experiment.

What trash “employment of trust” sounds to a man who knows that from
first to last—however exemplary his behaviour—he is suspected, and never
supposed to be lost sight of!

Personally, I felt I’d as lief be in the punishment cells as in any
“employment of trust”; they are both birds of the same feather,
recognizing no code but brute force, distrust, and degrees of punishment.
I can only compare the prison system to a huge machine, capable of
crushing a man body and soul, or handling him so lightly that nothing but
the “idea” and its moral obligations remain to remind him of its hideous
proximity.  If any further proof is required of the truth of my
deductions, my personal experience will amply provide it.



    O GOD and Holy Father, Thou hast in mercy watched over me through the
    night; in Thy tender love keep me this day from evil.  I have greatly
    sinned against Thee.  Do Thou turn me from all my evil ways; wash me
    in the blood of Jesus, and let Thy Spirit lead me that I may hate sin
    and love what is right.  Let Thy grace preserve me amidst all trials,
    that I may be made truly a servant of Jesus Christ and ever love and
    serve my God and Saviour.  Amen.


    O GOD, Thou hast safely brought me to the close of another day.  May
    Thy goodness lead me to repentance that I may give Thee my heart.
    Forgive all my evil thoughts, and words, and deeds.  What good
    thoughts I have had from Thee do Thou strengthen, that I may love
    Thee more and serve Thee better.  Keep me, O God, and all whom I
    love, from danger or sin this night, and so preserve us by Thy grace
    that at last we may sleep in Jesus and be for ever with the Lord.

This hypocritical effusion hangs over one’s table, and is supposed to be
admirably adapted for “awakening” burglars, and turning pickpockets from
the error of their ways.  As a literary composition it is beneath
criticism, and would disgrace a “National School” boy in a proclaimed
district.  I don’t know who is the inspired author, nor how they are sold
by the dozen.


    “Prisoners who desire assistance from the agent of the Discharged
    Prisoners’ Relief Committee, in finding employment on discharge,
    should apply to the Governor fourteen days before they go out, when
    their cases will be investigated.  Wilfully false statements as to
    antecedents, &c., will disqualify a prisoner from assistance, as will
    also misconduct in prison.”

There is no institution I heard so much abused as the above, and although
I cannot speak from personal knowledge, I should say that a thorough
enquiry into its working (not its profession) might possibly be attended
with benefit.  Beyond seeing a fly-blown old man waddling about the
prison, who, I was informed, was the agent, I know nothing, and care
less, about this doubtless admirable institution.

                                * * * * *


                                No. 1.

                             HARD LABOUR.
Breakfast      Daily                            8 ounces bread.
Dinner         Daily                            1½ pint _stirabout_
                                                (containing 3 ounces
                                                Indian meal and 3
                                                ounces oatmeal).
Supper         Daily                            8 ounces bread.
                                No. 2.

                        MEN WITH HARD LABOUR.
Breakfast      Daily                            6 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
Dinner         Sunday and Wednesday             6 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces suet pudding.
               Monday and Friday                6 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes.
               Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday   6 ounces bread, ½
                                                pint soup.
Supper         Daily                            6 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
Breakfast      Daily                            5 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
Dinner         Sunday and Wednesday             5 ounces bread, 6
                                                ounces suet pudding.
               Monday and Friday                5 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes.
               Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday   5 ounces bread, ½
                                                pint soup.
Supper         Daily                            5 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
                                No. 3.

                        MEN WITH HARD LABOUR.
Breakfast      Daily                            8 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
Dinner         Sunday and Wednesday             4 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes, 8
                                                ounces suet pudding.
               Monday and Friday                8 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes, 3
                                                ounces cooked beef
                                                (without bone).
               Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday   8 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes, ¾
                                                pint soup.
Supper         Daily                            6 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
Breakfast      Daily                            6 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
Dinner         Sunday and Wednesday             4 ounces bread, 6
                                                ounces potatoes, 6
                                                ounces suet pudding.
               Monday and Friday                6 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes, 3
                                                ounces cooked beef
                                                (without bone).
               Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday   6 ounces bread, 6
                                                ounces potatoes, ¾
                                                pint soup.
Supper         Daily                            6 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
                                No. 4.

                        MEN WITH HARD LABOUR.
Breakfast.     Daily                            8 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint porridge.
Dinner         Sunday and Wednesday             6 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes, 12
                                                ounces suet pudding.
               Monday and Friday                8 ounces bread, 12
                                                ounces potatoes, 4
                                                ounces cooked beef
                                                (without bone).
               Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday   8 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes, 1
                                                pint soup.
Supper         Daily                            8 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint porridge.
Breakfast      Daily                            6 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.
Dinner         Sunday and Wednesday             4 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes, 10
                                                ounces suet pudding.
               Monday and Friday                6 ounces bread, 10
                                                ounces potatoes, 3
                                                ounces cooked beef
                                                (without bone).
               Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday   6 ounces bread, 8
                                                ounces potatoes, 1
                                                pint soup.
Supper         Daily                            6 ounces bread, 1
                                                pint gruel.

On Mondays beans and fat bacon may be substituted for beef.  At the
expiration of nine months one pint of cocoa, with two ounces extra bread,
may be given at breakfast three days in the week, in lieu of one pint of
porridge, or gruel, if preferred.

The following will be the terms to which the above diets will be

Prisoners sentenced to seven days and under, No. 1 diet for the whole

Prisoners sentenced to more than seven days, and not more than one month,
No. 1 diet for seven days, and No. 2 diet for remainder of term.

Prisoners sentenced to more than one month, and not more than four
months, No. 2 diet for one month, and No. 3 diet for remainder of term.

Prisoners sentenced to more than four months, No. 3 diet for four months,
and No. 4 diet for remainder of term.


    For cooked English beef or potatoes, which may be issued, if deemed
    necessary, by the authorities.

    In lieu of four ounces cooked English beef:

    Five ounces Colonial beef or mutton, preserved by heat (served cold);
    nine ounces beans, one ounce fat bacon, four ounces American or other
    foreign beef, preserved by cold (weighed after cooking), eight ounces
    cooked fresh fish; six ounces cooked salt meat; twelve ounces cooked
    salt fish.

    In lieu of three ounces cooked English beef:

    Three-and-three-quarter ounces Colonial beef or mutton, preserved by
    heat (served cold); seven ounces beans, three-quarters of an ounce
    fat bacon; three ounces American or other foreign beef, preserved by
    cold (weighed after cooking); six ounces cooked fresh fish;
    four-and-a-half ounces cooked salt meat; nine ounces cooked salt

    In lieu of twelve ounces potatoes:

    Eight ounces cabbage or turnip-tops; twelve ounces parsnips, turnips,
    or carrots; twelve ounces preserved (dried) potatoes; eight ounces
    leeks; twelve ounces rice (steamed till tender).

    In lieu of ten ounces potatoes:

    Seven ounces cabbage or turnip-tops; ten ounces parsnips, turnips, or
    carrots; ten ounces preserved (dried) potatoes; seven ounces leeks;
    ten ounces rice (steamed till tender).

    In lieu of eight ounces potatoes:

    Six ounces cabbage or turnip-tops; eight ounces parsnips, turnips, or
    carrots; eight ounces preserved (dried) potatoes; six ounces leeks;
    eight ounces rice (steamed till tender).

    In lieu of six ounces potatoes:

    Four ounces cabbage or turnip-tops; six ounces parsnips, turnips, or
    carrots; six ounces preserved (dried) potatoes; four ounces leeks;
    six ounces rice (steamed till tender).

    All the meats to be weighed without bone.

    All vegetables to be weighed after cooking.

                                  * * * * *

    _Printed at H.M. Convict Prison_, _Millbank_.

A careful perusal of Dietary 4 will convince the reader that it is
sufficiently generous to obviate any loss of weight, and yet, as a rule,
prisoners fall away on it, (There are some extraordinary exceptions to
this rule, and one man, a gentleman by birth, and an ex-officer in the
army, increased two stone in a few months; the absolute half-starved
vagrant also, of course, fattens on it.)  I can only attribute it to the
voracious way they bolt their food.  It is stated of that eminent
projector, the late Mr. Rumford, that he once submitted to the then
Elector of Saxony a scheme whereby he might reduce the expense of
maintaining his army, without impairing its efficiency, by a very simple
method, namely, to reduce the amount, but compel his soldiers to
masticate their food.  I cannot say if the suggestion was acted on, but I
am thoroughly convinced that if prisoners received less, and were
compelled to eat slower, a considerable saving to the state and an
improvement in the appearance of the men would be effected.  Personally I
found during the very few weeks I subsisted on this diet that it was more
than I could possibly eat, and withal good.  The gruel, I confess, is an
acquired taste, and I was almost immediately permitted to substitute
cocoa.  The porridge was also a sad disappointment.  I innocently hoped
to have found the delicious composition associated with the land of cakes
and immortal Burns, and could have burst into tears in recognising it as
intensified gruel.  Its nourishing powers, however, are not to be
gainsaid; and to see malefactors shovelling it away, as I have, one would
suppose they enjoyed it.  The recitation of the substitutes for cooked
beef I am compelled to characterise an official quibble.  During the few
months I spent at Coldbath I never heard—as I certainly should—of any
beef being issued at all, the invariable substitute being Colonial meat
served cold, except on one occasion, when salt fish was supplied.  On the
merits of this last item I cannot speak personally, for long before that
I was on a daily diet of mutton and mutton broth, as I describe
hereafter.  For the preserved Colonial meat, however, I have nothing but
praise.  “Served,” as it was, under every disadvantage, I found it
excellent; and as it can be purchased for seven-pence a pound, the marvel
is that the poorer classes, who seldom or never taste butcher’s meat, do
not patronise it more largely.  I can only suppose its merits are

The bedstead, or “plank-bed,” as it is termed, is the hardest couch I
ever felt; with a mattress on it I could feel every grain in the wood,
and shuddered to think of my companions, all of whom had to submit for a
month to the board “pure and simple.”  It is only raised three inches
from the floor, and is two feet in breadth—a tight fit for twenty stone.
I had now fairly settled down in my final destination for a month, and
will describe the routine of the day:—

6 A.M.       —Rise.
6.30 „       —Breakfast.
7 „          —Take down the day’s work, and receive a fresh supply.
8 to 9 „     —Exercise.
9 „          —Chapel (three times a week).
12 noon      —Dinner.
5 P.M.       —Supper.
8 „          —Bed.
8.30 „       —Lights out.

                        [Picture: A Cell.  8 P.M.]

A slight difference existed between the regulation here and at Newgate on
the subject of “lights out.”  At Coldbath it was a serious offence to
retire before 8 P.M.  At Newgate it was, however, optional, though
hampered with an absurd condition.  One evening, at this latter awful
place, I had determined on a comfortable read; with this object I
undressed about 7 P.M., and, pulling my bed under the lamp, abandoned
myself to the perusal of _Chambers’ Magazine_, for 1878.  Barely,
however, had I commenced, when “in a moment all was dark.”  I ascertained
next morning that it was a rule to put out the gas as soon as a man got
into bed; whether from economical motives or as an extra mode of
annoyance, I never troubled to ask.

The brown bread, which was often warm from the oven, was as good as any I
have ever tasted, and the quantity enough to satisfy anyone; and yet the
ordinary prisoner would devour his and gratefully accept as much as
anyone else would give him.  I found that prisoners would do anything for
food, and through my entire career I bartered it in exchange for soap,
etc.  Amongst other recipients of my bounty was a German Jew who lived
near me.  He spoke very little English, and as I speak German fluently, I
often had a word with him.  He told me the usual story about being
sentenced for nothing; and though I did not believe a word of it, it led
to his being put on my free list.  A more voracious appetite I never met
with, and the way he bolted half a pound of bread and three or four
potatoes was truly appalling; indeed, so unsatisfactory was it, that I
transferred my patronage after a week; one might as well have tried to
fill Nelson’s monument.  Giving away food is strictly prohibited—a
regulation that necessitates certain precautions, commendable for their
suitability rather than their cleanliness.  The usual mode is for the
donor to stuff bread, potatoes, or a lump of suet down his stocking or
inside his shirt, and when time and circumstance permit, to transfer it
to the recipient of his bounty, who in his turn first shoves it up his
back or into his cap, to be transferred at leisure into the mouth or
elsewhere.  This manipulation never commended itself to me; and my rule,
though not much more refined, had at least the advantage of avoiding any
personal contact with the greasy dainties.  I placed all my food in my
pocket-handkerchief, and transferred it bodily in exchange for the
others’.  This rule only applied to the clean linen day, when I was
enabled without delay to get rid of my brother-reprobate’s _mouchoir_.
On other occasions I received their pocket-handkerchiefs clean, and
returned them later on full of good things.  I let it be understood that
I never took a handkerchief unless it was clean; and so perfect did the
system become, that I had only to say _en passant_, “Your handkerchief
to-morrow,” and it was duly handed to me washed and perfectly clean.  I
only once was offered a treat of this kind.  It was a poor black man (I
often see him about).  I watched him fumbling in his chest and eventually
produce a crust; this he secreted for some minutes in his fist, and then
said, “Here, master,” and held it out to me.  I can see his look of
surprise that followed my refusal; but it was kindly meant, and though I
declined the emetic, I wouldn’t have hurt his feelings for the world.
Soup that I didn’t consume I usually placed outside the door, hoping that
my regular “cleaner” would reach it in time.  In this, however, I was
often disappointed, for my custom having got known, a raid was frequently
made on it by others—a practice I determined to try and circumvent.

I was suffering at this time from liver complaint, and had on my shelf a
concoction of taraxacum and podophyllin.  Of this I poured one day about
two doses into my mutton broth; and as it was somewhat discoloured by the
process, I added half a cup of soapsuds and a handful of salt.  Not long
after the two thieves arrived, and I could distinctly hear their long
gulps as they swallowed the savoury concoction.  My commendable endeavour
to break them of pilfering was, however, a complete failure; and the only
remark I overheard was, “I say, Bill, it’s damned salt, ain’t it?”

The soap one received had to last a fortnight, and was not sufficient for
a thorough wash daily and the periodical bath, and I experienced great
inconvenience at first by having to economize; but when it had got mooted
about that there “was a swell as was mug enough to swap grub for soap,”
my market became literally glutted, and I was enabled to revel in a bath
every morning.

Washing one’s cell floor was not an agreeable duty.  At first I puffed
and blew like a grampus, but it soon became a very simple affair, and I
became a perfect adept at the charwoman business.  I heard whilst here,
from a reliable source, of some man who after leaving the prison was
staying at a West-end hotel, and who, seeing a servant shirking her duty
whilst scrubbing the doorstep, and unable to resist the force of habit,
very kindly gave her the benefit of his experience, and stripping off his
coat, proceeded to lay-to assiduously.  I should not hesitate to do the
same under certain circumstances.  This “doing” one’s own apartment was
the only derogatory duty I had ever to perform; and as it was a private
show, and clearly for one’s own benefit, I never had the slightest
objection to it; the more so as the taking of my morning bath (the
saucepan on the floor) had half completed the process.

Oakum-picking cannot be called an intellectual employment.  I should say,
too, it was decidedly monotonous, though I can hardly speak from personal
experience.  I tried the experiment of unravelling the rope, but it was
so intensely provoking that I turned my thoughts to evading the
necessity.  My turnkey and I were friends within twenty-four hours, and I
consulted him about getting a substitute.  As turnkey and prisoner had
both left before I had, I may say, without injuring anyone, that for a
weekly consideration my task was picked daily.  Of a morning a bundle was
mysteriously thrown into my cell, and a few moments later I proudly
descended with “my work,” and dropped the unused rope on the stair.  The
usual task that prisoners have to pick is three pounds a day, but being a
light-labour man I was only assigned one pound.  I invariably returned a
portion of this modified amount unpicked, thereby lulling the suspicions
of a dense but offensively-inclined taskmaster.  Oakum is one of the most
tell-tale commodities I ever came across.  If merely unravelled, it
remains black and juicy; but the more it is picked and pulled the paler
it gets, till it is capable of assuming the appearance of Turkish
tobacco.  An experienced eye can at once detect the amount of labour
bestowed on it, and some of the huge bundles I saw my _confrères_
carrying down were works of art as regards finish.  The man who actually
picked my oakum was the “cleaner,” a privileged individual with a roving
commission.  His duties frequently brought him to my cell, and he told me
he was a “racing man.”  I discovered, however, as we became better
acquainted, that the designation is capable of considerable expansion,
and that his peculiar talent was the “three-card trick.”  He knew every
racecourse in England as well as every prison, and never failed of a
morning to inquire how I had slept, adding, that he always slept badly
the first few nights in a strange prison; and my reply that I was not
affected in a “similar way” appeared to cause him considerable surprise.
In my unravelling process I one day chanced to come across a bit of cane.
It was certainly moist from proximity to the tar, but I carefully dried
and subsequently smoked it.  I can hardly say the pleasure was unalloyed,
for it bore such a resemblance to the fragrant British Havanna that I got
alarmed, and put it out.  It was the only smoke I had for months.

Exercise at Coldbath was an important institution, and considering it was
the only fresh air I at first experienced in the day, I always looked
forward to it.  An hour is the regulation time, but seldom is the boon of
that duration; and if the warder is otherwise engaged, the exercise has
to give way, and thus the prisoner is deprived of a healthy occupation to
meet the convenience of a selfish turnkey.  Overlooking the exercise-yard
attached to C ward were a row of houses, and I often wondered what the
lookers-on thought of the moving mass of misery that circled round below
them.  To me, with my limited facilities, there was ample room for
reflection; and I often marvelled how such various types of humanity
could have been collected, or indeed that they ever existed.

One feeble old man particularly attracted my notice.  He was almost
unable to walk round from sheer old age, and appeared altogether
incapable of having qualified in any way for lodgings at Coldbath.  I
asked a warder what on earth he had done.

“Well,” he said, “they say he’s a bad ’un.  He’s here for violently
assaulting the police, and got six months.”

“But,” I added, “he don’t look as if he would last so long; he must be at
least a hundred!”

“Very likely,” was the reply.  “The fact is, a new rule has come in
lately, and pauper prisoners are buried in the prison; so they sent him
here in hopes of starting our new cemetery.”

Another peculiarity that struck me forcibly was the apparently universal
obstruction that appeared to exist in the criminal throat.  It was
absolutely epidemic, and the sounds—such as are made by an over-wound
moderator lamp—that accompanied their fruitless endeavours to obtain
relief were excessively revolting.  This and the like are the worst
features of coming in contact with these dirty wretches.  Many habits
usually looked upon as filthy were freely indulged in, and anyone who
instinctively abstained from participating was looked upon as an
outsider.  A foolish habit I had contracted in my youth of applying my
pocket-handkerchief to its natural use was, I fancy, specially resented.
I could never shake off these feelings, and though with them, was never
“one of them.”  I always kept them at arms’ length, and invariably
received some implied recognition of my superiority.  The better class of
prisoners for the most part addressed me as “Capting,” or “Sir”; and even
the lowest, if they spoke—which I never encouraged—did so with some small
degree of reserve.  The neighbourhood abounds with street-organs; indeed,
it is the head-quarters where the instrumentalists for the most part
live, the consequence being that, like the lady of Bambury Cross, we had
music wherever we “goed.”  About this time a certain popular air was much
in vogue, and evidently much admired by the criminal classes.  I enquired
the name of this vile music-hall ditty, but without effect; and can only
describe it by the fact that no sooner did it commence than the whole mob
appeared to cheer up, and took up a sort of gin-and-water refrain which
they buzzed out—“Ho moy littul tarling, ’ow are yew?”  The wretch who
composed it deserves a month.  It is impossible to describe the monotony
of these days without occupation—for my deputy did my task—and without
books.  The religious tract, as a leaflet was officially styled, had to
last a fortnight; and I knew by heart all about “The Sweet Recollections
of a Sweep,” and “The Converted Charwoman of Goswell Road.”  “What
Pickest Thou, you Wretch?” and “How are your Poor Fingers, you
Blackguard?” were also works contained in this religious repertoire, and
altogether of a more thrilling description.  They were generally
understood to have been the work of a local divine, as indeed their style
suggested.  The library books are a very sorry lot, though probably well
adapted to the capacities of their readers.  The rule, too, that permits
their change only once a fortnight is in itself a species of torture
unworthy of the system that sanctions them at all.  The type for the most
part is large, and such as an educated man can read in a day.  Why, then,
spoil a gracious act by limiting its very innocent scope.  Such, too, is
the reckless supervision of these literary treasures that I received no
less than seven school histories of England during my career.  I felt
this as almost a reflection on the Dean of W— and my classical education

There was, however, a reserve library for the special benefit of the
“serious” minded, and men of education with strict Episcopalian
proclivities.  This issue, and its attendant patronage, is vested
entirely in the hands of the chaplain—a custom it is high time to
alter—and considering I had never been confirmed, it is a marvel how I
was ever included in its favoured ranks.  The blessing was not, however,
an entirely unmitigated one; and “Locke’s Essay on the Mind,” “The Theory
of Sturm,” and such light reading usually fell to my share.  Happily I
was independent of it all, although an amusing and undignified squabble
some months later deprived me of even this modified clerical patronage.

I must mention one incident connected with my “three card” acquaintance
before leaving the oakum district.  It was after chapel, and he was in my
cell, when, after sundry enquiries as to how I liked the service, etc.,
he said—

“I calls it bad, very bad taste, the way they goes on, even in chapel, at
a chap about his work.  Didn’t you hear this morning about the oakum?”

“Oakum,” I said; “I don’t remember any allusion to it.”

“O yes you do,” he replied.  “D’you mind my nudging you?” and then I
recollected receiving a dig in the ribs, which I failed to understand at
the time, as they began to sing, “O Come, let us sing,” etc.  The racing
man had made a mistake in the spelling, and very properly resented the

My transfer from this hateful district was, however, nearer than I
supposed, and an unexpected occurrence a few days after my arrival
brought about this welcome change.  My door was one day suddenly opened,
and my friend the turnkey appeared in breathless agitation.

“Summat’s up,” he jerked out; “mind you tells em nothink.  You’re going
to be transferred at once.”


SOMETHING was indeed up; a letter, in fact, that I had clandestinely
written had been intercepted.  Personally I was indifferent to the
result; the worst had been done to me when I found myself in prison.
Degrees of punishment had no terrors for me, and I was equally callous as
to whether employed in a “situation of trust” or languishing in a
punishment cell.  To me all appeared tarred with the same brush, and I
loathed the privileges and punishments, the indulgences and deprivations,
the spiritual comforts, and every other contingency with the same
intensity.  As regards the turnkey, however, my sympathy was enlisted.
Here was a poor man, with a wife and family, liable to dismissal, and
even imprisonment, if convicted of carrying letters.  At the time I was
at a loss to understand how the traffic could possibly have been
discovered.  I was confident I had not been observed writing, and had
seen the letters securely secreted in the warder’s pouch.  Unless, then,
he had been guilty of some indiscretion, the discovery seemed impossible.
Such a contingency as foul play from without never entered my head, and
yet, alas, such a thing had actually occurred.  A servant in the family
of one of my correspondents had lately been detected in a series of
systematic thefts from her employers, extending over many months.  The
discovery naturally involved her immediate dismissal, and by way of
gratitude for their refraining from prosecuting her, she purloined my
letter, and assuming a position of authority, called at the prison and
produced the document.  Her motive was clearly revenge, but the truth (as
it always does) eventually came out, and the mystery that shrouded the
transaction for months has happily been dispelled, and the temporary
doubt (almost excusable) that associated the act with very dear friends
has given way to a regret that I could ever have doubted their honour.
As to the thieving, sneaking wretch, she decamped with her spoils; and
though her photograph has been freely distributed in the “three ball”
quarter, she has hitherto evaded discovery.  For my part I would gladly
subscribe a trifle for the present address of Mrs. Smith.  With the
mystery that surrounded everything that occurred in the place, I tried in
vain to ascertain whether anything had really been discovered, but day
after day passed, and the affair had apparently blown over.  This,
however, was an erroneous impression; it was only the lull that precedes
the storm, and not a stone was being left unturned to sift the matter.
The turnkey, at the time only suspected of complicity in the matter, was
carefully watched.  When he left of an evening his every footstep was
dogged, and a nightly report of his rambles duly made.  A letter, too,
that he foolishly posted in a neighbouring pillar-box pointed indirectly
to his connivance, and subsequent inquiries at the district receiving
office made matters possibly clearer.  A close relationship exists
between such Government institutions as post-offices, prisons, and
police-stations, which affords greater facilities to constituted
authorities for unearthing mysteries than to ordinary mortals.  I was
ignorant in those days of this affinity, and an easy prey to such
trumpery contingencies; but I eventually reduced the trafficking to a
science impossible of detection, and unfailing in its results.  Can it be
wondered at—surrounded as one is by underpaid officials, who begin at
twenty-one shillings and twenty-three shillings a week, with a gradual
increase, after years of toil, to a possible twenty-eight shillings, and
with a prospect, after twenty years’ service, of receiving a pension of
ten shillings a week—can it be wondered at, I ask, that these worthy men
are unable to resist a bribe?  I should regret to have to prove my words,
but if I was in the position again, I think I could undertake to be in
daily communication with the outer world, despite bolts and bars and the
“special” observation I was always subject to.  This is no idle boast, as
subsequent events will prove; and the authorities have only themselves to
thank for exercising no discretionary power in their treatment of
prisoners, when the facts I mention prove conclusively that a great
difference does exist and always will between the vagrant and the
gentleman, even in prison, in more ways than one.  The underpaid turnkey
is still more unfairly handicapped, and it resolves itself into his
choosing between my £5 and the Government £1.  What more natural than
that he should elect the former, when the most ordinary precaution will
guard against detection.  I don’t think the authorities ought to begrudge
the so-called gentleman this solitary advantage.  No one can deny that
six months to a man of education is an infinitely severer trial than
eighteen to a costermonger.  The one has to battle with the mind,
conscience, remorse, shattered prospects, loss of caste, a blighted
future, food, clothing, surroundings, all inferior to what he has been
accustomed to; to submit, moreover, to be addressed by inferiors in a
tone of authority, besides a hundred-and-one other humiliations
impossible to remember: the other finds himself amongst friends, loses
nothing by his incarceration, is better clothed, fed, and housed than if
he were at home, and, in the case of an artizan, reverts to his every-day
employment; and yet this is seldom taken into consideration, and justice
is ladled out to gentleman and vagrant alike.  I cannot assert this as my
own experience, for justice was indeed tempered with mercy to me, and I
am fully sensible of the consideration I received, both at my trial and
hereafter.  Under ordinary circumstances one would be accused of
ingratitude for breaking rules and deceiving those in authority who had
treated one well, but I never took this personal view of it.  I was
fighting a system that I despised, not individuals that I respected.  So
I looked on it as a game of “brag,” a kind of “French and English,” a
question of bolts and bars _versus_ brains, where the latter had
apparently the worst of it, where undue importance was attached to
watching and spying, and nothing left to one’s parole.  About a week
after my transfer (I was now in the needlework ward, and being initiated
into the mysteries of darning stockings) I received a summons to appear
before the Governor.  I knew now that the letter-writing had been
discovered, or, as my friend the turnkey had expressed it, “Summat was
up.”  He told me, in a few words, that it had come to his knowledge that
I had been sending out clandestine letters, and requested me to inform
him if that was the case, and who had been my channel of communication,
adding that he was prepared to take down any statements I might feel
disposed to make.  The idea of denying it never entered my head—I was
perfectly indifferent as to what might happen; I thereupon informed him
that I had written, as he alleged, three letters, and that I was quite
prepared to bear the consequences.  I, however, respectfully declined to
give him any information as to my _employé_.  I was then requested to
wait outside, and the order was given to send for Mr. B—.  “Well,” I
thought, “if poor old B— tells them as much as I have he need not fear
being identified as my brother conspirator.”  A moment later, and I was
recalled: a glance at the unhappy B— convinced me that fear had robbed
him of his self-possession, and that he had not observed the salutary
advice he had given me as to “telling ’em nothink.”  His face was the
colour of a boiled turkey, and the keys at his side (a sorry burlesque on
authority) were rattling from tremour.  The Governor then said, “Mr. B—
has admitted that he took a letter for you, so I presume you have now no
objection to admit it.”  In courtesy to the nervous donkey I asked him if
that was correct, and on his replying in the affirmative, I at once made
a clean breast of it.  The poor man was thereupon suspended from duty,
and a week later summarily dismissed.  I tried to make him every
reparation in my power, and shortly after I procured him a billet at
thirty shillings a week, but when I sent to his lodgings I found he had
left.  I heard afterwards he had gone into the country, where I hope by
this time he has recovered his position.  My case had yet to be dealt
with, and as the Governor was not qualified to adjudicate on such a
serious offence as this is considered, I was remanded to appear before
the Visiting Justices.  I heard terrible rumours of these avenging
Solons, and of the floggings, solitary confinements, and other
barbarities that followed in the wake of their fortnightly visits, and
was prepared—but perfectly indifferent—for the worst.  My information for
the most part was derived from brother malefactors, and consequently
likely to be considerably exaggerated.  I found, indeed, that this was
the case, and when the eventful day—Black Wednesday—arrived, I discovered
that the dreaded justices were a full bench of Middlesex magistrates, my
old friends who had smashed, pulverized, and otherwise annihilated
Barnabas Amos on my representations, and who I hoped and believed were
gentlemen capable of weighing the pros and cons of my peculiar case.  My
expectations were more than verified.  The punishment cells, as I had had
them described, and of which I hereafter got a bird’s-eye view—_from
outside_—were not inviting abodes.  There are twelve of them, fitted with
double doors, warranted to preclude all sound from penetrating beyond.
They contain no furniture, except a plank and a stool, both fixed to the
floor, and the two blankets and rug that constitute the entire bed and
bedding are issued every night and removed every morning.  Water is
supplied three times a day, and the food is stirabout and dry bread,
administered on homoeopathic principles.  Books there are none—indeed,
the subdued light would make them superfluous; the occupants, moreover,
have no employment, the distraction of oakum-picking even being
fiendishly denied them.  Men who had undergone this punishment told me
that the effect was indescribable, this combination of gloom, idleness,
and profound silence, and their wasted appearance after a fortnight’s
incarceration fully confirmed their assertions.  The penalty, as I was
credibly informed, for sending a letter out was ten days at least in the
punishment cells; and a preliminary I underwent of being carefully
weighed on the morning of the eventful day raised the betting in my
estimation to six to four on the cells.  A kind friend expressed great
sympathy for me, but feared I must make up my mind to this degrading
punishment.  But he was wrong; the weighing was superfluous, and I got
off with a reprimand.

The Middlesex magistrates having heard the case, which was put before
them in the kindest light by the Governor, and taking into consideration
the dastardly act, whereby the offence was in a measure discovered,
informed me through the chairman that they knew my position and were
sorry for it, pointed out the gravity of my offence, and finished with an
admonition—a treatment that only gentlemen could have accorded to such as
I.  This generosity induced me to register a mental vow that I would not
abuse their kindness.  I felt indeed as if I were on my parole; but the
foolish act of an illiterate jailor—instigated, I suspect, by a
vindictive snob—a few days after, armed with the authority, but incapable
of discriminating between the treatment most likely to be deterrent to a
man like myself and that desirable with a costermonger, turned me from my
good resolutions.  I saw it was a question of the “best man wins,” that
confidence was a thing that never entered their heads, and that I had
nothing to gain by passive submission.  For the first and only time in my
career I felt insulted, and determined henceforth to double my
precautions, to evade every regulation, and to lose no opportunity of
bribing everything and everybody with whom I came in contact.  The act
that decided me in this course was being formally searched.  A few days
after my admonition I was unexpectedly visited by two warders, and
ordered to change everything I had on for a fresh supply, which they
brought in.  Meanwhile my cell was turned upside down.  The salt was
capsized into the plate; my bed minutely examined; the table and stool
tapped and shaken; and matches struck and poked down the ventilators; and
when they discovered I had neither pencil nor paper, I was left to
readjust my apartment.  As I said to them at the time, nobody in his
senses would have supposed that a man who had so lately escaped a severe
punishment would be such a fool as to incur the risk of possessing
contraband articles.  As a fact, I had got rid of all my combustibles a
few days before; and if any of the officials can remember a stoppage in a
certain drain about that time, they can make a pretty shrewd guess at
what became of them.  The above incident may, I hope, attract the notice
of someone in authority, and be the means of giving a discretionary power
to governors of prisons as regards the treatment of a certain class of
prisoners.  Sauce for the goose is not always sauce for the gander, and
it’s for the authorities to decide whether certain results cannot be
attained by tact that can never be assured by brutality.


A GREAT variety of trades are represented in Coldbath Fields—such as
tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, worsted-workers, laundrymen,
bakers, needlemen, basket-makers, mat-makers, printers, bookbinders,
carpenters, plumbers, and glaziers.  Of these mat-making and laundry-work
are considered the hardest.  The men selected for following any of the
above vocations are looked upon as privileged individuals, and infinitely
better off than the ordinary oakum-picker—a task that everyone has to
submit to for one month, although many never get beyond it and its
accompanying isolation during the two years of their imprisonment.  A
good deal of the comfort or otherwise with which these trades are
followed depends on the warders in charge.  If the warder is a brute, the
prisoners become demoralized, crime is rampant, and reports and
punishment the natural consequence.  If he happens to be reasonable and
just in his dealings, contentment reigns, the work is well done, and
insubordination is unknown.  I saw and heard a great deal in support of
this assertion, and during my few months’ retirement managed to poke my
nose into a good many queer corners.  The laundry bears an unenviable
notoriety, both on account of the excessive hard labour and the brutality
with which it is enforced.  There are about sixty men employed in this
department, who have severally to wash one or other of the following
quantities daily:—30 shirts, 80 sheets, 200 towels, 500
pocket-handkerchiefs, 18 blankets, 250 pairs of socks.  Such quantities
would tax the capacity of an expert washerwoman; but when a
novice—probably a clerk or respectable tradesman—is put to the task, its
magnitude is at first insurmountable.  Instead of 30 shirts, the poor
wretch finds he cannot manage more than 5, which next day he succeeds in
bringing up to 15.  Meanwhile his hands become chafed and sore, and he
sees the doctor in hopes of getting relief; but the doctor is powerless.
A cut finger is not a serious complaint though probably a very painful
one; and he has no alternative but to send him back.  This in itself is
considered as malingering; and the poor devil is brought before the
Governor for idleness and feigning sickness, and is sentenced to one
day’s bread and water as a first offence.  Should this “crime” be
repeated, he gets an increased punishment, and is either flogged or sent
to the punishment cells.  This is no overcoloured description.  A
prisoner in such a case has neither justice nor any means of proving the
injustice.  Any report, however garbled, is necessarily believed; and if
corroboration is necessary, a dozen turnkeys, from every part of the
prison, will come forward, and emphatically endorse their comrade’s
charge.  The prisoner meanwhile is not allowed to speak, and if he did
would not be believed, and, as often happens with the lower classes, is
actuated by fear, which only increases his apparent guilt.

    [Picture: Typical turnkey L.  Normal expression R.  Corroborative

It is not the prison authorities that can be held responsible for this
burlesque on justice, for more humane, honourable, and just men than the
Governor and Surgeon of Coldbath Fields do not exist.  It is the vile
system that gives no discretionary power to these officials, and
considers that a man once overtaken in a fault ought forthwith to be
treated like a dog; and, not satisfied with this inhuman conclusion,
deputes the carrying out of their system to a set of ignorant, cringing,
underpaid warders and turnkeys—in many cases ill-conditioned by nature,
and brutal, eye-serving, and untrustworthy by habit.

One victim of this cruel system, that was undergoing fifteen months’
imprisonment, worn out by work, constant reports, punishment, and
illness, and who was refused permission to revert to oakum-picking in
preference to remaining in the laundry, went back to his solitary cell
one Saturday night, and in sheer desperation hanged himself; and Sunday
morning found him suspended by his bed-straps from the bell-handle, cold
and stone dead.  Another lad of 18, who had been reported for talking,
and sentenced to bread and water, took it so much to heart that on his
cell door being opened about 2 P.M. he rushed past the turnkey, and threw
himself over the railings.  He was picked up insensible and taken to the
hospital, when, incredible as it may appear, he was found to be
absolutely uninjured, although he had jumped from a fifth storey and
landed on a stone floor.  On his dinner tin the unhappy youth had
scratched, “Dear father and mother, brothers and sisters I wish you all
good-bye and have 3 days cells and 3 days bread and water and pushed
about.  From A. Burke.”  The lad was thereupon brought before the
visiting justices, and in consideration of his youth only got seven days
in the punishment cells.

It cannot be denied that great malingering and deception are practised by
prisoners, which necessitates the greatest vigilance on the part of the
officials.  Nothing is commoner than for them to pretend attempted
suicide; and instances are of frequent occurrence where a man, having
calculated the time to a nicety, proceeds to hang himself as his door is
being opened.  These gentlemen are almost invariably flogged.

On the other hand, it is equally certain that justice is not meted out in
the disposal of everyday offences.  Discipline demands that the warders
must be supported; and even if they are known to be lying or grossly
exaggerating, “the system” necessitates their being believed.  If,
therefore, this humble stratum of humanity is supposed to be entitled to
a particle of fair play, it calls for the immediate attention of Sir
Edmund Du Cane.  I would suggest the advisability of an experienced _ex
parte_ official being daily present at these orderly-room farces, who
could watch the cases and weigh the evidence.  Until this is done a
prisoner has about as much prospect of justice as had Arabi before the
arrival of Mr. Broadley.  In this _résumé_ of justice as administered at
Coldbath Fields I must be permitted to disown all reflections on the
Governor, for whom I have the profoundest respect.  It is the system that
I blame, and sympathize with a conscientious man being compelled by
regulation to conform to its usages.

About eighty men are employed as tailors; of these the best workmen are
employed in the shop, the remainder doing piecework in their respective
cells.  They make the entire clothing for officers and prisoners for this
and many other prisons.  The work is exceptionally good—a fact not to be
wondered at, considering they count amongst their ranks journeymen and
cutters from many of the principal West-end houses.  The basket-making is
exceptionally good, and to a great extent made to the order of the
leading shops; and the specimens of neat work I have seen quite surprised
me.  Mat-making is a severe type of hard labour.  The daily task is one
yard, and men who have been employed at it have assured me that it is
very hard work.  The mat-room is fitted with twelve looms for the make of
the best doormats.  The Government has a contract with Treloar, a
shopkeeper in Ludgate; and as he is supposed to have a large connection,
it may be assumed that reputedly honest feet are constantly being brought
into contact with the work of dishonest hands.

The bakery is worth a visit, if only to see the mountains of bread in
course of preparation.  In this place about twenty-four men are
constantly employed putting in or taking out loaves from two huge ovens.
All the bread, whether white or brown, is made in separate loaves of the
average size of a penny roll; and when it is added that some 4000 of
these are consumed daily, representing a gross weight of over half a ton,
in Coldbath Fields alone (to say nothing of Holloway Gaol and the House
of Detention, which are also supplied from here), some idea of the
proportions of “our bakery” may be arrived at.  The kitchen is, if
anything, still more interesting.  I have never seen anything to approach
the size of the vats and utensils, unless, perhaps, in a pantomime scene
representing Gorgeybuster the giant’s _cuisine_.  Everything is here
cooked by steam, and excellent the cookery is.  The soup, which is
supplied three times a week, is exceptionally good.  It finds its way
from the kitchen in enormous tubs, and on arrival at the various wards is
transferred into greasy, half-washed tins; still it does not lose its
excellence, and I invariably enjoyed the soup.  The usual amount made on
soup days is about 200 gallons, and the daily quantity of potatoes
consumed about 7 cwt.  As may be supposed, certain farces and abuses have
crept into this department.  Specimens of the cookery are daily laid out
for the inspection of the surgeon and Governor.  If they should, however,
omit this essential form, it is amply compensated for by the voracity of
some of the head warders, who frequently sacrifice inclination at the
shrine of duty and make a substantial meal during the tasting process.
Beef-tea for the use of the patients is also made here—a brew that would
be considerably strengthened by being doctored in the hospital kitchen
instead of where it is.  A pound of beef is the liberal allowance for
each pint of beef-tea.  The usual custom that prevails, however, is for
the beef to be eaten, by those who ought to know better, and for Colonial
meat to be substituted for it.  I assert this advisedly, and offer it as
the possible solution of the knotty problem of why complaints are of such
frequent occurrence.  Home Office papers, please copy!  Despite all the
assertions to the contrary, I freely confess I never found fault with the
prison fare; and if one could keep one’s thoughts from wandering to
“Bignon’s” or the “Café Helder,” one could thoroughly enjoy the liberal
fare.  I experienced this dietary, pure and simple, for two or three
months, so may be fairly considered capable of forming an opinion.

The carpenters’ and smiths’ shops call for no special notice beyond the
custom in vogue, whereby all men are carefully searched before returning
to their cells.  This is, no doubt, an essential ceremony, as turnkeys’
scalping-knives, in the shape of chisels, might occasionally go astray,
not forgetting the modest pencil, the most treasured possession of Her
Majesty’s prisoners.

The oakum shed finds employment for about a dozen men.  In it piles of
old rope are being continually chopped up, weighed, and tied into bundles
varying from one to three pounds in weight.  I have often seen van loads
of this apparently worthless rope discharging cargo at this shed, and was
surprised to see the same though quite unrecognisable rope leaving the
prison a week or two after converted into the finest oakum, to be again
utilized for the manufacture of rope.

The paper room is the most original and interesting of the various
institutions in this original and interesting place.  I do not know if it
lies in the route through which visitors are conducted, but if it does it
will repay a minute inspection.  Into this room the sweepings of the
Houses of Parliament and the various Government Offices in the United
Kingdom find their way.  All old telegrams, after being kept six months
at the General Post Office, are sent here to be destroyed, to say nothing
of old ledgers, directories, blue books, almanacks, etc.; in short, a
heterogeneous mass of things useful and things useless, all
higgle-de-piggledy, to be sorted and torn into small pieces, and
eventually converted into paper by Alderman Waterlow and his sons (these
last named individuals do their share of the work at home).  Amongst this
pile the most valuable discoveries are of daily occurrence; and articles
priceless in the estimation of a prisoner, such as pen-knives, boxes of
cigarettes, butt-ends of cigars, writing paper, envelopes, novels, coins,
pencils, and postage stamps, are hourly exhumed.  About 200 men are
employed in this department, whose duty is to tear up into small atoms a
certain amount of waste paper daily.  Of the above number some 20 of the
most trustworthy (_i.e._, those who are the greatest adepts in the art of
secreting property about their persons) are employed in overhauling the
supply, and delivering up contraband goods—that they may not
require—before passing it to be manipulated by their less trustworthy
_confrères_.  Great precautions are supposed to be taken against the
possibility of a prisoner appropriating any of this “treasure trove,” and
they are each and all subjected to a minute examination before returning
to their cells.  That this search meets all the requirements of the case
may be gleaned from the quantities of things that find their way into the
prison.  I was never without a capital pen-knife, and when I lost mine
(or when it was stolen), as I did on more than one occasion, I never had
any difficulty in procuring another.  The stationery that I used for my
“private” correspondence was invariably House of Commons paper, and,
excepting perhaps being almost imperceptibly soiled, was as good as new.
The traffic in tobacco through this agency is by no means inconsiderable,
and before I had made my personal arrangements for a weekly supply I have
frequently exchanged food for cigarettes; but they were far from
satisfactory, and I found them infinitely better adapted for choking than
chewing.  Butt-ends of cigars, too, find a ready market; but at this
point I invariably drew the line, and preferred—inveterate smoker though
I am—to forego the luxury of chewing a cigar that had been
half-masticated by some scorbutic quill-driver.  The special trade that I
was put to was worsted work.  I was officially described as a
“needleman,” a title I had more claim to than may appear at first sight.
Needlemen are employed either in knitting stockings, making shirts, or
darning blankets, shirts, or socks.  I had the choice of any of these
delectable pursuits, and selected the latter as the most easy of evasion.
Darning burglars’ stockings, I admit, sounds a humble and unsavoury
vocation; but considering they are boiled for about three days before
passing into the needlemen’s hands, any antipathy on the subject must be
attributed to sheer prejudice.  Other motives also influenced me; it was
far the lightest and most elastic job, and a reserve bundle I always kept
in stock did me good service on the thimble rig principle.  The allotted
task was 15 pair a day _at least_, but thanks to my “reserve” (a far
greater success than Mr. Cardwell’s), and “auxiliaries” of other kinds, I
found that two pair and sometimes three a day met all the “requirements
of the service.”  The nature of my work amusingly exemplified Locke’s
theory of the “Association of Ideas,” and I never took up a stocking
without having vividly presented to my mind the scene in “Faust,” where
Marguerite is bound to lame the wearer.  I speak from personal knowledge,
for one afternoon I experimentalized with one of my specimen repairs and
blistered my foot for a month.  I often had qualms of conscience as I saw
the numerous men that were limping round at exercise—the number of whom
appeared to increase in proportion to the quantity of stockings I
darned—and I could not help feeling that I was the unintentional cause of
all this misery.  My deplorable incapacity in the Berlin wool and fancy
line was once nearly getting me into a terrible scrape.  Amongst the
pedestrians that exercised at the same time as myself was an ex-convict
and desperado, who prided himself on the recital of his past experiences,
and who had undergone penal servitude in Australia and England almost
without interruption during the past 20 years.  He was a Hercules in
appearance, addicted to the use of his fists on the slightest
provocation, and about the last man whose susceptibilities one would care
to offend.  On his arrival some twelve months previously he had laid down
some wholesome rules for the guidance of those whom it might concern.  “I
don’t wants any ’umbug as long as I’m ’ere”—this was the burthen of his
instructions.  “I’ll do my work as well as I’m able, and you’ll allus
find me willing and respec’ful-like; but if any of you attempts to bully
or ’umbug me I’ll cut your throats from ear to ear.”  Conceive, then, my
feelings on seeing this amiable creature one morning struggling with his
stocking.  A glance convinced me it was my handiwork.  With a terrible
oath, and livid with rage, he expressed a wish that he only knew the chap
that had “fixed” his stocking.  With an equally fervent but inaudible
prayer I sincerely hoped he never would.


THE unfortunate _contretemps_ that had indirectly associated me with the
dismissal of a warder caused me to be looked upon for some time by his
_confrères_ with considerable distrust; it was generally understood,
however, that I was not a man that could be bullied with impunity, and
would unhesitatingly have reported any attempt of the kind.  I attribute
this diagnosis of my character to my bearing from the first.  I made it a
rule to be scrupulously courteous to the humblest turnkey if he showed an
inclination to treat me civilly, whilst I ignored the position of those
who attempted to hector over me, and convinced them by my manner that I
looked on them as my inferiors.  When I reflect on the bearing of the
various officials towards other prisoners, I am at a loss to understand
how I was permitted the latitude I was.  I can only attribute it to that
moral and indefinable effect certain men of birth and education, and
naturally arrogant in disposition, do and always will exercise, no matter
how temporarily circumstanced, over their inferiors.  This bearing
asserted itself without my knowledge, and I had my likes and dislikes
from the highest to the lowest.  Thus I liked and respected the Governor,
and ignored his deputy; I liked one chaplain, and cordially despised the
other; I liked and venerated the kind old surgeon, which would be
exaggerating my feelings regarding his assistant.  None of my antipathies
could probably instance any absolute case against me, yet they were
respectively aware of my estimate of their merits.  To remove this
feeling of distrust amongst the turnkeys was by no means easy.  I had to
watch my opportunity to get into conversation, and then carefully to
smuggle in “a word in season.”  This necessary formula was not unattended
with risk, and I had to discover the disposition of my man and not say
the wrong word in the wrong place.  My knowledge of human nature gave me
a considerable advantage in these negotiations; it was like playing
blind-man’s-buff with one eye exposed, and I soon had the measure of
every official in the prison.  Some nuts I admit to have found very
difficult to crack, but they eventually yielded to treatment; others were
hopeless cases, and some I labelled “dangerous” and carefully avoided.  I
had, however, attained my object; and wherever I went, or wherever I was
located, I was always within “measurable distance” of one ministering
angel, and often two.  The principal cause of my unbroken success may be
attributed to my having no confidants—my right hand literally knew not
what my left was doing; and Jones, the turnkey, who lived in fear and
trembling that Brown would suspect his trafficking with me, was a source
of hourly anxiety to Brown, who dreaded Jones getting wind of his kindly
interest in my affairs.  I always assured these respective worthies that
they had nothing to fear from me if they would only exercise ordinary
discretion on their own parts, and as I was above the weakness of
carrying about a fagot of pencils or cigars, it is hardly to be wondered
at that diplomacy triumphed.  Through one channel or another I heard
everything that was going on, and was on more than one occasion amused by
having repeated to me the special cautions that were issued regarding me.
The Deputy Governor was no friend of mine; indeed I should be doing him
an injustice if I omitted to state that he disliked me as cordially as I
did him.  He was of that pronounced military type associated in my mind
with the Fifth West Indian Regiment, and suggested the idea of having
been promoted from the adjutantcy of that distinguished corps to a
company in a non-purchase regiment during the Cardwellite era.  A switch,
and an almost brimless pot hat, worn on one side, completed the picture
of this typical sabreur.  He apparently took a considerable interest in
my affairs, and frequently asked questions, and gave wholesome advice to
the turnkeys regarding their intercourse with me.  “Have nothing to do
with that man” was the burthen of his song, all of which was invariably
repeated to me.  His duties assimilated very much with those of a
garrison Quarter-master, and he was supposed to poke about and discover
dirt in impossible places; occasionally, however, they resembled those of
a boatswain in H.M. navy; as, for example, at the flogging of garrotters,
and the birching of little boys, when he counted the strokes.  I had to
be careful of this individual, for I am confident he had his suspicions
about my little games; but it was the old story of the ironclad charging
the outrigger, and with all the facilities at his disposal he was no
match for me in a matter of finesse.  To such a state of perfection had I
now brought my arrangements, that everything of interest was at once
known to me; and the hanging of Dr. Lamson, Prince Leopold’s wedding, and
the bombardment of Alexandria, all assisted in their turn to relieve the
monotony of my existence.  Nor was my system confined to gloomy
Clerkenwell; but penetrated into the sanctity of the more fashionable
Belgravia; and conversations of peculiar interest to me, that took place
at table or in the privacy of the closet, and that I had a motive for
hearing, were repeated to me within a day with a minuteness of detail
that would astonish the gossipers.  This is no idle boast, as documents
and dates in my possession can and may testify.  In short I was in
telephonic communication with the outer world (registered number 594).
But a master hand was required to keep this huge machinery in order,
which, no sooner was it removed, than it crumbled to pieces.  Within a
week after my final departure, papers began to be picked up, and a
scientific elaboration, incapable of detection, was degraded to the level
and shared the same fate as the commonest pickpocket’s ruse.  The moral
that is to be gleaned from all this is: If you wish a thing done _well_,
do it yourself.  I trust the sequel to my departure above narrated may
afford a melancholy satisfaction to those interested, and convince them
that no extra precautions are necessary to prevent the repetition of
these innovations; the rules in force are amply sufficient for the
ordinary prisoner.  But my constitution, suffering from this severe
strain, and assisted considerably by fever and ague, began to give way,
and led to a change in my everyday life.  In short I was ill, and
admitted into hospital.  As I ascended the stairs that led from the
worsted wards I had the consolation of feeling I should not be forgotten.
I had indeed left my mark; I had crippled half the prison.

There are many abuses that might be changed with advantage, and which I
cannot do better than point out, in hopes that somebody in authority will
read, mark, and inwardly digest them.  On each cell door is a card
setting forth your name, sentence, and full particulars.  This placarding
of one’s name is surely useless, as one is never called by it, and the
only object it appears to serve is to enable prisoners to discover all
about one another.  My cell was once situated on the high road to the
chapel, and every malefactor _en route_ to worship made it his business
to master my history.  This surely is unfair, and hardly contemplated by
the authorities.  If it is absolutely essential that one’s name is to be
placarded, why not inside instead of outside the door, as was the custom
before the Government took over the prisons?

Too much at present is left to the turnkeys.  They are, indeed, the
channel of communication and the only official with whom the ordinary
prisoner comes in contact.  The chief warder deputes details to the
principal warders of divisions, who in their turn confide them to the
warders of wards, who again leave the carrying out to the turnkeys of
flights.  It is not fair that so much should be left to these
assistants—which, despite any assertion to the contrary, is the case—and
who, though counting in their ranks many highly respectable men, have
also some desperate rascals—vindictive, deceitful, and utterly unfit for
any discretionary powers, and who would stick at no degree of brutality
if capable of being indulged in with impunity.

The use of the same baths by prisoners and men previous to medical
examination cannot be too strongly deprecated.  That a clean man should
be compelled to risk contagion with one suffering from itch or covered
with vermin is as filthy as it is disgraceful.  With all the space at
their disposal the wonder is a swimming bath has never commended itself.

Every warder in charge of a ward has a prisoner allotted to him, who
performs such necessary duties as cleaning his office and assisting him
in his multifarious returns.  These men are generally selected from the
clerk or tradesman class, and have great facilities for knowing
everything that passes through the office.  I have found, indeed, that
they know and hear a great deal too much.

Thus a descriptive return containing every particular about one from
one’s youth up, and supposed to be a confidential document, is carefully
studied by these cleaners, and facts likely to be of general
interest—especially about “celebrities”—go the round of the prison.
These documents should either _not_ be in the warders’ charge, or if so,
should be carefully locked up.  In my opinion they would be more
appropriately assigned to the care of the principal warders of divisions.
These cleaners, if dishonestly or greedily inclined, appropriate
considerably more than their share of the daily rations.  In one ward I
seldom, or ever, got my supply of Monday bacon, which had either been
filched or bitten in half; and as the original supply does not exceed the
proportions of a postage stamp, it can ill afford this wholesale

I cannot leave the subject of “warders” without bearing my testimony to
their excellency as a class—I specially refer to those in charge of
wards, and not to their washerwomen and plumbers and glaziers
_confrères_.  The multiplicity of returns they have to render daily, the
alterations, however trivial, that are constantly occurring and have to
be noted, and the serious consequences attending the slightest error or
omission, all combine to make their duties and responsibilities more
arduous than any class of men I have seen.  Their pay for this, moreover,
is so small—29s. a week, with a gradual rise—that many otherwise
excellent men shrink from accepting promotion.  The colour-sergeants of
the army might learn a lesson from these warders, and if the “descriptive
return” in use, and which supplies every information, was substituted for
the ponderous ledgers, small books, defaulter sheets, etc., as used in
the army, it would come like the Waverley pen—

    As a blessing and boon to sergeants and men.


ON my admission into hospital I was at first sent to the convalescent
ward, a huge room devoted to light and unpronounced cases.  It
accommodates 40 patients, and the entire furniture may be roughly
estimated as consisting of 40 beds, 40 tables, 40 chairs, one shovel and
tongs, and one thermometer.  The beds are ranged round the entire room,
the tables and chairs a yard apart forming two rows down the centre; the
thermometer is suspended from a beam, the shovel is chained to one
fire-place, and the tongs to the other.  A high desk and a still higher
stool complete the furniture of this singular room.  The fixtures are of
a more unique kind; at one end are the cabinets, at the other the
lavatories.  These are simply boarded partitions, extending only about
three feet from the ground—so constructed as to make it absolutely
impossible to conceal more than one-third of the body, however engaged;
thus admirably adapted for observation, but utterly regardless of privacy
or decency, and revolting in their proximity to a room devoted to
convalescents.  Along the walls here and there are chains hanging.  These
are the alarm bells for communicating with the outer yard in case of
fire, mutiny, or other emergency.  At each corner are the padded
cells—grim, sombre constructions—admirably adapted for deadening sound,
and fitted with every appliance for the restraint of violent and demented
criminals.  The proximity of these cells is very awful, and the shrieks
that occasionally emanate from them, and the sights I have seen, would
have filled me with horror six months previously.  The treatment of
convalescents is as original as can well be conceived.  The day is mapped
out into the following portions, which are observed with a punctuality
seldom attained except by chronometers:—

6 A.M.          Rise, and roll up your bed.
6.30 ,,         Breakfast.
11 ,,           Visit by surgeon.
12 (noon)       Dinner.
3 to 4 P.M.     Exercise.
5 ,,            Supper.
6 ,,            Bed.

The dietary is the simple prison fare, although many (I amongst others)
are on what is known as ordinary diet—_i.e._, cocoa, mutton broth, and a
chop—and others on low diet, consisting of tea, bread-and-butter,
beef-tea, rice pudding, etc.  Discipline is little or nothing relaxed
here; indeed the general system is evidently based on what is considered
applicable to confirmed patients not suffering from any acute disease,
and lunatics real and pretended.  Shortly after rising a shout of
“Physic!” causes a rush to get the first pull at one’s respective
medicines; and as the same mug does duty for everything, and as time is
an object, it has been found that a dose of hop mixture is not improved
if augmented by the dregs of the black draught left by one’s predecessor.
Being always up and washed whilst my brother-reprobates were still
dozing, I was invariably the first to benefit by a clean mug, and devoted
the next few minutes to watching the frowsy cluster of depravity, half
dressed, half awake, and just out of bed, drink or throw away their doses
as opportunity permitted.  Although strictly prohibited, many of these
wretches usually turned in with their stockings on, and in some instances
with their trowsers; and on rising, having previously assumed boots and
vest, proceeded to wash.  I minutely watched this ceremony, and seldom
detected the slightest desire to do more than make clean the extreme
outer rim of their cups and platters, extending—humanly speaking—from the
hand to the elbow, and from the chin to the ear.  Although in many
respects preferable to the prison proper, this convalescent ward was one
of the severest ordeals I had to undergo.  I would not have missed it for
the world, nevertheless, to sleep, live, move, and have one’s being
amongst thirty or forty pickpockets, idiots, burglars, and lunatics,
implies an experience that baffles description.  At 6.30 the advent of
two wash-tubs, containing respectively cocoa and gruel, announces
breakfast, which, being carefully measured into tins, is consumed in an
incredibly short time, and devoured with the voracity never to be seen
except in menageries or prisons.  It must be remembered that the room
contains specimens of some of the sharpest pickpockets in London, and
experts at every dodge for the deceiving of their fellows, compelled by
circumstances to be huddled together, and relieved from the isolation of
separate cells that makes them comparatively powerless for mischief.  It
cannot be wondered at, then, that the rules require, if anything, to be
more stringent; but all the vigilance of the sharpest warder is
powerless, and no two eyes capable of seeing or preventing the wholesale
exchange of food that now begins.  If the warder is looking this way, a
loaf will change hands for a mug of gruel in the twinkling of an eye; if
he suddenly turns round, advantage is taken of it to swap something on
the other side; and at dinner hour especially, I have seen bread,
potatoes, and lumps of meat flying about with a rapidity, precision of
aim, and a profound silence, only disturbed by the “flop, flop,” as they
reached the various hands, that would have done credit to the most expert
Oriental-Whitechapel juggler.  After breakfast everyone is supposed to
remain at his table without interruption the entire day, except during
exercise, and time is only to be beguiled by reading such wholesome
literature as “The Converted Burglar, and how he did it,” as the chaplain
may be graciously pleased to supply.  At the side of each table is
considerately placed a handful of fibre, which is purely optional whether
picked or no.  I attribute its presence indeed to the association that
invariably exists in official minds between hospitals, chapels, and
mortuaries, and only capable of being dealt with on the principle that a
certain old gentleman “finds some mischief still for convalescent hands
to do.”

Happily no one really is ill in the convalescent ward (he would then be
removed to the hospital), or it would be absolutely impossible to bear
the incessant fuss from officials and filth from the prisoners that never
cease day or night.  Not twenty minutes elapse during the twenty-four
hours that someone is not passing through; and as every approach is
barricaded and double locked, the rattle of keys, the hobnailed boots of
head warders pounding over the floor, and the shouting and yelling, and
the necessity of “sitting up” to your table as they pass through, make it
almost unbearable for even a convalescent.  In addition to this is the
absolute necessity of keeping one’s eye on one’s next-tabled neighbour.
If you turn round during a meal, a piece of food disappears, and any
trifle you may happen to possess cannot be considered your own from one
moment to another.  I had a worsted needle that I prized considerably; it
fulfilled the duties of a toothpick, and had been my constant companion
and comforter for weeks.  It was, indeed, my most cherished possession.
I usually kept it inside my cap, and my cap outside my head; here at
least it was safe, but one day, in a fit of absence, I crossed over the
room.  On my return I discovered that my cap had been rifled and the
needle gone.

An old man (though only one of many) added considerably to my burthen.
He took a great fancy to me—or my food—and seldom lost a chance of
persecuting me.  He was never without a pocket-handkerchief stuffed full
of crusts, chop bones, suet pudding, or any garbage he could find, firmly
clutched by day, and placed under his pillow at night.  He was by way of
being a gentleman, and said, with some degree of truth, that he was a
general officer (he was at present undergoing three months’ retirement
for stealing a sovereign from a sixpenny lodging-house keeper).  He
approached one with the blandest smile, hoped you were not seriously ill,
and asked how your appetite was.  This, indeed, was the burthen of his
song:—If you told him it was bad, he begged you to kindly reserve your
fragments for him; if you said it was good, he stole what he could.  The
result was consequently the same; and so to get rid of him I promised to
help him when I could.  This nasty old man slept two beds from me, and
often during the night, “when everything was still,” I have watched him
unpack his treasure, and, selecting certain of the stalest pieces for
immediate use, carefully tie up and restore the bundle to beneath his
pillow or mattress.

This hoarding and stealing of food was by no means confined to the
“General”; it was, indeed, so much in vogue that periodical raids were
made on the beds, and even inside the shirts men were wearing, which
invariably resulted in the exhumation of sundry delicacies.  So strong
was the ruling passion that one wretch with half a lung, who was allowed
extras which he never consumed, rather than part with a crumb, would hide
chops and even rice pudding in his pocket-handkerchief and towel, or
secrete them in his bedding or about his person.

That food was a drug in the market may be reasonably assumed; and if
further proof was wanting, the reckless waste that took place after meals
would amply provide it.  The supplies of soup, porridge, cocoa, and gruel
were invariably in excess of the regulation personal allowance.
Discipline, however, demanded that so much and no more should be given to
each man; and I have seen gallons of capital soup and cocoa thrown down
the sink daily that many a starving wretch outside would gratefully have
devoured.  I do not blame the hospital warders for this custom so much as
the kitchen officials for either sending too much or adding too much
water, for experience had taught them that it was equally dangerous to
give more or less than the regulation allowance, and that they would
probably be reported by one thief, if another thief got more than
himself; and it was a common occurrence for vagrants who had never heard
of arrowroot before coming to Coldbath to complain of the thinness of
their nightly allowance as “unfit to be eaten.”  I once suggested to the
head hospital warder (but my proposal was never carried out) that the
staple food of discontented vagrant invalids should be treacle and
brimstone, and that if they complained of their diet, the treacle should
be omitted by way of variety.

I don’t know what is the annual expense of food, fuel, and gas in the
various prisons, but I confidently assert that an immense saving would
result if the coal at present issued _ad lib._ for the use of the warders
was as carefully weighed as the prisoners’ various allowances.  These
turnkeys, whose supply of coal at home is probably limited to half a
hundred a week, cannot here do without fires banked up a foot high night
and day in the various corridors; and I have often been awakened in
various parts of the prison by the shovelling and piling on of coals on
even temperate nights.  I should like no better billet than to be
appointed contractor for the coal and potatoes used and wasted in Her
Majesty’s prisons.

Another means of keeping down the present excessive expenses connected
with prisoners’ keep and warders’ coals would be the adoption of the
sensible course pursued in France, whereby the clothes of murdered men
and the instruments with which the murders have been committed, if not
claimed within three months, are sold by public auction.  This might be
supplemented by the sale of the articles found in cabs and elsewhere,
often comprising objects of considerable value, and at present taken to
Scotland Yard and never claimed.  It will possibly be urged that all this
would be opposed to English tastes and ideas; and yet it is an
incontrovertible fact that the principal purchasers at these “art” sales
in Paris are English and Americans, that the price of articles which have
belonged to notorious criminals generally rules very high, and that the
ghastly relics for the most part find their way to England.

Exercise was a most ridiculous ceremony; the tables were pushed back, and
everyone proceeded round and round in two rings.  A scene I once saw at
some theatre, representing the “casual ward” of a workhouse, more nearly
resembles it than anything I can think of.

Amongst my numerous companions in this delectable sport was a celebrated
pickpocket; who was good enough on my invitation to show me “how it’s
done.”  My request, indeed, appeared to flatter his vanity so much that
on more than one occasion, when I was not thinking of his particular
talent, he has removed my pocket-handkerchief, and politely returned it
as if pretending to pick it up.  I once saw him bring his science to bear
on a thoughtless warder, who, through ignorance probably of his special
talent, had asked him to brush him down.  A wink from the thief drew my
attention to his movements, and I watched him with profound interest.
For some seconds he confined himself to the legitimate brushing, but as
he worked round and the arm of his victim was slightly raised, with the
unemployed hand he deliberately opened the warder’s pouch, took out a
piece of tobacco, and then quietly re-buttoned it; with another smudge of
the brush and “I think that’ll do, sir,” he resumed his place.  I
wouldn’t have betrayed him for the world; indeed, I gave him some bread
for the exhibition.

It was pretty generally known that I was very green, and that I was
anxious to see everything; indeed, I never lost an opportunity of
conversing with everyone capable of telling me an adventure; so that one
way and another I heard a lot, much of which I shall hereafter narrate.

Another oddity with whom I was associated was a kleptomaniac.  Nothing
was safe from him, and his eye was as quick as his hand.  He might be
seen at all hours sneaking about, thrusting his arm between mattresses
and occasionally into people’s pockets.  He was undergoing two years’
imprisonment for stealing _two ounces of tobacco_.  So impossible was it
for him to keep his hands from picking and stealing that it was
frequently necessary to lock him into a separate cell for weeks at a
time, only to be released after piteous appeals and promises not to
offend again, which were invariably broken on the first opportunity.  He
was as nimble as a cat, and occasionally gave an acrobatic performance on
the sly.  The poor wretch was admittedly an imbecile, and it seems
inexplicable how he ever incurred the punishment he received, though he
was probably happier at Coldbath than he was ever likely to be elsewhere.
One day he could not be found, and after the hue-and-cry had been raised
and the prison and grounds scoured, he was found concealed in a tank on a
portion of the roof.  What he could have wanted there is beyond
comprehension, for he dreaded the water and never washed unless

I’ve heard a great deal of prisoners escaping, and from the penal
establishments it is unquestionably practicable.  At a prison conducted,
however, on the Coldbath Fields’ principle such an idea is simply absurd.
I do not refer to the impediments of locks and doors so much as to the
full blaze of light system along the corridors.  The constant countings,
too, and patrols night and day would at once discover the truant, to say
nothing of the 20-feet wall that surrounds the building.  I have
occasionally read descriptions of escapes from the Bastille, where
prisoners with a yard of rope, a spare shirt, and an oyster knife, have
burrowed and scaled and got clean off.  I am not in a position to dispute
these assertions, but I will willingly undertake to provide the most
expert acrobat with a sack full of ropes, crowbars, and linen, _in_ his
cell, and stake my existence that he does not proceed five feet beyond
his premises without detection.  The escape of a notorious burglar from
Millbank Convict Prison last year gave rise at the time to considerable
discussion amongst the officials at Coldbath Fields.  That a man should
be able to break through the roof of a cell during the early hours of
morning without creating a disturbance seems incredible, and had the
corridors had the same acoustic properties as those at Coldbath, would
have been simply impossible without collusion.

                           [Picture: Counting]

So extraordinarily is sound conveyed in these vast and barren tunnels
that every word spoken during the night at the other end of the passage
is distinctly audible, whereas conversation close by is almost
unintelligible, so great is the echo.  I think Mr. Burglar Lovell may
congratulate himself that he had not been relegated to Coldbath Fields,
for he would most assuredly have derived less benefit there from his
sixty feet of rope than he appears to have done at Millbank.  A prisoner
attempting to escape forfeits all the time he may have completed of his
sentence—a sufficient deterrent for a sane man!  A very disgusting
adjunct to the convalescent ward is “Itch Bay,” and though comparatively
distinct, is actually next door, and leads from it.  It is devoted to
those filthy creatures who, on admission, are found to abound in vermin,
or who, after months in prison—as can be verified—have caught the disease
(according to my theory) by using the universal bath.  The treatment of
this complaint can hardly be said to be a pleasant, although undoubtedly
a very effectual one.  A man is taken to “the bay,” made to strip off all
his clothes, put into a separate cell, and smeared with a thick coating
of mercurial ointment, and left to soak for three days at least, and
often longer.  His bedding may best be described as an ointment mattress,
with “blankets to match,” so saturated is everything in this fearful
quarter, the stench from which pervades the passage, and works into the
convalescent ward.  I used almost daily to see these loathsome objects,
either before admission or after three days’ retirement, and it is
difficult to say which is the most revolting.  On admission, and previous
to treatment, I have seen three or four of these unclean things waiting
to be admitted.  During this time—often an hour and more—they sit in the
convalescent ward, use the furniture, and circulate with the others.
This surely is wrong, and may justly be laid to the charge of negligent
warders!  On leaving they are again taken through the ward, devoid of all
covering but the saturated blanket, and conducted to a bath.  This bath
is a fixture in the hospital kitchen.  YES, the _itch bath_ in the
principal prison of civilized London _is in the hospital kitchen_!  I
have seen these social pariahs splashing about within a few feet of the
kitchen fire, whilst a rice pudding was being made—an appetizing
accompaniment to the preparation of human food.  This gross outrage on
cleanliness must fairly be charged to the Home Office people; and as the
kitchen is situated in the main thoroughfare, and passed through almost
daily by visiting justices or prison commissioners, it is clearly no
official’s business to point it out—and if a surgeon represented it he
would probably be told to mind his own business.  This is in conformity
with prison usage, and anyone mentioning, or taking apparent interest in
a trifle not actually connected with his special department, is at once
suspected of some sinister motive.  I have heard officials regret this
disgusting institution, and their inability to remedy it.

I have more horrors connected with this kitchen to mention when I
describe the hospital, and hope some one whose business it is will
redress this crying shame.  As a set-off to the many discomforts
attending the convalescent ward, were the facilities it offered for the
uninterrupted working of the telephone, and so multifarious were the
opportunities, and so utterly impossible detection, that I omitted the
commonest precautions as absolutely superfluous.  My favourite time for
correspondence was between two and four in the morning.  I noticed that
nature usually asserted itself on turnkey humanity, and that the most
watchful became drowsy about this time.  It must be remembered that a
night warder is in the room all night, and that the gas, though turned
down, is alight.  I frequently wrote for two hours at a time, and as my
bed was next the fire-place I had the advantage of poking it into a blaze
as circumstances required.  I often wondered whether these watch-dogs
were really dozing.  That they had not the faintest suspicion I am
confident; the very possibility of such coolness may possibly have
disarmed them, for I have written for hours under their very noses.  One
night I had a considerable scare.  I had been carried away by the
interest of my letter, and whether I had thought aloud and some word had
escaped me I cannot say, but on peeping round the mantelpiece I saw one
of the most ferocious of the tribe—who was on duty that night—leaning
forward and peering in my direction.  His eyes glistened like a cheetah’s
as he cautiously approached the fire-place—the mantelpiece and one bed
alone separated our respective positions, the rattle of a paper, or a
hurried motion, would have been fatal; so, proceeding to mutter in my
sleep, I slid my arm over a very damning pile.  For some moments he stood
intently watching me, and then happily began to poke the fire.  Had he
delayed much longer I should inevitably have betrayed myself; as it was,
the noise “justified” my being disturbed, and I rolled round, “papers
under,” as _Bell’s Life_ would once have described a pugilistic round.
The danger was now past, but I had quite determined, if he had asked me
any unpleasant questions, to have made a dash at the fire-place and
destroyed the evidence.  There is a curious invention that exists in
various parts of the prison.  Detector-clocks are intended to show that a
warder must have been alert every half-hour, by being required to press
down a pin.  This pin is so constructed that it cannot be let down except
at the exact time, or unless the clock is unlocked.  These various clocks
undergo a minute inspection the following morning, and if all the pins
are not down the delinquent is fined a shilling, or even more, for each
omission.  I could tell some curious stories about these detector clocks,
but their narration might be interpreted as pointing in directions I have
no intention of indicating.  I may, however, without compromising anyone,
state that if the authorities conceive they are aware of the exact number
of keys that open these clocks, they are considerably out of their

“My eye, old man,” I one morning said to an acquaintance, “you’ve missed
two or three pins.”

“Never mind,” he replied; “I’ve got a pal outside that’ll make it all
right before I’m relieved.”

At 6.30, when my friend was, I hope, comfortably in bed, I saw the
Detector inspected and found “correct.”

On one occasion a friend kindly supplemented the rubbishy literature
provided by the chaplain by lending me to read the book of “Rules for the
Guidance of Warders and Assistant-Warders.”  They can hardly be said to
be as interesting as those lately published by Howard Vincent for the
guidance of the police, although, situated as I was, they were to me
vastly more important.  I had intended to have produced them verbatim,
but they are not of sufficient general interest.  They, however, deal
with the various duties of warders in that absurd style which attempts to
impress on them the responsibility and general respectability of what, if
carried out in its integrity, is a contemptible system of espionage.


IN one of the padded cells was a dangerous lunatic.  For weeks and months
he had kept up an incessant conversation with himself, occasionally
diversified by shrieks and yells.  At first it was believed the man was
shamming, and he was taken before the visiting justices and sentenced to
be flogged, but this usually infallible cure had not the desired effect.
Clothes were converted into rags in an incredibly short space of time.
He was handcuffed in front, and still they were destroyed.  He was
handcuffed behind with the same result.  On his door being opened he
would be found naked, the handcuffs on the floor, and his clothes in
shreds.  Canvas sacks, with slits for the head and hands, were suggested,
and, first clothed, then handcuffed with his hands behind him, and
finally covered with the huge sack, he was again consigned to the cell.
The same result, however, invariably followed, and the kind-hearted
doctor, despairing of cure, and though inwardly convinced it was an
artfully contrived sham, yet loth to persist in the stringent remedies
that alone were effectual, gave him the benefit of the doubt, and
consigned him to the Criminal Lunatic Asylum at Hanwell.  I have
frequently seen this maniac fed.  His door was opened and he was brought
out, and, half-naked and handcuffed, bleared, filthy, and bleeding from
self-inflicted injuries, with dishevelled hair, and glaring like a
panther, this wild beast in human form would open his mouth, and gruel
and bread be shovelled in bounteously.  Attempts would occasionally be
made to induce him to wash, but at best they were qualified successes,
and the assistance of four or five turnkeys had eventually to be resorted
to.  It was impossible to believe this being was sane and capable of
keeping up the deception for such a time.  Sleep was out of the question,
for night was made hideous by the muffled shouts and blasphemies that
forced themselves through the padded cell.  But a reprieve at length
came, and it was with a sense of relief that I one morning saw him taken
off to Hanwell.  The lull, however, was not of long duration; and he was
eventually sent back as “cured.”  The cure showed itself in a curious
way.  On finding himself again in his old quarters, and smarting under a
pretended sense of breach of faith, he raved that the doctor at Hanwell
had promised to release him if he withdrew his claim to the crown of
Ireland.  And now a reign of terror began in earnest, and shouting for
Parnell, his secretary, the Empress Eugenie, and Old Ireland, he raved
and roared day and night.  How human nature could bear such a strain
appeared marvellous.  One night all was calm.  “Thank goodness!” I
thought, “he’s collapsed.”  Had he?  The wish, alas! was father to the
thought, and the lull was only the precursor of the storm.  Whilst we
were sleeping the maniac was maturing his plans, and a shout of “Fire!”
one night reminded us of his proximity.  Smoke was now issuing from the
padded cell.  To draw back the ponderous bolts was the work of a second.
To distinguish anything was absolutely impossible.  Blinding smoke filled
the cell, and as it poured out a terrible sight presented itself.  On the
floor was the charred mattress, the horse-hair alight, and the plank bed
smouldering, and peacefully lying beside it was the madman.  The first
idea was that he was dead, but the smoke that would have killed a sane
man had but temporarily stupefied him.  In an instant he was on his feet,
and, his arms being free, made a desperate attack with pieces of glass on
the two men who had humanely approached him.  Further help was now sent
for, during which time he kicked, struck, and bit everything within
reach, and it required sixteen men to secure and remove this wild beast
in human form.  The extent of his mischief now made itself apparent.  How
he had removed the handcuffs remains a mystery, but with the cunning and
dexterity only to be found in maniacs, he had succeeded in reaching the
gas, which, situated ten feet from the ground, and protected by a strong
glass, must have taxed his ingenuity, not only to reach, but eventually
to open, and yet this had been done so quietly that forty men and a
watchful warder in the adjoining room heard nothing.  With the fire now
at his disposal, he had burnt the straps that were lashed round his body
to secure the sack, but finding the effect not sufficiently expeditious,
had proceeded to pull out the bed-stuffing, and lying down naked,
bruised, and bleeding, beside the smouldering mass, calmly awaited the
conflagration that was to free him.  The cell presented an extraordinary
appearance.  On the floor were broken glass, burning wood, and his
clothes torn to shreds; here the handcuffs, there the charred straps: the
walls were smeared with filth and dabbed with porridge; the plank bed was
torn up, and plaster and brickwork removed: a terrible wreck, an
incredible performance, and all the work of two hands, handcuffed behind
and strapped, and surrounded by every precaution that official ingenuity
could suggest.

This final escapade materially assisted the magisterial finding as to the
extent of the maniac’s “cure,” and he was again consigned to Hanwell.

Another lunatic of a different type was an inmate of the convalescent
ward, a harmless, inoffensive creature, that had been flogged out of his
senses.  His physique proclaimed him incapable of doing bodily harm to a
calf.  He was not more than five feet high, with a fore-arm like a
robin’s thigh, and the receding forehead, sunken eye, and conical skull
associated with imbecility; but he had once “threatened” a warder, a
hulking, round-shouldered old woman, that might have squeezed the life
out of him without turning a hair, and discipline demanded he should be
reported, and the visiting justices sentenced him to be flogged.  From
that day he never spoke, and would sit for hours without moving; suddenly
he would break out into an immoderate fit of laughter, to be immediately
followed by a paroxysm of grief, and, laying his head on the table, would
sob like a child.  Nothing appeared likely to restore his naturally
limited intellect, and the country will be at the expense of keeping this
“dangerous criminal” for another twelvemonth, who would be infinitely
more at home at Earlswood Asylum for Idiots.  A perfect child occupied
another of these hospital cells, an incorrigible young scamp of about
fourteen, that nothing seemed capable of taming.  Everything within reach
he proceeded to destroy, and clothes supplied him in the morning were in
shreds at night.  He, too, was constantly handcuffed; he refused to eat,
and for a week nothing passed his lips.  One day, on his door being
opened, he was found suspended by a bed-strap from the bell-handle:
another second, and life would have been extinct.  For this he was taken
before the visiting justices and birched.  It had, however, no deterrent
effect, and up to the time of his release he remained the same
incorrigible young ruffian.  There is no hope for such a lad; his future
is bound to be a repetition of many instances I saw amongst the adults,
who had commenced a career of crime with birchings, followed by three and
five years in a reformatory, and ending with imprisonment and eventually
penal servitude.  Another companion that was the source of occasional
anxiety, had been an inmate of a lunatic asylum, and though usually
quiet, was subject to extraordinary fits.  The first intimation of one
coming on was a demoniacal groan, and in an incredibly short time a space
was cleared round him.  It had been found, indeed, that nothing could
arrest the first paroxysm, and on the “band beginning to play,” a
stampede invariably ensued: and not without cause, for everything within
reach became an instant wreck, and tables, chairs, books, and (when
procurable) arms and noses, were ruthlessly attacked by hands, feet, and
teeth.  When comparatively restored it took six or eight men to remove
him into a cell, and the only thing that appeared to rouse him was the
presence of the priest.  So efficacious was this remedy that when
everything else failed, the Roman Catholic chaplain was invariably sent
for, and in a moment oil appeared to be thrown on the troubled waters,
and the maniac arose subdued, and clothed in his right mind.  Here was a
religion that appeared to appeal to the feelings, and to produce results
never attained by brow-beating and personality—a lesson to be laid to
heart, and worthy of imitation, though in the quarter it was most needed
it was, I fear, utterly thrown away.  Personally this influence did not
surprise me, for though debarred, by being a Protestant, from coming into
actual contact with the priest, I was considerably struck, and almost
fascinated, by the kind smile and friendly salutation he had for all his
co-religionists.  An Italian by nationality, with all the refinement of
manner habitual to his countrymen, this polished gentleman was a
pronounced contrast to the fire-and-brimstone snob occasionally met with
in the “Established” ranks.


I WAS surprised at the number of respectable men—such as solicitors, an
ex-officer of Guards, a bank manager, a man of title, stockbrokers,
cashiers, ex-officers of the army and navy, clerks, clergymen, etc.—in
Coldbath Fields.  Some of these had quite lost (supposing they ever had
any) their pristine semblance of respectability; others, again, retained
the appearance of persons of education, and spoke and deported themselves
as such.  A lamentable instance of the fatal effect of associating with
the scum, and the ease with which a young man of good position can
acquire the style and appearance of a vagrant, was exemplified in young
B—.  He was not more than 25 or 26, had been a subaltern in the — Guards,
and came, moreover, of a good county stock; and yet in six short months
he had so far degenerated as to be punished on the day his sentence
expired for stealing a loaf from a fellow prisoner.

A worthy old man with grey hair and venerable appearance, and who might
have passed for the chairman of a board of directors, appeared every
morning at mine and other cells in the passage with a dust-pan, and with
methodical precision removed the sweepings.  He told me he had been a
solicitor with a large connection, with chambers in — Street, and had a
wife and grown-up family in a comfortable house in a well-known suburb.
His imprisonment was perceptibly telling on him, and his hair and beard
grew whiter every day.

A bustling, business-like man, one day attracted my attention.  He was
connected with the stores, and brought me a new pair of boots.  He had
been the manager of a London bank, and undergoing retirement for six
months for some error regarding the ownership of £300.

A tall, smart-looking man that was pointed out to me, was, I was
informed, an individual who attained notoriety some two years ago over a
mining scheme.  He was suffering two years’ incarceration for a
miscalculation of over £7000.

A man who called himself Count H—, and an ex-convict to boot, was
languishing for a year, because certain noblemen had had the bad taste to
object to his having obtained money from them by false pretences.  This
nobleman! had a mania for petitioning the Home Office (I will give a
specimen of his style hereafter).

In addition to these, numerous individuals who had been gentlemen in
their day were known to me by sight.  Conspicuous amongst them, was an
old jail bird and ex-convict, who had 20 years ago been a captain in the
army, and ever since had existed (and still is) in prison, for terms of
seven, five, five, two, and one years.  All the starch had been
thoroughly wrung out of him, though he occasionally stood on a
dilapidated kind of dignity.  I once asked him where a friend of his had
gone.  He replied, “I don’t know; we don’t speak now; he’s no gentleman.
Will you believe it, he had the impertinence to doubt my word.”  As his
word had been doubted a good many times during the past 20 years, I was
considerably amused by this assumption of dignity.

Many prisoners are under the impression that they have only to petition
the Home Office to procure a remission of their sentence.  It seems
perfectly immaterial to them, whether they have the slightest grounds for
this assumption or not, and it frequently happens that, instead of
mitigating their offence, they put matters in a more unfavourable light
by airing their grievances, whilst others make a rambling statement
referring to every subject but the one particularly concerning

Count H— was a specimen of this class.  He was undergoing a well-merited
12 months’ imprisonment for defrauding the Dukes of S— and M— and other
noblemen of sums of money, by representing himself as the son of some
individual, which he certainly was not.  It is, of course, possible that
he may (to use a vulgar expression) have been “changed at nuss,” though
the fact that he had previously undergone five years’ penal servitude for
a similar offence minimizes the probability that he was acting under a
misapprehension.  The Count! had no sooner taken up his quarters than he
expressed a desire to petition the Home Secretary.  A “form” being
supplied him, which he retained four days, eventually reappeared so
blurred and smeared with blots and erasures that its transmission was
impossible.  A second attempt was more successful, and the following
exhaustive specimen of penmanship and veracity struggled up to the Home
Office, and eventually struggled back:—“That your petitioner, on being
discharged from Pentonville Convict Prison, at the expiration of five
years’ penal servitude, found that certain moneys and property, valued at
several hundred pounds, had been stolen by his agent, who collected his
rent on his estates in Italy; that being at that time without funds to go
abroad, he had written to the Duke of S— and Duke of M— and others,
asking for a loan until he received his rents.  That his father really
was Count H— and a friend of these noblemen, and that the charge of false
pretences was consequently incorrect.  That he had held diplomatic
appointments, and been decorated for gallant service, and that he
possesses a coronet with S.P.Q.R., all of which clearly proves his
identity.  In conclusion, your petitioner appeals to you with confidence
as a lawyer of renown, and a scion of the noble house of Vernon.—Signed,

I have corrected “the Count’s” spelling as far as possible; the logic and
composition were, however, past redemption.  The rogue evidently knew the
Home Secretary’s claim to “Royal descent,” as delicately hinted at in the
concluding paragraph.

Another individual petitioned against his hair and beard being cut, on
religious grounds, and quoted the Law of Moses as forbidding these
formalities.  This specimen did not, I believe, leave the establishment.

I was frequently struck by the vast difference in the sentences awarded
in what appeared to me to be parallel cases, and tried in vain to
discover any system that might be supposed to regulate them.  It cannot
be denied that a great difference of opinion exists apparently amongst
judges on the subject of crimes and their punishment, and that whereas
one judge will administer justice with harshness, another will attain the
same desirable end with a regard to humanity.  With these respective
characteristics, the criminal classes are thoroughly conversant, and it
would astonish the Bench if they heard how accurately their respective
peculiarities are summed up.  Thus one judge is credited with being very
severe on conspiracy and long firm cases, whilst another is supposed to
be “down” on burglars, whilst it is generally conceded that a plea of
guilty will invariably fare better than one of not guilty.  For my own
part I fancied I had noticed that conspiracy is considered the most
serious offence, and that two men conspiring to defraud another of £50
will run the risk of a severer punishment than the individual who unaided
steals £500.

I will quote a few first offences which, apparently similar, differ
considerably as regards their sentences:—

(_a_) A solicitor for passing a forged cheque for £18 that had been paid
to him: 18 months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

(_a_) A bank manager for appropriating £300: six months’ imprisonment
with hard labour.

(_b_) A wine merchant for complicity in a forged cheque, £52: sentence,
18 months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

(_b_) A commission agent for forging a £600 bill of exchange: 12 months’
imprisonment with hard labour.

(_c_) A clerk (with twenty years’ good character and recommended to
mercy), for forging £50 and stealing employer’s cheque: sentence, twenty
months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

(_c_) A City man, for a fraudulent mining scheme and forgery, whereby he
obtained £7000: sentence, two years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

(_d_) A shopman, for robbing his employer of £50: sentence, three months’
imprisonment with hard labour.

(_d_) A beggar boy, for stealing 1s. 6d.: sentence, three months’
imprisonment with hard labour.

There are men in Coldbath whose cards show upwards of seventy previous
convictions, varying from a year to seven days; nor is it to be wondered
at, considering the starvation that confronts them outside and the
comfort that is accorded them in prison.  One of these habitual vagrants
on his periodical appearance was usually accosted with an official joke,
“Same address, I suppose?”  “Yes, please,” was the invariable reply; “no
change since last time.”

One old man in the convalescent ward, suffering from rheumatism and
asthma, who was supplied with dainties he could never have heard of
before, confessed to me that he should have preferred six to the three
months’ imprisonment he was undergoing.  Another old vagrant (a City man)
told me that he always made it a rule to sleep on a doorstep a day or so
before Christmas Day to insure the Christmas meal of a loaf of bread,
beef, pudding, and a pint of ale, stood by the Lord Mayor to every
prisoner in Newgate.  He was bewailing the loss of that charming
residence, and telling me how, having foolishly omitted to make himself
acquainted with the change of system, had subsisted last Christmas Day in
“Coldbath” on dry bread and stirabout.

Foreigners of every description find their way into Coldbath, though the
majority consists of Germans, mostly Jews.  There is an advantage in
belonging to this faith, as I was led to understand by a gourmand.  It
consists in receiving meat on Mondays in lieu of the usual bacon and
beans.  Circumstances, however, render the temporary embracing of this
faith more difficult than they do that of Romanism, which is much in
vogue; and as certain punishment would follow the certain detection,
Judaism has not as many followers as the Australian meat would otherwise

Flogging is usually administered for insubordination and malingering.
For less serious offences the punishment cells and short commons usually
have the desired effect.  There are two descriptions of corporal
punishment—the cat and the birch, usually reserved for youths.  In the
former case the culprit is lashed to a triangle; in the latter he is
hoisted on what is euphoniously called a donkey.  As a punishment, the
cat, as applied in prisons, is not to be compared to its defunct namesake
in the army or navy.  It is sufficiently severe, however, to necessitate
certain after-treatment—an item in the programme regulated rather by the
“system” than humanity.  A soldier was invariably admitted into hospital
after undergoing corporal punishment; a prisoner is, however, flogged and
then conducted to his cell.

These floggings are usually administered in the forenoon in presence of a
surgeon, and before evening a zinc plaster—perhaps two—is applied to the
recipient’s back.  The performance takes place in a room off the main
passage, and is not unattended with a certain amount of ceremony.  The
traffic is stopped, and no particulars transpire but the howls of the
victim, which can be heard all over the building.  Since the abolition of
Newgate, Coldbath has risen in retributive importance, and garrotters
sentenced to the lash here receive their punishment.

A one-legged garrotter was lately flogged; his leg, which had been
amputated at the thigh, prevented his being securely tied, and his
abortive struggles procured him a flogging infinitely severer than
ordinarily experienced.  Every blow fell on a different place, and the
twenty lashes left twenty wheals, breaking the skin in a dozen different
places.  Sympathy with a garrotter would be out of place, and no one can
doubt that he richly deserved his punishment; yet one’s bowels of
compassion are instinctively moved by the description given to me by an
eye-witness, of a lump of bleeding humanity alone and sobbing in a cell,
and receiving at five in the afternoon a zinc plaster to apply to the
back that had been torn and lacerated in the morning.

This treatment in no way reflects on the prison officials, who simply
carry out the regulations; it is the system that is to blame, and is
capable, like the dispensation of justice before described, of
considerable improvement on the score of humanity.

Floggings and birchings appear to have no effect on these hardened
criminals, and though they shriek and bellow during the infliction, they
invariably revert to the same offence, and qualify for a second edition.
Shamming madness is a favourite form of malingering indulged in by
prisoners.  The uneducated mind, however, invariably resorts to the same
tactics—a combination between the symptoms of idiocy and hydrophobia that
generally fails in its objects, and invariably yields to treatment by the

The boys that find their way into Coldbath are the most hardened young
scamps I ever saw.  They are supposed to be isolated, as required by
recent agitation on the subject of juvenile offenders.  That the
isolation is a farce need hardly be said.  At chapel they certainly
occupy benches to themselves, but so do the various wards and trades; the
tasks they are put to are similar to those done by adults; and the pains
and penalties they undergo are identical in time and circumstance to
those of the full-blown criminal.  I have seen these urchins on arrival,
with their knuckles in their eyes, blubbering in chapel, and a week later
winking and making signs as if determined to assert their qualification
to be clothed and treated like their adult fellow-prisoners.

Tearing up their clothes is the favourite pastime of these promising
youths.  I have frequently seen these children marched along a passage,
handcuffed behind, and preceded by a warder carrying a bundle of rags
three inches square, that formerly represented their linen and clothes.
The treatment they receive puts this crime at a premium.  Boys are
admittedly vain, and desirous of appearing as men to their older
associates, what more natural then, that a child (one of the instances I
refer to could not have been fourteen) should aspire to the honour of
appearing as a hero; marching through a crowded passage with his manly
work conspicuously displayed, treated, moreover, like a real man,
manacled, and eventually birched, and receiving the approbation
invariably accorded by the criminal classes to the perpetrators of wanton
mischief.  One would suppose that in a huge building like Coldbath Fields
these urchins might be absolutely isolated, and if their offences were
punished without the publicity that at present attends them, they would
soon be given up as not worth the consequence.  That the treatment of
this hardened class of boys is a difficult problem, cannot be denied, and
the cunning and ingenuity they display is almost incredible.  Fully aware
that the visiting Justices only visit the prison once a fortnight, and
that without their order a birching is impossible, it frequently happens
that on the day of their discharge every article of their clothing is
made into mincemeat.  For this mischief they are absolutely free from any
consequence, it being an offence against the prison, and not against the
law.  If a remedy was applied to this crime, similar to the Article of
War that provides against the destruction of Government property, the
delinquent might be handed over to a policeman, and this would
effectually stop the practice.


BY Act of Parliament, all prisoners, till quite recently, were
photographed after admission to the various prisons.  This universal
system is now abolished, and since January, 1882, it is only reserved for
habitual criminals and prisoners sentenced to police supervision.  I had
the good fortune to add to my experiences and my desire to see
everything, by coming under the universal system, I having become a
Government ward exactly eleven days before the expiration of the Act.
One morning, whilst at exercise, my name was called amongst some
half-a-dozen others.  I could not conceive what new atrocity I had
perpetrated, and what could have occurred to disturb the even tenor of my
ways.  A few of my more experienced comrades, however, enlightened me by
remarking I was “a-goin’ to be tuk,” and I found myself on the road to
the studio.

                       [Picture: “Negatives kept.”]

Photography such as this can hardly be considered artistic, though I have
seen worse, but not much.  It probably, however, answers all the
requirements it is intended for.  These works of art are only produced in
duplicate, and though I offered a fabulous price to the seedy artist for
an extra copy, no business was done; for though negatives are kept, they
are kept under lock and key.  Of the copies usually printed one was
presented to the Governor of Newgate (this individual being lately
abolished, I do not know who is now the recipient), the other finds its
way into the Coldbath album, and no doubt affords pleasure and
instruction at such jubilant gatherings as prison lawn tennis parties, or
warders’ beanfeasts, which I was informed (though never invited) are
occasionally indulged in.  Prisoners are taken in their own clothes, and
it is a matter of regret that the ones I then wore have gone the way of
all old clothes, for, like their owner, they did not improve by their
incarceration, and their huge proportions made them worthless without
alteration.  Pose or position is a secondary consideration, a good
out-and-out resemblance is the thing to be attained; a deformed ear, or a
fly-blown nose, would at once be seized upon, and the lens directed point
blank at such fortunate distinctions.  In my case there was nothing to
merit special reproduction, so with a smirk that would have hanged me
fifty years ago (for even here the “artist” could not resist the
conventional request) I qualified for the Government album.  On one side
one’s number is pinned to one’s coat, on the other is a slate with one’s
name in full, thus supplying an index simple but complete, and in
proportion to the intellects of such probable students as the motley crew
one periodically saw at Newgate.  To me the ordeal had neither terror nor
charms, though to some of my companions it was evidently not agreeable.
One rogue caused considerable trouble by persistently protruding his chin
or distorting some feature; these antics were not indulged in in a spirit
of levity, but resorted to gradually as the cap was being taken off.  He
evidently objected to an accurate likeness, and so he might.  I never
could find out particulars, but not long after he disappeared from
Coldbath, and whether hanged or a “lifer,” I never heard.  _That_
photograph had fulfilled its mission.

Visits to Coldbath cannot under ordinary circumstances be undertaken by
any but the most robust.  The accommodation is clearly intended for the
scum of London, and it is unfair to expect any respectable person to come
unless smell-proof and provided with a box of Keating’s insect powder.  I
received one visit under these revolting conditions, though my subsequent
ones left nothing to be desired.  Conceive, then, a cell eighteen feet by
twelve, fitted with four partitions on either side, divided by a narrow
passage, with a warder walking up and down.  Into one of these cages the
visitor is conducted and locked in.  Immediately opposite, and similarly
enclosed, is the object of his visit.  In appearance they resemble a
Cochin China hen-coop; in size they about equal the den of the untameable
hyæna in a travelling menagerie.  Conversation of a private nature is out
of the question, as, indeed, is intended; topical subjects are tabooed,
and but for the sake of adding to my experiences I should never have
subjected myself or my friend to such nasty conditions.  Within a foot of
one, and flanked on both sides, was either a costermonger talking to his
missus and her frowsy, unvaccinated-looking offspring, or a pickpocket
hearing the latest news from the Seven Dials; the Babel consequent being
such as to leave no alternative but to say nothing, or shout at the top
of one’s voice.  There is a snobbishness about this custom that went far
to determine me in my course of telephoning as the only way to retaliate
effectually on official inconsideration.  No one would be foolish enough
to expect that a gentleman should be better treated than a costermonger
under such painful circumstances, although it would be an act of
consideration, involving neither inconvenience nor relaxation of
discipline, if some little discretion were exercised, as at Newgate,
regarding the visitors.

The tread-wheel occupies a prominent position in prison life.  There was
none at Coldbath on my arrival, the old one having been burnt down a
short time previously.  There is a delightful interpretation to the three
magic letters, C. B. F. (Cold Bath Fields), that long puzzled me, and
which takes its origin—as I heard—from the ancient structure.  I had
frequently heard this cheerful place referred to as “The Farm,” and on
enquiry it was explained that it was facetiously known as “Charley
Bates’s Farm.”  “Charley,” it appears, was a peculiarly ferocious turnkey
that some years ago superintended the tread-wheel, but whether burnt,
like his toy, or still burning, or alive, I have not the remotest idea.
Its successor was now being rapidly built, and all the artisan talent
procurable was laid on, in order to complete without delay this necessary
adjunct to hard labour.

A reference to the “system of progressive stages” will obviate my
repeating many details as to the particular men put to this punishment,

I had never seen a tread-wheel except from the stalls of the Adelphi
Theatre, and was particularly anxious to gratify my curiosity.  I
cudgelled my brains as to how it was to be managed, with such success
that I eventually found myself on the “works.”  As I have the misfortune
to be neither a mechanic nor an artisan, and incapable of driving in a
nail without hammering my finger, and being a perfect infant in the use
of a shovel, I was at a loss to conceive how I could possibly be
employed; but this difficulty was at length surmounted, and armed with a
brush I was put on a roving job.  I had the run of the building, with a
kind of general instruction to brush everything and everybody, up stairs
and down stairs, and in the warder’s chamber.  The warder in charge of
this building in course of construction, was a worthy man, incapable of
being tampered with, though I never tried him (why should I?), but withal
courteous, respectful, and considerate—one of those men whose bringing up
had thrown him amongst gentlemen, and who knew how to maintain his own
position without offending the susceptibilities of others.  The artisans
under him worked with a will, and reports and rows were things unknown,
except on scrubbing days, when some ill-conditioned hound happened to be
temporarily employed.  My duties consisted in sitting about in sheltered
nooks with the broom between my knees, and on the approach of a spy, with
which the place was infested, to rise and make furious lunges at
imaginary spiders.  These sweeps into space were very effective, and,
fatal as they would have been to any insect had I seen one, were equally
gratifying to their human prototypes, whose desire was to see one working
hard.  During my employment in this building it was, I verily believe,
the object of more inspection than it had ever been before.  I had been
informed by telephone that my antipathy had given a hint that I was to be
looked after, and if he was satisfied with the result I certainly was.
Not twenty minutes elapsed between the various inspections, and
occasionally they swarmed like horse-flies in summer round a lump of
sugar.  These frequent visits involved an immense loss of energy, and the
casualties amongst the spiders must have been enormous.  When all had
been destroyed I constructed a pile of dirt—one pound of dust to four of
shavings—which I placed in a conspicuous position.  This was violently
propelled from me during a visit, and gently restored when the intruder
had passed.

I had the opportunity of inspecting this huge instrument of torture, and
was considerably disappointed that I could not try its effect.  I had the
gratification, however, of putting some paint on one panel and a piece of
putty into a hole, thereby having assisted at the making of the wheel.
Putting putty into a hole is not so easy as it may sound.  At the
inspection of work next day I had the mortification of seeing my lump
condemned, and cruelly removed.  The tread-wheel is moved by elaborate
machinery worked by powerful engines, which, in addition to setting the
wheel in motion, grinds corn in an adjoining building for the use of the
prison.  It is entirely different from the Adelphi one, and may be
described as four long cylindrical wheels extending the length of the
building on either side and along the gallery.  Partitions, of sufficient
dimensions to enable a man to stand up, run the entire length of the
various wheels, thereby precluding all communication between the several
occupants.  Two hundred and sixty men can be “on” at once, and the
punishment is carried out on the principle of ten minutes “off” and
twenty minutes “on.”  The victims are marched down at 7.30 A.M., and
beguile the time thus pleasantly till 11.30.  They return at 1.30 p.m.,
and continue the enjoyment till 5.

I am told this is considered an easy wheel, and men who have experienced
the working of others assured me that this one was mere child’s play.  A
great deal depends on the worker, and the experienced jail-bird rises—or,
as it was termed to me, “waits for”—the step with little or no exertion.
With the novice, however, it is severe labour, and the exertion involved
bathes him in perspiration.  A supply of warm water is given them on
returning to their cells of an evening, to obliterate in a degree the
unpleasant consequences of the wheel.  But the discomfort—can one
estimate it?  A poor wretch bathed in perspiration, and having to sleep
in the same shirt and work in it for a week!  Only prisoners fit for hard
labour are put to the wheel, and no man is ever so employed unless passed
by the surgeon.  The doctor’s work is considerably augmented by the
reconstruction of the wheel, and besides having to visit the yard
frequently during the day, he is persecuted by strings of schemers trying
by every conceivable subterfuge to evade the punishment.  Some go the
length of tumbling off, and occasionally succeed in temporarily
disqualifying themselves by a sprained ankle or wrist.  I was much amused
during my employment at its construction at the interest that the various
officials took in every detail connected with its progress.  They
revelled at the prospect of the treat in store for them, and seemed to
gloat over the exquisite misery awaiting some of their lambs.  Bunches of
these warders would occasionally meet, and discuss the intricacies of the
machinery with a gusto only to be acquired by prison contagion.  It would
not have surprised me to have heard that the opening ceremony had been
attended by some kind of _fête_, to which the warders and “their ladies”
had been invited, and condiments—made on the premises—distributed

My worst enemies, and those I had to fear most, were the prisoners.  They
were all jealous of me, and had got an absurd notion into their heads
that I could do as I liked, and, though there was no truth in such an
impression, never lost an opportunity of “rounding” on me.  A one-eyed
scoundrel, who was one day checked and eventually punished for idleness,
complained to the Governor that he didn’t see why he should work all day
and another man (me) sit down and do nothing.  This had the effect of
causing me to be transferred elsewhere, and I next added to my
experiences by becoming a gardener.  I was not sorry to leave the
wheelhouse, for it had a depressing effect on me, which the hum of the
traffic just outside did not assist in allaying.  As a wag said to me one
day, “This will be a nice place when it’s finished.”


I HAD at last indeed tumbled on my legs.  My new duties offered a
combination of advantages—such as variety, fresh air, newspapers,
tobacco, etc.—far in excess of my fondest dreams.  There are six
so-called gardeners, who are constantly employed in the grounds.  At 7.30
they go out, and rarely return before dinner; and again at 2, remaining
out till 5.  In fine weather this is a great relief, and I enjoyed many
an afternoon basking in the sun on a grassy bank.

             [Picture: Gardening.  “Something approaching.”]

The general duties of a so-called gardener are a combination of the
qualifications necessary for a dustman, carpet-beater, and agricultural
labourer.  They are, in fact, the scavengers of the establishment, and
poke about all day under a curiosity of the turnkey species, and overhaul
everything and everybody.  Their duties are absolutely legion, and
carpet-beating, mowing, weeding, and raking the walks are only a moiety
of their accomplishments.  I was appointed to this favoured team through
the kindly recommendation of the assistant surgeon after my recent
temporary discharge from hospital; and the master gardener, not having
been consulted, as I fancy he usually was, was not by any means
predisposed in my favour.  That, however, wore off; and though I found
him the most crotchety, three-cornered eccentricity I had ever met, I
soon discovered his weak point, and did pretty much as I pleased.  I must
here repudiate any insinuation that by this I mean to imply he was to be
squared.  I might as well have tried to square the Marble Arch.  Besides
which, I did not require to, my supply being greater than my demand.

Our first duty was to proceed to the tool-house, and, armed with shovels,
wheelbarrows, baskets, etc., to commence grubbing about.  As a newcomer I
was selected for the “barrer,” and a heavier “barrer” I never felt; but
having knocked some paint off a gate, and rolled it over a sacred grass
plot, my incapacity was so manifest that I was disrated to a shovel.
Here, too, I was lamentably ignorant, and out of every spoonful I
collected a third went into the “barrer” and the remainder everywhere
else.  I was, in fact, trying to emulate the scavengers one sees ladling
mud on wet days.  The long shots they make have always inspired me with
admiration; their revels in the oceans of mud exercised a fascination
over me, causing me till now to overlook the science that is required to
produce such apparently simple efforts.

I have often driven up the hill that runs outside the front of the prison
and fancied it was steep; that fancy has since been confirmed, and I am
now in a position to assert positively that it is very steep, especially
between the shafts of a “barrer.”

A duty we were about to undertake one day was the weekly overhaul of the
head warder’s quarters.  I was spared a share in this revolting
exercise—I never knew how—but was simply told I should not be required.

I had often sympathized with these gardeners long before I joined them,
when seeing them shaking the frowsy rugs and rags, carpet slippers, and
other gimcracks, and dusting Mrs. Head Warder’s best Sunday
willow-pattern teapot.  My general ignorance, too, in the various
branches of scavengering had become so apparent that I felt convinced I
should be informed that I “didn’t suit”; but, thanks to the consideration
of the Governor and assistant surgeon, I was retained, though otherwise
employed.  I was henceforth entirely detached, and turned out into
various portions of the grounds, and told to do the best I could.  My
special instructions were to annihilate a certain weed, for which purpose
I was armed with a knife, though I seldom used it for that particular
purpose.  The effect of this weed on the funny head gardener was very
strange, and he would grind his teeth and mutter at the very sight of
one.  I at once took the cue, and feeling it would please him, besides
showing my zeal, used the strongest language I could lay tongue to
whenever I detected one.  My zeal, I fear, often led me into mistakes,
and valuable clover and priceless dandelions were ruthlessly sacrificed
to my want of discrimination.  These errors in uprooting the wrong plants
generally elicited a gentle rebuke, but the “cussing” at the hated fungus
condoned my offence.  “It was zeal, sir, zeal,” and he began to “like
that chap—he was willing, anxious like.”  But the way I won the old boy’s
heart was my love for old coins (as a fact, I know nothing about them,
and prefer the more modern specimens).  It happened one day he picked up
a rusty coin—whether a button or an obsolete farthing I cannot say.  I
boldly, however, pronounced it to be a Henry the Seventh, said I would
gladly pay five shillings for one like it, rattled along about Museum
Street, my collection, etc., till he recognized a brother-collector, and
a bond of sympathy was established; and as he dropped the Henry the
Seventh into his pocket, he led me to understand he had many like it at
home.  Whether he undertook a pilgrimage to Museum Street I cannot say,
but about a month later a coolness showed itself in his manner towards
me, which rather led me to suspect he had.

I now found myself my own master.  No one was specially interested in my
movements.  I was on my own hook, and so long as I appeared to be
occupied when certain individuals were going their rounds, I was never
interfered with; and as these rounds took place at about the same hours
daily, I mapped out my occupation accordingly.

                 [Picture: Gardening.  “The Line Clear.”]

At 7.30 I was turned into a large lawn, with sloping banks on three sides
and railings on the fourth; between these and the outer wall was a gravel
walk that circumvented the prison.  A turnkey patrolled this walk day and
night, armed with a cutlass.  I asked one of them one day what he should
do if he found anyone scaling the wall.  “Do?” he said.  “If it was you,
I should say, ‘Don’t be a fool; you’ll sprain your ankle dropping down
t’other side.’”  “And suppose it was some other chap?” I inquired.  “Ah!
then,” he added, “I should carve him about a foot below the waist.”

Between 8 and 9 parties of men were constantly passing to and fro to
their various work.  I usually, therefore, devoted that hour to
contemplation, the selection of some half-a-dozen weeds for future
decapitation, and a general look round.  When things had settled down a
bit, my knife came into requisition, and proceeding to one of my
hiding-places I selected one piece of tobacco for immediate use, and
sliced enough for my day’s consumption.  I had some of these holes in
various parts of the grounds, constructed of a slate floor about three
inches square, with bricks for the roof and sides.  I found them
admirably adapted to resist rain, and many I daresay are still in
existence.  This enjoyment lasted till 11, when it became dangerous.  (I
was nearly choked on one occasion by foolishly having a lump of tobacco
in my mouth when suddenly confronted by an official.)  After dinner I had
a good hour’s reading (the papers don’t arrive before; indeed, the postal
arrangements are capable of considerable improvement), and so the
afternoon passed comparatively pleasantly, between the daily paper,
’baccy, and the sloping bank.  I often felt amused at the thought of how
different all this was to what some people believed; and a conversation I
“overheard” in the previous January, when one cad was explaining to his
inebriated companion that imprisonment with hard labour was worse than
penal servitude, came vividly to my recollection.  On one of these sunny
days I was much amused by an outline of the day’s telegrams as given me
by a friendly turnkey.  It was the day on which the news of young Vyse’s
death whilst reconnoitring Arabi’s position reached England.  “Them
Arabians are rum chaps; ah, and can shoot too, I tell yer: that officer
as was recognisizing—look at that!”

Chewing was an accomplishment I did not acquire in a day; indeed, it took
me weeks.  At first it made me absolutely poorly, but I persevered, and
eventually found it as agreeable as smoking.  I could not, however,
manage the twist, and invariably used the honey-dew or negro-head.  This
daintiness was not unattended with inconvenience, as no shop in the
neighbourhood kept such a thing, and involved journeys to the Strand or
Oxford Street.  I was never so foolish as to keep the tobacco about me,
and my cell was as free of it as any hermit’s.  In the grounds, however,
it was perfectly safe; tobacco under a stone might belong to anybody, and
though the suspicion would probably have cost me my staff appointment,
absolute conviction would have been impossible.  To say that I was free
from some sort of suspicion would be hardly correct, for although I was
never searched myself—except on the one occasion before mentioned—my
next-door neighbour was “turned over” about twice a week.  The reason
that led to this was as follows:—I had found this man specially useful—he
was quite a second Mike to me; anything I required he did, and in return
I gave him portions of my superfluous food, and occasionally a piece of
tobacco.  This traffic had not passed unnoticed, and had been
communicated to a warder by another prisoner, who felt himself aggrieved
at the preference shown by me for his fellow prisoner.  These sneakings
are universally practised, and through my entire experience I had to be
careful of these wretches; they watched me and hated me, and if they got
the chance, always rounded on “The Swell.”  Swell indeed!  The swelling
had long ago subsided.  I only weighed, thank heavens! about fourteen
stone.  These sneakings never affected me, and one of these individuals
was once considerably astonished at getting three days bread and water
for a privileged communication about me.  A circumstance that occurred
one day impressed me very much on the matter of destiny, and the
accidents that sometimes combine to form a link between two individuals
that a month or two previously would never have been dreamed of.  It was
the day on which (the late) Dr. Lamson had been sentenced to death.  I
was standing not far from the prison van, which had lately returned after
depositing him at the House of Detention, and watching two prisoners
cleaning it out.  The partition that he had occupied contained three or
four pillows, and I was informed it was a delicate attention on the part
of the Government to prevent condemned men intentionally injuring
themselves.  “What are those pillows for?” I asked of a turnkey.  “Oh,
they’re only Dr. Lamson’s,” was the facetious reply; “he was sentenced
to-day, so we just put them in for fear he should chafe himself, poor
fellow.”  When the cleaning was over my brother reprobate led me to
understand he had made a discovery.  Beneath the pillows he had found
three cigars; he considerately gave me one, as indeed prison etiquette
demanded, it being an axiom that an uncompromised holder of a secret is
never to be trusted.  I certainly should not have rounded on my
_confrère_, but was nevertheless very glad to be the recipient of a
specimen of this “Marwood” brand.  It was a sin to chew them, but there
was no alternative, as smoking was out of the question.  Half-an-hour
later, as I bit off a piece, the thought forced itself upon me, “Three
months ago, he at Bournemouth, and I at Brighton, had never heard of one
another, and here I am chewing the condemned man’s tobacco.”  Funny
thing, destiny!


RELIGIOUS ceremonial plays an important part at Coldbath Fields.  The
quantity, indeed, is lamentably in excess of the quality, and leavened
with a degree of barbaric hypocrisy incapable of engendering any feeling
but that of nausea.  Language fails me in trying to describe it in its
proper light; and though reluctant to appear as scoffing at
religion—which I emphatically repudiate—what I saw and heard makes it a
hopeless task to allude to the subject and yet divest it of its component
parts.  This cure of some 1400 (criminal) souls was vested in two
chaplains, of whom one had the misfortune to be a gentleman.  I say
“misfortune” advisedly, for unless incapable of contamination the most
charitably inclined and refined is bound to deteriorate.  Their duties,
in addition to those usually associated with clergymen, embraced a
_soupçon_ of the schoolmaster with a dash of the district visitor, and if
they were disposed (which all were not) to throw in a slice of detective
work, it was not considered a disqualification for further preferment.
The spiritual welfare of the Protestant portion of the prisoners was
divided between them, all fresh arrivals during this month being
specially assigned to the one, and all coming in the next devolving on
the other.  The etiquette and punctilio that regulated this division when
once made, was as marked as that usually found amongst country medical
practitioners.  Thus, if Sykes the burglar, who happened to be one of the
Rev. Smith’s lambs, unfortunately cracked his skull, and was in immediate
want of spiritual consolation, he would in all probability be requested
to defer his departure till the arrival of the Rev. Robinson.  I mention
this in regard to the system, and not as referring to anyone in
particular, although the way I was ignored (very much to my delight) some
weeks later, when my particular pastor was on leave, fortifies me in the
conviction that my theory is correct.

A portion of the prisoners are visited daily by their respective
chaplains, and day after day, between ten and twelve, is devoted to this
solemn pilgrimage.  That religion may be administered in various forms
was apparent from the method pursued respectively by the two chaplains.
The one seemed to think that a kind word and a pleasant smile might
safely be addressed to the vilest criminal without detracting from his
spiritual dignity; the other relied implicitly on scowls and frowns, and
a recitation of the terrors of judgment and hell as the proper
ministration for miserable sinners.

I have special cause to be grateful for the accident that assigned me to
whom it did, as, being a Presbyterian, and never having benefited to the
extent of “confirmation,” I should most assuredly have found my spiritual
lines cast in harder places under an uncompromising bigot of Episcopacy,
than under one who was willing to admit, that the kingdom of Heaven was
not specially reserved for members of the Church of England.  The
multifarious calls on his time prevented my chaplain from seeing me more
frequently than once or sometimes twice in a fortnight; but even these
occasional visits did not pass unnoticed, and I gleaned, from a casual
remark he once made, that his spiritual superior considered a visit every
two months ample for the requirements of the most depraved outcasts.  I
can only attribute this conclusion to the potency of his peculiar
ministration, which, unless taken in homoeopathic doses, might possibly
have been injurious to both body and soul.

I never came much in contact with the chief pillar of the chapel, though
I was made acquainted with his usual routine by many of his flock:—“What
are you here for?  Do you say your prayers?” were the soothing conundrums
he rapped out on his periodical visits; and if the answer was in the
negative, it was followed by “D’you know where you’re going to?” and then
the door was slammed with a reverence suitable to the occasion.  The
relief that followed his exodus was, however, only momentary; and again
the key rattled in the door, and a head, with eyes flashing, was once
more thrust in, and yelled out, “To hell!”  For of such is the kingdom of

Chapel was an infliction one was subjected to four times a week.  The
service in its entirety was conducted with a strict regard to official
etiquette, and the degrees of relative rank were as clearly defined by
the Bibles and prayer-books as by the seats, hassocks, reading desks,
etc., allotted to the officials.  Thus, the Governor’s Bibles and
prayer-books were gilt-bound, with gilt clasps; the deputy Governor’s,
Scripture-reader’s, and schoolmaster’s, gilt bindings without the clasps;
the principal warders’, clasps without the gilt binding; and those of the
rank-and-file of warders destitute of either gilt binding or clasps.
Prisoners had to content themselves with thumbed, dog-eared, leafless
specimens, and so the united hallelujahs ascended to Heaven—let us hope
equally acceptable, whether dog-eared or gilded.  The interior of this
sacred edifice resembled a barn, the nave being fitted up with rows of
backless benches capable of accommodating some 600 knaves, a yard apart.

A bird’s-eye view of this congregation was one that challenged
reflection, comprising as it did young men and old, dark and fair, short
and stout, tall and thin, lads with fluff, and hoary-headed sinners, all
stamped with the same mark of Cain—hang-dog faces and protruding jowls,
conical heads with hair extending down the nape, bullet pates and
cadaverous faces, cripples and blind men, one-legged and one-armed, yet
all, with few exceptions, marked with the same indescribable jail-bird
brand never to be mistaken, and once seen never to be forgotten.

The floor was tesselated (of the alms-house period), and one of the
hardest floors with which I had ever come in contact.  I realized this
from a regulation that necessitated one’s grovelling on the slightest
provocation.  The walls of this portion of the building were of a
bilious-official mud colour, the monotony of which was occasionally
relieved by scrolls and texts of a personal nature.  Beyond were a few
steps leading to the pulpits and pews for the higher officials; here the
mural decorations assumed a brighter form—indeed, paint seemed to have
been laid on regardless of expense, and with a degree of vulgarity I had
never seen equalled, except perhaps in Albert Grant’s lately pulled-down
house at South Kensington.  The mania for smearing the walls with texts
was by no means confined to the chapel, but was to be found everywhere
that propriety and extreme religious fervour seemed to suggest.  Thus
over the surgery, as a reminder to possible schemers, “lying lips” were
very properly condemned; near the stores advice as to “picking and
stealing” was conspicuously displayed, with about as much effect as if it
had been placed in the oakum-picking wards; and everywhere, conspicuous
_by its absence_, was the wholesome admonition, “If any man among you
seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, this man’s religion is

The chapel, moreover, boasted of an organ—a serious infliction, involving
a temptation for the encouragement of singing; and nobody that has not
heard 600 malefactors without an “h” in their composition bellowing
“’Oly, ’oly, ’oly,” can sympathize to the extent the occasion merits.  I
was peculiarly unfortunate in my usual seat, which happened to be amongst
the trades, and was flanked by the blacksmiths.  I never heard them
yelling without thinking that Handel’s “Harmonious Blacksmith” must have
been a different sort, which in its turn gave way to the “four-and-twenty
blackbirds that were baked in a pie,” and then I was recalled to the
proximity of the four-and-twenty blacksmiths by “’Oly, ’oly, ’oly.”  I
could have wept from sheer sympathy when I heard that glorious “Te Deum”
so brutally massacred, and pitied the organist—an excellent musician—for
having to play on such an instrument to such an accompaniment.

The entrance of the prisoners was not conducted on the principle
customary in places of worship (though I suppose no one really associated
this specimen with any attributes of the kind), but was accompanied by
the blowing of whistles, and shouts of “Move higher up!” “Come on,
there!” “D’you know where you are?” “This ain’t a music-hall!” and
such-like appropriate exclamations.  Music-hall indeed!  The Middlesex
magistrates would never licence such an exhibition; indeed, it only
required a few handfuls of orange-peel to have made it a formidable rival
of “The Vic.” in its palmiest days.

The chief cause of most of this indecent behaviour was one of the head
warders, and when this man superintended the chapel parade the scene was
disgraceful; and “Take that man’s name down!” “I’ll send you to your
cell, sir!” and bully, bully, bully, was the preparation for the service.
This is no exaggeration, and hundreds of officials and prisoners will
recognize the description.  At the same time it is only right to add that
the Governor and chaplains have no means of knowing of these daily
outrages, for custom regulates their entrance after the chapel is full,
and when a toadying, eye-serving, make-believe reverence has succeeded
the state of things I have described.  The service was happily not a long
one, and twenty minutes was the average duration from find to finish.  It
was conducted, I should say, with a tendency to High Church formula on
the part of the clergy and a portion of the congregation.  Thus, the
ministers, the laundrymen, and the blacksmiths invariably turned to the
east during certain portions of the service, whilst the Governor (an old
man-of-war’s man, who could box the compass as well as ever), myself (I
could see the weathercock from my window), the needle-men, who followed
me to a man, and here and there a tailor, as persistently faced due

The habit of trying to sing “second” was a very severe trial to listen
to, and I remonstrated with one old man that I looked on as a kind of
ringleader, at the pain his efforts caused me.  His voice was by way of
being a tenor, and his disregard of all harmony induced me to christen
him “Wagner.”  One day poor old Wagner appeared with his neck painted
with iodine, and the feeble croaks that he emitted, however painful to
himself, were a considerable relief to me.  Remembering, too, that when
the Devil is sick he is supposed to be most susceptible of good
impressions, and not wishing to lose the opportunity of working on his
feelings, I determined to let him have it.  I impressed on him the
brittleness of tenor voices in general; how susceptible their
metempsychosis was to disorganisation; how the epidermis of the carotid
artery was peculiarly sensitive; and, with a casual glance at his neck,
implored him for his own sake, if not for mine, to give his voice a rest.
With beads of perspiration and iodine trickling down his back, he gasped
compliance; and thus I reduced my “crosses” by one.  Another horrid old
man never failed to irritate me.  He was undergoing twelve months’
imprisonment for inciting little boys to steal, but was now on the
religious tack.  So religious, indeed, had he become, that in a portion
of “The Creed” he could not say “hell,” but invariably substituted “the
grave.”  I had never heard this impertinent innovation before, and could
have kicked him and his hypocrisy into Wagner’s lap.  Instantaneous
conversions, such as took place years ago during the so-called Revivals,
were of occasional occurrence, brought about, as I take it, by the
thrilling discourses we were sometimes treated to, and the “awakened one”
would stand up and hold forth.  But very short work was made of these
converts, and a couple of matter-of-fact warders soon trundled them out,
to be brought up later on and punished for disturbing the service.  I
made a careful study of the two chaplains and their respective
peculiarities in conducting the service.  With the one I never had cause
for annoyance, and though his sermons could not be said to bristle with
eloquence, he was evidently in earnest, and mindful of the fact that the
word Protestant embraced more denominations than one, and seemed
particularly careful not to outrage the feelings of the many
Presbyterians, Wesleyans, and other Nonconformists that formed a portion
of the congregation.  The other reverend individual had a partiality for
the declamatory style, and whenever circumstances, or the calendar, gave
him the option of selecting a psalm, never failed to declaim how “Moab is
my washpot, over Edom will I cast out my shoe” (Ps. cviii.).  I verily
believe he used to think he was talking of his own household effects, and
the expressions of admiration on the faces of the blacksmiths generally
leave little or no doubt in my mind that they were thoroughly convinced
he was appraising the contents of his charming little suburban retreat.
But what he revelled in were the commandments: “Thou shalt” and “Thou
shalt not” were balm to the holy man, and I was always pleased to see him
enjoying himself.  A favourite dodge amongst prisoners, now pretty well
played out, is to petition for a remission of sentence on the plea of
conversion and regeneration.  That such a circumstance should be
flattering to the vanity of a man who is morally convinced of his
incapacity for converting anything, is not to be wondered at, but the
marvel is, how men with the varied experience of prison chaplains (I
speak generally) should be gulled by such shallow artifices.  That they
are, however, is beyond dispute.  I have met and conversed with many of
these brands plucked from the burning, and my experience accords with
that of many capable of forming an opinion, that they are matchless both
in cunning and rascality.  They are invariably tale-bearers, or what are
known in the comprehensive criminal vocabulary as “creepers,” for they do
creep up the back of any one foolish enough to confide in them, and as
surely creep down the next official’s who is mean enough to encourage
their tattle.  These gentlemen are pretty well labelled, and I made it a
practice to always preface my conversation with any of them by letting
them understand they might tell “Gehazi,” or any one they pleased, all
and everything I might happen to say.  One glaring instance of the
converted type that I often led into conversation told me that he was
very sanguine on the subject of a remission of the remainder of his
sentence; that one of the chaplains was “working it” for him; and,
indeed, that he and many other likely to be well informed individuals,
such as assistant-turnkeys and fellow-prisoners may be presumed to be,
had assured him that his success was a foregone conclusion.  I asked him
how he succeeded in getting such “powerful” advocacy, and although at
first he assumed the fervent style, he very soon relapsed into his normal
condition on seeing that I looked on him as a humbug.  He then proceeded
to explain that he began by expressing a desire to see his chaplain in
private, in hopes of satiating the thirst for peace of mind that gave him
no rest; that this led to salutary advice and a fagot of tracts, and had
ended in his partaking of the Holy Communion—I almost hesitate to repeat
this rank blasphemy, and my only justification is its unexaggerated
truth; indeed, I would not dare to write such horrors unless fortified by
my veracity.  He went on to add that it was awfully jolly, and that he
generally received any surplus that might remain of the consecrated bread
or wine.

I am indebted to him for the following details of the custom that
prevailed on these solemn occasions, which, retailed in a bantering
style, may be briefly summed up as follows:—That the ceremony was usually
attended by one official of each grade—such as the deputy governor, one
chief warder, one warder, and a turnkey—to whom it was administered
according to seniority; that the prisoners’ turn came next, and that by a
judicious foresight he usually managed to secure the first place.  He
went on to add that he confidently expected some cozy billet in the
prison suitable to his serious tendencies, and that his chaplain had
promised to interest himself in procuring him some situation on
discharge.  As we became more intimate, he confided to me that he could
never undergo poverty and privation again, and was determined to attain
affluence, honestly if possible, but otherwise by one bold dash that
should attain his end, or qualify him for penal servitude.  This hopeful
convert had been convicted of a till robbery, and had moreover committed
forgery, which had not been preferred against him on condition that he
restored the stolen money.  It was this last spontaneous (!) honourable
act that formed the basis of his petition, proving his instantaneous
remorse for the error of a moment—a remorse that had since ripened into
sincere and heartfelt repentance.  He concluded by informing me that his
chaplain had led him to understand he should probably give him a few
pounds on his discharge, but that he had been deceived so often by
“converts” he had assisted eventually becoming “convicts,” that he
hesitated to help any of whose sincerity he was not perfectly satisfied.
Let us hope he has not again been a victim of misplaced confidence!  I
have on more than one occasion found it difficult to maintain my gravity
when hearing this rogue and his victim discussing Bible questions, and
whining at the ridicule he had to submit to on account of his
convictions, and receiving consolation by the quotation of the case of
Mary Magdalene.  I have no scruple in giving this account, as the
principal actor has long since been discharged (but not on his petition,
which was naturally refused), and because it is an ungarnished,
indisputable proof of the deceptions practised by criminals, and goes a
long way to justify the apparently harsh treatment frequently accorded
them.  That the chaplains are a conscientiously disposed class may be
gleaned from the circumstance that on one occasion, when a converted
sinner after his discharge sent a _souvenir_ in the shape of an
eighteen-penny _papier mâché_ inkstand, the reverend recipient declined
to accept it till he had first obtained the sanction of the visiting

    “_Tantum religio potuit suadere_.”


DURING my career as a gardener I became very unwell.  I attribute this in
a measure to a recurrence of a malady contracted in the tropics, and a
chill I caught from lying on damp grass in a draughty yard.  Another
cause of my serious and probably life-long illness may possibly be traced
to an insane and spontaneous act—an over-taxation of nature—many months
previously.  I had fined down in the ordinary course of events to the
weight and bulk (according to my theory) that nature clearly intended;
but not content with this satisfactory result, I determined to attain
still slimmer proportions.  Many indications convinced me I had found “my
bearings,” and common sense ought to have suggested, _enough_; but vanity
prevailed, and perseverance attained the further desired reduction,
though at a more serious price than I had contemplated.  My theory on the
reduction of fat is based on my own case, and had I stopped as I
recommend others, when I had found “my bearings,” I should have retained
my usual health; as it was I went on and on, and like those enthusiasts
who sacrifice health and life to the perfecting of a principle, so I,
regardless of my own convictions, acted in direct opposition to my advice
to others, and may be congratulated on having probed a theory to the very
bottom at considerable personal sacrifice.  If any sceptic is disposed to
disparage my system, I ask him to blame me and not it.  The latter
consists of a dietary in itself harmless, and certain to produce
diminution.  When a certain point is attained it says STOP; and if it is
asked why, I reply because beyond that point it is rash, and if persisted
in, the theory is clearly not to blame.  I am aware that many will seize
the opportunity to disparage the system, and endeavour to deter others
from following it.  Such a course would be as logical as to condemn a
glass of sherry, because someone had died from _delirium tremens_; or to
abstain from eels because Henry I. had died from a surfeit of lampreys;
or, to carry the absurdity a degree further, to avoid (like the old
woman) apple-tart, because her husband had died of apple-plexy.  It was
in the spring that I commenced my campaign against nature, and though I
had ample proof that I had arrived at my “natural bearings,” I determined
(never dreaming of the danger) to persevere a little more.  I was then
about 15 stone in weight, and knowing it was a stone in excess of the
average for men of my build, I thought if I could reduce just one stone
more I would rest satisfied.  I found, however, that my ordinary daily
diet of mutton broth, a chop, potatoes, bread, and cocoa failed to reduce
me as it had hitherto done, and that, try as I would, I recorded the same
weight a fortnight hence.  The remedy that most naturally suggested
itself was to reduce the quantity, and I proceeded to divest my
consumption, of the broth, the fat from the chops, and a portion of the
potatoes and cocoa; but nature still continued to warn me, and I as
persistently ignored her, and, losing all patience, I entered on a course
little short of starvation.  I took a solemn oath that I would for one
week confine myself to six ounces of bread and six mouthfuls of water a
day (six ounces of bread will be found to be synonymous to six mouthfuls,
and no more).  During the first 48 hours my appetite became ravenous, and
on the third and fourth days the pains of hell did indeed get hold of me;
and it was as much as I could do to resist the temptation of taking one
mouthful of the savoury broth and mutton that was lying untouched on my
table.  The trial now became almost more than I could bear, and more than
once I approached the table, where the food would have to remain for an
hour, but at the last moment drew back.  So acute, indeed, did I find
this agony that, to avoid temptation and to put it out of my power, I
used to throw the food into the slop-pail.  After a few days, the
cravings of appetite began to cease, and I congratulated myself that I
was getting accustomed to it.  An accidental circumstance also prevented
my testing the result at the end of the seven days, and I continued in my
madness for another week.  On being weighed I then found I had lost nine
or ten pounds.  My appetite meanwhile had entirely forsaken me; the smell
and even the sight of meat produced nausea, my eyes seemed to be
affected, my head began to swim, I became giddy without cause.  I was now
really ill, and I endeavoured to remedy the evil, but my stomach refused
nourishment, and if I ate I was immediately sick.  The possibility of
having fatally injured myself so alarmed me that I saw the surgeon, who
prescribed tonics and a change of diet; and, as all failed in restoring
outraged nature, I was admitted into hospital.  During this time Dr.
Tanner and his starvation exhibition were constantly in my mind, and the
man I had once associated with the performance of a wonderful feat of
self-denial descended in my mind to the level of a poor sick man like
myself, absolutely incapable of taking food.  Starvation has an ugly
sound, and in its first stages is unquestionably painful; but in a very
few days (three or four at the most) the sensation passes away, and is
succeeded by an absolute aversion to food.  When I have seen a
half-starved man in the streets who has told me he has not tasted food
for a week and was “so ’ungry,” my bowels of compassion have always been
moved.  If any mendicant was to tell me so now, I should know he was
lying and refuse to assist him; but if he said he had not eaten for two
days and was in agony, I should pity him and give him sixpence if I had
it.  I shall give a detailed account of my life in hospital, and the
incredible kindness and consideration I received, later on.  Meanwhile I
will confine myself to the assertion, that to such an extent had I
injured myself that in six weeks I had lost two stone.  On one’s
admission into hospital one is at once put to bed, and one’s clothes
removed.  This latter custom is intended to insure a proper compliance
with the regulation, until the doctor’s sanction is obtained to the
contrary.  “Sitting up” has, however, been found to be half way to “going
down”; and, as hospital is the goal to which all prisoners aspire, it
does not require much inducement to commend their observance of this
particular rule.  The hospital consists of a large airy ward, fitted up
with twenty beds.  Through this, and communicating with a glass door, is
a smaller room with three large windows, which gave a clear view of the
outer world from Holborn Town Hall to St. Pancras Station.  It was my
good fortune to be located here, detached and alone, and yet sufficiently
near to see and hear all that was going on.  The menial duties of the
hospital are performed by three prisoners selected for good behaviour.
These billets are specially prized, and though associated with the most
unpleasant duties, offer facilities for eating and drinking which, in the
estimation of prisoners, cover a multitude of drawbacks.  These cleaners
eat up everything; indeed, so fat do they often become that it is a kind
of unwritten rule that when they have increased a stone in weight they
revert to prison life.  The voracity they display is incredible, and
until they become too dainty to care for anything but the best, they may
daily be seen finishing eggs, tea, mutton, milk, beef tea, pudding, and
arrowroot promiscuously, as they pass from patient to patient.  The
opportunity for this gluttony is unlimited, and a glance at the fare I
subsisted on for over five months will convince the most sceptical that
kindness and liberality can exist even in a prison; indeed, I attribute
my being alive now to the tender care and medical skill I received, and
can never adequately express my gratitude to the surgeons and the entire
hospital staff.

My dietary consisted of—

6 A.M.      —Half-a-tumbler of rum and new milk.
7 ,,        —A pint of tea, bread-and-butter, and an egg or two.
11 ,,       —A pint of new milk.
12 noon     —Beef-tea, rice-pudding, and two glasses of sherry.

(I was offered, when I wished it, to substitute a chop, fish, chicken,
rabbit, or _anything_ I might fancy.)

5 P.M.     —A pint of tea, bread-and-butter, and an egg.
7 ,,       —A pint of new milk.  (This milk was so excellent, that
           often when I left it for the night, I skimmed off a thick
           coating of cream that would have shamed many dairies.)
8 ,,       —A pint of arrowroot.

Every item was the best that money could procure, and unlimited in the
supply, nor could I have lived better at a West-End hotel at thirty
shillings a day; but my health precluded my enjoying it, and I could not
summon the appetite for one-tenth of the dainties.  Everything I left was
devoured by the cleaners, and I have seen these cormorants gorging as if
determined to burst rather than waste a scrap.  Mine was by no means an
isolated case, for every one was equally cared for, and it seemed as if a
man had only to be really ill to be made to forget that he had fallen
amongst thieves, and was now under the care of the good Samaritan.  Sick
men are proverbially impressionable; but now, months after, in a genial
climate, surrounded by every comfort that a kind mother can think of, and
gradually regaining my strength, I cannot look back on the past without
feelings amounting almost to veneration, as I remember the kind friend
and skilful hand that saved me from the jaws of death.  The hospital is
unquestionably the best managed of the various departments in Coldbath.
I attribute this to the excellent staff of experienced warders, and the
supervision of the medical officers.  Where all seem actuated by the same
desire, it would be invidious to draw comparisons; but the authorities
little know what hard-working, efficient, and trustworthy men they have
in their two night-warders, who week by week relieve each other, and
perform their multifarious duties through the livelong night in a quiet,
unostentatious way, and all for a pittance of an extra shilling a night
beyond that paid to an ordinary turnkey.  The many sleepless nights I
passed gave me ample time to study their habits, which never varied, nor
seemed regulated by eye-service; and from 6 in the evening, when they
appeared neatly attired in white jacket and apron, till 6 in the morning,
these living automatons neither slumbered nor slept, but were engaged,
without intermission, in dispensing medicines, preparing plasters and
poultices, and keeping up the fires, without fuss or noise, and with the
regularity of a chronometer.  At first my utter prostration prevented me
leaving my bed, but as time wore on, I began to get about and observe
what was going on.  The day was a long and dreary one, though it was
optional when one got up, nor could it be divested of the many annoyances
that officialism—spiritual and temporal—seemed unable to forego even in a
hospital.  The chief culprit was the Scripture reader (as I understood
was his official designation, though I never saw or heard him so
engaged), who appeared regularly at 2 o’clock, and read a monotonous
harangue, with a religious tendency evidently intended to be
entertaining.  I should be sorry to misjudge the worthy man, whom I am
disposed rather to sympathize with, as the passive instrument of an
irreverent exhibition; indeed, he conveyed to me the notion of a man
actuated by a strong desire to fulfil a duty conscientiously which he
felt was contemptible, and that deceived neither himself nor his
audience.  This farce and its surroundings were all sprinkled with the
same reverential ceremony, and as he strutted up the passage with his
billycock under his arm, a subdued tone pervaded the room and heads were
uncovered as became the solemn farce.  “The subject for our study and
meditation,” began the unhappy man, “is entitled, ‘Jonas, or the bilious
whale,’ or, ‘Cain, the naughty man,’” as the case might be; and then
followed twenty minutes of twaddle, senseless and monotonous, and as
incapable of removing moral stains as would be “Thorley’s Food for
Cattle,” if substituted in things temporal (and seedy) for “Benzine
Collas.”  A fervent “Amen” always followed these effusions, loudly joined
in by the cleaners, who felt it might be considered a recommendation for
continued hospital employment, and those patients approaching
convalescence, who hoped it might turn the scale in favour of a few more
days in hospital.  By opening the door I could see and hear everything,
and I often caught poor “Bubbling Bill” casting sheep’s eyes in my
direction.  Meals were always preceded by a grace (?) said by a turnkey:
“Bless O lor’ th’ things touruse for crysake, Amen!” a refreshing and
commendable adjunct.

It seems peculiarly unfair on religion that it should so often be
presented in a hideous or ridiculous light, and if the same stipulations
were enforced as to quality as at present exist as to quantity, more
things than time might possibly be saved.

At 11, and again at night, the surgeons visited the hospital, when every
case was carefully gone into.  The care that prisoners receive in this
hospital puts crime almost at a premium, and though I may indirectly be
accusing those eminent and otherwise irreproachable physicians of
unintentionally aiding and abetting law-breaking, veracity compels me to
say what I think.  A case I met goes far to prove it.  In the hospital
with me was a broken-down old gardener who had seen better days, and was
in receipt of a pension of five shillings a week from a former employer.
This pittance, however conclusive it might be of his comparative honesty,
was wholly inadequate to procure medical comforts for rheumatic gout, to
which he was a martyr.  He next appears at a police court for having a
pig in his yard, which he had driven in from the street, and then
informed the police.  There can be only one solution of this act, for he
was a man of sixty, beyond absolute want, and had never seen the inside
of a prison before.  He had now attained his object, and was undergoing
three months’ imprisonment, during all which time he was in hospital.  I
saw him on admission, a cripple, crumpled up and half-starved, and I saw
him every day swaddled in cotton wool, his limbs frequently fomented, and
fed on the daintiest luxuries.  This man was one of the few I met who was
grateful for the care bestowed on him, and honest enough to wish he had
had six instead of three months’ imprisonment.  I saw him on the day of
his discharge, comparatively cured, and wondered how long it would be
before he again caught the right sow by the ear.  A disadvantage that
patients have to suffer from is the architectural construction of the
ward: it unites the two angles of the prison, and necessitates its being
traversed in its entire length by every official going his rounds.  On
these occasions great inconsideration is shown, the orange-peel
delinquent of chapel notoriety being peculiarly offensive in the
unnecessary noise he made.  I heard him on one occasion complain to the
warder, that a patient, who was almost _in extremis_ at the time, was
“too lazy to look up.”

During my retirement I saw more than one painful death-scene; the one
that made the most unpleasant impression on me was that of a living
skeleton, who seemed incapable of dying, although too weak to do anything
but blaspheme dreadfully, and keep up one incessant groan.  He was a man
of sixty, and had been in his time the best known and expertest of
swell-mobsmen.  He had not a relation in the world, and although offered
his discharge months before, had nowhere or no one to whom he could go.
I saw this man dying for weeks, and eventually stood at his bedside when
he took his last gasp.  This man had been either a convict or undergoing
imprisonment for the last twenty years, and the crime that led to his
death in Coldbath was the sacrilege of putting a counterfeit half-crown
into a collection plate, and taking out as change a genuine florin.  One
of the cleaners—an unmitigated thief, but sufficiently good to have
qualified for staff employ—had told the warder the day before his death
that he knew him to be acquainted with certain persons he named; and with
the consideration that characterizes the treatment of prisoners in
hospital, no pains were spared to discover the creatures.  I saw them
next day (two females, known to every policeman in London, the one as the
keeper of a thieves’ lodging-house, the other as a “decoy”), actuated by
no motive but curiosity and the intimation they had received, standing at
the dying man’s bed in their tawdry finery, in company with the priest as
attired in chasuble and stole he pronounced the extreme unction for dying
sinners.  The dying man, the kindly priest, the tawdry females, and the
surroundings, formed a picture truly awful, and baffling description.
But the end had not yet come; and as the room was again left to its
normal condition, banter reassumed its sway, and bets began to be made as
to the probable hour of his death.  Pots of tea and bread-and-butter were
freely wagered, and yet through the livelong night the dying groans,
getting feebler and feebler, told how the swell-mobsman was still
tussling with death.  At five in the morning the end was evidently at
hand, and slipping on my clothes, I joined the knot of men attracted to
the bedside.  The man was happily unconscious; and as the excitement of
the sweepstake increased, I can only compare it to the game of roulette,
when the ball almost rolls into one compartment and then topples into the
next; and “He’s dead now,” “No, he isn’t,” “That’s his last,” followed
gasp after gasp, till at a few minutes to six a profound silence
announced that the swell-mobsman was gone.  (It is only fair to state
that much of this occurred unknown to the solitary warder, for what was
one amongst so many?)  By this time the prison bell was ringing, and the
place was astir as day and night warders relieved one another.  To
stretch, strip, and carry him out of bed were the work of a moment; and
what had been a living man a few seconds before had been washed, laid
out, rolled in a blanket, and carried to the dead-house in less time than
I have taken to write it.

The washing and laying out of a corpse is too dreadful to pass unnoticed.
This necessary but revolting ceremony is performed in the kitchen.  I saw
the corpse divested of all clothing, lying on the top of the bath, in the
centre of the kitchen, with the kettle boiling within a yard of it, and
surrounded by pots and pans and other paraphernalia in daily use.  The
stench that pervaded the kitchen after this ceremony was so apparent (nor
could it be got rid of for days) that I was absolutely unable to eat
anything that had passed through it, and for days subsisted on the
insides of loaves and eggs, as the only places where the flavour of
potted pickpocket did not appear to have penetrated.  This washing of
corpses and the “itch bath” in a hospital kitchen is as great a scandal
as ever was perpetrated by any Government.

The dead-house is a primitive establishment, and cannot even be divested
of superfluous officialism.  Its entire contents consist of a slab and a
wooden block for the head of the corpse, and yet it boasted of an
inventory board.  This latter absurdity is conspicuously displayed, and

                                 “ONE TABLE.”

                                 “ONE BLOCK.”

Another death I saw was even more awful in its suddenness.  It was during
dinner when some five or six patients were devouring their chops.  One
man, that was conspicuous for his habitual voracity, had left the table
whilst waiting for the pudding.  As he passed his bed he toppled over and
was dead.  The cook, with the characteristic officiousness of the
criminal class, rushed out of the kitchen with a saucepan full of rice
pudding in his hand, and began to assist at the ghastly manipulation.  I
was within a foot of him, and saw the wretch brush off a tear from the
dead man’s eye, which he then proceeded to close; he then resumed his
culinary duties, and gave the saucepan a stir.  Rice pudding, I
understand, is liable to “stick” to the pot; for my part, I made a vow to
“stick” to dry bread; indeed, I never see one now without being reminded
of this disgusting scene.

I was now beginning to yearn for tobacco.  For some days past my illness
had indisposed me for it; besides, my arrangements had been upset by my
sudden admission into hospital.  To communicate with one of my agents,
although by no means difficult, was a question of opportunity.  I was
particularly anxious, too, not to be suspected of breaking a rule, for
though it could only have been interpreted as a breach of discipline to
be dealt with by the Executive, I found it difficult to divest myself of
the notion it would appear ungracious towards my kind physicians if I
transgressed any rule whilst in hospital.  But my craving increased, and
as I could not eat, and to smoke I was afraid, and consoling myself with
the assurance that what the eye does not see, the heart does not feel, I
decided, in the burning words of Bishop Heber, to “mind my eye and blaze

My position necessitated my breaking a fundamental rule of my principle,
and I confided in a rascally cleaner.  I had, indeed, no alternative,
for, though by the confidence I increased the chances of detection, I
minimized and almost precluded the possibility of the ownership being
brought home to me.  My first anxiety was to find a place, for between my
mattresses was out of the question, and I at length decided on the
flooring; but selecting a plank and removing the nails are two different
things, and I should have been defeated at the very outset.  Chance,
however, favoured me; and one day, to my great delight, a ram was caught
in the thicket, in the shape of a carpenter, come to repair a window.  As
opportunity offered, I pointed out to him a short plank, and leaving the
room, said, “I shall be back in ten minutes; meanwhile, if you remove
those nails, and replace the plank so as not to be observable, I’ll give
you as much grub as you can carry away.”  These instructions would have
been ample, but fearing his zeal to earn the food might outrun his
discretion, I popped my head in and added, “If you’re caught messing
about, kindly remember I know nothing about it.”  This will hardly be
deemed chivalrous, though strictly in accordance with etiquette in giddy
Clerkenwell.  Being satisfied with his work, but dreading to explore my
secret cave, I told a cleaner to collect all the spare bread-and-butter
he could find.  So well did he carry out my request that he shortly
appeared with thirty-eight slices, but so bulky was the quantity that it
was necessary to smuggle it in, and the coal-scuttle was pressed into the
service; but my carpenter did not object, and, removing the lump that
concealed it from the vulgar (turnkey) gaze, proceeded to devour it.
With his mouth full of one slice and shoving in another, he occasionally
gargled out, “This is a treat!” “This is jam!” until sixteen slices had
disappeared.  He now began to show signs of distress, and secreted the
rest inside his shirt; but what between the sixteen slices inside and the
twenty-two outside, his dimensions had so increased that detection was a
certainty.  I therefore refused to let him leave unless he swallowed
eight more—just to make an even two dozen—and the unhappy man again
began.  I can see him now, sitting on the window-sill, pretending to
hammer, his eyes starting out of his head, imploring me to “let it be;”
but I was firm, and had not the remotest intention of jeopardising my
position by any such weakness.  As the last piece disappeared, he was
speechless, and I almost feared he was choked; but my mind was
considerably relieved by his asking me, for mercy’s sake, to give him a
drop of water.  But there was none in the room, and, telling him it was
all nonsense, and that the walk downstairs would make it all right, saw
him leave the room with considerable satisfaction.

That evening I explored my cavern, which surpassed my fondest
expectations; the architect must have put it there on purpose, so
admirably was it adapted.  Lifting up the eighteen-inch plank, I
discovered a hollow place about six inches deep and two feet square.  I
now lost no time in getting my supplies, and, making a bag, at once
filled it with paper, envelopes, a knife, pencil, and a cake of tobacco.
From 6 to 7 A.M. was my favourite hour for writing and other business.  I
then carefully replaced my treasures, and sent off my letters, leaving
nothing criminating about me except five or six atoms of tobacco, which I
would have swallowed rather than that they should have been discovered.
There were several advantages connected with a choice of this hour.  In
it one was perfectly safe from interference; so busy, indeed, was
everybody, that the orange-peel man, who was busy counting and
inspecting, and the other officials sending off night reports, would
never have dreamt of anyone devoting this particular hour to the breach
of a dozen rules.

As time wore on, I began to dread the detection of my hiding-place; so
conspicuous, too, did it appear to my guilty conscience that I determined
to abandon it.  The light seemed to pour on its well-worn crevices, the
Governor stood on it twice or thrice a week, the surgeons crossed it a
dozen times a day, warders absolutely hovered over it all day long; so I
communicated with the cleaner, and entered into an arrangement whereby,
for a consideration of food and a piece of tobacco daily, he was to
secrete my bag elsewhere.  I felt it was madness to trust a confirmed
thief, but there was no alternative; and within a week I discovered the
fallacy of there being any honour amongst thieves, and the brute I had
treated with the greatest liberality stole my bag, and came to me with a
whining tale of how it had been discovered and taken away.  It never
alarmed me, as it would had I really believed him; and shortly after the
whole conspiracy was revealed to me by about the only reliable prisoner
amongst them, and I had undoubted proof of the complicity of every
cleaner in the place.

 [Picture: “Whence comest thou, Gehazi?” (An exhortation to repentance)]

My weary afternoons I usually beguiled by pantomimic love-passages with a
frowsy damsel in a neighbouring house.  Our acquaintance began as I
watched a portion of her graceful form bulging over a window-sill she was
cleaning at the time, which ripened into such an intimacy, that day by
day we looked out for each other, and exchanged such protestations of
devotion as might be conveyed by her holding up to me portions of her
employer’s eatables, such as eggs and once a steak, which I gracefully
reciprocated by exposing Government property, such as a medicine bottle
and occasionally bread-and-butter.  Graceful Selina! may my successor
have been more worthy of your innocent virgin heart!


THE number of admissions into hospital about this time necessitated my
having a companion billeted on me, an unfortunate Frenchman, utterly
oblivious of any language but his own; and as it turned out that his
attainments in English were exactly of the same extent as that of the
warders in French, there seemed to be an impassable gulf fixed between
all communication of ideas, if either party had happened to possess any.
He was complaining to me one day of the disadvantage he laboured under,
and described the usual conversation that took place daily between
himself and the hospital warder.

“Well, are you better?”

“No, sare.”

“O, all right.”

“_Voilà mon ami_.  What do you tink?”

My companion, I was gratified to observe, was gradually mastering some of
the idioms of our language.

Not long after, an extraordinary creature was admitted as a patient, and
I cannot to this day say what his nationality was, although I am inclined
to believe his language was some kind of Russian _patois_.  Nobody could
make head or tail of him, and a distracted warder, in this dilemma
recollecting my success with the “other foreigner” and doubtless giving
me credit for a knowledge of every language of the earth besides a few of
the lunar ones, came and asked me to try and understand him.  My
knowledge of outlandish languages is not remarkably extensive (it is
confined, I may state, to the Hottentot word for “rice” and the Chinese
for “smoke”), and as no one appeared to have a Russian dictionary, I
addressed him in Hindustani, considering that in point of longitude it
came geographically nearest the Russian.  He at once replied in a
rambling speech, throwing his arms about and beating his chest; and
though I am convinced he understood no more of my speech than I had of
his, my reputation was established, the more so as he had no means of
betraying my secret.  Having then explained to the warder that he
complained of pains in the chest, and would prefer an egg beaten in his
tea instead of boiled (a change I considered unlikely to materially
affect his complaint), I retired to my apartment.

I now for the first time came into personal collision with the chaplain.
For weeks and months circumstances, and possibly choice, had kept us
apart, nor had we exchanged a word since the eventful day when he
discovered that an “unconfirmed” sinner stood before him.  It was during
prayers (a movable feast indulged in three mornings a week at the
chaplain’s convenience) that I was referring to a book on the table in
hopes of finding the particular extract he was reading.  Failing in that
I replaced the book, and resumed my hypocritical solemnity, in blissful
ignorance of any impropriety.  The holy man, however, thought otherwise,
and hissed out at me—

“I consider your behaviour impertinent to me, and disrespectful to God.”

At first I retained my equanimity, for he was incapable of raising my
ire; and I assured him what my object had been, and reminded him I was a
Presbyterian.  At this his rage knew no bounds, and sneering in a manner
unworthy of a clergyman (I won’t say a gentleman), he said—

“A Presbyterian, are you?  Ah, I thought you didn’t belong to the Church
of England!”

I soon got the unhappy man’s back up.  I assured him I was indifferent to
his opinion, and added I was proud to belong to a Church where such
intolerant views were not expressed by its ministers.  This undignified
scene was heartily enjoyed by twenty prisoners and warders, all of whom
assured me I had had considerably the best of it.  I intended to have
paraded him before the visiting Justices, but common sense prevailed, and
I should have ignored his further existence had it not been for a petty
spite he indulged in shortly after.  As I have before stated, the library
books are under his special care.  During my long illness I had waded
through this “special” catalogue till I had reached number 21, and in the
course of events might naturally hope to receive number 22 next.  In
this, however, I had made a miscalculation, and his Reverence decided
that a school edition (the eighth I had read) of the History of England
was a more wholesome dietary for a bumptious Presbyterian.  I was
convinced the mistake was not unintentional, but, anxious to give him an
opportunity of gracefully retracting a contemptible action, I sent the
following day to point out his oversight.  The reply was, as I expected,
“If he does not choose to have it let him go without.”  I reported the
matter to the Governor, who at once offered to place the matter before
the visiting Justices, as he had no jurisdiction in the matter; but I
decided that the man and his book were neither worth it.  I should now,
under ordinary circumstances, have been left entirely bookless—a
contingency in my case that did not occur.  It also gave me the
opportunity of reading “The General History of the Church,” a
well-written and exhaustive work by the Abbé Daras, supplied for the use
of Roman Catholics.  The superiority of the literature—religious and
profane—selected and supplied by the Roman Catholic chaplain, together
with his personal merit and gentlemanly bearing, makes Romanism a
formidable rival to the “Established” Religion as dispensed at Coldbath.
To judge by the jealousy that exists in a certain quarter, it is evident
this superiority is realized elsewhere.  But the circumstance was not
unnoticed by my lynx-eyed, ghostly comforter.  On many occasions I have
seen him watching, as if he would have liked—had he dared—to ask me what
I was reading; but he confined himself to discussing me with the warders,
with such remarks as, “I see he’s got hold of something,” or “What’s that
he’s reading?” all of which was duly reported to me.  I feel I have given
undue importance to this contemptible squabble; but I look on it as a
tilt between sects, a tussle between an Episcopalian divine, armed with
authority, and a Nonconformist, placed at a considerable disadvantage,
and where—had I been in a position to do so—I should have left the
room—as the Governor once did the Chapel when unmeasured and ill-advised
criticism was being lavished on Dissenters.  The guilt of schism lay
heavily on this orthodox Churchman’s heart.  I say schism, for I call it
such of the most culpable type that ignores the insignia of Divine
sanction accorded to the Ministry and people of Nonconformity.  I would
ask this bigoted Episcopalian what he thinks of Richard Baxter,
Livingston, John Horne, Wesley, Whitfield, Chalmers, Candlish, Caird,
Guthrie, McLeod, names only to be mentioned to inspire veneration, and
yet these were all Nonconformists of one denomination or another.
Surely, if Divine grace finds and fashions such men, they may be
considered as entitled to at least respect from clergymen and gentlemen,
who, if they do not agree in their respective tenets, may at least
abstain from unmeasured abuse of them and their followers!  Arrogance
anywhere is bad, but is doubly so when men who claim to be disciples of
the meek and lowly Jesus set such an example by their narrow-minded
remarks about Nonconformity.  The Church of England is a venerable and
illustrious section of the true Church, and unlikely to have its fair
fame sullied by the ravings of a nameless ranter.  But it becomes a
question, is a chaplain with such extreme views, so uncompromising in his
denunciations, so unguarded in his language, so ungovernable in his
temper, the sort of person for a prison chaplain, or one likely to
convert sinners from the error of their ways?  God forbid that my remarks
should be mistaken.  I do not aspire to be considered either a ranter or
a hypocrite, but I respect and never fail to detect religion, and despise
its base counterfeit wherever and in whomsoever I find it; and if I can
hear the “old story” ungarnished by rhetoric, I care not whether it
emanates from Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Nonconformist of whatever

That this is a very small world was demonstrated to me during a
conversation I once had with a fellow prisoner.  He was a decent,
educated man, and had been in a pawnbroker’s establishment.  Our
conversation one night turned on things theatrical, and he was giving me
some interesting experiences of the “ladies” he had met at various times
on business.  He asked me if I knew Mrs. —, and I said I had spoken to
the old hag.  He then proceeded to tell me what a constant customer she
had been in former days, and how her contributions had varied from
woollen rags one week to valuable jewellery another.  It was then that a
circumstance was brought to my mind—told me some three years ago by a
lovely and accomplished actress, since retired from the stage—of how a
popular burlesque artiste in the same theatre had once lost a valuable
jewel, and how suspicion pointed at this identical old woman, who had a
girl at the theatre.  I asked him if he recollected anything about it,
and he at once proceeded to give me details that convinced me that the
pendant he referred to was one and the same as that which had
mysteriously disappeared, and that the suspicions formed a few years ago
might have been very fully confirmed had a visit been paid to an
establishment not a hundred miles from Tottenham Court Road.

During my illness I had at different times the services of the various
cleaners in making my bed, brushing the floor, and bringing in my meals,
and I invariably extracted anything of interest about their previous
careers.  My first was an unmitigated young “till thief.”  This is a
special branch of the profession, requiring assurance rather than
dexterity, and consists in watching your opportunity when the shop is
empty, and then making a dash for the till or cash-box.  My valet had
apparently been eminently fortunate, and although he had undergone a
previous twelve months, had escaped detection a score of times.  He was
then undergoing a lengthened seclusion for an unforeseen occurrence,
which he in no way considered as a reflection on his prowess.  He had, it
appears, entered a confiding lamp-dealer’s, and finding the shop
conveniently empty, and the cashbox conspicuously displayed, had done his
business, and proceeded to leave the premises.  A swinging glass door,
however, unfortunately intervened between the shop and the street, which
in the excitement he pushed the wrong way, and in some way jammed.  This
little delay made a difference in his and the shopman’s respective
accounts of about £45.  On another occasion he found himself in a
corn-chandler’s—a class that is proverbially considerate in avoiding
superfluous obstacles to a hurried exit,—and whilst helping himself to
the till, a customer came in, who, seeing him engaged, asked for a
pennyworth of barley; to this he obligingly served her, added the
cumbrous coin to his other findings, and then complacently left the shop.
This individual was a special pet with the turnkeys, and as such—combined
with his trustworthy reputation—was invariably selected for expeditions
to the various stores.  His special talent here stood him in good stead,
and he never returned without having stolen three or four eggs, a handful
of flour, or a lump of soap.  Indeed, so inherent was the spirit for
thieving, that if all else failed, he would annex physic, and I have
often seen him with bottles of quinine and iron mixture.  This latter
forms a considerable article of commerce, and is much sought after and
bartered (never mind how or where) for advantages of a more palatable
type.  A short time before his discharge I advised him to drop the
cash-box game, and he assured me he had quite determined to “turn it up.”
Within a week he had been re-convicted, and is at present undergoing
seven years’ penal servitude.  In my next valet I was considerably
disappointed.  Although an unmitigated thief, I fancied I detected some
redeeming features.  I talked to him frequently, and treated him with as
much kindness as a man with my circumscribed means had probably ever been
able to.  In return he assisted to rob me of contraband things, of which
he always had a liberal share.  He had been a lieutenant (in burglary) of
the late Mr. Peace, and often discussed that eminent man with evident
regret.  He had been with him in various minor affairs, and through his
entire career had never been “nabbed.”  His present incarceration was the
result of treachery, where a less fortunate associate had rounded on him,
and he was arrested a week after.  He often hoped to meet him outside,
though an incident that occurred will necessitate a postponement of the
pleasure.  A batch of convicts, _en route_ to penal servitude, were one
day being medically examined by the surgeon (a new regulation lately come
into force), amongst whom my valet recognised his _quasi_ friend, the
informer.  The interview took place near the kitchen, where my man was
cooking a chop, the surgery being next door, at which the convicts were
ranged.  “And what did you say?” I enquired.  “Say!” he replied, “I
slapped my stomach to show ’im I was all right, and then I says, ‘You
looks ’orrid ill, you —; you’ll never do it; thank God, ’twill kill

A pleasant prelude to ten years’ penal servitude.

I am indebted to this noble-minded creature for many hints as to how
burglaries are concocted and how best guarded against, and I am of
opinion that attention to them will do more to obviate their frequency
than all the absurd warnings as to window shutters and area gates, that
periodically emanate from Scotland Yard.  No burglary is ever attempted
on chance; in fact, no house is ever entered except on exact and reliable
information.  This is usually obtained through a frivolous maidservant
(in which case a delay of weeks may be necessary for love-making), a
rascally butler, or the local chimney-sweep.  The information chiefly
sought after is the strength of the garrison (whether males or females),
the class of valuables (whether plate or jewellery), their usual
locality, and the habits of the occupants.  With this as a basis, the
house is watched for days and weeks, in order that a confirmation of the
information may be obtained.  The time preferred is when the night police
are in the act of relieving the day men, and if that should be
inconvenient (to the burglar), between the night patrols.  All this may
appear ridiculous, but I give it as the testimony of a notorious burglar,
imparted to me in good faith, under exceptionally favourable
circumstances for hearing the truth, and if acted on will materially
increase the security of householders.

I asked my mentor his opinion about window shutters and door bolts, at
which he absolutely laughed.  No burglary is ever attempted through a
window unless considerately left open.  The front door is the invariable
point of attack, as most favourable for ingress and a precipitate
retreat, and under occasional circumstances the area.  The operation
never takes more than twenty minutes, as is erroneously supposed, the
object being to be in and out again between the periodical promenade of
the policeman.  These nocturnal strolls are accurately calculated, and
the precision with which they are performed, however admirable from a
disciplinary point of view, are totally inappropriate as deterrents to

“But suppose,” I asked, “a person said to you, ‘I’ve only got so-and-so
in the house—you can have that’: would you be satisfied?”

“Satisfied?” he replied.  “No, we knows jolly well what there is afore we
comes; and, for the matter of that, there’s no time for talk.  We goes
straight for the swag, and if anyone tries to ’inder us, we’re bound to
let ’im ’ave the jemmy right across the face.  That’s ’ow poor Peace got
’imself into trouble fust.”  He then went on to tell me that he had a
lovely (!) little jemmy about eighteen inches long and tipped with the
finest tempered steel, capable of being carried up the sleeve, and so
fine that it could be inserted into the smallest crack or hinge; “And,”
he added, “once let me get ’is nose in, and make no mistake, I walks in
very soon arter.”

This gentleman’s testimony is worthy of consideration.  He was
associated, as he informed me, with the butler in a well-known burglary
of plate somewhere in Kensington, and where the butler, being knave
enough to rob his master, was fool enough to entrust a large portion of
the proceeds to his confederate to melt down and divide.  As I understood
him, half only of this bargain was carried out in its integrity.

The secrecy with which foolish women fancy they put away their jewels in
secure safes let into the wall is a labour lost in vain.  Their
hiding-place is thoroughly well known, and probably its value, and other
useful particulars.  That they have hitherto escaped is merely an
accident of time and opportunity; that they will ultimately be victimized
is a foregone conclusion.  The moral to be gleaned from this is, to be
sure of your servants, a fool being almost as dangerous as a knave, and
to abstain from flashing your jewellery before eager eyes, only too ready
for a clue to its whereabouts.

If after this disinterested advice unprotected women are fools enough to
barricade themselves and their treasures in defenceless houses, they have
only themselves to thank.  They should be careful, however, not to waste
their visitor’s time when confronted by his “bull’s-eye,” as burglars are
proverbially children of impulse.  Houses containing little or nothing of
value are never burglariously entered.  Men won’t risk penal servitude on
a chance; the prize and its price have been carefully calculated.


I HAD now been many months in hospital, though all the care and kindness
I received seemed incapable of improving my condition.  Strengthening
medicines, stimulants, tonics, all failed to rouse me, and the tempting
food, that I had only to suggest to have provided, could not induce me to
eat.  I was subjected to a minute medical examination, and my lung was
found to be affected.  Later on a further examination proved that the
malady was slowly progressing.  To remain in prison was certain death, so
my case was submitted to the Home Secretary, who, with the humanity that
has characterised his tenure of office, ordered my immediate discharge.
I shall never forget the morning when an impulsive turnkey rushed into my
room, and saying, “It’s come!” hurriedly disappeared, and I understood
that her Majesty’s gracious pardon had arrived, and I was free.

The preliminaries for departure were somewhat long in my case, and it was
nearly eleven o’clock before I bade adieu to gloomy Clerkenwell.  I had,
however, been by no means idle.  The resumption of my clothing was a
matter of time and difficulty; and though they had, by the kindness of
the Governor, been considerably taken in to suit my diminished
proportions (eighteen inches in the girth and seven stone in weight),
retained a hang-down appearance in the vicinity of the neck and
shoulders, that involved an immense expenditure of pins and ingenuity.
The clothes of prisoners after admission into prison are, as a rule,
subjected to a very necessary process.  I do not know whether any
discretionary power exists as to dispensing with the rule in certain
cases, but it seemed incredible that mine should have undergone the usual
formula without retaining a vestige of the fact.  Clothes are, however,
subjected to a process of modified cremation, and placed in airtight
lockers, and smoked in a phosphoric preparation supposed to be
antagonistic to the respiratory organs of creeping things.  But the smell
of fire had not passed over mine, and I can only suppose that the
ceremony had been dispensed with as a graceful compliment to the
executors of my deceased tailor, whose representative I last met at the
“House of Detention.”  My hat, too, had either considerably expanded, or
my head had considerably contracted, for it necessitated at least a yard
of brown paper between the brim and my cranium, before being padded to
wearable dimensions.

As I passed through the office, I caught the first glimpse of myself in a
respectably-sized looking-glass, and could hardly believe that the
scarecrow I saw was really myself.  But what mattered it if I had half a
lung more or less than of yore?—I was free!  I was not going to die in
prison, and contribute in my person an additional item to the dead-house
inventory board.

With what different sensations did I again find myself in the office
which I had not entered since my arrival some months before.  It seemed
as if all the formula would never be completed, and I would almost have
foregone the handsome donation of ten shillings I had earned for laming
malefactors to have got out a moment earlier.  But business is business,
and the labourer is worthy of his hire, and in a few moments I had
received a rare gold coin (at least so it appeared to me at the time),
known as half-a-sovereign.  The warder that had accompanied me from the
hospital now sent for a cab, and as I drove through the ponderous gate a
load appeared to fall off my mind, and though shattered in health, as I
breathed the free air of a London fog, my lungs began to expand as they
had not done for months.

The usual hour for the jail delivery is 9 A.M., when gangs, varying from
ten to a hundred, are daily discharged.  As they pass the wicket one by
one, each man is presented with a breakfast order, entitling him to an
unlimited supply of coffee and bread-and-butter at an adjoining tavern.
This kindly act takes its origin from a private source that cannot be too
highly commended, and though I failed in discovering its identity,
understand it is in no way connected with the “Prisoners’ Aid Society.”
Every detail connected with a prisoner on discharge reflects credit on
the Government.  A vagrant enters prison hungry, filthy, and penniless.
He again emerges with his linen washed, his clothes fumigated, money in
his pocket, and provided with an ample breakfast.  Such treatment has not
its parallel in any other country in Europe, and I cannot refrain from
offering my testimony in opposition to the usually accepted and erroneous
impression, and confidently assert that the British criminal is, if
anything, far too generously treated in every respect.

On my way I stopped at a tobacconist’s and bought the biggest cigar I
could find.  It was, I believe, a good one, though for aught I knew it
might have been brown paper.  My sense of taste had apparently forsaken
me, and it was days before I lost the sensation of having sucked a
halfpenny.  A friend I met soon after did not at first recognise me.
“Good gracious!” he said, as he looked at my diminished circumference,
“you’re not half the size you were.”  “My dear fellow,” I replied, “you
forget I’ve been lately _confined_.”

The sense of taste that had apparently forsaken me was for a time
accompanied by a loss of voice; at least it seemed so, for acting on the
force of habit, I could not bring myself to speaking above a whisper; and
a waiter at the — Hotel seemed to think he was serving a lunatic as I
asked him in a mysterious whisper for a pint of champagne.  But the
events of the day were too much for my strength, and before 7 that
evening I had fainted, and was again in bed, under the care of an eminent
physician.  A careful examination next day confirmed the opinion of the
prison surgeons, and I was ordered forthwith to the South of France, or
anywhere from cruel London.  Door handles caused me considerable surprise
for days: they appeared, indeed, as superfluous additions that I was
totally unaccustomed to.  A morbid craving for old newspapers now seized
me, and I again discovered the importance that seemed to attach itself to
my late escapades.  I am happily not a vain or unreasonable being: had I
been so I might have found ample grounds for either when called upon to
pay sixpence for a _Daily Telegraph_, and one shilling for a _Truth_ at
their respective offices, for copies containing references to my case.
As it was, I merely concluded that the bump of avarice was equally
developed in the Jew and the Gentile newsvendor.

And now the time has come to close my reminiscences.  To continue them
would be apt to lead me into drivel, an adjunct I have tried to avoid.  I
make no attempt at justifying my work—though as a literary production it
is beneath criticism—being quite aware that many will consider my
resuscitating the past an act of bravado.  In this I cannot agree with
them, for though guilty of a portion of the offence with which I was
charged, and which I unhesitatingly admitted, I am happy to know that
cruel circumstances prevented my refuting at the time a fraction of the
thousand and one lies that were laid to my charge.  Not the most trivial
incident appears to have passed unnoticed, and the omission to pay for a
pennyworth of bloaters has been since transformed into a crime, and
carried, as only cowards can, to quarters most likely to injure me.  And
one scurrilous society journal, notorious for its “enterprise” rather
than its “truth,” had the impudence to hint that I had made money at
cards by foul play (I who have lost a fortune by gambling); but this I
attribute to personal malice, and in return for my once publishing a
scheme of a shady nature projected by its owner.  This precious
prospectus is in my possession, and at the service of any one with a
taste for the perusal of rascally documents.  I had indeed intended
publishing it, but ultimately decided not to add to this volume of
horrors, on the principle that “two blacks don’t make a white.”  Whether
it sees the daylight at the next general election is another affair.  The
marvel is I have not been associated with the “Clapham Junction Mystery,”
or discovered to be the chief of the Russian Nihilists.  These remarks
are not incapable of corroboration.  The link then missing has since been
found; and more than one lawyer, and a certain high official, know the
truth; and the only deterrent to a very thorough _résumé_ of the case is
the pain it would cause to others.  For my own part, I should not object,
and if any shadow of the “possibility” of the truth lurking in my
assertion is to be extracted, it may commend itself by the publicity I
have given to my experiences—a frankness not usually associated with
_unmitigated_ guilt.  But after all, is it worth it?  For my part, I
value the world’s patronage as much as I do its odium.  I’ve tested and
accurately appraised both!

My motive, too, has been to present prison life in a truer light than I
have hitherto seen described, and, with a few trifling exceptions, and a
necessary transposition of names and places, to give the outer world an
insight into that mysterious community that lives and moves and has its
being in their very midst.  The erroneous impression that exists as to
the harsh treatment of prisoners has, I trust, in a measure been removed.
To represent a prison as an elysium would be absurd.  It is intended as a
deterrent, though considering the wild beasts it has to deal with, it may
be questioned whether it is not far too considerate in the matter of
food.  Nor can it be denied that the rules are framed, and their
execution carried out by officials actuated as a body by humane and
honourable principles.  That there are black sheep in every grade must
also be conceded, and if their responsibilities were curtailed, and in
some cases transferred, considerable advantage would, I think, ensue.  A
man of education and worldly experience, circumstanced as I was, is
probably capable of forming a juster estimate of things as they really
exist than a Governor or any otherwise well-informed individual: and as
my remarks have been suggested in no spirit of acrimony, but, on the
contrary, under a sense of obligation, it is to be hoped that the seed
sown in Clerkenwell may bring forth fruit in Whitehall.  That my remarks
are disinterested nobody will be foolish enough to deny, and whether
acted on or not is a matter of perfect indifference to me.  At the same
time, a probe here and an inquiry there will manifest the weak points of
the “system,” and convince the highest in authority that there are more
things in a prison than are dreamt of in their philosophy.  My
conclusions have been drawn in a great measure from the treatment of
others.  For my own part, I often fancy my past experiences are a dream,
so difficult is it to believe that the treatment I received, and immunity
from degrading employment except in name, are compatible with
“imprisonment with hard labour.”  And if even one of the many objects I
have aspired to is attained, the blank that divides the past from the
future will not have been endured in vain.


I CANNOT conclude my story without asking, What constitutes honesty? and
if anybody can give a really logical and satisfactory reply, I would ask
him, Has he ever met a really honest man?

In the conviction of being credited with a reprobate mind, I freely admit
my inability to answer either question satisfactorily.  It is my
experience, indeed, that no such thing as honesty—as at present
understood—exists, and that it is simply a question of time,
circumstance, or opportunity, although I have met many rich men who are
credited with this undefinable attribute.  That men of means are
proverbially the best of fellows (I was once a “best fellow” myself) need
not be repeated, nor will I insult your common sense, virtuous reader,
who never did a shady thing in your life, by telling you what everybody
knows—that their goodness increases in proportion to their wealth.
Whether they are really honest is another question, and though no one
would credit them with theft, would they be equally exemplary in regard
to filthier and more nameless crimes?  Why should a rich man steal?  As a
class they are proverbially mean and selfish.  Why, then, should they
worry themselves with such unnecessary consequences?  That the highest of
the so-called aristocracy are not above suspicion may be remembered, when
some well-known names were once associated with a nasty scandal not
entirely composed of strawberry leaves; and if their better halves were
like Cæsar’s wife, the immunity did not extend to themselves.  And a
comparison of the men undergoing penal servitude for huge commercial
swindles, bogus “cab companies,” and rascally prospectuses, with others
at large, less fortunate in finding dupes, only proves that detection and
want of opportunity have been left out of the calculation; that “not
proven” and “guilty” are synonymous terms; and that at heart prince and
peasant, duke and dustman, are alike desperately wicked.  It was said,
with a great deal of truth, that when a certain projector contemplated
another gigantic fraud on the public it was his invariable custom to
preface the robbery by building a church—a hint that was not lost on the
observant speculator.  In the same way, when a person thrusts himself
into prominence as the self-constituted scourge of erring humanity, and
is offensively blatant in his denunciations of fraud, it may be
reasonably assumed in nine cases out of ten that the man is an
undiscovered rogue, and fairly qualified for “Eighteen months’

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *


                             _In the Press_.

                             ADVICE TO STOUT

                               A Pamphlet.

                        SHOWING HOW I REDUCED FROM

                          20 STONE TO 14 STONE.


                                * * * * *

                                BY D—  S—,

                         LATE CAPTAIN — REGIMENT.

                                * * * * *

                               _Price 6d._

                                * * * * *

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                         BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL.
                      NEW YORK: 9, LAFAYETTE PLACE.

                                * * * * *

_Will shortly appear_.

                              WHERE TO DINE

                                AND WHERE

                              NOT TO BORROW.

                         A VERY COMPLETE LIST OF





                       PROFESSIONAL MONEY LENDERS.

                       _FROM PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE_.

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                                 BY D— S—

                               _Price 1s._

                                * * * * *

      Bread and         [Picture: W. HILL AND             To
       Biscuit            SON ADVERTISEMENT          Her Majesty
        Bakers           HEADING AND COAT OF          the Queen.

                              W. HILL & SON,

                                MAKERS OF
                        THE WHOLE MEAL UNFERMENTED
                           BREAD AND BISCUITS.

                                * * * * *


                        At 2s. and 4s.6d. per Tin.

        _Specially recommended to persons inclined to Corpulency_.

                                * * * * *

                        LIST OF AGENTS FORWARDED.

                                * * * * *

                       VANS TRAVERSE LONDON DAILY.

                                * * * * *

                      60, BISHOPSGATE STREET, E.C.,
                 3, ALBERT MANSIONS, VICTORIA ST., S.W.,

                                * * * * *

_W. HILL & SON forward 5s. worth or upwards of Biscuits_, _carriage
paid_, _to any Railway Station in England_, _on receipt of remittance
with order_.

                                * * * * *


                          (_ESTABLISHED 1851_.)



                                * * * * *

THE BIRKBECK BANK opens Drawing Accounts with trading firms and private
individuals upon the plan usually adopted by other Bankers, but with the
important exception that it allows interest, at the rate of Two per cent.
per annum, on the minimum monthly balances, when not drawn below £25.  No
Commission charged for keeping Accounts, excepting under exceptional

Money is received at Three per cent. interest on Deposit Account,
repayable without notice; but these Accounts cannot be drawn upon by

The Bank undertakes the custody of securities of customers, and the
collection of Bills of Exchange, Dividends, and Coupons.  Annuities,
Stocks, and Shares purchased and sold, and advances made thereon.

Letters of Credit, and Circular Notes issued for all parts of the world.

The utmost facilities are afforded to those keeping Accounts with the
Bank for the receipt and payment of Annuities, and for the transmission
of money to the Colonies, the Continent, and America.  The Bank acts also
as Agents for receiving the Pay and Pensions of Officers of the Army and
Navy, and their Widows and Children, at home or abroad.

                                * * * * *

                               MARCH, 1882.

Amount at Credit of Current and Deposit Accounts            £2,524,505
Investments in the English Funds and other Convertible      £2,305,844
Securities, and Cash in hand
Permanent Guarantee Fund, invested in Consols                  £60,000
Amount of Assets in excess of Liabilities                     £143,114
Number of Current and Deposit Accounts                          34,065

The BIRKBECK BANK accepts neither personal security for advances nor
discounts bills for customers, except with collateral security, so that
it enjoys an immunity from losses unknown to either joint-stock or
private banks.

The Bank has no Branches or Agents.  All Communications should be
addressed to—

                                           FRANCIS RAVENSCROFT, _Manager_.

_December_ 1, 1882.

                                * * * * *

_The number of the Birkbeck Bank in connexion with the Telephone Exchange
is_ 2508.

                                * * * * *

The Birkbeck Building Society’s Annual Receipts
Exceed Four Millions.

HOW TO PURCHASE A HOUSE for TWO GUINEAS per month.  With Immediate
Possession and no Rent to pay.—Apply at the Office of thee BIRKBECK

Immediate Possession, either for Building or Gardening purposes.—Apply at
the Office of the BIRKBECK FREEHOLD LAND SOCIETY.  A Pamphlet, with full
particulars, on application.  FRANCIS RAVENSCROFT, Manager, Southampton
Buildings, Chancery Lane.

                                * * * * *


                            KNEBWORTH EDITION.

    _In crown 8vo_, _cloth_, _with frontispiece_, _price 3s. 6d. each

PELHAM.                    THE DISOWNED.
,,   ,,       VOL. II.     A STRANGE STORY.
ALICE.                     Do.                        VOL. II.
HAROLD.                    KENELM CHILLINGLY.
THE COMING RACE.           THE PARISIANS.             VOL. I.
ZANONI.                    ,,   ,,                    VOL. II.

             _The Complete Set_, _in 28 vols._, _£4 18s. 0d._

                                * * * * *

                    _Also_, _uniform with the above_,


                            KNEBWORTH EDITION.

                                      AND THE LOST TALES OF MILETUS.
CAXTONIANA.                           DRAMATIC WORKS.     VOL. I.
QUARTERLY ESSAYS.                        ,,   ,,          VOL. II.

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *

Uniform with the “Knebworth” Edition of Lord Lytton’s Works

                      The “Harry Lorrequer” Edition


                         CHARLES LEVER’S NOVELS.

            _Price 3s. 6d. each Volume_, _with Illustrations_.

                                * * * * *

TOM BURKE.  2 vols.
THE DALTONS. 2 vols.

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *


An entirely New Edition of the Works of Captain MARRYAT, in Monthly
Volumes, crown 8vo, bound in blue cloth, price 3_s._ 6_d._ each; printed
from handsome New Type, with Six Original Illustrations by the best


              The Set Complete, 16 Vols., half roan, £3 3s.

                                * * * * *

                         _FIELDING and SMOLLETT_.

A New Edition of the Novels of these Standard Authors in 3_s._ 6_d._
Volumes, printed in crown 8vo size, bound in brown cloth, each Volume
averaging about 400 pages, and containing Eight Illustrations by PHIZ.

      TOM JONES.                HUMPHRY CLINKER.
      AMELIA.                   RODERICK RANDOM.

                                * * * * *

                           _SIR WALTER SCOTT_.


Printed in crown 8vo, uniform with the Knebworth Edition of Lord Lytton’s
Novels, containing the AUTHOR’S NOTES, and Illustrated with Steel Plates
from designs by GEORGE CRUIKSHANK, TURNER, MACLISE, and other celebrated

Price 3_s._ 6_d._ each Volume; or complete in 25 Vols., cloth. £4 7_s._

                                * * * * *


                       _2s. each_, _fancy boards_.

BOTHWELL.                           JACK MANLY.
PHILIP ROLLO.                       ADVENTURES OF ROB ROY.
FRANK HILTON.                       ONE OF THE SIX HUNDRED.
ARTHUR BLANE.                       THE ROSS-SHIRE BUFFS.

                                * * * * *


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