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Title: "About My Father's Business" - Work Amidst the Sick, the Sad, and the Sorrowing
Author: Archer, Thomas
Language: English
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Work Amidst the Sick, the Sad, and the Sorrowing



Author of
"Strange Work," "A Fool's Paradise," "The Terrible Sights of London,"
"The Pauper, The Thief, and the Convict," etc., etc.

Henry S. King & Co.



 THE RARITY OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY                             1

 WITH THE CHILDREN OF THE STRANGER                           9

 WITH THE CHILDREN'S CHILDREN                               18

 WITH THE STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND                        34

 WITH THOSE WHO ARE LEFT DESOLATE                           44


 WITH THEM WHO WERE READY TO PERISH                         62

 CASTING BREAD UPON THE WATERS                              74

 WITH THE FEEBLE AND FAINT-HEARTED                          84

 WITH THE LITTLE ONES                                      100

 IN THE KINGDOM                                            112

 WITH LOST LAMBS                                           125

 WITH THE SICK                                             135

 BLESSING THE LITTLE CHILDREN                              144

 WITH THEM THAT FAINT BY THE WAY                           157

 IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH                      165

 WITH THE HALT AND THE LAME                                178


 TAKING IN STRANGERS                                       200

 FEEDING THE MULTITUDE                                     209

 GIVING REST TO THE WEARY                                  220

 WITH THE POOR AND NEEDY                                   227

 GIVING THE FEEBLE STRENGTH                                248

 HEALING THE SICK                                          261

 WITH THE PRISONER                                         273



Would it not be useful to ask ourselves the question whether we are
forgetting the true meaning of "charity" in the constant endeavour to
take advantage of organized benevolent institutions, about the actual
working of which we concern ourselves very little? As the years go on,
and what we call civilisation advances, are we or are we not losing
sight of "our neighbour" in a long vista of vicarious benefactions,
bestowed through the medium of a subscription list, or casual
contributions at an "anniversary festival?"

At the speeches that are made on such occasions, when the banquet is
over, and the reading of the amounts subscribed is accompanied by the
cracking of nuts and a crescendo or decrescendo of applause, in
proportion to the liberality of the donors, we are so frequently
reminded of "the good Samaritan," that we begin to feel that we may
claim some kind of relationship to him; and may shake our heads with
solemn sorrow at the inexcusable conduct of the priest and the Levite.
It would be worth while, however, to ask ourselves whether we quite come
up to the mark of him who, finding the man wounded and helpless by the
wayside, dismounted that he might convey the sufferer to the nearest
inn; poured out oil for his wounds and wine for his cheer; left him with
money in hand for the supply of his immediate needs; and did not
scruple--with a robust and secure honesty--even to get into debt on his
behalf: since the crown of good-will would be the coming again to learn
of the patient's welfare. The debt was a pledge of the intention.

That was the Lord Christ's way of looking at charitable responsibility,
and at benevolent effort; and even granting that He illustrated the
answer to the question, "Who is my neighbour?" by an extreme case of
sudden distress, the longer we look at the peculiar needs of the man who
was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho, the more perhaps we shall be
convinced that there are greater, far greater evils, and more terrible
accidents, than to fall among thieves, who temporarily rob, strip, and
disable their victim.

The present fashion of dealing with such an unfortunate traveller would
very much depend on which particular class of philanthropists the modern
Samaritan who found him by the road-side happened to belong to.

Of course, it would be a scandal to our Christianity to follow either
priest or Levite, although our cowardly sympathies might lie between the
two; so, in order to make all safe, we hit on a compromise, and,
according to our circumstances, try to find a medium line of conduct
between Samaritan and Levite, or Samaritan and priest. We are ashamed to
pass on without doing something, and so we call at the inn on our way,
and leave the twopence there, in case anybody else should think fit to
bring on the man who is lying, stunned and bleeding, in the roadway. Or
else, having contrived to rouse the poor fellow to a little effort, we
borrow an ass and take him back with us, to find some organised
institution for the relief of those who fall among thieves, where the
wine and oil are contracted for out of the funds. And there we leave
him, without remembering anything whatever about the twopenny
contribution which would represent our own share in the benefaction.

It is an awful thought, and one which it may be hoped will soon become
intolerable, that, with the mechanical perfection of means for relieving
the necessities of those who are afflicted, there seems to grow upon us
a deadly indifference to the very deepest need of all--that personal,
human sympathy, without which all our boast of benevolence is but as the
sounding of brass and the tinkling of a cymbal. Can it be possible that
we are approaching a condition when, refusing to have the poor and the
afflicted, the widow and the orphan always with us, we shut them away
out of our sight, leaving the whole duty of visiting them, of clothing
them, of giving them meat and drink, to be done by an official
committee; a charitable board, distributing doles, exactly calculated,
on a carefully devised scale, and divided to the ounce or the inch, in
supposed proportion to the individual need of each recipient? Will there
ever come a time when we shall persuade ourselves that we fulfil the law
of Christ by paying so much in the pound for a charity rate, and leaving
all the actual "relief" to be effected by an official department, or a
series of official committees?

The present aspect of charitable administration would be truly appalling
if this were likely to be the result, for there are far too many
evidences of that deadly indifference which will get rid of all real
personal responsibility by paying a subscription, and will pay
handsomely, too, at the same time smiling grimly, and half satirically,
at the recollection that there are a number of people who always have on
hand "cases," of whom they are anxious to rid themselves by placing them
in any institution that will receive them without payment.

Let it not be imagined that these latter words of mine are intended to
apply to those workers among the poor, who, with small means of their
own, cannot do much more than speak words of advice and comfort, and
give their earnest help to better the condition of sordid homes and of
neglected children. There are scores of true, tender-hearted women who,
spending much time amongst the sick and the afflicted, feel their hearts
sink within them as they see how much more might be done, if they had
but the wherewithal to appease the actual physical needs of those to
whom they try to come spiritually near.

If but the miracle so easy to others were first performed, and the five
thousand fed, then indeed might follow that still greater miracle, the
earnest listening of the once turbulent multitude to the words of the
Bread of Life.

But there are those who pursue what they regard as "charitable work" as
an excitement--an amusement--just as children are sometimes set to play
with Scripture conversation cards, and puzzles out of the Old Testament,
with a kind of feeling that the employment comes nearly to a religious
exercise. There is as much danger of these persons missing the true work
of charity as there would be in the employment of paid officials--indeed,
the latter would have one advantage; they would be less likely to be
imposed upon by those who to obtain some special advantage would cringe
and flatter.

The first great difficulty in visiting and temporarily relieving the
lower class of destitute poor, is to disabuse their minds of an
inveterate notion that the benevolent visitor and distributor is paid by
some occult society, of which the recipients of bounty know nothing, and
for which they care very little. Unfortunately, the sharp determined
amateur visitor, who "does a district" as other people with leisure do a
flower show or a morning concert----but, alas! these very words of mine
show how common is that lack of true charity of which I designed to
speak. Who am I that I should sum up the disposition and the heart of my
brother or my sister? Only I would say that this suspicion on the part
of the ignorant poor, which is so often complained of--the notion that
their interviewers are paid for the work of charity--can only yield to
the conviction that the work itself is undertaken with warm living human
sympathy. Before the true relief shall come to any man, it must come by
faith. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness," and _in_
righteousness also.

The two tendencies that are driving us away from charity to a kind of
selfish economy, are the habit of "relieving our overcharged
susceptibilities by secreting a guinea," and thinking we have thereby
fulfilled the claims of religion and humanity, and the practice of going
about seeking where we may find candidates for other people's guineas,
and so becoming a kind of charitable detectives, with an eye to
reputation and advancement in the force.

We are forgetting that heartfelt sympathy, that clasp of the hand and
beam of the eye which will make even a cup of cold water a benefaction,
if we have no more to give, or if the need goes no further than a
refreshing draught, that shall be turned from water into wine by the
power of loving fellowship. Or we may be saying, "Be ye clothed, and be
ye fed," trusting to some other hand to do the necessary work, without
having ourselves first wrought for the means of taking our part in it,
either by a deep personal interest in the relieving institution or in
the destitute recipient.

"Yet one thing thou lackest,"--even though out of thy great possessions
a large proportion is given to the poor; "follow thou me." "Go about
doing good," do not think to have fulfilled the law without love--that
which you call charity; the mere _giving_--is but to offer a stone when
bread is required of you, unless it be done with love in your
heart--personal, human, and therefore Divine love. "If ye have not been
faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which
is your own?" Use the benefits of institutions--even though you use them
only for others--as you would use your own property. Recommend only
cases that are known to you to be worthy and necessitous, and, should
the institution depend on voluntary support, let a contribution
accompany your "case," if you can any way afford it, as an act of
justice as well as of mercy.

Don't join in the traffic in votes, and never go begging for "proxies,"
in order to have an exchangeable stock on hand, that you may secure a
candidate for any particular institution. This kind of gambling is a
cancer that is eating the heart out of genuine, pure, charitable effort,
and is making way for the cold impersonal system of distribution, which
is now being advocated by those who would make the relief of human
wretchedness and distress a mechanical organisation without the soul of
love. At the same time, let us not forget that no charitable effort
which would be efficacious in affording relief to the widely-spread
distress by which we are surrounded, could be even so much as attempted
without associations established for the express purpose of relieving
particular forms of suffering. This, indeed, is the glory of our
country, that humanity is so strong among us as to lead us not only to
combine, but to emulate. The absolute concentration and centralization
of charitable effort would be a calamity. The breaking up of the best of
our institutions, which have grown from small beginnings in almsgiving
into wide and influential centres of benevolent effort, would be

If anything that may be written hereafter concerning some representative
(large and small, but still truly representative) efforts to do the work
that Christianity demands as its first evidence of reality, should lead
to a deeper and wider personal interest in their behalf, it will be
matter for rejoicing. The larger the number of people who ask what is
being done, the greater will be the desire to continue the good work, or
to declare it. The attention that might in this way be directed to the
mode of affording relief would exercise so keen an influence in the
reformation of abuses, and the adoption of improvements, that all our
charities would soon become truly "public." With the more earnest
conviction of the duty of personal inquiry, and real sympathetic
interest in the individual well-being of our poorer brother or sister,
would come the satisfaction that we belonged to an association, or to a
chain of associations, which will afford to him or to her the very
relief which otherwise we should despair of securing.

I purpose in another chapter to ask you to read the story of an
institution that was in its day wonderfully illustrative, and even now
serves to take us back for two centuries of history. Only yesterday I
was speaking to some of its inmates. One of them had nearly completed
her own century of life, most of them had seen far more than the
threescore years and ten which we call old age; but they come of a
wonderful race, the men of fire and steel; the women of silent
suffering--the old Huguenots of France.


A hundred and eighty-seven years ago a French army invaded England and
effected a landing at various places on the coast. Smaller divisions of
that army had previously obtained a footing in some of the chief towns
of Great Britain; and for about fifty years afterwards other contingents
arrived at intervals to find the compatriots settled among the people,
who had easily yielded to their address and courage, and by that time
were apparently contented to regard them as being permanently
established in the districts of which they had taken possession. The
strange part of the story is, that for a large part of this time England
was successfully engaged in war with the country of the invaders, and
not only with that country, but with a discarded prince of its own, who,
having received assistance from France, strove to regain the throne
which he had abdicated by raising civil war in Ireland. Then was to be
seen a marvellous thing. A detachment of the French army of occupation
in England went with King William to the Boyne, and when the mercenaries
who were at the back of James in his miserable enterprise came forth to
fight, they beheld the swords of their countrymen flash in their faces,
and heard a well-known terrible cry, as a band of veteran warriors cut
through their ranks, fighting as they had been taught to fight in the
Cevennes and amidst the valleys and passes of Languedoc. For the army
that invaded England in 1686, and for four or five years afterwards, was
the army of the French Huguenots, against whom the dragoons of Louis
XIV. and the emissaries of Pope and priests had been let loose after the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

Four hundred thousand French Protestants had left their country during
the twenty years previous to the revocation of that pact, which had been
renewed after the siege of Rochelle, and though the attempt to escape
from the country was made punishable by the confiscation of property and
perpetual imprisonment in the galleys, six hundred thousand persons
contrived to get out of France, and found asylums in Flanders,
Switzerland, Holland, Germany, and England, after the persecutions were

Comparatively few of the men who came in the second emigration had
fought for the religion that they professed. They had learned to endure
all things, and with undaunted courage many of them had suffered the
loss of their worldly goods, the burning of their houses, hunger,
poverty, and the imprisonment of their wives and daughters in distant
fortresses, because they would not forswear their faith. Hundreds of
their companions were at the galleys, hundreds more had been tortured,
mutilated, burned, broken on the wheel. Women as well as men endured
almost in silence the fierce brutalities of a debased soldiery, directed
by priests and fanatics, who had, as it were, made themselves drunk with
blood, and seemed to revel in cruelty. With a resolution that nothing
seemed able to abate, pastors like Claude Brousson went from district to
district, living they knew not how, half famished, in perpetual danger,
and with little expectation of ultimately escaping the stake or the
rack. Nay, they refused to leave the country, while in the woods and
wildernesses of the Gard great congregations of their brethren awaited
their coming, that they might hold services in caves and "in the
desert," as they called that wild country of the Cevennes and of Lozére.
These men were non-resistants. They met with unflinching courage, but
without arms. Those of them who remained in France stayed to see the
persecutions redoubled in the attempt to exterminate the reformed faith.
They were the truest vindicators of the religion that they professed. Up
to the time of the siege of Rochelle, and afterwards, Protestantism was
represented by a defensive sword, but these men discarded the weapons of
carnal warfare. Only some years later, when the persecutors (rioting in
the very insanity of wrath because their declaration that Protestantism
was abolished was falsified by constant revivals of the old Huguenot
worship) directed utter extermination of the Vaudois, did the grandeur
of the non-resisting principle give way before the desperation of men
who came to the conclusion that, if they were to die, they might as well
die fighting.

It must be remembered that some of them knew well how to fight. Some of
their leaders--men of peace as they were, and men of an iron
determination, which was shown in the obstinacy with which they refused
to take up the sword--had come of stern warriors and were
_Frenchmen_--Norman Frenchmen--Protestant Norman Frenchmen. A rare
combination that;--cold hard steel and fire.

But it was not till some time afterwards that these men became the
leaders of the peasantry, the chestnut-fed mountaineers who came down
from their miserable huts and joined what had then become an organised
army of insurrection. Before this time arrived a strange aberration
seemed to move the people. The old simple non-resisting pastors had been
done to death by torture and execution, and the people met, it is true,
but often met amid the ruin of their homes, or in desert places, and as
sheep having no shepherd. Then a wild hysterical frenzy appeared among
them. Men, women, and even children claimed to be inspired, and at
length fanaticism leaped into retaliation. On a Sunday in July, 1702, a
wild mystic preacher, named Séguier went down with a band of about fifty
armed men to release the prisoners. They were confined in dungeons
beneath the house of one Chayla, a priest, who directed the
prosecutions, and invented the tortures which he caused to be inflicted
for the conversion of heretics. The Protestants broke open his door,
forced the prison, and ultimately set fire to the house, in attempting
to escape from which Chayla was recognised and killed. This was the
beginning of a series of retaliations by the tormented people, the
success of which changed the whole attitude of the Protestants of the
district. They had formerly endured in silence; now they were desperate
enough for insurrection. And the insurrection followed. Séguier was
captured, maimed, and burnt alive; but others took his place. The war of
the "Camisards" had commenced. Then it was that the leaders of the
Protestant army in the Cevennes arose;--Roland and Cavalier, and the men
who for a long time waged successful warfare against the royal forces,
till defeat came accompanied by a new _régime_.

The rumbling of the revolutionary earthquake was already shaking the
throne and the persecuting church. Voltaire, educated by the Jesuits,
and hating religion, was helping to deliver the martyrs of the
Protestant faith even before he began to "philosophise."

The struggle of the Camisards can only be said to have ceased when the
persecutions were nearly at an end, and France itself was tottering. But
what of that great Huguenot contingent which had invaded Britain, and
was growing in number year by year as the _émigrés_, leaving houses and
land, shops, warehouses, and factories, fled across the frontier, or got
down to the shore, and came over the sea in fishing-boats and other
small craft, in which they took passage under various disguises, or were
stowed away in the holds, or packed along with bales of merchandise, to
escape the vigilance of the emissaries who were set to watch for
escaping Protestants? It is a little significant that of these
non-combatant Protestants eleven regiments of soldiers were formed in
the English army; but the truth is that of the vast number of _émigrés_
who left France, some 30,000 were trained soldiers and sailors, and
doubtless a proportion of these came to England, though probably fewer
than those of their number who served in the Low Countries. At any rate,
in 1687, two years after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, there
arrived in England 15,500 refugees, some of whom brought with them very
considerable property, and most of them were men of education, or
skilled in the knowledge of the arts, or of those manufactures and
handicrafts which are the true wealth of a nation. At Norwich and
Canterbury they quickly formed communities which became prosperous, and
helped the prosperity of the districts, where they set up looms, and
dyeworks, and other additions to the local industries. In London they
formed two or three remarkable colonies, so that when Chamberlain wrote
his "Survey of London," there were about twenty French Protestant
churches, the greater number of which stood in Shoreditch, Hoxton, and
Spitalfields--in fact, above 13,000 emigrants had settled in or near the
metropolis. The one French Protestant church founded by Edward VI. was,
of course, inadequate to receive them, and their immediate necessities
were so great that a collection was made for their relief, and a sum of
60,000_l._ was by this means obtained in order to alleviate their

Among these _émigrés_ were many noblemen and gentlemen of distinction,
who, with their wives, were reduced to extreme poverty by the
confiscation of their property. These had learned no trade, but with
characteristic courage many of them set themselves to acquire the
knowledge of some craft by which they might earn their bread, while some
of their number learned of their wives to make pillow-lace, and so
continued to support themselves in decent comfort.

To those who knew the "old French folk," as they came to be called in
after years, when the later emigration had again increased the number of
the weavers' colony in Spitalfields, nothing was more remarkable than
the cheerfulness, one might almost say the gaiety, that distinguished
them. Reading the account given by French writers of the old Huguenots
in France, one might be disposed to regard them as stern and sour
sectaries, but that would be a very erroneous opinion. Perhaps the
sudden freedom to which they came, the rest of soul, and the opportunity
to endeavour to serve God with a quiet mind raised them to a tranquil
happiness which revived the national characteristic of light-heartedness;
but however it may have been, the real genuine old French weaver of
Spitalfields and Bethnal Green was a very courteous, merry, simple,
child-like gentleman. The houses in which these people lived, some of
which are still to be seen with their high-pitched roofs and long leaden
casements, were very different to the barely-furnished, squalid places
in which their descendants of to-day are to be found; and, indeed, the
Spitalfields weaver even of seventy years ago was usually a well-to-do
person; while in the old time he could take "Saint Monday" every week,
wear silver crown-pieces for buttons on his holiday coat, and put on
silk stockings on state occasions. This was in the days when French was
still spoken in many of the little parlours of houses that stood within
gardens gay with sweet-scented blooms of sweet-william, ten-weeks-stock,
and clove-pink. When there was still an embowered greenness in
"Bednall," and Hare Street Fields were within a stone's throw of
"Sinjun"--St. John, or rather St. Jean Street,--or of the little chapel
of "_La Patente_," in Brown's Lane, Spitalfields. Even in later times
than that, however, I can remember being set up to a table, and shown
how to draw on a slate, by an old gentleman with a face streaked like a
ruddy dried pippin. I was just old enough to make out that the tea-table
talk was in a strange tongue; but I can remember that there were
evidences of the refinements that the old refugees had brought with them
across the sea. Not only in their neat but spruce attire, in their
polite grace to women, in their easy, good-humoured play and prattle to
little children, in their cultivation of flowers, their liking for
birds, and their taste for music, but in a score of trifling objects
about their tidy rooms, where the click of the shuttle was heard from
morning to night, these old French folk vindicated their birth and
breeding. By tea-services of rare old china, rolls of real "point" lace,
a paste buckle, an antique ring, a fat, curiously-engraved watch, a few
gem-like buttons, delicately-coloured porcelain and chimney ornaments;
by books and manuscript music, or by flute and fiddle deftly handled in
the playing of some old French tune, these people expressed their
distinction without being aware of it. It has not even yet died out.
Unfortunately, many of their descendants--representatives of a miserably
paid, and now nearly superseded industry--have deteriorated by the
influences of continued poverty; and even so long ago as the evil
war-time of Napoleon I., many of the old families anglicised their names
in deference to British hatred of the French, but there are still a
large number of people in the eastern districts of London whose names,
faces, and figures alike proclaim their origin.

But we must go back once more to the time when the great collection was
made. It is at least gratifying to know that the £60,000 soon increased
to £200,000, and was afterwards called the "Royal Bounty," though
Royalty had nothing to do with it during that reign. In 1686-7 about
6000 persons were relieved from this fund, and in 1688 27,000 applicants
received assistance, while others had employment found for them, or were
relieved by more wealthy _émigrés_ who had retained or recovered some
part of their possessions. But there were still aged and sick people,
little children, widows, orphans, broken men, homeless women, and lonely
creatures who had become almost imbecile or insane through the cruelties
and privations that they had suffered. For these a refuge was necessary,
and at length--but not till 1708--an institution was founded in St.
Luke's, under the name of the French Hospital, but better known to the
"old folks" as the "Providence."

Of what it was and is I design to tell in another chapter.


That great invading French army of nobles, gentry, artists, traders,
handicraftsmen, of which some account has already been given, was added
to from time to time, even as lately as the Revolution, and the
restoration of the dynasty after the downfall of Napoleon, when a
strange reaction against the Protestants was commenced, partly as a
pretence for concealing political animosity. The department of the Gard
was once more the scene of horrible atrocities, against which Lord
Brougham invoked the aid of the English Parliament, and obtained the
help of Austrian bayonets to protect the people, who were being
murdered, tortured, or outraged, in defiance of feeble local
authorities. But by this time there was a new generation of the first
great Anglo-French colony in London. Spitalfields had grown to the
dimensions of a township. Bethnal had begun to lose its greenness. There
was, as there still is, a remarkable settlement about Soho. "Petty
France" was as well known as the exhibition of needlework in Leicester
Square, or Mrs. Salmon's wax figures in Fleet Street.

Those poor refugees who fled to escape from the horrors of Sainte
Guillotine, or the ruthless cruelties at Nismes, came to brethren many
of whom had never seen the glowing valleys and golden fields of
Languedoc, whence their forefathers escaped only with life and hands to
work. They had preserved their national characteristics; they attended
churches and chapels where the pastors still spoke their native tongue,
and where they had established schools for their children; but they had
settled down to a quiet, though a busy life, in the heart of the great
workshop of the world, and only a few of them--principally the gentry,
some of whom had regained a portion of their property--felt frequent or
urgent impulses to return. More than a hundred and twenty years had
elapsed since the "Royal Bounty" had been expended in the relief of the
27,000 _émigrés_ who yet were without any permanent refuge for the
destitute, the sick, the aged, and the insane among their number. This
was in 1688, and it was not till nearly twenty-eight years afterwards
that any regular institution was organized. The earlier refugees had
become aged or had died, after having obtained such temporary help as
could be afforded by subscriptions or the large benefactions of their
more wealthy fellow-countrymen. Still, the later emigrations increased
the number of applicants for permanent relief. At last, in 1718, a great
concourse of French refugees assembled in a chapel which formed a
special portion of a building only just completed, but which had already
received the dignity of forming the subject of a Royal charter granted
by His Majesty King George I. to his "right trusty and right
well-beloved" cousin, Henry de Massue, Marquis de Ruvigny, Earl of
Galloway, and a number of trusty and well-beloved gentlemen, all
naturalized refugees, who made the first governor and directors of the
"Hospital for Poor French Protestants and their descendants residing in
Great Britain;" otherwise known as the French Hospital, but soon to be
spoken of with simple pathetic brevity as "La Providence."

The idea of founding such a charity was due to a distinguished refugee
in Holland--no less a personage than M. de Gastigny, Master of the
Hounds to Prince William of Orange; a ruddy, jovial-looking gentleman
withal, whose portrait, should you go to see it, will set you wondering
whether he could ever have been classed among the "sour sectaries" to
whom it was the fashion to attribute a disregard of social pleasures. A
bequest of a thousand pounds sterling from the bluff keeper of the
kennels was to be divided into equal sums--£500 for the building, and
the interest of the remaining £500 to be spent on its maintenance.

Not a very adequate provision, truly, for any such purpose; but
sufficiently suggestive to set the more prosperous members of the great
Anglo-French colony to increase the amount. The astute Master of the
Hounds must surely have foreseen this result when he left this legacy to
the management of the trustees of the already existing relief fund,
still miscalled "the Royal Bounty." They exhibited that prudence in
money matters which is a French characteristic, and let the thousand
pounds accumulate for eight years, after which a general subscription
was invited from successful merchants and traders, while with a just
appreciation of the benefits which had been conferred by these good
citizens on the land of their adoption, some wealthy Englishmen added
their contributions to the general fund.

Thus it came about, that a piece of land was purchased in the Golden
Acre--a queer old half-countrified precinct of St. Giles,
Cripplegate--that a building was erected for the reception of eighty
poor persons, that a charter was granted, and that the new charitable
association was consecrated in the new chapel by Philippe Menard, the
minister of the French Church of St. James's and secretary of the

This was, indeed, something worth working for. The aged or afflicted
poor among the refugees were no longer mere mendicants living on
precarious alms. Out of their abundance the more prosperous gave
cheerfully. In 1736 another adjoining site was purchased, and another
side of the great open quadrangle of garden ground was built upon, so
that by 1760 the "Providence" numbered 230 inmates. This, however, was
its culminating point of usefulness. Religious persecution had
diminished, and at length may be said to have ceased altogether. Even as
early as 1720 only 5000 persons required relief from the "Bounty," so
that eventually the trustees were enabled to devote part of it to the
assistance of those who fled from the Revolution--many of whom were the
descendants of those who had been the persecutors of the Protestants.
The great industrial colony, prudent, temperate, and industrious, had
almost grown beyond its earlier needs--and all that it required was that
some adequate provision should be made for infirm or aged men and women,
who being widowed or unmarried, and without means of support, required a
refuge in which they might peacefully end their days. The same causes
which had diminished the number of applicants had also reduced the
amount of current subscriptions, so that some portion of the building
was removed, as being no longer necessary, and in order to secure a
sufficient endowment an Act of Parliament was obtained, empowering the
directors to let their land on building leases. By that time the
neighbourhood was known not as "the Golden Acre," but as St. Luke's, and
on the ground once purchased by the Marquis de Ruvigny and his trusty
and well-beloved companions, grew Radnor Street, Galway Street, Gastigny
Place, and part of Bath Street, while the number of inmates was reduced
to sixty--that is to say, about twenty men and forty women, all of whom
were to be above sixty years of age, of French extraction, and
professing the Protestant religion. It was a queer old range of
building, that retreat; pleasant enough, perhaps, when as a rather blank
series of red brick houses, it looked across its own formal walled
garden to the pleasant fields and open country, but strangely silent,
and with a crumbling, dreary look about it, when the lunatic asylum of
St. Luke's dominated all the surrounding tenements of a crowded, sordid
neighbourhood. Only the initiated could easily find the little low black
door that opened in the bare wall, and led to the large irregular space,
which was laid out in weedy beds and stony borders, distinguished by an
air of decay rather than of production--especially where in certain dank
corners a tangle of sapless stalks and tendrils indicated some faintly
hopeful attempt to rear an arbour, in which persons of robust
imagination might fancy they were sheltered from impending blacks that
issued from the manufactory chimneys close by. The visitor to this
out-of-the-way corner of the great city, seeing the old people walking
up and down the paved causeway in front of the row of crooked-paned
lower windows, or airing themselves at the doorsteps, might be excused
for the fancy that they had the imaginative faculty of children; and
were expected to "make believe" a good deal before they could quite
reconcile themselves to the notion that this dingy area of quadrilateral
plots and paths, in which the wet stood in small puddles, was ever a
"pleasaunce" gay with garden blooms, and smelling of knotted marjoram
and fragrant thyme. Yet there were still evidences of the invincible
cheerfulness of the old French nature, among the old creatures with
faces streaked like winter apples, and hands which, even though they
trembled, were swift of gesture and of emphasis.

There were old fellows there who had still about them indications of
true comeliness and grace that distinguished them from all vulgar
surroundings;--ancient gentlemen, who would go out on wet days to sweep
away any rainpools that might lie before the doors of the old ladies,
and so besmirch an otherwise immaculate shoe. It should be remembered,
too, that there was no livery there. Those who had some one to help them
to the garb of gentility wore what pleased them; those who were
dependent on the charity for clothing, were neither bound in one
pattern, nor condemned to the uniform of poverty. Neat or lively cotton
prints, or warm stuff gowns, with proper hose and caps and kerchiefs,
for the women; plain Oxford mixture, black, steel grey, or brown, for
the men, and each one measured for his suit. Those who entered there
were not the recipients of a dole grudgingly conceded. It was no
poorhouse, but the "Providence." Only eleven years ago there were some
evidences of the old meaning of the place in the remnants of the antique
furniture which adorned the queer rooms. They were not wards or
dormitories, but veritable bedrooms; and each one had its own
peculiarities, even in the bedsteads with spindle posts and dimity
hangings, the boxes and cupboards, and special chairs which
distinguished it from the rest. Some of these things had evidently been
heirlooms either of the institution or of the individual; and, indeed,
the preservation of individuality was a cheerful feature of the place,
despite its dim and somewhat dreary surroundings.

The Board Room was, in its way, one of the most extraordinary apartments
in London: with its tables supported by a tangled puzzle of legs, its
high-backed, polished chairs with leather seats, worn till they reminded
one of the cover of an antique ledger bound in unfinished calf; its
wonderful old black-framed prints representing the meetings of the
Huguenots in the Clerk's field in the times when men and women carried
their lives in their hands, and dragoons rode congregations down and
slashed them with sabres as they fell. Its dimly-seen portraits of the
noble, broad-browed, dark-eyed Ruvigny (the first governor), who refused
to go back to France even at the invitation of the King; of the gentle
Pastor Menard, with high, capacious forehead, and calm, strong mien; of
hale, shrewd, ruddy Gastigny; and of some men of later date, with
Frenchman written in every line of their finely-marked faces.

The little room set apart as a chapel--a barely-furnished place enough,
with desk and raised platform and plain seats--was venerable because of
all the meaning that lay in its studied absence of all ornament, and
because of the significance it must once have had to the sad-eyed men
who crowded into it, some of them thinking, perhaps, how it had come
about that they could stand there in peace and without a hand upon the
hilt of a sword.

There were, even at that later time, old men and women in the dim old
building who could repeat family legends of the emigration--for they
lived to a great age, these French folk, many of them being still alert
of eye and ear, and foot, even though they had heard the click of the
shuttle and the rattle of the loom eighty years before.

Some of them have survived the old place itself; for while they are in a
new home, the ancient building has changed, if even it be not altogether
dismantled. The leases paid good interest, and eight years ago a new
French hospital arose--away from the dingy old precinct of the Golden

To see this later "Providence" aright, you must come through the very
heart of that neighbourhood which was once the great Silk Colony, thread
the bye-ways of Poverty Market, note the tall silent houses where the
looms no longer rattle, nor the sharp whirr of the shuttle stirs
cage-birds to sing; pass across the debatable land lying on the edge of
Shoreditch, where human beings live in sties built in the backyards of
other houses, in streets that are still with the blank silence of misery
and want. You should walk amidst pigeon and dog fanciers; call in at
certain dingy, slipshod taverns, where at night a slouching company will
meet to hear bullfinches pipe for wagers, and where starving men and
women stand and drink away the pence that are all too few to buy food
for the starving brood at home, and so are flung upon the sloppy counter
in exchange for the drugged drink that feels like food and fire in one.
Through Bethnal Green, with its "townships" and its "Follies," extending
in sordid rows of tenements built to one dreary pattern. Over districts
which, only a few years ago, were fields and open spaces, leading to
farm lands and hedgerows, and so away to the great expanse of marsh land
where the dappled kine wade knee-deep in the lush pastures, and the
stunted pollards stand like patient fishermen upon the river's brink.

Yes, the present "French Hospital"--New Providence--was built ten years
ago in the border-land beyond the Weavers' Garden, that great garden and
pleasure-ground known as Victoria Park. It is the only garden left to
the descendants of those old craftsmen who once dwelt in houses every
one of which had its gay plot of flowers, its rustic arbour, or its
quaint device of grotto-work, built up of oddly-shaped stones and
pearl-edged oyster-shells. Do you think there is now no remnant of the
old French folk left? Come for a stroll among the grand beds and
plantations of this East-end playground, and you shall see. On holidays
and alas! on those days when (to use the expressive term handed down
from prosperous times) the weaver is "at play"--that is to say, waiting
for woof and weft, and so wiling away the sad and often hunger-bringing
hours--you will see him, with his keen well-cut face, his dark
appreciative eye, his long delicate hands, his well-brushed, threadbare
coat and hat; and the mark of race is plainly to be noted in his
intensity of look and his subdued patient bearing. He comes of a stock
which had it not been of the hardiest and the most temperate and
enduring in the world, would have disappeared a century ago. On Sunday
mornings, when the bells are sounding round about him, he is to be met
with lingering (with who shall say what inner sense of worship) by the
strange shrubs and flowering plants, or standing with a pathetic look of
momentary satisfaction on his lean, mobile face, to mark the rare glow
and gush of colour made by the blooms in a "ribbon" device of flowers on
a sunny border by a dark background of cedar. But come and see what his
forefathers might have called, in their Scripture phraseology, "the
remnant of the children of Israel;" the old inmates of that French
Hospital founded so long ago when De Ruvigny was the "beloved cousin" of
George I., and Philippe Menard preached at St. James's; when the Duchess
de la Force brought donation after donation to the work, and Philippe
Hervart, Baron d'Huningue gave £4,000, all in one splendid contribution,
to the building fund. Could they have seen (who knows that they have
not?) this great French château rising beyond the park palings in a
neighbourhood fast filling with houses, but still open to the air that
blows from the Weavers' Garden and from the great expanse of land
leading towards the forest, they would have recognised the familiar
style of those grand mansions which in France succeeded the castles of
the feudal nobility when Henry Quatre was king. The high-pointed roof
with its irregularly picturesque lines, the quaint towers and spires,
the slate blue and purple, and rosy tints of colour in slope and wall
and gable; the various combinations of form and hue changing with every
point of view, make this modern copy of the old French château a
wonderful feature in any landscape, and the unaccustomed visitor seeing
it as it stands there in its own ornamental ground, surrounded by a
quaint wall decorated in coloured bands, wonders what can be the meaning
of a building so full of suggestion; while if he be of an imaginative
turn, he may fall into a daydream when he peers through the gate that
stands by the porter's lodge.

But let us pass through this gate, and so up to the entrance-hall, and
we shall seem to leave behind us not only the Weavers' Garden, but most
things English. The hall itself, paved with encaustic tile, leads to a
flight of broad, shallow steps, beneath an arched ceiling of variegated
brick and two screen arches. These steps conduct us at once to a central
corridor, extending for the entire length of the building, and rising to
the greatest height of the open roof of timber with its lofty skylights.
In front of us is a double stone staircase, one branch being for the old
ladies, the other for the men; and immediately at the foot of the former
division is the entrance to the refectory, a large handsome dining-hall,
where, at two long tables, this wonderful company assemble, only the
very infirm having their meals carried to the upper ward, where they are
waited on by paid attendants. Separate staircases are provided for the
servants of the establishment, whose rooms are in the tower above the
main wards--or rather, let us say, principal apartments, for they are
not so much wards as a series of twenty-two large bedrooms, linen-rooms,
and two bath-rooms. The steward of the hospital, a venerable gentleman
with the courteous air and speech of some seneschal of olden time, has
also his own apartments, reached by a third stair, his sitting-room and
office occupying a space close to the entrance. On the right of the main
staircase and at the end of the corridor is the ladies' sitting-room, a
fine high-windowed light and lofty place, admirably warmed, as indeed
all the building is, and so furnished that at each large square table
four old ladies can sit and have not only ample space for books or
needlework, but on her right hand each can open a special separate
table-drawer with lock and key, wherein to keep such waifs and
strays--shreds, patches, skeins, and unconsidered trifles--as children
and old women like to accumulate. There is another day-room beside this,
and a similar, though not quite so large an apartment is provided for
the men, both rooms being furnished with sundry books and a few sober
periodicals of the day.

It must not be forgotten though that many of the old gentlemen have
grown accustomed to the use of tobacco, and here in the basement is a
smoking-room, quite out of the way of the ordinary sitting and
dining-rooms, and not far from the laundry and drying-rooms, which form
an important part of the establishment.

But, hush! there is a hymn sounding yonder in the refectory; a hymn sung
by voices, many of which are yet fresh and clear, though the singers
number more than eighty years of life, and of life that has often been
hard and full of heaviness.

It is the grace before meat, and the hot joints, with the fresh
vegetables from their own garden, have just come up from the big kitchen
by means of a lift to the serving-room.

There are no servants to wait at table, and the family dinner-party is a
private one, inasmuch as it is the custom here for the most active of
the inmates to agree among themselves who shall be butler, or
_beaufetière_, for each day during the week. So the dinner-time goes
pleasantly and quickly, the meat, the vegetables, and the capital
household beer, of which each man has a pint twice a day, and each woman
half a pint, being the only articles that require serving.

The good old-fashioned family custom of everybody having his or her own
teapot is observed here. A great gas-boiler stands on one side the
refectory, and a row of convenient lockers on the other; and each inmate
has tea and coffee from the stores, while bread and butter are also
served out for consumption according to each individual fancy, and not
in rations at each meal time. Thus those old ladies and gentlemen who
have spending money, or friends to bring them some of the little
luxuries that they so keenly appreciate, can add a relish to their
breakfast or to the evening beer.

We will not go in while they are at dinner, for there are those here yet
who "might have been gentlefolk" but for the mutability of mortal
affairs. Stay! here come the old ladies, with old-fashioned curtseys,
which are more than half a bow, and not a mere vulgar "bob." There is no
mistaking some of their faces. You may see their like in French
pictures, or in old French towns still. Some of them with eyes from
which the fire had not yet died out; with deftly-moving fingers; with a
quick, springy step; with an inherited remnant of the French _moue_ and
shrug, as they answer a gentle jest about their age and comeliness.

"Eighty-four; and I don't know how it is, but I don't seem to see so
well in the dark as I used. When I went out to see my brother-in-law, I
was quite glad he came part of the way home with me."

"Turned eighty, but I can't get upstairs as I used to do."

"You speak French, madame?"

"Pas beaucoup, monsieur;" this from one of the only two actual French
women now in the establishment, the rest being lineal descendants only.
The oldest, who is now going quietly and with a very pretty dignity out
of the refectory, is ninety-four, and can not only hear a low-toned
inquiry, but answers it in a soft, pleasant voice. She bears the weight
of years bravely, but the burden has perhaps been heavy; and she speaks
in a mournful tone, as one looking forward to a mansion among the
many--to a house not made with hands, may sometimes speak when even the
grasshopper becomes a burden.

As to a young person of sixty-five or thereabout, nobody regards her as
having any real business to mention such a trifling experience of life;
while of the men--most of whom seemed to have filed off for their pipe
or newspaper--one remains finishing his dinner, for he has been on duty
for the day, and is now winding up with a snack of bread-and-butter and
the remainder of his mug of porter--a stoutly-built, hale,
stalwart-looking gentleman who, sitting there without his coat, which
hangs on the back of a chair, might pass for a retired master mariner,
or a representative of some position requiring no little energy and
endurance. I fancy, for the moment that he must be an official appointed
to serve or carve and employed on the establishment.

"Eighty-four," and one of the old weaving colony of Bethnal Green.

There can be no mistake about it. Every inmate provides certificates and
registers enough to make the claim undoubted; and as to the right by
descent, half the people here carry it in their faces, and to the
initiated, are as surely French, as they are undoubtedly weavers.

The morning here begins with family prayers, which the steward reads
from a desk in the refectory, and so the day closes also. The Sunday
services are in the chapel, and such a chapel! To those who remember the
dim, barely-furnished room in the old building at St. Luke's, this gem
of architectural taste and simple beauty at the end of the main corridor
comes with no little surprise. Its beautiful carved stone corbels,
mosaic floor, and charming ornamentation; its broad gallery entered
immediately from the upper floor, so that the feeble and infirm may go
to worship directly from their sleeping-rooms; its glow of subdued
colour and sobered light from windows of stained glass; its simple
decorations, and its spotless purity, are no less remarkable than the
plainness which characterises the general effect. It is to be noticed,
too, that there is no "altar," but "a table;" that neither at the back
of the communion nor on the carving of the lectern, nor even in the
windows, is there to be seen a cross. Where the Maltese cross would
occur amidst the arabesques of the stained glass, we see the
fleur-de-lis. French Protestantism, has perhaps, not yet lost its
intense significance, at all events here, in this chapel where the
service of the Church of England is observed, and an ordained clergyman
ministers to the family of the children's children of the ancient
persecuted people of Languedoc, the symbol under which the Protestants
were burned and tortured and exiled has no place. This is probably in
accordance with the traditions left by De Ruvigny, by Gastigny, by
Menard, and by their successors, whose portraits still hang in the fine
board-room of the new "Providence."

Of course, no contributions or subscriptions are now asked for to
support this old French charity. With it are associated one or two gifts
of money, such as that of Stephen Mounier for apprenticing two boys; and
the bequest of Madame Esther Coqueau for giving ten shillings monthly to
ten poor widows or maidens; but the directors do not seek for external
aid. To the charity when it was first chartered was added a portion of
the accumulations of the benefactions of the French Church at Norwich,
and it may here be mentioned that at Norwich, where a contingent of the
army of refugees had settled, the Society of Universal Goodwill was also
established by Dr. John Murray, a good physician, who strove to extend
to a large organisation a plan for relieving distressed foreigners. This
was but ninety years ago, and it was less successful than its promoter
desired, so that part of the funds accumulated were judiciously handed
to another admirable society in London, of which I shall have something
to say, "The Society of the Friends of Foreigners in Distress."


Do we ever try to realise the full meaning of the declaration that they
who are afar off shall be made near by the blood of Christ? Surely it
does not stop at the nearness to God by redemption, for the only true
redemption is Christ-likeness, and nearness to God assumes nearness to
each other in the exercise of that loving-kindness which is the very
mark and evidence of our calling.

It would be well if we sometimes ceased to separate by our vague
imaginations "the next world," or "the other world," from the present
world, which is, perhaps in a very real sense, if we could only read the
words spiritually, "the world to come" also;--as it is obvious that the
world means the people around us--ourselves, those who are near and
those who seem to be afar off; and no world to come that could dispense
with our identity would be of any particular significance to us as human

Let us then, for the present purpose, try to see how effectually
Christ-likeness should bring near to us those who are afar off, by
taking us near to them; how He who came not to destroy but to fulfil,
looks to us to entertain strangers; and to "be careful" in the
performance of that duty, as to Him who will say either, "I was a
stranger, and ye took me in," or the reverse.

At the beginning of the present century, with the exception of the
French Protestant organisation, there existed in London no established
association for the relief of destitute foreigners who, having sought a
refuge here, or being, as it were, thrown upon our shores, were left in
distress, hunger, or sickness,--unheeded, only obtaining such temporary
casual relief as a few charitable persons might afford, if by any chance
their necessities were made known to them. At that time the foreign
Protestant clergy, to whom alone many of these destitute men and women
could apply for relief, were themselves mostly the poor pastors of
congregations consisting either of refugees or of artisans and persons
earning their livelihood by precarious labour connected with the lighter
ornamental manufactures. The means at their disposal for charitable
purposes outside their own churches were consequently very small, and
they were unable to render any really effectual assistance, even if they
could have undertaken, what would at that time have been the difficult
task of verifying the needs for which relief was claimed.

Some attempt had already been made by Dr. John Murray, a good physician
of Norwich, to extend to London the benefits of his "Society of
Universal Goodwill;" but the scheme had been only partially successful.
To him, however, the credit is due of having striven to give definite
shape to an association which was afterwards to take up the good work of
caring for strangers. The foreign Protestant clergy settled in London
met to consider how they might best organise a regular plan for
relieving the wants of those who had so often to apply to them in vain;
and having settled the preliminaries, which were heartily approved by
several foreign merchants, and others, who were willing to assist in any
scheme that would include inquiry into the circumstances of those who
sought assistance, called a public meeting in order to found a regular
institution. This was on the 3rd of July, 1806, and the result of the
appeal was the formation of the society of "The Friends of Foreigners in
Distress." By the following April, a committee had been formed and the
Charity was in working order, nor were funds long wanting with which to
commence the work in earnest. The cases requiring relief were so
numerous, however, and the demands on the society's resources were so
constant, that though some large donations were afterwards obtained from
senates, corporations, wealthy merchants, ambassadors, noblemen, and
Royal benefactors, a considerable subscription list became necessary in
order to enable the society to grant even partial relief to cases, the
urgent claims of which were established by careful inquiry.

There is a wonderful suggestiveness in the list of "Royal Benefactors
(deceased)," headed by his late Majesty King William IV., and her late
Majesty the Queen Dowager Adelaide. More than one of the Royal donors
themselves died in exile; and several of those who shared their
misfortunes, and were their faithful followers, have shared the small
benefits which the Society had to bestow. "His late Majesty King Charles
X. of France" contributed £300; "His late Majesty Louis Philippe," 100
guineas; the unfortunate Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, £25; and his
late Imperial Majesty Napoleon III., £50: while their Magnificencies the
Senates of the Free German Towns, as well as the humbler companies of
London's citizens, appear to have given liberally. Notwithstanding all
this, however, the Society has not been able to retain funded property
to any considerable amount, and it is to the annual subscription
list--to which our Queen contributes £100, the Emperor of Germany £100,
and the Emperor of Austria £100--that the charity must look for support.

Unhappily there are evidences that these annual subscriptions are fewer
than they should be. There seems still to be some reluctance on the part
of the general public steadily to support an effort which has a very
distinct and pressing claim upon Englishmen, who pride themselves,
justly enough, upon the free asylum which this country affords to
foreigners, and who appear ready to give largely in the way of
occasional aid. The disparity between the number of handsome donations
and of very moderate annual subscriptions is a painful feature of the
Society's report, and even public appeals have hitherto been followed
rather by increased applications from persons recommending cases for
relief, _without accompanying the recommendation with a subscription_,
than by any decided augmentation of the funds. The Friends of Foreigners
in Distress are principally to be found amongst prosperous foreigners in
London, and doubtless this is no less than just; but until larger aid is
given by the English public, we have no particular reason to include
this association in any boastful estimate of British charity.

That the committee does its work carefully, and that cases of distress
are relieved only after due inquiry, and with no such careless hand as
would encourage idle dependence or promote pauperism, is evident enough
to anybody who will take the trouble to inquire into the method of
assistance. Let us go and see.

Perhaps not one Londoner in a thousand could tell you offhand where to
find Finsbury Chambers. It is probably less known even than Prudent
Passage, or what was once Alderman's Walk; and may be said to be less
attractive than either, for it is a dingy, frowsy, little out-of-the-way
corner in that undecided and rather dreary thoroughfare--London Wall. It
is, in fact, a space without any outlet, and looks as though it ought to
have been a builder's yard, but that the builder took to erecting houses
on it as a speculation which never answered, even though they were let
out as "chambers;" that is to say, as blank rooms and sets of offices,
the supposed occupiers whereof committed themselves to obscurity by
causing their names to be painted on the doorposts, and leaving them
there to fade till time and dirt shall wholly obliterate them.

And yet it is in one of these lower rooms, occupying the ground floor of
No. 10, that a good work is going on; for here, in an office almost
representatively bare and dingy even in that place, the Society of
Friends of Foreigners in Distress holds its weekly meetings of
directors, and the secretary, Mr. William Charles Laurie, or his
assistant, Mr. C. P. Smith, gives daily attendance (Saturdays excepted),
between eleven and one o'clock. Assuredly, the funds of the charity are
not expended in luxurious appointments for its headquarters. Even a
German commission agent just commencing business could scarcely have a
more simply-furnished apartment. The objects which first strike the
visitor's attention are a row of japanned tin candlesticks, meant for
the use of the board at any of their Wednesday meetings which may be
prolonged till after dusk. The furniture, if it was ever new, must have
been purchased with a regard for economy in the very early history of
the society. The work is evidently so organised as to require no long
daily attendance. The place is furnished only according to the temporary
necessities of business quickly dispatched. Neither in official
salaries, nor in expensive official belongings, are the funds of the
institution wasted.

The system is, in fact, simple enough, and is conducted on the
principles laid down by the first meetings of the committee above
seventy years ago, with one important exception. Formerly, applicants
for relief must have been for some time resident in England; but changes
in transit, and the more rapid intercommunication of nations, have made
it necessary that some ready aid should be granted to those who find
themselves cast upon the terrible London wilderness without a friend to
help them, ignorant to whom to apply for help, and little able even to
make known their sufferings.

Every Wednesday, then, the directors meet for receiving applications for
relief, and reports of cases that have been investigated by the Visiting

The plan adopted is to issue to the governors of the charity a number of
small tickets, each of which, when signed and bearing the name of the
applicant for relief, entitles the latter to apply to the weekly
committee for an investigation of his case. Every subscriber of a guinea
is regarded as a governor for a year, and there are, of course, life
governors also. Both these are entitled to recommend cases either for
what may be termed casual relief, or for election as pensioners to
receive weekly assistance (of from 2_s._ to 5_s._, and in cases of
extreme old age or great infirmity, 7_s._ 6_d._ a week), sick
allowances, or passage money to enable applicants to return to their own

It may easily be believed how a small weekly contribution will often
save a destitute man or woman, or a poor family, from that utter
destitution which would result from the inability to pay rent even for a
single room; while in cases of sickness, the regular allowance even of a
very trifling sum will enable many a poor sufferer to tide over a period
of pain and weakness, during which earnings, already small, are either
reduced or cease altogether.

In cases of urgent necessity four superintendents are appointed from the
board of directors, with the power to grant immediate relief; and of
course many applicants receive temporary assistance from the governor
who recommends them, until their case is investigated by the committee,
and they are on the list of the worthy and indefatigable "visitor."

After the expulsion of the Germans from Paris during the late war, that
little dingy quadrangle in London Wall was filled with a strange crowd
of lost and helpless foreigners, whose condition would admit of only a
temporary inquiry, and indeed needed little investigation, since want
and misery were written legibly enough in their faces. For a large
number of these, passage money had to be paid, and the relief was
continued till the press of refugees from France abated. There was a
special subscription for the relief of these poor creatures, raised
chiefly among German merchants living in London, and even now the
Society has to extend a helping hand to some who still remain.

Any one wandering by accident into Finsbury Buildings on a Wednesday
forenoon, would wonder what so many subdued and rather anxious-looking
men were waiting about for in such an out-of-the-way locality--some of
them leaning against the wall inside, others sitting in the bare room,
just within the barer passage. Every one of these has had his
circumstances carefully inquired into, and is in attendance to receive
what may be called temporary relief. During the official year of my
latest visit 150 homeward passages had been paid, and in the two years
from 1871 to 1873 the number of persons who received relief was 21,333,
who with their wives and families represented a considerable community
of poverty. During the year 1,983 grants were made of sums varying from
less than 10_s._ to 1,324 persons, 10_s._ to 431, 15_s._ to 47, £1 to
135, and so on to £5, which was allowed in a few instances, while sick
allowances were granted in 292 cases. One important and suggestive
feature of this excellent Society is that it numbers among its members
not only subscribers to other charitable institutions, but members of
the medical and legal professions, who frequently render their aid to
applicants free of expense, in order either to relieve them from
suffering, or to protect them from the errors or impositions to which
their ignorance and helplessness might expose them.

There is no restriction either as regards creed or nationality, and
though each case is matter for inquiry, the only persons disqualified
for receiving relief are those who are detected as impostors--persons
who are deemed to have sufficient support from any other source, those
who cannot give a good reason for having come to this country, and proof
of their having striven to obtain work and to labour for a maintenance,
those who are proved to have been guilty of fraud or immoral practices,
and beggars, or drunken, dissolute persons.

As regards the numbers of persons who have received relief since the
institution was founded, there is the tremendous total of 21,645
applicants on behalf of 129,299 individuals. What an army it represents!
Of these Germany (which till recently included Austria, Hungary, and
Bohemia) represents 71,913; Sweden and Norway, 9,422; Holland, 8,878;
France, 7,339; Russia, 7,006; Italy, 5,415; Belgium, 4,578; Denmark,
4,215; the West Indies, 1,716; Switzerland, 1,685; and so on in a
diminishing proportion till we come to "Central Africa!"--a very recent
case, no doubt.

Can any one question the good that has been effected by an institution
so careful not only to relieve with rigid economy, but also to do its
work on so truly voluntary a principle? If the temporary and
comparatively casual aid afforded to poor and destitute strangers works
so beneficially, however, the pensions, to which only very extreme cases
are elected, are even still more in the nature of help given to those
who are ready to perish, Here are some specimen cases:

A watchmaker of Frankfort, seventy-four years old, and nearly seventy
years in this country, disabled by paralysis, with a wife, who is a
waistcoat maker, unable to compete with the sewing-machine; one son,
twenty years old, who, having some small situation, lives with them,
pays the rent, and "does what he can;" a boy of fourteen who works as an
errand boy.

An Italian looking-glass maker, seventy-three years old, and fifty-three
years in this country. Has lately lived by making light frames, but
health and strength fail, and he is suffering from asthma. His wife, an
Englishwoman, and aged sixty-six, works as a charwoman. He has two sons,
each married and with large families, so that they can do nothing for

A French widow, sixty-seven years old, and thirty-two years in this
country, and paralysed for the last thirteen years. Her only daughter
who is in delicate health, earns her "living" by needlework, but can
only gain enough for her own maintenance.

These are only three of the first cases in the official report of
pensioners, and they are not selected because of their peculiarly
distressing character. When it is remembered that this society has not,
in a general way, sufficient means to grant more than _two shillings a
week_ in the way of relief, and when we take the trouble to observe that
in the majority of cases where a pension is granted the recipients have
been so long resident here that they may be said to have lost their
nationality in ours, will it be too much to ask of England--alike the
asylum for the persecuted and the teacher of liberty and of
charity--that the "Friends of Foreigners in Distress" shall be regarded
as the friends of all of us alike in the name of Him of whom it was
said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

But I have not quite done with the pensioners. I must ask the reader to
go with me to Lower Norwood, where amidst a strange solitude, that is
almost desolation, we will visit three ladies of the _ancien régime_,
one of whom, at least, began life nearly ninety years ago as a fitting
playmate for the daughter of a king.


There is something about the aspect of Nature as seen from the railway
station at Lower Norwood on a damp and misty day which, if not
depressing, can scarcely be regarded as conducive to unusual hilarity. I
speak guardedly because of my respect for the district, and lest I
should in any way be suspected of depreciating any particular locality
as an eligible place of residence. In the latter regard I may mention
that the immediate neighbourhood of Lower Norwood Station is not at
present converted into a small township by the erection of long rows of
tenements on freehold or long leasehold plots. My remarks apply only to
the general outlook from the road, amidst an atmosphere threatening
drizzle, and beneath a sky betokening rain. As far as houses are
concerned, there seemed to me, on the occasion of my last visit, far
more probability of pulling down than of building. In fact, I went for
the purpose of inspecting a whole series of very remarkable tenements
which I had heard were soon either to disappear from the oozy-looking
green quadrangle of which they formed three sides, or were to be
converted to another purpose than that of the dwelling-places of a few
elderly ladies who occupied one dreary side, whence they could look at
the desolation of the closed houses on the other.[1]

It will not be without regret that I shall hear of this intention being
carried out, for the houses are devoted to the sheltering of alms-folk;
and the alms-folk are the elder pensioners of that admirable
association, the Society of the Friends of Foreigners in Distress,
which, for above ninety years, has been doing its useful work among
those who, but for its prompt and judicious aid, would feel that they
were "alone in a strange land."

As a part of its original provision for the relief of some of the
applicants who, after long residence in this country, had fallen into a
distressed condition at an age when they were unable any longer to
maintain themselves by their own exertions, the society instituted the
almshouses at Lower Norwood. There is now an impression among the
directors of the charity that their intentions may be carried out in
future by some better method than placing a number of aged and
frequently infirm persons in a comparatively remote group of dwellings,
where they are peculiarly lonely, and lack frequent personal attention
and general sympathy. There can be no doubt that almshouses have
frequently been associated a little too closely with that monastic or
conventual practice with which they mostly originated, and that the
retirement, almost amounting to seclusion, into which the inmates of
such places are removed, may be very far from affording to the aged the
kind of asylum which they most desire. Alas, in many instances, to be
placed in an almshouse is to be put out of the way,--to be conveniently
disposed of; with the inference that every possible provision has been
made for comfortable maintenance. Thus, susceptibilities are quieted.
The aged pensioners are supposed to be periodically visited; their wants
attended to by somebody or other who "sees that they are all right," and
the whole matter is conveniently forgotten, except when a casual
traveller passes a quaint, ancient, mouldy-looking, but still
picturesque block of buildings, and inquires to what charity they
belong; not without a kind of uneasy fancy that there is a custom in
this country of burying certain old people before their time--shutting
them out of the light and warmth of every-day companionship; or, to
change the metaphor, making organised charity a kind of Hooghly, on the
tide of which the aged, who are supposed to be nearing the end of their
mortal life, are floated into oblivion until the memory of them is
revived by death.

It is no part of my intention to represent that the almshouses at Lower
Norwood bore such a significance, but the conditions to which I have
referred appear to be so inevitable where places like these are
concerned, that I cannot question the good sense of the directors of the
Charity in determining to supersede them, and to carry on the work by
annual or monthly pensions only. On behalf of the few remaining inmates
of these queer, half-deserted, and failing tenements, it was desirable
that the proposition should be acted on at once, and a more comfortable
provision be made, at least, for those who wait on, with constantly
deferred hope, doubly heart-sickening when so little time is to be
counted on, in which something will be done before the houses
themselves, crumbling to decay, become but a type of their own forlorn
old age.

It is with some such thoughts as these that I stand at the entrance to
the green, with last year's weedy aftermath still dank and tangled with
wind and rain. The queer little one-storied dark-red houses of the
quadrangle bear a melancholy resemblance to a set of dilapidated and
discarded toys, the box for which has been lost. They are built, too, on
a kind of foreign-toy pattern, with queer outside staircases, leading to
street-doors under a portico, which is the only entrance to the upper
storey, the lower doors in the quadrangle communicating only with the
ground-floor. The crunch of my footsteps along the moist path, gives no
echo; the place seems to be too dull and lifeless even for that kind of
response. The left wing and far the greater portion of the centre block
are still with the silence of desertion. Peering through the dim leaden
casements, I see only small, bare, empty rooms. There is a sense of
mildew and of damp plaster peeling from the walls,--of leaky
water-pipes, and a humid chill, which no glowing hearth nor bright July
weather could utterly subdue. Such is the feeling with which the whole
place strikes me on this leaden wintry day, when the vapour from the
engine on the railway trails slowly upward to meet the ragged edge of
the dun cloud that streams slowly downward; when a big, black dog
crouches on the threshold of the village chandler's shop, to get out of
the drizzle; and the butcher, who has sold out, closes his half-hatch,
with the certainty that he may take his afternoon nap by the fire,
undisturbed by customers.

Even when I pause before one of the little narrow portals to which I
have been directed, there are few more signs of life, except that at the
same moment I hear other footsteps behind me, and a baker stop to
deliver a loaf. This is promising, as far as it goes, and enables me to
present myself unostentatiously, under cover of the baker's basket, to a
lady who opens the door. Unless I am greatly mistaken, that lady has a
French face, and as it is a French lady for whom I am to inquire, I
begin to think I have come to the end of my quest. It is evident,
however, from the surprised questioning look which greets my appearance,
that visits from strangers are not of very frequent occurrence there. I
can trace in the rather shrinking recognition accorded to my request to
see the lady to whom I bring an introduction, the sensitiveness that
belongs to that kind of poverty which has learned to endure in seclusion
reverses that would be less bearable if they were exposed to a too
obtrusive expression of sympathy. It is a positive relief to be left
alone for a minute, standing in that narrow lobby, looking into a room
which has the appearance of a disused scullery, while my errand is made
known in another room on the right, to which I am presently bidden. It
is a poor little place enough; poor, and little, and dim, even for an
almshouse, and scarcely suggestive of comfort though a bright fire is
burning in a grate, which somewhat resembles a reduced kitchen-range,
and though the table which stands beneath the casement bears some
preparations for the evening meal, and the cheap luxury of a cut orange
on a plate. The walls are dim, the ceiling cracked and discoloured by
the evident overflow of water in the room overhead; the furniture
consists of a kind of couch which may do duty for a bed by night, and of
two or three Windsor chairs, one of which has already been placed for
me. It is a poor place enough; and yet the lady to whom I am at once
introduced is ready to do its honours with a grace and dignity that well
become her appearance and her name. Madame Gracieuse B----, for more
than forty years resident in England, and speaking English with a purity
of accent that is only rivalled by the more perfect music of the French
in which she addresses me, has passed the threescore years and ten which
are counted as old age. Yet seeing her sweet, calm face; her smooth,
broad, intelligent brow; the mild, penetrating scrutiny of her gentle
eyes; the soft hair put back under the quaint French cap, shaped like a
hood; those years remain uncounted; until, with a pleasant smile, only
just too placid for vivacity, she tells how she came to this country in
1830, after the ruin of the fortunes of her house by the revolution
which dethroned Charles X., and made her a governess in England, where
so many of the old nobility sought a refuge and a home.

But before this is said, she has presented me to a third lady--to whom,
indeed, my original introduction extended--already long past the limit
of that short period which we call long life; for she is more than
eighty years old, and by reason of the infirmity which has lately come
upon her, does not rise to receive me, but remains seated in the couch
by the fire. It is a very limited space in which to be ceremonious; but
were this lady sitting in one of a suite of grand rooms in some
aristocratic mansion, with all the surroundings to which her birth, her
high connections, and the recollection of her own personal
accomplishments entitle her, she might not lack the homage which too
often only simulates respect.

It is possible that she may long ago have learned to assess it at its
true value, for she has seen it at a court where it could not save a
king from banishment; and if we may judge from a face with strong
determined lineaments, a brow of concentrated power, and eyes the light
of which even the recent paralysis of age has not extinguished, she has
been one who could undergo exile, poverty, and even the sadder calamity
of being forgotten, with a wonderful endurance.

Yes, Madame la Comtesse Maria de Comoléra, friend and fellow-student of
that Madame Adelaide whose name has become historical, when your father
was Monsieur l'Intendant of the Duc d'Orléans, and when you lived within
the atmosphere of the French court, spending quiet days at the easel in
your painting-room, or preparing the delicate _pâte_ of Sèvres
porcelain, on which to paint the roses and lilies that you loved, the
grim visions of exile and poverty may never have troubled you. When the
house of Bourbon crumbled, and you escaped from the ruin it had made,
you had still your art left to solace, if not to gladden you; and for a
time at least you lived by it, and took a new rank by the work that you
could do. There were flowers in England, and your hands could still
place their glowing hues on canvas. Witness those pictures of yours that
now hang on the walls of the gallery of the Crystal Palace, or adorn
some private collections. Witness, too, the recognition of some of our
own painters when Sir Charles Eastlake was president of the Royal
Academy, and when you found a friendly patron in Queen Adelaide of
gentle memory. Alas, the hand has lost its cunning; and if its work is
not altogether forgotten, those who look upon it are unaware that you
are living here in this poor room--pensioner of a charity which, were it
but supported as it might be, could better lighten your declining years.
Yet I will not call you desolate, madame. Two faithful friends are with
you yet. The sunset of your calm life, whereof the noon was broken by so
terrible a storm, is dim enough; but it goes not down in complete
darkness. Gentle and admiring regard survives even in this dull place;
and with it the love that can bring tears to eyes not over ready to weep
on account of selfish sorrows, and can move ready hands to tend you now
that your own grow heavy and feeble.[2]

As I become more accustomed to the subdued light of the room, I note
that amidst the confusion of some old pieces of furniture or lumber
there are pictures, unframed and dim, leaning against the walls. One of
them--a large painting of some rare plant, formerly a curiosity in the
Botanical Gardens at Regent's Park, while the rest are groups of flowers
and fruit. Just opposite me, on the high mantel-piece, the canvas broken
here and there near the edges, obscured by the dust and smoke that have
dulled their surface, are two oil-paintings which I venture to take down
for a nearer inspection. Surely they must have been finished when madame
was yet in the prime of her art. Exquisite in drawing, delicate in
colour, and with a subtle touch that gives to each petal the fresh
crumple that bespeaks it newly-blown, and to fruit the dewy down that
would make even a _gourmet_ linger ere he pressed the juice. It is
almost pain to think that they are left here uncared for; and yet, who
knows what influence their presence above that dingy shelf may have upon
the wandering thoughts and waning dreams of her who painted them when
every new effort of her skill was a keen delight?

Nay, even as I hold them to the light, and in a pause of our chat
(wherein Madame la Comtesse speaks slowly and with some difficulty) say
some half-involuntary words of appreciation, she has risen, and stands
upright by the fire with an earnest look in her face and a sudden
gesture of awakened interest. The artistic instinct is there still,
after more than eighty years of life, and the appreciation of the work
animates her yet. Not with a mere vulgar love of praise (for Madame is
still la Comtesse Comoléra even though she spends her days in an
almshouse), but with a recognition that I have distinguished the best of
the work that is left to her to show. I shall not readily forget the
sudden look of almost eager interest, the effort to speak generous words
of thanks, as I bow over her hand to say farewell, and feel that I have
been as privileged a visitor as though madame had received me in a
gilded _salon_, at the door of which a powdered lacquey stood to
"welcome the coming--speed the parting guest."

And so with some pleasant leave-takings, and not without permission to
see them again, I leave these ladies--the fitting representatives of an
old nobility and an old _régime_--to the solitude to which they have
retired from a world too ready to forget.

If by any means for the solitude could be substituted a pleasant
retirement, and for the sense of desolation and poverty a modest
provision that would yet include some grace and lightness to light their
declining days, it would be but little after all.

[1] Since this was written the Almshouses have been closed, and their
two or three remaining inmates "lodged out."

[2] Since these lines were written, Madame Comoléra has gone to her rest.


It is possible that those portions of the sacred history which have
reference to the association of our Lord Jesus Christ with ships, and
the wonderful portions of the great narrative where the Divine Voice
seems, as it were, to come from the sea, may have a special attraction
for us who live in an island and claim a kind of maritime dominion.

Surely the words "Lord, save me, or I perish," and the instant response
of the outstretched hand of the Saviour of men, must have been read with
an awful joy by many a God-fearing sailor on the homeward voyage. "It is
I, be not afraid," must have come with an intensity of meaning to many a
heart which has known the peril of the storm, wherein the voice of man
to man has been almost inaudible.

There is something very solemn in the prayers we send up for those at
sea. Most of us feel a heart-throb when we lie awake listening to the
mighty murmurs of the wind, and waiting for the shrill shriek with which
each long terrible blast gathers up its forces--a throb which comes of
the sudden thought of lonely ships far out upon the ocean, where men are
wrestling with the elements, and looking with clenched lips and
straining eyes for the lingering dawn.

Yet, with all this, it is a national reproach to us that until a
comparatively recent date we have done little or nothing for our
sailors--little for those who have been ready to maintain the old
supremacy of our fleet--almost nothing for that greater navy of the
mercantile marine to which we are indebted for half the necessaries and
for nearly all the luxuries which we enjoy.

A national reproach, because not only have charitable provisions for
destitute, sick, infirm, or disabled sailors been neglected, but
subscriptions demanded by the State from seamen of the merchant service
were never properly applied to relieve the distress of those for whom
they were professedly received. Considerably over a million of money has
been contributed by merchant seamen, by deductions of sixpences from
their monthly pay for the maintenance of Greenwich Hospital, and in
addition to this there have been accumulated in the hands of the
Government the examination fees of masters and mates passing the Board
of Trade examination, and the penny fees paid by common seamen on
shipment and unshipment, while the unclaimed wages and effects of seamen
dying abroad are calculated at about £8000 a year.

Now there can be no doubt that Greenwich Hospital was originally
intended to include merchant seamen in its provisions, for the preamble
to the original scheme of William III. recites, "Whereas the King's most
excellent Majesty being anxiously desirous to promote the Trade,
Navigation, and Naval strength of this Kingdom, and to invite greater
numbers of his subjects to betake themselves to the sea, hath determined
to erect a hospital," &c. For this purpose sixpence per man per month
was to be paid out of the wages of all mariners to the support of the
Hospital, and every seaman was to be registered. Why? That the charity
might be "for the relief, benefit, or advantage of such the said
registered Marines, or Seamen, Watermen, Fishermen, Lightermen,
Bargemen, Keelmen, or Seafaring Men, who by age, wounds, or other
accidents shall be disabled for future service at sea, and shall not be
in a condition to maintain themselves comfortably; and the children of
such disabled seamen; and the widows and children of such of them as
shall happen to be slain, killed, or drowned in sea service, so far
forth as the Hospital shall be capable to receive them, and the revenue
thereof will extend."

So far as words went, therefore--and subsequent Acts of Parliament
confirmed them--Greenwich Hospital was open to all registered seamen.
The fact has always been, however, that it was barely able to meet the
claims made by the disabled and infirm sailors of the Navy alone, and
therefore the mercantile marine was practically excluded, while the
payments were still demanded.

Now let us see what past Governments did for the relief of those old,
infirm, or disabled men who having "seen wonders on the great deep,"
came home and sought help.

A charitable trust, called the "Merchant Seamen's Fund," had been
established by merchants and shipowners of the City of London, who gave
large sums to it, in order to try to make up for the injustice by which
these sailors were virtually excluded from Greenwich Hospital, to which
the men of the mercantile marine still had to pay sixpence a month. By a
remarkably knowing piece of legislation, an Act was passed (the 20th of
George II.) which incorporated the Merchant Seamen's Fund, appointed
president and governors, and gave authority to purchase land for
building a hospital, to help pay for which another sixpence a month was
claimed from the pay of merchant seamen and masters of merchant vessels.

Not till the year 1834, by an Act passed in the reign of William IV.,
were the merchant sailors relieved from compulsory payment to Greenwich.
They had contributed to the hospital for 138 years without having
derived any direct benefit from it; and though they were not unwilling
to subscribe for their brethren in the Royal Navy, the injustice which
demanded their contributions, though their own fund was inadequate to
pay for the promised building for which it was intended, became too
glaring to be continued. It was therefore determined that a grant of
£20,000 should be made to Greenwich Hospital out of the Consolidated
Fund, and that the merchant sailors should go on paying their shilling a
month for their own benefit (masters paying two shillings), and that a
provision for widows and children should be included in the charity, the
benefits of which were to be extended to Scotland and Ireland.

The hospital never was built. The Board of Trade taking the management
of the contributions, appointed trustees, who were altogether
incompetent, and did their duty in a perfunctory or careless manner. In
1850, only £20,000 was distributed among old, infirm, and disabled
seamen, while £41,000 was bestowed on widows and children; the
allowances varying at different ports from £1 to £7, each place having
its own local government. Of course a collapse came. The fund was
bankrupt; and in the following year an Act was passed for winding it
up--for, says the Board of Trade Report, "the Government has had no
control over the matter. The London Corporation and the trustees of
outports could not by any management have prevented the insolvency of
the fund, as long as they were guided by the principles which the
several Acts of Parliament laid down ... the whole system was vicious."

By the winding-up Act of 1851 compulsory contributions ceased; but those
who chose to continue to subscribe voluntarily might do so. It is hardly
to be wondered at that the merchant seamen lost confidence in the
paternal protection of the Board of Trade. A few thousand pounds were
left from the compulsory contributions, and when this came to be
inquired for, nobody knew anything about it. It had somehow slipped out
of the estimates, and nobody could tell what had become of it.

That is what past governments have done for poor mercantile Jack.

What has the great British public done for him? Not so very much after
all. The truth is, that the sailor, who has always been spoken of as "so
dreadfully improvident," has been practically regarded as being most
self-helpful. All the time that we have been shaking our solemn heads,
and lifting up our hands at the improvidence, the folly, and the
extravagance of these frequently underpaid and sometimes overworked men,
we have made even the help that we were willing to extend to them in
their deeper necessities partially dependent on their own constant and
regular subscription to the same end.

Poor improvident Jack!--poor thoughtless, incorrigible fellow!--it was
necessary for the Government of his country to look after him, in order
to protect him against his own want of forethought, and the result has
been to run the ship into shoal water, and go hopelessly to wreck
without so much as salvage money.

Jack ashore! Don't we all still look at the sailor in the light of the
evil war-times, when the king's men were said to draw pocketsful of
prize-money and to spend it in low debauchery or wild wanton folly? Even
now we repeat the stories of frying watches along with beefsteaks and
onions, or eating bank-note sandwiches. Nay, to this day in the
fo'c's'le of merchant vessels some of the melancholy old songs in which
sailors are wont to satirise themselves are occasionally sung, telling

        "When his money is all spent,
  And there's nothing to be borrowed and nothing to be lent,
  In comes the landlord with a frown,
  Saying, 'Jack! get up, and let _John_ sit down,
  For you are _outward_ bound.'"

There's a world of meaning in that grim suggestive summary; but, thank
God! it has less meaning now than it once had. Until quite lately,
sailors of merchant ships could be kept for days waiting to be paid,
and, sickened with lingering for long weary hours about the office of
the broker or agent who withheld their money, fell into the hands of the
harpies who were, and still are constantly on the look-out to plunder
them. Men with all the pure natural longing for home and reunion with
those near and dear to them, were compelled to loiter about the foul
neighbourhood of the dock where their ship discharged its cargo, lodging
in some low haunt with evil company, and liable to every temptation that
is rife in such places, till too often so large a portion of their
hardly-earned wages had been forestalled, that in a dreary and desperate
madness of dissipation they were tempted to fling away the small balance
remaining to them, and to awake to reason only when, naked and nearly
destitute, they were compelled to go to sea again, with a slender stock
of clothes, and a week's board and lodging paid for with advance notes.

From long confinement and monotony on shipboard, the sailor even now
comes to a sense of temporary freedom, giddy with the unaccustomed sense
of solid ground and the wild toss and uproar of the ocean of life in a
great city. What are still the influences which in many seaports await
him directly his foot touches the shore, and sometimes even before he
has come over the vessel's side? With a boy's recklessness, a man's
passions, and the unwonted excitement of possessing money and boundless
opportunities for spending it, a shoal of landsharks are lying ready to
batten on him. The tout, the crimp, and all the wretches, male and
female, who look upon him as their prey, will never leave him from the
time when they watch him roll wonderingly on to the landing-stage, till
that desperate minute when he flings his last handful of small change
across the tavern counter, and calls for its worth in drink, since
"money is no use at sea."

This was far more frequently the termination of mercantile Jack's spell
ashore, before the new regulations as to prompt payment of seamen's
wages came into force. At that time you had only to take a morning walk
across Tower Hill, where the bluff lay figure at the outfitter's door
stands for Jack in full feather, and thence to America Square, or the
neighbourhood of the Minories and Rosemary Lane, to see dozens of poor
fellows lounging listlessly about the doors of pay-agents, waiting day
after day at the street-corners, with an occasional visit to the
public-house, and the perpetual consumption of "hard" tobacco. It was
easy afterwards to follow Jack to Ratcliffe, Rotherhithe, Shadwell, and
the neighbourhood, where his "friends" lay in wait for him to spend the
evening; in the tap-rooms of waterside taverns, where he sat hopelessly
drinking and smoking during a hot summer's afternoon; to frowsy,
low-browed shops of cheap clothiers, to hot, stifling dancing-rooms, to
skittle-alleys behind gin-shop bars, where a sudden brawl would call out
knives, and the use of a "slung-shot" as a weapon would make a case of
manslaughter for the coroner; to very minor theatres, where he could see
absurd caricatures of himself in the stage sailors, dancing hornpipes
unknown at sea; to the dreadful dens of Bluegate Fields and Tiger
Bay--to any or all of these places you might have followed Jack; and may
even yet follow his fellows who have not yet been redeemed from the evil
ways of those bad times, when there were no homes for sailors amidst the
bewildering vice and misery of maritime London, and other seaport towns
of this great mercantile island.

It so happened that I made my first intimate acquaintance with the one
real, publicly representative "Sailors' Home" in Well Street, near the
London Docks, after having seen Jack under several of the terrible
conditions just referred to, so that, with this painful knowledge of him
and his ways, it was with a kind of delighted surprise that I suddenly
walked into the great entrance-hall of the institution, where he and his
fellows were sitting on the benches by the wall with the serious,
contemplative, almost solemn air which is (in my experience) the common
expression of sailors ashore, and during ordinary leisure hours. There
they were, a good ship's crew of them altogether, sitting, as I have
already said, in true sailor fashion--stooping forward, wrists on knees,
lolling on sea-chests and clothes-bags, taking short fore-and-aft walks
of six steps and a turn in company with some old messmate, smoking,
growling, chatting, and generally enjoying their liberty; not without an
eye, now and then, to the smart officer who had come in to see whether
he could pick up a brisk hand or two for the mail service.

This was some five or six years ago, and it is a happy result of the
plan on which the Home was first established (which was intended
ultimately to make the institution self-supporting, if the cost of
building were defrayed) that the whole scheme has been so enlarged since
that time, that anybody who would see what our mercantile seamen are
like, may now go and see them, in a largely increasing community, in
this great institution. So many come and go and reappear at intervals
represented by the length of their voyages, that 10,120 officers and men
had partaken of its inestimable benefits during the year from the first
of May, 1872, to the end of April, 1873.

But the institution itself was founded in earnest faith, and built with
the labour that is consecrated by prayer. Both to the Home and to its
companion institution, the Refuge for Destitute Seamen--we will pay a
visit on our next meeting.


On the 28th of February, 1828, a very terrible calamity happened in the
place known as Wellclose Square, Whitechapel. A new theatre called the
Brunswick, had been erected there on the site of a former building,
known as the Old Royalty. It had been completed in seven months, and
three days afterwards, during a rehearsal, the whole structure gave way
and fell with a crash, burying ten persons amidst the ruins, and
fearfully injuring several others. Such a catastrophe was very awful,
and the people of the neighbourhood looked with an almost solemn
curiosity at the wreck of an edifice in which they themselves might have
met with death suddenly.

Very soon, however, they began to regard the heap of ruins with
surprise, for early one morning there appeared two officers of the Royal
Navy, surrounded by a gang of labourers with picks and shovels, and
before these men (some of whom were Irish Roman Catholic) began to work
they listened attentively while one of the officers offered up an
earnest prayer to God for a blessing on the results of the labour they
were about to undertake. Morning after morning their labour was thus
sanctified, and evening after evening it was celebrated by the voice of
thanksgiving, till at length the ground was cleared, and on the 10th of
June, 1830, the first stone of a new building was laid. The building was
to be a Home for Sailors, and as a necessary adjunct to the Home, it was
intended to establish a Destitute Sailors' Asylum.

The two naval officers were Captain (now Admiral) George C. Gambier, and
Captain Robert James Elliot, now gone to his rest, who with Lieutenant
Robert Justice afterwards Captain, and now with his old comrade, in the
heavenly haven, had been seeking how to ameliorate the condition of
seamen, numbers of whom were to be seen homeless, miserable, and
frequently half naked and destitute, in that foul and wretched
neighbourhood about the Docks and beyond Tower Hill.

The task was a difficult one, and might have daunted less brave and
hopeful men, for it was intended to demolish the piratical haunts where
the enemies of the sailor lay in wait for his destruction; where crimps
and thieves and the keepers of infamous dens held their besotted victims
in bondage, while they battened on the wages that had been earned during
months of privation and arduous toil.

It was necessary, therefore, first to provide a decent and comfortable
lodging-house for the reception of sailors coming into port,--a place
where they might safely deposit their clothes and their wages, and where
they could "look out for another ship" without the evil intervention of
crimps or pretended agents. It was a part of the intended plan also to
establish a savings bank, for securing any portion of their wages which
they chose to lay by, or for safely transmitting such sums as they might
wish to send to their relations. In short, the design was to provide a
home for the homeless, and hold out helping hands to those who were
ready to perish.

Those ruins of the theatre stood on the very spot for such an
establishment, and the two captains, Gambier and Elliott, began by
buying the ground and the wreck that stood upon it, not by asking for
public subscriptions, but mostly with their own money, to which was
added a few contributions from any of their friends who desired to join
in the good work.

It is impossible to use more earnest or touching words than those in
which the late Rear-Admiral Sir W. E. Parry spoke of the labours of his
friend and fellow-supporter of the Sailors' Home, in an address to
British seamen at Southampton, in 1853. "And now," he said, "let me just
add that, from the first moment in which Captain Elliot stood among the
ruins of the Brunswick Theatre, till it pleased God to deprive him of
bodily and mental energy, did that self-denying Christian man devote all
his powers, his talents, his influence, and his money, to this his
darling object of protecting and providing for the comfort of sailors.
Connected with a noble family, and entitled by birth, education, and
station, to all the advantages which the most exalted society could give
hm, he willingly relinquished all, took up his abode in a humble
lodging, surrounded by gin-shops, near the 'Home:' denied himself most
of the comforts, it may almost be said some of the necessaries of life,
in order the more effectually to carry out his benevolent design; and
for eighteen years of self-denial and devotion, made it the business of
his life to superintend this institution."

For the noble officer lived to see the building for which he had wrought
and prayed, complete and successful. In 1835 300 sailors could be
received and welcomed there. The piratical lairs began to empty of some
of those who had been shown a way of escape, and the good work went on.
In the adjoining Seamen's Church the congregation was largely augmented
by the boarders from the Sailors' Home, while the Honorary Chaplain and
the Missionary attached officially to the institution, became not only
parson and preacher, but friendly adviser and instructor, ready to
speak, to hear, and to forbear. The addition of a book depository, where
various useful publications may be purchased, and Bibles are sold at the
lowest possible prices, and in various languages, was a valuable
auxiliary to moral and religious instruction, and at once increased the
home-like influences of the place.

The institution having gone on thus prosperously, under the direction of
a goodly number of officers and gentlemen, added to its possessions by
acquiring other plots of freehold ground, extending backward to Dock
Street; and in 1863 Lord Palmerston laid the stone of an entirely new
block of building, which was inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in 1865,
since which time 502 boarders can be received, each being provided with
his separate cabin.

Since the opening of the institution in 1835 it has received 246,855
seamen of various countries and from all parts of the world. Of these
72,234 have been old or returned boarders, and most of them have
conducted their money transactions through the "Home," and have made
good use of the savings-bank.

There are 270 inmates under that protecting roof as I step into the
large entrance hall in Well Street to-day; and the two hundred and
seventy-first has just gone to look after his kit and sea-chests, which
have been carefully conveyed from the Docks by one of the carmen
belonging to the institution, who has "The Sailors' Home, Well Street,"
worked in red worsted on his shirt, and painted on the side of the van
from which he has just alighted.

It is evident that our friend No. 271 has been here before, for he knows
exactly where to present himself in order to deposit some of his more
portable property with the cashier or the superintendent. He scarcely
looks like a man who will want an advance of money, for he is a smart,
alert, bright-eyed fellow, with a quiet air of self-respect about him
which seems to indicate an account in the savings-bank; but should he be
"hard-up," he can ask for and receive a loan not exceeding twenty
shillings directly his chest is deposited in his cabin. Just now the
chest itself, together with its superincumbent bundle, stands against
the wall along with some other incoming or outgoing boxes, more than one
of which are associated with brand new cages for parrots, and some
odd-shaped cases evidently containing sextants or other nautical
instruments. There is a whole ship's crew, and a smart one too, in the
hall to-day; while a small contingent occupies the clothing department,
where one or two shrewd North-countrymen are being fitted each with a
"new rig," knowing well enough that they will be better served there
than at any of the cheap outfitters (or the dear ones either) in the
neighbourhood. Fine blue broadcloth, pilots, tweeds, rough weather, and
petershams are here to choose from "to measure," as well as a wonderful
collection of hats, caps, underclothing, hosiery, neckties, boots, and
shoes so unlike the clumsy specimens that swing along with the tin pots
and oilskins in some of the little low-browed shops about the district,
that I at once discover the reason for the smartness and general
neatly-fitted look of most of the men and lads now pacing up and down,
talking and smoking. It is quiet talk for the most part, even when half
a dozen of the inmates adjourn to the refreshment-room, where they can
obtain a glass of good sound beer (though there is a much more general
appreciation of coffee) and sit down comfortably at a table like that at
which two serious mates are already discussing some knotty point, which
will probably last till tea-time.

Tea-time? There is the half-past five o'clock signal gong going now, and
light swift steps are to be heard running up the stairs into the large
dining-hall, where the two hundred and seventy-one, or as many of them
as are at home, sit down like fellows who know their business and mean
to do it. It is a pleasant business enough, and one soon despatched; for
there are so many big teapots, that each table is amply provided by the
alert attendants, who dispense bread-and-butter, watercresses, salads,
and savoury bloaters and slices of ham and tongue, the latter having
been already served by a carver who is equal to the occasion. It is
astonishing how quickly the meal is over when its substantial quality is
taken into account; but there is no lack of waiters, the number of
attendants in the building being sixty-five, some of whom, of course,
belong to the dormitories and to other departments.

The meals here are, of course, served with the utmost regularity, and
without limit to quantity. Breakfast, with cold meat, fish, bacon, and
general "relishes," at eight in the morning; dinner at one: consisting
of soup, roast and boiled meats, ample supplies of vegetables,
occasional fish, stupendous fruit-pies and puddings, and a good
allowance of beer. After tea comes a substantial snack for supper, at
nine o'clock, and the doors of the institution are kept open to
half-past eleven at night; those who wish to remain out later being
required to obtain a pass from the superintendent.

Of course it is requested that the boarders come in to meals as
punctually as possible; but those who cannot conveniently be present at
the regular time, can have any meal supplied to them on application.
Indeed, two or three belated ones are arriving now, as we go to the end
of the long and lofty refectory to look at the crest of the late Admiral
Sir William Bowles, K.C.B., which, supported by flags, is painted upon
the wall, as a memorial of a gallant officer and a good friend to this
institution and to all sailors.

Leaving the dining-hall, we notice a smaller room, set apart for masters
and mates who may desire to have their meals served here; and on the
same extensive storey is a large and comfortable reading-room well
supplied with periodicals, and containing a capital library consisting
of entertaining and instructive books.

The board-room is close by, and is of the size and shape to make an
excellent mission-room, where week-night services and meetings of a
religious character are held, and well attended by men who, having seen
the wonders of the Lord upon the great deep, join in His reasonable
service when they are at home and at rest. This vast floor also contains
two dormitories: but most of the sleeping cabins are in the second and
third floors.

There are few sights in London more remarkable than these berths, which
are, in fact, separate cabins, each closed by its own door, and
containing bed, wash-stand, chair, looking-glass, towels, and ample
space for the seachest and personal belongings of the occupant. The
cabins extend round a large area rising to a great height, and
surrounded above by a light gallery reached by an outer staircase, round
which are another series of berths exactly resembling the lower ones; so
that there are, in fact, double, and in one or two dormitories treble
tiers of cabins, and the upper ones may be entered without disturbing
the inmates of those below. One of the three-decker areas is of vast
size, and, standing in the upper gallery and looking upward to the lofty
roof, and then downward to the clear, wide, open space between the lower
rooms, the visitor is struck by the admirable provision both for light
and ventilation; the former being secured at night by means of properly
distributed gas jets, which are of course under the care of the night
attendants, who are on watch in each dormitory, and may be summoned at
once in case of illness or accident.

Not only is there provision against fire by a length of fire-hose
attached to hydrants on each storey, but the water supply to lavatories
and for other purposes is secured by a cistern holding 4,000 gallons at
the top of the building; so that there is complete circulation
throughout the various parts of the building.

It is time that we paid a visit to the basement of this great
institution, however; for, in more senses than one, it may be said to be
at the foundation of the arrangements. Yes, even with respect to the
amusements provided for the inmates--for while chess, draughts and
backgammon are to be found in the library and reading-room, and
billiards and bagatelle hold their own on the great landings of the
first storey, we have down here a skittle-alley of a character so
remarkable, that some of us who have read Washington Irving think of the
reverberations of the giants' pastime in the mountains, while we wonder
where sailors can first have acquired a taste for this particular
amusement. It is a good and healthy one, however, and is wisely
provided, since it adds one more efficient inducement to the men to take
their pleasure among their true friends instead of seeking it amidst the
evil influences of a filthy tavern, or in the garish heat of some vile
Ratcliff Highway bowling-alley, where men are maddened with drugged
drink, and greeted with foul imprecations by the harpies who seek to rob
and cheat them.

There is much to see in this basement, and to begin with here is No. two
hundred and seventy-one sending his chest up by the great luggage-lift
to the second floor, where he will find it presently in his cabin. We
cannot stay to speak to him, however, for we are on the very verge of
the kitchen, to which we are, as it were, led by the nose; for wafted
thence comes an appetising perfume of new bread just taken from one of
the great ovens devoted to the daily baking. There are lingering odours
also of today's dinner, though the meat ovens and the great boilers and
hot plates are clean and ready for the morrow. The pantry door, too, is
open, and there are toothsome varieties of "plain-eating" therein, while
the storerooms savour of mingled comforts, to which the gales of Araby
the blest offer no parallel, and the butcher's shop has a calm and
concentrated sense of meatiness which is suggestive to a robust appetite
not already satiated with a chunk from one of a whole squadron of soft,
new currant-cakes. After a peep at the large and busy laundry with its
peculiar moist atmosphere, the coal and beer cellars, the pumping
machinery and boiler-room may be passed by, and little curiosity is
excited by this long and convenient apartment where hot and cold baths
are prepared to order at a merely nominal charge. There is a door close
by, however, where we stop instinctively, for there is a cheerful light
inside, and a sound of easy and yet interrupted conversation which can
belong to only one department of society. There can be no mistake about
it--a veritable barber's shop, and a gentleman with a preternaturally
clean chin complacently surveying himself in a looking-glass of limited
dimensions, while another waits to be operated upon by the skilled
practitioner who carries in his face the suggestion of a whole ropery of
"tough yarns," and was--or am I mistaken--tonsor to the _Victory_ or to
some ship of war equally famous when the British seaman shaved close and
often, and pigtails had hardly gone out of fashion. There is no time for
testing the great artist's skill this evening, though I could almost
sacrifice a well-grown beard to hear some rare old fo'c's'le story. But
no story could be more wonderful than the plain truth that for all the
generous provision in this excellent institution the rescued sailor
brought within its wholesome influence pays but fifteen shillings a
week. Yes, men and apprentices, fifteen shillings; and officers,
eighteen and sixpence.

The evening lowers over the outer world of Mint Street and Leman Street,
and the great blank void of the Tower ditch is full of shadow. Standing
again in the large entrance hall, which reminds one more of shipboard,
now that the lights are dotted about it, leaving it still a little dim,
I hear the trickling of a drinking-fountain, and associated with its
fresh plash hear as pleasant a story as any yarn that ever the barber
himself could have spun for my delight.

The fountain, which is of polished Aberdeen granite, was opened last
November in proper style, a platform being erected, and the chair being
taken by the Secretary to the "Metropolitan Drinking Fountains
Association," supported by several ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Lee made an
appropriate speech, and called attention to the gift, and pointed to the
inscription; and it was quite an emphatic little observance for the
inmates who had gathered in the hall on the occasion. And well it might
be, for the fountain bears this modest inscription:--"The gift of
William McNeil, Seaman, in appreciation of the great benefits he has
derived on the various occasions during which he has made the
Institution his _Home_, for upwards of 25 years."

I think very little more need be said for the Sailors' Home than is
indicated by this plain, earnest testimony to its worth. Yet it is
necessary to say one more word. This Sailors' Home is in a way
self-supporting, and at present seeks only the kindly interest of the
public in case it should ever need another response to an appeal for
extending its sphere of usefulness. Not a farthing of profit is
permitted to any individual engaged in it, and even fees to servants are
prohibited, though the crimps and touts outside endeavour to bribe them
sometimes, to induce sailors to go to the common lodging-houses, where
land-rats seek their prey. All the profits, if there are any at all, are
placed to a reserve fund for repairs, improvements, or extensions. At
any rate, no public appeals are being made just now.

But there is another institution next door--another branch of the stem
which has grown so sturdily from the seed planted by the good
captain--the Destitute Sailors' Asylum. That is a place full of
interest, though there is nothing to see there. Nothing but a clean
yard, with means for washing and cleansing, and a purifying oven for
removing possible infection from clothes, and a great bare room, just
comfortably warmed in winter, and hung with rows of hammocks, like the
'tween-decks of a ship.

That is all; but in those hammocks, sometimes, poor starved and
destitute sailors go to sleep, after they have been fed with soup and
warmed and comforted; and in the morning, when they turn out, they are
fed again with cocoa and bread, and if they are naked they are clothed.
There are not very many applicants, for, strange as it may appear, since
sailors' homes have come in fashion there are but few destitute seamen;
but there _need be no unrelieved destitute sailors at all in London_,
for anybody can send such a one to the Asylum in Well Street, London
Docks, and he will be admitted. Here then, is an institution that may
claim support.


One of the old Saxon commentators on the Holy Scriptures, in referring
to the passage, "Cast thy bread upon the waters, and it shall be found
after many days," ventures to suggest as a meaning--"Give succour to
poor and afflicted seamen." Whatever may be the conclusions of critical
Biblical expositors, there can be no doubt that the pious annotator was
right in a true--that is, in a spiritual interpretation of the text.

Should it be necessary to appeal twice to the English nation--which has,
as it were a savour of sea-salt in its very blood--to hold out a helping
hand for those who, having struggled to keep our dominion by carrying
the flag of British commerce all round the world, are themselves flung
ashore, weak, old, and helpless, dependent on the goodwill of their
countrymen to take them into some quiet harbour, where they may, as it
were be laid up in ordinary and undergo some sort of repairs, even
though they should never again be able to go a voyage? It is with
feelings of something like regret that an average Englishman sees the
old hull of a sea-going boat lie neglected and uncared for on the beach.
Not without a pang can we witness the breaking-up of some stout old ship
no longer seaworthy. Yet, unhappily, we have hitherto given scant
attention to the needs of those old and infirm seamen, who having for
many years contributed out of their wages to the funds of the Naval
Hospital at Greenwich, and having been again mulcted of some
subscriptions which were to have been specially devoted to found an
asylum for themselves, are left with little to look forward to but the
workhouse ward when, crippled, sick, or feeble with age, they could no
longer tread the deck or crack a biscuit.

It is true that there are now hospitals or sick-asylums in connection
with some of the sailors' homes at our seaports, and to the general
hospitals any sailor can be admitted if he should be able to procure a
letter from a governor. The 'tween-decks of the _Dreadnought_ no longer
form the sole hospital for invalided merchant seamen in the Port of
London; but even reckoning all that has been done for sailors, and fresh
from a visit to that great building where three hundred hale and hearty
seamen of the great mercantile navy find a home, we are left to wonder
that so little has been accomplished for those old tars who, having
lived for threescore years or more, going to and fro upon the great
deep, can find no certain anchorage, except within the walls of some
union where they may at last succeed in claiming a settlement. Surely
there is no figure which occupies a more prominent place in English
history than that of the sailor--not the man-o'-war's man only--but the
merchant seaman, the descendant of those followers of the great old
navigators who were called "merchant adventurers," and who practically
founded for Great Britain new empires beyond the sea. In the poetry, the
songs, the literature, the political records, the social chronicles, the
domestic narratives of England, the sailor holds a place, and even at
our holiday seasons, when our children cluster on the shingly shore or
the far-stretching brown sands of the coast, we find still that we
belong to a nation of which the sailor long stood as the chosen
representative. Nay, in the midst of the life of a great city we cannot
fail to be reminded of the daring and the enterprise which has helped to
make London what it is.

The poet, who, standing on the bridge at midnight, and listening to the
chime of the hour, found his imagination occupied with serious images
and his memory with solemn recollections, would have been no less moved
to profound contemplation had he been a temporary occupant of one of the
great structures that span the silent highway of the Thames. There is
something in the flow of a broad and rapid stream which has a peculiar
association with thoughts of the struggle and toil of human life, and as
we look on the ever-moving tide, we ask ourselves what have we done for
the brave old toil-worn men who have seen the wonders of the great deep
for so many years, and have brought so much to us that we can scarcely
speak of food or drink without some reminder of their toilsome lives and
long voyages? Well, a little has been done,--very little when we reflect
how much yet remains to be accomplished; and yet much, regarded as a
fair opportunity for doing a great deal more. I have already recounted
some part of the sad story of what a provident Government did when it
thought to undertake the affairs of poor improvident Jack. How it
collected his money, and neglected to give him the benefit of the
enforced subscription; how it administered and laid claim to his poor
little effects and arrears of pay, if he died abroad and nobody came
forward to establish a right to them; how it demanded additional
contributions from his monthly wages, in order to show him how to
establish a relief fund; and how somehow the scheme went "by the board"
(of Trade), and the balance of the money was lost in the gulf of the

As long ago as 1860 it became clear to a number of leading merchants,
shipowners, and officers of the mercantile marine that nothing was to be
looked for from the State when the subject of making an effort to
provide for aged and infirm sailors was again urgently brought forward;
but it was determined to make a definite movement, and "The Shipwrecked
Mariners' Society," which had then 40,000 officers and seamen among its
subscribers, was appealed to as a body having the power to form the
required association.

It was not till 1867, however, that the actual work of providing an
asylum for old sailors was commenced. The society had then put down the
sum of £5,000 as a good beginning, a committee had been appointed, of
which the late honoured Paymaster Francis Lean was the indefatigable
honorary secretary, and Captain Thomas Tribe the secretary, whilst the
list of patrons, presidents, vice-presidents, and supporters included
many eminent noblemen and gentlemen who took a true interest in the

Several public meetings were held, and "a Pension and Widows' Fund" was
first established. Then the committee began to look about them for a
suitable house in which to begin their real business, and had their
attention directed to a large building at that time for sale, situated
on the breezy height above Erith, and formerly well known as the
residence of Sir Culling Eardley, who had named it Belvidere. The
property, including twenty-three acres of surrounding land, cost
£12,148, and £5,000 having already been subscribed, the balance of
£7,148 was borrowed at five per cent. interest. Not till the 5th of May,
1866, however, was the institution inaugurated and handed over to a
committee of management.

It is admirably suggestive of its present occupation, this fine roomy
old mansion, standing on the sheltered side, but near the top, of the
lofty eminence, whence such a magnificent view may be obtained, not only
of the surrounding country, but of the mighty river where it widens and
rushes towards the sea. Here on the broad sloping green, where the tall
flagstaff with its rigging supports the Union Jack, the old fellows
stroll in the sun or look out with a knowing weather-eye towards the
shipping going down stream, or sit to smoke and gossip on the bench
beneath their spreading tree opposite the great cedar, while the cow of
the institution chews the cud with a serious look, as though it had
someway caught the thoughtful expression that characterises "turning a
quid." A hundred infirm sailors, each of whom is more than sixty years
old, are serenely at their moorings in that spacious square-built house,
where the long wards are divided into cabins, each with its neat
furniture, and many of them ornamented with the curious knick-knacks,
and strange waifs and strays of former voyages which sailors like to
have about them. There is of course a sick-ward, where those who are
permanently disabled, or are suffering from illness, receive medical
attention and a special diet; but the majority of the inmates are
comparatively hearty still, though they are disabled, and can no longer
"hand reef and steer."

There are a hundred inmates in this admirable asylum, and ninety
pensioners who are with their friends at the various outports of the
kingdom, each receiving a pension of £1 a month, called the "Mariners'
National Pension Fund," the working management of which, with the
"Widows' Annuity Fund," is made over to the "Shipwrecked Mariners'

A hundred and ninety worn-out and disabled seamen now provided for or
assisted, and a total of above 300 relieved since the opening of the
institution. A good and noble work truly. But can it be called by so
great a name as _National_, when we know how large a number of old
sailors are yet homeless, and that at the last election there were 153
candidates who could not be assisted because of the want of funds to
relieve their distress? Looking at the number of men (2,000 to 5,000)
lost at sea or by shipwreck every year, and at the inquiry which has
been made, through the efforts of Mr. Plimsoll and others, with respect
to the conditions under which the service of the mercantile marine of
this country is carried on, is it not a reproach to us that during the
nineteen years since this institution was founded, so little has been
done? Year by year it has been hoped that the Board of Trade would
relinquish its claim to take possession of the effects of sailors dying
abroad, and would transfer the £1,200 a year represented by this
property to the funds of the society, but hitherto the committee have
waited in vain. The donations from all sources are comparatively few;
and though the annual subscriptions are numerous, they are rapidly

Many masters, mates, seamen, engineers and firemen pay to this
institution a subscription of five shillings a year, for which they have
a vote at each annual election; or any such subscriber may leave his
votes to accumulate for his own benefit when he shall have reached the
age of sixty years, and becomes a candidate for admission.

One-fifth of the candidates admitted are nominated by the committee on
the ground of their necessities or special claims to the benefit of the
charity, while general subscribers or donors have privileges of election
according to the amount contributed. Perhaps one of the most touching
records of the subscription list is, that not only did the cadets of the
mercantile training-ship _Worcester_ contribute something like £100 in
one official year, but that the little fellows on board the union
training-ship _Goliath_ lying off Grays, have joined their officers and
their commander, Captain Bourchier, to send offerings to the aid of the
ancient mariners, of whom they are the very latest representatives. On
many a good ship these small collections are made for the same object,
and at the Sailors' Home in Well Street there is a box for stray
contributions; but much more has yet to be done. Perhaps it is far to go
to see this great house on the hill, but most of us have caught a
glimpse of its tall towers and its flagstaff in our excursions down the
silent highway of London's river, and it might be well to think how
little effort is required to give to each cabin its inmate, and to fill
the dining-room with tables, each with its "mess" of six or eight old
salts, who are ready to greet you heartily if you pay them a visit, and
to salute you with a grave seamanlike respect. Would you like to know
how this rare old crew lives in the big house under the lee of the
wind-blown hill? To begin with, the men who are not invalids turn out at
eight in winter and half-past seven in summer, and after making beds and
having a good wash, go down to prayers and breakfast at nine or
half-past eight, breakfast consisting of coffee or cocoa and

At ten o'clock the ward-men, who are appointed in rotation, go to clean
wards and make all tidy, each inmate being, however, responsible for the
neatness of his own cabin, in which nobody is allowed to drive nails in
bulkheads or walls, and no cutting or carving of woodwork is permitted.
The men not for the time employed in tidying up or airing bedding, &c.,
can, if they choose, go into the industrial ward, where they can work at
several occupations for their own profit, as they are only charged for
cost of materials. Dinner is served in the several messes by the
appointed messmen at one o'clock, and consists on Sundays of roast beef,
vegetables, and plum-pudding, and on week-days of roast or boiled meat,
soup, vegetables, with one day a week salt fish, onions, potatoes, and
plain suet-pudding, and in summer an occasional salad. A pint of beer is
allowed for each man. The afternoon may be devoted either to work, or to
recreation in the reading and smoking rooms, or in the grounds. Tea and
bread-and-butter are served at half-past five in summer and at six in
winter, and there is often a supper of bread-and-cheese and watercresses
or radishes. The evening is devoted to recreation, and at half-past nine
in winter, and ten in summer, after prayers, lights are put out, and
every one retires for the night.

None of the inmates are expected to work in the industrial wards, and of
course there are various servants and attendants, all of whom are chosen
by preference from the families of sailors, or have themselves been at
sea. The whole place is kept so orderly, and everything is so
ship-shape, that there is neither waste nor confusion, and yet every man
there is at liberty to go in and out when he pleases, on condition of
being in at meal-times, and at the time for evening prayers, any one
desiring to remain away being required to ask permission of the manager.
It must be mentioned, too, that there is an allowance of ninepence a
week spending money for each inmate.

The men are comfortably clothed, in a decent sailorly fashion, and many
of the old fellows have still the bright, alert, active look that
belongs to the "smart hands," among whom some of them were reckoned
nearly half a century ago. The most ancient of these mariners at the
time of my first visit was ninety-two years old, and it so happened that
I saw him on his birthday. He came up the broad flight of stairs to
speak to me, with a foot that had not lost all its lightness, while the
eye that was left to him (he had lost one by accident twenty years
before) was as bright and open as a sailor's should be. This is a long
time ago, and William Coverdale (that was his name) has probably gone to
his rest. Significantly enough, at the time of my latest visit, the
oldest representative of the last muster-roll was James Nelson, a master
mariner of Downpatrick, eighty-five years of age; while bo's'n Blanchard
is eighty-one; able seaman John Hall, eighty; William Terry (A. B.),
eighty-two, and masters, mates, quartermasters, cooks, and stewards,
ranged over seventy. With many of them this is the incurable disability
that keeps them ashore; the sort of complaint which is common to sailors
and landsmen alike if they live long enough--that of old age. It will
come one day, let us hope, to the young Prince, whom we may regard as
the Royal representative of the English liking for the sea. For the
asylum for old and infirm sailors at Greenhithe has not been called
Belvidere for some years now. Prince Alfred went to look at it one day,
and asked leave to become its patron, since which it has been called
"The Royal Alfred Aged Merchant Seamen's Institution"--rather a long
name, but then it ought to mean so much.


Is there any condition wherein we feel greater need of human help and
true loving sympathy than in the slow, feeble creeping from sickness to
complete convalescence, when the pulse of life beats low, and the
failing foot yet lacks power to step across that dim barrier between
health and sickness--not far from the valley of the shadow of death?

In the bright, glowing summer-tide, when the sun warms bloodless
creatures into renewed life, our English sea-coast abounds with
visitors, among whom near and dear friends, parents, children, slowly
and painfully winning their way back to health and strength are the
objects of peculiar care. In all our large towns people who have money
to spend are, at least, beginning to make up their minds where they
shall take their autumn holiday;--in many quiet health-resorts wealthy
invalids, and some who are not wealthy, have already passed the early
spring and summer;--at a score of pleasant watering-places, where the
cool sparkling waves break upon the "ribbed sea-sand," troops of
children are already browning in the sun, scores of hearts feel a throb
of grateful joy as the glow of health begins to touch cheeks lately
pale, and dull eyes brighten under the clear blue sky.

Thousands upon thousands are then on their way to that great restorer,
the sea, if it be only for a few hours by excursion train. England might
seem to have gathered all its children at its borders, and very soon we
hear how empty London is, while a new excuse for a holiday will be that
there is "nothing doing" and "nobody is in town." And yet throughout the
busy streets a throng continues to hurry onward in restless activity.
Only well-accustomed observers could see any considerable difference in
the great thoroughfares of London. Shops and factories look busy enough,
and if nothing is doing, there is a mighty pretence of work, while the
nobodies are a formidable portion of the population when regarded in the

Early in August the census of our large towns still further diminishes.
Prosperous tradesmen, noting the decrease of customers, begin to prepare
to take part in the general exodus. "Gentlefolks" have concluded
bargains for furnished houses on the coast and put their dining and
drawing-rooms into brown holland. In West-End streets and squares the
front blinds are drawn, and all inquiries are answered from the areas,
where charwomen supplement the duties of servants on board wages.
"London is empty," the newspapers say, and in every large town in the
kingdom the great outgoing leaves whole districts comparatively
untenanted. Yet what a vast population remains; what a great army of
toiling men and women who go about their daily work, and keep up the
unceasing buzz of the industrial hive. What troops of children, who,
except for Sunday-school treats, would scarcely spend a day amidst green
fields, or learn how to make a daisy-chain, or hear the soft summer wind
rustling the leaves of overhanging trees.

It would perhaps astonish us if we could have set down for us in plain
figures how many men and women in England have never seen the sea; how
many people have never spent a week away from home, or had a real long
holiday in all their lives. It may be happy for them if they are not
compelled by sudden sickness or accident, to fall out of the ranks, and
to leave the plough sticking in the furrow. It is not all for pleasure
and careless enjoyment that the thousands of our wealthy brethren and
sisters go to the terraced houses, or handsomely appointed mansions,
which await them all round the English shore. Into how many eyes tears
must need spring, when the prayers for all who are in sorrow, need, or
adversity are read in seaside churches on a summer's Sunday. By what
sick-beds, and couches set at windows whence wistful eyes may look out
upon the changeful glory of wood and sea and sky, anxious hearts are
throbbing. What silent tears and low murmuring cries on behalf of dear
ones on whose pale cheeks the July roses never more may bloom, mark the
watches of the silent night, when the waves sob wakefully upon the
beach. What thrills of hope and joy contend with obtrusive fears as, the
golden spears of dawn break through the impenetrable slate-blue sky, and
a touch of strength and healing is seen to have left its mark upon a
brow on which the morning kiss is pressed with a keen throb that is
itself almost a pang.

The first faltering footsteps back to life after a long illness or a
severe shock, how they need careful guidance. Let the stronger arm, the
helping hand, the encouraging eye be ready, or they may fail before the
goal of safety be reached.

"All that is now wanted is strength, careful nursing, plenty of
nourishment, pure air--the seaside if possible, and perhaps the south
coast would be best." Welcome tidings, even though they herald slow
recovery, inch by inch and day by day, while watchful patience measures
out the time by meat and drink, and the money that will buy the means of
comfort or of pleasure, becomes but golden sand running through the
hour-glass, which marks each happy change.

Yes; but what of the poor and feeble, the faint-hearted who, having
neither oil nor wine, nor the twopence wherewith to pay for lodging at
the inn, must need lie there by the way-side, if no hand is stretched
out to help them?

While at those famous health-resorts, the names of which are to be read
at every railway station, and in the advertisement sheets of every
newspaper, hundreds and thousands are coming back from weakness to
strength, there are hundreds and thousands still who are discharged from
our great metropolitan hospitals, to creep to rooms in dim, close courts
and alleys, where all the tending care that can be given them must be
snatched from the hours of labour necessary to buy medicine and food.
How many a poor sorrowing soul has said with a sigh, "Oh! if I could
only send you to the sea-side. The doctors all say fresh air's the great
thing; but what's the use? they say the same of pure milk and meat and

It may be the father who has met with an accident, and cannot get over
the shock of a surgical operation--or rheumatic fever may have left
mother, son, or daughter in that terrible condition of utter
prostration, when it seems as though we were in momentary danger of
floating away into a fainting unconsciousness, which not being oblivion,
engages us in a struggle beyond our waking powers.

Alas! in the great summer excursion to the coast these poor fainting
brethren and sisters are too seldom remembered. Here and there a
building is pointed out as an infirmary, a sea-side hospital, or even as
a retreat for convalescents, but the latter institutions are so few, and
the best of them are so inadequately supported, that they have never yet
been able to prove by startling figures the great benefits which they
confer upon those who are received within their walls.

One of the oldest of these truly beneficent Institutions, "The Sea-side
Convalescent Hospital at Seaford," has just completed a new, plain, but
commodious building, not far from the still plainer House which has for
many years been the Home of its grateful patients. So let us pay a visit
to the old place just before its inmates are transferred to more ample
quarters, to provide for which new subscriptions are needed, and fresh
efforts are being made. The visit will show us how, in an unpretentious
way, and without costly appliances, such a charitable effort may be
worthily maintained.

Curiously enough, Seaford itself is an illustration of declension from
strength to weakness, and of the early stages of recovery; for though it
is one of the famous Cinque Ports, it has for nearly 200 years been an
unnoted retreat.

But it is still a place of old, odd customs, such as the election of the
chief of the municipality at an assembly of freemen at a certain
gate-post in the town, to which they are marshalled by an officer
bearing a mace surmounted with the arms of Queen Elizabeth. It is
famous, too, for Roman and other antiquities, and its queer little
church dedicated to St. Leonard, has some rare specimens of quaint
carving and a peal of bells which are peculiarly musical, while the
sounding of the complines on a still summer's night is good to hear. In
fact, for a mere cluster of houses forming an unpretentious and secluded
town, almost without shops to attract attention, with scarcely the
suspicion of a high street, and destitute of a grand hotel, Seaford is
remarkably interesting for its legendary lore, as a good many people
know, who have discovered its greatest attraction, and take lodgings at
the dull little place, where even the martello tower is deserted. The
chief recommendation of the place, however, is its healthfulness, and
the grand air which blows off the sea to the broad stretch of shingly
beach, and the range of cliff and down-land which stretches as far as
Beachy Head, and rises just outside the town into one or two bluffs,
about which the sea-gulls whirl and scream, as the evening sun dips into
the sparkling blue of the water. It is just at the foot of the boldest
of these ascents that we see an old-fashioned mansion, once known as
Corsica Hall, but now more distinctly associated with the name of the
Convalescent Hospital, of which it has long been the temporary home, the
London offices of the charity being at No. 8, Charing Cross, London.

The institution, which was founded in 1860, has for its president the
Archbishop of Canterbury, and for its patronesses the Duchess of
Cambridge and the Duchess of Teck, and it has done its quiet work
efficiently and well, under difficulties which must have required
staunch interest on the part of its committee.

It is difficult at first to understand that the big many-roomed house
just by the spur of the cliff, and peeping out to see over the shingle
ridge, is in any sense a hospital; but here is a convalescent who will
give us a very fair idea of the work that is being done; a tall fellow
who is but just recovering from acute rheumatism, and is now able to go
about slowly but with a cheery, hopeful look in his face. Presently, as
one comes near the front door, a lad, who having come from a hospital
where he has been attended for fractured ancle, has been sent here to
recover strength, is hobbling across a poultry-yard, where a grand
company of black Spanish, Polish, Cochin China, and other fowls are
assembled to be fed, and beneath a pent-house roof in this same yard, on
a bench, which would be well replaced by a more comfortable garden-seat
if the funds would allow, there is a sheltered and comfortable corner
for the afternoon indulgence of a whiff of tobacco. Twenty-five men and
twenty-four women are all the inmates, besides attendants, for whom
space can be found; and an inspection of the airy and scrupulously clean
dormitories, or rather bedrooms, on each side of the building, will show
that all the accommodation has been made available. It must be
remembered, however, that as the period of each inmate's stay is but a
month of twenty-eight days, fresh cases are constantly admitted during
all the summer months; so that though as late as at the end of March
only fourteen men and six women were distributed in the wards, the
average number admitted during the last official year has been 511 (an
increase of twenty-four over the year before), while the total number of
cases received since the opening of the institution amounts to nearly

There are evidences that in this old house, with its long passages, and
little supplementary stairs leading to the bedrooms, economy has been
studied, and yet all that can be done to adapt the place to its purpose
has been effected. The sense of fresh air and cleanliness is the first
noticeable characteristic. There are no slovenly corners; in
sitting-rooms, corridors, or dormitories, whether the latter be little
rooms with only two or three beds, or either of the large apartments,
with their wide bay-windows looking forth upon the sea. Plainly and even
sparely furnished, they have an appearance of homelike comfort, and it
is pleasant to note that in the larger bright cheerful room devoted to
women patients there are evidences of feminine taste and womanly
belongings, even to the egg-cups holding little posies of wild flowers
and common garden blooms that deck the broad mantelshelf in front of the
toilet glasses. The same home-like influences are to be observed in
other departments, and though this old country house--of which the
institution holds only a short term as tenants--is not altogether suited
for the purpose to which it has been applied, the arrangements are not
without a certain pleasant departure from the too formal and mechanical
routine which is observed in some establishments to have a peculiarly
depressing influence on the sick.

The kitchen is like that of some good-sized farm-house, with brick
floor, an ample "dresser," and a big range, flanked with its pair of
ovens, and just now redolent of the steam of juicy South-down mutton and
fresh vegetables about to be served for the patients' dinners.

It is a property of the Seaford air to make even persons with delicate
appetites ready for three plain meals a day, with a meat supper to
follow, and the convalescents are no exception to the rule. Tea and
bread-and-butter for breakfast, bread-and-cheese and ale for the men,
and cake and ale for the women as a snack in the way of lunch, good
roast meat and vegetables for dinner, with occasional pies or puddings,
with another half-pint of ale; tea as usual; and a supper consisting of
a slice of meat, bread, and another draught of beer--this is the most
ordinary diet; but in many cases milk is substituted for ale, and there
is also a morning draught of milk, or rum-and-milk, a lunch or supper of
farinaceous food, and wine or special diet, according to the orders of
the house surgeon, who visits the patients daily, or as often as may be
required. Following the odour of the roast mutton, we see the male
patients preparing to sit down to dinner in a good-sized room, where, to
judge from the pleased and grateful faces of men and lads, they are
quite ready to do justice to the repast. Barely furnished, and with
table appointments of the plainest kind, the dining-room is not
indicative of luxury; but the sauce of hunger is not wanting, and as we
bow our leave-taking, there are signs that the money spent at this
Seaford Hospital is well represented by the wholesome but expensive
medicine of pure food and drink in ample quantities, prescribed under
conditions which build up the strength, and restore life to the
enfeebled frames of those to whom a month of such living must be an era
in their history.

The women's dining-room is, I am glad to see, more ornamental than that
of the men. The walls are bright with gay paper, containing large and
brilliantly coloured scenery, while the wide windows look seaward, and
fill the large room with cheerful light.

This is all the more essential as there is no other sitting-room for the
female patients, and the more convenient furniture, especially a low
wooden couch covered with a mattress, is adapted to the needs of those
who require indoor recreation as well as frequent rest. The men have a
separate sitting-room in the basement, not a very cheerful apartment,
but one which in the warm summer-time is cool, and adapted for the
after-dinner doze, or for reading a book when the weather is not quite
favourable for sitting out of doors.

There is, by the bye, a very decided need of entertaining and pleasant
books for the patients' library at Seaford, the few which are on the two
or three shelves being mostly old, and of a particularly dreary pattern.
It is obvious that, in an institution where, in order to meet the
constant needs of those who seek its aid, every shilling must be
carefully expended, only a small sum can be devoted to literature; but
it may only have to be made known that the convalescents really need a
few cheerful volumes to help them along the road from sickness to
health, and out of the abundance of some teeming library the goodwill
offering may be made.

It is time that we--that is to say, the kindly and judicious secretary,
Mr. Horace Green, the examining physician, Dr. Lomas, and the present
writer--should yield to the influences of the grand appetising climate
of this airy nook of the English coast, and after a short turn into the
poultry-yard, a glance at the deliberate cow, and a passing greeting to
the great black cat with collar and bell and a mew that is almost a deep
bass roar, and to the most exacting, ugly, and voracious pet dog it was
ever my lot to encounter--we accept the invitation to test the quality
of the Southdown mutton and other Seaford fare, with a following of that
delicately boiled rice and jam to which the healthy palate returns with
childlike appreciation.

On hospitable thoughts intent, the bright and active lady who is
superintendent matron of the hospital, has for the time adopted us into
her hungry family, and with the knowledge of the effects of the breeze
blowing over that high bluff, and curling the waves along the shingle
ridge, has set out a repast in her own pleasant parlour, where she does
the honours of the institution with a simple cheerful grace that speaks
favourably for the administration which she represents. But I should now
be writing in the past tense, for the larger building is completed. The
inmates will have a better appointed home.

In order to maintain the objects of the charity, and to ensure the
comfort of those for whom its provisions are intended, some
well-considered regulations have to be adopted and enforced; and the
most discouraging circumstances with which the committee and their
officers have to contend, are those which arise from the negligence of
subscribers nominating patients, or from the demands made on the charity
by those who constantly expect more benefits from the institution than
their contributions would represent even if they were paid three times

It is, perhaps, not to be wondered at that people, anxious to secure for
their protégés the advantages of such means of recovery as are
represented by a temporary hospital where there has only been one death
in five years, should readily contribute their guinea for the sake of
gaining the privilege, even though they may add to that small
subscription the five shillings a week which is the sum required with
each patient. What has to be complained of, however, is that constant
attempts are made to introduce cases which are so far from being
convalescent, that they are still suffering from disease, and require
constant medical or surgical treatment. In order to do this, nominations
are frequently obtained from country subscribers, and it has required
the constant vigilance of the examining physician and the committee to
avoid the distressing necessity of obtaining for such patients admission
to other hospitals, or sending them back to their own homes, not only
without having received benefit from the institution, but perhaps
injured by the journey to and fro when they were in a weak and suffering

It should be remembered that the Seaford Hospital is not for the sick,
but for persons recovering from sickness,--those for whom the best
medicines are regular and ample meals, grand bracing air, sea-baths,
long hours of quiet and restorative sleep, and that general direction of
their daily progress towards complete recovery, which will often make
them strong and set them up completely, even in the twenty-eight days of
their sea-side sojourn.

To send patients who require the medical care and attendance which can
only be provided in a hospital for the special disorders from which they
suffer, or who are afflicted with incurable diseases, is unjust, both to
the poor creatures themselves and to the charity which cannot receive

For consumptive patients, except in the early or threatening stage of
phthisis, Seaford is unsuitable, but a month at the hospital for
patients of consumptive tendency has been known to produce remarkably
beneficial results. It is in cases of recovery after rheumatism and
rheumatic fever, or when strength is required after painful or
exhausting surgical operations, in nervous depression, debility,
pleurisy, and recovery from accidents, that the fine air is found to be
wonderfully invigorating; for Seaford is high and dry, the subsoil being
sand resting on chalk, so that there is little surface evaporation,
while the shelter afforded by Beachy Head screens this little bay of the
coast from the east wind.

It is not to be wondered at that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the
Bishop of London, and the late Bishop of Winchester should have joined
many of the London clergy, and more than eighty of the most eminent
physicians and surgeons connected with metropolitan hospitals, to
recommend this charity as one especially deserving of public support.
Those who are ever so superficially acquainted with the homes and
difficulties of the poorer classes in London know that the period of
debility after sickness, when the general hospital has discharged the
patient, or when the parish doctor has taken his leave, is a terrible
time. Too weak to work, without means to buy even common nourishment at
the crisis when plentiful food is requisite, and stimulated to try to
labour when the heart has only just strength to beat, men and women are
ready to faint and to perish unless helping hands be held out to them.
Try to imagine some poor cabman or omnibus-driver, lying weak and
helpless after coming from a hospital; think of the domestic servant,
whose small savings have all been spent in the endeavour to get well
enough to take another place; of the poor little wistful, eager-eyed
errand-boy, scantily fed, and with shaking limbs, that will not carry
him fast enough about the streets. Try to realise what a boon it must be
to a letter-carrier, slowly recovering from the illness by which he has
been smitten down, or to the London waiter, worn and debilitated by long
hours of wearying attendance to his duties, to have a month of rest and,
re-invigoration at a place like this. In the table of inmates during the
last few years are to be found a host of domestic servants, mechanics
and apprentices, warehousemen and labourers, 36 housewives (there is
much significance in that word, if we think of the poor wife or mother
to be restored to her husband and children), 46 needlewomen, 19 clerks,
15 teachers (mark that) 41 school-children, 9 nurses, 1 policeman, 3
seamen and watermen, 1 letter-carrier, 4 errand-boys, 7 Scripture-readers,
and others of various occupations.

It is no wonder, I say, that the general hospitals should regard this
Convalescent Home at Seaford as a boon; but, unfortunately for the
charity, the appreciation which it receives from some of those wealthy
and magnificently-endowed institutions operates as a very serious drain
on its own limited resources, which are only supplied by voluntary
subscriptions, contributions, and legacies. Every subscriber of a guinea
annually, and every donor of ten guineas in one sum, has the privilege
of recommending one patient yearly, with an additional recommendation
for every additional subscription of one guinea, or donation of ten
guineas. The payment of five shillings a week by each patient admitted
is also required by the guarantee of a householder written on the
nomination paper, and the travelling expenses of the patient must also
be paid, the Brighton Railway Company most benevolently conveying
patients to the hospital by their quick morning train, in second-class
carriages at third-class fare.

Now it is quite obvious that the five shillings a week, though it
removes the institution from the position of an absolute charity, goes
but a very short distance in providing for the needs of the inmates, and
when the guinea contribution is added to it, there is still a very wide
margin to fill before much good can be effected. Let us see, then, what
is the effect of every subscription of a guinea representing a claim, as
in the case of the patients sent from the general hospitals.

The cost of those admirable medicines, food and drink, wine, milk, and
sea-baths, together with the expenses of administration, and the rental
will represent at least £4 8s. per head for each patient, and as Guy's,
Bartholomew's, St. Thomas's, and the London Hospitals, each subscribing
their ten guineas annually, demand their ten nominations in exchange,
the account stands thus:--

For each case, five shillings per week for four weeks, and one guinea
subscription = £2 1_s._, which, deducted from the actual cost (£4
8_s._), leaves £2 7_s._ to be paid out of the funds of the Seaford
Institution, which, on ten patients a year, represents £23 10_s._ as the
annual contribution of this poor little charity to each of the four
great charitable foundations of the metropolis.

But there is now an opportunity for acknowledging this obligation, and
for recognizing the useful career of this really admirable institution.
The lease of the present house has already expired, and the committee
have been obliged to give up possession. It is therefore necessary to
support the new hospital for those who need the aid that such a charity
alone can give, and the building has already been erected, only a few
yards further in the shelter of the bluff, where it has provided another
home. With a commendable anxiety to keep strictly within their probable
means, the committee have decided not to imitate a too frequent mode of
proceeding, by which a large and splendid edifice would saddle their
undertaking with a heavy debt, and perhaps cripple resources needed for
carrying on their actual work; but they have obtained from Mr. Grüning,
the architect, a plain building which will provide for their needs for
some time to come, and may be hereafter increased in accommodation by
additions that will improve, rather than detract from, its completeness.
A great establishment, with a hundred beds, laundries, drying-houses,
and hot and cold sea-baths on the premises, would cost £13,000; and as
the actually available funds in hand for building purposes were not more
than £5,000, with another probable £1,000 added by special donations
expected during the year, the committee, however reluctantly, folded up
the original plan, and estimated the cost of a plain unpretentious
building, calculated at first to receive thirty-three male and
thirty-three female patients, but capable of additions which will raise
its usefulness and completeness to the higher demand, whenever there are
funds sufficient to pay for them. The expenditure for the new hospital
was about £7000, and, should the anticipated donations be increased
fourfold, there will be no difficulty in crowning the work, by such
provisions as will include the full number of a hundred faint and
failing men and women within the retreat where they find rest and


Yes, and amidst the mystery of suffering and pain,--the beginning of
that discipline which commences very early, and continues, for many of
us, during a whole lifetime, at such intervals as may be necessary for
the consummation which we can only faintly discern when we begin to see
that which is invisible to the eyes of flesh and of human understanding,
and is revealed only to the higher reason--the essential perception
which is called faith.

I want you to come with me to that eastern district of the great city
which has for so long a time been associated with accounts of distress,
of precarious earnings, homes without food or fire, scanty clothing,
dilapidated houses, dire poverty and the diseases that come of cold and
starvation. The place that I shall take you to is quite close to the
Stepney Station of the North London Railway. The district is known as
Ratcliff; the streets down which we shall pass are strangely destitute
of any but small shops, where a front "parlour" window contains small
stocks of chandlery or of general cheap odds and ends. The doorways of
the houses are mostly open, and are occupied by women and children, of
so poor and neglected an appearance, that we need no longer wonder at
the constant demands made upon the institution which we are about to
visit. Just here the neighbourhood seems to have come to a dreary
termination at the brink of the river, and to be only kept from slipping
into the dark current by two or three big sheds and wharves, belonging
to mast, rope, and block-makers, or others connected with that shipping
interest the yards of which are, many of them, deserted, no longer
resounding to the noise of hammers. The black spars and yards of vessels
alongside seem almost to project into the roadway as we turn the corner
and stand in front of a building, scarcely to be distinguished from its
neighbours, except for the plain inscription on its front, "East London
Hospital for Children and Dispensary for Women," and for a rather more
recent appearance of having had the woodwork painted. But for this there
would be little more to attract attention than might be seen in any of
the sail-makers' dwellings, stores, and lofts in the district; and, in
fact, the place itself is--or rather was--a sail-maker's warehouse, with
trap-doors in the rough and foot-worn floors, steep and narrow stairs,
bulks and baulks of timber here and there in the heavy ceilings and
awkward corners, not easily turned to account in any other business.
Some of these inconveniences have been remedied, and the trap-doors as
well as the awkwardest of the corners and the bulks have been either
removed or adapted to present purposes, for the business is to provide a
home and careful nursing for sick children, and the long rooms of the
upper storeys are turned into wards, wherein stand rows of Lilliputian
iron bedsteads, or tiny cribs, where forty boys and girls, some of them
not only babes but sucklings, form the present contingent of the hundred
and sixty little ones who have been treated during the year. Not a very
desirable-looking residence you will say, but there are a good many
inmates after all; and the scrupulous cleanliness of the place, as seen
from the very passage, is an earnest of that plan of making the best of
things which has always been characteristic of this hospital at Ratcliff
Cross. Some eight or nine grownup folks, and from thirty to forty
children, make a bright, cheerful home (apart from the suffering and
death which are inseparable from such a place) in that old sail-maker's
warehouse, if brightness and cheerfulness are the accompaniments of good
and loving work, as I thoroughly believe they are.

It was during the terrible visitation of cholera, nearly twelve years
ago, that this work of mercy was initiated, and the manner of its
foundation has about it something so pathetic that it is fitting the
story should be known, especially as the earnest, hopeful effort with
which the enterprise began seems to have characterised it to the present
day. Among the medical men who went about in the neighbourhood of Poplar
and Ratcliff during the epidemic, was Mr. Heckford, a young surgeon,
who, having recently come from India, was attached to the London
Hospital, and who took a constant and active part in the professional
duties he had undertaken. In that arduous work, he, as well as others,
received valuable and indeed untiring aid from the ready skill and
thoughtful care of a few ladies, who, having qualified themselves as
nurses, devoted themselves to the labour of love amongst the poor. To
one of this charitable sisterhood, who had been his frequent helper in
the time of difficulty and danger, the young surgeon became attracted by
the force of a sympathy that continued after the plague was stayed in
the district to which they had given so much care, and when they had
time to think of themselves and of each other. They went away together a
quietly married couple; both having one special aim and object in
relation to the beneficent career upon which they had entered in
company. Knowing from hardly-earned experience the dire need of the
district, they at once began to consider what they could do to alleviate
the sufferings of the women and children, so many of whom were sick and
languishing, in hunger and pain, amidst conditions which forbade their
recovery. If only they could make a beginning, and do something towards
arresting the ravages of those diseases that wait on famine and lurk in
foul and fœtid alleys;--if they could establish a dispensary where
women--mothers too poor to pay a doctor--could have medicine and careful
encouragement; if they could find a place where, beginning with a small
family of say half a dozen, they might take a tiny group of infants to
their home, and so set up a centre of beneficent action, a protest
against the neglect, the indifference, and the preventable misery for
which that whole neighbourhood had so long had an evil distinction.

The question was, how to make a beginning: but the young doctor and his
wife had been so accustomed to the work of taking help to the very doors
of those who needed it, that all they wanted was to find a place in the
midst of that down-east district where they could themselves live and
work. Out of their own means they bought the only available premises for
their purpose--a rough, dilapidated, but substantial, and above all, a
ventilable sail-loft with its adjacent house and store-rooms, and there
they quietly established themselves as residents, with ten little beds,
holding ten poor little patients supported by themselves, in the hope
that voluntary aid from some of the benevolent persons who knew what was
the sore need of the neighbourhood would enable them in time to add
twenty or thirty more, when the big upper storeys should be cleansed and
mended and made into wards. That hope was not long in being realised,
and on the 28th of January, 1868, after a determined effort to maintain
the institution and to devote themselves to its service, a regular
committee was formed and commenced its undertakings, the founders still
remaining and working with unselfish zeal. From twenty to thirty little
ones were received from out that teeming district, where a large
hospital with ten times the number of beds would not be adequate to the
needs of the infant population, the mothers of which have to work to
earn the scanty wages which in many cases alone keep them from absolute
starvation. The struggle to maintain the wards in the old sail-lofts was
all the harder, from the knowledge that in at least half the number of
cases where admission was necessarily refused, from want of space and
want of funds, the little applicants were sent away to die, or to become
helpless invalids or confirmed cripples, not less from the effects of
destitution--the want of food and clothing--than from the nature of the
diseases from which they were suffering.

The young doctor and his wife dwelt there, and with cultivated tastes
and accomplishments submitted to all the inconveniences of a small room
or two, from which they were almost ousted by the increasing need for
space. With a bright and cheerful alacrity they adapted those very
tastes and accomplishments to supplement professional skill and tender
assiduous care: the lady--herself in such delicate health that her
husband feared for her life, and friends anxiously advised her to seek
rest and change--used books and music to cheer the noble work, and
always had a picture on her easel, with which to hide the awkward bulges
and projections, or to decorate the bare walls and brighten them with
light and colour.

It was at Christmas-tide seven years ago that I first visited the
hospital, and there were then very pleasant evidences of the season to
be discovered in all kinds of festive ornament in the long wards, and
especially in the smaller rooms, where this loving woman had attracted
other loving women around her, as nurses to the suffering little ones;
and was there and then engaged in the superintendence of a glorious
Christmas-tree. But the time came when the hoped-for support having
arrived, Mr. and Mrs. Heckford felt that they could leave the family of
forty children to the care of those who had taken up the work with
heartfelt sympathy. They had laboured worthily and well, but, alas!--the
reward came late--late at least for him, who had been anxious to take
his wife away to some warmer climate, in an endeavour to restore the
strength that had been spent in the long effort to rear a permanent
refuge for sick children in that dense neighbourhood. It was he who
stood nearest to shadow-land,--he who was soonest to enter into the
light and the rest that lay beyond. Mr. Heckford died, I believe, at
Margate, after a short period of leisure and travel, which his wife
shared with him. His picture, presented by her to the charity which they
both founded, is to be seen in the boys' ward. Another portrait of
him--a portrait in words written by the late Mr. Charles Dickens, who
visited and pathetically described the children and their hospital in
December, 1868, conveys the real likeness of the man.

"An affecting play was acted in Paris years ago, called the Children's
Doctor. As I parted from my Children's Doctor now in question, I saw in
his easy black necktie, in his loose-buttoned black frock-coat, in his
pensive face, in the flow of his dark hair, in his eyelashes, in the
very turn of his moustache, the exact realisation of the Paris artist's
ideal as it was presented on the stage. But no romancer that I know of
has had the boldness to prefigure the life and home of this young
husband and wife, in the Children's Hospital in the East of London."

What the hospital was then, it has remained--but with such improvements
as increased funds and a more complete organisation have effected. It is
still the ark of refuge for those little ones who, smitten with sudden
disease, or slowly fading before the baleful breath of famine or of
fever, or ebbing slowly away from life by the fatal influences that sap
the constitutions of the young in such neighbourhoods, are taken in that
they may be brought back to life, or at worst may be lovingly tended,
that the last messenger may be made to bear a smile.

But the hope for the future of this most admirable institution has grown
to fill a larger space. It is indeed essential to any really permanent
effort in such a district that it should be increased, and the founders
looked forward with earnest anticipations of the time when, gathering
help from without, they could enter upon a larger building, which will
soon be completed, and will be more adequate to the needs of such a
teeming population. The area embracing Poplar, Mile End, Whitechapel,
St. George's, Limehouse, Ratcliff, Shadwell, and Wapping numbers some
400,000 inhabitants, and strangely enough--as it will seem to those who
have not yet learnt the true characteristics of the really deserving
poor--many of the distressed people about that quarter will conceal
their poverty, and strive as long as they are able--so that when at last
they go to ask for aid the case may be almost hopeless, and the delay in
obtaining admission may be fatal. There are already so many more
applicants than can be received that it may be imagined what must be the
vast amount of alleviable suffering awaiting the opportunity of wider
means and a larger building. It would be easy to shock the reader by
detailing many of the more distressing diseases from which the poor
little patients suffer, but on visiting the wards you are less shocked
than saddened, while the evident rest and care which are helping to
restore and to sooth the sufferers ease you of the greater pain by the
hope that they inspire.

It is Sunday noon as we stand here in the dull street where, but for the
sudden opening of a frowsy tavern and the appearance of two or three
thirsty but civil customers, who are not only ready but eager to show
you the way to the "Childun's 'orsepital," there would be little to
distinguish it from a thoroughfare of tenantless houses. Ratcliff is at
its dinner at present, but we shall as we go back see the male residents
leaning against the doorposts smoking, and the women and children
sitting at the doors as at a private box at the theatre, discussing the
sordid events of the streets and the small chronicles of their poor
daily lives.

But we must leave the cleanly-scrubbed waiting-room and its adjoining
large cupboard which does duty as dispenser's room. It is dinnertime
here too, or rather it has been, and there are evidences of some very
jolly feasting, considering that, after all, the banqueters are mostly
in bed and on sick diet, which in many cases means milk, meat, eggs, and
as much nourishment as they can safely take. Indeed, food is medicine to
those who are turning the corner towards convalescence--food and air--of
which latter commodity there is a very excellent supply considering the
kind of neighbourhood we are in. Here and there we see a little wan,
pinched, wasted face lying on the pillow; a listless, transparent hand
upon the counterpane--which are sad tokens that the tiny sufferers are
nearing the eternal fold beyond the shadowy threshold where all is dark
to us, who note how every breath bespeaks a feebler hold on the world of
which they have learnt so little in their tiny lives. There are others
who are sitting up with picture-books, or waiting to have their
abscesses dressed, and arms bandaged, or eyes laved with cooling lotion.
Hip-disease and diseases of the joints are evidence of the causes that
bring so many of the little patients here, and there are severe cases of
consumption and of affections of the lungs and of the glands; but as the
little fellow wakes up from a short nap, or catches the eye of the "lady
nurse"--a lively and thoroughly practical Irishwoman, who evidently
knows how to manage, and has come here, after special training, for the
love of doing good--they show a beaming recognition which is very
pleasant to witness. With all the nurses it is the same.

They are young women who, receiving small pay, have come to devote
themselves to the work for Christ's sake and the Gospel's--that is to
say, for the love of humanity and of the good tidings of great joy that
announce the love of Him who gave Himself for us.

In the girls' ward there is the same freshness and cleanliness of the
place and all its belongings, the same wonderful patience and courageous
endurance on the part of the baby inmates, which has been my wonder ever
since we went in. Here is a mite of a girl sitting up in bed, holding a
moist pad to her eye, her poor little head being all bandaged. She never
utters a sound, but the little round face is set with a determined
endurance. "What is she sitting up for?" She is "waiting to see muvver."
Another little creature, who is suffering from abscesses in the neck,
submits to have the painful place poulticed only on the condition that
she shall decide, by keeping her hand upon the warm linseed-meal, when
it is cool enough to put on. These are scarcely pleasant details, and
there are sights here which are very, very sad, and make us shrink--but
I honestly declare that they are redeemed from being repulsive because
of the evidence of love that is to be witnessed,--the awakening of the
tender sympathies and sweet responses of the childlike heart. But for
its being Sunday--which involves another reason to be mentioned
presently--the beds would be strewed with toys and picture-books, while
a rocking-horse, which is a part of the hospital property, and a fit
kind of steed to draw the "hospital-carriage," which is represented by a
perambulator--would probably be saddled and taken out of the stable on
the landing. On the topmost storey we come to the real infants, the
little babies, one of whom is even now in the midst of his dinner, which
he takes from a feeding-bottle, by the aid of an india-rubber tube
conveniently traversing his pillow.

Everywhere there are evidences of the care with which the work is
carried on, and as we descend to the waiting-room again we have fresh
proofs of the benefits that are being effected in the great district, by
the provision made for the little creatures, many of whom would
otherwise be left to linger in pain and want. For the waiting-room is
filled--filled with mothers and elder sisters and little brothers,
tearfully eager and anxious for the weekly visit to the fifty children
upstairs. Here is the secret of the brave little patient faces in the
beds and cots above.

It is infinitely touching to think how the prospect of "seeing muvver"
sustains that chubby little sufferer,--how the expected visit nerves the
stronger ones to endurance, and sends a fresh throb of life through
those who are still too weak to do more than faintly smile, and hold out
a thin pale hand.

If Mr. Ashby Warner, the Secretary at this Hospital for Sick Children at
Ratcliff Cross, could but send some responsive thrill into the hearts of
those who, having no children of their own, yet love Christ's little
ones all over the world,--or could bring home to the fond fathers and
mothers of strong and chubby babes the conviction that to help in this
good work is a fitting recognition of their own mercies; nay, if even to
sorrowing souls who have been bereaved of their dear ones, and who yet
believe that their angels and the angels of these children also, do
constantly behold the face of the Father which is in heaven, there would
come a keen recognition of the blessedness of doing something for the
little ones, as unto Him who declares them to be of His kingdom--there
would soon be no lack of funds to finish building that great new
hospital at Shadwell, which is to take within its walls and great airy
wards so many more little patients, to help and comfort by advice and
medicine so many more suffering mothers and sisters than could be
received in the old sail-loft and its lower warehouse at Ratcliff Cross.
For the hope of the founders and their successors has at last being
realised--a larger building than they had at first dared to expect is to
be erected on ground which has been purchased, still within the district
where the need is greatest--and when the time comes that the last touch
of carpenter and mason shall have been given to the new home, and the
picture of Mr. Heckford shall be hung upon another wall, there may well
be a holiday "down east"--as a day of thanksgiving and of gratitude, to
those who may yet help in the work by giving of their abundance.


"Of such are the kingdom of heaven;" and "whosoever doeth it unto the
least of these little ones, doeth it unto Me." Surely there is no need
to comment again on these sayings of Him who, in His infinite
childlikeness, knew what must be the characteristics of His subjects,
and declared plainly that whosoever should enter into the kingdom must
become as a little child. One thing is certain, that those who are
within that kingdom, or expect to qualify themselves for it, must learn
something of the Divine sympathy with which Christ took the babes in his
arms and blessed them. Thank God that there is so much of it in this
great suffering city, and that on every hand we see efforts made for the
rescue, the relief, and the nurture of sick and destitute children.
Would that these efforts could relieve us from the terrible sights that
should make us shudder as we pass through its tumultuous streets, and
witness the suffering, the depravity, and the want, that comes of
neglecting the cry of the little ones, and of those who would bring them
to be healed and sanctified.

Only just now I asked you to go with me to Ratcliff to see the forty
tiny beds ranged in the rooms of that old sail-maker's warehouse which
has been converted into a Hospital for Sick Children. There is something
about this neighbourhood of Eastern London that keeps us lingering there
yet; something that may well remind us of that star which shone above
the manger at Bethlehem where the Babe lay. The glory of the heavenly
light has led wise men and women to see how, in reverence for the
childlikeness, they may work for the coming of the kingdom, and those
who enter upon this labour of love, begin--without observation--to find
what that kingdom really is, and to realise more of its meaning in their
own hearts.

To the cradle in a manger the wise men of old went to offer gifts. To a
cradle I would ask you to go with me to-day; to a whole homeful of
cribs; which is known by a word that means crib and manger and cradle
all in one--"The Crèche."

There is something, as it seems to me, appropriate in this French word
to the broad thoroughfare (so like one of the outer boulevards of Paris)
out of which we turn when we have walked a score or two of yards from
the Stepney Station, or where some other visitors alight from the big
yellow tramway car running from Aldgate to Stepney Causeway. The
Causeway itself is a clean, quiet street, and is so well known that the
first passer-by can point it out to you, while, if the inhabitants of
the district can't quite master the _crunch_ of the French word, they
know well enough what you mean when you ask for the "babies' home," or
for "Mrs. Hilton's nursery." The home itself is but a baby institution,
for it is only five years old, but it might be a very Methuselah if it
were to be judged by the tender, loving care it has developed, and the
good it has effected, not only on behalf of the forty sucklings who are
lying in their neat little wire cots upstairs, like so many human
fledglings in patent safety cages, and for the forty who are sprawling
and toddling about in the lower nursery, or for the contingent who are
singing a mighty chorus of open vowels on the ground-floor; but also in
the hopeful aid and tender sympathy it has conveyed to the toiling
mothers who leave their little ones here each morning when they go out
to earn their daily bread, and fetch them again at night, knowing that
they are fresh and clean, and have been duly nursed and fed, and put to
sleep, and had their share of petting and of play.

The sound of the forty singing like one is not perceptible as we
approach the house, which, with its large high windows open to the soft,
warm air, lies very still and quiet. The wire-blinds to the windows near
the street bear the name of the institution, and over the doorway is
inscribed the fact that the Princess Christian has become the patroness
of this charity, which appeals to all young mothers, and to every woman
who acknowledges the true womanly love for children. Each day, from
twelve to four o'clock, visitors are welcomed, except on Saturdays, when
the closing hour is two o'clock, as, even in some of the factories down
east, the half-holiday is observed, and poor women working at
bottle-warehouses and other places have the happiness of taking home
their little ones, and keeping them to themselves till the following
Monday morning. Do you feel inclined to question whether these poor,
toil-worn women appreciate this privilege? Are you ready to indulge in a
cynical fear that they would rather forego the claim that they are
expected to assert? Believe me you are wrong. One of the most hopeful
and encouraging results of the tender care bestowed upon these babes of
poverty is that of sustaining maternal love, and beautifying even the
few hours of rest and family reunion in the squalid rooms where the
child is taken with a sense of hope and pride to lighten the burden of
the day. Early each morning the little creatures are brought, often in
scanty clothing, sometimes shoeless, mostly with a ready appetite for
breakfast. Then the business of matron and nurses begins. But, come, let
us go in with the children, and see the very first of it, as women,
poorly clad, coarse of feature, and with the lines of care, and too
frequently with the marks of dissipation and of blows upon their faces,
come in one by one and leave their little living bundles, not without a
certain wistful, softened expression and an occasional lingering loving

The house--stay, there are actually three houses, knocked into one so as
to secure a suite of rooms on each floor--is as clean as the proverbial
new pin; and as we ascend the short flights of stairs, there is a sense
of lightness and airiness which is quite remarkable in such a place, and
is by some strange freak of fancy associated with the notion of a big,
pleasant aviary--a notion which is strengthened by our coming suddenly
into the nursery on the first-floor, and noting as the most prominent
object of ornament a large cage containing some sleek and silken doves,
placed on a stand very little above the head of the tiniest toddler

There is enough work for the matron, her assistant, and the four or five
young nurses who receive these welcome little guests each morning. The
rows of large metal basins on the low stands are ready, and the
morning's ablutions are about to commence, so we will return presently,
as people not very likely to be useful in the midst of so intricate an
operation as the skilful washing and dressing of half a hundred babies.

There is plenty to see in the neighbourhood out of doors, but we need
not wander far to find something interesting, for on the ground-floor of
these three houses which form the Crèche--the babies' home--provision
has also been made for babies' fathers, in the shape of "a British
Workman," or working-man's reading, coffee, and bagatelle room, with a
library of readable books, and liberty to smoke a comfortable pipe.

Of the servants' home, which is another branch of this cluster of
charitable institutions, we have no time to speak now, for our visit is
intended for the Crèche, and we are already summoned to the upper rooms
by the sound of infant voices. Doubt not that you will be welcomed on
the very threshold, for here comes an accredited representative of the
institution, just able to creep on all fours to the guarded door, thence
to be caught up by the gentle-faced young nurse, who at once consigns
the excursionist to a kind of square den or pound, formed of stout bars,
and with the space of floor which it encloses covered by a firm
mattress. There, in complete safety, and with two or three good
serviceable and amiably-battered toys, the young athletes who are
beginning to practise the difficult feat of walking with something to
hold by, are out of harm's way, and may crawl or totter with impunity.
They have had their breakfast of bread and milk, and are evidently
beginning the day, some of them with a refreshing snooze in the little
cribs which stand in a row against a wall, bright, as all the walls are,
with coloured pictures, while in spaces, or on low tables here and
there, bright-hued flowers and fresh green plants are arranged, so that
the room, necessarily bare and unencumbered with much furniture, is so
pleasantly light and gay, that we are again reminded of a great
bird-cage. Out here in a little ante-room is a connected row of low,
wooden arm-chairs, made for the people of Lilliput, and each furnished
with a little tray or table, and, drumming expectantly and with a
visible interest in the proceeding, sit a line of little creatures,
amidst whom a nurse distributes her attentions, by feeding them
carefully with a spoon, just as so many young blackbirds might be fed.
Already some of the little nurslings are sitting up in their cribs,
quietly nodding their round little heads over some cherished specimen of
doll or wooden horse. One wee mite of a girl, quite unable to speak,
except inarticulately, holds up the figure of a wooden lady of fashion,
with a wistful entreaty which we fail to understand, till the quick-eyed
lady who accompanies us spies a slip of white tape in the tiny hand, and
at once divines that it is to be bound about the fashionable waist, as
an appropriate scarf, and at once performs this finishing stroke of the
toilet, to the immeasurable satisfaction of everybody concerned. This is
in the upper room, the real baby nursery, where the age of some of the
inmates is numbered by weeks only, and there is in each swinging cot a
sweet, sleepy sense of enjoyment of the bottle which forms the necessary
appliance of luncheon-time.

At the heads of several of these cots are inscribed the names of
charitable donors, happy parents, bereaved mothers, sympathetic women
with babies of their own, either on earth or in heaven, who desire to
show gratitude, faith, remembrance, by this token of their love for the
childlikeness of those they love and cherish in their deepest memories,
their most ardent hopes. In more than one of the little beds there are
signs of the poverty or the sickliness in which the children were born,
and the effects of which this home, with its freshness and light and
food, is intended to remedy. No cases of actual disease are here,
however, since a small infirmary for children suffering from more
serious ailments has been added to the institution, and the Sick
Children's Hospital is but three street lengths distant.

The first most remarkable experience which meets the visitor
unaccustomed to observe closely, is the freshness and beauty of the
children in this place. Squalid misery, dirt, neglect, starvation, so
disguise and debase even the children in such neighbourhoods, that
squeamish sentimentality turns away at the first glance, and is apt to
conclude that there are essential differences between the infancy of
Tyburnia or Mayfair and the babyhood of Ratcliff and Shadwell. Yet I
venture to assert that if Mr. Millais or some other great painter were
to select his subjects for a picture from these rooms of the old house
in Stepney Causeway, he would leave the galleries of Burlington House
echoing with "little dears," and "what a lovely child!" and popular
prejudice would conclude that from birth the little rosebud mouths were
duly fitted with silver spoons instead of being scant even of the
bluntest of wooden ladles.

At this Crèche at Stepney Causeway the reasons of the true childlike
freshness, alacrity, and even the engaging impetuosity and loving
confidence which characterise these little ones, is not far to seek. As
you came up you noticed row after row of blue check bags, hanging in a
current of fresh air on the wall of the staircase.

Those bags contain the clothes in which these children are brought to
the Home in the morning. They are changed with the morning's ablutions,
and clean garments substituted for them until the mothers come in the
evening to fetch away their bairnies, and by that time they have been
aired and sweetened. It is noticeable that this has the effect in many
instances of inducing the women to make praiseworthy efforts to improve
the appearance of the children, and, indeed, the whole tendency of the
treatment of the little ones is to develop the tenderness and love which
lie deep down in the hearts of the mothers. Even the endearing nicknames
almost instinctively bestowed upon the tiny darlings have a share in
promoting this feeling, and the pretty rosy plump little creatures, or
the quaint expressive bright-eyed babies, who are called "Rosie,"
"Katie," "Pet," "Little Old Lady," and so on, all have a kind of happy
individuality of their own in the regards of the dear lady who founded
and still directs the institution, and in those of the nurses who tend
them. Sometimes the names arise from some little incident occurring when
the children are first brought there, as well as from the engaging looks
and manners of the little ones themselves. "The King," is a really fine
baby-boy, the recognised monarch of the upper nursery, but his sway is
strictly constitutional; while a pretty little wistful, plump lassie, is
good-humouredly known as "Water Cresses," and has no reason to be
ashamed of the name, for it designates the business by which a
hard-working mother and elder sister earn the daily bread for the

Did I say that the charge for each child is twopence daily? Nominally it
is so; and let those who desire to know something of the real annals of
the poor remember that even this small sum--which of course cannot
adequately represent anything like the cost--is not easily subtracted
from the scanty earnings of poor women engaged in slopwork, or selling
dried fish, plants, crockery, and small wares in the streets, or going
out to work in warehouses, rope-walks, match-making, box-making, and
other poor employments, where the daily wages will not reach to
shillings, and sometimes are represented only in the pence column. Let
it be remembered, too, that the husbands of these women (those who are
not prematurely widows, or whose husbands have not deserted them) are
employed as dock labourers, and are often under the terrible curse of
drink, or are in prison, while the women struggle on to support the
little ones, who but for this institution, would perhaps be
left--hungry, naked, and sickly--to the care of children only two or
three years older than themselves; or would be locked in wretched rooms
without food or fire till the mother could toil homeward, with the
temptation of a score of gin-shops in the way.

Each of the bright intelligent little faces now before us has its
history, and a very suggestive and pathetic history too.

Look at this little creature, whose pet name of Fairy bespeaks the
loving care which her destitute babyhood calls forth; she is only ten
months old, and her mother is but nineteen, the widow of a sailor lost
at sea two months before the baby was born.

Katie, of the adult age of five years, is the child of a man who works
on barges. Rosie, one of the first inmates, has a drunken dock-labourer
for a father, and her mother is dead. Dicky represents the children
whose father, going out to sea in search of better fortune for wife and
children, is no more heard of, and is supposed to be dead. "The King" is
fatherless, and his mother works in a bottle-warehouse. The pathetic
stories of these children is told by Mrs. Hilton herself, in the little
simple reports of this most admirable charity. They are so touching,
that I cannot hope to reproduce them in any language so likely to go
straight to the heart as that in which you may read them for yourself if
you will either visit the Crèche, or send ever so small a donation, and
ask for a copy of the modest brown-covered little chronicle of these
baby-lives. Standing here in the two nurseries, where the dolls and
Noah's arks, the pictures and the doves, nay, even the baby-jumpers
suspended from the ceilings, are but accessories to the clasp of loving
arms and the softly-spoken words of tender womanly kindness, I wonder
why all one side of Stepney Causeway has not been demanded by a
discriminating public for the extension of such an institution.
Loitering in the lower room, where one little bright face is lifted up
to mine, as the tiny hands pluck at my coat-skirt, and another chubby
fist is busy with my walking-stick, I begin to think of the workhouse
ward, where mothers are separated from their children night and day; of
a prison, where I have seen a troop of little boys, and a flogging-room
provided by a beneficent Government for the recognition by the State of
children who had qualified themselves for notice by the commission of
what the law called crime.

A pleasant odour of minced beef, gravy, and vegetables, known as "Irish
stew," begins to steal upon the air. The wooden benches in one of the
rooms are suddenly turned back, and like a conjuring trick, convert
themselves into tiny arm-chairs, with convenient trays in front for
plates and spoons. The little voices--forty like one--strike up a fresh
chant, and a whisper of rice-pudding is heard. So we go out, wondering
still, and with a wish that from every nursery where children lisp
"grace before meat," some gracious message could be brought to aid and
strengthen those who believe with me that the most profitable investment
of political economy, the most certain effort of philanthropy, is to
begin with the men and women of the future, and so abate the fearful
threatenings of coming pauperism, and the still more terrible menace of
a permanent "criminal class."

The policy of the authorities, says Mrs. Hilton, in her interesting
narrative of the Crèche, in stopping outdoor relief to poor widows with
children is causing much sorrow. The 2_s._ 6_d._ or 3_s._ received from
the parish secured their rent, and they managed, with shirt-making or
trouser-finishing, to earn a bare subsistence; but now the battle for a
mere existence is terrible. Doubtless, the children would be better
cared for in the House, but mothers cannot be persuaded to give them up.
One such case has just passed under my notice; but the woman shall speak
for herself. "'Oh, Mrs. Hilton, they have taken off my relief!--I, with
four little ones who cannot even put on their shoes and stockings. They
offer me the House; but I never can give up my children. Look at baby;
he is ten months old; his father died of small-pox six months before he
was born; he was only ill five days.' I told her I was afraid she would
not be able to earn enough to keep them all. 'Well,' she said, 'I must
try--I will never go into the House.'"

"But these women have very little feeling for their children, they are
so low and brutalised." Are they? Let those who think so visit this
Cradle Home, and witness the bearing of the mothers who come to take
their little ones home, or to nurse the sucklings at intervals snatched
from work. Let them hear what such poor women will do for children _not_
their own, even to the extent (as recently took place, in one instance,
at least) of sharing with their less necessitous babes the natural
sustenance that the mother cannot always give.

Sixty-five children received daily and a hundred or more on the books,
with space needed for many more than can be admitted; children who, some
of them infants as they are, have learned to lisp profane oaths and
babble in foul language, and to give way to furious outbursts of
passion, the result of neglect and evil example, and the life of the
street and the gutter. It is but a short time, however, before this
strange dreadful phase of the distorted child mind disappears, and the
pet name is bestowed along with the gentle kindness that obliterates the
evil mimicry of sin. The baby taken home from this purer atmosphere of
love becomes a messenger of grace to many a poor household, as the short
annals of the Crèche will tell; and even the pet names themselves are
adopted by the mothers in speaking of and to their own children. One
short story from the first report sent out by Mrs. Hilton, and we will
go our way with a hope that some words of ours may win a fresh interest
for these little ones.

"A precious babe died, and the mother, too poor to bury it, sent for a
parish coffin. The child was very dear to us, and we had named her our
nursery Queen which had degenerated into 'Queenie.' It was a sore trial
to us to see the golden curls mingled with sawdust, which is all that
was placed in the coffin; and yet we could not spend public funds on the
funeral, and feared to do it privately. In a few hours a mother came and
said, 'Come and look at your Queenie now.' We went and saw that loving
hands had softened all the harsh outlines. A little bed and pillow had
been provided, a frill placed round the edge, and some children had lain
fresh-gathered flowers on the darling's breast. The cost had been
9½_d._, paid for by those mothers, and although so freely and lovingly
given, it was the price of more than a meal each."

If every mother in London with a well-stocked larder would give the
price of a meal for the sake of a living child--but, there! my duty is
not to beg, but to describe.


Only quite lately I had to write about the old French colony in
Spitalfields, and of the changes that have come over entire
neighbourhoods which were once associated with what is now a failing
industry, or rather with one which, so far as London is concerned, has
nearly died out altogether.

Not that the public has ceased to hear sundry reports of those quarters
of the metropolis of which the name of Bethnal Green is an indication as
suggesting dire poverty, neglected dwellings, poorly-paid callings, and
constant distress. Some few years ago it became quite a fashion for
newspaper special reporters (following in the wake of one or two writers
who had begun to tell the world something of the truth of what they knew
of these sad regions) to make sudden amateur excursions beyond
Shoreditch, for the purpose of picking up material for "lurid" articles
about foul tenements, fever, hunger, want, and crime. Bethnal Green
became quite a by-word, even at the West End, and certain spasmodic
efforts in the direction of charitable relief were made by well-meaning
people, so that for a time there was danger of a new kind of
demoralisation of the "low neighbourhood," and the price of lodgings,
even in the wretched tenements of its notorious streets, were expected
to rise in proportion to the demand made by emigrants from other less
favoured localities, to which the special correspondent had not at that
time penetrated. One good work was effected by the attention of sanitary
authorities being called to the fever dens during a time of terrible
epidemic, and a certain provision of medical aid, together with
purification of drains, whitewashing of rooms, and clearing of sties and
dustheaps, was the result. This was but temporary, however; and those
who best know the neighbourhood lying between Shoreditch and Bethnal
Green, and disclaimed by the local authorities of both because of its
misery and dilapidation, are also aware that in various parts of the
whole great district from the Hackney Road to Bishopsgate, and so
embracing Spitalfields and part of Whitechapel, far away to Mile End and
"Twig Folly," there can be discovered more of want, hunger, and disease
than could exist in any free city under heaven, if men were not such
hypocrites as to defy and disregard the laws which yet they claim to
have a hand in framing, and a power to enforce.

Only those who are personally acquainted with such a district can
conceive what is the condition of the children of its streets, and yet
every ordinary wayfarer of the London thoroughfares may note to what a
life some of them are committed. About the outskirts of the markets,
round the entrances to railway stations, cowering in the shadows of dark
arches, or scrambling and begging by the doors of gin-shops and taverns,
the boys--and what is even worse, the girls--are to be seen daily and
nightly, uncared for, till they have learnt how to claim the attention
of a paternal government by an offence against the law. When once the
child, who is a mere unnoted fraction of the population, has so far
matriculated in crime as to warrant the interposition of the police, he
or she becomes an integer of sufficient importance to be dealt with by a
magistrate. Let an infancy of neglect and starvation lead to the
reckless pilfering of a scrap of food from a counter, or the abstraction
of something eatable or saleable from a market-cart or a porter's sack,
and the little unclassified wretch is added as another unit to a body
recognised, and in some sense cared for, by the State. As a member of
the great "criminal class," the juvenile thief becomes of immediate
importance. Even though the few juvenile criminal reformatories be full,
the gaol doors are open, and the teachings of evil companionship are
consummated by the prison brand. The individual war against society
gains strength and purpose, for society itself has acknowledged and
resented it. The child has entered on a career, and unless some extra
legal interposition shall succeed in changing the course of the juvenile
offender by assuming a better guardianship, the boy may become an
habitual thief, a full-fledged London ruffian; the girl----?

It was with a deep sense of the terrible significance of this question,
that a small party of earnest gentlemen met, twenty-seven years ago, in
that foul neighbourhood to which I have referred, to consider what
should be done to rescue the deserted and destitute girls, some of whom
had already been induced to attend a ragged school, which was held in a
dilapidated building that had once been a stable.

These thoughtful workers included among them two men of practical
experience; one of them, Mr. H. R. Williams, the treasurer of the
present institution, the other the Rev. William Tyler, whose bright
genial presence has long been a power among the poor of that district,
where even the little ragged children of the streets follow him, and
lisp out his name as the faithful shepherd, who both gives and labours
in one of the truest "cures of souls" to be found in all great London.
To them soon came the present honorary secretary, Mr. J. H. Lloyd, a
gentleman already familiar with teaching the poor in a neighbouring
district no less wretched and neglected. They were the right men for the
business in hand, and therefore they began by moving sluggish boards and
commissions to put in force the sanitary laws--and, in spite of the
opposition of landlords with vested interests in vile tenements let out
to whole families of lodgers from garret to basement, and of the
malignant opposition of owners of hovels where every abomination was
rife, and pigs littered in the yards, while costermongers shared the
cellars with their donkeys--insisted on the surrounding streets being
paved and drained, and some of the houses being whitewashed and made

Nothing less could have been done, for the terrible cholera epidemic was
already raging in that tangle of courts and alleys. Application was at
once made for a share from the Mansion House Relief Fund, and the
committee had to use every available shilling in order to supply food
and medicine, blankets and clothing, to the wretched families; to visit
whom, a regular relief corps was organised, carrying on its beneficent
and self-denying work, until the plague began to be stayed. Then with
scarcely any money, but with unabated hope and fervid faith, this little
company of men and women began to consider what they should do to found
a Refuge for the children (many of them orphans, and quite friendless)
who were everywhere to be seen wandering about, or alone and utterly
destitute in the bare rooms that had been their homes. There were
already certain institutions to which boys could be sent, for then, as
now, the provision for boys was far greater than for girls. This is one
of the strange, almost inexplicable conditions of charitable effort, and
at that time it was so obvious which was the greater need, that the
committee at once determined to commence a building on a waste piece of
land which had been purchased close by, and to devote it to the
reception of thirty destitute girls, who should be snatched from deadly
contamination, and from the association of thieves and depraved

Surely, if slowly, the work went on, the plan of the building being so
prepared that it could be extended as the means of meeting the growing
need increased. Almost every brick was laid with thoughtful care, and
when subscriptions came slowly in, the funds were furnished among the
committee themselves rather than the sound of plane and hammer should
cease; till at last, when the King Edward Ragged School and Girl's
Refuge was completed, a large edifice of three spacious storeys had
superseded the old ruinous stable amidst its fœtid yards and sheds,
and, what was more, the building was paid for, and a family of children
had been gathered within its sheltering walls. At the time of my first
visit to the institution no more than twenty had been taken into this
Refuge; but every foot of the building was utilised until the money
should be forthcoming to add to the dormitories, and enable the
committee to fulfil the purpose that it had in view.

In the large square-paved playground forty happy little members of the
infant-school were marching to the slow music of a nursery song; and the
numbers on the books were 196, in addition to 304 girls who came daily
to be instructed in the great school-room, where they were taught to
read, and write, and sew. A hundred and twenty boys were also being
taught in the Ragged Church opposite, while seventy children over
fifteen years of age attended evening classes, forty-two young men and
women were in the Bible class, and a penny bank, a library of books, and
a benevolent fund for the relief of poor children in the neighbourhood,
were branches of the parent institution.

This, however, was seven years ago, and since that time so greatly has
the work flourished, that the Ragged and Infant Schools have premises of
their own on the other side of the way; and the great building having
been completed by the addition of an entire wing, its original purpose
is accomplished, and it is "The Girl's Refuge," of the King Edward
Certified Industrial and Ragged Schools, Albert Street, Spitalfields.

It is to the receipt of munificent anonymous donations that the
committee owe the completion of the building, and in order to extend the
usefulness of their Refuge they have certified it under the provisions
of the Industrial Schools Act of 1866. That this was in accordance with
their ruling principle of making the most of every advantage at their
command may be shown by the fact that when the School Board, almost
appalled at the need for making immediate use of any existing
organization, began to send cases to existing "Homes," only eight of
these institutions could receive the children, and in these eight no
more than forty-four vacancies existed for Protestant girls. The
consequence of opening the King Edward Refuge under the Act was that it
received nearly all the cases of the year, and that in the twelve months
it was certified ninety new inmates after found an asylum within its

If you were to go there with me to-day, you would not wonder that the
supporters of this institution were anxious to erect another building in
some part of London, where another hundred lambs straying in this great
wilderness could be taken to the fold. Passing through the neat
dormitories, with their rows of clean white beds; peeping into the big
toy cupboard, where the kindly treasurer has recently placed a whole
family of eighty dolls, and other attractive inventions to induce
children to play, some of whom have never known before what play really
meant; looking at the lavatory with its long rows of basins let into
slate slabs, and each with its towel and clean bag for brush and comb;
noting the quiet "Infirmary," with its two or three beds so seldom
needed, and remarking that from topmost floor to the great laundry with
its troughs and tubs, a constant supply of hot water provides alike for
warmth and cleanliness, I begin to wonder what must be the first
sensations of a poor little dazed homeless wanderer on being admitted,
washed, fed, and neatly clothed. Why, the two kitchens--that one with
the big range, where most of the cooking is done, and the other cosy
farmhouse-looking nook, with its air of comfort--must be a revelation to
all the senses at once. Then there are the highly-coloured prints on the
walls, the singing of the grace before meat; the regular and wholesome
food; the discipline (one little rebel is already in bed, whither she
has been sent for misconduct, and an elder girl demurely brings up her
slice of bread and mug of milk and water on a plate); the provision for
recreation; the occasional visits of parents (many of them unworthy of
the name) at stated seasons; the outings to the park, the Bethnal Green
Museum, and other places; the Christmas treat; the summer presents of
great baskets of fruit; the rewards and prizes; the daily instruction in
such domestic work as fits them for becoming useful household servants.
What a wonderful change must all these things present to the children of
the streets, whose short lives have often been less cared for than those
of the beasts that perish! Everywhere there are marks of order, from the
neat wire baskets at the foot of each bed in which the girls place their
folded clothes before retiring to rest, to the wardrobe closets and the
great trays of stale bread and butter just ready for tea. Everywhere
there are evidences of care and loving kindness, from the invalid
wheel-chair--the gift of the treasurer to the infirmary--to the splendid
quality of the "long kidney" potatoes in the bucket, where they are
awaiting the arrival of to-morrow's roast mutton, three days being meat
dinner days, while one is a bread and cheese, and two are farinaceous
pudding days.

As we sit here and sip our tea--for I am invited to tea with the
committee--and are waited on by three neat and pretty modest little
women--one of them, a girl of eight, so full of child-like grace and
simplicity, that there would be some danger of her being spoiled if she
were not quite used to a little petting--who can help looking at the
inmates now assembling quite quietly at the other end of the room, and
thinking that in some of those faces "their angels," long invisible
because of neglect and wrong, are once more looking through, calm,
happy, and with a hope that maketh not ashamed. Do you see that still
rather sullen-looking girl of thirteen. She came here an incorrigible
young thief--her father, a tanner's labourer, and out at work from five
in the morning--her mother bedridden--her home was the streets--her
companions a gang of juvenile thieves such as haunt Bermondsey, and make
an offshoot of the population of a place till recently called "Little

That girl, aged ten, was sent out to beg and to sing songs, and was an
adept in the art of pretending to have lost money. There is the daughter
of a crossing-sweeper, who cut his throat, and yonder a child of nine,
driven from home, and charged with stealing, as her sister also is, in
another Refuge; and close by are two girls, also sisters, who were found
fatherless and destitute, wandering about famishing and homeless, except
for a wretched room, with nothing in it but two heaps of foul straw. I
need not multiply cases: and but for the known power of love and true
human interest, in which the very Divine love is incarnated, you would
wonder where some of these children obtained their quiet docile manner,
their fearless but modest demeanour, their bright, quiet, sweet faces.

One case only let me mention, and we will go quietly away, to think of
what may be done in such a place by the discipline of this love and true
Christian interest. Do you see that emaciated little creature--the pale,
pinched shadow of a child sitting at a table, where some of her
companions tend her very gently? She is the daughter of a woman who is
an incorrigible beggar. She has never known a home, and for four out of
her eight years of life has been dragged about the street an infant
mendicant; has slept in common lodging-houses; and in her awful
experience could have told of thieves' kitchens, of low taverns, and of
the customs of those vile haunts where she had learnt the language of
obscenity and depravity. But that has become a hideous, almost forgotten
dream, and she is about to awaken to a reality in a world to which the
present tenderness with which she is cared for is but the lowest
threshold. It is only a question of a month or two perhaps. One more
bright sunny holiday with her schoolmates in the pleasant garden of the
treasurer, at Highgate--whither they all go for a whole happy day in the
summer--and she will be in the very land of light before the next
haytime comes round. She wants for nothing--wine and fruit and delicate
fare are sent for her by kind sympathetic hands; but she is wearing
away, not with pain, but with the exhaustion of vital power, through the
privations of the streets. From the Refuge she will go home--a lost lamb
found, and carried to the eternal fold.

But another building has been found; a large, old-fashioned mansion in
St. Andrew's Road, close to the Canal Bridge at Cambridge Heath, and
there the more advanced inmates of this original home in Spitalfields
are to be drafted into classes whence they will go to take a worthy part
in the work of the world, so soon as the necessary subscriptions enable
the committee to increase the number of lambs rescued from the wolves of
famine and of crime.


The memory of the pleasant summer holiday remains with many of us when
we have come back again to the duties of the work-a-day world, and it
will be good for us all if the gentle thoughts which that time of
enjoyment brought with it remain in our hearts, to brighten our daily
lives by the influences that suggest a merciful and forbearing temper.

It is perhaps remarkable that few of the charitable institutions at
places to which holiday-makers resort are to any commensurate extent
benefited by the contributions of those visitors who, while they are
engaged in pursuing their own pleasures, seldom give themselves time to
think that as they have freely received so they should freely give.
Considering that while we are engaged in the absorbing business of
money-making, or in the exacting engagements of our daily calling, we
can afford little time for the investigation of those claims which are
made upon us to help the poor and the needy, it might not altogether
detract from the higher enjoyment of a period of leisure if we devoted a
few spare hours to inquiring what is being effected for the relief of
suffering in any place wherein we take up our temporary abode.

With some such reflection as this I stand to-day on the spot which to
ordinary Londoners is most thoroughly representative of the summer
"outing," without which no true Cockney can feel that he is content--a
spot, too, which has become, for a large number of English men and
women, and notably for a whole host of English children, the synonym for
renewed health and strength--the head of Margate jetty.

It is a strange contrast, this moving crowd of people, with their bright
dresses and gay ribbons fluttering in the breeze; the smiling faces of
girls and women amidst a toss and tangle of sea-blown tresses; the green
sparkle of the sea beneath the shining sky; the voices of sailors, the
shrill laughter of boys and girls coming from the sands below; the gleam
of white sails; the flitting wings of fisher-birds; the gay tumult of
the High Street; the traffic of hucksters of shells and toys--a strange
contrast to the scene which may be witnessed in and around that large
building which we passed only yesterday as the Margate boat stood off
from Birchington, and passengers began to collect coats and bags and
umbrellas as they saw friends awaiting them on the landing-stage of this
very jetty.

It seems a week ago; and just as these few hours seem to have separated
us far from yesterday's work, and the routine of daily life, does the
short distance along the High Street and past the railway station seem
to separate us by an indefinite distance from the sickness and pain that
is yet in reality so near. Even as we think of it in this way, the
division is less marked, the contrast not so strange, for in that
building Faith, Hope, and Charity find expression, and bring a cheerful
radiance to those who need the care of skilful hands and the sympathy of
loving hearts.

The name of the place is known all over England, for within its walls
are assembled patients who are brought from the great towns of different
shires, as well as from mighty London itself, that they may be healed of
that dread malady, the most potent cure for which is to take them from
the close and impure atmosphere of their crowded homes, and exchange the
stifled breath of courts and alleys for the boundless æther of the sea.

For the building, to visit which I am here to-day, is the "Royal
Sea-Bathing Infirmary, or National Hospital for the Scrofulous Poor,
near Margate," and there are at this moment 220 men, women, and children
within its sheltering wards. Stay--let me be accurate. I said within its
wards; but here, as I pass the gates and the unpretentious house of the
resident surgeon to the broad sea front of the building, I note that
under the protecting screen of the wall that bounds the wide space of
grass-plot and gravel-paths a row of beds are placed, and in each of
them a patient lies basking in the warm sunlit air; while a little band
of convalescents saunter gently, some of them with the aid of crutch or
stick, with the enjoyment of a sense of returning strength. If I mistake
not, there are two or three "Bath chairs" crunching the gravel paths a
little further on, and down below upon the space marked out and
separated from the outer world upon the beach, the two bathing-machines
of the establishment are occupied by those for whom convalescence is
growing into health.[3]

The full meaning of such a change can only be realised by those who know
how terrible a disease scrofula becomes, not only in the deadly
insidious form of consumption, but in the various deformities and
distortions of the limbs of which it is the cause; and in those cases
where, to the pain and depression of the disorder itself is added some
terrible affection of the skin, which the sensitive patient knows can
scarcely fail to be repulsive to those who witness it, unless, indeed
they have learnt to regard it only as a reason for deeper compassion and
for more earnest consolation.

Almost every form of the disorder is to be seen out here in the wide
northern area of this inclusive building, which has long ago been bought
and paid for, along with the three acres of freehold ground on which it

Of the deep sympathy with which it has been supported by those who early
learned to take an interest in its beneficent work, the fountain which
has been erected in the centre of the green to the memory of the late
Rev. John Hodgson, one of its trustees, is a mute witness. Mr. Hodgson
laboured earnestly to secure those casual interests which might be
obtained from the vast number of persons who visit Margate every year.
In order to make the most of small regular contributions, he appealed
for "five shillings a year," and since his death in 1870 this fund has
increased, so that in one year nearly 6,000 subscribers had contributed
£1,405 7_s._ 4_d._ Never was holiday charity more appropriately applied,
as anybody who will visit the institution itself may witness in those
long wards beyond the open passage, to which the card of Dr. Rowe, one
of the three visiting surgeons, has directed me.

Since the first establishment of the institution, seventy-seven years
ago, when sixteen cases were treated as a beginning, above 29,000
patients, from London and all parts of the country, have received
relief; and to-day the number in the institution (taking no account of a
contingent of "out-patients") includes 42 men, 50 women, and 120
children, none of whom are local cases, but all from other parts of
England, whence they come frequently from a long distance.

In each of the six wards, of which four are on the ground floor, there
is a head-nurse and an assistant, with six helpers for the children's,
and four for the adult department, beside the night nurses, who sit up
in case of any emergency. There is accommodation for 250 sufferers and
for the 40 nurses, attendants, and domestics required for the service of
the hospital; so the 220 patients there now, represent the approaching
period when a new wing will have to be added, even if only the urgent
cases are to be admitted.

The year's list of occupants of the 250 beds shows a total of 721
patients, of whom 614 had been discharged in January, 399 being either
cured or very greatly benefited, 171 decidedly benefited, and only 44
obviously uncured; a very large amount of actual gain to humanity, when
we reflect on the conditions of the disease to remedy which the
institution is devoted.

If out of 721 cases 399 are either cured or have received such marked
benefit as to render their ultimate cure highly probable, it is an
achievement worthy of the earnest work of which it is the result, a
contribution to beneficent efforts well worth the £7,966 which has
necessarily been expended in the provision, not only of the appliances
which give comfort and rest, but of the generous food and drink which,
with the glorious air from the sea, is the medicine necessary to build
up the feeble frames and renew the impoverished blood of those to whom
meal-times come to be welcome events in the day, instead of merely
languid observances.

Down in the kitchen, with its great cooking range and its capacious
boilers, there are evidences of that "full diet" which is characteristic
of the place; and it is difficult to decide which are the most
suggestive, the long row of covered japanned jugs which hang
conveniently to the dresser-shelf, and are used for the conveyance of
"gravy," or the mighty milk-cans standing in a corner, ready to be taken
away when the evening supply comes in from the Kentish dairies. Half a
pound of cooked meat for dinner is the daily allowance for each man and
for every boy over fourteen years of age, while women and girls receive
six ounces, and children four ounces. Breakfast consists of coffee and
bread-and-butter, varied in the afternoon by tea, and supper of bread
and cheese for adults, and bread and butter for children. Roast and
boiled meat is served on alternate days, with accompanying vegetables,
and there are three "pudding days" for those who can manage this
addition to the fare; while every man and woman may have a pint of
porter, and each child a pint of table ale, at the discretion of the
doctors. This, of course, represents the ordinary diet, in which
specific differences are made for special cases where other or daintier
food is required. Perhaps I should have said that this is the scale
adopted in the refectory, a large airy room, to the long table in which
the patients who are able to "get about" are now advancing with a
cheerful premonition of dinner. There is no space to spare, and there
are at present no funds to spend in additional building, so that this
great airy refectory is used as chapel and assembly room. The Bread of
Life, as well as the temporal bread, is distributed here; and those who
would object to the necessity may either contribute to build another
room, or may come and learn how every meal in such a place, and for such
a cause as this, should become a sacrament. Many varieties of the forms
taken by scrofulous disease may be seen here; and yet the hopeful looks,
the cheerful influence of the bright summer weather, the green glimpses
of the sea through doors and windows, and the fresh bracing air, impart
to these sufferers an expressive lively briskness, which somehow removes
the more painful impressions with which we might expect to witness such
an assembly.

It is so perhaps in a still greater measure in these large airy wards,
where children sit or lie upon the beds, some of them wholly or
partially dressed, where the disease has produced only deformities under
surgical treatment, or such forms of skin disease as affect the face. Of
the latter there are some very severe and obstinate cases, and from
these the unaccustomed visitor can scarcely help turning away, but often
only to _re_-turn, and mark how cheerfully and with what a vivid
alacrity the little patients move and play, and look with eager interest
on all that is going on. For here--in the boys' ward--there is no
repression of youthful spirits, so that they be kept within the bounds
of moderate decorum, nor do the patients themselves seem to feel that
they are objects of melancholy commiseration. To speak plainly, even the
worst cases are not reminded that there are people who may be revolted
at their affliction. Indeed I, who am tolerably accustomed to many
experiences that might be strange to others, am rather taken aback by
one little "case," whose face and limbs, though apparently healed, have
been so deeply seamed and grooved by the disorder, which must have
claimed him from babyhood, that he has evidently learned to regard
himself as an important surgical specimen, and, on my approach to his
bed, begins with deliberate satisfaction to divest himself of his
stockings, in order to exhibit his legs. Hip and spinal disease are
among the most frequent and often the most fatal forms of scrofula. One
boy, with delicate and regular features, his fragile hand only just able
to clasp in the fingers the small present I am permitted to offer him,
shows the shadow of death upon his face. In his case the disorder has
shown itself to be beyond medical, as it has already been beyond
surgical aid, and his short hurried breathing denotes that before the
summer days have been shortened by the autumn nights, and the leaves are
lying brown and sere, he will be in a better and a surer home, and
healed for evermore.

It will be a peaceful end, no doubt, and he will yet have strength
enough to be taken home to die, where other than strangers' hands will
minister to him at the last, but not more tenderly, it may be, than
those that smooth his pillow to-day.

As we leave the boys' wards--clean, and bright, and fresh as they
are--we encounter a cosy little party of juvenile convalescents, who are
comfortably seated on the door-mat, engaged in a stupendous game of

There is more of beauty than deformity, more of life than of death, more
perhaps of living eager interest than of sadness and sorrow to be seen
here, after all; and this is particularly remarkable in the
large-windowed spacious ward where the girls can look fairly out upon
the gleaming sea. Properly enough, the room occupied by these young
ladies has been made more ornamental than that of the boys. The walls
are gay with coloured prints, and there are flowers, and a remarkably
cheerful three-sided stove, which gives the place an air of comfort,
though, of course, it has now no fire in it. Then some of the girls
(with those thoughtful delicate faces and large wistful inquiring eyes
which are so often to be observed among lame people) are engaged in
fancy needlework as they lie dressed upon the beds to which they are at
present mostly confined, because of deformities of the feet or legs
requiring surgical treatment. There is a library (which needs
replenishing), from which patients are allowed to take books; and those
children who are able to leave the wards, and are not suffering from
illness, are taught daily by a schoolmaster and a schoolmistress, while
a visiting chaplain is of course attached to the hospital.

[3] This was written in the latter part of July, 1874.


I cannot yet leave that sea-coast where so great a multitude go to find
rest and healing. The Divine Narrative may well appeal to us in relation
to such a locality, for it was by the sea-shore that the Gospel came to
those who went out to seek Jesus of Nazareth; it was there that the poor
people heard Him gladly; there that the sick who were brought to Him
were made whole: there that He fed the great company who lacked bread.

All the deeds of humanity were recognised by Him who called himself the
"Son of Man." The blessing of little children is one of those needs of
true human life which the Lord recognised gladly. He recognises it
still; and His solemn mingling of warning and of promise with regard to
its observance, has an intensity that may well appeal to us all, now
that, after eighteen centuries of comparative neglect and indifference,
we are discerning that the only hope of social redemption is to be found
in that care for children which shall forbid their being left either
morally or physically destitute.

There is a house, standing high above the sea, in that great breezy
suburb of Margate, known as Cliftonville--to which I want you to pay a
visit when the bright, cheerful, airy wards, the light, spacious
dining-room, and comfortable, home-like enlivening influences of the
place will entitle it to be regarded as the fitting consummation of two
other admirable institutions for the nurture and maintenance of orphan
and fatherless children.

The modest little building referred to is named "The Convalescent and
Sea-side Home for Orphans," Harold Road, Margate. The parent
institutions are "The Orphan Working School," at Haverstock Hill, and
that most attractive series of pretty cottages on the brow of the hill
at Hornsey Rise, which have been more than once spoken of as "Lilliput
Village," but the style and title of which is "The Alexandra Orphanage
for Infants"--a name, the distinguishing feature of which is that it is
immediately associated with its first patroness, the Princess of Wales.

Of the Home at Margate I need not now speak particularly, except to note
that it is for the reception of the little convalescents,
who--suffering, as many of them do, from constitutional and hereditary
weakness, which is yet not actual sickness, and recovering, as many of
them are, from the feeble condition which has been to some extent
remedied by the careful nurture, good food, and healthy regimen, of the
large institutions near London--are not fit patients either for their
own or any other infirmary wards, and yet require to be restored to
greater strength before they can join the main body of their young
companions in the school or the playground.

Enough that it is picturesque and substantially pretty, as becomes a
place which is to become the home of thirty children, taken from among
nearly six hundred, the parents of nearly half of whom have died of
consumption, and so left to their offspring that tendency to a feeble
constitution which can be best remedied by the grand medicine of
sea-air, wholesome nutritious food, and a judicious alternation of
healthful exercise and rest.

It is to Mr. Joseph Soul--the late indefatigable secretary of the
Working School, with which he has been connected for nearly forty years,
and the honorary secretary of the Alexandra Orphanage, of which he may
be regarded as the virtual founder--that the proposal to establish this
Convalescent Home was due, and its affairs are administered at the
office of the two charities, at 63, Cheapside.

But it is necessary to tell as briefly as possible the story of the
oldest of the two institutions of which this building is to be an
accessory--not only the oldest of these two, but probably _the oldest_
voluntarily supported orphan asylum in London, since it dates from 116
years ago, when George II. was King, when Louis XV. was scandalising
Europe and preparing the Revolution, when Wesleyan Methodism was
commencing a vast religious revival, when Doctor Johnson had but just
finished writing his dictionary, and when William Hogarth was painting
those wonderful pictures which are still the most instructive records of
society and fashion as seen in the year 1758.

It was in that year, on the 10th of May, that fourteen periwigged and
powdered gentlemen met at the George Inn, in Ironmonger Lane, in order
to discuss how they might best found an asylum for forty orphan
children--that is to say, for twenty boys and twenty girls.

They soon came to a solemn decision that there was a "sufficient
subscription for carrying the scheme into execution," and a record to
that effect was soberly entered in the very first clean page of the
first minute-book of the Charity, with the additional memoranda that a
committee was chosen, and a treasurer appointed to collect and take care
of the money necessary to support the undertaking.

The early minute-books of this charity, by the way, are models of
serious penmanship. Grave achievements of caligraphy, with engrossed
headings, elaborate flourishes, and stiff formal hedge-rows of legal
verbiage, suggestive of the fact that the secretaries were either
attorneys or scriveners, and regarded the entries in a minute-book or
the opening of a new account as very weighty and important events not to
be lightly passed over. In this they were probably right: and, at all
events, just so much of the old methodical exactitude has come down to
the present day in the history of the institution, that the published
accounts of the Orphan Working School have been referred to by the
_Times_ as models of condensation with a clearness of detail, which may
be regarded as the best indication of a well-ordered and economical

It might not be too much to say that the old principle of carrying a
scheme into execution only when there are sufficient subscriptions still
characterises the operations of the institution. At all events, Mr. Soul
had secured enough money for the completion of the new building at
Margate before the actual work commenced, and his experience told him
that funds would be forthcoming to maintain it.

The founders of the original Orphan Working School, however, laid their
wigs together to obtain a house ready built, and at last found one
adapted to the purpose, in what was then the suburban district known as
Hogsden--since gentilised into Hoxton. Like all really good work, the
enterprise began to grow--there were so many orphans, and this was still
the only general asylum maintained by subscriptions--so that, as funds
came in, two other adjoining houses were rented, and in seventeen years
the number of inmates had increased from forty to 165.

Reading the formal and yet most interesting records of this parent
institution for the care of the orphan and the fatherless, I fall into a
kind of wonder at the enormous change in the method of "nurture and
admonition," of teaching and training, which has taken place in the past
eighty years. Even in this house at Hoxton, whereof the founders appear
to have been kindly old gentlemen, the discipline was enormously
suggestive of that stern restriction and unsympathetic treatment which
was thought necessary for the due correction of the "Old Adam" in the
young heart. We know how great an outcry has quite lately been made at
the discovery of the remains of that mode of chastisement which seems to
have been abandoned almost everywhere, except by a special revival in
gaols, and at two or three of the public schools to which the sons of
gentlemen are consigned for their education.

The discipline at the Orphanage at Hogsden was cold and repellent
enough, perhaps--had very little about it to encourage the affections,
or to appeal to the loving confidence of a child--but it was less
barbarous than the code which at that time found its maxim in the
saying, "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Only very flagrant
disobedience, persistent lying and swearing, were punished with public
whipping. But even in the case of ordinary falsehood, a child was placed
with his face to the wall at meal-time, with a paper pinned to his back
with the word "Lyar" written on it, till he was sufficiently penitent to
say, in the presence of all the rest of the children, "I have sinned in
telling a lie. I will take more care. I hope God will forgive me."

The name, "Working School," was then interpreted so strictly, that there
was comparatively little margin for education. Arithmetic appears to
have been regarded with peculiar jealousy by the founders of this
institution, who, being perhaps bankers, accountants, and capitalists,
looked upon such instruction as calculated to give the poor little boys
and girls notions beyond their station.

For ten years the teaching of figures was altogether ignored; and it was
only when some of the children, having heard that there was a science
called "summing" known to the outer world, begged to be taught, that a
solemn meeting of the Governors was called to consider the question,
when it was conceded, after great deliberation, and no little opposition
from the anti-educational part of the Committee, that arithmetic should
be permitted to be taught, as far as addition.

Thus, to their few and rigidly ordered recreations, their hours of
manual labour in making nets, list-carpets, slippers, and other cheap
commodities, to their instruction in plain reading, and to their times
for partaking of plain and even coarse food, served in not too tempting
a way, was added the art of writing, and of the first two rules of

This was the condition of the orphans in 1775; but still the charity
grew--grew out of house-room; and as the funds grew also, it was
determined that it should have a building of its own, on a plot of
ground in the City Road, where, improvements having set in, the grand
old charity moved with the march of modern improvement. Life became less
hard, and instruction more extended. The influences of modern thought
and education had superseded the old severity, and new Governors
succeeded the bewigged and powdered founders, who had, after all, so
well ordered their work, that it increased with the growth of

During the seventy-two years from 1775 to 1847, the institution had
received 1,124 orphans; and again the dimensions of the house were
unequal to the demands of the inmates; while the house itself, and the
ground on which it stood, had become so valuable, that it was determined
to buy a plot of land at Haverstock Hill, and there to found a truly
representative Home for 240 orphan boys and girls--a number which has
now increased (as the building itself has been extended) till 400
orphans are taught, fed, and clothed in one of the most truly
representative charities in all great London.

The obvious distress and suffering of those who are destitute, and whose
claims are constantly before us, may lead us to forget the frequent
needs of a large number of people who represent uncomplaining poverty.
There is a tendency to identify general appeals to benevolence with
efforts for the relief of that extreme necessity which demands immediate
and almost undiscriminating aid, and requires the prompt distribution of
alms or the provision of a meal, warmth, and shelter. Doubtless, the
actually homeless and destitute claim our first attention--especially in
the case of deserted and neglected children--and I have tried to show
what is being done for those little ones, whose presence in the streets
of this great wilderness of brick and stone should of itself be an
appeal strong enough to move the heart of humanity in their behalf.

There is, however, another class of poverty, which makes no sign, and
bears distress dumbly. There is a need, which, without being that of
actual destitution, requires a constant struggle to prevent its
representing the want of nearly all the luxuries, and some of those
things which most of us regard as the necessaries of life.

We find this among that large section of the middle class represented by
persons holding inferior clerkships, small official appointments, and
situations where the salaries are only sufficient to yield a bare
subsistence, and there is little or no probability of their improvement,
because, among the number of candidates who are eager to fill such
positions, there exists a degree of distress not easily estimated, even
by the appearance of those who are the sufferers. Of course, relief
cannot reach such people through the poor-law, or by any direct
legislation. They are far above the reach of almsgiving, or even of
societies for distributing bread and coals. They have a just pride in
maintaining a position of independence; and though they may sometimes
look with a feeling too near to envy at the more prosperous mechanic or
the skilled artisan, who can earn "good wages," dress in fustian or
corduroy, send his children to the Board School, and regulate working
hours and weekly pay by the rules of a Trade Union, they mostly keep
bravely on, hoping that as the children grow up, they may get the boys
"into something," and find some friend to help them to place the girls
in situations where they may partly earn their own living.

With rent and taxes often absorbing a fourth part of his entire income,
with market cliques combining against him to keep up the prices of food,
with dear bread, dear potatoes, boots and shoes always wearing out, and
respectability demanding cloth clothes, even though they be made of
"shoddy," how is the clerk, the employé, the small tradesman, the
struggling professional man, to follow the prudent counsel which
wealthier people are always ready to bestow upon him--and "lay by for a
rainy day?" Rainy day! why his social climate may be said to represent a
continual downpour, so far as the necessity for pecuniary provision. He
lives (so to speak) with an umbrella always up, and it is only a poor
shift of a gingham after all. The half-crown which is in his pocket
to-night is already bespoken for to-morrow's dinner. As he listens to
the account of the week's marketing, and knows that his wife and
children have been living for three days out of seven upon little better
than bread and dripping, he feels like an ogre as he thinks of the
sevenpenny plate of meat that he consumed at one o'clock, because it was
only "a makeshift" at home.

How is he to pay even the smallest premium to insure his life, when he
is obliged to meet ordinary emergencies by a visit to the pawnbroker
after dark?

Insure his life! Ah, the time may come when the hand of the bread-winner
is still, when the little money left in the house is scarcely sufficient
to pay for the "respectable funeral" which is the last effort of genteel
poverty, when the red-eyed widow gathers her fatherless children about
her, and wonders amidst her stupor of grief what is to become of the
younger ones who yet so need her care that she will not be able to go
forth to seek the means of living. To what evil influences may they be
exposed while she is absent striving to earn their daily food?--the
temptations of the streets for the boys: the certainty that the elder
girls must either starve at home to mind the little ones, or must become
drudges before they have learnt more than the mere rudiments of what
they should be taught. It is then she feels that dread of degradation,
which is amongst the sharpest pangs of the poverty which would fain hide
itself from the world.

It may be that the children are left a parentless little flock, huddling
together in the first dread and sorrow of the presence of death, and the
sense of utter bereavement, and awaiting the intervention of those who
are sent by the Father of the fatherless. Then, indeed, prompt and
certain help is needed--help efficient and permanent--and such aid can
seldom be secured except by organised institutions.

But let us see to what that Orphan Working School, established in 1758,
has developed in 1874. We have but to take a short journey to the foot
of Haverstock Hill, and there, in that pleasant locality named Maitland
Park, part of which is the property of the Institution, we shall see the
successor of the old house in Hogsden Fields, while its plain but large
and lofty committee room is the modern representative of the parlour of
the George Inn, Ironmonger Lane, where plans were first laid for the
maintenance of forty orphan children.

This wide and lofty building, with its handsome front entrance and its
less imposing side gate in the wing, is the home for nearly three
hundred boys, and nearly two hundred girls, when its funds are
sufficient to keep each of the long rows of neat beds in the great airy
wards appropriated to a little sleeper.

I mention the dormitories first, because both on the girls' and on the
boys' side of the building these are illustrative of the complete
orderliness and excellent management of the Institution--illustrative of
what should always be the first consideration, namely, to bring comfort
to the child's nature, to join to necessary discipline a sense of real
freedom and happy youthful confidence without dread of repression and
the constant looking for of punishment.

As to the appliances that belong to the building, they are such as might
almost raise a doubt in some prejudiced minds whether we are not doing
too much for children in the present day, and thinking too constantly of
their comfort. But, alas! it needs many compensations to make up for the
loss of parents; and in any such an Institution where, 400 children form
the great family, the arrangements must be on a large scale, so that it
is only a matter of experienced forethought to combine a generous
liberality with the truest economy. Thus, there are baths, and long
well-ordered lavatories, to each wing, even to a large plunge bath for
each side; and there is a great laundry, where the girls are taught to
wash, clear-starch, and iron, not in the regular patent steam-heated
troughs only, but in genuine homely tubs. There is a great handsome
dining-hall, with a painted ceiling, wherein the vast troop of quiet,
orderly, and happy-faced children sit down to well-cooked wholesome
meals of meat and pudding. There are two great school-rooms, one divided
into class-rooms for the girls, and another wherein the boys assemble to
be taught, not in the narrow spirit of the first directors of the old
building in the City Road, but with a full appreciation of the duty of
giving these young minds and hearts full opportunity to expand. Next to
the admirable evidences of _family_ comfort, and bright _domestic_
influences, which pervade this place, we may regard the efficient
education of the children as the truest sign of its liberal and
enlightened management. Not only the three R's to the extent of
practised elocution, caligraphy worthy of the old minute books of the
first scrivening secretaries, and the lower mathematics,--but history,
geography, the elements of physical science, French, drawing, and vocal
music, are among the subjects thoroughly studied. It only needs a
perusal of the reports of the educational inspectors and examiners to
see that the work of this great hive goes on healthily. The boys have
already achieved a great position in taking Government prizes for
drawing at South Kensington; and the girls are celebrated for their
beautiful needlework. There is but little time to walk through all the
departments of this great home--the kitchens with their spacious
larders, and store-rooms, and mighty cooking apparatus; the great airy
playgrounds; the large and handsome room used as a chapel (for those who
do not go out to evening service), and containing its convenient reading
desk, and sweet-toned organ. Let us not forget, however, that many of
the things which add so vastly to the beauty and completeness of the
building and its various departments are themselves gifts from loving
and appreciative supporters of the Institution.

But we are due at that Lilliput village on the brow of Hornsey
Rise--that series of cottage homes, where, on each lower and upper
storey, with their exquisitely clean nursery cots and cradles, and their
tiny furniture, a neat nurse is to be seen like a fairy godmother, with
a family of chubby babies, or a more advanced charge of infants able to
run like squirrels round the covered playground or to spend the
regulation hours in that great glorious school-room, where learning is
turned into recreation, and lessons are made vocal, gymnastic,
zoological, picturesque, or even fictional, as the times and
circumstances may dictate. "The Alexandra Orphanage for Infants" has
become so well-known amidst the numerous institutions which have been
established for the care of the orphans and the fatherless, that one
might think it would be full of eager admirers who on visiting days go
to see the two or three hundred. Why are not all the cottages full, and
each little toy bedstead complete with its rosy, tiny sleeper, who, from
earliest infancy to the maturer age of eight years form the assembly for
which Mr. Soul set himself to provide by public appeal?

These, then, are the two institutions to which that modest little
convalescent home in Harold Street, Margate, is a worthy appanage, and
they may well find support among those whose maxim it is to do with all
their might what their hands find wants doing.


There are perhaps few conditions demanding greater sympathy and more
ready aid than that of poor women who, from temporary sickness or the
weariness that comes of hope deferred, are unable to follow the
employments, often precarious and yielding a bare subsistence, by which
they strive to be independent of charitable aid. It is only those who
know to what extremities of need they will submit for shame of making
their poverty known, and what mental suffering they will endure as they
find their scanty savings dwindling day by day, and their few household
goods, or even their clothing, and the little family mementoes, which
they can only part with as a last resource, going piece by piece, who
can fully realise all that is meant by the genteel phrase, "very reduced
circumstances," as applied to women of refined feelings, and frequently
of gentle nurture, who find themselves without the means of obtaining
necessary food and medical care when health and strength give way, and
they can no longer work at those few callings by which they can earn
enough to enable them to avoid a dreaded "application to friends."

Quite lately, the subject of some kind of provision for poor governesses
who are sick, or have to subsist during long holidays on the small
balance of their quarterly wages, has occupied public attention, and it
would be well indeed if means could be found for giving the healthy
temporary employment, and the weakly a quiet home where their strength
might be restored without the sacrifice of independence.

There are others, however, for which such help is equally needed--the
dressmaker, or the shop-woman, on whom long hours of tedious and often
of exhausting toil in an unhealthy atmosphere, has begun to tell too
severely; the servant of good character and respectable habits, who is
not so ill as to be admitted to a hospital, and yet is breaking down in
strength, and regards with dread the necessity for going into some
obscure lodging, where her surplusage of wages will barely pay for rent
and food during two or three weeks enforced idleness; the girl who has
learnt some ill-paid business, which affords her no more than a mere
contribution to the family funds, and leaves no margin for extra food or
medicine, or the fresh air that is as important as either.

Any careful observer standing at the door of a general hospital, and
watching the throng of out-patients waiting wearily to see the doctor,
will be able to distinguish a score of cases for which a temporary rest
with wholesome food and the sympathy and loving-kindness that refresh
the soul would bring true healing.

No large establishment in the nature of a hospital or a refuge affords
the kind of help for such distress as theirs. They cannot be dealt with
as occupants of wards; for they have either recovered from the actual
crisis of some serious disorder, or are pining in a depressed condition
to which no definite name can be given to classify it for admission to
any public establishment for the cure of disease. To many of them the
idea of entering a large charitable refuge--and I know of none in London
adapted to such needs as theirs--would be repulsive, as suggesting that
horror with which persons even of a lower grade regard the union
workhouse; what they need is a temporary home, and if ever the time
should come when a well-supported scheme for such a provision should be
adopted, it will have to take the form of what is now known as the
"cottage system." Indeed, in hospitals, as well as in other large
charitable institutions, the defects of the old plan of maintaining a
great number of adult persons in one vast building have been recognised.
The immense ward with its long rows of beds, the divided and necessarily
confusing duties of attendants, the ill-served meals at a great
dinner-table where there is no possibility of escaping from a too rigid
routine, the depressing, not to say degrading, influence, resulting from
the loss of individuality, would make any vast institution for
convalescents or invalids far less effectual in its operation. I make
this reference only with regard to the probable inauguration of homes
for invalid women in or near London, and because I have just visited
one, which, although it is not on the cottage system, but is established
in a rare old mansion of the period of Queen Anne, has yet the happy
characteristic of being a family whose scanty means is largely increased
by loving gifts, instead of an institution every corner of which bears a
reminder that it is "supported by charity."

In the pleasant airy High Street of Stoke Newington, and within a
stone's throw of the famous Cedar Walk of Abney Park--that locality made
famous by the prolonged visit of Dr. Watts, who went to spend a week
with Sir Thomas Abney, and remained for the rest of his long blameless
life the honoured guest of the family--is the house I speak of, "The
Invalid Asylum for Respectable Females in London and its Vicinity,"
superintended by a ladies' committee, and with weekly visitors, and a
matron to carry on the practical work of the executive.

There is nothing remarkably picturesque, nothing very striking about
this home for thirty respectable invalid women employed in dependent
situations, to whom it affords a temporary asylum, widely differing from
the crowded receptacles for the sick in the metropolis. One of its
peculiarities is, that the purity of the family circle is maintained, by
the fact that no patient is admitted without a certificate of conduct
signed by two housekeepers or by an employer, while her case is also
recommended by an annual subscriber or life governor; and there is a
sense of repose and quiet confidence about the inmates which is
particularly suggestive of the care taken to recognise their individual
claims, and the interest which is manifested in them during the time of
their sojourn.

This very quietude and sense of rest, and gradual renewal of health and
strength in a serene retreat is, in fact, the feature which attracts my
attention. It is not too much to say that I am ready to attribute much
of such influences to the fact that the institution was originally
established by ladies representing the unobtrusive beneficent work of
the "Society of Friends," and that the order and peace which is its
delightful characteristic, may in a great measure be traced to that
foundation. At any rate, these qualifications so identify it that I feel
justified in regarding it to some extent as a worthy example of the
method to be adopted in any institution, which, without being altogether
a free "charity," takes only such a small sum from the patient or her
friends as suffices to keep away the degrading feeling of pauperism, or
of utter dependence on the bounty of strangers. It is true that the
principal life-governorships include the privilege of sending entirely
gratuitous patients, but in ordinary cases the annual subscriber of a
guinea recommends the case, and when the patient is admitted, the sum of
twenty shillings is received for the month's medical attendance,
lodging, and full board, "including tea and sugar," for a time not
exeeding one month, after which, should the case require a longer stay,
the ticket must be renewed by the same or another subscriber, on the
further payment of twenty shillings. If the patient be in the employment
of the subscriber, the payment of this sum will suffice, without the
renewal ticket, an arrangement which should commend the institution to
every benevolent employer of female labour.

It need hardly be said that no cases of infectious disease are admitted,
and that every applicant is examined by the medical attendant. No
patient is admitted who is not above ten years of age; and neither
"private cookery," nor the introduction of spirituous liquors by
visitors, is permitted, any more than gratuities to servants of the

It may be remarked that though a large number of cases are received
during each year, the very fact of contributions being made by the
patients themselves, who are thus relieved from the sense of utter
dependence, appears to have prevented the Institution from receiving as
large a degree of public support as it might command if it were an
ordinary charity. This is to be lamented, for the Institution is, after
all, less a hospital than a temporary home, and it appeals on behalf of
a peculiar form of distress, the claims of which are of a specific and
none the less of a very urgent character. But in order to realise the
kind of work that is most needed, and is here being accomplished, let us
pay a visit to the house itself. We have been hitherto standing on the
broad flight of steps inside the tall iron gates, and have hesitated to
sully their hearthstone purity, for it is Saturday, and we may well have
an inconvenient sense that the short hand of the clock is already close
to the dinner-time of the institution.

With a long experience of paying unexpected visits, I am prepared to
encounter remonstrance, even though it only take the form of a critical
glance at my boots as a means of possible maculation of the
newly-cleaned hall and passages. Conscious of having judiciously
employed a member of the shoe-black brigade, I can endure this scrutiny,
and, with a few words of explanation, am conducted, by the matron
herself, over the grand old house, whose broad staircase and elaborately
carved balusters of black oak at once attest not only its antiquity but
also its aristocracy. I have already said that there is nothing here on
which to found a "picturesque description," and yet the air of repose,
the sense of almost spotless cleanliness, the freshness of the large
lofty rooms containing from three to five or six comfortable beds with
their snowy counterpanes, the general order and pleasant seclusion, are
remarkably suggestive of the intention of the place. Two of the
patients, to whom I make my respects, are not yet sufficiently recovered
to join the daily dinner-party in the neat dining-room. One of them, an
elderly lady, who has only just been brought here, is slowly recovering
from very severe illness, and cannot even sit up in the bed, whence she
regards me with an expression which seems to intimate that she has
reached a haven of rest. Her companion, a young woman--also in bed in
the same room--is sitting very upright, cheerfully engaged in some
problem of needlework, and responds with a hopeful smile to the
declaration of the matron, that they "mean to make a woman of her if she
is good."

Close to this room is the neat lavatory with its bath, supplied with hot
and cold water, and on the landing I note another bath, on wheels, for
use in any part of the house where it may be required. All the
accessories are home-like; and in the invalid sitting-room, on an upper
storey, where two convalescents, not yet able to get downstairs, greet
me from a pair of easy chairs, there is the same pervading influence
which distinguishes the house from those large institutions where
everything is characterised by a depressing mechanical dead level. The
library--a pleasant cheerful room--is in course of refurnishing; and I
am glad to learn that our best known periodicals find a place there,
while the stock of books, either gifts or loans, are likely soon to be
replenished, a matter wherein extra aid would be appreciated, and could
readily be afforded by those who have volumes to spare.

Already the cloth is laid in the dining-room, and dinner itself consists
of hot meat with the usual accessories every day, except on Sundays,
when there is a cold dinner, while, of course, the invalids who are
ordered medical diet have fish, custards, or other delicate fare
specially provided. Each patient has a pint of ale or beer daily, and
wine as a remedial stimulant, according to the doctor's orders.

There is just time before dinner is served to walk through the room into
the grand old garden which extends from a pleasant sheltered lawn and
flower-garden, with a glorious fig-tree in full leaf and fruit against
the sunny wall, to a great kitchen-garden and orchard, with a wealth of
fruit and vegetables (and notably a venerable and prolific mulberry
tree), and extending in a pleasant vista of autumn leaves. On the other
side of the high wall is the Cedar Walk already mentioned; and the whole
place is so still and balmy on this autumnal day, that we may go away
with a very distinct appreciation of the rest and peace which, with
regular nutritious food, rest, and medicine, may bring restoration to
the physical health, just as the hopeful ministrations of good and pious
women who visit the home daily may bring a sense of peace and comfort to
many a weary spirit and burdened heart.


There are some of whom we might be ready to say, they dwell in that
valley;--that the shadow of death lies darkling before them, constantly
enwrapping them,--enshrouding them in gloom. We are accustomed to think
so of persons suffering from what we call incurable diseases, some of
which are painful, occasionally agonising, others susceptible of relief
from the suffering that attends them.

We are so apt to forget that we are every one of us incurable. Though we
may not at present be aware of the disease that will bear us farther and
farther into that valley, where the wings of the great angel, so seeming
dark as to overshadow all things, may yet be revealed to us as glowing
with the brightness of the light which our unaccustomed eyes cannot
behold, we are none the less certain to succumb to it. It may be that
some of us will live to be conscious of no other than the most fatal of
all diseases--because no mortal cure has been or ever will be found for
it--incurable old age. There have been those who lived long enough to
look calmly at the slowly lengthening shadow in the valley, and almost
to wonder if Death had forgotten and were departing from them, leaving
only the black trail behind; but the time at last came, perhaps when
they had learnt to see more than shadow, to catch the glint of the
heavenly glory beyond.

It is a happy thought that many poor afflicted children of God have seen
this too, and continue to see it daily, although, like St. Paul, they
also die daily. It is comforting to believe that many who know what
their disease is--who are pronounced to be "hopelessly incurable" in a
rather different sense to that in which we may all be declared to be
hopelessly incurable also--do not dwell perpetually in the Valley of the
Shadow. Christ has come to them and taken them out of it, that even in
this life, where He is they may be also, secure in the love of the
Father, having already, if one may so speak, overcome death through Him
who is the Resurrection and the Life. The great, the essential
difference between these sufferers and the rest of mankind is that they
are almost always conscious of the disease which is incurable because of
its accompanying pain, and that they are disqualified for many of the
ordinary uses, and also most of the ordinary enjoyments of life. Perhaps
the chief poignant sense of their condition is that they are no longer
capable of fulfilling the ordinary duties of life either. They must be
dependent always; and to many souls the suspicion that they may live
only to be a burden on others, to take instead of giving, to lean upon
instead of supporting, is itself almost intolerable, until they learn to
look higher, and acknowledge that not only all the things of the world,
but we ourselves, they and theirs, belong to God, and that life and
death, height and depth, principalities and powers, are but His
creatures, incapable of separating us from His love. The same
reflection, coupled with that of our own incurability and our own
constant liability to be stricken down with hopeless and painful malady,
should surely lead us to recognise the duty of helping some among the
thousands who have not only lost health, but with it the means of
maintaining life, and, more sadly still, the hope of restoration to
former strength, or even temporary recovery.

I have already spoken of the work done by convalescent homes and
hospitals; but there are those who, being sick unto death, yet do not
soon die--those who must be discharged from hospitals uncured, in order
to make room for the curable, and who, unable to work, unaccustomed to
beg, and almost ready to meet death itself rather than sink into sordid
abject pauperism, know not whither to turn in their dire necessity. It
was to aid these that an appeal was written twenty years ago, asking for
funds to establish an institution for the reception of those suffering
from hopeless disease. It is to see what has been the result of that
appeal that I visit the Royal Hospital for Incurables at Putney Heath

It was in 1854 that Doctor Andrew Reed--to whose indicating hand we are
indebted for the installation of many of our noblest charities--made an
urgent appeal on behalf of those who, being discharged as incurable from
various hospitals, were left helpless, and often destitute, since,
amidst all the institutions which beneficence had founded, there was
none to which they could prefer a claim.

Let us see what has been done in twenty years to alleviate what might
seem to be almost hopeless suffering.

Let us, coming face to face with the mystery of pain, and looking as it
were from afar on that dark shadow which yet always lies so near to
every one of us, note how in the heart of the mystery there is hidden a
joyful hope for humanity, how in the very shadow of death there is a
light that never yet has shone on land or sea.

It is a still autumnal day, and, as we turn up the wooded lane on the
left of the hill leading from the Putney Railway Station to Wimbledon, a
tender gleam in the grey clouds betokens coming rainfall. A light,
hanging drift descends upon the distant hills, and breaks into pale
vaporous shapes amidst the wooded slopes and valleys. The yellow leaves
that strew the ground lie motionless, as though they waited for their
late companions to fall gently from the branches overhead and join their
silent company.

Coming into a broader roadway, and passing through the gate of a lodge,
we come almost suddenly upon a glorious sloping lawn, adorned with
goodly trees, worthy of the great building--meant for a ducal residence,
and now put to nobler uses--which, for all its stately look, has about
it a home-likeness that is full of promise. Even the matchless landscape
lying around it--the expanse of wood and dale, the soft slopes of Surrey
hills, the deep-embowered glades where the bronze-and-gold of moving
tree-tops takes a changeful sheen from slowly-drifting clouds, or
reflects strange gleams of colour from the glistening silver of the
rain--will not hold us from the nearer glow of windows bright with
flowers, which give a festal look to the place, although it is so quiet
that we stand and imagine for a moment what it is that we have come to
see. For this great mansion, with its long rows of windows and
wide-spreading wings, is the home of a hundred and fifty-four men and
women, some of whom have been suddenly stricken down, others having
slowly fallen day by day into a condition of incurable disease, and, in
many cases, also into a condition of utter bodily helplessness. They,
and the attendants whose constant kindly services are essential for
their relief, constitute the family of what is known, plainly enough, as
"The Royal Hospital for Incurables." There are no distinctions among its
members, though in their previous lives they have belonged to various
grades--no distinctions, at least, except those which arise from
personal qualifications.

The claim for election to the benefits of the charity is the necessity
which is implied in the name of the institution itself: and once within
its sheltering walls the patients, whose failing eyes brighten, and
whose wan cheeks flush with every loving mention of it as their home,
are all alike sharers in its benefits.

Not only the 154 at present within its walls, however, but 327 of those
who, having family and friends with whom to dwell, receive pensions of
£20 a year each, and so cease to be a heavy burden to others.

Do you think at first sight, and from the external appearance of the
building, that charity here has gone beyond precedent in providing such
a place--a palatial pile standing amidst scenery that one might well
come far to see? Remember what is the need of those who have to be
lifted out of the dark, hopeless depths of what is almost despair; of
those who, finding themselves banished from hospital wards, unable to
earn their bread, feeling themselves a burden upon those for whom they
would almost consent to die rather than live upon their poverty; of
those who, in the midst of hourly pain, have the mental anguish of
knowing that the long calendar of darkening days may find them utterly
dependent on the toil of others most dear to them, and whose few
expedients can bring little ease, and will not serve to hide the
ever-present sense of disappointment and distress.

Think how much wealth is wasted daily in the world, and what a small
part of it suffices to lighten by every available means the burden of
such lives as these; the sorrow of those who, in the dreadful
deprivation of what to us seems almost all that makes life dear, have no
resource between that provided for them in such a place as this and the
infirmary-ward of a workhouse, amidst sordid surroundings and the hard,
mechanical, unfeeling officialism which in such cases is little more
than organised neglect.

There are people who would reduce all charitable institutions--yes, even
such as this, of which living personal interest and the care that comes
of more than merely casual benevolence are the very foundation and
corner-stone--to a dead level of official rule, in which benevolence
should be represented by a mechanical department, and the sentiment of
charity by a self-elected board of control, dealing with public
subscriptions as though they were a poor-rate, and recognising neither
individual interest nor the right of contributors to give it expression.
Such a system would lack the very qualification most needed here, and to
be found only in that voluntary personal interest that brings to the
recipients of bounty more than the mere bounty itself, the heart-throb
of sympathy, the feeling that the gift means more than the cold official
recognition of a national duty, that it is the expression of
loving-kindness ever active and living; and so making for the helpless,
the destitute, and the dying, not a mere asylum, but a home.

The entrance into the hall of a cheerful, genial gentleman, with a
kindly, brisk manner, and a reassuring expression of deliberation and
repose in his observant face and easy bearing, rouses us from melancholy
fancies, and with a few words of courteous welcome we are at once
conducted to the door that is to open to us the first scene in this
wonderful visit.

A spacious assembly room--let us call it by the good old name of
"parlour," for there is much quietly animated talk going on--talk, and
needlework of all kinds, from the knitting of a warm woollen shawl to
the manipulation of delicate lace, and the deft handling of implements
for making those exquisite tortures of society known as antimacassars.
With ever so wide an experience of halls, salons, suites, or
drawing-rooms, the visitor can see nothing resembling this wonderful
parlour elsewhere. A room of noble proportions, one end of which is
occupied by an organ; the great windows reaching almost from floor to
ceiling, and overlooking a broad expanse of lawn, with a glorious view
of hill and woodland beyond; on the tables flowers, books, ornaments; in
every kind of couch and chair--many of which are comfortable beds on
wheels and springs--a company of women, with bright, cheerful,
intelligent faces, full of a recent interest, and, even in cases where
some paroxysm of pain is passing, with a certain serene satisfaction
which it is infinitely good to see.

There has been a morning service, conducted by a visiting clergyman, and
there is a general expression of approval which, if the reverend
gentleman himself were present to witness it, would surely prove highly
gratifying. The congregation has settled down to easy talk, and has
resumed its occupation of plain and fancy needlework. Here is an old
lady whose silver hair adds to her natural grace and dignity, who is
busy with wool-knitting, and at the same time engages in a
discriminating criticism of the address to one of the many visitors who
sit and spend an hour of their afternoon in agreeable chat. There is a
pretty but rather sad-eyed _mignon_ lady, whose excellently-fitting silk
dress, delicate hands, and general "niceness" of appearance, quite
prepare us to see the beautiful examples of all kinds of fancy work of
which she never seems to tire. Every year, in June, they hold a grand
bazaar at the hospital, so that those who are skilful and capable are
able to earn enough money to clothe themselves as they please--everything
except clothing being found by the charity, except to two or three
inmates who are able to pay for their own maintenance. Now we hear the
low tones of cheerful talk, the pleasant ripple of laughter--note the
brightening glance, the quick smile, the feeble but earnest finger-clasp
which greets the cheerful salutation of the house governor, Mr.
Darbyshire, or the presence of his wife, the lady matron of this great
happy family of incurables, we begin to wonder at our gloomy estimate of
the place before this visit.

Nor is the revelation of cheerfulness, of light in shadow, less
remarkable in the dormitories themselves. But then what rooms they are!
Each bed is, as it were, set in an alcove of its own snow-white
hangings, relieved by bits of colour which would delight an artist's
eye--pieces of embroidery, framed illuminated texts, bright flecks of
Berlin woolwork, or glistening designs in beads, or deep glowing
knick-knacks wrought in silk and lace. Each little bedside table, though
it may hold medicine and diet--drink and requisites for the sick--is
decked with flowers and little framed pictures, gaily-bound books, and
bright-hued toys and trifles, that make it look like a miniature stand
at a fancy fair. In some cases the sense of combined purity and glow of
colour is so great, that it is difficult to realise that we are in one
or other of a series of sick-rooms. Everything is so spotless, so
exquisitely clean and orderly, that nothing less than perfect nursing
could explain it--for be it remembered that the place is open to
visitors every day--and amidst some of the most terrible afflictions
from which humanity can suffer there is nothing revolting. Expressions
of pain and of utter prostration and weakness there are, of course; but
even these are only alternative with the general placid contentment and
thankfulness that is the prevailing characteristic.

Even in two severe cases of cancer the terrible effects of the malady
are less notable, because of the surrounding conditions. A sprightly and
engaging girl, with features and social life alike marred and
obliterated by this dreadful malady, is surely one of the saddest of all
the sad sights in such an institution; but here the brightness and
genial influence of the place, and of those who are its ministrants,
have had their effect, and even the half-obliterated features gain a
grateful, loving, cheerful expression; the poor eyes beam with pleasure
as the governor starts some reminiscence of that pleasant summer
water-party of his, in which one of the two sufferers had to be carried
to the boat in his arms, and both of them, deeply veiled, were rowed by
those same guarding arms for a glorious voyage on the river, where the
summer's sunshine and gladness stole into the hearts of the sufferers,
and left a halo of remembrance that is not perhaps so very far from the
anticipations of that stream which maketh glad the children of God.

Here are rooms wherein only two or three beds are placed, while few of
them contain more than six, but all of them are bright, airy, lofty,
full of space, and with the same sense of purity. And from every window
some fresh and lovely view of the surrounding landscape, with all its
changeful aspects, may be seen--the beds being so placed that every
patient has her own special expanse of territory to solace her waking
hours, even though she be unable to go down to the assembly-room. Here,
in a room particularly bright and cheerful, lies a young woman with a
wealth of dark hair on the pillow where her intelligent face beams with
a certain courage, although her body and limbs have been for years
immovable--only one arm, for an inch or two, and three fingers of the
right hand, can be stirred--and yet, as we stand and talk with her, some
small simple jest about her own condition causes her to laugh till the
bed shakes. She has learnt to write by holding a pencil in her mouth,
and inscribes neat and legible letters on paper placed on a rest just in
front of her face. She is not only cheerful, but actually hopeful,
though she has been for years in this condition; and her relations,
great and small, visit her, to find her always heartily determined to
look on the bright side. At the foot of her bed, near the window, is a
swing looking-glass on a pedestal, and in this she sees reflected the
distant prospect of autumn wood and field, extending miles away. Judging
from her nobly equable and smiling face, she must be the life of the
room of which she has been so long an occupant. In another apartment a
poor schoolmistress suffering from hemorrhage of the lungs lies reading
for many hours a day, her face bearing a painful expression, her manner
eager, her constant craving to work on, by the study of books concerning
the problems of this earthly life and the sciences that strive to
demonstrate them and yet only bring us to the barrier of the eternal
world. She yearns for one more day amidst her classes, and for the
opportunity of testing the results of sick-bed thoughts on a method of
education which should adapt itself to the individual temperament and
mental peculiarity of each child. Amidst a troubled tide of thoughts
that are perhaps sometimes too much for the weary brain, she may learn
to recognise the rest that comes after hearing the Divine voice say,
"Peace! be still;" and so a great spiritual calm may fall upon her, and
give her rest.

Yet another visit, and we find a girl who, from an accidental fall, is
as immovable as a statue, her dark questioning eyes and mobile face
alone excepted. Yet she is sometimes lifted into a wheel-chair that
stands stabled by her bedside, and joins the company in the great
parlour downstairs. There is another little parlour, with quite a select
coterie, under the presidency of an elderly gentlewoman, who is busily
knitting at a table, while her friends recline at the windows, on their
special couches; and in several of the dormitories patients are sitting
up, reading, working, or looking at the fitful aspect of earth and sky
on this October afternoon. Sufferers from heart-disease, with that
anxious contracted expression so indicative of their malady, are
numerous; but the larger number of the patients seem to suffer from
rheumatism, or paralysis--among them one lady, with silvered hair, and
yet with bright expressive eyes, and still bonny face, who was once a
well-known singer in London. She is unable to rise from couch or bed,
but the readiness of repartee, the bright inquiring look, the quick
appreciation and retort, remain, as do a certain swift expressive action
of head and hands, which is marvellously suggestive of dramatic gesture;
for, happily, her hands and arms are still capable of movement, and she
has several periodicals on the coverlet--among them the latest monthly
part of a magazine, in one of the stories in which she is evidently
interested. She, with two or three others, are inmates of the hospital
at their own charges.

We have but little time to devote to the men's side of this great
institution; but its dormitories and furniture, its large day-room,
where daughters sit talking in low voice to fathers, sisters to
brothers, wives to husbands--its pleasant out-door contingent, who have
just returned from slowly perambulating the grounds in wheel-chairs, or
sit basking outside in the latest gleam of sunshine--its club in the
rustic hut especially appointed for this purpose--all might bear
comment. Here is a sturdy youth, who, falling from a tree, and alighting
on his heels, incurably injured his spine, and now lies all day, mostly
out of doors, and without a coat, frequently engaged in knitting. There
is a poor gentleman, who has for sixteen years been almost immovable,
from rheumatism, even his jaw being so fixed that he takes food through
an aperture in the teeth. He has been through two or three hospitals,
and under the care of the most eminent surgeons, and has come here now
as to an ark of refuge, where he can read and talk, and be wheeled about
the neighbourhood on occasional visits. Only one case of all those that
we witness is startling in its melancholy sense of terrible loss and
incurability; that rigid, grimly-set face, in the ward where the corner
bed in which the grizzled head lies is the only one occupied this
afternoon. The body belonging to that face is almost immovable--the ears
are deaf, the tongue is mute, the eyes are nearly sealed--not by sudden
calamity, but by gradual yielding to decay or disease. He has been an
inmate several years, and is the one case here before which we may
almost quail in our solemn sense of affliction; and yet, to the touch of
certain loving hands that dead face kindles; that mind, seemingly locked
in stupor, wakes to life; that intelligence, encased in a casket
iron-bound and motionless, can understand the signs that are made upon
his own hands or forehead, and interpret them so as to give some kind of
grateful answer. It needs the touch of the lady nurse to bring out this
strange music from an instrument so unstrung; but that it should be done
at all is an evidence of the hold that loving sympathy and some subtle
influence almost beyond mere bodily capacity of expression has taken in
these dear souls of the sick and the afflicted. That is where the shadow
lifts, even in the darkness of the valley; that is how the Spirit of
Christ may abound; and the soul, in recognizing the work of the
disciple, may recognise the Lord therein, and remember the Living
Word--"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will
fear no evil, for Thou art with me."


I suppose there are few people in England, who are at all accustomed to
keep Christmas amidst a loving family circle, who have not during the
sacred festivities of the season, and all the household sentiments with
which they are inseparably associated, made some reference to the
"Christmas Carol," that famous story of the great novelist whose
presence in the spirit of his books has brightened so many a Christmas
hearth, and moved so many gentle hearts to kindly thoughts and words of
loving cheer.

Amongst all the well-known characters to which Mr. Dickens introduced
thousands of readers--characters who, to many of us, became realities,
and were spoken of as though they were living and among our ordinary
acquaintances--there have been none, except perhaps little Nell, who
have evoked more sympathetic recognition than Tiny Tim, the poor
crippled child of Bob Cratchit--the child, the sound of whose little
crutch upon the stair was listened for with loving expectation--the
shadow of whose vacant chair in the "Vision of Christmas," gave to the
humbled usurer as keen a pang as any sight that he saw afterwards in
that strange dream of what might come to pass. So completely do we share
the anxiety of Scrooge in this respect, that we can all remember giving
a sigh of relief when, at the end of the story, we learn that the poor
crippled boy remains to bless the fireside where even his afflictions
were felt to be a hallowing influence to soften animosities, and to draw
close the bonds of family love.

"Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself" (says Bob Cratchit),
"and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming
home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a
cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas-day
who made lame beggars walk and blind men see."

If I needed an excuse for so long an allusion to that pathetic story,
which has stirred so many hearts throughout England, I might find it in
the passage I have just quoted; but I seek none. I refer to the
"Christmas Carol," because in it the figure of the crippled boy,
occupying so small a space, yet is such a living, touching influence as
to be one of the household fancies that associate themselves with our
thoughts of Christmas-tide in poor homes; because there are so many
little crutches the sounds of which are heard--though fewer than there
used to be before _orthopædic_ surgery became a special branch of study,
and hospitals were founded for its practice; because, though Tiny Tim
may represent so many crippled children who are the helpless members of
poor families, where they are tended with as kindly care as working
fathers and mothers can find time for--there are hundreds of other
deformed or maimed lads whose lot is made the harder because of the want
of sympathy and ready aid that would lift them out of utter
helplessness, or give them such light labour to perform as would
diminish their sense of dependence. Finally, because I desire you to
bear me company to one place in London where this last need is
recognised, and where forty crippled boys, suffering from various
incurable deformities, which yet have left them the use of their hands,
are not only taught a trade, but are encouraged, fed, and nurtured for
the three years during which they are inmates of the home--"The National
Industrial Home for Crippled Boys."

Alighting from the railway carriage which conveys us from Mansion House
Station to the pleasant old High Street of Kensington, we are close to
the place that we have come to see, for the building itself--a quaint
old house, with a central doorway between two projecting deep
bay-windowed fronts, and built of the reddest of red brick--stands at
the end of Wright's Lane, looking us full in the face as we approach it
to read the style and title plainly painted across its upper storey.

The house has good reason for looking the world thus bluffly in the
face, for it is an independent building, bought and paid for:
hearth-stone, roof tree, and chimney, freehold, and without debt or
mortgage. Till this was done, all thought of considerable extension was
put aside. The question was how to provide, out of voluntary
subscriptions and contributions, for the fifty inmates who could be
admitted within those sheltering walls. It must be premised, however,
that ten pounds a year has to be paid for each boy who is accepted,
during the three years that he remains there, to be taught in the
evening school and in the workshop, not only how to read and write and
cipher, but to become a good workman at tailoring, carpentering, or
die-engraving and colour-stamping.

These are at present the only three trades taught in this truly
industrial home, but they appear to be very admirably suited to the
cases of those who are deformed or crippled in various ways; and they
are taught well, as an inspection of the work accomplished will prove.
For the workshops are real workshops, where the boys do not play at
work, but are taught their trades in a way that will enable them when
they leave the institution to gain a decent livelihood, or even, if they
can save a little money, to go into business for themselves.

This has been lately done, in fact, by two youths, who, having
thoroughly learnt the relief-stamping process, have contrived to buy a
press and the materials for their trade, and are now in partnership in a
country town, and earning a respectable maintenance. Of sixteen lads who
left during the year, twelve were doing well as journeymen at the
industries they had learnt; one had set up in business for himself (the
relief-stamping gives the greatest facility for this); and two had
returned to their friends because of ill health, while one had not
reported himself But during the same period forty of the former inmates
had been to visit the old home, and gave a very encouraging account of
themselves. Let us add, in a whisper, that amongst these visitors were a
"team" of old boys who had come to accept the challenge of a "team" of
the new boys, to play a match at cricket. Yes, and that these teams of
cripples have, over and over again, carried off their bats against
opponents who, if they expected an easy victory, found themselves to
have been most amazingly mistaken. I don't think this is mentioned in
the Report, but it is well to know it, because it serves to prove how
truly beneficent a work is being done here, in removing boys from a too
often almost "hopeless" condition to one of useful, intelligent, skilled
labour, and to healthy self-forgetfulness and association in the
ordinary duties and recreations of their fellows. It must be remembered
that every boy there is, in a certain sense, incurable. After having
been nominated by the person willing to contribute the annual payment of
£10, the medical officers of the institution (or if in the country, some
qualified practitioner) examine the candidate, who must be above twelve
and less than eighteen years of age, and neither blind, deaf and dumb,
nor without the use of his hands. The name of the candidate is then
added to the list of those waiting for admission--of whom there are now,
unfortunately, above seventy--and when there is a vacancy, and funds are
sufficient to maintain the full number of inmates, these candidates are
taken in succession, without voting, by order of the Committee of
Management, of whom the President is the Earl of Shaftesbury, and the
Honorary Secretary Mr. S. H. Bibby, of Green Street, Grosvenor Square.
There is also an efficient Ladies' Committee for the household
management and for advising as to the education of the boys, the visits
of the friends of the inmates, and the domestic affairs of the Home
generally. There are some severe cases of deformity here--club-foot,
spinal curvature, and various distortions of the legs--and in many cases
instruments are worn, but the Institution does not profess to provide
these. Frequently they are procured by special contributions, and among
the latest gifts of this kind is a serviceable wooden leg or two, which
have had the happy effect of relieving their recipients from the
necessity of using crutches; but it is distinctly insisted on that the
Home is not a hospital, and is only curative in the sense of improving
the condition of those who, having been pronounced incurable, are yet
capable of greatly increased activity and strength by means of
nourishing and regular food, interesting occupation, and healthy
exercise with companions who themselves are to be numbered among the
halt and the lame, and yet are, in a very certain sense, made to walk
and to leap and to praise God. For see, at the very moment that I am
speaking, a little figure darts out of the passage yonder and scampers
across the large open green space at the back of the house on his way to
the new range of workshops that are now nearly completed, and are also
paid for. Is it possible to apply the term cripple to such an elf, who
is out of reach before one can ask his name? Yes; that very elf-like
look is the result of a deformity which stops growth, though it leaves
the limbs as active as you see them. But come up-stairs to the first of
the present workshops, and you may note among the colour-stampers,
sitting on their high stools before the dies and presses, cases of more
decided deformity or of crippling by accident. These boys follow an
artistic, pretty business, and visitors may do worse than give a small
or a large order for notepaper and envelopes, stamped with crest, motto,
or quaint design. So well is the work executed, that the Home has orders
constantly in hand for the trade, and some of the dies are really
beautiful examples of engraving. I think that in this long pleasant
upper room, with its high bench running along the window, fitted with
the presses and implements for the work, there are more severe cases of
deformity than will be seen in either in the tailors' department on the
same floor, or the carpenters' shop below. One reflects on the numerous
accidents to which the children of the poor are liable, such as falls
down flights of stairs; to the inhuman neglect of old women who are paid
as "minders" by mothers compelled to go out to work in neighbourhoods
where no infant crèche, no babies' cradle home, has yet been
established, or in country towns where such institutions have scarcely
been heard of. One remembers with pity the scores of poor little
creatures who have to nurse and tend children almost as big as
themselves, so that they and their charges too often become deformed
together, the nurse with lateral curvature of the spine and the baby
with vertical curvature or with deformities of the feet or legs. One
thinks, in short, of the many perils to healthy life and well-formed
limb that beset the children of the poor, and then coming back to the
figures of this _National_ Home, which yet, with careful management and
due economy, can only receive forty or fifty crippled boys--wonders how
long it is to be before the ruddy old house in Wright's Lane will expand
its broad bosom and stretch out long arms on either side to embrace
three-score more lads, taken from present neglect and want and probable
ill-usage, to be fed and taught and nurtured for three years, during
which the whole future will be changed for them, and their lives
redeemed from the degradation that had threatened them just as their
bodies expand with renewed health and strange developments of
unsuspected strength, and their souls are lighted with hope and the
sympathy of loving words and hearty manly encouragement.

A beginning has been made already; for that munificent anonymous
benefactor, whose thousand-pound cheques have helped so many of our
deserving charities, showed his usual nice discrimination by taking a
walk in the direction of Wright's Lane. The result of this has been the
erection of those long workshops which extend across one side of the
wide green area, with its ornamental trees, at the back of the
building--an area which is a good part of the acre on which the property
stands, and forms a capital recreation-ground, without quite leaving out
of sight the pleasant kitchen-garden beyond, or the little building in
the further corner, which is intended as a cottage infirmary in cases of
sickness. There are the workshops, quite ready for another contingent of
lads, such as are now busily at work in the tailoring department, where
they are sitting on the board in the proper tailor-fashion, sewing away
at one or other of the many private orders for gentlemen's clothes, or
"juvenile suits," which are the better appreciated because they _are_
hand-sewn, instead of being made with that machine, at the end of the
room, to learn the working of which is, however, a necessary part of the
modern tailor's trade. Quite ready, also, for our friends the
relief-stampers, and for an additional crew of young carpenters to join
those who are now busy below amidst a fine odour of fresh deal and the
cheery sound of hammer, chisel, and plane. One of our young friends of
the wooden legs--a strapping fellow of seventeen--is just deftly
finishing off a very attractive chest of drawers, which will only need
to be taken to the painting and varnishing rooms that form a part of the
new building to be a very capital example of the workmanship of the
establishment. For it cannot be too strongly insisted on that the
customers of the Industrial Cripples get value for their money, whether
it be in ornamental stationery, in plain furniture, packing cases,
boxes, and general carpentry, or in "superfine suits" to order, or "own
materials made up and repairs neatly executed." It is no sham industrial
school, but a real practical working establishment, and when the new
buildings are quite completed, and the dwelling-house has that other
wing added to it, in order to provide proper dormitories and a
school-room, dining-room, and lavatory, at all in proportion to the
number of boys who are waiting anxiously for admission----

Ah! but the question is, When shall this be? Not till another £5,000 is
added to the funds, I am told--about as much money as is sometimes spent
in some public display which lasts three or four hours, and going to
look at which probably half a dozen men, women, or children are lamed
and crippled in the crowd. Judging from the present arrangements, with
very little room to spare, and a not very conveniently-adaptable space,
the money would be carefully spent; for there is no tendency to undue
luxury, and the present household staff would still be sufficient for
providing meals and looking after the family needs of these robust and
independent young cripples. That it would be a work all the more
beneficial, because of this very independence with which it is
associated, it needs few arguments to prove; but, should reasons be
asked for, let us take three cases for which the benefits of the Home
are earnestly sought, and they will speak in suggestive accents of the
need of that extension for which an appeal is being made. I need not
tell you the names either of those who nominate the cases or the boys
themselves; but be assured that the former would be sufficient guarantee
of the need which it is sought to relieve:--

 No. 1.--"The father is paralysed, and can do no work. The mother is not
 a very satisfactory person. Family consist of--

  1. The eldest, a boy of twenty, who does odd jobs.

  2. The cripple.

  3. Boy, works, and gets 5s.

  4. Boy, sells lights in the City.

 There are four little girls at home besides. The cripple is in a very
 wretched state from want of food, but he has the use of his hands."

 No. 2 (EDINBURGH).--"Was never at school more than a year in his life,
 and never attended regularly two months together. He can neither read
 nor write, and has been neglected and often half-starved by his
 dissipated parents. His mother pawns everything she can get to buy
 drink, and the boy has little benefit from the wages he makes, which
 are about 5s. per week. Their house is miserably dirty, Mrs. ---- (the
 mother) being always drunk or incapable on the Saturday and Sunday. The
 boy works at Mr. B----'s Pottery, P----. He is honest and industrious.
 He is more miserable at home of late since he is left alone with his
 mother. It would be a great advantage to the boy if he could be
 admitted to the Industrial Home at Kensington, where he would be well
 trained, and where he would be quite beyond his mother's reach."

 No. 3 (recommended by a Clergyman).--"Has been very regular at our
 school, and has been attentive and got on very well. His mother, a
 widow, lives with her sons, all of whom she has brought up well. She is
 an industrious, honest woman, and receives no help from the Board of
 Guardians excepting an allowance made for the maintenance of the
 cripple, and which, in case of his being accepted at the Home, they
 have promised to continue to pay for his maintenance. I may add that
 the Board, when he was called before them the other day, gave great
 praise to his mother for the cleanliness and respectability of his

Poor, depressed, starved, neglected, hopeless crippled boys, how long
will it be before they come here for shelter, for hope, and renewal of
life? I should ask the question--though the answer could only be a
guess--but I am suddenly diverted by the tremendous ringing of a
hand-bell, on which one vigorous young cripple is ringing a peal, which
is almost loud enough to announce to all Kensington that it is
"tea-time." The sound has the effect of bringing all the forty from
their work--a contingent of young carpenters staying behind for a little
while to dispose of some waste shavings which have been swept out of
some corner where they may have been in the way. Then they come trooping
into the big room, where they present so strange a variety of height and
appearance, and also so remarkable a diversity of twist and lameness and
distortion, that we are impressed at once with the melancholy fact that
every boy there is in reality a cripple, and yet with the cheering
reflection, inspired by some of the lively smiling faces, that there are
vast mitigations of such afflictions--mitigations that come so near to
cures as to make our neglect of them a very serious evil, when the means
lie near at hand.

In this big room, which is neither dining-room, nor kitchen, nor
refectory, but a homely combination of all three, there is no ornament,
no sign of luxury, or of unnecessary expenditure-plain deal forms or
stools at plain deal tables, on which are arranged a regiment of
full-sized mugs of good sound tea, and plates, each containing a
substantial half-pound slice of bread from a homely two-pound loaf,
spread with butter or dripping. For breakfast the same quantity is
provided, with the substitution of coffee for tea; and dinner consists
of a half-pound of roast or boiled meat, with plenty of vegetables, and
dumplings, pies, or puddings; while bread and cheese, or bread and
butter, is served for supper. For it must be remembered that these are
working lads, and that they require to be substantially, and, from the
nature of their bodily affliction, even generously fed, so that these
supplies of pure plain diet are not by any means excessive; and they are
such as one very ordinary kitchen can supply--a kitchen, by the bye,
which will probably be superseded by a more convenient one when the new
wing shall be finished. Yet there is something in these unadorned, bare,
almost too plainly appointed places, which brings with it a reassuring
conviction that the institution has never been pampered. The
dining-room, which has to do duty for a school-room also--the play-room,
which is a rather dim kind of retreat on this November evening--and the
plain, rather bare, but still clean and airy dormitories (especially
those in the big bay-windowed front rooms of the old red brick house),
are evidences that the place does not belie its name; that it is really
a home, but essentially an industrial home, where work goes on as part
of each day's blessing, and the title to play freely and with a light
heart is thereby ensured.


There is a degree of poverty which, while it is not absolute pauperism,
often has deeper needs than those which are alleviated by parochial
relief--a destitution which is none the less bitter because those who
suffer it cannot stoop to actual mendicancy, and shrink from the
degradation of the casual ward and its contaminating influences.

Those of us who at this season of the year are surrounded with comforts,
and can meet together to enjoy them, should feel that there is no sadder
phase of the life of this great city than that to which our attention is
called by the statistics of those same casual wards, and the
accompanying certainty that every night there are men, women, and
children, who, amidst surrounding luxury and splendour, have not where
to lay their heads, and for whom the repellent door of the nearest union
workhouse is closed, even if they could summon such courage as comes of
desperation, and dared to enter.

Happily, the numbers of those who seek what is called casual relief have
diminished in proportion to the general abatement of pauperism; and it
is perhaps encouraging to know that the applicants for nightly shelter
at Refuges for the homeless and destitute are fewer than they were three
or four years ago. This is a fact which should be made public, because
some of these Refuges have been accused of offering inducements to
casual paupers to seek food and shelter provided by charitable
subscriptions, instead of betaking themselves to the night-wards
provided for them at metropolitan workhouses. The complaint was made on
altogether insufficient grounds, at a time when, during a hard winter,
and with a fearful amount of distress among the poorest class of the
community, the workhouse night-wards themselves were frequently
inadequate to the demands made upon them; while, apart from the persons
who were known as casual paupers, there were hundreds of unfortunates
suffering from temporary starvation and the want of a place in which to
find a night's lodging, who yet were altogether removed from what is
known as pauperism, and dreaded the abject hopelessness which they
associated with "the Union."

It should not be forgotten, either, that the task which is, and was
then, imposed upon the pauper on the morning following his night's
lodging and its previous dole of gruel and bread, renders it almost
impossible for the recipient to obtain work. Before his job of
stone-breaking or oakum-picking is accomplished, the hour for commencing
ordinary labour outside the workhouse walls has passed, and his hope of
resuming independent employment, and the wages that will provide food
and lodging for the next four-and-twenty hours, has passed also. This
alone is always sufficient to make a very marked distinction between the
regular casual pauper and the temporarily unfortunate man or woman who,
having failed to get work, and seeking only the aid that may give rest
and strength for a renewed effort, might look in vain for succour but
for the existence of places like that admirable Institution to which I
wish to take you to-night.

The shameful spectacle of groups, and, in many instances, of crowds, of
houseless, starving, and half-naked creatures huddled about the doors of
casual wards, to which they had been refused admission in direct
defiance of legislation, led to the establishment of Night Refuges.
There was then no time to dispute. While boards and committees were
squabbling and vilifying each other, the poor were perishing. But even
now that a better system prevails, and pauperism has so considerably
diminished, there is much necessity for the continuance of these
institutions and their adaptation to the relief of that kind of distress
which is all the more poignant because it is at present only temporary,
but would receive the brand and stamp of permanence if it could find no
other mitigation than that secured by an appeal to workhouse officials,
the shelter of the casual shed, the union dole, and the daily task
required in return.

At the time that Night Refuges were first founded, in consequence of the
failure of the Houseless Poor Act, there were one or two institutions
which went on the plan of offering no inducement whatever to those who
sought shelter within their walls. The provisions were barer, the beds
harder, the reception little less cold and unsympathetic than they would
receive at any metropolitan union.

Those of my readers who remember the Refuge for the Houseless Poor which
once stood in Playhouse Yard, close to that foul tangle of courts that
still exists between Barbican and St. Luke's, and is known as "The
Chequers," will understand me when I say that there were no alluring
inducements for the houseless and the destitute to seek its aid.

I have seldom seen a more painfully suggestive crowd than that which
waited outside the blank door of that hideous building on a cold drizzly
evening when I paid the place a visit, only a short time before it was
finally closed. I cannot deny, however, that the applicants for
admission consisted of those persons for whom the institution seemed to
be especially designed. The very lowest class of poverty, the
representatives of sheer destitution, made up the 350 men and the 150
women who were to occupy the bare wooden bunks in the two departments of
the building that night, and to accept, as a stay against starvation,
the half-pound of dry bread and the drink of water. What I would call
emphatic attention to, is the fact that this place was filled nightly at
that time, because the inmates could leave early in the morning to seek
a day's work, and so rise out of that depth of destitution which was
represented by the nightly return to the casual ward. But let us
remember that, though this Institution could scarcely be characterised
by the warm name of "charity," it received all applicants who were not
suffering from infectious diseases, and therefore its policy was
deterrent. In order to separate itself from the idle casual, it made its
provisions little short of penal, and, indeed, very far short of those
common comforts that are to be found in prison.

But the Refuge in Newport Market was one of those which had been founded
on a different principle. It was never intended as a supplement to the
casual ward, or as having any relation to poor-law relief; though,
during the terrible distress that overtook the houseless in that severe
winter when our poor-law arrangements broke down utterly, it was
impossible for any place founded in the name of Christian love and
charity to be very particular in excluding famishing and frozen men and
women on the suspicion that they had already somehow obtained parochial
relief the night before.

This "Refuge" was originally established by the influence and the
personal exertions of Mrs. Gladstone, and a few ladies and gentlemen
who, knowing of the extreme distress that prevailed in all that
poverty-stricken neighbourhood about Seven Dials, around the
alien-haunted district of Soho, and in the purlieux of Drury Lane, and
the courts of Long Acre, set about providing some remedy for the misery
that homeless, destitute men, women, and children had to suffer during
the bitter nights of winter. First, a regular mission was established in
an ordinary room, and, after a time, space was secured to make a
Refuge--first for six, then for ten, and afterwards for twenty of the
most destitute cases which came under the notice of the mission-woman.
This went on till the funds were sufficient to warrant a very earnest
desire to obtain larger premises, and at last to make a bid for that
queer ramshackle old slaughter-house, which was the rather too indicative
feature of the locality. The landlords of this place were fully alive to
the value of any property rising in proportion to the anxiety of somebody
to become its tenant, and they demanded a high rent accordingly. Still,
the work had to be done, and the slaughter-house--cleansed, repaired,
whitewashed, and divided into several queer, irregular-shaped wards and
rooms, which were reached by strange flights of steps and zig-zag
entries--was opened with cheerful confidence and hope, under the earnest
superintendence of the Rev. J. Williams, who was at that time incumbent
of the parish of St. Mary, Soho. It was at that period that I first made
acquaintance with the Institution, and with the quiet, undemonstrative
work of charity which was carried on there, and is continued to this
day, though it is less arduous now that the neighbourhood itself has
felt the influence of such an organization--not so much in the
diminution of actual poverty, as in the humanising and constantly
suggestive presence of men and women who have brought a gospel to those
who were hopeless, and seemed to have none to care for them.

The need to receive numbers every night to the utmost limits of the
Institution has passed now, except occasionally during very severe
weather; and though the cases admitted are still those where deep, and
sometimes apparently almost fatal, misfortune is the claim, there is no
longer the urgency which forbade a too discriminating selection, and the
regular casual stands no chance under the quick and experienced eye of
the superintendent, Mr. Ramsden, whose military tone and manner are, by
the way, modulated so as to carry the sense of detection to the
pretender, and to support and give courage to the weak and

The same complete, quiet method of receiving applicants who await
admission enables me to repeat the impression which I received during
the time that the demands upon the night Refuge were more urgent. The
experienced visitor who stands at the gate of this rehabilitated
building that was once the old slaughter-house, and who watches the
people go in one by one, and listens to their low-voiced pleas for food
and shelter, cannot mistake them for casual ward cases. Just as, in some
other Institutions, the pain of the spectacle is the degraded poverty of
those who seek aid, the most affecting element here is utter
destitution, without that _accustomed_ debasement which would find a
fitting resource at the workhouse door, leading to the night shed.

These are broken-down men and women; old men beaten in the battle of
life, and full of present sorrow; young men who have fought and failed,
or who have eaten of the husks, and seek occasion to rise to a better
mind; middle-aged men not altogether crushed or hopeless, but in sore
want, and needing the sound of a kindly voice, the touch of a friendly
hand; women who have lost youth and worldly hope together--women who,
more weak than wicked, and without resource, need some stay alike for
fainting bodies and for wandering souls; women worn and hungry, because
of the lack even of ill-paid work, and asking for rest and food till
they can seek employment: some who will go forth in the morning and set
out afresh; others who, if they can secure two or three nights' lodging,
with a mouthful of food and drink morning and evening, have a good hope
of doing better in the future.

To those who know how the demand for certain kinds of labour varies, and
frequently slackens towards the winter months, when need is sorest, this
latter most merciful provision comes with a sense of truest charity.
Tickets of admission are issued to friends and visitors of the
Institution (and any one may be a visitor who chooses to ring at the
bell of the old slaughter-house), entitling the holder to admission
after the regular evening hour of half-past five to six, so that in
bestowing one of these the judicious subscriber (not necessarily, but
surely from sympathy a subscriber) can be a true benefactor. For these
tickets will admit the really deserving nightly for a week, with supper
of bread and coffee or cocoa, or occasional savoury soup, and breakfast
of bread and coffee. And even this time is occasionally extended, if
there be a reasonable prospect of obtaining work. Not only
ticket-holders, but every applicant, may have the same privilege, if it
can be shown that he or she is really likely to obtain employment. But
there is more than this. There are men here--truest of gentlemen, beyond
that social stamp of rank which rightfully belongs to them--who, with a
real, manly instinct, know how to take poverty by the hand without
offensive patronage or untimely preaching. There are ladies who, in
their true womanhood, can see the contrition in faces bowed down--the
shame that is caused, not by evil doings, but by the feeling of dismay
which comes of having to ask for charity--can sympathise with broken
fortunes, with gentle nurture--cast upon a hard, relentless world, with
that poverty which is "above the common."

More still. Among the supporters and the constant visitors are those who
can use special influence for cases that need it most, and obtain for
them admission to hospitals and other asylums, or introduce to
situations those who by sudden calamity have been deprived of the means
of living.

Yes, even in their deepest need, poor, wandering, homeless women may
come here and find help, for in that large, lofty, yet warm and
well-lighted room, the women's dormitory--one side of which is composed
of a series of niches where the comfortable beds are placed--there are
to be seen a row of doors, which seem to belong to a series of cabins,
as, indeed, they do. Each door opens into a small bed-room--small, but
with room for a chair, a tiny table, and the neat bed. They are the
lodgings set apart for women, who, in the midst of their poverty and
destitution, are looking forward fearfully to the time when children
will be born to them, and so to a period of weakness, and of the sad
mingling of maternal pity and desponding sorrow. Let me say, in one line
from the Report, that last year eight young women were received into the
Refuge some time before their confinement, were passed on to Queen
Charlotte's Hospital, and were helped until such time as they were able
to help themselves.

I think the knowledge of this is so cheerful an instance of the value of
this most representative Refuge, that even the sight of the bright,
warm, glowing kitchen, with its great boiler of hot coffee, and its
noble kettle of soup occupying the jolly range, scarcely imparts an
extra beam to the picture; while the long rows of white mugs, the
pleasant, clean, fragrant loaves, the big milk-cans, the courteous
_chef_, who has a true and pardonable pride in his surroundings--no, not
even the cosy, rug-covered berths and bunks in the dormitories, nor the
quaint little corner-room to which I have to climb a crooked staircase
to shake hands with the sister who is in charge, nor the equally quaint
and cornery, not to say inconvenient, sitting-room of Mr. and Mrs.
Ramsden, who have left their tea unfinished to do the honours of the
Institution--can suggest to me a better word to say than that which is
suggested by the picture of the poor wandering, weary, fainting women,
who, almost in despair, not only for a real, but for an expected life,
come here to find rest and peace.

Stay; one word more. Who are the class of people for whom the Refuge
doors are ordinarily open? Let us see what were the most numerous cases
among the inmates who during the year received 6,669 nights' lodgings
and 16,889 suppers and breakfasts. Among the men "labourers," of course,
are most numerous; then discharged soldiers--poor fellows who have
perhaps foolishly snatched at liberty when offered, and foregone the
advantages of re-engagement and a pension; next in numerical order come
_clerks_--a very painfully suggestive fact, especially when read by the
light of the advertisement-columns of our newspapers, and the sad story
of genteel poverty in that great suburban ring which encircles the
wealthiest city in the world. Of house-painters there were 24; of
servants, 21; of tailors, 13; of seamen, 8; and other callings were
represented in remarkable variety, including 1 actor, 6 cooks, 1
schoolmaster, 2 surveyors, and 1 tutor. Among the women, 199
servants--show sadly enough the truth of the old adage, "Service is no
inheritance;" while in numerical succession there were, 55 charwomen, 41
laundresses, 37 needlewomen, 31 tailoresses, 27 dressmakers, 26
machinists (alas! how many women still utterly depend on "the needle"
for a subsistence!), 24 cooks, 20 ironers, 16 field-labourers. There
were 4 governesses, 1 actress, 1 mission-woman, and 1 staymaker, the
rest being variously described.

From among these, 94 men and 193 women obtained employment, 77 women
having been sent to Penitentiaries and Homes, while 18 were supported in
the Refuge or elsewhere by needlework, 13 were sent to their friends, 60
obtained permanent work, and 14 girls of good character were sent to
Servants' Homes.

But I have left out one thing now. Among this great representative
company of refugees were 60 children, of whom 37 were sent to nurse or
to school, while those who were old enough---- Well, just listen to that
burst of military music in a distant upper-room of the old
slaughter-house. I must tell you something about the Newport Market boys
in another chapter.


Yes; listen to that startling clangour of military music coming from an
upper room. We are standing, you know, in the cheerful kitchen of that
Refuge for the Homeless in the renovated old slaughter-house in Newport
Market, and I want you to come with me to see the boys' school, which
occupies a very considerable portion of that weatherproof but ramshackle

Only those who are acquainted with the poverty and the crime of this
great metropolis can estimate the deep and urgent need that still exists
for refuges in which homeless, destitute, and neglected children can be
received for shelter, food, and clothing. Only the practical student of
the effect of our present administration of the Education Act can
calculate how vast a necessity is likely to exist for the reception and
instruction of the children of the poorest, even when all the machinery
of the present School Board is put in motion for vindicating the
compulsory clause.

Let that clause be interpreted in the most liberal manner--which would
be in effect to provide State education without cost to the parents--and
the Act will still leave untouched a vast number of children for whom
nothing can be done until their physical necessities are provided
for--children who are perishing with cold, starving for want of food. A
visit to some of the big buildings recently erected by the London School
Board will reveal the fact that there are many such children now in
attendance; neglected, barefoot, half-clothed, hungry, and with that
wistful eager look, sometimes followed by a kind of stupefaction, which
may be observed in the poor little outcasts of the streets. There is no
reasonable hope of doing much with these little creatures till the
"soup-kitchen" and the "free breakfast" are among the appliances of
education, where the necessity is most pressing, and the children perish
for lack of bread as well as for lack of knowledge.

As it is--I need not refer again to the escape which is always open from
the streets to the prison. The few Government industrial-schools to
which magistrates occasionally consign young culprits brought before
them are intended only for those who come within the cognisance of the

The operations of these reformatory-schools are successful so far as
they go. They represent seventy-five per cent. of successful reformatory
training as applied to juvenile transgressors committed by magistrates
to their supervision.

Perhaps, when we are fully impressed with the meaning of the statistics
which are published each year in the Report of the Inspectors of
Certified Schools in Great Britain, we shall begin to consider how it
will be possible to regard destitute children in relation to the
guardianship of the state _before_ they qualify themselves for
Government interposition by the expedient of committing what the law
calls a crime.

The last Report states distinctly that the sooner criminal children are
taken in hand, the more complete is their reformation. There are fewer
"criminals" of less than ten years of age than there are hardened
offenders of from twelve to sixteen. This is, so far, satisfactory; but
when we consider that (including Roman Catholic establishments) there
are but fifty-three reformatories in England, and twelve in Scotland
(thirty-seven of those in England and eight in Scotland being for boys,
and sixteen in England and four in Scotland for girls), and that in
1873, when the Report was issued, the sum-total of children in all these
institutions was but 5,622, of whom one-fourth were in the Roman
Catholic schools--we cease to wonder at the vast number of homeless,
neglected, and destitute children in London alone--a number which,
notwithstanding the efforts of philanthropy and the activity of School
Board beadles, exceeds the total of all the inmates of the State
reformatories throughout the kingdom.

This refuge at Newport Market had included destitute and starving boys
among those who were brought to its shelter from the cruel streets, the
dark arches of railways and of bridges, and the miserable corners where
the houseless huddle together at night, long before its supporters could
make provision for maintaining any of the poor little fellows in an
industrial-school. But the work grew, and the means were found, first
for retaining some of the juvenile lodgers who came only for a night's
food, and warmth, and shelter, and afterwards for receiving them as

Some of these are sent to the Refuge by persons who are furnished with
printed forms of application, or by mothers who can afford evident
testimony that they can scarcely live on the few shillings they are able
to earn by casual work as charwomen, or by the no less casual
employments where the wages are totally inadequate to support a family;
while a few lads have themselves applied for admission because they were
orphans, or utterly destitute and abandoned by those on whom they might
be supposed to have a claim.

A portion of the old building, which has been adapted to the purpose,
and has been added as the need for increased space became pressing, is
now devoted to the dormitories, play-room, and school-room of some fifty
to sixty of this contingent of the great army of friendless children;
and at the time of the last Report fourteen had but just left to be
enlisted in military bands; two had become military tailors; situations
had been found for others; while one had been regularly apprenticed to a
tailor in London.

There are frequently several boys ready for such apprenticeship, for
tailoring is the only regular trade taught, the time of the lads being
occupied in learning to read, write, and cipher, to acquire the outlines
of history and geography, and to take a place in the military band which
is at this moment making the cranky old building resound with its
performance on clarinets, hautboys, cornets, "deep bassoons," and all
kinds of wind instruments, under the direction of an able bandmaster,
who keeps the music up to the mark with a spirit which bespeaks
confidence in the intelligence of his pupils.

This confidence is not misplaced, for during the past year eleven
youthful recruits have been drafted from among these boys into the bands
of various regiments, while there are above ninety applications still on
the books for more musicians who have chosen this branch of the military
service. It is a matter of choice, of course; and there are some who
prefer to become sailors, or to go into situations and learn the trade
of tailoring, that their instructors may be able to recommend them to
respectable masters as apprentices.

But let us walk through the kitchen, and ascend the short zig-zag stairs
which lead us by a passage to the school-room, where most of the boys
are at work with their slates. Very few of the little fellows are more
than thirteen years old, and some of them have been but a short time at
school; but even those who came here totally uninstructed have made
admirable progress, and some of the writing-books containing lessons
from dictation are well worth looking at for their clean and excellent
penmanship and fair spelling; while in arithmetic the boys who have been
longest under tuition have advanced as far as "practice." There is
nothing superfluous in school-room, work-room, or play-room--indeed, one
might almost say that they are unfurnished, except for desks and forms
and plain deal tables. The play-room is a lower portion of the old
slaughter-house, with a high ceiling, to a beam in which is fixed a pair
of ropes terminating in two large wooden rings by which the youthful
gymnasts swing and perform all kinds of evolutions, while a set of
parallel bars are among the few accessories.

It is evident that nothing is spent in mere ornament, and that the
expenditure is carefully considered, though recreation, and healthy
recreation too, is a part of the daily duty, which is regulated in a
fashion befitting the rather military associations of the place. Even
now, as the cheery superintendent, Mr. Ramsden, who was lately
quartermaster-sergeant of the 16th Regiment, calls "Attention!" every
boy is quickly on his feet and ready to greet us; and what is more, the
boys seem to like this kind of discipline, for it is kind in its prompt
demand for obedience, and the regularity and order includes a kind of
self-reliance, which is a very essential part of education for lads who
must necessarily be taught what they have to learn in a comparatively
short time, and are then sent out where order and promptitude are of the
utmost service to them. Economy is studied, but the recollection of the
cheery kitchen suggests that there is no griping hard endeavour to
curtail the rations necessary to support health and strength. In fact,
the boys are sufficiently fed, warmly clothed, and are encouraged both
to work and play heartily. Breakfast consists of bread and coffee;
dinner of meat and vegetables three days in the week, fish on one day
(Wednesday), pudding on Monday, soup on Friday, meat and cheese on
Saturday; tea or coffee with bread and dripping, while on Sundays butter
is an additional luxury both at breakfast and tea; and on Thursdays and
Sundays tea is substituted for coffee at the evening meal. All the boys
are decently and warmly clothed, and though only some of their number
"take to music" as a profession, and choose to go into the military
bands, they all receive instruction. They are taught to keep their own
bunks and dormitories neat, and, in fact, do their own household work;
while, morning and afternoon, personal trimness is promoted by the
military "inspection" which is part of the discipline. There is half an
hour's play after breakfast, another quarter of hour before dinner,
three-quarters of an hour for "washing and play" after dinner, a quarter
of an hour before tea, and from an hour and a half to two hours for
boot-cleaning and play before bed-time, besides out-door exercise daily,
except in wet weather, when drill and gymnastics take its place. They
also go to Primrose Hill on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons, there to
run in the fresh air and disport themselves in cricket, or such games as
they can find the toys for, by the kindness of the committee or generous
visitors. Even with these recreations, however, they find time to go
through a very respectable amount of work in the fourteen hours between
rising and bed-time; and the letters received from lads who have left
the school are an evidence that they remember with pleasure and with
gratitude the Refuge that became a home, and to which they attribute
their ability to take a place which would have been denied to them
without the aid which grew out of pity for their neglected childhood.

Here is a short epistle from one of the juvenile band, at Shorncliffe
Camp, written a year or two ago:--

 "I now take the pleasure of writing these few lines and I hope all the
 boys are all well, and all in the school and please Mr. Ramsden will
 you send me the parcel up that I took into the school it was laying in
 the bookcase in the school-room and I hope that all the boys are all
 getting on with their instruments and the snips with their work and I
 should like you to read it to the boys and I wish that you would let
 ---- answer it and I am getting on with my instrument very well, and I
 will be able to come and see you on Cristamas season."

This is a characteristic schoolboy letter, which shows how much boys are
alike in all grades. The following is another letter from Shorncliffe:--

 "Dear Sir,

 "I received your kind and welcome letter along with mothers, and I
 wrote back to tell you we have all been enlisted and sworn in, and we
 expect to get our clothes next week and we all feel it our duty to
 express our deeply felt gratitude to you Mr. Dust and the Committee,
 and we are all very happy at present please give our respects to Mrs.
 Ramsden Sister Zillah Mr. McDerby Mr. Mason Mr. Goodwin Miss Cheesman
 and please remember us to all the boys. Leary is on sick furlough since
 the 15th of Decr. and has not returned yet and Brenan, Lloyd Graham
 McCarthy Henderson and all the others are very jolly at present and
 been out all the afternoon amongst the snow. So I conclude with kind
 thanks to one and all and believe me to be Dear Sir

 "Your late pupil ----

 "Band ---- Regt."

The following will show how the memory of the old slaughter-house and
the school in Newport Market remains after the boys have left and have
entered on a career. It is addressed from Warley Barracks:--

 "Dear Sir

 "I now take the opportunity of writing to you hoping you and all the
 rest of the school and the sister also. It is a long time since I left
 the school now and I dont suppose you would know me if I was to come
 and see you I was apprenticed out off the school along of J---- R----
 to Mr W---- in 1869 I think it was as a Tailor. I should like you to
 write and tell me if you know what rigment J---- H---- belong to his
 school number was 34 and mine was 35 me and him was great friends when
 we were in the school and I should like to know very much were he is.
 When I left the School Mr. L---- was Supperintendant and I dont suppose
 I should know you sir if I was to see you I shall try to come down and
 see the School if I can on Christmas for I shall be on pass to London
 for seven days and I should like to know where J---- H---- is so as I
 should be able to see him. I have a few more words to say that is the
 school was the making of me and I am very thankful to the school for it
 so with kind love to you all

 "I remain your humble servant,
 "Band ---- Regiment,
 "Warley Barracks, Essex.

 "J---- H---- number was 34 and mine was 35.

 "Excuse me addressing this Letter to you as I dont know anything about
 you sir."

There is something pleasant indeed in letters like these; and I for one
am not surprised that the boys should go to their musical practice with
a will.

They are just preparing to play something for our especial delight now,
and so burst out, in a grand triumphant blast, with "Let the Hills
Resound," after which we will take our leave, and, we hope, not without
melody in our hearts. Just one word as we go through this kitchen again.
Two West End clubs supply the Newport Market Refuge with the remnants of
their well-stocked larders. Did it ever occur to you how many hungry
children and poor men and women could be fed on the actual waste that
goes on in hotels, clubs, inns, dining-rooms, and large and ordinary
households every day? M. Alexis Soyer used to say that he could feed ten
thousand people with the food that was wasted in London every day; and I
am inclined to think he was not far wrong. At all events, an enormous
salvage of humanity might be effected if only the one meal daily which
might be made of "refuse" pieces of meat and bread, bones, cuttings of
vegetables, cold potatoes, and general pieces--was secured to the
thousands to whom "enough" would often indeed be "as good as a feast."
To people who know how much that is really good for food--not the
plate-scrapings and leavings, but sound and useful reversions of meat
and bread and vegetables, bones, and unsightly corners of joints--is
either suffered to spoil or is thrown at once into the waste-tub, both
in hotels and private houses, the additional knowledge that there are
hungry children in every district in London to whom a bowl of nourishing
soup or a plate of minced meat and vegetables would be a boon, may
easily be a pain, because of the inability to suggest how to organise
the means of utilising what one is tempted to call undeserved plenty.


I suppose there are people still to be found who have but a vague notion
of what it is to be really hungry. They may be conscious of possessing a
good appetite now and then, and having the means of obtaining food, and
to a certain extent of choosing what they will eat, regard being rather
"sharp set" as a luxury which gives additional zest to a dinner,
enabling them to take off the edge of their craving with a plate of warm
soup, and to consider what they would like "to follow."

Of course we most of us read in the papers of the distress of the poor
during the winter, of the number of children for whom appeals are made
that they may have a meal of meat and vegetables once or twice a week,
of the aggregate of casual paupers during a given period, and of cases
where "death accelerated by want and exposure" is the verdict of a
coroner's jury; but we do not very easily realise what it is to be
famished; have perhaps never experienced that stage beyond
hunger--beyond even the faintness and giddiness that makes us doubt
whether we could swallow anything solid, and would cause us to turn
hopelessly from dry bread. There is no need here to detail the
sufferings that come of starvation. They are dreadful enough; but if our
charity needs the stimulus of such descriptions we are in a bad way, and
are ourselves in danger of perishing for want of moral sustenance.

Those who need assurance of the hunger of hundreds of their poor
neighbours need not go very far to obtain it. A quarter of an hour at
the window of any common cook-shop in a "low neighbourhood," at about
seven o'clock in the evening, when the steam of unctuous puddings is
blurring the glass, and the odour of leg-of-beef soup and pease-pudding
comes in gusts to the chilly street, should suffice. There is pretty
sure to be a group of poor little eager-eyed pinch-nosed boys and girls
peering wistfully in to watch the fortunate possessor of two-pence who
comes out with something smoking hot on a cabbage-leaf, and begins to
bite at it furtively before he crosses the threshold.

Of course, according to modern social political economy, it would be
encouraging mendicity, and sapping the foundations of an independent
character, to distribute sixpenny pieces amongst the juvenile committee
of taste who are muttering what they would buy if only somebody could be
found to advance "a copper." But it is to be hoped or feared (which?)
that a good many people yet live who would instinctively feel in their
pockets for a stray coin to expend on a warm greasy slab of baked or
boiled, or on half a dozen squares of that peculiarly dense pie-crust
which is sold in ha'porths. This is a vulgar detail; but somehow poverty
and hunger _are_ vulgar, and we should find it difficult to get away
from them if we tried ever so hard. Even School Boards, peeping out upon
the children perishing for lack of knowledge, find themselves in a
difficulty, because there is no provision under the compulsory or any
other clause for the children who are also perishing for lack of food.
The Board beadle does not at present go about with soup-tickets in his
pockets; and for the poor shivering shoeless urchins who are mustered in
the big brick-built room where they assemble according to law there is
no free breakfast-class.

It must one day become a question how they are to learn till they are
filled. Grown people find it hard enough to fix their attention on the
best advice or the most saving doctrine while they suffer involuntary
hunger. The multitude must mostly be fed before they are taught. Even
disciples have had a revelation of the Bread of Life in the breaking of
bread that perishes. Do we still need a miracle to teach us that?

Happily, efforts are made to give meat to the hungry. During the winter
weather food is distributed in various ways amidst some of those
poverty-stricken neighbourhoods to which I am obliged to take you during
our excursions; but the demand far exceeds the supply, and people suffer
hunger at all seasons, though most of all in the time of bleak winds and
searching cold.

I want you to come to-day to a kitchen which is open all the year
round--the only kitchen of the kind in London which does not close its
doors even when the spring-tide brings buds of promise on the shrubs in
Leicester Square, and the London sparrow comes out from roofs and eaves,
and preens his dingy plumage in the summer sun, as though Great Windmill
Street had something in common with its name, and sweet country odours
came from the region of the Haymarket.

For, you know, we are still in the district of Soho. I have but just now
brought you out of Newport Market, and now we are in a very curious part
of this vast strange city. The streets are dim and dingy, but not so
squalid as you might have imagined. They are still and silent, too, as
of a neighbourhood that has seen better days, and even in its poverty
has a sense of gentility which is neither boisterous nor obtrusive.

You will remember that I referred to this neighbourhood of Soho when I
spoke of those old French refugees who came and made industrial colonies
in London after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. This is the only
really foreign quarter of London which has lasted until to-day; but that
is to be accounted for by the fact that it became representative of no
particular industry, and that, probably from the fact of many of the
patrons of literature and art having then town houses about Leicester
and Soho Squares, the more artistic refugees took up their abode in the
adjacent streets.

From the time when William Hogarth painted his picture of the Calais
Gate till only a short time ago, when refugees fled from besieged Paris
to find some poor and wretched lodging in the purlieus of Cranbourne
Street, where they might live in peace and hear their native tongue,
this has been the resort of poor foreigners in London. It almost reminds
one of some of the smaller streets of a continental city; and as we look
at the queer shabby restaurants, and the shops with strange names
painted above them in long yellow letters, we almost expect to find the
pavement change to cobble-stones, and to see some queer wooden sign
dangle overhead, so like is the place to the small _bourgeois_ quarter
that in our earlier days lay behind the Madeleine and the Porte St.

For here is an actual _crêmerie_--a queer compound of cook-shop and
milkseller's--with a couple of bright dairy cans outside the door, and a
long loaf or two amidst the cups and plates and sausages in the dingy
window. Over the way you see "_Blanchisseuse_" in large letters; and
next door is a _laiterie_, which differs from a _crêmerie_ as a _café_
alone differs from a _café restaurant_ with its "_commerce de vins_"
painted in big capitals in front of a long row of sour-looking bottles
and a green calico curtain. It is a quaint jumble, all the way to Dean
Street, and till we reach the edge of the Haymarket--a jumble of Brown
and Lebrun, of Jones and Jean, of Robin (_fils_) and Robinson; but for
all the little musty-smelling _cafés_, the blank bare-windowed
_restaurants_, the _crêmeries_, and the _boulangeries_, there is nothing
of a well fed look about the district, especially just at this corner,
leading as it seems to a stable-yard or the entrance to a range of
packers' warehouses. There is one open front here--is it a farrier's or
a blacksmith's shop?--where they appear to be doing a stroke of
business, however, for there is a clinking, and a fire, and a steam; but
the steam has a fragrant odour of vegetables--of celery and turnips, of
haricots and gravy--the clink is that of basins and spoons getting
ready, and the fire is that of the boiler which simmers two mighty

Step to the front, and you will see in big white letters right across
the house, "Mont St. Bernard Hospice." You may well rub your eyes, for
you are in the heart of London, and stand in Ham Yard, Leicester Square,
before the soup-kitchen that is open all the year.

There is something very appetising in the steam that arises from both
these huge cauldrons, one of which is the stock-pot, containing bones,
remnants of joints (_not_ plate-clearings), and reversions of cold meat,
&c., from two West End clubs. To this are added vegetables--celery,
haricot beans, or barley--making it a fresh palatable stock, not
remarkable for meatiness, but still excellent in flavour, as you may
find for yourself if you join me in a luncheon here. But the real
strengthening gravy has yet to be added, and the cauldron on the left
hand is full of it--real, genuine gravy soup, made from raw meat and
bones purchased for this purpose. As soon as this has simmered till it
is thoroughly ready, the contents of the two cauldrons are mixed, and
the result is a delicious stew, which is ready to be turned out into
these yellow pint basins, for the hungry applicants, who will sit down
at one of these two deal tables, each of which has its rough clean form,
or to be dispensed to those who bring jugs, bowls, cans, saucepans,
kettles, pipkins--any and almost every receptacle in which they can
carry it steaming away to their families.

Let us stand here and see them come in. Here is a poor famishing fellow,
who looks with eager eyes at the savoury mess. He has evidently seen
better days. There is an unmistakable air of education about him, and as
he sits down with his basin and spoon, and the handful of broken bread,
which is added to the soup from one of a series of clean sacks emptied
for the purpose, the superintendent, Mr. Stevens, scans him with a quick
eye, and will probably speak to him before he leaves. There is a
foreigner--an Italian, by the look of his oval olive face--who takes his
place very quietly, and as quietly begins to eat; and yonder a
famished-looking, rough fellow, who has already devoured the basinful
with his eyes, and is evidently in sore need. Men, women, and children,
or, at all events, boys and girls, come and present their tickets, and
receive this immediate relief, against which surely not the most
rigorous opponent to mendicancy can protest. The cadger and the
professional beggar do not go to the soup-kitchen where nothing is
charged, for they do not need food, and will only see a ticket where it
is likely to be accompanied by the penny which will buy a quart. Be sure
that there are few cases here which are not so necessitous that they are
not far from starvation; and many of them represent actually desperate

The tickets for obtaining this prompt relief--often only just in time to
save some poor creature from utter destitution and crime, and as often
administered when a family is without food, and yet clings to the hope
of finding work to prevent that separation which they must submit to by
becoming paupers--are placed in the hands of clergymen, doctors,
district visitors, Bible-women, and those who know the poor, and can
feel for them when in hard times they pawn furniture, tools, and
clothes, and suffer the extremity of want, before they will apply for
parochial relief, and have offered to them the alternative of "going
into the house."

The annals of the poor, from which extracts occasionally appear in the
newspapers in the accounts of coroners' inquests, prove to what dreadful
sufferings many decent but destitute people will submit rather than
become recognised paupers; and no system of charitable relief outside
the workhouse walls will be effectual or useful which does not recognise
and respect this feeling. Who would let the possible accident of some
unworthy person getting a gratuitous pint of soup stand in the way of a
work such as we see going on here, where one year's beneficent action
includes above ten thousand persons relieved?--a large number of whom
are temporarily taken into the Hospice, as we shall see presently, while
a great contingent is represented by the family tickets, which enable
poor working men and women from various districts in London to carry
away a gallon of strong nourishing soup, and an apronful of bread to
their hungry little ones. You see that great heap of pieces of fine
bread--slices, hunches, remnants of big loaves, dry toast, French bread,
brown bread, and rolls--all placed in a clean wooden bin, they also come
from the two great West End clubs before mentioned, and are so
appreciated by the applicants for relief (they being usually good judges
of quality) that you may note a look of disappointment if the stock of
club bread has been exhausted, and a portion of one of the common loaves
bought for the purpose is substituted. The small broken bread in those
clean sacks is club bread also--the crumbs from rich men's tables, but
clean, and thoroughly good, fit for immediate addition to the soup,
which a hungry company of diners consume in a painfully short space of

They are not inhabitants of this district, either; comparatively few
come from the immediate neighbourhood, though, of course, some poor
families of the adjacent streets and alleys, and occasionally foreign
workmen--many of them adepts in artistic employments, who are in the
land of the stranger and in want--come here and have not only the help
of a meal, but the kind inquiry, the further aid that will sustain hope,
and enable them to look for work, and find the means of living.
Londoners from Kentish Town, Lambeth, Shoreditch, and Chelsea--poor
hungry men and women from all parts of the great city--find their way
here to obtain a dinner; and it is extremely unlikely that they would
leave even the least profitable employment and walk so far for the sake
of a basin of soup. Food alone is offered, not money, and there is
little probability of imposition when there is so little to be gained by
the attempt. But while the great cauldrons are being emptied, let us
hear what they do at this "Mont St. Bernard Hospice" at the Christmas

Here is a list of good things that were sent at Christmas-tide for a
special purpose:--A noble earl sent a sheep, if not more than one, and
other generous givers in kind--many of them manufacturers of or dealers
in the articles they contributed--forwarded loaves, biscuits, hams,
rice, flour, currants, raisins, ale, porter, cocoa, peas, and other
comfortable meats and drinks, so that there was a glorious distribution
to the poor on Christmas Eve, when 936 families were provided with a
Christmas dinner, consisting of 4 lbs. of beef, 3 lbs. of pudding,
bread, tea, and sugar, together with such other seasonable and most
acceptable gifts as were apportioned to them in accordance with the
number of their children and the quantity of miscellaneous eatables and
drinkables available for the purpose.

But we have not quite done with it yet, for it is a hospice in fact, as
well as in name. Just as in the Newport Market Refuge, the houseless and
destitute are received with little question--the homeless and friendless
are here taken in after little inquiry, even the subscriber's ticket for
admission being occasionally dispensed with, when Mr. Stevens, the
superintendent, sees an obviously worthy case among the applicants who
come to ask for a meal. It must be remembered, however, that an
experienced eye can detect the casual very readily, and that Mr.
Stevens, who served with his friend Mr. Ramsden, of Newport Market, when
they were both in the army, is as smart a detective as that shrewd and
compassionate officer. It is so much the better for those who are really
deserving--so much the better even for those who, being ashamed to dig,
are not ashamed to beg--the ne'er-do-weels who, even in the degradation
of poverty brought about by idleness and dissipation, come down to
solicit food and shelter, and find both, together with ready help, if
they will mend their ways. There are some such, but not many: more often
a man of education, broken by misfortune, and perhaps by the loss of a
situation through failure or accident beyond his control, finds himself
starving and desolate. Such men have come here, and found, first, food,
then a lavatory, then a bed in a good-sized room, where only seven or
eight persons are received to sleep, then a confidential talk, advice,
the introduction to people willing and able to help them among the
committee and subscribers of the Institution.

It may be a French tutor destitute in London, but with his character and
ability beyond doubt; it may be, it _has_ been, a young foreign artist;
a skilled labourer from the country, who has come to London to find work
and finds want instead; a poor school-teacher who, having lost an
appointment, and being unable to work at any other calling, is in
despair, and knows not where to turn; an honest fellow, ready and
willing to turn his hand to anything, but finding nothing to which he
can turn his hand without an introduction. Such are the cases which are
received at this hospice in Ham Yard, where they are permitted to remain
for a day or two, or even for a week or two, till they find work, or
till somebody can make inquiries about them and help them to what they

About seven men and eight women can be received within the walls, but
there are seldom the full number there, because it is necessary to
discriminate carefully. The object is to relieve immediate and painful
distress, and to give that timely aid which averts starvation by the
gift of food, and prevents the degradation of pauperism by means of
advice, assistance, and just so much support as will give the stricken
and friendless men or women time to recover from the first stupor of
hopelessness or the dread of perishing, and at the same time afford the
opportunity of proving that they are ready and willing to begin anew,
with the consciousness that they have not been left desolate.


We have not yet done with this wonderful district of Soho. It is one of
those attractive quarters of London, which is interesting alike for its
historical associations and for memorable houses that were once
inhabited by famous men. In essays, letters, fiction--all through that
period which has been called the Augustan age of English literature--we
find allusions to it; and after that time it continued to be the
favourite resort of artists, men of letters, wealthy merchants, and not
a few statesmen and eminent politicians. In Leicester Square, Hogarth
laughed, moralised, and painted. The house of Sir Joshua Reynolds stands
yet in that now renovated space, and a well-known artist has a studio
there to-day. But the tide of fashion has receded since powdered wigs
and sedan chairs disappeared. The tall stately houses are many of them
dismantled, or are converted into manufactories and workshops. The great
iron extinguishers which still adorn the iron railings by the doorsteps
have nearly rusted away. It must be a century since the flambeaux
carried by running footmen were last thrust into them, when great
rumbling, creaking coaches drew up and landed visitors before the
dimly-lighted portals. Silence and decay are the characteristics of many
a once goodly mansion; and the houses themselves are not unfrequently
associated with the relief of that poverty which is everywhere so
apparent as to appeal to almost every form of charity. Before one such
house we are standing now, its quietly opening door revealing a broad
lofty hall, from which a great staircase, with heavy baluster of black
oak and panelled walls leads to the spacious rooms above. This mansion
is historical, too, in its way, for we are at the corner of Soho Square,
in Greek Street, and are about to enter what was once the London
residence of the famous Alderman Beckford, and his equally famous
son--the man who inherited the mysterious and gorgeously furnished
palace at Fonthill, the author of "Vathek," the half-recluse who bought
Gibbon's extensive library at Lausanne, that he might have "something to
amuse him when he went that way," and afterwards went that way, read
himself nearly blind, and then made a friend a present of all the books,
sold Fonthill, went abroad, and set about building another mysterious
castle in a strange land.

In that big committee-room on the first floor, which we shall visit
presently, there was to be seen, four or five years ago, a stupendous
chimney-piece of oak, elaborately carved, and said to have been a
masterpiece of Grinling Gibbons. It was taken down and sold for a
handsome sum of money, to augment the funds of the Institution which now
occupies the old mansion, for the door at which we enter receives other
guests than those who once thronged it--suffering, depressed,
poverty-stricken, weary men and women, who come here to seek the rest
that is offered to them in the quiet rooms--the restoration of meat and
drink and refreshing sleep, the comfort of hopeful words and friendly
aid. It is named "The House of Charity," and the work that its
supporters have set themselves to do is carried on so silently--I had
almost said so secretly--that the stillness you observe within the
building, as we stand here waiting for the lady who superintends the
household, is suggestive alike of the repose which is essential to the
place, and of a severe earnestness not very easy to define.

Members of the same committee, whose earnest hearty work is apparent at
Newport Market and at the Soup Kitchen in Ham Yard, are helping this
House of Charity, which has the Archbishop of Canterbury for its patron
and the Bishop of London for its visitor.

Here, in the two large sitting-rooms opening from the hall, we may see
part of what is being done, in giving rest to the weary and upholding
them who are ready to faint. One is for men, the other for women, who
have been received as inmates, for periods extending from a fortnight to
a longer time, according to the necessities of each case, and the
probability of obtaining suitable employment. Of course the aid is
intended to be only temporary--though in some peculiar cases it is
continued till the applicant recovers from weakness following either
uninfectious illness or want. There can be, of course, no actual
sick-nursing here; but in a warm and comfortable upper room, near the
dormitory, which we shall see presently--a room which is the day-nursery
of a few children who are also admitted--I have seen young women, one
who was suffering from a consumptive cough, another an out-patient at an
hospital for disease of the hip, and wearing an instrument till she
could be admitted as a regular case. They were both sitting cosily at
their tea, and were employed at needlework, as most of the women are who
find here a temporary home. For it is one of the beneficent results of
an influential committee, that a number of cases are sent to hospitals
or to convalescent homes, and so are restored; but till this can be done
they are fed and tended--fed with food more delicate than that of the
ordinary meal--and are allowed to rest in peace and to regain strength.

But we are still in the men's sitting-room, where several poor fellows
are looking at the lists of advertisements in the newspapers for some
announcement of a vacant situation. A supply of books is also provided
both for men and women, and the latter are just now engaged in mending
or making their clothes.

Between thirty and forty inmates can be received at one time, and those
who are in search of employment, or who require to go out during the
day, may leave the house after breakfast, and return either to dinner or
to tea. There are, indeed, few restrictions when once preliminary
inquiries and the recommendation of a member of the committee result in
the admission of an applicant; and it is easy to see how deeply and
thankfully many of these poor depressed men and women, beaten in the
battle of life, with little hope of regaining a foothold, weak,
dispirited, destitute, and with no strength left to struggle under the
burden that weighs them down, find help and healing, food and sleep,
advice, and very often a recommendation which places them once more in a
position of comfort and independence. A large proportion of those who
are admitted are provided with situations either permanently or for a
period long enough to enable them to turn round the difficult corner
from poverty and dependence to useful and appropriate employment. Some
are sent to Homes, hospitals, or orphanages, and many return to their
own homes. From those homes they have wandered, hoping to find the world
easier than it has proved to be, and in going back to them they have
fallen by the wayside.

There are sometimes remarkable varieties here--emigrants waiting for
ships to sail that will bear them to another land; men of education,
such as tutors, engineers, engravers, and professional men, who have
been unsuccessful, or have lost their position, often through no
immediate fault of their own. Of course, the large class of genteel
poverty is largely represented in the five or six hundred cases which
make the average number of yearly inmates. Clerks, shopmen, and
travellers are about as numerous as servants, porters, and pages. Poor
women, many of whom are ladies by birth or previous position and
education, find the House of Charity a refuge indeed, and feel that the
person who has charge of the household arrangements, as well as those
who have charge of the inmates, the accounts and correspondence, may be
appealed to with an assurance of true sympathy. Here, beside the two
sitting-rooms, is a large room which we will call the refectory; it is
plainly furnished, with separate tables for men and women, and the
quantity and description of the food supplied is such as would be
provided in a respectable and well-ordered family--tea or coffee and
plenty of good bread-and-butter morning and evening, meat, bread and
vegetables, for dinner, and a supper of bread and cheese. There are no
"rations," nor any special limit as to quantity, and if one could forget
the distress which brings them hither, the family might be regarded as
belonging to some comfortable business establishment, with good plain
meals and club-room on each side the dining-hall for meeting in after
working hours.

Let us go upstairs, and look at the dormitories, which occupy
respectively the right and left side of the building, and we shall see
that they are so arranged as to secure that privacy, the want of which
would be most repulsive to persons of superior condition. Each long and
lofty room is divided into a series of enclosures or cabins by
substantial partitions about eight feet high, and in each of these
separate rooms--all of which are lighted by several windows or by
gas-branches in the main apartment--there is a neat comfortable bed and
bedstead, with space for a box, a seat, and a small table or shelf.

A resident chaplain or warden conducts morning and evening prayer in the
chapel, which is built on part of the open area at the back of the
building; and I would have you consider, not only that to many of these
weary souls this sacred spot may come to be associated with that outcome
to renewed life for which their presence in the Institution gives them
reason to hope, but that it is most desirable for the invalids, who
frequently form so large a portion of the congregation, to be able to
attend worship without practically leaving the house.

Not only because of the sick and the physically feeble, however, does
the House of Charity represent a work that needs vast extension.

The case-book would reveal a series of stories none the less affecting
because they are entered plainly, briefly, and without waste of words.
They need few touches of art to make them painfully interesting. They
tell of ladies, wives of professional men, brought to widowhood and
sudden poverty; of men of education cast adrift through failure or false
friendship, and not knowing where to seek bread; of children left
destitute or deserted under peculiar circumstances; of women removed
from persecution, and girls from the tainted atmosphere of vice; of
weary wanderers who, in despair of finding such a shelter, and dreading
the common lodging-house, have spent nights in the parks; of foreigners
stranded on the shore of a strange city; of ministers of the gospel
brought low; of friendless servant-girls, ill-treated, defrauded of
their wages, or discharged almost penniless, and cast loose amidst the
whirlpool of London streets.

But, as I have already intimated, it is not alone for its temporary aid
in affording a home that the House of Charity is distinguished; it
affords a good hope also, by seeking to obtain situations, for cases
where peculiar circumstances make such a search difficult--for bereaved
and impoverished ladies, and for educated men, as well as for domestic
servants and ordinary employés. Its supporters give their special aid to
the work, and, as they number amongst them many ladies and gentlemen of
considerable social influence, employment is frequently found for those
whose misfortunes would otherwise be almost irretrievable.


"All hope abandon, ye who enter here," would, as we might fancy, be an
appropriate inscription for many a wretched court and alley in the
greatest and most opulent city in the world--a city distinguished for
its claims to be regarded as the centre of civilisation; as the exemplar
of benevolence, and of active Christianity. It is one of the marvellous
results of the vast extent of this metropolis of England that there are
whole districts of foul dwellings crowded with a poverty-stricken
population, which yet are almost ignored, so far as public recognition
of their existence is concerned. Legislation itself does not reach them,
in the sense of compelling the strict observance of Acts of Parliament
framed and presumably enforced for the purpose of maintaining sanitary
conditions; philanthropy almost stands appalled at the difficulty of
dealing with a chronic necessity so widely spread, a misery and
ignorance so deep and apparently impregnable; sentimentalism sighs and
turns away with a shiver, or is touched to the extent of relieving its
overcharged susceptibilities by the comfortable expedient of the
smallest subscription to some association in the neighbourhood. True,
active, practical religion alone, of all the agencies that have operated
in these places, gains ground inch by inch, and at last exercises a
definite and beneficial influence, by taking hold of the hearts and
consciences of the people themselves, and working from within the area
of vice and misery, till the law of love, beginning to operate where the
law of force had no influence, a change, gradual but sure, here a little
and there a little, is effected.

We are continually hearing of the "dwellings of the poor;" and can
scarcely take up a newspaper without noting the phrase, "one of the
worst neighbourhoods in London," connected with some report of crime,
outrage, or suffering; yet how few of us are really familiar with the
actual abodes of the more degraded and miserable of our fellow-citizens!
how quickly, how gladly, we dismiss from our memory the account of an
inquest where the evidence of the cause of death of some unfortunate
man, woman, or child, without a natural share of light, air, food, and
water, reveals hideous details of want and wretchedness, which we might
witness only a few streets off, and yet are unconscious of their
nearness to us in mere physical yards and furlongs, because they are so
far from us spiritually, in our lack of sympathy and compassion.

Even at the time that these lines are being written I have before me a
report of an examination by the coroner into the circumstances attending
the death of a woman seventy years of age, who obtained a miserable and
precarious living by stay-making, and who was found dead in the back
kitchen of a house. Her death was alleged to have been brought about by
the unhealthiness of the house in which she lived, although the landlord
was a medical officer of health for one of the metropolitan districts.

In this case the alleged landlord, who was actually a medical officer of
health, answered the charge made against him by the statement that he
had only just come into possession of the property, and had at once set
about putting it in repair. It is to be hoped that this was the case,
and, indeed, the evidence of the sanitary inspector went to show that it
was so; but the question remains: How is it that dwellings are permitted
to be thus overcrowded, and to become actual centres of pestilence in
the midst of entire neighbourhoods, where, for one foul tenement to have
an infamous reputation amidst such general filth and dilapidation, it
must indeed be, as one member of the jury said this place was, "so bad,
that no gentleman would keep his dog there?"

Keep his dog indeed! Why I know whole rows and congeries of intersecting
courts and alleys where a country squire would no more think of
kennelling his hounds than he would dream of stabling his horses! There
has during the past few years been a tolerably determined stand made
against the introduction of pigsties into the back-yards of some of the
hovels about Mile End and Bethnal Green; and though cow-sheds are not
altogether abolished everywhere in close and overbuilt localities, there
are some precautions taken to diminish the sale of infected milk by an
inspection of the laystalls, and the enforcement of lime-whiting and
ventilation in the sheds. Costermongers' donkeys are the only animals
besides dogs and cats which are commonly to be found in London slums
now, and as these can be stowed in any shanty just outside the back
door, or can be littered down in a spare corner of a cellar, they
remain, in costermongering districts, without much opposition on the
part of the local authorities. For, after all, what can these
authorities do? Under the 35th section of the Sanitary Act, power was
given to them to register all houses let out by non-resident landlords,
who were under a penalty of forty shillings for not keeping their houses
in repair, well supplied with water, drainage clear, &c. To those who
have an intimate acquaintance with the density of population in whole
acreages of London slums, there is something almost ludicrous in these
words, especially when they are read in the light of the fact that the
landlords of such places are frequently parochial magnates or officials
who know how to make things pleasant with subordinate sanitary

What may be the ultimate result of an Act of Parliament "for improving
the dwellings of the poor" it is not at present easy to say; but
assuredly any plan which commences by a general and imperfectly
discriminative destruction of existing houses, hovels though they may
be, will only have the effect of crowding more closely the already
fœtid and swarming tenements where, for half-a crown a week, eight or
ten people eat, live, and sleep in a single apartment. It was only the
other day, in a district of which I shall presently speak more
definitely, that a "mission woman" was called in to the aid of a family,
consisting of a man, his wife, his wife's brother--who was there as a
lodger--and five or six children, all of whom occupied one room, where
the poor woman had just given birth to an infant. The place was almost
destitute of furniture; beds of straw and shavings, coverlets of old
coats and such ragged clothing as could be spared; little fire and
little food. Such destitution demanded that the "maternity box," or a
suddenly-extemporised bag of baby-clothing and blankets, should be
fetched at once; and though the mission there is a poor one, with
terrible needs to mitigate, a constant demand for personal work and
noble self-sacrifice, such cases are every-day events, such demands
always to be answered by some kind of helpful sympathy, even though the
amount of relief afforded is necessarily small and temporary in

Not in one quarter of London alone, but dotted here and there throughout
its vastly-extending length and breadth--from St. Pancras, and further
away northward, to Bethnal Green and all that great series of
poverty-stricken townships and colonies of casual labour, on the east;
from the terrible purlieux of Southwark, the districts where long rows
of silent houses, in interminable streets, chill the unaccustomed
wayfarer with vague apprehensions, where "Little Hell" and the knots and
tangles of that "Thief-London" which has found a deplorable Alsatia in
the purlieux of the Borough and of Bermondsey; and so round the
metropolitan circle, westward to the neighbourhood of aristocratic
mansions and quiet suburban retreats, where the garotter skulks and the
burglar finds refuge; further towards the centre of the town, in
Westminster, not a stone's-throw from the great legislative assembly,
which, while it debates in St. Stephen's on sanitation and the
improvement of dwellings, scarcely remembers all that may be seen in St.
Peter's, about Pye Street, and remembers Seven Dials and St Giles's only
as traditional places, where "modern improvements" have made a clean
sweep, just as the Holborn Viaduct and the metropolitan Railway swept
away Field Lane, and the new meat market at Smithfield put an end for
ever to the horrible selvage of Cloth Fair--and only left the legends of
Jonathan Wild's rookery and the "blood-bowl house."

But the very mention of these places brings the reflection that not in
outlying districts, but in the very heart of London, in the core of the
great city itself, the canker of misery, poverty, and vice is festering
still. What is the use of eviction, when the law punishes houselessness,
and the _Poor_ Law cannot meet any sudden demand, nor maintain any
continuous claim on the part of the houseless? Summarily to thrust a
score or so of wretched families into the streets is to make them either
criminals or paupers. They must find some place of shelter; and if they
are to live _by_ their labour, they must live _near_ their labour, the
wages of which are, at best, only just sufficient to procure for them
necessary food and covering for their bodies.

In the neighbourhood to which I have already referred, four thousand
evictions have taken place, or, at any rate, the population has
diminished from 22,000 to 18,000, because of a small section of a large
puzzle map of courts and alleys having been taken down in order to build
great blocks of warehouses. The consequence is, that in the remaining
tangle of slums the people herd closer, and that a large number of poor
lodgers have gone to crowd other tenements not far distant, and which
were already peopled beyond legal measure.

For this acreage of vice and wretchedness of which I speak is close to
the great city thoroughfares--almost within sound of Bow Bells. It is
about a quarter of a mile in extent each way, lying between the
Charterhouse and St. Luke's, close to the new meat market at Smithfield
on one side, and Finsbury Square on the other. One entrance to it is
directly through Golden Lane, Barbican; the other close to Bunhill
Fields burial ground, along a passage which bears the significant name
of "Chequer Alley." It is a maze of intersecting and interlocking
courts, streets, and alleys, some of them without any thoroughfare, some
reached by ascending or descending steps, many of them mere tanks, the
walls of which are represented by hovels inhabited by costermongers,
French-polishers, dock-labourers, chair-makers, workers at all kinds of
underpaid labour and poor handicrafts. Many of the women go out to work
at factories, or at charing, and the children are--or at least
were--left to the evil influences of the streets, till another and a
more powerful influence began to operate, slowly, but with the impetus
of faith and love, to touch even this neglected and miserable quarter of
London with "the light that lighteth every man."

In this square quarter of a mile--which, starting from the edge of
Aldersgate, stretches to the further main thoroughfare abutting on the
pleasant border of the City Road, and includes the northern end of
Whitecross Street--there are eighty public-houses and beer-shops!

I tell you this much, as we stand here at the entrance of Golden Lane,
but I have no intention just now to take you on a casual visit either to
the dens of wretchedness and infamy, or to the homes where poverty
abides. I must try to let you see what has been done, and is still
doing, to bring to both that Gospel which is alone efficient to change
the conditions, by changing the hearts and motives of men. I may well
avoid any description of the places which lie on either hand, for, in
fact, there is nothing picturesque in such misery, nothing specially
sensational in such crime. It is all of a sordid miserable sort; all on
a dreary dead-level of wretchedness and poverty, full of poor shifts and
expedients, or of mean brutality and indifference. There is no
show-place to which you could be taken, as it is said curious gentlemen
were at one time conducted to the dens of the mendicants, thieves, and
highwaymen of old London. Even in the tramps' kitchen the orgies, if
there are any, are of so low a kind that they would be depressing in
their monotonous degradation.

Let us go farther, and enter this strange wilderness by its fitting
passage of Chequer Alley, so that we may, as it were, see the beginning
of the work that has been going on with more or less power for more than
thirty years.

I think I have some acquaintance with what are the worst neighbourhoods
of London. I have made many a journey down East; have studied some of
the strange varieties of life on the shore amidst the water-side
population; have lived amidst the slums of Spitalfields, and passed
nights "Whitechapel way;" but never in any unbroken area of such extent
have I seen so much that is suggestive of utter poverty, so much
privation of the ordinary means of health and decency, as on a journey
about this district which I long ago named "The Chequers." Each court
and blind alley has the same characteristics--the same look of utter
poverty, the same want of air and light, the same blank aspect of dingy
wall and sunken doorsteps, the same square areas surrounded by hovels
with clothes'-lines stretched from house to house, almost unstirred by
any breeze that blows, shut in as they are in close caverns, only to be
entered by narrow passages between blank walls. It is the extent of this
one solid district, almost in the very centre of City life, that is so
bewildering, and wherein lies its terrible distraction.

The labour of reformation has begun, but the labourers are few. For more
than thirty years some efforts have been going on to redeem this
neglected and unnoticed neighbourhood, which lies so near to, and yet so
far from London's heart.

Let it be noted that this moral effort had gone on for nearly
twenty-nine years before any very definite attempt was made to improve
the physical condition of the place.

In 1841 a tract distributor, Miss Macarthy, began an organised endeavour
to teach the depraved inhabitants of Chequer Alley. In 1869, a sanitary
surveyor, reporting on _one_ of the courts of this foul district,
recommended that the premises there should be demolished under the
"Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Act," because the floors and
ceilings were considerably out of level, some of the walls saturated
with filth and water, the others broken and falling down, doors,
window-sashes and frames rotten, stairs dilapidated and dangerous, roof
leaky and admitting the rain, no provisions for decency, and a foul and
failing water supply.

The "pulling-down" remedy, without any simultaneous building up, has
been extended since then in a locality where a model lodging-house,
which has been erected, has stood for years almost unoccupied, because
like all model lodging-houses in such neighbourhoods, neither the
provisions nor the rentals are adapted to meet the wants and the means
of the poorest, of whom, as I have already said, a whole family cannot
afford to pay more than the rental for a single room, or two rooms at
the utmost.

But we are wandering away from the work that we came to see. Look at
that wistful young native, standing there quite close to the mouth of
Chequer Alley. Ask him what is that sound of children's voices from a
casually-opened doorway, and he will tell you "It's our school; yer kin
go in, sir, if yer like--anybody kin." As the name of the institution is
"Hope Schools for All," his invitation is doubtless authorised, and we
may well feel that we have made a mistake in thinking of the Italian
poet's hopeless line, for out of the doorway there comes a sound of
singing, and inside the doorway is a room containing fifty or sixty
"infants," seated on low forms, and many of them such bright, rosy--yes,
rosy--clean--yes, comparatively, if not superlatively clean--little
creatures, that hope itself springs to fresh life in their presence. It
is thirty-four years since Miss Macarthy, with an earnest desire to
initiate some work of charity and mercy, resolved to become a
distributor of tracts, and the district she chose was this same foul
tangle to which I have asked you to accompany me. Bad as the whole
neighbourhood is now, it was worse then. It was never what is called a
thief-quarter, but many juvenile thieves haunted it; and the men were as
ruffianly and abusive, the women as violent and evil-tongued as any who
could be found in all London. Instead of being paved, and partially and
insufficiently drained, it was a fœtid swamp, with here and there a
pool where ducks swam, while the foul odours of the place were
suffocating. No constable dare enter far into the maze without a
companion. But the tract distributor ventured. In the midst of an
epidemic of typhus, or what is known as "poverty" fever, she went about
among the people, and strove to fix their attention on the message that
she carried. The religious services commenced in a rat-catcher's "front
parlour," and at first the congregation broke into the hymns with scraps
and choruses of songs. The crowd which collected outside not only
interrupted the proceedings, but threatened those who conducted them
with personal violence, and even assaulted them, and heaped insult upon
them; but the lady who had put her hand to the plough would not turn
back. In the midst of her patient and difficult work she herself was
stricken down with fever. She had visited and tended those who were
suffering. When the question was asked what had become of her, the
barbarous people learnt that she was like to die. Perhaps this touched
the hearts of some of them, for she had begun to live down the brutal
opposition of those who could not believe in unselfish endeavours to
benefit them. She recovered, however; and supported by others, who gave
both money and personal effort, the beneficent work went on.

In this large room where the children are singing we have an example of
what has been effected. Some of the little creatures are pale, and have
that wistful look that goes to the heart; but there are few of them that
have not clean faces, and who do not show in the scanty little dresses
some attempt at decent preparation for meeting "the guv'ness."

There is a school for elder children also; and in the ramshackle old
house where the classes are held there are appliances which mark the
wide application of the beneficent effort that has grown slowly but
surely, not only in scope, but in its quiet influence upon the people
amidst whom it was inaugurated. Yonder, in a kind of covered yard, is a
huge copper, the honoured source of those "penny dinners," and those
quarts and gallons of soup which have been such a boon to the
neighbourhood, where food is scarce, and dear. Then there was the
Christmas dinner, at which some hundreds of little guests were supplied
with roast meat and pudding, evidences of how much may be effected
within a very small space. Indeed, this Hope School, with its two or
three rooms, is at work day and night; for not only are the children
taught--children not eligible for those Board schools which, unless the
board itself mitigates its technical demands, will shut up this and
similar institutions before any provision is made for transferring the
children to the care of a Government department--but there are "mothers'
meetings," sewing classes, where poor women can obtain materials at cost
price, and be taught to make them into articles of clothing. There are
also adult classes, and Sunday evening services for those who would
never appear at church or chapel but for such an easy transition from
their poor homes to the plain neighbourly congregation assembled there.
There are evenings, too, when lectures, dissolving views, social teas,
and pleasant friendly meetings bring the people together with humanising
influences. It becomes a very serious question for the London School
Board to consider whether, by demanding that ragged schools such as this
shall be closed if they do not show a certain technical standard of
teaching, the means of partially feeding and clothing, which are in such
cases inseparable from instructing, shall be destroyed.

But here is a youthful guide--a shambling, shock-headed lad, with only
three-quarters of a pair of shoes, and without a cap, who is to be our
guide to another great work, on the Golden Lane side of this great
zigzag, to the "Costermongers' Mission," in fact. You may follow him
with confidence, for he is a Hope School-boy--and that means something,
even in Chequer Alley.

Still threading our way through those dim alleys, where each one looks
like a _cul-de-sac_, but yet may be the devious entrance to another more
foul and forbidding, we leave the "Hope-for-All" Mission Room resounding
with infant voices, all murmuring the simple lessons of the day. That
room is seldom empty, because of the evening school where a large class
of older pupils are taught, reading, writing, and arithmetic; the adult
class, and the "mothers' meeting," to which poor women are invited that
they may be assisted to make garments for themselves and their children
from materials furnished for them at a cheap rate in such quantities as
their poor savings can purchase. The visiting "Bible woman" is the chief
agent in these works of mercy, since she brings parents and children to
the school, and reports cases of severe distress to be relieved when
there are funds for the purpose. Not only by teaching and sewing,
however, are the hopeful influences of the place supported, for, as I
have said already, in this big room the people of the district are
invited to assemble to listen to lectures, readings, and music, to see
dissolving views; and in the summer, when fields are in their beauty and
the hedge-rows are full of glory, there is an excursion into the country
for the poor, little, pallid children, while, strangest sight of all, a
real "flower show" is, or was, held in Chequer Alley. One could almost
pity the flowers, if we had any pity to spare from the stunted buds and
blossoms of humanity who grow pale and sicken and so often die in this
foul neighbourhood.

But we have strange sights yet to see, so let us continue our excursion
in and out, and round and round, not without some feeling of giddiness
and sickness of heart, through the "Pigeons"--a tavern, the passage of
which is itself a connecting link between two suspicious-looking
courts--round by beershops all blank and beetling, and silent; past
low-browed doorways and dim-curtained windows of tramps' kitchens, and
the abodes of more poverty, misery, and it may be crime, than you will
find within a similar space in any neighbourhood in London, or out of
it, except perhaps in about five streets "down East," or in certain dens
of Liverpool and Manchester.

One moment. You see where a great sudden gap appears to have been made
on one side of Golden Lane. That gap represents houses pulled down to
erect great blocks of building for warehouses or factories, and it also
represents the space in which above 4,000 people lived when the
population of this square quarter of mile of poverty and dirt was 22,000
souls. This will give you some idea of the consequences of making what
are called "clean sweeps," by demolishing whole neighbourhoods before
other dwellings are provided for the evicted tenants. One result of this
method of improving the dwellings of the poor is that the people crowd
closer, either in their own or in some adjacent neighbourhood, where
rents are low and landlords are not particular how many inmates lodge in
a single room. Remember that whole families can only earn just enough to
keep them from starving, and cannot afford to pay more than half-a-crown
or three-and-sixpence a week for rent. They must live near their work,
or they lose time, and time means pence, and pence represent the
difference between eating and fasting.

"The model lodging-house!" See, there is one, and it is nearly empty.
How should it be otherwise? The proprietors of such places, whether they
be philanthropists or speculators--and they are not likely to be the
latter--can never see a return of any profitable percentage on their
outlay while they enforce necessary sanitary laws. The top-rooms are
half-a-crown a week each, and the lower "sets" range from about six
shillings for two to eight-and-sixpence for three rooms. The consequence
is that the few tenants in this particular building are frequently
changing their quarters. Some of them try it, and fall into arrear, and
are ejected, or want to introduce whole families into a single room, as
they do in these surrounding courts and alleys, and this, of course, is
not permitted. Imagine one vast building crowded at the same rate as
some of these two-storeyed houses are! Ask the missionary, whose duty
takes her up scores of creaking staircases, to places where eight or ten
human beings eat, drink, sleep, and even work, in one small room--where
father, mother, children, and sometimes also a brother or sister-in-law,
herd together, that they may live on the common earnings; places where
children are born, and men, women, and children die; and the new-born
babe must be clothed by the aid of the "maternity box," and the dead
must be buried by the help of money advanced to pay for the plainest
decent funeral.

I do not propose to take you to any of these sights. You could do little
good unless you became familiar with them, and entered into the work of
visitation. Even in the published reports of the organisation to which
we are now going, the "cases" are not dwelt upon, only one or two are
given from the experiences of the missionary, and she speaks of them
simply as examples of the kind of destitution which characterises a
district where deplorable poverty is the result sometimes of drink, or
what, for want of a word applicable to the saving of pence, is termed
improvidence; but frequently also, because of sickness, and the want
even of poorly-paid employment. "In such cases," says the report,
"almost everything is parted with to procure food and shelter _outside_
the workhouse."

One of the two "ordinary" cases referred to was that of a poor woman who
was "found lying on a sack of shavings on the floor, with an infant two
days old; also a child lying dead from fever, and two other children
crying for food. None had more than a solitary garment on. The smell of
the room was such that the missionary was quite overcome until she had
opened the window. Clean linen was obtained, and their temporal and
spiritual wants at once looked after." This was in the Report of above a
year ago; but cases only just less distressing occur daily still. This
foul and neglected district, which lies like an ulcer upon the great
opulent city, the centre of civilization and benevolence, seems to be as
far from us as though it were a part of some savage or semi-heathen land
under British influence. Indeed, in the latter case, there would be a
probability of more earnest effort on behalf of the benighted people, on
whose behalf meetings would perhaps be held, and a committee of inquiry
and distribution appointed. Still, let us be thankful that something is
done. Twenty-nine poor mothers have had the benefit of the maternity
fund and clothing, the Report tells us. "They are very grateful for this
assistance in their terrible need. Frequently the distress is so great
that two changes of clothing are given to mother and babe, or they would
be almost entirely denuded when the time arrived for returning the
boxes. Our lady subscribers at a distance may be glad to know that
blankets, sheets, flannel petticoats, warm shawls, and babies' clothing
will always be acceptable." Thus writes Mrs. Orsman on the subject, for
the mission is known as the Golden Lane Mission, and more popularly as
"Mr. Orsman's Mission to the Costermongers." Perhaps these words
scarcely denote the scope of the work; but costermongers must be taken
as a representative term in a district where, in an area of a square
quarter of a mile, there are, or recently were, eighty public-houses and
beershops, and a dense mass of inhabitants, including street-traders or
hucksters, labourers, charwomen, road-sweepers, drovers, French
polishers, artificial flower-makers, toy-makers, with what is now a
compact and really representative body of costermongers, working
earnestly enough to keep to the right way, and, as they always did,
forming a somewhat distinctive part of the population.

Sixteen years ago, Mr. Orsman began the work of endeavouring to carry
the gospel to the rough-and-ready savages of this benighted field for
missionary enterprise. He held an official appointment, and this was his
business "after office hours." About the results of his own labour he
and his Reports are modestly reticent, but at all events it began to
bear fruit. Others joined in it; a regular mission was established, and,
with vigorous growth, shot out several branches, so wisely uniting what
may be called the secular or temporal with the spiritual and religious
interest, that the Bread of Life was not altogether separated from that
need for the bread which perishes. These branches are full of sap
to-day, and one of them is also full of promising buds and blossoms, if
we are to judge of the rows of ragged--but not unhappy--urchins who fill
this large room or hall of the Mission-house.

It is only the first-floor of two ordinary houses knocked into one, but
a great work is going on. The parochial school was once held here, and
now the room is full of children who might still be untaught but for the
effort which made the Ragged School a first consideration in an
endeavour to redeem the whole social life of the district. Wisely
enough, the School Board accepted the aid which this free day-school for
ragged and nearly destitute children affords to a class which the
Education Act has not yet taught us how to teach.

In four years, out of ninety-five boys and girls who entered situations
from this school, only one was dismissed for dishonesty, and it was
afterwards found that he was the dupe of the foreman of the place at
which he worked.

Well may Mr. Harwood, the school superintendent, be glad in the labour
that he has learnt to love in spite of all the sordid surroundings.
There is life in the midst of these dim courts--a ragged-school and a
church, which is poor, but not, strictly speaking, ragged. In fact, "the
patching class" for ragged boys, which meets on Thursdays, from five to
seven in the afternoon, remedies even the tattered garments of the poor
little fellows, who, having only one suit, must take off their
habiliments in order to mend them. Occasional gifts of second-hand
clothes are amongst the most useful stock of the schoolmaster, as
anybody may believe who sees the long rows of children, many of them,
like our juvenile guide, with two odd boots, which are mere flaps of
leather, and attire which it would be exaggeration to call a jacket and

The school-room is also the church and the lecture-hall. It will hold
300 people; and the Sunday-evening congregation fills it thoroughly,
while, on week-nights, special services, and frequently lectures,
entertainments, and attractive social gatherings bring the costers and
their friends in great force.

The chief of the costermongers is the Earl of Shaftesbury; and here,
standing as it were at livery in a quiet corner of a shanty close to the
coal-shed, is the earl's barrow, emblazoned with his crest. This
remarkable vehicle, and a donkey complimentarily named the "Earl," which
took a prize at a Golden Lane donkey show, designate his lordship as
president of the "Barrow Club," a flourishing institution, intended to
supersede the usurious barrow-lenders, who once let out these necessary
adjuncts to the costermongering business at a tremendous hire. Now the
proprietors of the barrows, going on the hire and ultimate
purchase-system, are prospering greatly. There are free evening classes,
mothers' meetings, a free lending library, a free singing class, a penny
savings bank, dinners to destitute children, numbering more than 10,000
a year, a soup-kitchen, tea-meetings, and other agencies, all of which
are kept going morning, noon, and night, within the narrow limits of
these two houses made into one. It is here, too, that the annual meeting
is held, an account of which every year filters through the newspapers
to the outer world--"The Costermongers' Annual Tea-Party." The records
of this united and earnest assembly have been so recently given to the
public, that I need not repeat them to you as we stand here in the lower
rooms, whence the big cakes, the basins of tea, the huge sandwiches of
bread and beef, were conveyed to the 200 guests. But as we depart, after
shaking Mr. Harwood by the hand, let me remind you that it has been by
the hearty, human, living influence of religion that these results have
been effected. The stones of scientific or secular controversy have not
been offered instead of food spiritual and temporal. The mission-hall
has been made the centre; and from it has spread various healing,
purifying, ameliorating influences. From this we may well take a lesson
for the benefit of another organised effort which appeals to us for
help--that of the London City Mission. This institution is trying to
effect for various districts and several classes of the poor and
ignorant in and about London that introduction of religious teaching
which Mr. Orsman began with amongst the costermongers and others in the
benighted locality where now a clear light has begun to shine.

At a recent meeting of the promoters of the City Mission work, held at
the Mansion House, it was stated that the 427 missionaries then employed
by the society were chosen without distinction, except that of fitness
for the office, from Churchmen, Presbyterians, Congregationalists,
Wesleyans, and Baptists, while the examining and appointing committee
were composed of thirteen clergymen of the Established Church and
thirteen Dissenting ministers.

Anybody who is accustomed to visit the worst neighbourhoods of London
will know that these missionaries go where the regular clergy cannot
easily penetrate, and where even the parish doctor seldom lingers. Every
missionary visits once a month about 500 families, or 2,000 persons.
They read the Scriptures, exhort their listeners, hold prayer and Bible
meetings, distribute copies of the Scriptures, see that children go to
school, address the poor in rooms when they cannot persuade them to go
to church, visit and pray with the dying, lend books, hold open-air
services, endeavour to reclaim drunkards (1,546 were so restored during
the last year), admonish and frequently reclaim the vicious, raise the
fallen, and place them in asylums or induce them to return to their
homes, and work constantly for the great harvest of God to which they
are appointed.

Then there are special missionaries appointed to visit bakers, cabmen,
drovers, omnibus men, soldiers, sailors, and foreigners of various
countries. They also go to tanneries, the docks, workhouses, hospitals,
and other places; and there is a vast harvest yet, without a sickle to
reap even a single sheaf. When will the time come, that, to the means
for carrying the sustaining comfort of the Word to men's souls, will be
added some means of helping them to realise it by such temporal aid as
will raise them from the want which paralyses and the degradation which


I have had occasion lately to take you with me to some of the worst
"parts of London." The phrase has become so common, that there is some
difficulty in deciding what it means; and we are obliged to come to the
conclusion, that in every quarter of this great metropolis, large and
lofty buildings, splendid mansions, gorgeous shops, and even stately
palaces, are but symbols of the partial and imperfect development of
true national greatness, and can scarcely be regarded as complete
evidences of genuine civilisation, if by that word we are to mean more
than was expressed by it in heathen times, and amidst pagan people.
Perhaps there is no more terrible reflection, amidst all the pomp and
magnificence, the vast commercial enterprise and constantly accumulating
wealth of this mighty city, than that here we may also find the extremes
of want and misery, of vice and poverty, of ignorance and suffering.
Side by side with all that makes material greatness--riches, learning,
luxury, extravagance--are examples of the deepest necessity and
degradation. "The rich and the poor" do indeed "meet together" in a very
sad sense. It would be well if the former would complete the text for
themselves, and take its meaning deep into their hearts.

There is reason for devout thankfulness, however, that here and there
amidst the abodes of rich and poor alike, some building with special
characteristics may be seen; that not only the church but the charity
which represents practical religion does make vigorous protest against
the merely selfish heaping-up of riches without regard to the cry of the
poor. There are few neighbourhoods in which a Refuge for the homeless, a
soup-kitchen, a ragged-school, a "servants home," an orphanage, a
hospital or some asylum for the sick and suffering, does not relieve
that sense of neglect and indifference which is the first painful
impression of the thoughtful visitor to those "worst quarters," which
yet lie close behind the grand thoroughfares and splendid edifices that
distinguish aristocratic and commercial London.

I have said enough for the present about those poverty-haunted districts
of Shoreditch, Spitalfields, and Bethnal Green, to warrant me in taking
you through them without further comment than suffices to call your
attention to the poorly-paid industries, the want and suffering, and the
too frequent neglect of the means of health and cleanliness which
unhappily distinguish them and the surrounding neighbourhoods lying
eastward. The weaver's colony can now scarcely be said to survive the
changes wrought by the removal of an entire industry from Spitalfields
to provincial manufactories, and the vast importations of foreign silks,
and yet there is in this part of London a great population of workers at
callings which are scarcely better paid than silk weaving had come to
be, previous to its comparative disappearance.

Marvellous changes have been effected in the way of buildings and
improvements during the last thirty years, but much of the poverty and
sickness that belonged to these neighbourhoods remain. The looms may be
silent in the upper workshops with their wide leaden casements, but the
labour by which the people live seldom brings higher wages than suffice
for mere subsistence. The great building in which treasures of art and
science are collected is suggestive of some kind of recognition of the
need of the inhabitants for rational recreation and instruction, and
what is perhaps more to the purpose, it is also a recognition of their
desire for both; but it cannot be denied that the recognition has come
late, and has not been completely accompanied by those provisions for
personal comfort, health, and decency, which a stringent application of
existing laws might long ago have ensured in neighbourhoods that for
years were suffered to remain centres of pestilence.

The greatest change ever effected in this quarter of London was that
which followed the formation of Victoria Park. That magnificent area,
with its lakes and islands, its glorious flower-beds and plantations,
its cricket-ground and great expanse of open field, made Bethnal Green
famous. There had always been a fine stretch of open country beyond what
was known as "the Green," on which the building of the Museum now
stands. A roadway between banks and hedges skirting wide fields led to
the open space where a queer old mansion could be seen amidst a few tall
trees, while beyond this again, across the canal bridge, were certain
country hostelries, one of them with what was, in that day, a famous
"tea-garden;" and, farther on, a few farms and some large old-fashioned
private residences stood amidst meadows, gardens, and cattle pastures,
on either side of the winding road leading away to the Hackney Marshes
and the low-lying fields beyond the old village of Homerton. It was on a
large portion of this rural area that Victoria Park was founded. Tavern
and farmhouse disappeared; the canal bridge was made ornamental; and
just beyond the queer old mansion that stood by the roadway, the great
stone and iron gates of "the people's pleasure-ground" were erected.

Now, the mansion, to which I have already twice referred, was in fact
one of the few romantic buildings of the district, for it was what
remained of the house of the persecuting Bishop Bonner, and the four
most prominent of the tall trees--those having an oblong or pit
excavation of the soil at the foot of each--were traditionally the
landmarks of the martyrdom of four sisters who were there burnt at the
stake and buried in graves indicated by the hollows in the ground, which
popular superstition had declared could never be filled up.

That they have been filled up long ago, and that on the site of the
ancient house itself another great building has been erected, you may
see to-day as we stand at the end of the long road leading to the
entrance of "the people's park."

The abode of cruelty and bigotry has been replaced by one of the most
truly representative of all our benevolent institutions. The graves of
the martyred sisters might well take a new meaning if the spot could now
be discovered in the broad and beautifully planted garden, where feeble
men and women sun themselves into returning life and strength amidst the
gentle summer air blowing straight across from the broad woods of Epping
and Hainault miles away.

The people's playground is fitly consummated by the people's hospital.
That the City of London Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, Victoria
Park, might well be called "the people's," is shown, not because it is
supported by state aid or by charitable endowment, on the contrary, it
depends entirely on those voluntary contributions and subscriptions
which have hitherto enabled it successfully to carry on a noble work,
but yet have only just sufficed to supply its needs, "from hand to
mouth." Yet it is essentially devoted to patients who belong to the
working population. Like the park itself it attracts crowds of visitors,
not only from the City, from Bethnal Green, Mile End, Poplar, Islington,
Camden Town, and other parts of London, but even from distant places
whence excursionists come to see and to enjoy it. This hospital receives
patients from every part of London, and even from distant country
places. There were seven inmates from York last year, as well as some
from Somerset, Hereford, Derby, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Norfolk,
Suffolk, Huntingdon, Northampton, Wiltshire, and other counties; so that
in fact the districts of Bethnal Green, Spitalfields, and Shoreditch,
represented only a very small proportion of the 781 in-patients and the
13,937 out-patients, who were admitted to medical treatment during the
twelve months. More than this, however, amongst the contributions which
are made for the support of this hospital, there must be reckoned those
collected by working men of the district in their clubs and
associations, in token of the appreciation of benefits bestowed by such
an institution to failing men and women, wives and shopmates and
relatives, who being threatened or actually stricken down with one of
those diseases which sap the life and leave the body prostrate, require
prompt skill and medical aid, even if they are not in absolute need of
nourishing food and alleviating rest.

Standing here, in front of this broad noble building, with its many
windows, its picturesque front of red brick and white stone, its central
tower, its sheltered garden-walks, and pleasant lawn, we may well feel
glad to hear that the work done within its wards is known and
recognised. What a work it is can only be estimated by those who
remember how fell is the disease from which so many of the patients
suffer, and how great a thing it has been, even where cures could not be
effected, usefully to prolong the lives of hundreds of those who must
have died but for timely aid. Nay, even at the least, the alleviation of
suffering to those on whom death had already laid his hand has been no
small thing; and when we know that of 240,000 out-patients who have
received advice and medicines, and 10,400 in-patients whose cases have
warranted their admission to the wards, a large number of actual cures
have been effected since the establishment of this hospital, we are
entitled to regard the institution as one of the most useful that we
have ever visited together.

Let us enter, not by the handsome broad portico in the centre of the
building, but at the out-patients' door, in order that we may see the
two waiting-rooms, where men and women bring their letters of admission,
or attend to see one of the three consulting physicians. Of these three
gentlemen the senior is Dr. Peacock, of whom it may be said that he is
the organiser of the hospital, the efficiency of which is mainly due to
his direction. This is no small praise, I am aware, but there are so
many evidences of thorough unity and completeness in all the details of
management that, considering how great a variety of cases are included
under "diseases of the chest," from the slow insidious but fatal ravages
of consumption to the sudden pang and deadly spasm of heart disease, and
the various affections of throat and lungs, it may easily be seen how
much depends upon the adoption of a system initiated by long study and
experience. The perfect arrangements which distinguish this hospital are
doubtless rendered easier by ample space and admirable appliances.
Plenty of room and plenty of air (air, however, which has been warmed to
one even temperature before it enters the wards and corridors where the
patients eat and drink, sleep and walk) are the first characteristics of
the place, while a certain chaste simplicity of ornament, and yet an
avoidance of mere utilitarian bareness, is to be observed in all that
portion of the structure where decoration may naturally be expected.

The board-room, the secretary's room, and the various apartments devoted
to the resident officers on the ground-floor, are plain enough, however,
though they are of good size and proportions, the only really ornamental
article of furniture in the board-room being a handsome semi-grand
piano, the gift of one of the committee. This is a real boon to such of
the patients as can come to practise choral singing, as well as to those
who can listen delightedly to the amateur concerts that are periodically
performed, either in the hospital itself or in one of the wards. For
they have cheerful entertainments in this resort of the feeble, where,
to tell the truth, food is often the best physic, and sympathy and
encouragement the most potent alleviations.

As to the actual physic--the employment of medicines--it is only in some
of the large endowed hospitals that we can see such a dispensary as this
spacious room, with its surrounding rows of bottles and drawers, its two
open windows, one communicating with the men's and the other with the
women's waiting room, its slabs, and scales and measures, on a central
counter, where 380 prescriptions will have to be made up to-day before
the alert and intelligent gentleman and his assistants who have the
control of this department, will be able to replace the current stock
out of the medical stores.

These small cisterns, each with its tap, occupying so prominent a place
on the counter, represent the staple medicine of the establishment, pure
cod-liver oil, of which 1,200 gallons are used every year, and they are
constantly replenished from three large cylinders, or vats, containing
800 gallons, which occupy a room of their own adjoining the dispensary
and the compounding room, the latter being the place where drugs are
prepared, and the great art of pill-making is practised on a remarkable

Continuing our walk round the hospital, we come to the consulting-rooms,
where the physicians attend daily at two o'clock, each to see his own
patients, and the reception-room, where an officer takes the letters of
introduction, and exchanges them for attendance cards. This is the door
of the museum; and though we shall be admitted, if you choose to
accompany me, it is, like other surgical museums, of professional more
than general interest, and not a public portion of the hospital. Turning
into the great main corridor, with its peculiar honeycombed red-brick
ceiling and pleasant sense of light and air, we will ascend the broad
staircase to the wards, those of the women being on the first floor,
while the men occupy a precisely similar ward on the second. These wards
consist of a series of rooms of from two to six, eight, and twelve beds
each, so as to afford opportunity for the proper classification of the
cases. A day-room is also provided for each set of wards, so that those
patients who are well enough to leave their beds may take their meals
there, or may read, play at chess, draughts, or bagatelle, or occupy
themselves with needlework. These wards and their day-rooms all open
into a light cheerful corridor, with large windows, where the inmates
may walk and talk, or read and rest, sitting or reclining upon the
couches and settees that are placed at intervals along the wall. All
through these rooms and corridors the air is kept at a medium
temperature of from fifty-five to sixty degrees, by means of hot-air or
hot-water apparatus, the latter being in use as well as the former. You
noticed, as we stood in the grounds, a large square structure of a
monumental character;--that was in fact the chamber through the sides of
which draughts of air are carried to channels beneath the building,
there they are drawn around a furnace, to be heated, and to escape
through pipes that are grouped about the entire building. In order to
ensure the necessary comfort of patients requiring a higher temperature,
each ward is provided with an open fire-place.

It is now just dinner-time. The ample rations of meat and vegetables,
fish and milk, and the various "special diets," are coming up on the
lift from the kitchens, and in the women's day-room a very comfortable
party is just sitting down to the mid-day meal. Here, as elsewhere,
greater patience and more genuine cheerfulness are to be observed among
the women, than is as a rule displayed by the men, and there are not
wanting signs of pleasant progress towards recovery, of grateful
appreciation of the benefits received, and of a hopeful trusting spirit,
which goes far to aid the doctor and the nurse. There are, of course,
some sad sights. Looking into the wards, we may see more than one woman
for whom only a few hours of this mortal life remain; more than one
child whose emaciated form and face looks as though death itself could
bring no great change. Yet it must be remembered that cases likely soon
to terminate fatally are not admitted. The severity of the diseases and
their frequently fatal character under any condition will account for
the large proportion of sickness unto death which finds here alleviation
but not absolute cure; though, of course, the sufferers from heart
disease, who are on the whole the most cheerful, as well as those whose
affections of the lungs can be sensibly arrested, if not altogether
healed, are frequently restored to many years of useful work in the
world. On this second storey, in the men's ward, there are some very
serious cases, and some sights that have a heartache in them; yet they
are full of significance, for many of them include the spectacle of
God's sweet gift of trust and patience--the mighty courage of a quiet
mind. Yonder is a courageous fellow, who, suffering from a terrible
aneurism, had to cease his daily labour, and now lies on his back,
hopeful of cure, with a set still face and a determined yet wistful look
at the resident medical officer, or the nurse who adjusts the
india-rubber ice-bag on his chest. Here, near the door, is that which
should make us bow our heads low before the greatest mystery of mortal
life. Not the mystery of death, but the mystery of meeting death and
awaiting it. A brave, patient, noble man is sitting up in that bed, his
high forehead, fair falling hair, long tawny beard, and steady placid
eye, reminding one of some picture of Norseman or Viking. Lean and gaunt
enough in frame, his long thin hand is little but skin and bone, but it
is clasped gently by the sorrowing wife, who sits beside him, and
glances at us through tearful eyes as we enter. One can almost believe
that the sick man who is going on the great journey whither he cannot
yet take the wife who loves him, has been speaking of it calmly, there
is such an inscrutable look of absolute repose in that face. He is a
Dane, and the doctor tells us has borne his illness and great pain with
a quiet courage that has challenged the admiration of those about him--a
courage born of simple faith, let us believe, a calm resting on an
eternal foundation of peace. Here, in the corridor, is a party, some of
its members still very weak and languid, who, having just dined, are
about to take the afternoon lounge, with book or newspaper, and, leaving
them, we will conclude our visit by descending to the basement, whence
the chief medicine comes in the shape of wholesome nourishing food, of
meat and fish, of pure farina, of wine, and milk, and fresh eggs, of
clean pure linen, and even of ice, for ice is a large ingredient here,
and several tons are consumed every year. The domestic staff have their
apartments in this basement portion of the building, another division of
which is occupied by the kitchens and storerooms, while lifts for coal
and daily meals and every other requisite, ascend to the upper wards,
and shoots or wells from the upper floors convey linen and bedding that
require washing, as well as the dust and refuse of the wards, to special

The kitchen itself is a sight worth seeing with its wide open range,
where prime joints are roasting, or have been roasted, and are now being
cut into great platefuls for the ordinary full-diet patients. In the
great boilers and ovens, vegetables and boiled meats, farinaceous
puddings, rice, tapioca, fish, and a dozen other articles of pure diet
are being prepared, while a reservoir of strong beef-tea represents the
nourishment of those feeble ones to whom liquid, representing either
meat or milk, is all that can be permitted. We have little time to
remain in the separate rooms, which are cool tile-lined larders, where
bread and milk and meat are kept, but among the records of donations and
contributions to the hospital it is very pleasant to read of the
multifarious gifts of food and other comforts sent from time to time by
benevolent friends. They consist of baskets of game, fruits, rice, tea,
flour, books, warm clothing for poor patients leaving the hospital,
prints, pictures, fern-cases, all kinds of useful articles, showing how
thoughtful the donors are, of what will be a solace and a comfort to the
patients, while not the least practically valuable remittances are
bundles of old linen. Still more touching, however, are the records of
gifts brought by patients themselves, or by their friends.

"I was a patient here four years ago," says a man who has made his way
to the secretary's room, "and I made up my mind that if ever I could
scrape a guinea together I should bring it, and now I have, and here it
is, if you'll be so good as to take it, for I want to show I'm truly

"If you'll please accept it from us; my husband and I have put by
fifteen shillings, and want to give it to the hospital for your kindness
to our son, who was here before he died."

These are the chronicles that show this to be a people's hospital
indeed, and that should open the hearts of those who can take pounds
instead of shillings. In such cases the secretary has ventured to remind
the grateful donors that they may be unable to afford to leave their
savings, but the evident pain, even of the hint of refusal, was reason
for accepting the poor offering. Poor, did I say? nay, rich--rich in all
that can really give value to such gifts, the wealth of the heart that
must be satisfied by giving.

There is one more adjunct to this great human conservatory which we must
see before we leave. Down four shallow stone steps from the corridor,
and along a cheerful quiet sub-corridor, is the chapel. A very beautiful
building, with no stained glass or sumptuous detail of ornament, and yet
so admirable in its simple architectural decoration and perfect
proportions, that it is an example of what such a place should be. It is
capable of seating three or four hundred persons, and visitors are
freely admitted to the Sunday services when there is room, though of
course seats are reserved for the patients, who have "elbows" provided
in their pews, that they may be able to lean without undue fatigue. The
chapel itself was a gift of a beneficent friend, and was presented
anonymously. One day an architect waited on the committee, and simply
said that if they would permit a chapel to be erected on a vacant space
in their grounds, close to the main building, he had plans for such a
structure with him, and the whole cost would be defrayed by a client of
his, who, however, would not make known his name. The gift was accepted,
and the benevolent contract nobly fulfilled. I should be glad to hear
that some other charitable donor had sent in like manner an offer of
funds to fill those two great vacant wards which, waiting for patients,
are among the saddest sights in this hospital.


Amidst the numerous great charities which distinguish this vast
metropolis, hospitals must always hold a prominent if not preeminent
place. Helpless infancy, the weakness and infirmity of old age, and
prostration by sudden accident, or the ravages of disease, are the
conditions that necessarily appeal to humanity. The latter especially is
so probable an occurrence to any of us, that we are at once impressed by
the necessity for providing some means for its alleviation. Helpless
childhood has passed, old age may seem to be in too dim a future to
challenge our immediate attention; but sickness, sudden disaster, who
shall be able to guard against these, in a world where the strongest are
often smitten down in the full tide of apparent health; where, in the
streets alone, fatal accidents are reckoned monthly as a special item in
Registrars' returns, and injuries amount annually to hundreds?

The great endowed hospitals, therefore, those magnificent monuments of
charity which have distinguished London for so many years, and the value
of which in extending the science of medicine can scarcely be overrated,
are regarded by us all with veneration. At the same time we ought to
feel a certain thrill of pleasure, a satisfaction not far removed from
keen emotion, when we see inscribed on the front of some building, large
or small, where the work of healing is being carried on, the words,
"Supported by Voluntary Contributions." One other condition, too, seems
necessary to the complete recognition of such a charity as having
attained to the full measure of a truly beneficent work--admission to it
should be free: free not only from any demand for money payments, but
untrammelled by the necessity for seeking, often with much suffering and
delay, a governor's order or letter, by which alone a patient can be
received in many of our otherwise admirable and useful institutions for
the sick. It should be remembered that immediate aid is of the utmost
importance in the effort to heal the sick, and that delays, proverbially
dangerous, are in such cases cruel, often fatal, always damaging to the
sense of true beneficence, of the extension of help because of the
_need_ rather than for the sake of any particular influence. It would
seem that we have no right to hesitate, or to insist on the observance
of certain forms, before succouring the grievously sick and wounded, any
more than we have to withhold food from the starving till ceremonial
inquiries are answered, and certificates of character obtained. There
are cases of poverty, and even of suffering, where inquiry before
ultimate and continued relief may be useful, and personal influence may
be necessary, but extreme hunger and nakedness, cold and houselessness,
sudden injury or maiming, the pain of disease, the deep and touching
need of the sick and helpless, are not such. Prompt and effectual
measures for relief, and, if necessary, admission to the place where
that relief can alone be afforded, will be the only means of completely
meeting these wants. Free hospitals, freer even than workhouses, are
what we need, and I am about to visit one of them to-day which rejoices
in its name, "The Royal Free Hospital," now in its forty-seventh year of
useful and, I am glad to say, of vigorous life.

To anyone acquainted with that strange neighbourhood which is
represented by Gray's Inn Lane and all the queer jumble of courts and
alleys that seem to shrink behind the shelter of the broad thoroughfare
of Holborn, there is something consistent in the establishment of such a
noble charity as this hospital in Gray's Inn Road. Its very position
seems to indicate the nature and extent of its duties. Near the homes of
poverty, the streets where people live who cannot go far to seek aid in
their extremest need, it receives those who, breaking down through
sudden disease, or requiring medical and surgical skill to relieve the
pain and weakness of recurrent malady, have no resource but this to
enable them to fulfil their one great desire "to get back to work." The
causes of much of the sickness which sends patients thither may be
preventable: they may be found in foul dwellings, impure water,
insufficient clothing, want of proper food, alternate hunger and
intemperance; but whatever may be its occasion, a remedy must be found
for it. Till all that is preventable _is_ prevented, the consequences
will have to be mitigated, the fatal results averted where it is
possible; and when boards of health and sanitary measures have done,
there will still be sick men to heal, failing children to strengthen,
weak and wasting women to restore.

It is well, then, that this Institution should stand as a landmark of
that free charity which takes help where it is needed most; and this
qualification is the more obvious when we turn from the sick wards to
the accident wards, and remember that three great railway termini are
close at hand, and others not far off; that all round that teeming
neighbourhood men, women, and even children, are working at poor
handicrafts, which render them liable to frequent injuries, and that in
the crowded streets themselves--from the great busy thoroughfare of
Holborn, to the bustle and confusion of the approaches to the stations
at King's Cross--there is constant peril to life and limb.

There is something so remarkable in the external appearance of the
building, such a military look about its bold front, such a suggestion
of a cavalry yard about the broad open area behind this tall wooden
entrance gate, that you begin to wonder how such a style of architecture
should have been adopted for a hospital. The truth is that like
many--nay, like most of our noblest work--this great provision for
healing the sick began by not waiting for full-blown opportunities. The
need was there, and the means that came to hand were used to meet it.
This building was originally the barracks of that loyal and efficient
regiment, the "Light Horse Volunteers," and so excellently had those
gallant defenders of king and constitution provided for their own
comfort and security, that when in 1842 the premises were vacant, and
the lease for sale, the governors of the Royal Free Hospital became the
purchasers, the long rooms were easily turned into ample, cheerful, and
well-ventilated wards, and the various outbuildings and offices were
quickly adapted to the reception of patients.

But the hospital had at that date been working quietly and effectually
for above fourteen years. Fourteen years before its inauguration in
Gray's Inn Road, this "free" hospital, which was not then "royal," had
been commenced in Greville Street, Hatton Garden, and the immediate
incident which led to its foundation is so suggestive, so inseparable
from the recollection of the want which it was designed to alleviate,
and from its own generous recognition of the unfailing freedom of true
charity, that it might well be the subject of a memorial picture. Alas!
it would be a tragic reminder of those days before any provision was
made for extending medical aid to sufferers who had no credentials save
humanity and their own deep necessity. It would be a grim reminder to
us, also, that some of our great charities established for the relief of
the sick are still trammelled with those restrictions which demand
recommendations, to obtain which the applicant is often condemned to
delay and disappointment. It would show us that our hospitals are not
yet free.

Those of my readers who can remember the entrance to the broad highway
of Holborn nearly fifty years ago--stay, that is going back beyond
probable acknowledgment,--let me say those of us who knew Smithfield
when it was a cattle market, who had heard of "Cow Cross," and been told
of the terrible purlieux of Field Lane; who had occasionally caught a
glimpse of that foul wilderness of courts that clustered about the Fleet
Ditch; had read of Mr. Fagin, when "Oliver Twist" was first appearing in
chapters, and had dim recollections of nursery tales about Bartlemy fair
and "hanging morning" at the Old Bailey; those of us who remember the
cries of drovers, and the lowing and bleating of herds and flocks in the
streets on Sunday nights; the terrible descent of Snow Hill; the
confusion and dismay of passengers and vehicles on the steep incline of
Holborn Hill; the reek of all that maze of houses and hovels that lay in
the valley; those of us, in short, who can carry our memories back for a
few years beyond the time when the new cattle market was built at
Islington, the pens and lairs of Smithfield demolished, the whole
Holborn valley dismantled, only a remnant, a mere corner, of Field Lane
being left standing after the great viaduct was built--can imagine what
the church of St. Andrew was like when, with its dark and dreary
churchyard, it stood on the slope of Holborn Hill, instead of being as
it now is in a kind of subway. That churchyard, with its iron gate, was
reached by stone steps, which were receptacles for winter rain and
summer dust, the straw from waggons, the shreds and sweepings from
adjacent shops, the dirt and refuse of the streets.

On those steps a young girl was seen lying one night, in the winter of
1827--lying helpless, lonely, perishing of disease and famine.

The clocks of St. Andrew, St. Sepulchre, St. Paul, had clanged and
boomed amidst the hurry and the turmoil of the throng of passengers; had
clanged and boomed till their notes might be heard above the subsiding
roar of vehicles, and the shuffling of feet, till silence crept over the
great city, and more distant chimes struck through the murky air,
tolling midnight. Still that figure lay upon the cruel stones, under the
rusty gate of the churchyard, as though, unfriended and unpitied by the
world, she waited for admission to the only place in which she might
make a claim in death, if not in life.

Not more than eighteen years old, she had wandered wearily from some
distant place where fatal instalments of the wages of sin had done their
work. She had come to London unknown, unnoted, to die. That she had come
from afar is but a surmise; she may have been a dweller in this great
city, lost amidst the stony desert of its streets, friendless with the
friendlessness of the outcast or the wretched, to whom the acquaintances
of to-day have little care or opportunity to become the solacers of
to-morrow; she may have crept to that dark corner by the churchyard
gate, amongst the rack and refuse of the street, as a place in which
she, the unconsidered waste and refuse of our boasted civilisation,
could most fitly huddle from the cold. She was not left actually to die
there, but two days afterwards she passed out of the world where she had
been unrecognised. Not without result, however.

Among those who had witnessed the distressing occurrence was a surgeon,
Mr. William Marsden, who for some time before had repeatedly seen cause
to lament, that with all our endowed hospitals, our great medical
schools, and the advance of scientific knowledge, the sick poor could
only obtain relief by means of letters of recommendation and other
delay, until the appointed days for admission. The sight that he had
witnessed awoke him to fresh energy. He determined to establish a
medical charity, where destitution or great poverty and disease should
be the only necessary credentials for obtaining free and _immediate_
relief. His honest benevolent purpose did not cool; in February in the
following year (1828), the house in Greville Street was open as a free
hospital, and it was taken under the royal patronage of George IV., the
Duke of Gloucester becoming its president.

King William IV. succeeded George IV. as the patron of this free
hospital, and one of the earliest manifestations of the interest of our
Queen in public charitable institutions was the expressed desire of her
Majesty to maintain the support which it had hitherto received, and to
confer upon it the name of the _Royal_ Free Hospital.

It need scarcely be said that the late Duke of Sussex took a very strong
interest in this charity, and at his death it was determined to erect a
new wing, to be called "the Sussex" wing. This work was completed in
1856; and in 1863, by the aid of a zealous and indefatigable chairman of
the committee, above £5,000 was raised by special appeal for the
purposes of buying the freehold of the entire building, so that it is
now, in every sense, a free hospital, with a noble history of suffering
relieved, of the sick healed, the deserted reclaimed, the sinful
succoured, and those that were ready to perish snatched from the jaws of

Since the foundation of the modest house in Hatton Garden in 1828 above
a million and a half of poor sick and destitute patients have obtained
relief, and the average of poor patients received within its wards is
now 1,500 annually, while 45,000 out-patients resort thither from all
parts of London. The relief thus afforded costs some £8,000 a year, and
this large sum has to be provided by appeals to the public for those
contributions by which alone the continued effort can be sustained.

Standing here within the "Moore" ward, so called after the energetic
chairman before referred to, I cannot think of any appeal that should be
more successful in securing public sympathy than these two
statements--First, that many of the inmates have been immediately
received on their own application; and secondly, that, bearing in mind
the sad story which is, as it were, the story of the foundation of the
hospital, this ward is occupied by women. Many of them are persons of
education and refinement, who yet would have no asylum if they had not
been received within these sheltering walls, others may be poor,
ignorant, and perhaps even degraded, but divine charity is large enough
to recognise in these the very need which such an effort is intended to
alleviate. Here at least is a peaceful retreat, where in quiet
reflection, in grateful recognition of mercies yet within reach, in the
sound of pitying voices, and the touch of sympathetic hands, the weary
may find rest, the throes of pain may be assuaged.

Here are the two fundamental rules of the hospital, and they form what
one might call a double-barrelled appeal not to be easily turned aside:--


 Foreigners, strangers, and others, in sickness or disease, having
 neither friends nor homes, are admitted to the Wards of this Hospital
 on their own application, so far as the means of the charity will


 All sick and diseased persons, having no other means of obtaining
 relief, may attend at this Hospital every day at Two o'clock, when they
 will receive Medical and Surgical Advice and Medicine free.

Even while I read the latter announcement the out-patients are
assembling in the waiting-room, on the right of the quadrangle; the
dispenser, in his repository of drugs, surrounded by bottles, jars,
drawers, and all the appliances for making up medicines, has set his
assistants to work, and is himself ready to begin the afternoon's duty;
the consulting-physician of the day has just taken his seat in one plain
barely-furnished apartment, the consulting-surgeon in another, while the
resident house-surgeon has completed his first inspection of
in-patients, and is ready with particulars of new cases.

These rooms, where patients assemble, and doctors consult, are on the
right of the pleasant quadrangle, with its large centre oval garden
plot, containing a double ring of trees; and here also is the reception
room for "accidents" and urgent cases--a very suggestive room, with
styptics, immediate remedies, and prompt appliances ready to hand, but
like all the rest of the official portion of the building, very plain
and practical, with evidence of there being little time to regard mere
ease or ornament, and of a disregard of anything which is not associated
with the work that has to be done. It is the same with other apartments,
where it is obvious that no unnecessary expenditure is incurred for mere
official show.

The business of the place is to heal by means of food, of rest, and of
medicine, and there, on the left of the quadrangle, a flight of steps
leads downwards to a wide area, where, in the kitchens, the domestic
servants are busy clearing up, after serving the eighty-eight rations
which have been issued for dinner--rations of fish, flesh, and fowl, or
those "special diets" which are taken under medical direction. There is
something about this kitchen, the store-rooms, and offices, with the
steps leading thereto, and the cat sitting blinking in the sun, which
irresistibly reminds me of the heights of Dover and some portion of the
barrack building there; the old military look of the place clings to
this Gray's Inn Road establishment still, and the visitor misses the
wonderful appliances and mechanical adaptations of some more modern
institutions, not even lifts to convey the dinners to the wards being
possible in such an edifice.

There is some compensating comfort in noting, however, that the nursing
staff is so organised as to secure personal attention to the patients,
and that the arrangements are touchingly homely, not only in regard to
the simple furniture, the few pictures and engravings, and the little
collection of books that are to be found in the wards, but also in the
matter of sympathetic, motherly, and sisterly help, which is less
ceremonious, but not less truly loving, than is to be found in some
places of higher pretensions.

Here, on the ground floor, the twenty-two beds of the men's severe
accident ward are always full, and some of the cases are pitiable,
including maiming by machinery, railway accidents, or injury in the
streets. The "Marsden Ward," adjoining is devoted to injuries of a less
serious kind, so that there many of the patients can help themselves. In
the women's accident ward there are three or four children, one of whom,
a pretty chubby-faced little girl of five years old, has not yet got
over her astonishment at having been run over by a cab the day before
yesterday, picked up and brought into this great room where most of the
people are in bed, only to hear that she is more frightened than hurt,
and is to go home tomorrow. There are some other little creatures,
however, suffering from very awkward accidents, and they seem to be
petted and made much of, just as they are in the women's sick ward
above, where a delicate-faced intelligent girl, herself improving
greatly under prompt treatment for an early stage of phthisis, is
delighted to have a little companion to tea with her at her bed-side,
the child being allowed to sit up in a chair, and the pair of invalids
being evidently on delightfully friendly terms. There is a lower ward,
with half a dozen little beds devoted solely to children, who are, I
think, all suffering from some form of disease of the joints. Alas! this
class of disease comes of foul dwellings, of impure or stinted food, of
want of fresh air and water; and it brings a pang to one's heart to note
the smiling little faces, the bright beaming eyes, the pretty engaging
grateful ways of some of these little ones, and yet to know how long a
time it must be before the results of the evil conditions of their lives
will be remedied at the present rate of procedure; how difficult a
problem it is to provide decent dwellings for the poor, in a city where
neighbourhoods such as that which we have just traversed have grown like
fungi, and cannot be uprooted without pain and loss which social
reformers shrink from inflicting. Thinking of this, and of all that I
have seen in this Royal Free Hospital, I am glad to carry away from it
the picture of this child's ward and its two young nurses, though I
could wish that the walls of that and all the other wards were a little
brighter with more pictures, that a fresh supply of books might soon be
sent to replenish the library, and that the flowers, that are so eagerly
accepted to deck the tables of those poor sick rooms, and carry thither
a sense of freshness, colour, and beauty, may come from the gardens and
greenhouses of those who can spare of their abundance. To keep the
eighty-eight beds full requires constant dependence on public
contributions, and yet when we think of the work that is going on here,
not the eighty-eight only, but the whole number of 102 should be ready
for applicants, who would, even then, be far too numerous to be received
at once in a hospital which, with a royal freedom of well-doing, sets an
example that might be hopefully followed by other and wealthier
charities for healing the sick.


What is the first greeting which a convict receives when he or she is
discharged from prison?

Imagine, if you can, the shivering, shrinking, bewildered feeling of the
man or woman who, after, undergoing a term of penal servitude, some of
it passed in hours of solitary confinement, has all this great city
suddenly opened again, with its wilderness of streets, its crowd of
unfamiliar faces, its tremendous temptations, its few resources for the
friendless and the suspected, its great broad thoroughfares, where on
every side may be seen evidences of wealth and plenty; where the tavern
and the gin-shop offer a temporary solace to the wretched; and where,
also, in every neighbourhood, there are evil slums in which vice finds
companionship, and the career of dishonesty and crime can be resumed
without difficulty or delay.

Those who have stood outside the walls of Clerkenwell or Coldbath Fields
prison, and have watched the opening of the gates whence prisoners
emerge into a freedom which is almost paralysing in its first effects,
will tell you how the appearance of these poor wretches is greeted in
low muttered tones by silent slouching men and women who await their
coming. How, after very few words of encouragement and welcome, they are
taken off to some adjacent public-house, there to celebrate their
liberation; and how, almost before a word is spoken, the male prisoner
is provided with a ready-lighted pipe from the mouth of one of his
former companions, in order that he may revive his sense of freedom by
the long-unaccustomed indulgence in tobacco.

I should be very sorry to cavil at these marks of sympathy. They are
eminently human. They do not always mean direct temptation--that is to
say, they are not necessarily intended to induce the recipient to resume
the evil course which has led to a long and severe punishment. That the
result should be a gradual, if not an immediate, weakening of that
remorse which is too frequently sorrow for having incurred the penalty
rather than repentance of the sin that led to it, is obvious enough; but
what else is to be expected? Not many men or women come out of gaol with
a very robust morality. Without entering into the question how far our
present system of prison discipline and management is calculated to
influence the moral nature of culprits who are under punishments for
various crimes, scarcely ever classified, and never regarded in relation
to the particular circumstances under which they are committed or the
character and disposition, the social status, or the mental and moral
condition of the offender, it may be broadly and barely stated that our
penal legislation is not effectual in promoting the reclamation of the

Even if some determination to begin life anew, to avoid associations
that have led to infamy and disgrace to accept any labour anywhere in
order to obtain an honest subsistence, has been working in the mind of a
convict during the period of imprisonment, and under the advice and
remonstrance of the chaplain and the governor, what is to sustain such
half-formed resolutions? Supposing even that the discharged prisoner has
been so amenable to the regulations of the gaol that he or she has had
placed to the credit account that weekly "good-conduct money," which,
when the term of punishment has ended, amounts to a sum sufficient to
provide for immediate necessities, where is employment to be looked for?
In what quarter is the owner of a few shillings--which may have to last
a week or more--to seek a lodging and a meal, and that companionship
which must be one of the keenest longings of the newly-released and yet
solitary and half-dazed creature, who is ready to receive with grateful
avidity any friendly greeting that promises relief from the long
monotony of the gaol?

Surely, then, there can be few conditions which appeal more forcibly to
Christian beneficence than that of the captive who is released after
having undergone a sentence of penal servitude, part of which has been
passed in solitary confinement. Whatever may have been the impressions
made upon the mind during the period of punishment, and the influence
exercised by instruction or exhortation, the very fact of regaining
liberty, the excitement of freedom, and the uncertainty of the first
steps a man or woman is to take outside the prison walls, will always
involve a danger, before which a very large proportion of released
convicts will succumb.

What, then, is being done in order to extend a helping hand to these,
who are among the most destitute and unfortunate; who, even if they have
relatives, may be ashamed to seek their aid, or are doubtful of the
reception that awaits them, while the only companionship which they can
claim at once, and without question, is that which will surround them
with almost irresistible incentives to a lawless life?

In the very centre of this vast metropolis, at the point where its great
highways converge, and yet in a modest quiet house standing a little
back from the roar and turmoil of the main street, we shall find what we
seek. Here, on the doorpost of No. 39, Charing Cross, is the name of
"The Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society," and in two or three offices on
the first floor--one of which is, in fact, a reception-room for the
discharged prisoners themselves--the work for which there is such a
constant and pressing need is steadily carried on, under the direction
of a very distinguished committee, of whom the treasurer is the Hon.
Arthur Kinnaird, and the first honorary secretary, Mr. W. Bayne Ranken,
who is assisted by Mr. S. Whitbread and Mr. L. T. Cave. In looking at
the names of the gentlemen who are concerned in this admirable effort,
you will have noticed that some of them are also associated with other
charitable organisations which we have visited together, and notably
with those of that Soho district where we last joined in the musical
diversions of the Newport Market Refuge. As we enter this front office
at Charing Cross, we have a pleasant reminder of that occasion, for we
are welcomed by the indefatigable performer on the cornet, who, when we
last met him, was making "the hills resound" in the upper room of the
old slaughter-house, and carrying all his juvenile military band with
him in one resonant outburst of harmony that awoke the echoes as far as
Seven Dials. To-day he is carrying out his ordinary secretarial and
managerial duties, as officially representing the Society, about which
he can give us some information worth hearing.

But there are other visitors for whom preparation has already been made
in the next room--men dressed decently, and yet having a certain
furtive, unaccustomed bearing, as though they were not at the moment
quite used to their clothes or to public observation. Some of them are
not without a truculent half-defiant expression lurking beneath their
subdued demeanour; others have an open, keen outlook; and a few others,
again, both in the shape of their head and the peculiar shifty
expression of eye and mouth, and one might also say of hand, would at
once be characterised by the experienced observer of London life as men
who had "been in trouble" more than once. On the table of the front
office the object which has at once attracted our attention is a
perfectly new carpenter's basket containing a decent set of tools, and
the man for whom it is intended will be here for it by-and-by to take it
away, just as the shoemaker who has just gone out has carried with him
"a kit," with which, in addition to a little stock of money, he is about
to begin the world afresh, under the auspices of his friends, one of
whom--either a member of the committee, or the secretary, or one of the
visiting agents--will keep him in view, and give him an occasional
encouraging call while he remains in the metropolitan district. If a
situation should be found for him in the provinces, either the clergyman
of the district, or some other friend of the Society, is informed of his
previous history, and has a sincere interest in his well-doing. In no
case have the London police anything whatever to do with watching or
inspecting discharged prisoners under the care of the Society; and, on
the other hand, it is a standing rule that where situations are found
for these men and women, the employers are informed of their previous
history, though any recommendation of the Society may be regarded as a
strong inference that their _protégé_ is trying to redeem lost

It must be remembered that a report of each of those who are under the
care of the Society is made at the office once a month, either by the
man or woman in person, or by one of the visiting agents or
correspondents of the committee of management; and that, though the
police are forbidden to interfere with them, except on strong suspicion
that they are about to commit a crime, the most accurate and careful
record of their mode of life and conduct is kept at the offices of the
Society. Should they fail to observe the regulations which the Society
demands, they are liable to police surveillance instead of friendly,
encouraging, and confidential visitation; and it needs scarcely be said
that this liability is often of itself sufficient to make them desire to
retain the aid and protection which has been extended to them.

From a long and tolerably intimate observation of the lower strata of
the London population, and of the results of various methods adopted to
check the progress of crime, I am convinced that what is called police
surveillance, as it is conducted in this country, is altogether
mischievous in relation to any probable reformation of the offender.
Even if it be denied (as it has been) that it is a practice of
police-constables to give to persons employing a discharged prisoner,
information conveyed in such a way as to lead to the loss of employment
and despair of obtaining an honest living, it is quite certain that the
constant dread of being branded as a returned felon, and the hopeless
dogged temper which such a condition produces, must be enormous
obstacles to true reclamation. The man who could really surmount them
must, whatever may have been his casual crime, be possessed of a hardy
and indomitable desire for virtue which should challenge our profound

But, apart from what may be called legitimate surveillance of convicts
by the police, it is unfortunately notorious that members of "the
force," who occupy positions as detectives, or "active and intelligent
officers," employ agents of their own to bring them information, and
that these agents, being men of bad character--frequently thieves--are
interested for their own safety's sake in providing "charges," or
"putting up cases," by conveying information of suspected persons. This
is according to the old evil traditions that have descended to
constables from the time of Jonathan Wild, and probably earlier; but it
is obvious that where such nefarious tools are employed for obtaining
evidence which will suffice to sustain a charge and convict a prisoner,
there is constant danger to those who, having been once sentenced for
crime, are not only peculiarly liable to be drawn into fresh offences,
but are, from their position, easily made the victims of cunningly-laid
traps for their re-arrest, on a suspicion that is readily endorsed,
because of their previous conviction and the knowledge of all their

It is the removal of discharged prisoners from this probability, and
from the kind of interposition that forbids their return to the paths of
honesty, and so actually produces "a criminal class," that is, in my
opinion, the best distinction of a Society like this.

Some of the volumes of interesting records which are preserved here
would probably doubtless confirm this view. Let us refer to one only,
where a nobleman residing in London had engaged a butler who went to him
with a very excellent character, and in whom he had the greatest
confidence. Happening to have occasion to employ a detective constable
on some business, his lordship was dismayed at receiving from that
astute officer the intelligence that his trusted servant had once been
sentenced to five years' penal servitude for some dishonest act, but had
been liberated on a ticket-of-leave. Puzzled how to proceed, the
nobleman had the good sense to apply for advice to this Society, where
it was discovered that the representation of the detective was true
enough, and that the man had been recommended to a situation by the
Society itself, an intimation of his antecedents being given to the
employer. In that situation he had remained for several months, without
the least fault being brought against him, and he then applied for and
obtained the vacant and more lucrative appointment in the family of his
lordship, who, though he acknowledged he should not have engaged him had
he known of his previous fault and its punishment, kept his secret, and
retained him in his service, where he remained at the time of the last
report, respected by the household, and faithfully fulfilling his

Probably this was one of those cases where, yielding to sudden
temptation, a man incurs for a single crime punishment that awakens
moral resolution; and it must be remembered that there are many convicts
who, while in prison they are practically undistinguished from the
habitual or the repeated criminal, or from the convict of brutalised,
undeveloped, or feeble moral nature, are in danger of being utterly
ruined because of a single and perhaps altogether unpremeditated
offence, of which they may bitterly repent. The feeling of shame, of
humiliation, of doubt as to any but a cold and deterrent reception by
former friends, the dread of scorn, derision, or abhorrence, may lead
such men or women to abandon as hopeless any expectation of resuming
their former avocations, or even of once more attaining a respectable
position. To such as these the Society offers such aid as may keep them
from the despondency that destroys; and in every case, even in that of
the wretch who has been convicted again and again, it holds out some
hope of reformation. That there is some such hope may be learned from
the fact, that even thieves--"habitual criminals"--do not, as a rule,
bring their own children up to dishonesty, and are often careful to
conceal from them the means by which they live. The ranks of crime are
not so largely augmented from the children of dishonest parents (though,
of course, evil example bears its dreadful results) as from the
neglected children of our great towns.

But let us see what are the means adopted by the Society for helping
discharged prisoners. Of course the procedure must begin with the
prisoners themselves, in so far that they must express their willingness
to accept the aid offered to them, and make known their decision to the
governor of the prison where they are confined, and where the rules and
provisions of the Society are displayed and explained.

This refers to the convict prisons, since only these are eligible, the
prisoners from county gaols being assisted by other organisations;
therefore, discharged convicts from Millbank, Pentonville, Portland,
Portsmouth, Chatham, Parkhurst, Dartmoor, Woking, and Brixton, are able
to seek help; and it is gratifying to know that, according to the prison
returns, of 1,579 male prisoners discharged from these places in one
year, 796 sought aid from this and local provincial societies having the
same object, the number of applicants to the London Society being 524,
or nearly two-thirds of the whole.

On any convict, male or female, accepting the offer of the Society, and
making that decision known to the governor of the prison, the latter
forwards to this office at Charing Cross a printed document, or
recommendation, stating full particulars of the prisoner's age, date of
conviction, number of previous convictions (if any), degree of
education, religion, former trade or employment, ability to perform
labour, and general character while in prison, together with the amount
of good-conduct money which is to be allowed for work performed during
the period of incarceration. This good-conduct money may amount to a
maximum sum of £3, and the Society takes charge of it for the benefit of
the prisoner, disbursing it only as it may be required, and
supplementing it, when necessary, by a further grant of money, or even
by advances or loans as may be deemed desirable in certain cases.

These reports from the prison governor reach the office about six weeks
before the discharge of the convicts named in them, and following them
come other papers, each of which contains a graphic personal description
of the prisoner referred to, and a fairly-executed photograph, which is
usually not without certain striking characteristics, though you will be
surprised to find how often you fail to discover the lineaments which
you have associated in fancy with lawlessness and crime. At the time of
their discharge, the men and women are conducted hither by a
plainly-clothed messenger from the prison, appointed for the purpose,
and take their places in yonder back room, where they are immediately
identified by means of the descriptions and photographs, and are then
questioned as to their capabilities and the particular employment in
which they desire to engage. It is manifestly impossible that the
Society can provide them with employment in the particular trades which
they may previously have followed, since there may be no openings in
those industries, or they may be such as would be obviously unsuitable
for persons who are still on probation.

Should the prisoner have friends or relatives able and willing to
receive or assist him, they are communicated with, but should he be
entirely dependent on personal exertion, the agent or secretary at once
procures for him a decent outfit of clothes, and a lodging as far as
possible from the scene of his former companions. A small sum of money
is advanced for immediate subsistence, and he usually has employment
provided for him, either in a situation, at manual labour, or by being
set up in a small way at shoemaking, tailoring, or carpentering, either
as journeyman, or, where possible, on his own account.

From six to twenty prisoners at a time are discharged from one or other
of the convict establishments and brought to the Society's offices, and
of the younger men a considerable proportion are assisted to go to sea,
others--but, alas! too few--to emigrate, while a number obtain work as
builders and contractors' labourers; and others again resume former
occupations, as potmen, waiters, or employés in various situations,
where the masters are always (if they take them on the recommendation of
the Society) fully apprised of their position. A good many are set up
again as costermongers, and in that case the agent of the Society
quietly accompanies them to market, and advances the money for their
first purchases; others go into the country and obtain work, and not a
few of the better-educated or more skilled soon obtain engagements of
various kinds, by personal application, and without reference to the
Society, though they continue to report themselves, and to be kept in
view by the agents, and, being separated from evil companionship, and
feeling that they are not altogether friendless, retrieve their position
and regain an honourable reputation.

Of 514 men and women who were received by the Society during the year,
180 obtained employment in London and are doing well; 156 were sent to
places beyond the metropolitan district, and were placed under the
supervision of the local police; 32 were sent to relatives and friends
abroad; 57 obtained berths on board ship; 50 had failed to report and
notify their change of address as required by Act of Parliament; 23 had
been re-convicted; 6 were not satisfactorily reported on; one had died;
and 9, who had been recently discharged at the end of the year, were
waiting for employment at the time of the Report. To read the Report
Book, recording the visits of the agents or secretary to men employed in
various avocations, and to their friends or relatives, is very
encouraging, for it shows that of a large proportion, say seventy per
cent., there is a good hope of reclamation by their long continuance in
industrious efforts to retain their situations and to work honestly in
various callings; while the reports of country cases by clergymen in the
provinces is equally satisfactory, especially as they frequently record
the return of the former convict to his family and friends, amidst whom
he earns an honourable subsistence.

The female convicts, who are also received at the office, are, if they
cannot be sent to relatives and friends, mostly taken to a Refuge, which
has been established by the Society at Streatham, where they find a home
until situations can be obtained for them; and it is to the credit of
some earnest ladies who are willing to engage these discharged prisoners
as domestic servants that the result is often most favourable. A very
large proportion of the women return to friends, however. Of 53 who left
the Refuge at Streatham last year, 30 were received by friends, 18
obtained situations, 3 returned to Millbank Penitentiary, 1 emigrated,
and 1 died, 25 remaining at the Refuge at the time of the report.

In the case of these discharged female prisoners, as well as for the
sake of those men who would eagerly seize an opportunity of beginning
life anew in a new country, it would be most desirable if greater
facilities existed for promoting and assisting the emigration of such as
gave satisfactory evidence of reformation of character. The Society
finds its own funds, supported by contributions from the public, barely
sufficient to maintain, and insufficient largely to extend its useful
work. One of the committee, a resident in Canada, has rendered
invaluable assistance to emigrants recommended to his notice by the
Society. The governor of Dartmoor Prison in his Report, says:--

"I cannot too strongly again express my conviction that an emigration
scheme connected with the Aid Societies would be an invaluable aid to
the restoration of many casual criminals to a position of respectability
and honesty. It would be especially appreciated by those (unfortunately
a too numerous class) who had incurred the shorter sentences of penal
servitude as punishments for breaches of trust of various kinds. These
men are often cast off by their respectable friends, and, from the
shortness of their sentences, are unable to earn the additional
gratuity. With no lasting means of subsistence, and an overstocked
market for their labour, it is not to be wondered at if such men
speedily add a second conviction to their criminal career." Let us trust
that practical steps will be taken to remove this difficulty.



 _January, 1876._


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            By J. Tyndall, LL.D., F.R.S. With 14 Illustrations. Fifth
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_Forthcoming Volumes._

  Prof. W. KINGDON CLIFFORD, M.A. The First Principles of the Exact
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  Prof. T. H. HUXLEY, LL.D., F.R.S. Bodily Motion and Consciousness.

  Dr. W. B. CARPENTER, LL.D., F.R.S. The Physical Geography of the Sea.

  Prof. WILLIAM ODLING, F.R.S. The Old Chemistry viewed from the New

  W. LAUDER LINDSAY, M.D., F.R.S.E. Mind in the Lower Animals.

  Sir JOHN LUBBOCK, Bart., F.R.S. On Ants and Bees.

  Prof. W. T. THISELTON DYER, B.A., B.Sc. Form and Habit in Flowering

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      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

Apparent typographical errors have been corrected. Inconsistent
hyphenation has been retained.

A notice of an unrelated book from the same publisher has been shifted
to the end of the work.

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