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Alton Locke, Tailor And Poet by Rev. Charles Kingsley et al

Part 2 out of 10

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they make. The men usually have to pay 4d., and very often, 5d. for their
breakfast, and the same for their tea. The tea or breakfast is mostly a
pint of tea or coffee, and three to four slices of bread and butter. _I
worked for one sweater who almost starved the men; the smallest eater there
would not have had enough if he had got three times as much. They had only
three thin slices of bread and butter, not sufficient for a child, and the
tea was both weak and bad. The whole meal could not have stood him in 2d.
a head, and what made it worse was, that the men who worked there couldn't
afford to have dinners, so that they were starved to the bone._ The
sweater's men generally lodge where they work. A sweater usually keeps
about six men. These occupy two small garrets; one room is called the
kitchen, and the other the workshop; and here the whole of the six men, and
the sweater, his wife, and family, live and sleep. One sweater _I worked
with had four children and six men, and they, together with his wife,
sister-in-law, and himself, all lived in two rooms, the largest of which
was about eight feet by ten. We worked in the smallest room and slept there
as well--all six of us. There were two turnup beds in it, and we slept
three in a bed. There was no chimney, and, indeed, no ventilation whatever.
I was near losing my life there--the foul air of so many people working
all day in the place, and sleeping there at night, was quite suffocating.
Almost all the men were consumptive, and I myself attended the dispensary
for disease of the lungs. The room in which we all slept was not more than
six feet square. We were all sick and weak, and both to work._ Each of the
six of us paid 2s. 6d. a week for our lodging, or 15s. altogether, and I
am sure such a room as we slept and worked in might be had for 1s. a week;
you can get a room with a fire-place for 1s. 6d. a week. The usual sum that
the men working for sweaters pay for their tea, breakfasts, and lodging
is 6s. 6d. to 7s. a week, and they seldom earn more money in the week.
Occasionally at the week's end they are in debt to the sweater. This is
seldom for more than 6d., for the sweater will not give them victuals if
he has no work for them to do. Many who live and work at the sweater's are
married men, and are obliged to keep their wives and children in lodgings
by themselves. Some send them to the workhouse, others to their friends
in the country. Besides the profit of the board and lodging, the sweater
takes 6d. out of the price paid for every garment under 10s.; some take
1s., and I do know of one who takes as much as 2s. This man works for a
large show-shop at the West End. The usual profit of the sweater, over and
above the board and lodging, is 2s. out of every pound. Those who work
for sweaters soon lose their clothes, and are unable to seek for other
work, because they have not a coat to their back to go and seek it in.
_Last week, I worked with another man at a coat for one of her Majesty's
ministers, and my partner never broke his fast while he was making his half
of it._ The minister dealt at a cheap West End show-shop. All the workman
had the whole day-and-a-half he was making the coat was a little tea. But
sweaters' work is not so bad as government work after all. At that, we
cannot make more than 4s. or 5s. a week altogether--that is, counting the
time we are running after it, of course. _Government contract work is the
worst of all, and the starved-out and sweated-out tailor's last resource._
But still, government does not do the regular trade so much harm as the
cheap show and slop shops. These houses have ruined thousands. They have
cut down the prices, so that men cannot live at the work; and the masters
who did and would pay better wages, are reducing the workmen's pay every
day. They say they must either compete with the large show shops or go into
the 'Gazette.'"

Sweet competition! Heavenly maid!--Now-a-days hymned alike by
penny-a-liners and philosophers as the ground of all society--the only
real preserver of the earth! Why not of Heaven, too? Perhaps there is
competition among the angels, and Gabriel and Raphael have won their rank
by doing the maximum of worship on the minimum of grace? We shall know some
day. In the meanwhile, "these are thy works, thou parent of all good!"
Man eating man, eaten by man, in every variety of degree and method! Why
does not some enthusiastic political economist write an epic on "The
Consecration of Cannibalism"?

But if any one finds it pleasant to his soul to believe the poor
journeymen's statements exaggerated, let him listen to one of the sweaters

"I wish," says he, "that others did for the men as decently as I do. I
know there are many who are living entirely upon them. Some employ as many
as fourteen men. I myself worked in the house of a man who did this. The
chief part of us lived, and worked, and slept together in two rooms, on the
second floor. They charged 2s. 6d. per head for the lodging alone. Twelve
of the workmen, I am sure, lodged in the house, and these paid altogether
30s. a week rent to the sweater. I should think the sweater paid 8s. a week
for the rooms--so that he gained at least 22s. clear out of the lodging
of these men, and stood at no rent himself. For the living of the men he
charged--5d. for breakfasts, and the same for teas, and 8d. for dinner--or
at the rate of 10s. 6d. each per head. Taking one with the other, and
considering the manner in which they lived, I am certain that the cost for
keeping each of them could not have been more than 5s. This would leave 5s.
6d. clear profit on the board of each of the twelve men, or, altogether,
L3, 6s. per week; and this, added to the L1, 2s. profit on the rent, would
give L4, 8s. for the sweater's gross profit on the board and lodging of
the workmen in his place. But, besides this, he got 1s. out of each coat
made on his premises, and there were twenty-one coats made there, upon an
average, every week; so that, altogether, the sweater's clear gains out of
the men were L5, 9s. every week. Each man made about a coat and a half in
the course of the seven days (_for they all worked on a Sunday--they were
generally told to 'borrow a day off the Lord_.') For this coat and a half
each hand got L1, 2s. 6d., and out of it he had to pay 13s. for board and
lodging; so that there was 9s. 6d. clear left. These are the profits of the
sweater, and the earnings of the men engaged under him, when working for
the first rate houses. But many of the cheap houses pay as low as 8s. for
the making of each dress and frock coat, and some of them as low as 6s.
Hence the earnings of the men at such work would be from 9s. to 12s. per
week, and the cost of their board and lodging without dinners, for these
they seldom have, would be from 7s. 6d. to 8s. per week. Indeed, the men
working under sweaters at such prices generally consider themselves well
off if they have a shilling or two in their pockets for Sunday. The profits
of the sweater, however, would be from L4 to L5 out of twelve men, working
on his premises. The usual number of men working under each sweater is
about six individuals; and the average rate of profit, about L2, 10s.,
without the sweater doing any work himself. It is very often the case that
a man working under a sweater is obliged to pawn his own coat to get any
pocket-money that he may require. Over and over again the sweater makes out
that he is in his debt from 1s. to 2s. at the end of the week, and when
the man's coat is in pledge, he is compelled to remain imprisoned in the
sweater's lodgings for months together. In some sweating places, there is
an old coat kept called a "reliever," and this is borrowed by such men as
have none of their own to go out in. There are very few of the sweaters'
men who have a coat to their backs or a shoe to their feet to come out into
the streets on Sunday. Down about Fulwood's Rents, Holborn, I am sure I
would not give 6d. for the clothes that are on a dozen of them; and it is
surprising to me, working and living together in such numbers and in such
small close rooms, in narrow close back courts as they do, that they are
not all swept off by some pestilence. I myself have seen half-a-dozen men
at work in a room that was a little better than a bedstead long. It was as
much as one could do to move between the wall and the bedstead when it was
down. There were two bedsteads in this room, and they nearly filled the
place when they were down. The ceiling was so low, that I couldn't stand
upright in the room. There was no ventilation in the place. There was no
fireplace, and only a small window. When the window was open, you could
nearly touch the houses at the back, and if the room had not been at the
top of the house, the men could not have seen at all in the place. The
staircase was so narrow, steep, and dark, that it was difficult to grope
your way to the top of the house--it was like going up a steeple. This is
the usual kind of place in which the sweater's men are lodged. The reason
why there are so many Irishmen working for the sweaters is, because they
are seduced over to this country by the prospect of high wages and plenty
of work. They are brought over by the Cork boats at 10s. a-head, and when
they once get here, the prices they receive are so small, that they are
unable to go back. In less than a week after they get here, their clothes
are all pledged, and they are obliged to continue working under the

"The extent to which this system of 'street kidnapping' is carried on
is frightful. Young tailors, fresh from the country, are decoyed by the
sweaters' wives into their miserable dens, under extravagant promises of
employment, to find themselves deceived, imprisoned, and starved, often
unable to make their escape for months--perhaps years; and then only
fleeing from one dungeon to another as abominable."

In the meantime, the profits of the beasts of prey who live on these poor
fellows--both masters and sweaters--seem as prodigious as their cruelty.

Hear another working tailor on this point:--"In 1844, I belonged to the
honourable part of the trade. Our house of call supplied the present
show-shop with men to work on the premises. The prices then paid were at
the rate of 6d. per hour. For the same driving capes that they paid 18s.
then, they give only 12s. for now. For the dress and frock coats they gave
15s. then, and now they are 14s. The paletots and shooting coats were 12s.;
there was no coat made on the premises under that sum. At the end of the
season, they wanted to reduce the paletots to 9s. The men refused to make
them at that price, when other houses were paying as much as 15s. for them.
The consequence of this was, the house discharged all the men, and got a
Jew middle-man from the neighbourhood of Petticoat-lane, to agree to do
them all at 7s. 6d. a piece. The Jew employed all the poor people who were
at work for the slop warehouses in Houndsditch and its vicinity. This
Jew makes on an average 500 paletots a week. The Jew gets 2s. 6d. profit
out of each, and having no sewing trimmings allowed to him, he makes the
work-people find them. The saving in trimmings alone to the firm, since
the workmen left the premises, must have realized a small fortune to them.
Calculating men, women, and children, I have heard it said that the cheap
house at the West End employs 1,000 hands. The trimmings for the work done
by these would be about 6d. a week per head, so that the saving to the
house since the men worked on the premises has been no less than L1,300
a year, and all this taken out of the pockets of the poor. The Jew who
contracts for making the paletots is no tailor at all. A few years ago he
sold sponges in the street, and now he rides in his carriage. The Jew's
profits are 500 half-crowns, or L60 odd, per week--that is upwards of
L3,000 a-year. Women are mostly engaged at the paletot work. When I came to
work for the cheap show-shop I had L5, 10s. in the saving bank; now I have
not a half-penny in it. All I had saved went little by little to keep me
and my family. I have always made a point of putting some money by when I
could afford it, but since I have been at this work it has been as much as
I could do to _live_, much more to _save_. One of the firm for which I work
has been heard publicly to declare that he employed 1,000 hands constantly.
Now the earnings of these at the honourable part of the trade would be upon
an average, taking the skilful with the unskilful, 15s. a week each, or
L39,000 a year. But since they discharged the men from off their premises,
they have cut down the wages of the workmen one-half--taking one garment
with another--_though the selling prices remain the same to the public_, so
that they have saved by the reduction of the workmen's wages no less than
L19,500 per year. Every other quarter of a year something has been 'docked'
off our earnings, until it is almost impossible for men with families to
live decently by their labour; and now, for the first time, they pretend
to feel for them. They even talk of erecting a school for the children of
their workpeople; but where is the use of erecting schools, when they know
as well as we do, that at the wages they pay, the children must be working
for their fathers at home? They had much better erect workshops, and employ
the men on the premises at fair living wages, and then the men could
educate their own children, without being indebted to their charity."

On this last question of what the master-cannibals had "much better do," we
have somewhat to say presently. In the meantime, hear another of the things
which they had much better _not_ do. "Part of the fraud and deception of
the slop trade consists in the mode in which the public are made believe
that the men working for such establishments earn more money than they
really do. The plan practised is similar to that adopted by the army
clothier, who made out that the men working on his establishment made per
week from 15s. to 17s. each, whereas, on inquiry, it was found that a
considerable sum was paid out of that to those who helped to do the looping
for those who took it home. When a coat is given to me to make, a ticket is
handed to me with the garment, similar to this one which I have obtained
from a friend of mine.

| 448 |
| Mr. _Smith_ 6,675 Made by _M_ |
| _Ze_ = 12s. = _lined lustre |
| quilted double stitched |
| each side seams_ |
| |
| 448. No. 6,675. |
| o'clock _Friday_ |
| |
| Mr. _Smith_ |

On this you see the price is marked at 12s.," continued my informant, "and
supposing that I, with two others, could make three of these garments in
the week, the sum of thirty-six shillings would stand in the books of the
establishment as the amount earned by me in that space of time. This would
be sure to be exhibited to the customers, immediately that there was the
least outcry made about the starvation price they paid for their work, as
a proof that the workpeople engaged on their establishment received the
full prices; whereas, of that 36s. entered against my name, _I should have
had to pay 24s. to those who assisted me_; besides this, my share of the
trimmings and expenses would have been 1s. 6d., and probably my share of
the fires would be 1s. more; so that the real fact would be, that I should
make 9s. 6d. clear, and this it would be almost impossible to do, if I did
not work long over hours. I am obliged to keep my wife continually at work
helping me, in order to live."

In short, the condition of these men is far worse than that of the wretched
labourers of Wilts or Dorset. Their earnings are as low and often lower;
their trade requires a far longer instruction, far greater skill and
shrewdness; their rent and food are more expensive; and their hours of
work, while they have work, more than half as long again. Conceive sixteen
or eighteen hours of skilled labour in a stifling and fetid chamber,
earning not much more than 6s. 6d. or 7s. a week! And, as has been already
mentioned in one case, the man who will earn even that, must work all
Sunday. He is even liable to be thrown out of his work for refusing to work
on Sunday. Why not? Is there anything about one idle day in seven to be
found among the traditions of Mammon? When the demand comes, the supply
must come; and will, in spite of foolish auld-warld notion about keeping
days holy--or keeping contracts holy either, for, indeed, Mammon has no
conscience--right and wrong are not words expressible by any commercial
laws yet in vogue; and therefore it appears that to earn this wretched
pittance is by no means to get it. "For," says one, and the practice is
asserted to be general, almost universal, "there is at our establishment a
mode of reducing the price of our labour even lower than we have mentioned.
The prices we have stated are those _nominally_ paid for making the
garments; but it is not an uncommon thing in our shop for a man to make a
garment, and receive nothing at all for it. I remember a man once having a
waistcoat to do, the price of making which was 2s., and when he gave the
job in he was told that he owed the establishment 6d. The manner in which
this is brought about is by a system of fines. We are fined if we are
behind time with our job, 6d. the first hour, and 3d. for each hour that we
are late." "I have known as much as 7s. 6d. to be deducted off the price of
a coat on the score of want of punctuality," one said; "and, indeed, very
often the whole money is stopped. It would appear, as if our employers
themselves strove to make us late with our work, and so have an opportunity
of cutting down the price paid for our labour. They frequently put off
giving out the trimmings to us till the time at which the coat is due has
expired. If to the trimmer we return an answer that is considered 'saucy,'
we are find 6d. or 1s., according to the trimmer's temper." "I was called a
thief," another of the three declared, "and because I told the man I would
not submit to such language, I was fined 6d. These are the principal of
the in-door fines. The out-door fines are still more iniquitous. There are
full a dozen more fines for minor offences; indeed, we are fined upon every
petty pretext. We never know what we have to take on a Saturday, for the
meanest advantages are taken to reduce our wages. If we object to pay these
fines, we are told that we may leave; but they know full well that we are
afraid to throw ourselves out of work."

Folks are getting somewhat tired of the old rodomontade that a slave is
free the moment he sets foot on British soil! Stuff!--are these tailors
free? Put any conceivable sense you will on the word, and then say--are
they free? We have, thank God, emancipated the black slaves; it would seem
a not inconsistent sequel to that act to set about emancipating these
white ones. Oh! we forgot; there is an infinite difference between the two
cases--the black slaves worked for our colonies; the white slaves work for
_us_. But, indeed, if, as some preach, self-interest is the mainspring
of all human action, it is difficult to see who will step forward to
emancipate the said white slaves; for all classes seem to consider it
equally their interest to keep them as they are; all classes, though by
their own confession they are ashamed, are yet not afraid to profit by the
system which keeps them down.

Not only the master tailors and their underlings, but the retail tradesmen,
too, make their profit out of these abominations. By a method which smacks
at first sight somewhat of benevolence, but proves itself in practice to be
one of those "precious balms which break," not "the head" (for that would
savour of violence, and might possibly give some bodily pain, a thing
intolerable to the nerves of Mammon) but the heart--an organ which, being
spiritual, can of course be recognized by no laws of police or commerce.
The object of the State, we are told, is "the conservation of body and
goods"; there is nothing in that about broken hearts; nothing which should
make it a duty to forbid such a system as a working-tailor here describes--

"Fifteen or twenty years ago, such a thing as a journeyman tailor having
to give security before he could get work was unknown; but now I and such
as myself could not get a stitch to do first handed, if we did not either
procure the security of some householder, or deposit L5 in the hands of the
employer. The reason of this is, the journeymen are so badly paid, that the
employers know they can barely live on what they get, and consequently they
are often driven to pawn the garments given out to them, in order to save
themselves and their families from starving. If the journeyman can manage
to scrape together L5, he has to leave it in the hands of his employer all
the time that he is working for the house. I know one person who gives out
the work for a fashionable West End slop-shop that will not take household
security, and requires L5 from each hand. I am informed by one of the
parties who worked for this man that he has as many as 150 hands in
his employ, and that each of these has placed L5 in his hands, so that
altogether the poor people have handed over L750 to increase the capital
upon which he trades, and for which he pays no interest whatsoever."

This recalls a similar case (mentioned by a poor stay-stitcher in another
letter, published in the "Morning Chronicle"), of a large wholesale
staymaker in the City, who had amassed a large fortune by beginning to
trade upon the 5s. which he demanded to be left in his hands by his
workpeople before he gave them employment.

"Two or three years back one of the slopsellers at the East End became
bankrupt, and the poor people lost all the money that had been deposited
as security for work in his hands. The journeymen who get the security
of householders are enabled to do so by a system which is now in general
practice at the East End. Several bakers, publicans, chandler-shop keepers,
and coal-shed keepers, make a trade of becoming security for those seeking
slop-work. They consent to be responsible for the workpeople upon the
condition of the men dealing at their shops. The workpeople who require
such security are generally very good customers, from the fact of their
either having large families, all engaged in the same work, or else several
females or males working under them, and living at their house. The parties
becoming securities thus not only greatly increase their trade, but furnish
a second-rate article at a first-rate price. It is useless to complain of
the bad quality or high price of the articles supplied by the securities,
for the shopkeepers know, as well as the workpeople, that it is impossible
for the hands to leave them without losing their work. I know one baker
whose security was refused at the slop-shop because he was already
responsible for so many, and he begged the publican to be his deputy, so
that by this means the workpeople were obliged to deal at both baker's
and publican's too. I never heard of a butcher making a trade of becoming
security, _because the slopwork people cannot afford to consume much meat_.

"The same system is also pursued by lodging-house keepers. They will become
responsible if the workmen requiring security will undertake to lodge at
their house."

But of course the men most interested in keeping up the system are those
who buy the clothes of these cheap shops. And who are they? Not merely
the blackguard gent--the butt of Albert Smith and Punch, who flaunts at
the Casinos and Cremorne Gardens in vulgar finery wrung out of the souls
and bodies of the poor; not merely the poor lawyer's clerk or reduced
half-pay officer who has to struggle to look as respectable as his class
commands him to look on a pittance often no larger than that of the day
labourer--no, strange to say--and yet not strange, considering our modern
eleventh commandment--"Buy cheap and sell dear," the richest as well as the
poorest imitate the example of King Ryence and the tanners of Meudon, At
a great show establishment--to take one instance out of many--the very
one where, as we heard just now, "however strong and healthy a man may be
when he goes to work at that shop, in a month's time he will be a complete
shadow, and have almost all his clothes in pawn"--

"We have also made garments for Sir ---- ----, Sir ---- ----, Alderman
----, Dr. ----, and Dr. ----. We make for several of the aristocracy. We
cannot say whom, because the tickets frequently come to us as Lord ---- and
the Marquis of ----. This could not be a Jew's trick, because the buttons
on the liveries had coronets upon them. And again, we know the house is
patronized largely by the aristocracy, clergy, and gentry, by the number of
court-suits and liveries, surplices, regimentals, and ladies' riding-habits
that we continually have to make up. _There are more clergymen among the
customers than any other class, and often we have to work at home upon
the Sunday at their clothes, in order to get a living._ The customers are
mostly ashamed of dealing at this house, for the men who take the clothes
to the customers' houses in the cart have directions to pull up at the
corner of the street. We had a good proof of the dislike of gentlefolks to
have it known that they dealt at that shop for their clothes, for when the
trousers buttons were stamped with the name of the firm, we used to have
the garments returned, daily, to have other buttons put on them, and now
the buttons are unstamped"!!!

We shall make no comment on this extract. It needs none. If these men know
how their clothes are made, they are past contempt. Afraid of man, and not
afraid of God! As if His eye could not see the cart laden with the plunder
of the poor, because it stopped round the corner! If, on the other hand,
they do _not_ know these things, and doubtless the majority do not,--it is
their sin that they do not know it. Woe to a society whose only apology to
God and man is, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Men ought to know the condition
of those by whose labour they live. Had the question been the investment
of a few pounds in a speculation, these gentlemen would have been careful
enough about good security. Ought they to take no security when they invest
their money in clothes, that they are not putting on their backs accursed
garments, offered in sacrifice to devils, reeking with the sighs of the
starving, tainted--yes, tainted, indeed, for it comes out now that diseases
numberless are carried home in these same garments from the miserable
abodes where they are made. Evidence to this effect was given in 1844; but
Mammon was too busy to attend to it. These wretched creatures, when they
have pawned their own clothes and bedding, will use as substitutes the
very garments they are making. So Lord ----'s coat has been seen covering
a group of children blotched with small-pox. The Rev. D---- finds himself
suddenly unpresentable from a cutaneous disease, which it is not polite to
mention on the south of Tweed, little dreaming that the shivering dirty
being who made his coat has been sitting with his arms in the sleeves for
warmth while he stitched at the tails. The charming Miss C---- is swept off
by typhus or scarlatina, and her parents talk about "God's heavy judgment
and visitation"--had they tracked the girl's new riding-habit back to the
stifling undrained hovel where it served as a blanket to the fever-stricken
slopworker, they would have seen _why_ God had visited them, seen that His
judgments are true judgments, and give His plain opinion of the system
which "speaketh good of the covetous whom God abhorreth"--a system, to
use the words of the "Morning Chronicle's" correspondent, "unheard of
and unparalleled in the history of any country--a scheme so deeply laid
for the introduction and supply of under-paid labour to the market, that
it is impossible for the working man not to sink and be degraded, by it
into the lowest depths of wretchedness and infamy--a system which is
steadily and gradually increasing, and sucking more and more victims out
of the honourable trade, who are really intelligent artizans, living in
comparative comfort and civilization, into the dishonourable or sweating
trade in which the slopworkers are generally almost brutified by their
incessant toil, wretched pay, miserable food, and filthy homes."

But to us, almost the worse feature in the whole matter is, that the
government are not merely parties to, but actually the originators of this
system. The contract system, as a working tailor stated, in the name of the
rest, "had been mainly instrumental in destroying the living wages of the
working man. Now, the government were the sole originators of the system
of contracts and of sweating. Forty years ago, there was nothing known of
contracts, except government contracts; and at that period the contractors
were confined to making slops for the navy, the army, and the West India
slaves. It was never dreamt of then that such a system was to come
into operation in the better classes of trade, till ultimately it was
destructive of masters as well as men. The government having been the cause
of the contract system, and consequently of the sweating system, he called
upon them to abandon it. The sweating system had established the show shops
and the ticket system, both of which were countenanced by the government,
till it had become a fashion to support them.

"Even the court assisted to keep the system in fashion, and the royal arms
and royal warrants were now exhibited common enough by slopsellers."

Government said its duty was to do justice. But was it consistent with
justice to pay only 2s. 6d. for making navy jackets, which would be paid
10s. for by every 'honourable' tradesman? Was it consistent with justice
for the government to pay for Royal Marine clothing (private's coat and
epaulettes) 1s. 9d.? Was it consistent with justice for the government to
pay for making a pair of trousers (four or five hours' work) only 2-1/2d?
And yet, when a contractor, noted for paying just wages to those he
employed, brought this under the consideration of the Admiralty, they
declared they had nothing to do with it. Here is their answer:--

"Admiralty, March 19, 1847.

"Sir,--Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, your
letter of the 8th inst., calling their attention to the extremely low
prices paid for making up articles of clothing, provided for Her Majesty's
naval service, I am commanded by their lordships to acquaint you, that
they have no control whatever over the wages paid for making up contract
clothing. Their duty is to take care that the articles supplied are of good
quality, and well made: the cost of the material and the workmanship are
matters which rest with the contractor; and if the public were to pay him a
higher price than that demanded, it would not ensure any advantage to the
men employed by him, as their wages depend upon the amount of competition
for employment amongst themselves. I am, Sir, your most obedient servant,

"H. G. WARD.

"W. Shaw, Esq."

Oh most impotent conclusion, however officially cautious, and
"philosophically" correct! Even if the wages did depend entirely on the
amount of competition, on whom does the amount of competition depend?
Merely on the gross numbers of the workmen? Somewhat, too, one would think,
on the system according to which the labour and the wages are distributed.
But right or wrong, is it not a pleasant answer for the poor working
tailors, and one likely to increase their faith, hope, and charity towards
the present commercial system, and those who deny the possibility of any

"The government," says another tailor at the same meeting, "had really been
the means of reducing prices in the tailoring trade to so low a scale that
no human being, whatever his industry, could live and be happy in his lot.
The government were really responsible for the first introduction of female
labour. He would clearly prove what he had stated. He would refer first
to the army clothing. Our soldiers were comfortably clothed, as they had
a right to be; but surely the men who made the clothing which was so
comfortable, ought to be paid for their labour so as to be able to keep
themselves comfortable and their families virtuous. But it was in evidence,
that the persons working upon army clothing could not, upon an average,
earn more than 1s. a-day. Another government department, the post-office,
afforded a considerable amount of employment to tailors; but those who
worked upon the post-office clothing earned, at the most, only 1s. 6d.
a-day. The police clothing was another considerable branch of tailoring;
this, like the others, ought to be paid for at living prices; but the men
at work at it could only earn 1s. 6d. a-day, supposing them to work hard
all the time, fourteen or fifteen hours. The Custom House clothing gave
about the same prices. Now, all these sorts of work were performed by time
workers, who, as a natural consequence of the wages they received, were the
most miserable of human beings. Husband, wife, and family all worked at
it; they just tried to breathe upon it; to live it never could be called.
_Yet the same Government which paid such wretched wages, called upon the
wretched people to be industrious, to be virtuous, and happy_, How was
it possible, whatever their industry, to be virtuous and happy? The fact
was, the men who, at the slack season, had been compelled to fall back
upon these kinds of work, became so beggared and broken down by it,
notwithstanding the assistance of their wives and families, that they were
never able to rise out of it."

And now comes the question--What is to be done with these poor tailors, to
the number of between fifteen and twenty thousand? Their condition, as it
stands, is simply one of ever-increasing darkness and despair. The system
which is ruining them is daily spreading, deepening. While we write, fresh
victims are being driven by penury into the slopworking trade, fresh
depreciations of labour are taking place. Like Ulysses' companions in
the cave of Polyphemus, the only question among them is, to scramble so
far back as to have _a chance of being eaten at last_. Before them is
ever-nearing slavery, disease, and starvation. What can be done?

First--this can be done. That no man who calls himself a Christian--no
man who calls himself a man--shall ever disgrace himself by dealing at
any show-shop or slop-shop. It is easy enough to know them. The ticketed
garments, the impudent puffs; the trumpery decorations, proclaim
them,--every one knows them at first sight, He who pretends not to do so,
is simply either a fool or a liar. Let no man enter them--they are the
temples of Moloch--their thresholds are rank with human blood. God's curse
is on them, and on those who, by supporting them, are partakers of their
sins. Above all, let no clergyman deal at them. Poverty--and many clergymen
are poor--doubly poor, because society often requires them to keep up the
dress of gentlemen on the income of an artizan; because, too, the demands
on their charity are quadruple those of any other class--yet poverty is no
excuse. The thing is damnable--not Christianity only, but common humanity
cries out against it. Woe to those who dare to outrage in private the
principles which they preach in public! God is not mocked; and his curse
will find out the priest at the altar, as well as the nobleman in his

But it is so hard to deprive the public of the luxury of cheap clothes!
Then let the public look out for some other means of procuring that
priceless blessing. If that, on experiment, be found impossible--if the
comfort of the few be for ever to be bought by the misery of the many--if
civilization is to benefit every one except the producing class--then this
world is truly the devil's world, and the sooner so ill-constructed and
infernal a machine is destroyed by that personage, the better.

But let, secondly, a dozen, or fifty, or a hundred journeymen say to
one another: "It is competition that, is ruining us, and competition is
division, disunion, every man for himself, every man against his brother.
The remedy must be in association, co-operation, self-sacrifice for the
sake of one another. We can work together at the honourable tailor's
workshop--we can work and live together in the sweater's den for the
profit of our employers; why should we not work and live together in our
own workshops, or our own homes, for our own profit? The journeymen of
the honourable trade are just as much interested as the slopworkers in
putting down sweaters and slopsellers, since their numbers are constantly
decreasing, so that their turn must come some day. Let them, if no one else
does, lend money to allow us to set up a workshop of our own, a shop of our
own. If the money be not lent, still let us stint and strain ourselves to
the very bone, if it were only to raise one sweater's security-money, which
one of us should pay into the slopseller's hands, in his own name, but on
behalf of all: that will at least save one sweater's profit out of our
labour, and bestow it upon ourselves; and we will not spend that profit,
but hoard it, till we have squeezed out all the sweaters one by one. Then
we will open our common shop, and sell at as low a price as the cheapest
of the show shops. We _can_ do this,--by the abolition of sweaters'
profits,--by the using, as far as possible, of one set of fires, lights,
rooms, kitchens, and washhouses,--above all, by being true and faithful
to one another, as all partners should be. And, then, all that the master
slopsellers had better do, will be simply to vanish and become extinct."

And again, let one man, or half-a-dozen men arise, who believe that the
world is not the devil's world at all, but God's: that the multitude of
the people is not, as Malthusians aver, the ruin, but as Solomon believed,
"the strength of the rulers"; that men are not meant to be beasts of prey,
eating one another up by competition, as in some confined pike pond, where
the great pike having despatched the little ones, begin to devour each
other, till one overgrown monster is left alone to die of starvation. Let a
few men who have money, and believe that, arise to play the man.

Let them help and foster the growth of association by all means. Let them
advise the honourable tailors, while it is time, to save themselves from
being degraded into slopsellers by admitting their journeymen to a share in
profits. Let them encourage the journeymen to compete with Nebuchadnezzar &
Co. at their own game. Let them tell those journeymen that the experiment
is even now being tried, and, in many instances successfully, by no less
than one hundred and four associations of journeymen in Paris. Let them
remind them of that Great Name which the Parisian "ouvrier" so often
forgets--of Him whose everlasting Fatherhood is the sole ground of all
human brotherhood, whose wise and loving will is the sole source of all
perfect order and government. Let them, as soon as an association is
formed, provide for them a properly ventilated workshop, and let it out
to the associate tailors at a low, fair rent. I believe that they will
not lose by it--because it is right. God will take care of their money.
The world, it comes out now, is so well ordered by Him, that model
lodging-houses, public baths, wash-houses, insurance offices, all pay a
reasonable profit to those who invest money in them--perhaps associate
workshops may do the same. At all events, the owners of these show-shops
realize a far higher profit than need be, while the buildings required for
a tailoring establishment are surely not more costly than those absurd
plate-glass fronts, and brass scroll-work chandeliers, and puffs, and paid
poets. A large house might thus be taken, in some central situation, the
upper floors of which might be fitted up as model lodging-rooms for the
tailor's trade alone. The drawing-room floor might be the work-room; on the
ground floor the shop; and, if possible, a room of call or registration
office for unemployed journeymen, and a reading-room. Why should not this
succeed, if the owners of the house and the workers who rent it are only
true to one another? Every tyro in political economy knows that association
involves a saving both of labour and of capital. Why should it not succeed,
when every one connected with the establishment, landlords and workmen,
will have an interest in increasing its prosperity, and none whatever in
lowering the wages of any party employed?

But above all, so soon as these men are found working together for common
profit, in the spirit of mutual self-sacrifice, let every gentleman and
every Christian, who has ever dealt with, or could ever have dealt with,
Nebuchadnezzar and Co., or their fellows, make it a point of honour and
conscience to deal with the associated workmen, and get others to do the
like. _It is by securing custom, far more than by gifts or loans of money,
that we can help the operatives._ We should but hang a useless burthen of
debt round their necks by advancing capital, without affording them the
means of disposing of their produce.

Be assured, that the finding of a tailors' model lodging house, work rooms,
and shop, and the letting out of the two latter to an association, would
be a righteous act to do. If the plan does not pay, what then? only a part
of the money can be lost; and to have given that to an hospital or an
almshouse would have been called praiseworthy and Christian charity; how
much more to have spent it not in the cure, but in the prevention of
evil--in making almshouses less needful, and lessening the number of
candidates for the hospital!

Regulations as to police order, and temperance, the workmen must, and, if
they are worthy of the name of free men, they can organize for themselves.
Let them remember that an association of labour is very different from
an association of capital. The capitalist only embarks his money on the
venture; the workman embarks his time--that is, much at least of his
life. Still more different is the operatives' association from the single
capitalist, seeking only to realize a rapid fortune, and then withdraw. The
association knows no withdrawal from business; it must grow in length and
in breadth, outlasting rival slopsellers, swallowing up all associations
similar to itself, and which might end by competing with it. "Monopoly!"
cries a free-trader, with hair on end. Not so, good friend; there will
be no real free trade without association. Who tells you that tailors'
associations are to be the only ones?

Some such thing, as I have hinted, might surely be done. Where there is a
will there is a way. No doubt there are difficulties--Howard and Elizabeth
Fry, too, had their difficulties. Brindley and Brunel did not succeed at
the first trial. It is the sluggard only who is always crying, "There is a
lion in the streets." Be daring--trust in God, and He will fight for you;
man of money, whom these words have touched, godliness has the promise
of this life, as well as of that to come. The thing must be done, and
speedily; for if it be not done by fair means, it will surely do itself
by foul. The continual struggle of competition, not only in the tailors'
trade, but in every one which is not, like the navigator's or engineer's,
at a premium from its novel and extraordinary demand, will weaken and
undermine more and more the masters, who are already many of them
speculating on borrowed capital, while it will depress the workmen to a
point at which life will become utterly intolerable; increasing education
will serve only to make them the more conscious of their own misery; the
boiler will be strained to bursting pitch, till some jar, some slight
crisis, suddenly directs the imprisoned forces to one point, and then--

What then?

Look at France, and see.




I have addressed this preface to the young gentlemen of the University,
first, because it is my duty to teach such of them as will hear me, Modern
History; and I know no more important part of Modern History than the
condition and the opinions of our own fellow-countrymen, some of which are
set forth in this book.

Next, I have addressed them now, because I know that many of them, at
various times, have taken umbrage at certain scenes of Cambridge life drawn
in this book. I do not blame them for having done so. On the contrary, I
have so far acknowledged the justice of their censure, that while I have
altered hardly one other word in this book, I have re-written all that
relates to Cambridge life.

Those sketches were drawn from my own recollections of 1838-1842. Whether
they were overdrawn is a question between me and men of my own standing.

But the book was published in 1849; and I am assured by men in whom I have
the most thorough confidence, that my sketches had by then at least become
exaggerated and exceptional, and therefore, as a whole, untrue; that a
process of purification was going on rapidly in the University; and that I
must alter my words if I meant to give the working men a just picture of

Circumstances took the property and control of the book out of my hand, and
I had no opportunity of reconsidering and of altering the passages. Those
circumstances have ceased, and I take the first opportunity of altering all
which my friends tell me should be altered.

But even if, as early as 1849, I had not been told that I must do so, I
should have done so of my own accord, after the experiences of 1861. I have
received at Cambridge a courtesy and kindness from my elders, a cordial
welcome from my co-equals, and an earnest attention from the undergraduates
with whom I have come in contact, which would bind me in honour to say
nothing publicly against my University, even if I had aught to say. But I
have nought. I see at Cambridge nothing which does not gain my respect for
her present state and hope for her future. Increased sympathy between the
old and young, increased intercourse between the teacher and the taught,
increased freedom and charity of thought, and a steady purpose of internal
self-reform and progress, seem to me already bearing good fruit, by making
the young men regard their University with content and respect. And
among the young men themselves, the sight of their increased earnestness
and high-mindedness, increased sobriety and temperance, combined with a
manliness not inferior to that of the stalwart lads of twenty years ago,
has made me look upon my position among them as most noble, my work among
them as most hopeful, and made me sure that no energy which I can employ in
teaching them will ever have been thrown away.

Much of this improvement seems to me due to the late High-Church movement;
much to the influence of Dr. Arnold; much to that of Mr. Maurice; much to
the general increase of civilization throughout the country: but whatever
be the causes of it, the fact is patent; and I take delight in thus
expressing my consciousness of it.

Another change I must notice in the tone of young gentlemen, not only
at Cambridge, but throughout Britain, which is most wholesome and most
hopeful. I mean their altered tone in speaking to and of the labouring
classes. Thirty years ago, and even later, the young men of the labouring
classes were "the cads," "the snobs," "the blackguards"; looked on with a
dislike, contempt, and fear, which they were not backward to return, and
which were but too ready to vent themselves on both sides in ugly words and
deeds. That hateful severance between the classes was, I believe, an evil
of recent growth, unknown to old England. From the middle ages, up to the
latter years of the French war, the relation between the English gentry and
the labourers seems to have been more cordial and wholesome than in any
other country of Europe. But with the French Revolution came a change for
the worse. The Revolution terrified too many of the upper, and excited too
many of the lower classes; and the stern Tory system of repression, with
its bad habit of talking and acting as if "the government" and "the people"
were necessarily in antagonism, caused ever increasing bad blood. Besides,
the old feudal ties between class and class, employer and employed,
had been severed. Large masses of working people had gathered in the
manufacturing districts in savage independence. The agricultural labourers
had been debased by the abuses of the old Poor-law into a condition upon
which one looks back now with half-incredulous horror. Meanwhile, the
distress of the labourers became more and more severe. Then arose Luddite
mobs, meal mobs, farm riots, riots everywhere; Captain Swing and his
rickburners, Peterloo "massacres," Bristol conflagrations, and all the
ugly sights and rumours which made young lads, thirty or forty years ago,
believe (and not so wrongly) that "the masses" were their natural enemies,
and that they might have to fight, any year, or any day, for the safety of
their property and the honour of their sisters.

How changed, thank God! is all this now. Before the influence of religion,
both Evangelical and Anglican; before the spread of those liberal
principles, founded on common humanity and justice, the triumph of which we
owe to the courage and practical good sense of the Whig party; before the
example of a Court, virtuous, humane, and beneficent; the attitude of the
British upper classes has undergone a noble change. There is no aristocracy
in the world, and there never has been one, as far as I know, which has so
honourably repented, and brought forth fruits meet for repentance; which
has so cheerfully asked what its duty was, that it might do it. It is not
merely enlightened statesmen, philanthropists, devotees, or the working
clergy, hard and heartily as they are working, who have set themselves to
do good as a duty specially required of them by creed or by station. In
the generality of younger laymen, as far as I can see, a humanity (in the
highest sense of the word) has been awakened, which bids fair, in another
generation, to abolish the last remnants of class prejudices and class
grudges. The whole creed of our young gentlemen is becoming more liberal,
their demeanour more courteous, their language more temperate. They inquire
after the welfare, or at least mingle in the sports of the labouring man,
with a simple cordiality which was unknown thirty years ago; they are
prompt, the more earnest of them, to make themselves of use to him on the
ground of a common manhood, if any means of doing good are pointed out to
them; and that it is in any wise degrading to "associate with low fellows,"
is an opinion utterly obsolete, save perhaps among a few sons of squireens
in remote provinces, or of parvenus who cannot afford to recognize the
class from whence they themselves have risen. In the army, thanks to the
purifying effect of the Crimean and Indian wars, the same altered tone
is patent. Officers feel for and with their men, talk to them, strive to
instruct and amuse them more and more year by year; and--as a proof that
the reform has not been forced on the officers by public opinion from
without, but is spontaneous and from within, another instance of the
altered mind of the aristocracy--the improvement is greatest in those
regiments which are officered by men of the best blood; and in care for
and sympathy with their men, her Majesty's Footguards stands first of all.
God grant that the friendship which exists there between the leaders and
the led may not be tested to the death amid the snow-drift or on the
battle-field; but if it be so, I know too that it will stand the test.

But if I wish for one absolute proof of the changed relation between
the upper and the lower classes, I have only to point to the volunteer
movement. In 1803, in the face of the most real and fatal danger, the
Addington ministry was afraid of allowing volunteer regiments, and Lord
Eldon, while pressing the necessity, could use as an argument that if the
people did not volunteer for the Government, they would against it. So
broad was even then the gulf between the governed and the governors. How
much broader did it become in after years! Had invasion threatened us at
any period between 1815 and 1830, or even later, would any ministry have
dared to allow volunteer regiments? Would they have been justified in doing
so, even if they had dared?

And now what has come to pass, all the world knows: but all the world
should know likewise, that it never would have come to pass save for--not
merely the late twenty years of good government in State, twenty years
of virtue and liberality in the Court, but--the late twenty years of
increasing right-mindedness in the gentry, who have now their reward in
finding that the privates in the great majority of corps prefer being
officered by men of a rank socially superior to their own. And as good
always breeds fresh good, so this volunteer movement, made possible by the
goodwill between classes, will help in its turn to increase that goodwill.
Already, by the performance of a common duty, and the experience of a
common humanity, these volunteer corps are become centres of cordiality
between class and class; and gentleman, tradesman, and workman, the more
they see of each other, learn to like, to trust, and to befriend each other
more and more; a good work in which I hope the volunteers of the University
of Cambridge will do their part like men and gentlemen; when, leaving this
University, they become each of them, as they ought, an organizing point
for fresh volunteers in their own districts.

I know (that I may return to Cambridge) no better example of the way in
which the altered tone of the upper classes and the volunteer movement
have acted and reacted upon each other, than may be seen in the
Cambridge Working Men's College, and its volunteer rifle corps, the 8th

There we have--what perhaps could not have existed, what certainly did not
exist twenty years ago--a school of a hundred men or more, taught for the
last eight years gratuitously by men of the highest attainments in the
University; by a dean--to whom, I believe, the success of the attempt is
mainly owing; by professors, tutors, prizemen, men who are now head-masters
of public schools, who have given freely to their fellow-men knowledge
which has cost them large sums of money and the heavy labour of years.
Without insulting them by patronage, without interfering with their
religious opinions, without tampering with their independence in any wise,
but simply on the ground of a common humanity, they have been helping to
educate these men, belonging for the most part, I presume, to the very
class which this book sets forth as most unhappy and most dangerous--the
men conscious of unsatisfied and unemployed intellect. And they have their
reward in a practical and patent form. Out of these men a volunteer corps
is organized, officered partly by themselves, partly by gentlemen of the
University; a nucleus of discipline, loyalty, and civilization for the
whole population of Cambridge.

A noble work this has been, and one which may be the parent of works nobler
still. It is the first instalment of, I will not say a debt, but a duty,
which the Universities owe to the working classes. I have tried to express
in this book, what I know were, twenty years ago, the feelings of clever
working men, looking upon the superior educational advantages of our class.
I cannot forget, any more than the working man, that the Universities
were not founded exclusively, or even primarily, for our own class; that
the great mass of students in the middle ages were drawn from the lower
classes, and that sizarships, scholarships, exhibitions, and so forth, were
founded for the sake of those classes, rather than of our own. How the case
stands now, we all know. I do not blame the Universities for the change. It
has come about, I think, simply by competition. The change began, I should
say, in the sixteenth century. Then, after the Wars of the Roses, and the
revival of letters, and the dissolution of the monasteries, the younger
sons of gentlemen betook themselves to the pursuit of letters, fighting
having become treasonable, and farming on a small scale difficult (perhaps
owing to the introduction of large sheep-farms, which happened in those
days), while no monastic orders were left to recruit the Universities, as
they did continually through the middle ages, from that labouring-class to
which they and their scholars principally belonged.

So the gentlemen's sons were free to compete against the sons of working
men; and by virtue of their superior advantages they beat them out of
the field. We may find through the latter half of the sixteenth and the
beginning of the seventeenth centuries, bequest after bequest for the
purpose of stopping this change, and of enabling poor men's sons to enter
the Universities; but the tendency was too strong to be effectually
resisted then. Is it too strong to be resisted now? Does not the increased
civilization and education of the working classes call on the Universities
to consider whether they may not now try to become, what certainly they
were meant to be, places of teaching and training for genius of every
rank, and not merely for that of young gentlemen? Why should not wealthy
Churchmen, in addition to the many good deeds in which they employ their
wealth now-a-days, found fresh scholarships and exhibitions, confined to
the sons of working men? If it be asked, how can they be so confined? What
simpler method than that of connecting them with the National Society, and
bestowing them exclusively on lads who have distinguished themselves in our
National Schools? I believe that money spent in such a way, would be well
spent both for the Nation, the Church, and the University. As for the
introduction of such a class of lads lowering the tone of the University, I
cannot believe it. There is room enough in Cambridge for men of every rank.
There are still, in certain colleges, owing to circumstances which I should
be very sorry to see altered, a fair sprinkling of young men who, at least
before they have passed through a Cambridge career, would not be called
well-bred. But they do not lower the tone of the University; the tone of
the University raises them. Wherever there is intellectual power, good
manners are easily acquired; the public opinion of young men expresses
itself so freely, and possibly coarsely, that priggishness and forwardness
(the faults to which a clever National School pupil would be most prone)
are soon hammered out of any Cambridge man; and the result is, that some of
the most distinguished and most popular men in Cambridge, are men who have
"risen from the ranks." All honour to them for having done so. But if they
have succeeded so well, may there not be hundreds more in England who would
succeed equally? and would it not be as just to the many, as useful to the
University, in binding her to the people and the people to her, to invent
some method for giving those hundreds a fair chance?

I earnestly press this suggestion (especially at the present time of
agitation among Churchmen on the subject of education) upon the attention,
not of the University itself, but of those wealthy men who wish well both
to the University and to the people. Not, I say, of the University: it is
not from her that the proposal must come, but from her friends outside. She
is doing her best with the tools which she has; fresh work will require
fresh tools, and I trust that such will be some day found for her.

I have now to tell those of them who may read this book, that it is not
altogether out of date.

Those political passions, the last outburst of which it described, have,
thank God, become mere matter of history by reason of the good government
and the unexampled prosperity of the last twelve years: but fresh outbursts
of them are always possible in a free country, whenever there is any
considerable accumulation of neglects and wrongs; and meanwhile it is
well--indeed it is necessary--for every student of history to know what
manner of men they are who become revolutionaries, and what causes drive
them to revolution; that they may judge discerningly and charitably of
their fellow-men, whenever they see them rising, however madly, against the
powers that be.

As for the social evils described in this book, they have been much
lessened in the last few years, especially by the movement for Sanatory
Reform: but I must warn young men that they are not eradicated; that for
instance, only last year, attention was called by this book to the working
tailors in Edinburgh, and their state was found, I am assured, to be
even more miserable than that of the London men in 1848. And I must warn
them also that social evils, like dust and dirt, have a tendency to
re-accumulate perpetually; so that however well this generation may have
swept their house (and they have worked hard and honestly at it), the
rising generation will have assuredly in twenty years' time to sweep it
over again.

One thing more I have to say, and that very earnestly, to the young men of
Cambridge. They will hear a "Conservative Reaction" talked of as imminent,
indeed as having already begun. They will be told that this reaction is
made more certain by the events now passing in North America; they will be
bidden to look at the madnesses of an unbridled democracy, to draw from
them some such lesson as the young Spartans were to draw from the drunken
Helots, and to shun with horror any further attempts to enlarge the

But if they have learnt (as they should from the training of this
University) accuracy of thought and language, they will not be content with
such vague general terms as "Conservatism" and "Democracy": but will ask
themselves--If this Conservative Reaction is at hand, what things is it
likely to conserve; and still more, what ought it to conserve? If the
violences and tyrannies of American Democracy are to be really warnings
to, then in what points does American Democracy coincide with British
Democracy?--For so far and no farther can one be an example or warning for
the other.

And looking, as they probably will under the pressure of present
excitement, at the latter question first, they will surely see that no
real analogy would exist between American and English Democracy, even were
universal suffrage to be granted to-morrow.

For American Democracy, being merely arithmocratic, provides no
representation whatsoever for the more educated and more experienced
minority, and leaves the conduct of affairs to the uneducated and
inexperienced many, with such results as we see. But those results are, I
believe, simply impossible in a country which possesses hereditary Monarchy
and a House of Lords, to give not only voice, but practical power to
superior intelligence and experience. Mr. J. S. Mill, Mr. Stapleton, and
Mr. Hare have urged of late the right of minorities to be represented as
well as majorities, and have offered plans for giving them a fair hearing.
That their demands are wise, as well as just, the present condition of the
Federal States proves but too painfully. But we must not forget meanwhile,
that the minorities of Britain are not altogether unrepresented. In a
hereditary Monarch who has the power to call into his counsels, private and
public, the highest intellect of the land; in a House of Lords not wholly
hereditary, but recruited perpetually from below by the most successful
(and therefore, on the whole, the most capable) personages; in a free
Press, conducted in all its most powerful organs by men of character and
of liberal education, I see safeguards against any American tyranny of
numbers, even if an enlargement of the suffrage did degrade the general
tone of the House of Commons as much as some expect.

As long, I believe, as the Throne, the House of Lords, and the Press, are
what, thank God, they are, so long will each enlargement of the suffrage be
a fresh source not of danger, but of safety; for it will bind the masses to
the established order of things by that loyalty which springs from content;
from the sense of being appreciated, trusted, dealt with not as children,
but as men.

There are those who will consider such language as this especially
ill-timed just now, in the face of Strikes and Trades' Union outrages.
They point to these things as proofs of the unfitness of workmen for the
suffrage; they point especially to the late abominable murder at Sheffield,
and ask, not without reason, would you give political power to men who
would do that?

Now that the Sheffield murder was in any wise planned or commanded by the
Trades' Unions in general, I do not believe; nor, I think, does any one
else who knows aught of the British workman. If it was not, as some of the
Sheffield men say, a private act of revenge, it was the act of only one
or two Trades' Unions of that town, which are known; and their conduct
has been already reprobated and denounced by the other Trades' Unions of
England, But there is no denying that the case as against the Trades'
Unions is a heavy one. It is notorious that they have in past years planned
and commanded illegal acts of violence. It is patent that they are too apt,
from a false sense of class-honour, to connive at such now, instead of
being, as they ought to be, the first to denounce them. The workmen will
not see, that by combining in societies for certain purposes, they make
those societies responsible for the good and lawful behaviour of all their
members, in all acts tending to further those purposes, and are bound to
say to every man joining a Trades' Union: "You shall do nothing to carry
out the objects which we have in view, save what is allowed by British
Law." They will not see that they are outraging the first principles of
justice and freedom, by dictating to any man what wages he should receive,
what master he shall work for, or any other condition which interferes with
his rights as a free agent.

But, in the face of these facts (and very painful and disappointing
they are to me), I will ask the upper classes: Do you believe that the
average of Trades' Union members are capable of such villanies as that at
Sheffield? Do you believe that the average of them are given to violence
or illegal acts at all, even though they may connive at such acts in their
foolish and hasty fellows, by a false class-honour, not quite unknown,
I should say, in certain learned and gallant professions? Do you fancy
that there are not in these Trades' Unions, tens of thousands of loyal,
respectable, rational, patient men, as worthy of the suffrage as any
average borough voter? If you do so, you really know nothing about the
British workman. At least, you are confounding the workman of 1861 with the
workman of 1831, and fancying that he alone, of all classes, has gained
nothing by the increased education, civilization, and political experience
of thirty busy and prosperous years. You are unjust to the workman; and
more, you are unjust to your own class. For thirty years past, gentlemen
and ladies of all shades of opinion have been labouring for and among the
working classes, as no aristocracy on earth ever laboured before; and do
you suppose that all that labour has been in vain? That it has bred in the
working classes no increased reverence for law, no increased content with
existing institutions, no increased confidence in the classes socially
above them? If so, you must have as poor an opinion of the capabilities of
the upper classes, as you have of those of the lower.

So far from the misdoings of Trades' Unions being an argument against the
extension of the suffrage, they are, in my opinion, an argument for it. I
know that I am in a minority just now. I know that the common whisper is
now, not especially of those who look for a Conservative reaction, that
these Trades' Unions must be put down by strong measures: and I confess
that I hear such language with terror. Punish, by all means, most severely,
all individual offences against individual freedom, or personal safety;
but do not interfere, surely, with the Trades' Unions themselves. Do not
try to bar these men of their right as free Englishmen to combine, if they
choose, for what they consider their own benefit. Look upon these struggles
between employers and employed as fair battles, in which, by virtue of the
irreversible laws of political economy, the party who is in the right is
almost certain to win; and interfere in no wise, save to see fair play, and
lawful means used on both sides alike. If you do more; if you interfere
in any wise with the Trades' Unions themselves, you will fail, and fail
doubly. You will not prevent the existence of combinations: you will only
make them secret, dark, revolutionary: you will demoralize the working man
thereby as surely as the merchant is demoralized by being converted into a
smuggler; you will heap up indignation, spite, and wrath against the day
of wrath; and finally, to complete your own failure, you will drive the
working man to demand an extension of the suffrage, in tones which will
very certainly get a hearing. He cares, or seems to care, little about
the suffrage now, just because he thinks that he can best serve his own
interests by working these Trades' Unions. Take from him that means of
redress (real or mistaken, no matter); and he will seek redress in a way in
which you wish him still less to seek it; by demanding a vote and obtaining

That consummation, undesirable as it may seem to many, would perhaps be the
best for the peace of the trades. These Trades' Unions, still tainted with
some of the violence, secrecy, false political economy which they inherit
from the evil times of 1830-40, last on simply, I believe, because the
workman feels that they are his only organ, that he has no other means of
making his wants and his opinions known to the British Government. Had he a
vote, he believes (and I believe with him) he could send at least a few men
to Parliament who would state his case fairly in the House of Commons, and
would not only render a reason for him, but hear reason against him, if
need were. He would be content with free discussion if he could get that.
It is the feeling that he cannot get it that drives him often into crooked
and dark ways. If any answer, that the representatives, whom he would
choose would be merely noisy demagogues, I believe them to be mistaken.
No one can have watched the Preston strike, however much he may have
disapproved, as I did, of the strike itself, without seeing from the
temper, the self-restraint, the reasonableness, the chivalrous honour of
the men, that they were as likely to choose a worthy member for the House
of Commons as any town constituency in England; no one can have watched the
leaders of the working men for the last ten years without finding among
them men capable of commanding the attention and respect of the House of
Commons, not merely by their eloquence, surprising as that is, but by their
good sense, good feeling, and good breeding.

Some training at first, some rubbing off of angles, they might require:
though two at least I know, who would require no such training, and who
would be ornaments to any House of Commons; the most inexperienced of the
rest would not give the House one-tenth the trouble which is given by a
certain clique among the representatives of the sister Isle; and would,
moreover, learn his lesson in a week, instead of never learning it at all,
like some we know too well. Yet Catholic emancipation has pacified Ireland,
though it has brought into the House an inferior stamp of members: and much
more surely would an extension of the suffrage pacify the trades, while
it would bring into the House a far superior stamp of member to those who
compose the clique of which I have spoken.

But why, I hear some one say impatiently, talk about this subject of all
others at this moment, when nobody, not even the working classes, cares
about a Reform Bill?

Because I am speaking to young men, who have not yet entered public life;
and because I wish them to understand, that just because the question of
parliamentary reform is in abeyance now, it will not be in abeyance ten
years or twenty years hence. The question will be revived, ere they are
in the maturity of their manhood; and they had best face that certain
prospect, and learn to judge wisely and accurately on the subject, before
they are called on, as they will be, to act upon it. If it be true that the
present generation has done all that it can do, or intends to do, towards
the suffrage (and I have that confidence in our present rulers, that I
would submit without murmuring to their decision on the point), it is
all the more incumbent on the rising generation to learn how to do (as
assuredly they will have to do) the work which their fathers have left
undone. The question may remain long in abeyance, under the influence of
material prosperity such as the present; or under the excitement of a war,
as in Pitt's time; but let a period of distress or disaster come, and it
will be re-opened as of yore. The progress towards institutions more and
more popular may be slow, but it is sure. Whenever any class has conceived
the hope of being fairly represented, it is certain to fulfil its own
hopes, unless it employs, or provokes, violence impossible in England.
The thing will be. Let the young men of Britain take care that it is done
rightly when it is done.

And how ought it to be done? That will depend upon any circumstances now
future and uncertain. It will depend upon the pace at which sound education
spreads among the working classes. It will depend, too, very much--I fear
only too much--upon the attitude of the upper classes to the lower, in this
very question of Trades' Unions and of Strikes. It will depend upon their
attitude toward the unrepresented classes during the next few years, upon
this very question of extended suffrage. And, therefore, I should advise,
I had almost said entreat, any young men over whom I have any influence,
to read and think freely and accurately upon the subject; taking, if
I may propose to them a text-book, Mr. Mill's admirable treatise on
"Representative Government." As for any theory of my own, if I had one
I should not put it forward. How it will not be done, I can see clearly
enough. It will not be done well by the old charter. It will not be done
well by merely lowering the money qualification of electors. But it may
be done well by other methods beside; and I can trust the freedom and
soundness of the English mind to discover the best method of all, when it
is needed.

Let therefore this "Conservative Reaction" which I suspect is going on in
the minds of many young men at Cambridge, consider what it has to conserve.
It is not asked to conserve the Throne. That, thank God, can take good care
of itself. Let it conserve the House of Lords; and that will be conserved,
just in proportion as the upper classes shall copy the virtues of Royalty;
both of him who is taken from us, and of her who is left. Let the upper
classes learn from them, that the just and wise method of strengthening
their political power, is to labour after that social power, which comes
only by virtue and usefulness. Let them make themselves, as the present
Sovereign has made herself, morally necessary to the people; and then there
is no fear of their being found politically unnecessary. No other course
is before them, if they wish to make their "Conservative Reaction" a
permanent, even an endurable fact. If any young gentlemen fancy (and some
do) that they can strengthen their class by making any secret alliance with
the Throne against the masses, then they will discover rapidly that the
sovereigns of the House of Brunswick are grown far too wise, and far too
noble-hearted, to fall once more into that trap. If any of them (and some
do) fancy that they can better their position by sneering, whether in
public or in their club, at a Reformed House of Commons and a Free Press,
they will only accelerate the results which they most dread, by forcing
the ultra-liberal party of the House, and, what is even worse, the most
intellectual and respectable portion of the Press, to appeal to the people
against them; and if again they are tempted (as too many of them are) to
give up public life as becoming too vulgar for them, and prefer ease and
pleasure to the hard work and plain-speaking of the House of Commons; then
they will simply pay the same penalty for laziness and fastidiousness which
has been paid by the Spanish aristocracy; and will discover that if they
think their intellect unnecessary to the nation, the nation will rapidly
become of the same opinion, and go its own way without them.

But if they are willing to make themselves, as they easily can, the
best educated, the most trustworthy, the most virtuous, the most truly
liberal-minded class of the commonweal; if they will set themselves to
study the duties of rank and property, as of a profession to which they are
called by God, and the requirements of which they must fulfil; if they will
acquire, as they can easily, a sound knowledge both of political economy,
and of the social questions of the day; if they will be foremost with
their personal influence in all good works; if they will set themselves
to compete on equal terms with the classes below them, and, as they may,
outrival them: then they will find that those classes will receive them not
altogether on equal terms; that they will accede to them a superiority,
undefined perhaps, but real and practical enough to conserve their class
and their rank, in every article for which a just and prudent man would

But if any young gentlemen look forward (as I fear a few do still) to a
Conservative Reaction of any other kind than this; to even the least return
to the Tory maxims and methods of George the Fourth's time; to even the
least stoppage of what the world calls progress--which I should define
as the putting in practice the results of inductive science; then do
they, like king Picrochole in Rabelais, look for a kingdom which shall be
restored to them at the coming of the Cocqcigrues. The Cocqcigrues are
never coming; and none know that better than the present able and moderate
leaders of the Conservative party; none will be more anxious to teach that
fact to their young adherents, and to make them swim with the great stream,
lest it toss them contemptuously ashore upon its banks, and go on its way

Return to the system of 1800--1830, is, I thank God, impossible. Even
though men's hearts should fail them, they must onward, they know not
whither: though God does know. The bigot, who believes in a system, and not
in the living God; the sentimentalist, who shrinks from facts because they
are painful to his taste; the sluggard, who hates a change because it
disturbs his ease; the simply stupid person, who cannot use his eyes and
ears; all these may cry feebly to the world to do what it has never done
since its creation--stand still awhile, that they may get their breaths.
But the brave and honest gentleman--who believes that God is not the
tempter and deceiver, but the father and the educator of man--he will
not shrink, even though the pace may be at moments rapid, the path be at
moments hid by mist; for he will believe that freedom and knowledge, as
well as virtue, are the daughters of the Most High; and he will follow them
and call on the rest to follow them, whithersoever they may lead; and will
take heart for himself and for his class, by the example of that great
Prince who is of late gone home. For if, like that most royal soul, he and
his shall follow with single eye and steadfast heart, freedom, knowledge,
and virtue; then will he and his be safe, as Royalty is safe in England
now; because both God and man have need thereof.


_Written in 1854._


My Friends,--Since I wrote this book five years ago, I have seen a good
deal of your class, and of their prospects. Much that I have seen has given
me great hope; much has disappointed me; nothing has caused me to alter the
opinions here laid down.

Much has given me hope; especially in the North of England. I believe that
there, at least, exists a mass of prudence, self-control, genial and sturdy
manhood, which will be England's reserve-force for generations yet to come.
The last five years, moreover, have certainly been years of progress for
the good cause. The great drag upon it--namely, demagogism--has crumbled to
pieces of its own accord; and seems now only to exhibit itself in anilities
like those of the speakers who inform a mob of boys and thieves that wheat
has lately been thrown into the Thames to keep up prices, or advise them
to establish, by means hitherto undiscovered, national granaries, only
possible under the despotism of a Pharaoh. Since the 10th of April, 1848
(one of the most lucky days which the English workman ever saw), the trade
of the mob-orator has dwindled down to such last shifts as these, to which
the working man sensibly seems merely to answer, as he goes quietly about
his business, "Why will you still keep talking, Signor Benedick? Nobody
marks you."

But the 10th of April, 1848, has been a beneficial crisis, not merely in
the temper of the working men, so called, but in the minds of those who are
denominated by them "the aristocracy." There is no doubt that the classes
possessing property have been facing, since 1848, all social questions with
an average of honesty, earnestness, and good feeling which has no parallel
since the days of the Tudors, and that hundreds and thousands of "gentlemen
and ladies" in Great Britain now are saying, "Show what we ought to do to
be just to the workman, and we will do it, whatsoever it costs." They may
not be always correct (though they generally are so) in their conceptions
of what ought to be done; but their purpose is good and righteous; and
those who hold it are daily increasing in number. The love of justice and
mercy toward the handicraftsman is spreading rapidly as it never did before
in any nation upon earth; and if any man still represents the holders of
property, as a class, as the enemies of those whom they employ, desiring
their slavery and their ignorance, I believe that he is a liar and a child
of the devil, and that he is at his father's old work, slandering and
dividing between man and man. These words may be severe: but they are
deliberate; and working men are, I hope, sufficiently accustomed to hear me
call a spade a spade, when I am pleading for them, to allow me to do the
same when I am pleading to them.

Of the disappointing experiences which I have had I shall say nothing,
save in as far as I can, by alluding to them, point out to the working man
the causes which still keep him weak: but I am bound to say that those
disappointments have strengthened my conviction that this book, in the
main, speaks the truth.

I do not allude, of course, to the thoughts, and feelings of the hero. They
are compounded of right and wrong, and such as I judged (and working men
whom I am proud to number among my friends have assured me that I judged
rightly) that a working man of genius would feel during the course of
his self-education. These thoughts and feelings (often inconsistent and
contradictory to each other), stupid or careless, or ill-willed persons,
have represented as my own opinions, having, as it seems to me, turned
the book upside down before they began to read it. I am bound to pay the
working men, and their organs in the press, the compliment of saying that
no such misrepresentations proceeded from them. However deeply some of
them may have disagreed with me, all of them, as far as I have been able
to judge, had sense to see what I meant; and so, also, have the organs of
the High-Church party, to whom, differing from them on many points, I am
equally bound to offer my thanks for their fairness. But, indeed, the way
in which this book, in spite of its crudities, has been received by persons
of all ranks and opinions, who instead of making me an offender for a
word, have taken the book heartily and honestly, in the spirit and not in
the letter, has made me most hopeful for the British mind, and given me
a strong belief that, in spite of all foppery, luxury, covetousness, and
unbelief, the English heart is still strong and genial, able and willing
to do and suffer great things, as soon as the rational way of doing and
suffering them becomes plain. Had I written this book merely to please
my own fancy, this would be a paltry criterion, at once illogical and
boastful; but I wrote it, God knows, in the fear of God, that I might speak
what seems to me the truth of God. I trusted in Him to justify me, in spite
of my own youth, inexperience, hastiness, clumsiness; and He has done it;
and, I trust, will do it to the end.

And now, what shall I say to you, my friends, about the future? Your
destiny is still in your own hands. For the last seven years you have let
it slip through your fingers. If you are better off than you were in 1848,
you owe it principally to those laws of political economy (as they are
called), which I call the brute natural accidents of supply and demand, or
to the exertions which have been made by upright men of the very classes
whom demagogues taught you to consider as your natural enemies. Pardon me
if I seem severe; but, as old Aristotle has it, "Both parties being my
friends, it is a sacred duty to honour truth first." And is this not the
truth? How little have the working men done to carry out that idea of
association in which, in 1848-9, they were all willing to confess their
salvation lay. Had the money which was wasted in the hapless Preston strike
been wisely spent in relieving the labour market by emigration, or in
making wages more valuable by enabling the workman to buy from co-operative
stores and mills his necessaries at little above cost price, how much
sorrow and heart-burning might have been saved to the iron-trades. Had the
real English endurance and courage which was wasted in that strike been
employed in the cause of association, the men might have been, ere now, far
happier than they are ever likely to be, without the least injury to the
masters. What, again, has been done toward developing the organization
of the Trades' Unions into its true form, Association for distribution,
from its old, useless, and savage form of Association for the purpose of
resistance to masters--a war which is at first sight hopeless, even were it
just, because the opposite party holds in his hand the supplies of his foe
as well as his own, and therefore can starve him out at his leisure? What
has been done, again, toward remedying the evils of the slop system, which
this book especially exposed? The true method for the working men, if they
wished to save their brothers and their brothers' wives and daughters from
degradation, was to withdraw their custom from the slopsellers, and to
deal, even at a temporary increase of price, with associate workmen. Have
they done so? They can answer for themselves. In London (as in the country
towns), the paltry temptation of buying in the cheapest market has still
been too strong for the labouring man. In Scotland and in the North of
England, thank God, the case has been very different; and to the North I
must look still, as I did when I wrote Alton Locke, for the strong men in
whose hands lies the destiny of the English handicraftsman.

God grant that the workmen of the South of England may bestir themselves
ere it be too late, and discover that the only defence against want is
self-restraint; the only defence against slavery, obedience to rule; and
that, instead of giving themselves up, bound hand and foot, by their own
fancy for a "freedom" which is but selfish and conceited license, to the
brute accidents of the competitive system, they may begin to organize
among themselves associations for buying and selling the necessaries of
life, which may enable them to weather the dark season of high prices and
stagnation, which is certain sooner or later, to follow in the footsteps of

On politics I have little to say. My belief remains unchanged that true
Christianity, and true monarchy also, are not only compatible with, but
require as their necessary complement, true freedom for every man of every
class; and that the Charter, now defunct, was just as wise and as righteous
a "Reform Bill" as any which England had yet had, or was likely to have.
But I frankly say that my experience of the last five years gives me little
hope of any great development of the true democratic principle in Britain,
because it gives me little sign that the many are fit for it. Remember
always that Democracy means a government not merely by numbers of isolated
individuals, but by a Demos--by men accustomed to live in Demoi, or
corporate bodies, and accustomed, therefore, to the self-control, obedience
to law, and self-sacrificing public spirit, without which a corporate body
cannot exist: but that a "democracy" of mere numbers is no democracy,
but a mere brute "arithmocracy," which is certain to degenerate into an
"ochlocracy," or government by the mob, in which the numbers have no real
share: an oligarchy of the fiercest, the noisiest, the rashest, and the
most shameless, which is surely swallowed up either by a despotism, as in
France, or as in Athens, by utter national ruin, and helpless slavery to
a foreign invader. Let the workmen of Britain train themselves in the
corporate spirit, and in the obedience and self-control which it brings, as
they easily can in associations, and bear in mind always that _only he who
can obey is fit to rule_; and then, when they are fit for it, the Charter
may come, or things, I trust, far better than the Charter; and till they
have done so, let them thank the just and merciful Heavens for keeping
out of their hands any power, and for keeping off their shoulders any
responsibility, which they would not be able to use aright. I thank God
heartily, this day, that I have no share in the government of Great
Britain; and I advise my working friends to do the same, and to believe
that, when they are fit to take their share therein, all the powers of
earth cannot keep them from taking it; and that, till then, happy is the
man who does the duty which lies nearest him, who educates his family,
raises his class, performs his daily work as to God and to his country, not
merely to his employer and himself; for it is only he that is faithful over
a few things who will be made, or will be happy in being made, ruler over
many things.

Yours ever,

C. K.





I am a Cockney among Cockneys. Italy and the Tropics, the Highlands
and Devonshire, I know only in dreams. Even the Surrey Hills, of whose
loveliness I have heard so much, are to me a distant fairy-land, whose
gleaming ridges I am worthy only to behold afar. With the exception of two
journeys, never to be forgotten, my knowledge of England is bounded by the
horizon which encircles Richmond Hill.

My earliest recollections are of a suburban street; of its jumble of little
shops and little terraces, each exhibiting some fresh variety of capricious
ugliness; the little scraps of garden before the doors, with their dusty,
stunted lilacs and balsam poplars, were my only forests; my only wild
animals, the dingy, merry sparrows, who quarrelled fearlessly on my
window-sill, ignorant of trap or gun. From my earliest childhood, through
long nights of sleepless pain, as the midnight brightened into dawn, and
the glaring lamps grew pale, I used to listen, with pleasant awe, to the
ceaseless roll of the market-waggons, bringing up to the great city the
treasures of the gay green country, the land of fruits and flowers, for
which I have yearned all my life in vain. They seemed to my boyish fancy
mysterious messengers from another world: the silent, lonely night, in
which they were the only moving things, added to the wonder. I used to get
out of bed to gaze at them, and envy the coarse men and sluttish women who
attended them, their labour among verdant plants and rich brown mould, on
breezy slopes, under God's own clear sky. I fancied that they learnt what
I knew I should have learnt there; I knew not then that "the eye only sees
that which it brings with it the power of seeing." When will their eyes be
opened? When will priests go forth into the highways and the hedges, and
preach to the ploughman and the gipsy the blessed news, that there too, in
every thicket and fallow-field, is the house of God,--there, too, the gate
of Heaven?

I do not complain that I am a Cockney. That, too, is God's gift. He
made me one, that I might learn to feel for poor wretches who sit
stifled in reeking garrets and workrooms, drinking in disease with every
breath,--bound in their prison-house of brick and iron, with their own
funeral pall hanging over them, in that canopy of fog and poisonous smoke,
from their cradle to their grave. I have drunk of the cup of which they
drink. And so I have learnt--if, indeed, I have learnt--to be a poet--a
poet of the people. That honour, surely, was worth buying with asthma,
and rickets, and consumption, and weakness, and--worst of all to me--with
ugliness. It was God's purpose about me; and, therefore, all circumstances
combined to imprison me in London. I used once, when I worshipped
circumstance, to fancy it my curse, Fate's injustice to me, which kept
me from developing my genius, asserting my rank among poets. I longed to
escape to glorious Italy, or some other southern climate, where natural
beauty would have become the very element which I breathed; and yet, what
would have come of that? Should I not, as nobler spirits than I have done,
have idled away my life in Elysian dreams, singing out like a bird into the
air, inarticulately, purposeless, for mere joy and fulness of heart; and
taking no share in the terrible questionings, the terrible strugglings of
this great, awful, blessed time--feeling no more the pulse of the great
heart of England stirring me? I used, as I said, to call it the curse of
circumstance that I was a sickly, decrepit Cockney. My mother used to tell
me that it was the cross which God had given me to bear. I know now that
she was right there. She used to say that my disease was God's will. I do
not think, though, that she spoke right there also. I think that it was
the will of the world and of the devil, of man's avarice and laziness and
ignorance. And so would my readers, perhaps, had they seen the shop in
the city where I was born and nursed, with its little garrets reeking
with human breath, its kitchens and areas with noisome sewers. A sanitary
reformer would not be long in guessing the cause of my unhealthiness. He
would not rebuke me--nor would she, sweet soul! now that she is at rest and
bliss--for my wild longings to escape, for my envying the very flies and
sparrows their wings that I might flee miles away into the country, and
breathe the air of heaven once, and die. I have had my wish. I have made
two journeys far away into the country, and they have been enough for me.

My mother was a widow. My father, whom I cannot recollect, was a small
retail tradesman in the city. He was unfortunate; and when he died, my
mother came down, and lived penuriously enough, I knew not how till I
grew older, down in that same suburban street. She had been brought
up an Independent. After my father's death she became a Baptist, from
conscientious scruples. She considered the Baptists, as I do, as the only
sect who thoroughly embody the Calvinistic doctrines. She held it, as I do,
an absurd and impious thing for those who believe mankind to be children
of the devil till they have been consciously "converted," to baptise
unconscious infants and give them the sign of God's mercy on the mere
chance of that mercy being intended for them. When God had proved by
converting them, that they were not reprobate and doomed to hell by His
absolute and eternal will, then, and not till then, dare man baptise them
into His name. She dared not palm a presumptuous fiction on herself,
and call it "charity." So, though we had both been christened during
my father's lifetime, she purposed to have us rebaptised, if ever that
happened--which, in her sense of the word, never happened, I am afraid, to

She gloried in her dissent; for she was sprung from old Puritan blood,
which had flowed again and again beneath the knife of Star-Chamber
butchers, and on the battle-fields of Naseby and Sedgemoor. And on winter
evenings she used to sit with her Bible on her knee, while I and my little
sister Susan stood beside her and listened to the stories of Gideon and
Barak, and Samson and Jephthah, till her eye kindled up, and her thoughts
passed forth from that old Hebrew time home into those English times which
she fancied, and not untruly, like them. And we used to shudder, and yet
listen with a strange fascination, as she told us how her ancestor called
his seven sons off their small Cambridge farm, and horsed and armed them
himself to follow behind Cromwell, and smite kings and prelates with "the
sword of the Lord and of Gideon." Whether she were right or wrong, what
is it to me? What is it now to her, thank God? But those stories, and the
strict, stern Puritan education, learnt from the Independents and not the
Baptists, which accompanied them, had their effect on me, for good and ill.

My mother moved by rule and method; by God's law, as she considered, and
that only. She seldom smiled. Her word was absolute. She never commanded
twice, without punishing. And yet there were abysses of unspoken tenderness
in her, as well as clear, sound, womanly sense and insight. But she thought
herself as much bound to keep down all tenderness as if she had been some
ascetic of the middle ages--so do extremes meet! It was "carnal," she
considered. She had as yet no right to have any "spiritual affection" for
us. We were still "children of wrath and of the devil,"--not yet "convinced
of sin," "converted, born again." She had no more spiritual bond with us,
she thought, than she had with a heathen or a Papist. She dared not even
pray for our conversion, earnestly as she prayed on every other subject.
For though the majority of her sect would have done so, her clear logical
sense would yield to no such tender inconsistency. Had it not been decided
from all eternity? We were elect, or we were reprobate. Could her prayers
alter that? If He had chosen us, He would call us in His own good time:
and, if not,--. Only again and again, as I afterwards discovered from a
journal of hers, she used to beseech God with agonized tears to set her
mind at rest by revealing to her His will towards us. For that comfort she
could at least rationally pray. But she received no answer. Poor, beloved
mother! If thou couldst not read the answer, written in every flower and
every sunbeam, written in the very fact of our existence here at all, what
answer would have sufficed thee.

And yet, with all this, she kept the strictest watch over our morality.
Fear, of course, was the only motive she employed; for how could our still
carnal understandings be affected with love to God? And love to herself
was too paltry and temporary to be urged by one who knew that her life was
uncertain, and who was always trying to go down to the deepest eternal
ground and reason of everything, and take her stand upon that. So our god,
or gods rather, till we were twelve years old, were hell, the rod, the ten
commandments, and public opinion. Yet under them, not they, but something
deeper far, both in her and us, preserved us pure. Call it natural
character, conformation of the spirit,--conformation of the brain, if you
like, if you are a scientific man and a phrenologist. I never yet could
dissect and map out my own being, or my neighbour's, as you analysts do. To
me, I myself, ay, and each person round me, seem one inexplicable whole; to
take away a single faculty whereof, is to destroy the harmony, the meaning,
the life of all the rest. That there is a duality in us--a lifelong battle
between flesh and spirit--we all, alas! know well enough; but which is
flesh and which is spirit, what philosophers in these days can tell us?
Still less bad we two found out any such duality or discord in ourselves;
for we were gentle and obedient children. The pleasures of the world
did not tempt us. We did not know of their existence; and no foundlings
educated in a nunnery ever grew up in a more virginal and spotless
innocence--if ignorance be such--than did Susan and I.

The narrowness of my sphere of observation only concentrated the faculty
into greater strength. The few natural objects which I met--and they, of
course, constituted my whole outer world (for art and poetry were tabooed
both by my rank and my mother's sectarianism, and the study of human beings
only develops itself as the boy grows into the man)--these few natural
objects, I say, I studied with intense keenness. I knew every leaf and
flower in the little front garden; every cabbage and rhubarb plant in
Battersea fields was wonderful and beautiful to me. Clouds and water I
learned to delight in, from my occasional lingerings on Battersea bridge,
and yearning westward looks toward the sun setting above rich meadows and
wooded gardens, to me a forbidden El Dorado.

I brought home wild-flowers and chance beetles and butterflies, and pored
over them, not in the spirit of a naturalist, but of a poet. They were to
me God's angels shining in coats of mail and fairy masquerading dresses. I
envied them their beauty, their freedom. At last I made up my mind, in the
simple tenderness of a child's conscience, that it was wrong to rob them of
the liberty for which I pined,--to take them away from the beautiful broad
country whither I longed to follow them; and I used to keep them a day or
two, and then, regretfully, carry them back, and set them loose on the
first opportunity, with many compunctions of heart, when, as generally
happened, they had been starved to death in the mean time.

They were my only recreations after the hours of the small day-school at
the neighbouring chapel, where I learnt to read, write, and sum; except,
now and then, a London walk, with my mother holding my hand tight the whole
way. She would have hoodwinked me, stopped my ears with cotton, and led
me in a string,--kind, careful soul!--if it had been reasonably safe on
a crowded pavement, so fearful was she lest I should be polluted by some
chance sight or sound of the Babylon which she feared and hated--almost as
much as she did the Bishops.

The only books which I knew were the Pilgrim's Progress and the Bible. The
former was my Shakespeare, my Dante, my Vedas, by which I explained every
fact and phenomenon of life. London was the City of Destruction, from
which I was to flee; I was Christian; the Wicket of the Way of Life I
had strangely identified with the turnpike at Battersea-bridge end; and
the rising ground of Mortlake and Wimbledon was the Land of Beulah--the
Enchanted Mountains of the Shepherds. If I could once get there I was
saved: a carnal view, perhaps, and a childish one; but there was a dim
meaning and human reality in it nevertheless.

As for the Bible, I knew nothing of it really, beyond the Old Testament.
Indeed, the life of Christ had little chance of becoming interesting to me.
My mother had given me formally to understand that it spoke of matters too
deep for me; that "till converted, the natural man could not understand the
things of God": and I obtained little more explanation of it from the two
unintelligible, dreary sermons to which I listened every dreary Sunday, in
terror lest a chance shuffle of my feet, or a hint of drowsiness,--natural
result of the stifling gallery and glaring windows and gas lights,--should
bring down a lecture and a punishment when I returned home. Oh, those
"sabbaths!"--days, not of rest, but utter weariness, when the beetles and
the flowers were put by, and there was nothing to fill up the long vacuity
but books of which I could not understand a word: when play, laughter,
or even a stare out of window at the sinful, merry, sabbath-breaking
promenaders, were all forbidden, as if the commandment had run, "In it thou
shalt take no manner of amusement, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter." By
what strange ascetic perversion has _that_ got to mean "keeping holy the

Yet there was an hour's relief in the evening, when either my mother told
us Old Testament stories, or some preacher or two came in to supper after
meeting; and I used to sit in the corner and listen to their talk; not that
I understood a word, but the mere struggle to understand--the mere watching
my mother's earnest face--my pride in the reverent flattery with which the
worthy men addressed her as "a mother in Israel," were enough to fill up
the blank for me till bed-time.

Of "vital Christianity" I heard much; but, with all my efforts, could find
out nothing. Indeed, it did not seem interesting enough to tempt me to find
out much. It seemed a set of doctrines, believing in which was to have a
magical effect on people, by saving them from the everlasting torture due
to sins and temptations which I had never felt. Now and then, believing,
in obedience to my mother's assurances, and the solemn prayers of the
ministers about me, that I was a child of hell, and a lost and miserable
sinner, I used to have accesses of terror, and fancy that I should surely
wake next morning in everlasting flames. Once I put my finger a moment
into the fire, as certain Papists, and Protestants too, have done, not
only to themselves, but to their disciples, to see if it would be so very
dreadfully painful; with what conclusions the reader may judge.... Still, I
could not keep up the excitement. Why should I? The fear of pain is not the
fear of sin, that I know of; and, indeed, the thing was unreal altogether
in my case, and my heart, my common sense, rebelled against it again and
again; till at last I got a terrible whipping for taking my little sister's
part, and saying that if she was to die,--so gentle, and obedient, and
affectionate as she was,--God would be very unjust in sending her to
hell-fire, and that I was quite certain He would do no such thing--unless
He were the Devil: an opinion which I have since seen no reason to change.
The confusion between the King of Hell and the King of Heaven has cleared
up, thank God, since then!

So I was whipped and put to bed--the whipping altering my secret heart just
about as much as the dread of hell-fire did.

I speak as a Christian man--an orthodox Churchman (if you require that
shibboleth). Was I so very wrong? What was there in the idea of religion
which was represented to me at home to captivate me? What was the use
of a child's hearing of "God's great love manifested in the scheme of
redemption," when he heard, in the same breath, that the effects of that
redemption were practically confined only to one human being out of a
thousand, and that the other nine hundred and ninety-nine were lost and
damned from their birth-hour to all eternity--not only by the absolute
will and reprobation of God (though that infernal blasphemy I heard often
enough), but also, putting that out of the question, by the mere fact of
being born of Adam's race? And this to a generation to whom God's love
shines out in every tree and flower and hedge-side bird; to whom the
daily discoveries of science are revealing that love in every microscopic
animalcule which peoples the stagnant pool! This to working men, whose
craving is only for some idea which shall give equal hopes, claims, and
deliverances, to all mankind alike! This to working men, who, in the smiles
of their innocent children, see the heaven which they have lost--the
messages of baby-cherubs, made in God's own image! This to me, to whom
every butterfly, every look at my little sister, contradicted the lie! You
may say that such thoughts were too deep for a child; that I am ascribing
to my boyhood the scepticism of my manhood; but it is not so; and what went
on in my mind goes on in the minds of thousands. It is the cause of the
contempt into which not merely sectarian Protestantism, but Christianity
altogether, has fallen in the minds of the thinking workmen. Clergymen, who
anathematize us for wandering into Unitarianism--you, you have driven us
thither. You must find some explanation of the facts of Christianity more
in accordance with the truths which we do know, and will live and die for,
or you can never hope to make us Christians; or, if we do return to the
true fold, it will be as I returned, after long, miserable years of
darkling error, to a higher truth than most of you have yet learned to

But those old Jewish heroes did fill my whole heart and soul. I learnt from
them lessons which I never wish to unlearn. Whatever else I saw about them,
this I saw,--that they were patriots, deliverers from that tyranny and
injustice from which the child's heart,--"child of the devil" though you
may call him,--instinctively, and, as I believe, by a divine inspiration,
revolts. Moses leading his people out of Egypt; Gideon, Barak, and Samson,
slaying their oppressors; David, hiding in the mountains from the tyrant,
with his little band of those who had fled from the oppressions of an
aristocracy of Nabals; Jehu, executing God's vengeance on the kings--they
were my heroes, my models; they mixed themselves up with the dim legends
about the Reformation martyrs, Cromwell and Hampden, Sidney and Monmouth,
which I had heard at my mother's knee. Not that the perennial oppression
of the masses, in all ages and countries, had yet risen on me as an
awful, torturing, fixed idea. I fancied, poor fool! that tyranny was the
exception, and not the rule. But it was the mere sense of abstract pity
and justice which was delighted in me. I thought that these were old fairy
tales, such as never need be realized again. I learnt otherwise in after

I have often wondered since, why all cannot read the same lesson as I did
in those old Hebrew Scriptures--that they, of all books in the world,
have been wrested into proofs of the divine right of kings, the eternal
necessity of slavery! But the eye only sees what it brings with it the
power of seeing. The upper classes, from their first day at school, to
their last day at college, read of nothing but the glories of Salamis and
Marathon, of freedom and of the old republics. And what comes of it? No
more than their tutors know will come of it, when they thrust into the
boys' hands books which give the lie in every page to their own political

But when I was just turned of thirteen, an altogether new fairy-land was
opened to me by some missionary tracts and journals, which were lent to my
mother by the ministers. Pacific coral islands and volcanoes, cocoa-nut
groves and bananas, graceful savages with paint and feathers--what an El
Dorado! How I devoured them and dreamt of them, and went there in fancy,
and preached small sermons as I lay in my bed at night to Tahitians and New
Zealanders, though I confess my spiritual eyes were, just as my physical
eyes would have been, far more busy with the scenery than with the souls
of my audience. However, that was the place for me, I saw clearly. And one
day, I recollect it well, in the little dingy, foul, reeking, twelve foot
square back-yard, where huge smoky party-walls shut out every breath of air
and almost all the light of heaven, I had climbed up between the water-butt
and the angle of the wall for the purpose of fishing out of the dirty fluid
which lay there, crusted with soot and alive with insects, to be renewed
only three times in the seven days, some of the great larvae and kicking
monsters which made up a large item in my list of wonders: all of a sudden
the horror of the place came over me; those grim prison-walls above, with
their canopy of lurid smoke; the dreary, sloppy, broken pavement; the
horrible stench of the stagnant cesspools; the utter want of form, colour,
life, in the whole place, crushed me down, without my being able to analyse
my feelings as I can now; and then came over me that dream of Pacific
Islands, and the free, open sea; and I slid down from my perch, and
bursting into tears threw myself upon my knees in the court, and prayed
aloud to God to let me be a missionary.

Half fearfully I let out my wishes to my mother when she came home. She
gave me no answer; but, as I found out afterwards,--too late, alas! for
her, if not for me,--she, like Mary, had "laid up all these things, and
treasured them in her heart."

You may guess, then, my delight when, a few days afterwards, I heard that a
real live missionary was coming to take tea with us. A man who had actually
been in New Zealand!--the thought was rapture. I painted him to myself over
and over again; and when, after the first burst of fancy, I recollected
that he might possibly not have adopted the native costume of that
island, or, if he had, that perhaps it would look too strange for him to
wear it about London, I settled within myself that he was to be a tall,
venerable-looking man, like the portraits of old Puritan divines which
adorned our day-room; and as I had heard that "he was powerful in prayer,"
I adorned his right hand with that mystic weapon "all-prayer," with
which Christian, when all other means have failed, finally vanquishes
the fiend--which instrument, in my mind, was somewhat after the model
of an infernal sort of bill or halbert--all hooks, edges, spikes, and
crescents--which I had passed, shuddering, once, in the hand of an old suit
of armour in Wardour Street.

He came--and with him the two ministers who often drank tea with my mother;
both of whom, as they played some small part in the drama of my after-life,
I may as well describe here. The elder was a little, sleek, silver-haired
old man, with a blank, weak face, just like a white rabbit. He loved me,
and I loved him too, for there were always lollipops in his pocket for me
and Susan. Had his head been equal to his heart!--but what has been was
to be--and the dissenting clergy, with a few noble exceptions among the
Independents, are not the strong men of the day--none know that better than
the workmen. The old man's name was Bowyer. The other, Mr. Wigginton, was a
younger man; tall, grim, dark, bilious, with a narrow forehead, retreating
suddenly from his eyebrows up to a conical peak of black hair over his
ears. He preached "higher doctrine," _i.e._, more fatalist and antinomian
than his gentler colleague,--and, having also a stentorian voice, was much
the greater favourite at the chapel. I hated him--and if any man ever
deserved hatred, he did.

Well, they came. My heart was in my mouth as I opened the door to them, and
sank back again to the very lowest depths of my inner man when my eyes fell
on the face and figure of the missionary--a squat, red-faced, pig-eyed,
low-browed man, with great soft lips that opened back to his very ears:
sensuality, conceit, and cunning marked on every feature--an innate
vulgarity, from which the artisan and the child recoil with an instinct as
true, perhaps truer, than that of the courtier, showing itself in every
tone and motion--I shrank into a corner, so crestfallen that I could not
even exert myself to hand round the bread and butter, for which I got duly
scolded afterwards. Oh! that man!--how he bawled and contradicted, and laid
down the law, and spoke to my mother in a fondling, patronizing way, which
made me, I knew not why, boil over with jealousy and indignation. How he
filled his teacup half full of the white sugar to buy which my mother had
curtailed her yesterday's dinner--how he drained the few remaining drops
of the threepennyworth of cream, with which Susan was stealing off to keep
it as an unexpected treat for my mother at breakfast the next morning--how
he talked of the natives, not as St. Paul might of his converts, but as a
planter might of his slaves; overlaying all his unintentional confessions
of his own greed and prosperity, with cant, flimsy enough for even a boy to
see through, while his eyes were not blinded with the superstition that a
man must be pious who sufficiently interlards his speech with a jumble of
old English picked out of our translation of the New Testament. Such was
the man I saw. I don't deny that all are not like him. I believe there are
noble men of all denominations, doing their best according to their light,
all over the world; but such was the one I saw--and the men who were sent
home to plead the missionary cause, whatever the men may be like who stay
behind and work, are, from my small experience, too often such. It appears
to me to be the rule that many of those who go abroad as missionaries, go
simply because they are men of such inferior powers and attainments that if
they stayed in England they would starve.

Three parts of his conversation, after all, was made up of abuse of the
missionaries of the Church of England, not for doing nothing, but for being
so much more successful than his own sect; accusing them, in the same
breath, of being just of the inferior type of which he was himself, and
also of being mere University fine gentlemen. Really, I do not wonder, upon
his own showing, at the savages preferring them to him; and I was pleased
to hear the old white-headed minister gently interpose at the end of one of
his tirades--"We must not be jealous, my brother, if the Establishment has
discovered what we, I hope, shall find out some day, that it is not wise to
draft our missionaries from the offscouring of the ministry, and serve God
with that which costs us nothing except the expense of providing for them
beyond seas."

There was somewhat of a roguish twinkle in the old man's eye as he said it,
which emboldened me to whisper a question to him.

"Why is it, Sir, that in olden times the heathens used to crucify the
missionaries and burn them, and now they give them beautiful farms, and
build them houses, and carry them about on their backs?"

The old man seemed a little puzzled, and so did the company, to whom he
smilingly retailed my question.

As nobody seemed inclined to offer a solution, I ventured one myself.

"Perhaps the heathens are grown better than they used to be?"

"The heart of man," answered the tall, dark minister, "is, and ever was,
equally at enmity with God."

"Then, perhaps," I ventured again, "what the missionaries preach now is not
quite the same as what the missionaries used to preach in St. Paul's time,
and so the heathens are not so angry at it?"

My mother looked thunder at me, and so did all except my white-headed
friend, who said, gently enough,

"It may be that the child's words come from God."

Whether they did or not, the child took very good care to speak no more
words till he was alone with his mother; and then finished off that
disastrous evening by a punishment for the indecency of saying, before his
little sister, that he thought it "a great pity the missionaries taught
black people to wear ugly coats and trousers; they must have looked so
much handsomer running about with nothing on but feathers and strings of

So the missionary dream died out of me, by a foolish and illogical
antipathy enough; though, after all, it was a child of my imagination only,
not of my heart; and the fancy, having bred it, was able to kill it also.
And David became my ideal. To be a shepherd-boy, and sit among beautiful
mountains, and sing hymns of my own making, and kill lions and bears,
with now and then the chance of a stray giant--what a glorious life! And
if David slew giants with a sling and a stone, why should not I?--at all
events, one ought to know how; so I made a sling out of an old garter and
some string, and began to practise in the little back-yard. But my first
shot broke a neighbour's window, value sevenpence, and the next flew
back in my face, and cut my head open; so I was sent supperless to bed
for a week, till the sevenpence had been duly saved out of my hungry
stomach--and, on the whole, I found the hymn-writing side of David's
character the more feasible; so I tried, and with much brains-beating,
committed the following lines to a scrap of dirty paper. And it was
strangely significant, that in this, my first attempt, there was an
instinctive denial of the very doctrine of "particular redemption," which
I had been hearing all my life, and an instinctive yearning after the
very Being in whom I had been told I had "no part nor lot" till I was
"converted." Here they are. I am not ashamed to call them--doggerel though
they be--an inspiration from Him of whom they speak. If not from Him, good
readers, from whom?

Jesus, He loves one and all;
Jesus, He loves children small;
Their souls are sitting round His feet,
On high, before His mercy-seat.

When on earth He walked in shame,
Children small unto Him came;
At His feet they knelt and prayed,
On their heads His hands He laid.

Came a spirit on them then,
Greater than of mighty men;
A spirit gentle, meek, and mild,
A spirit good for king and child.

Oh! that spirit give to me,
Jesus, Lord, where'er I be!

But I did not finish them, not seeing very clearly what to do with that
spirit when I obtained it; for, indeed, it seemed a much finer thing to
fight material Apollyons with material swords of iron, like my friend
Christian, or to go bear and lion hunting with David, than to convert
heathens by meekness--at least, if true meekness was at all like that of
the missionary whom I had lately seen.

I showed the verses in secret to my little sister. My mother heard us
singing them together, and extorted, grimly enough, a confession of the
authorship. I expected to be punished for them (I was accustomed weekly to
be punished for all sorts of deeds and words, of the harmfulness of which
I had not a notion). It was, therefore, an agreeable surprise when the old
minister, the next Sunday evening, patted my head, and praised me for them.

"A hopeful sign of young grace, brother," said he to the dark tall man.
"May we behold here an infant Timothy!"

"Bad doctrine, brother, in that first line--bad doctrine, which I am
sure he did not learn from our excellent sister here. Remember, my boy,
henceforth, that Jesus does _not_ love one and all--not that I am angry
with you. The carnal mind cannot be expected to understand divine things,
any more than the beasts that perish. Nevertheless, the blessed message of
the Gospel stands true, that Christ loves none but His Bride, the Church.
His merits, my poor child, extend to none but the elect. Ah! my dear sister
Locke, how delightful to think of the narrow way of discriminating grace!
How it enhances the believer's view of his own exceeding privileges, to
remember that there be few that be saved!"

I said nothing. I thought myself only too lucky to escape so well from the
danger of having done anything out of my own head. But somehow Susan and I
never altered it when we sang it to ourselves.

* * * * *

I thought it necessary, for the sake of those who might read my story, to
string together these few scattered recollections of my boyhood,--to give,
as it were, some sample of the cotyledon leaves of my young life-plant, and
of the soil in which it took root, ere it was transplanted--but I will not
forestall my sorrows. After all, they have been but types of the woes of
thousands who "die and give no sign." Those to whom the struggles of every,
even the meanest, human being are scenes of an awful drama, every incident
of which is to be noted with reverent interest, will not find them void of
meaning; while the life which opens in my next chapter is, perhaps, full
enough of mere dramatic interest (and whose life is not, were it but truly
written?) to amuse merely as a novel. Ay, grim and real is the action and
suffering which begins with my next page,--as you yourself would have
found, high-born reader (if such chance to light upon this story), had
you found yourself at fifteen, after a youth of convent-like seclusion,
settled, apparently for life--in a tailor's workshop.

Ay--laugh!--we tailors can quote poetry as well as make your court-dresses:

You sit in a cloud and sing, like pictured angels,
And say the world runs smooth--while right below
Welters the black fermenting heap of griefs
Whereon your state is built....



Have you done laughing! Then I will tell you how the thing came to pass.

My father had a brother, who had steadily risen in life, in proportion as
my father fell. They had both begun life in a grocer's shop. My father
saved enough to marry, when of middle age, a woman of his own years, and
set up a little shop, where there were far too many such already, in the
hope--to him, as to the rest of the world, quite just and innocent--of
drawing away as much as possible of his neighbours' custom. He failed,
died--as so many small tradesmen do--of bad debts and a broken heart, and
left us beggars. His brother, more prudent, had, in the meantime, risen to
be foreman; then he married, on the strength of his handsome person, his
master's blooming widow; and rose and rose, year by year, till, at the
time of which I speak, he was owner of a first-rate grocery establishment
in the City, and a pleasant villa near Herne Hill, and had a son, a year
or two older than myself, at King's College, preparing for Cambridge and
the Church--that being now-a-days the approved method of converting a
tradesman's son into a gentleman,--whereof let artisans, and gentlemen
also, take note.

My aristocratic readers--if I ever get any, which I pray God I may--may
be surprised at so great an inequality of fortune between two cousins;
but the thing is common in our class. In the higher ranks, a difference
in income implies none in education or manners, and the poor "gentleman"
is a fit companion for dukes and princes--thanks to the old usages of
Norman chivalry, which after all were a democratic protest against the
sovereignty, if not of rank, at least of money. The knight, however
penniless, was the prince's equal, even his superior, from whose hands he
must receive knighthood; and the "squire of low degree," who honourably
earned his spurs, rose also into that guild, whose qualifications, however
barbaric, were still higher ones than any which the pocket gives. But in

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