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The People of the Abyss by Jack London

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all of them, while the old folks stayed at home and worked at
building empire too.

"There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate,
And a wealthy wife is she;
She breeds a breed o' rovin' men
And casts them over sea.

"And some are drowned in deep water,
And some in sight of shore;
And word goes back to the weary wife,
And ever she sends more."

But the Sea Wife's child-bearing is about done. The stock is
running out, and the planet is filling up. The wives of her sons
may carry on the breed, but her work is past. The erstwhile men of
England are now the men of Australia, of Africa, of America.
England has sent forth "the best she breeds" for so long, and has
destroyed those that remained so fiercely, that little remains for
her to do but to sit down through the long nights and gaze at
royalty on the wall.

The true British merchant seaman has passed away. The merchant
service is no longer a recruiting ground for such sea dogs as fought
with Nelson at Trafalgar and the Nile. Foreigners largely man the
merchant ships, though Englishmen still continue to officer them and
to prefer foreigners for'ard. In South Africa the colonial teaches
the islander how to shoot, and the officers muddle and blunder;
while at home the street people play hysterically at mafficking, and
the War Office lowers the stature for enlistment.

It could not be otherwise. The most complacent Britisher cannot
hope to draw off the life-blood, and underfeed, and keep it up
forever. The average Mrs. Thomas Mugridge has been driven into the
city, and she is not breeding very much of anything save an anaemic
and sickly progeny which cannot find enough to eat. The strength of
the English-speaking race to-day is not in the tight little island,
but in the New World overseas, where are the sons and daughters of
Mrs. Thomas Mugridge. The Sea Wife by the Northern Gate has just
about done her work in the world, though she does not realize it.
She must sit down and rest her tired loins for a space; and if the
casual ward and the workhouse do not await her, it is because of the
sons and daughters she has reared up against the day of her
feebleness and decay.


In a civilisation frankly materialistic and based upon property, not
soul, it is inevitable that property shall be exalted over soul,
that crimes against property shall be considered far more serious
than crimes against the person. To pound one's wife to a jelly and
break a few of her ribs is a trivial offence compared with sleeping
out under the naked stars because one has not the price of a doss.
The lad who steals a few pears from a wealthy railway corporation is
a greater menace to society than the young brute who commits an
unprovoked assault upon an old man over seventy years of age. While
the young girl who takes a lodging under the pretence that she has
work commits so dangerous an offence, that, were she not severely
punished, she and her kind might bring the whole fabric of property
clattering to the ground. Had she unholily tramped Piccadilly and
the Strand after midnight, the police would not have interfered with
her, and she would have been able to pay for her lodging.

The following illustrative cases are culled from the police-court
reports for a single week:-

Widnes Police Court. Before Aldermen Gossage and Neil. Thomas
Lynch, charged with being drunk and disorderly and with assaulting a
constable. Defendant rescued a woman from custody, kicked the
constable, and threw stones at him. Fined 3s. 6d. for the first
offence, and 10s. and costs for the assault.

Glasgow Queen's Park Police Court. Before Baillie Norman Thompson.
John Kane pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife. There were five
previous convictions. Fined 2 pounds, 2s.

Taunton County Petty Sessions. John Painter, a big, burly fellow,
described as a labourer, charged with assaulting his wife. The
woman received two severe black eyes, and her face was badly
swollen. Fined 1 pound, 8s., including costs, and bound over to
keep the peace.

Widnes Police Court. Richard Bestwick and George Hunt, charged with
trespassing in search of game. Hunt fined 1 pound and costs,
Bestwick 2 pounds and costs; in default, one month.

Shaftesbury Police Court. Before the Mayor (Mr. A. T. Carpenter).
Thomas Baker, charged with sleeping out. Fourteen days.

Glasgow Central Police Court. Before Bailie Dunlop. Edward
Morrison, a lad, convicted of stealing fifteen pears from a lorry at
the railroad station. Seven days.

Doncaster Borough Police Court. Before Alderman Clark and other
magistrates. James M'Gowan, charged under the Poaching Prevention
Act with being found in possession of poaching implements and a
number of rabbits. Fined 2 pounds and costs, or one month.

Dunfermline Sheriff Court. Before Sheriff Gillespie. John Young, a
pit-head worker, pleaded guilty to assaulting Alexander Storrar by
beating him about the head and body with his fists, throwing him on
the ground, and also striking him with a pit prop. Fined 1 pound.

Kirkcaldy Police Court. Before Bailie Dishart. Simon Walker
pleaded guilty to assaulting a man by striking and knocking him
down. It was an unprovoked assault, and the magistrate described
the accused as a perfect danger to the community. Fined 30s.

Mansfield Police Court. Before the Mayor, Messrs. F. J. Turner, J.
Whitaker, F. Tidsbury, E. Holmes, and Dr. R. Nesbitt. Joseph
Jackson, charged with assaulting Charles Nunn. Without any
provocation, defendant struck the complainant a violent blow in the
face, knocking him down, and then kicked him on the side of the
head. He was rendered unconscious, and he remained under medical
treatment for a fortnight. Fined 21s.

Perth Sheriff Court. Before Sheriff Sym. David Mitchell, charged
with poaching. There were two previous convictions, the last being
three years ago. The sheriff was asked to deal leniently with
Mitchell, who was sixty-two years of age, and who offered no
resistance to the gamekeeper. Four months.

Dundee Sheriff Court. Before Hon. Sheriff-Substitute R. C. Walker.
John Murray, Donald Craig, and James Parkes, charged with poaching.
Craig and Parkes fined 1 pound each or fourteen days; Murray, 5
pounds or one month.

Reading Borough Police Court. Before Messrs. W. B. Monck, F. B.
Parfitt, H. M. Wallis, and G. Gillagan. Alfred Masters, aged
sixteen, charged with sleeping out on a waste piece of ground and
having no visible means of subsistence. Seven days.

Salisbury City Petty Sessions. Before the Mayor, Messrs. C.
Hoskins, G. Fullford, E. Alexander, and W. Marlow. James Moore,
charged with stealing a pair of boots from outside a shop. Twenty-
one days.

Horncastle Police Court. Before the Rev. W. F. Massingberd, the
Rev. J. Graham, and Mr. N. Lucas Calcraft. George Brackenbury, a
young labourer, convicted of what the magistrates characterised as
an altogether unprovoked and brutal assault upon James Sargeant
Foster, a man over seventy years of age. Fined 1 pound and 5s. 6d.

Worksop Petty Sessions. Before Messrs. F. J. S. Foljambe, R.
Eddison, and S. Smith. John Priestley, charged with assaulting the
Rev. Leslie Graham. Defendant, who was drunk, was wheeling a
perambulator and pushed it in front of a lorry, with the result that
the perambulator was overturned and the baby in it thrown out. The
lorry passed over the perambulator, but the baby was uninjured.
Defendant then attacked the driver of the lorry, and afterwards
assaulted the complainant, who remonstrated with him upon his
conduct. In consequence of the injuries defendant inflicted,
complainant had to consult a doctor. Fined 40s. and costs.

Rotherham West Riding Police Court. Before Messrs. C. Wright and G.
Pugh and Colonel Stoddart. Benjamin Storey, Thomas Brammer, and
Samuel Wilcock, charged with poaching. One month each.

Southampton County Police Court. Before Admiral J. C. Rowley, Mr.
H. H. Culme-Seymour, and other magistrates. Henry Thorrington,
charged with sleeping out. Seven days.

Eckington Police Court. Before Major L. B. Bowden, Messrs. R. Eyre,
and H. A. Fowler, and Dr. Court. Joseph Watts, charged with
stealing nine ferns from a garden. One month.

Ripley Petty Sessions. Before Messrs. J. B. Wheeler, W. D.
Bembridge, and M. Hooper. Vincent Allen and George Hall, charged
under the Poaching Prevention Act with being found in possession of
a number of rabbits, and John Sparham, charged with aiding and
abetting them. Hall and Sparham fined 1 pound, 17s. 4d., and Allen
2 pounds, 17s. 4d., including costs; the former committed for
fourteen days and the latter for one month in default of payment.

South-western Police Court, London. Before Mr. Rose. John Probyn,
charged with doing grievous bodily harm to a constable. Prisoner
had been kicking his wife, and also assaulting another woman who
protested against his brutality. The constable tried to persuade
him to go inside his house, but prisoner suddenly turned upon him,
knocking him down by a blow on the face, kicking him as he lay on
the ground, and attempting to strangle him. Finally the prisoner
deliberately kicked the officer in a dangerous part, inflicting an
injury which will keep him off duty for a long time to come. Six

Lambeth Police Court, London. Before Mr. Hopkins. "Baby" Stuart,
aged nineteen, described as a chorus girl, charged with obtaining
food and lodging to the value of 5s. by false pretences, and with
intent to defraud Emma Brasier. Emma Brasier, complainant, lodging-
house keeper of Atwell Road. Prisoner took apartments at her house
on the representation that she was employed at the Crown Theatre.
After prisoner had been in her house two or three days, Mrs. Brasier
made inquiries, and, finding the girl's story untrue, gave her into
custody. Prisoner told the magistrate that she would have worked
had she not had such bad health. Six weeks' hard labour.


I stopped a moment to listen to an argument on the Mile End Waste.
It was night-time, and they were all workmen of the better class.
They had surrounded one of their number, a pleasant-faced man of
thirty, and were giving it to him rather heatedly.

"But 'ow about this 'ere cheap immigration?" one of them demanded.
"The Jews of Whitechapel, say, a-cutting our throats right along?"

"You can't blame them," was the answer. "They're just like us, and
they've got to live. Don't blame the man who offers to work cheaper
than you and gets your job."

"But 'ow about the wife an' kiddies?" his interlocutor demanded.

"There you are," came the answer. "How about the wife and kiddies
of the man who works cheaper than you and gets your job? Eh? How
about his wife and kiddies? He's more interested in them than in
yours, and he can't see them starve. So he cuts the price of labour
and out you go. But you mustn't blame him, poor devil. He can't
help it. Wages always come down when two men are after the same
job. That's the fault of competition, not of the man who cuts the

"But wyges don't come down where there's a union," the objection was

"And there you are again, right on the head. The union cheeks
competition among the labourers, but makes it harder where there are
no unions. There's where your cheap labour of Whitechapel comes in.
They're unskilled, and have no unions, and cut each other's throats,
and ours in the bargain, if we don't belong to a strong union."

Without going further into the argument, this man on the Mile End
Waste pointed the moral that when two men were after the one job
wages were bound to fall. Had he gone deeper into the matter, he
would have found that even the union, say twenty thousand strong,
could not hold up wages if twenty thousand idle men were trying to
displace the union men. This is admirably instanced, just now, by
the return and disbandment of the soldiers from South Africa. They
find themselves, by tens of thousands, in desperate straits in the
army of the unemployed. There is a general decline in wages
throughout the land, which, giving rise to labour disputes and
strikes, is taken advantage of by the unemployed, who gladly pick up
the tools thrown down by the strikers.

Sweating, starvation wages, armies of unemployed, and great numbers
of the homeless and shelterless are inevitable when there are more
men to do work than there is work for men to do. The men and women
I have met upon the streets, and in the spikes and pegs, are not
there because as a mode of life it may be considered a "soft snap."
I have sufficiently outlined the hardships they undergo to
demonstrate that their existence is anything but "soft."

It is a matter of sober calculation, here in England, that it is
softer to work for twenty shillings a week, and have regular food,
and a bed at night, than it is to walk the streets. The man who
walks the streets suffers more, and works harder, for far less
return. I have depicted the nights they spend, and how, driven in
by physical exhaustion, they go to the casual ward for a "rest up."
Nor is the casual ward a soft snap. To pick four pounds of oakum,
break twelve hundredweight of stones, or perform the most revolting
tasks, in return for the miserable food and shelter they receive, is
an unqualified extravagance on the part of the men who are guilty of
it. On the part of the authorities it is sheer robbery. They give
the men far less for their labour than do the capitalistic
employers. The wage for the same amount of labour, performed for a
private employer, would buy them better beds, better food, more good
cheer, and, above all, greater freedom.

As I say, it is an extravagance for a man to patronise a casual
ward. And that they know it themselves is shown by the way these
men shun it till driven in by physical exhaustion. Then why do they
do it? Not because they are discouraged workers. The very opposite
is true; they are discouraged vagabonds. In the United States the
tramp is almost invariably a discouraged worker. He finds tramping
a softer mode of life than working. But this is not true in
England. Here the powers that be do their utmost to discourage the
tramp and vagabond, and he is, in all truth, a mightily discouraged
creature. He knows that two shillings a day, which is only fifty
cents, will buy him three fair meals, a bed at night, and leave him
a couple of pennies for pocket money. He would rather work for
those two shillings than for the charity of the casual ward; for he
knows that he would not have to work so hard, and that he would not
be so abominably treated. He does not do so, however, because there
are more men to do work than there is work for men to do.

When there are more men than there is work to be done, a sifting-out
process must obtain. In every branch of industry the less efficient
are crowded out. Being crowded out because of inefficiency, they
cannot go up, but must descend, and continue to descend, until they
reach their proper level, a place in the industrial fabric where
they are efficient. It follows, therefore, and it is inexorable,
that the least efficient must descend to the very bottom, which is
the shambles wherein they perish miserably.

A glance at the confirmed inefficients at the bottom demonstrates
that they are, as a rule, mental, physical, and moral wrecks. The
exceptions to the rule are the late arrivals, who are merely very
inefficient, and upon whom the wrecking process is just beginning to
operate. All the forces here, it must be remembered, are
destructive. The good body (which is there because its brain is not
quick and capable) is speedily wrenched and twisted out of shape;
the clean mind (which is there because of its weak body) is speedily
fouled and contaminated.

The mortality is excessive, but, even then, they die far too
lingering deaths.

Here, then, we have the construction of the Abyss and the shambles.
Throughout the whole industrial fabric a constant elimination is
going on. The inefficient are weeded out and flung downward.
Various things constitute inefficiency. The engineer who is
irregular or irresponsible will sink down until he finds his place,
say as a casual labourer, an occupation irregular in its very nature
and in which there is little or no responsibility. Those who are
slow and clumsy, who suffer from weakness of body or mind, or who
lack nervous, mental, and physical stamina, must sink down,
sometimes rapidly, sometimes step by step, to the bottom. Accident,
by disabling an efficient worker, will make him inefficient, and
down he must go. And the worker who becomes aged, with failing
energy and numbing brain, must begin the frightful descent which
knows no stopping-place short of the bottom and death.

In this last instance, the statistics of London tell a terrible
tale. The population of London is one-seventh of the total
population of the United Kingdom, and in London, year in and year
out, one adult in every four dies on public charity, either in the
workhouse, the hospital, or the asylum. When the fact that the
well-to-do do not end thus is taken into consideration, it becomes
manifest that it is the fate of at least one in every three adult
workers to die on public charity.

As an illustration of how a good worker may suddenly become
inefficient, and what then happens to him, I am tempted to give the
case of M'Garry, a man thirty-two years of age, and an inmate of the
workhouse. The extracts are quoted from the annual report of the
trade union.

I worked at Sullivan's place in Widnes, better known as the British
Alkali Chemical Works. I was working in a shed, and I had to cross
the yard. It was ten o'clock at night, and there was no light
about. While crossing the yard I felt something take hold of my leg
and screw it off. I became unconscious; I didn't know what became
of me for a day or two. On the following Sunday night I came to my
senses, and found myself in the hospital. I asked the nurse what
was to do with my legs, and she told me both legs were off.

There was a stationary crank in the yard, let into the ground; the
hole was 18 inches long, 15 inches deep, and 15 inches wide. The
crank revolved in the hole three revolutions a minute. There was no
fence or covering over the hole. Since my accident they have
stopped it altogether, and have covered the hole up with a piece of
sheet iron. . . . They gave me 25 pounds. They didn't reckon that
as compensation; they said it was only for charity's sake. Out of
that I paid 9 pounds for a machine by which to wheel myself about.

I was labouring at the time I got my legs off. I got twenty-four
shillings a week, rather better pay than the other men, because I
used to take shifts. When there was heavy work to be done I used to
be picked out to do it. Mr. Manton, the manager, visited me at the
hospital several times. When I was getting better, I asked him if
he would be able to find me a job. He told me not to trouble
myself, as the firm was not cold-hearted. I would be right enough
in any case . . . Mr. Manton stopped coming to see me; and the last
time, he said he thought of asking the directors to give me a fifty-
pound note, so I could go home to my friends in Ireland.

Poor M'Garry! He received rather better pay than the other men
because he was ambitious and took shifts, and when heavy work was to
be done he was the man picked out to do it. And then the thing
happened, and he went into the workhouse. The alternative to the
workhouse is to go home to Ireland and burden his friends for the
rest of his life. Comment is superfluous.

It must be understood that efficiency is not determined by the
workers themselves, but is determined by the demand for labour. If
three men seek one position, the most efficient man will get it.
The other two, no matter how capable they may be, will none the less
be inefficients. If Germany, Japan, and the United States should
capture the entire world market for iron, coal, and textiles, at
once the English workers would be thrown idle by hundreds of
thousands. Some would emigrate, but the rest would rush their
labour into the remaining industries. A general shaking up of the
workers from top to bottom would result; and when equilibrium had
been restored, the number of the inefficients at the bottom of the
Abyss would have been increased by hundreds of thousands. On the
other hand, conditions remaining constant and all the workers
doubling their efficiency, there would still be as many
inefficients, though each inefficient were twice as capable as he
had been and more capable than many of the efficients had previously

When there are more men to work than there is work for men to do,
just as many men as are in excess of work will be inefficients, and
as inefficients they are doomed to lingering and painful
destruction. It shall be the aim of future chapters to show, by
their work and manner of living, not only how the inefficients are
weeded out and destroyed, but to show how inefficients are being
constantly and wantonly created by the forces of industrial society
as it exists to-day.


When I learned that in Lesser London there were 1,292,737 people who
received twenty-one shillings or less a week per family, I became
interested as to how the wages could best be spent in order to
maintain the physical efficiency of such families. Families of six,
seven, eight or ten being beyond consideration, I have based the
following table upon a family of five--a father, mother, and three
children; while I have made twenty-one shillings equivalent to
$5.25, though actually, twenty-one shillings are equivalent to about

Rent $1.50 or 6/0
Bread 1.00 " 4/0
Meat O.87.5 " 3/6
Vegetables O.62.5 " 2/6
Coals 0.25 " 1/0
Tea 0.18 " 0/9
Oil 0.16 " 0/8
Sugar 0.18 " 0/9
Milk 0.12 " 0/6
Soap 0.08 " 0/4
Butter 0.20 " 0/10
Firewood 0.08 " 0/4
Total $5.25 21/2

An analysis of one item alone will show how little room there is for
waste. Bread, $1: for a family of five, for seven days, one
dollar's worth of bread will give each a daily ration of 2.8 cents;
and if they eat three meals a day, each may consume per meal 9.5
mills' worth of bread, a little less than one halfpennyworth. Now
bread is the heaviest item. They will get less of meat per mouth
each meal, and still less of vegetates; while the smaller items
become too microscopic for consideration. On the other hand, these
food articles are all bought at small retail, the most expensive and
wasteful method of purchasing.

While the table given above will permit no extravagance, no
overloading of stomachs, it will be noticed that there is no
surplus. The whole guinea is spent for food and rent. There is no
pocket-money left over. Does the man buy a glass of beer, the
family must eat that much less; and in so far as it eats less, just
that far will it impair its physical efficiency. The members of
this family cannot ride in busses or trams, cannot write letters,
take outings, go to a "tu'penny gaff" for cheap vaudeville, join
social or benefit clubs, nor can they buy sweetmeats, tobacco,
books, or newspapers.

And further, should one child (and there are three) require a pair
of shoes, the family must strike meat for a week from its bill of
fare. And since there are five pairs of feet requiring shoes, and
five heads requiring hats, and five bodies requiring clothes, and
since there are laws regulating indecency, the family must
constantly impair its physical efficiency in order to keep warm and
out of jail. For notice, when rent, coals, oil, soap, and firewood
are extracted from the weekly income, there remains a daily
allowance for food of 4.5d. to each person; and that 4.5d. cannot be
lessened by buying clothes without impairing the physical

All of which is hard enough. But the thing happens; the husband and
father breaks his leg or his neck. No 4.5d. a day per mouth for
food is coming in; no halfpennyworth of bread per meal; and, at the
end of the week, no six shillings for rent. So out they must go, to
the streets or the workhouse, or to a miserable den, somewhere, in
which the mother will desperately endeavour to hold the family
together on the ten shillings she may possibly be able to earn.

While in London there are 1,292,737 people who receive twenty-one
shillings or less a week per family, it must be remembered that we
have investigated a family of five living on a twenty-one shilling
basis. There are larger families, there are many families that live
on less than twenty-one shillings, and there is much irregular
employment. The question naturally arises, How do THEY live? The
answer is that they do not live. They do not know what life is.
They drag out a subterbestial existence until mercifully released by

Before descending to the fouler depths, let the case of the
telephone girls be cited. Here are clean, fresh English maids, for
whom a higher standard of living than that of the beasts is
absolutely necessary. Otherwise they cannot remain clean, fresh
English maids. On entering the service, a telephone girl receives a
weekly wage of eleven shillings. If she be quick and clever, she
may, at the end of five years, attain a minimum wage of one pound.
Recently a table of such a girl's weekly expenditure was furnished
to Lord Londonderry. Here it is:-

s. d.
Rent, fire, and light 7 6
Board at home 3 6
Board at the office 4 6
Street car fare 1 6
Laundry 1 0
Total 18 0

This leaves nothing for clothes, recreation, or sickness. And yet
many of the girls are receiving, not eighteen shillings, but eleven
shillings, twelve shillings, and fourteen shillings per week. They
must have clothes and recreation, and -

Man to Man so oft unjust,
Is always so to Woman.

At the Trades Union Congress now being held in London, the
Gasworkers' Union moved that instructions be given the Parliamentary
Committee to introduce a Bill to prohibit the employment of children
under fifteen years of age. Mr. Shackleton, Member of Parliament
and a representative of the Northern Counties Weavers, opposed the
resolution on behalf of the textile workers, who, he said, could not
dispense with the earnings of their children and live on the scale
of wages which obtained. The representatives of 514,000 workers
voted against the resolution, while the representatives of 535,000
workers voted in favour of it. When 514,000 workers oppose a
resolution prohibiting child-labour under fifteen, it is evident
that a less-than-living wage is being paid to an immense number of
the adult workers of the country.

I have spoken with women in Whitechapel who receive right along less
than one shilling for a twelve-hour day in the coat-making sweat
shops; and with women trousers finishers who receive an average
princely and weekly wage of three to four shillings.

A case recently cropped up of men, in the employ of a wealthy
business house, receiving their board and six shillings per week for
six working days of sixteen hours each. The sandwich men get
fourteenpence per day and find themselves. The average weekly
earnings of the hawkers and costermongers are not more than ten to
twelve shillings. The average of all common labourers, outside the
dockers, is less than sixteen shillings per week, while the dockers
average from eight to nine shillings. These figures are taken from
a royal commission report and are authentic.

Conceive of an old woman, broken and dying, supporting herself and
four children, and paying three shillings per week rent, by making
match boxes at 2.25d. per gross. Twelve dozen boxes for 2.25d.,
and, in addition, finding her own paste and thread! She never knew
a clay off, either for sickness, rest, or recreation. Each day and
every day, Sundays as well, she toiled fourteen hours. Her day's
stint was seven gross, for which she received 1s. 3.75d. In the
week of ninety-eight hours' work, she made 7066 match boxes, and
earned 4s. 10.25d., less per paste and thread.

Last year, Mr. Thomas Holmes, a police-court missionary of note,
after writing about the condition of the women workers, received the
following letter, dated April 18, 1901:-

Sir,--Pardon the liberty I am taking, but, having read what you said
about poor women working fourteen hours a day for ten shillings per
week, I beg to state my case. I am a tie-maker, who, after working
all the week, cannot earn more than five shillings, and I have a
poor afflicted husband to keep who hasn't earned a penny for more
than ten years.

Imagine a woman, capable of writing such a clear, sensible,
grammatical letter, supporting her husband and self on five
shillings per week! Mr. Holmes visited her. He had to squeeze to
get into the room. There lay her sick husband; there she worked all
day long; there she cooked, ate, washed, and slept; and there her
husband and she performed all the functions of living and dying.
There was no space for the missionary to sit down, save on the bed,
which was partially covered with ties and silk. The sick man's
lungs were in the last stages of decay. He coughed and expectorated
constantly, the woman ceasing from her work to assist him in his
paroxysms. The silken fluff from the ties was not good for his
sickness; nor was his sickness good for the ties, and the handlers
and wearers of the ties yet to come.

Another case Mr. Holmes visited was that of a young girl, twelve
years of age, charged in the police court with stealing food. He
found her the deputy mother of a boy of nine, a crippled boy of
seven, and a younger child. Her mother was a widow and a blouse-
maker. She paid five shillings a week rent. Here are the last
items in her housekeeping account: Tea. 0.5d.; sugar, 0.5d.; bread,
0.25d.; margarine, 1d.; oil, 1.5d.; and firewood, 1d. Good
housewives of the soft and tender folk, imagine yourselves marketing
and keeping house on such a scale, setting a table for five, and
keeping an eye on your deputy mother of twelve to see that she did
not steal food for her little brothers and sisters, the while you
stitched, stitched, stitched at a nightmare line of blouses, which
stretched away into the gloom and down to the pauper's coffin a-yawn
for you.


Is it well that while we range with Science, glorying in the time,
City children soak and blacken soul and sense in city slime?
There among the gloomy alleys Progress halts on palsied feet;
Crime and hunger cast out maidens by the thousand on the street;

There the master scrimps his haggard seamstress of her daily bread;
There the single sordid attic holds the living and the dead;
There the smouldering fire of fever creeps across the rotted floor,
And the crowded couch of incest, in the warrens of the poor.

At one time the nations of Europe confined the undesirable Jews in
city ghettos. But to-day the dominant economic class, by less
arbitrary but none the less rigorous methods, has confined the
undesirable yet necessary workers into ghettos of remarkable
meanness and vastness. East London is such a ghetto, where the rich
and the powerful do not dwell, and the traveller cometh not, and
where two million workers swarm, procreate, and die.

It must not be supposed that all the workers of London are crowded
into the East End, but the tide is setting strongly in that
direction. The poor quarters of the city proper are constantly
being destroyed, and the main stream of the unhoused is toward the
east. In the last twelve years, one district, "London over the
Border," as it is called, which lies well beyond Aldgate,
Whitechapel, and Mile End, has increased 260,000, or over sixty per
cent. The churches in this district, by the way, can seat but one
in every thirty-seven of the added population.

The City of Dreadful Monotony, the East End is often called,
especially by well-fed, optimistic sightseers, who look over the
surface of things and are merely shocked by the intolerable sameness
and meanness of it all. If the East End is worthy of no worse title
than The City of Dreadful Monotony, and if working people are
unworthy of variety and beauty and surprise, it would not be such a
bad place in which to live. But the East End does merit a worse
title. It should be called The City of Degradation.

While it is not a city of slums, as some people imagine, it may well
be said to be one gigantic slum. From the standpoint of simple
decency and clean manhood and womanhood, any mean street, of all its
mean streets, is a slum. Where sights and sounds abound which
neither you nor I would care to have our children see and hear is a
place where no man's children should live, and see, and hear. Where
you and I would not care to have our wives pass their lives is a
place where no other man's wife should have to pass her life. For
here, in the East End, the obscenities and brute vulgarities of life
are rampant. There is no privacy. The bad corrupts the good, and
all fester together. Innocent childhood is sweet and beautiful:
but in East London innocence is a fleeting thing, and you must catch
them before they crawl out of the cradle, or you will find the very
babes as unholily wise as you.

The application of the Golden Rule determines that East London is an
unfit place in which to live. Where you would not have your own
babe live, and develop, and gather to itself knowledge of life and
the things of life, is not a fit place for the babes of other men to
live, and develop, and gather to themselves knowledge of life and
the things of life. It is a simple thing, this Golden Rule, and all
that is required. Political economy and the survival of the fittest
can go hang if they say otherwise. What is not good enough for you
is not good enough for other men, and there's no more to be said.

There are 300,000 people in London, divided into families, that live
in one-room tenements. Far, far more live in two and three rooms
and are as badly crowded, regardless of sex, as those that live in
one room. The law demands 400 cubic feet of space for each person.
In army barracks each soldier is allowed 600 cubic feet. Professor
Huxley, at one time himself a medical officer in East London, always
held that each person should have 800 cubic feet of space, and that
it should be well ventilated with pure air. Yet in London there are
900,000 people living in less than the 400 cubic feet prescribed by
the law.

Mr. Charles Booth, who engaged in a systematic work of years in
charting and classifying the toiling city population, estimates that
there are 1,800,000 people in London who are POOR and VERY POOR. It
is of interest to mark what he terms poor. By POOR he means
families which have a total weekly income of from eighteen to
twenty-one shillings. The VERY POOR fall greatly below this

The workers, as a class, are being more and more segregated by their
economic masters; and this process, with its jamming and
overcrowding, tends not so much toward immorality as unmorality.
Here is an extract from a recent meeting of the London County
Council, terse and bald, but with a wealth of horror to be read
between the lines:-

Mr. Bruce asked the Chairman of the Public Health Committee whether
his attention had been called to a number of cases of serious
overcrowding in the East End. In St. Georges-in-the-East a man and
his wife and their family of eight occupied one small room. This
family consisted of five daughters, aged twenty, seventeen, eight,
four, and an infant; and three sons, aged fifteen, thirteen, and
twelve. In Whitechapel a man and his wife and their three
daughters, aged sixteen, eight, and four, and two sons, aged ten and
twelve years, occupied a smaller room. In Bethnal Green a man and
his wife, with four sons, aged twenty-three, twenty-one, nineteen,
and sixteen, and two daughters, aged fourteen and seven, were also
found in one room. He asked whether it was not the duty of the
various local authorities to prevent such serious overcrowding.

But with 900,000 people actually living under illegal conditions,
the authorities have their hands full. When the overcrowded folk
are ejected they stray off into some other hole; and, as they move
their belongings by night, on hand-barrows (one hand-barrow
accommodating the entire household goods and the sleeping children),
it is next to impossible to keep track of them. If the Public
Health Act of 1891 were suddenly and completely enforced, 900,000
people would receive notice to clear out of their houses and go on
to the streets, and 500,000 rooms would have to be built before they
were all legally housed again.

The mean streets merely look mean from the outside, but inside the
walls are to be found squalor, misery, and tragedy. While the
following tragedy may be revolting to read, it must not be forgotten
that the existence of it is far more revolting.

In Devonshire Place, Lisson Grove, a short while back died an old
woman of seventy-five years of age. At the inquest the coroner's
officer stated that "all he found in the room was a lot of old rags
covered with vermin. He had got himself smothered with the vermin.
The room was in a shocking condition, and he had never seen anything
like it. Everything was absolutely covered with vermin."

The doctor said: "He found deceased lying across the fender on her
back. She had one garment and her stockings on. The body was quite
alive with vermin, and all the clothes in the room were absolutely
grey with insects. Deceased was very badly nourished and was very
emaciated. She had extensive sores on her legs, and her stockings
were adherent to those sores. The sores were the result of vermin."

A man present at the inquest wrote: "I had the evil fortune to see
the body of the unfortunate woman as it lay in the mortuary; and
even now the memory of that gruesome sight makes me shudder. There
she lay in the mortuary shell, so starved and emaciated that she was
a mere bundle of skin and bones. Her hair, which was matted with
filth, was simply a nest of vermin. Over her bony chest leaped and
rolled hundreds, thousands, myriads of vermin!"

If it is not good for your mother and my mother so to die, then it
is not good for this woman, whosoever's mother she might be, so to

Bishop Wilkinson, who has lived in Zululand, recently said, "No
human of an African village would allow such a promiscuous mixing of
young men and women, boys and girls." He had reference to the
children of the overcrowded folk, who at five have nothing to learn
and much to unlearn which they will never unlearn.

It is notorious that here in the Ghetto the houses of the poor are
greater profit earners than the mansions of the rich. Not only does
the poor worker have to live like a beast, but he pays
proportionately more for it than does the rich man for his spacious
comfort. A class of house-sweaters has been made possible by the
competition of the poor for houses. There are more people than
there is room, and numbers are in the workhouse because they cannot
find shelter elsewhere. Not only are houses let, but they are
sublet, and sub-sublet down to the very rooms.

"A part of a room to let." This notice was posted a short while ago
in a window not five minutes' walk from St. James's Hall. The Rev.
Hugh Price Hughes is authority for the statement that beds are let
on the three-relay system--that is, three tenants to a bed, each
occupying it eight hours, so that it never grows cold; while the
floor space underneath the bed is likewise let on the three-relay
system. Health officers are not at all unused to finding such cases
as the following: in one room having a cubic capacity of 1000 feet,
three adult females in the bed, and two adult females under the bed;
and in one room of 1650 cubic feet, one adult male and two children
in the bed, and two adult females under the bed.

Here is a typical example of a room on the more respectable two-
relay system. It is occupied in the daytime by a young woman
employed all night in a hotel. At seven o'clock in the evening she
vacates the room, and a bricklayer's labourer comes in. At seven in
the morning he vacates, and goes to his work, at which time she
returns from hers.

The Rev. W. N. Davies, rector of Spitalfields, took a census of some
of the alleys in his parish. He says:-

In one alley there are ten houses--fifty-one rooms, nearly all about
8 feet by 9 feet--and 254 people. In six instances only do 2 people
occupy one room; and in others the number varied from 3 to 9. In
another court with six houses and twenty-two rooms were 84 people--
again 6, 7, 8, and 9 being the number living in one room, in several
instances. In one house with eight rooms are 45 people--one room
containing 9 persons, one 8, two 7, and another 6.

This Ghetto crowding is not through inclination, but compulsion.
Nearly fifty per cent. of the workers pay from one-fourth to one-
half of their earnings for rent. The average rent in the larger
part of the East End is from four to six shillings per week for one
room, while skilled mechanics, earning thirty-five shillings per
week, are forced to part with fifteen shillings of it for two or
three pokey little dens, in which they strive desperately to obtain
some semblance of home life. And rents are going up all the time.
In one street in Stepney the increase in only two years has been
from thirteen to eighteen shillings; in another street from eleven
to sixteen shillings; and in another street, from eleven to fifteen
shillings; while in Whitechapel, two-room houses that recently
rented for ten shillings are now costing twenty-one shillings.
East, west, north, and south the rents are going up. When land is
worth from 20,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds an acre, some one must pay
the landlord.

Mr. W. C. Steadman, in the House of Commons, in a speech concerning
his constituency in Stepney, related the following:-

This morning, not a hundred yards from where I am myself living, a
widow stopped me. She has six children to support, and the rent of
her house was fourteen shillings per week. She gets her living by
letting the house to lodgers and doing a day's washing or charring.
That woman, with tears in her eyes, told me that the landlord had
increased the rent from fourteen shillings to eighteen shillings.
What could the woman do? There is no accommodation in Stepney.
Every place is taken up and overcrowded.

Class supremacy can rest only on class degradation; and when the
workers are segregated in the Ghetto, they cannot escape the
consequent degradation. A short and stunted people is created--a
breed strikingly differentiated from their masters' breed, a
pavement folk, as it were lacking stamina and strength. The men
become caricatures of what physical men ought to be, and their women
and children are pale and anaemic, with eyes ringed darkly, who
stoop and slouch, and are early twisted out of all shapeliness and

To make matters worse, the men of the Ghetto are the men who are
left--a deteriorated stock, left to undergo still further
deterioration. For a hundred and fifty years, at least, they have
been drained of their best. The strong men, the men of pluck,
initiative, and ambition, have been faring forth to the fresher and
freer portions of the globe, to make new lands and nations. Those
who are lacking, the weak of heart and head and hand, as well as the
rotten and hopeless, have remained to carry on the breed. And year
by year, in turn, the best they breed are taken from them. Wherever
a man of vigour and stature manages to grow up, he is haled
forthwith into the army. A soldier, as Bernard Shaw has said,
"ostensibly a heroic and patriotic defender of his country, is
really an unfortunate man driven by destitution to offer himself as
food for powder for the sake of regular rations, shelter, and

This constant selection of the best from the workers has
impoverished those who are left, a sadly degraded remainder, for the
great part, which, in the Ghetto, sinks to the deepest depths. The
wine of life has been drawn off to spill itself in blood and progeny
over the rest of the earth. Those that remain are the lees, and
they are segregated and steeped in themselves. They become indecent
and bestial. When they kill, they kill with their hands, and then
stupidly surrender themselves to the executioners. There is no
splendid audacity about their transgressions. They gouge a mate
with a dull knife, or beat his head in with an iron pot, and then
sit down and wait for the police. Wife-beating is the masculine
prerogative of matrimony. They wear remarkable boots of brass and
iron, and when they have polished off the mother of their children
with a black eye or so, they knock her down and proceed to trample
her very much as a Western stallion tramples a rattlesnake.

A woman of the lower Ghetto classes is as much the slave of her
husband as is the Indian squaw. And I, for one, were I a woman and
had but the two choices, should prefer being a squaw. The men are
economically dependent on their masters, and the women are
economically dependent on the men. The result is, the woman gets
the beating the man should give his master, and she can do nothing.
There are the kiddies, and he is the breadwinner, and she dare not
send him to jail and leave herself and children to starve. Evidence
to convict can rarely be obtained when such cases come into the
courts; as a rule, the trampled wife and mother is weeping and
hysterically beseeching the magistrate to let her husband off for
the kiddies' sakes.

The wives become screaming harridans or, broken-spirited and
doglike, lose what little decency and self-respect they have
remaining over from their maiden days, and all sink together,
unheeding, in their degradation and dirt.

Sometimes I become afraid of my own generalizations upon the massed
misery of this Ghetto life, and feel that my impressions are
exaggerated, that I am too close to the picture and lack
perspective. At such moments I find it well to turn to the
testimony of other men to prove to myself that I am not becoming
over-wrought and addle-pated. Frederick Harrison has always struck
me as being a level-headed, well-controlled man, and he says:-

To me, at least, it would be enough to condemn modern society as
hardly an advance on slavery or serfdom, if the permanent condition
of industry were to be that which we behold, that ninety per cent.
of the actual producers of wealth have no home that they can call
their own beyond the end of the week; have no bit of soil, or so
much as a room that belongs to them; have nothing of value of any
kind, except as much old furniture as will go into a cart; have the
precarious chance of weekly wages, which barely suffice to keep them
in health; are housed, for the most part, in places that no man
thinks fit for his horse; are separated by so narrow a margin from
destitution that a month of bad trade, sickness, or unexpected loss
brings them face to face with hunger and pauperism . . . But below
this normal state of the average workman in town and country, there
is found the great band of destitute outcasts--the camp followers of
the army of industry--at least one-tenth the whole proletarian
population, whose normal condition is one of sickening wretchedness.
If this is to be the permanent arrangement of modern society,
civilization must be held to bring a curse on the great majority of

Ninety per cent.! The figures are appalling, yet Mr. Stopford
Brooke, after drawing a frightful London picture, finds himself
compelled to multiply it by half a million. Here it is:-

I often used to meet, when I was curate at Kensington, families
drifting into London along the Hammersmith Road. One day there came
along a labourer and his wife, his son and two daughters. Their
family had lived for a long time on an estate in the country, and
managed, with the help of the common-land and their labour, to get
on. But the time came when the common was encroached upon, and
their labour was not needed on the estate, and they were quietly
turned out of their cottage. Where should they go? Of course to
London, where work was thought to be plentiful. They had a little
savings, and they thought they could get two decent rooms to live
in. But the inexorable land question met them in London. They
tried the decent courts for lodgings, and found that two rooms would
cost ten shillings a week. Food was dear and bad, water was bad,
and in a short time their health suffered. Work was hard to get,
and its wage was so low that they were soon in debt. They became
more ill and more despairing with the poisonous surroundings, the
darkness, and the long hours of work; and they were driven forth to
seek a cheaper lodging. They found it in a court I knew well--a
hotbed of crime and nameless horrors. In this they got a single
room at a cruel rent, and work was more difficult for them to get
now, as they came from a place of such bad repute, and they fell
into the hands of those who sweat the last drop out of man and woman
and child, for wages which are the food only of despair. And the
darkness and the dirt, the bad food and the sickness, and the want
of water was worse than before; and the crowd and the companionship
of the court robbed them of the last shreds of self-respect. The
drink demon seized upon them. Of course there was a public-house at
both ends of the court. There they fled, one and all, for shelter,
and warmth, and society, and forgetfulness. And they came out in
deeper debt, with inflamed senses and burning brains, and an
unsatisfied craving for drink they would do anything to satiate.
And in a few months the father was in prison, the wife dying, the
son a criminal, and the daughters on the street. MULTIPLY THIS BY

No more dreary spectacle can be found on this earth than the whole
of the "awful East," with its Whitechapel, Hoxton, Spitalfields,
Bethnal Green, and Wapping to the East India Docks. The colour of
life is grey and drab. Everything is helpless, hopeless,
unrelieved, and dirty. Bath tubs are a thing totally unknown, as
mythical as the ambrosia of the gods. The people themselves are
dirty, while any attempt at cleanliness becomes howling farce, when
it is not pitiful and tragic. Strange, vagrant odours come drifting
along the greasy wind, and the rain, when it falls, is more like
grease than water from heaven. The very cobblestones are scummed
with grease.

Here lives a population as dull and unimaginative as its long grey
miles of dingy brick. Religion has virtually passed it by, and a
gross and stupid materialism reigns, fatal alike to the things of
the spirit and the finer instincts of life.

It used to be the proud boast that every Englishman's home was his
castle. But to-day it is an anachronism. The Ghetto folk have no
homes. They do not know the significance and the sacredness of home
life. Even the municipal dwellings, where live the better-class
workers, are overcrowded barracks. They have no home life. The
very language proves it. The father returning from work asks his
child in the street where her mother is; and back the answer comes,
"In the buildings."

A new race has sprung up, a street people. They pass their lives at
work and in the streets. They have dens and lairs into which to
crawl for sleeping purposes, and that is all. One cannot travesty
the word by calling such dens and lairs "homes." The traditional
silent and reserved Englishman has passed away. The pavement folk
are noisy, voluble, high-strung, excitable--when they are yet young.
As they grow older they become steeped and stupefied in beer. When
they have nothing else to do, they ruminate as a cow ruminates.
They are to be met with everywhere, standing on curbs and corners,
and staring into vacancy. Watch one of them. He will stand there,
motionless, for hours, and when you go away you will leave him still
staring into vacancy. It is most absorbing. He has no money for
beer, and his lair is only for sleeping purposes, so what else
remains for him to do? He has already solved the mysteries of
girl's love, and wife's love, and child's love, and found them
delusions and shams, vain and fleeting as dew-drops, quick-vanishing
before the ferocious facts of life.

As I say, the young are high-strung, nervous, excitable; the middle-
aged are empty-headed, stolid, and stupid. It is absurd to think
for an instant that they can compete with the workers of the New
World. Brutalised, degraded, and dull, the Ghetto folk will be
unable to render efficient service to England in the world struggle
for industrial supremacy which economists declare has already begun.
Neither as workers nor as soldiers can they come up to the mark when
England, in her need, calls upon them, her forgotten ones; and if
England be flung out of the world's industrial orbit, they will
perish like flies at the end of summer. Or, with England critically
situated, and with them made desperate as wild beasts are made
desperate, they may become a menace and go "swelling" down to the
West End to return the "slumming" the West End has done in the East.
In which case, before rapid-fire guns and the modern machinery of
warfare, they will perish the more swiftly and easily.


Another phrase gone glimmering, shorn of romance and tradition and
all that goes to make phrases worth keeping! For me, henceforth,
"coffee-house" will possess anything but an agreeable connotation.
Over on the other side of the world, the mere mention of the word
was sufficient to conjure up whole crowds of its historic
frequenters, and to send trooping through my imagination endless
groups of wits and dandies, pamphleteers and bravos, and bohemians
of Grub Street.

But here, on this side of the world, alas and alack, the very name
is a misnomer. Coffee-house: a place where people drink coffee.
Not at all. You cannot obtain coffee in such a place for love or
money. True, you may call for coffee, and you will have brought you
something in a cup purporting to be coffee, and you will taste it
and be disillusioned, for coffee it certainly is not.

And what is true of the coffee is true of the coffee-house.
Working-men, in the main, frequent these places, and greasy, dirty
places they are, without one thing about them to cherish decency in
a man or put self-respect into him. Table-cloths and napkins are
unknown. A man eats in the midst of the debris left by his
predecessor, and dribbles his own scraps about him and on the floor.
In rush times, in such places, I have positively waded through the
muck and mess that covered the floor, and I have managed to eat
because I was abominably hungry and capable of eating anything.

This seems to be the normal condition of the working-man, from the
zest with which he addresses himself to the board. Eating is a
necessity, and there are no frills about it. He brings in with him
a primitive voraciousness, and, I am confident, carries away with
him a fairly healthy appetite. When you see such a man, on his way
to work in the morning, order a pint of tea, which is no more tea
than it is ambrosia, pull a hunk of dry bread from his pocket, and
wash the one down with the other, depend upon it, that man has not
the right sort of stuff in his belly, nor enough of the wrong sort
of stuff, to fit him for big day's work. And further, depend upon
it, he and a thousand of his kind will not turn out the quantity or
quality of work that a thousand men will who have eaten heartily of
meat and potatoes, and drunk coffee that is coffee.

As a vagrant in the "Hobo" of a California jail, I have been served
better food and drink than the London workman receives in his
coffee-houses; while as an American labourer I have eaten a
breakfast for twelvepence such as the British labourer would not
dream of eating. Of course, he will pay only three or four pence
for his; which is, however, as much as I paid, for I would be
earning six shillings to his two or two and a half. On the other
hand, though, and in return, I would turn out an amount of work in
the course of the day that would put to shame the amount he turned
out. So there are two sides to it. The man with the high standard
of living will always do more work and better than the man with the
low standard of living.

There is a comparison which sailormen make between the English and
American merchant services. In an English ship, they say, it is
poor grub, poor pay, and easy work; in an American ship, good grub,
good pay, and hard work. And this is applicable to the working
populations of both countries. The ocean greyhounds have to pay for
speed and steam, and so does the workman. But if the workman is not
able to pay for it, he will not have the speed and steam, that is
all. The proof of it is when the English workman comes to America.
He will lay more bricks in New York than he will in London, still
more bricks in St. Louis, and still more bricks when he gets to San
Francisco. {3} His standard of living has been rising all the time.

Early in the morning, along the streets frequented by workmen on the
way to work, many women sit on the side-walk with sacks of bread
beside them. No end of workmen purchase these, and eat them as they
walk along. They do not even wash the dry bread down with the tea
to be obtained for a penny in the coffee-houses. It is
incontestable that a man is not fit to begin his day's work on a
meal like that; and it is equally incontestable that the loss will
fall upon his employer and upon the nation. For some time, now,
statesmen have been crying, "Wake up, England!" It would show more
hard-headed common sense if they changed the tune to "Feed up,

Not only is the worker poorly fed, but he is filthily fed. I have
stood outside a butcher-shop and watched a horde of speculative
housewives turning over the trimmings and scraps and shreds of beef
and mutton--dog-meat in the States. I would not vouch for the clean
fingers of these housewives, no more than I would vouch for the
cleanliness of the single rooms in which many of them and their
families lived; yet they raked, and pawed, and scraped the mess
about in their anxiety to get the worth of their coppers. I kept my
eye on one particularly offensive-looking bit of meat, and followed
it through the clutches of over twenty women, till it fell to the
lot of a timid-appearing little woman whom the butcher bluffed into
taking it. All day long this heap of scraps was added to and taken
away from, the dust and dirt of the street falling upon it, flies
settling on it, and the dirty fingers turning it over and over.

The costers wheel loads of specked and decaying fruit around in the
barrows all day, and very often store it in their one living and
sleeping room for the night. There it is exposed to the sickness
and disease, the effluvia and vile exhalations of overcrowded and
rotten life, and next day it is carted about again to be sold.

The poor worker of the East End never knows what it is to eat good,
wholesome meat or fruit--in fact, he rarely eats meat or fruit at
all; while the skilled workman has nothing to boast of in the way of
what he eats. Judging from the coffee-houses, which is a fair
criterion, they never know in all their lives what tea, coffee, or
cocoa tastes like. The slops and water-witcheries of the coffee-
houses, varying only in sloppiness and witchery, never even
approximate or suggest what you and I are accustomed to drink as tea
and coffee.

A little incident comes to me, connected with a coffee-house not far
from Jubilee Street on the Mile End Road.

"Cawn yer let me 'ave somethin' for this, daughter? Anythin', Hi
don't mind. Hi 'aven't 'ad a bite the blessed dy, an' Hi'm that
fynt . . . "

She was an old woman, clad in decent black rags, and in her hand she
held a penny. The one she had addressed as "daughter" was a
careworn woman of forty, proprietress and waitress of the house.

I waited, possibly as anxiously as the old woman, to see how the
appeal would be received. It was four in the afternoon, and she
looked faint and sick. The woman hesitated an instant, then brought
a large plate of "stewed lamb and young peas." I was eating a plate
of it myself, and it is my judgment that the lamb was mutton and
that the peas might have been younger without being youthful.
However, the point is, the dish was sold at sixpence, and the
proprietress gave it for a penny, demonstrating anew the old truth
that the poor are the most charitable.

The old woman, profuse in her gratitude, took a seat on the other
side of the narrow table and ravenously attacked the smoking stew.
We ate steadily and silently, the pair of us, when suddenly,
explosively and most gleefully, she cried out to me, -

"Hi sold a box o' matches! Yus," she confirmed, if anything with
greater and more explosive glee. "Hi sold a box o' matches! That's
'ow Hi got the penny."

"You must be getting along in years," I suggested.

"Seventy-four yesterday," she replied, and returned with gusto to
her plate.

"Blimey, I'd like to do something for the old girl, that I would,
but this is the first I've 'ad to-dy," the young fellow alongside
volunteered to me. "An' I only 'ave this because I 'appened to make
an odd shilling washin' out, Lord lumme! I don't know 'ow many

"No work at my own tryde for six weeks," he said further, in reply
to my questions; "nothin' but odd jobs a blessed long wy between."

One meets with all sorts of adventures in coffee-house, and I shall
not soon forget a Cockney Amazon in a place near Trafalgar Square,
to whom I tendered a sovereign when paying my score. (By the way,
one is supposed to pay before he begins to eat, and if he be poorly
dressed he is compelled to pay before he eats).

The girl bit the gold piece between her teeth, rang it on the
counter, and then looked me and my rags witheringly up and down.

"Where'd you find it?" she at length demanded.

"Some mug left it on the table when he went out, eh, don't you
think?" I retorted.

"Wot's yer gyme?" she queried, looking me calmly in the eyes.

"I makes 'em," quoth I.

She sniffed superciliously and gave me the change in small silver,
and I had my revenge by biting and ringing every piece of it.

"I'll give you a ha'penny for another lump of sugar in the tea," I

"I'll see you in 'ell first," came the retort courteous. Also, she
amplified the retort courteous in divers vivid and unprintable ways.

I never had much talent for repartee, but she knocked silly what
little I had, and I gulped down my tea a beaten man, while she
gloated after me even as I passed out to the street.

While 300,000 people of London live in one-room tenements, and
900,000 are illegally and viciously housed, 38,000 more are
registered as living in common lodging-houses--known in the
vernacular as "doss-houses." There are many kinds of doss-houses,
but in one thing they are all alike, from the filthy little ones to
the monster big ones paying five per cent. and blatantly lauded by
smug middle-class men who know but one thing about them, and that
one thing is their uninhabitableness. By this I do not mean that
the roofs leak or the walls are draughty; but what I do mean is that
life in them is degrading and unwholesome.

"The poor man's hotel," they are often called, but the phrase is
caricature. Not to possess a room to one's self, in which sometimes
to sit alone; to be forced out of bed willy-nilly, the first thing
in the morning; to engage and pay anew for a bed each night; and
never to have any privacy, surely is a mode of existence quite
different from that of hotel life.

This must not be considered a sweeping condemnation of the big
private and municipal lodging-houses and working-men's homes. Far
from it. They have remedied many of the atrocities attendant upon
the irresponsible small doss-houses, and they give the workman more
for his money than he ever received before; but that does not make
them as habitable or wholesome as the dwelling-place of a man should
be who does his work in the world.

The little private doss-houses, as a rule, are unmitigated horrors.
I have slept in them, and I know; but let me pass them by and
confine myself to the bigger and better ones. Not far from
Middlesex Street, Whitechapel, I entered such a house, a place
inhabited almost entirely by working men. The entrance was by way
of a flight of steps descending from the side-walk to what was
properly the cellar of the building. Here were two large and
gloomily lighted rooms, in which men cooked and ate. I had intended
to do some cooking myself, but the smell of the place stole away my
appetite, or, rather, wrested it from me; so I contented myself with
watching other men cook and eat.

One workman, home from work, sat down opposite me at the rough
wooden table, and began his meal. A handful of salt on the not
over-clean table constituted his butter. Into it he dipped his
bread, mouthful by mouthful, and washed it down with tea from a big
mug. A piece of fish completed his bill of fare. He ate silently,
looking neither to right nor left nor across at me. Here and there,
at the various tables, other men were eating, just as silently. In
the whole room there was hardly a note of conversation. A feeling
of gloom pervaded the ill-lighted place. Many of them sat and
brooded over the crumbs of their repast, and made me wonder, as
Childe Roland wondered, what evil they had done that they should be
punished so.

From the kitchen came the sounds of more genial life, and I ventured
into the range where the men were cooking. But the smell I had
noticed on entering was stronger here, and a rising nausea drove me
into the street for fresh air.

On my return I paid fivepence for a "cabin," took my receipt for the
same in the form of a huge brass check, and went upstairs to the
smoking-room. Here, a couple of small billiard tables and several
checkerboards were being used by young working-men, who waited in
relays for their turn at the games, while many men were sitting
around, smoking, reading, and mending their clothes. The young men
were hilarious, the old men were gloomy. In fact, there were two
types of men, the cheerful and the sodden or blue, and age seemed to
determine the classification.

But no more than the two cellar rooms did this room convey the
remotest suggestion of home. Certainly there could be nothing home-
like about it to you and me, who know what home really is. On the
walls were the most preposterous and insulting notices regulating
the conduct of the guests, and at ten o'clock the lights were put
out, and nothing remained but bed. This was gained by descending
again to the cellar, by surrendering the brass check to a burly
doorkeeper, and by climbing a long flight of stairs into the upper
regions. I went to the top of the building and down again, passing
several floors filled with sleeping men. The "cabins" were the best
accommodation, each cabin allowing space for a tiny bed and room
alongside of it in which to undress. The bedding was clean, and
with neither it nor the bed do I find any fault. But there was no
privacy about it, no being alone.

To get an adequate idea of a floor filled with cabins, you have
merely to magnify a layer of the pasteboard pigeon-holes of an egg-
crate till each pigeon-hole is seven feet in height and otherwise
properly dimensioned, then place the magnified layer on the floor of
a large, barnlike room, and there you have it. There are no
ceilings to the pigeon-holes, the walls are thin, and the snores
from all the sleepers and every move and turn of your nearer
neighbours come plainly to your ears. And this cabin is yours only
for a little while. In the morning out you go. You cannot put your
trunk in it, or come and go when you like, or lock the door behind
you, or anything of the sort. In fact, there is no door at all,
only a doorway. If you care to remain a guest in this poor man's
hotel, you must put up with all this, and with prison regulations
which impress upon you constantly that you are nobody, with little
soul of your own and less to say about it.

Now I contend that the least a man who does his day's work should
have is a room to himself, where he can lock the door and be safe in
his possessions; where he can sit down and read by a window or look
out; where he can come and go whenever he wishes; where he can
accumulate a few personal belongings other than those he carries
about with him on his back and in his pockets; where he can hang up
pictures of his mother, sister, sweet-heart, ballet dancers, or
bulldogs, as his heart listeth--in short, one place of his own on
the earth of which he can say: "This is mine, my castle; the world
stops at the threshold; here am I lord and master." He will be a
better citizen, this man; and he will do a better day's work.

I stood on one floor of the poor man's hotel and listened. I went
from bed to bed and looked at the sleepers. They were young men,
from twenty to forty, most of them. Old men cannot afford the
working-man's home. They go to the workhouse. But I looked at the
young men, scores of them, and they were not bad-looking fellows.
Their faces were made for women's kisses, their necks for women's
arms. They were lovable, as men are lovable. They were capable of
love. A woman's touch redeems and softens, and they needed such
redemption and softening instead of each day growing harsh and
harsher. And I wondered where these women were, and heard a
"harlot's ginny laugh." Leman Street, Waterloo Road, Piccadilly,
The Strand, answered me, and I knew where they were.


I was talking with a very vindictive man. In his opinion, his wife
had wronged him and the law had wronged him. The merits and morals
of the case are immaterial. The meat of the matter is that she had
obtained a separation, and he was compelled to pay ten shillings
each week for the support of her and the five children. "But look
you," said he to me, "wot'll 'appen to 'er if I don't py up the ten
shillings? S'posin', now, just s'posin' a accident 'appens to me,
so I cawn't work. S'posin' I get a rupture, or the rheumatics, or
the cholera. Wot's she goin' to do, eh? Wot's she goin' to do?"

He shook his head sadly. "No 'ope for 'er. The best she cawn do is
the work'ouse, an' that's 'ell. An' if she don't go to the
work'ouse, it'll be a worse 'ell. Come along 'ith me an' I'll show
you women sleepin' in a passage, a dozen of 'em. An' I'll show you
worse, wot she'll come to if anythin' 'appens to me and the ten

The certitude of this man's forecast is worthy of consideration. He
knew conditions sufficiently to know the precariousness of his
wife's grasp on food and shelter. For her game was up when his
working capacity was impaired or destroyed. And when this state of
affairs is looked at in its larger aspect, the same will be found
true of hundreds of thousands and even millions of men and women
living amicably together and co-operating in the pursuit of food and

The figures are appalling: 1,800,000 people in London live on the
poverty line and below it, and 1,000,000 live with one week's wages
between them and pauperism. In all England and Wales, eighteen per
cent. of the whole population are driven to the parish for relief,
and in London, according to the statistics of the London County
Council, twenty-one per cent. of the whole population are driven to
the parish for relief. Between being driven to the parish for
relief and being an out-and-out pauper there is a great difference,
yet London supports 123,000 paupers, quite a city of folk in
themselves. One in every four in London dies on public charity,
while 939 out of every 1000 in the United Kingdom die in poverty;
8,000,000 simply struggle on the ragged edge of starvation, and
20,000,000 more are not comfortable in the simple and clean sense of
the word.

It is interesting to go more into detail concerning the London
people who die on charity.

In 1886, and up to 1893, the percentage of pauperism to population
was less in London than in all England; but since 1893, and for
every succeeding year, the percentage of pauperism to population has
been greater in London than in all England. Yet, from the
Registrar-General's Report for 1886, the following figures are

Out of 81,951 deaths in London (1884):-

In workhouses 9,909
In hospitals 6,559
In lunatic asylums 278
Total in public refuges 16,746

Commenting on these figures, a Fabian writer says: "Considering
that comparatively few of these are children, it is probable that
one in every three London adults will be driven into one of these
refuges to die, and the proportion in the case of the manual labour
class must of course be still larger."

These figures serve somewhat to indicate the proximity of the
average worker to pauperism. Various things make pauperism. An
advertisement, for instance, such as this, appearing in yesterday
morning's paper:-

"Clerk wanted, with knowledge of shorthand, typewriting, and
invoicing: wages ten shillings ($2.50) a week. Apply by letter,"

And in to-day's paper I read of a clerk, thirty-five years of age
and an inmate of a London workhouse, brought before a magistrate for
non-performance of task. He claimed that he had done his various
tasks since he had been an inmate; but when the master set him to
breaking stones, his hands blistered, and he could not finish the
task. He had never been used to an implement heavier than a pen, he
said. The magistrate sentenced him and his blistered hands to seven
days' hard labour.

Old age, of course, makes pauperism. And then there is the
accident, the thing happening, the death or disablement of the
husband, father, and bread-winner. Here is a man, with a wife and
three children, living on the ticklish security of twenty shillings
per week--and there are hundreds of thousands of such families in
London. Perforce, to even half exist, they must live up to the last
penny of it, so that a week's wages (one pound) is all that stands
between this family and pauperism or starvation. The thing happens,
the father is struck down, and what then? A mother with three
children can do little or nothing. Either she must hand her
children over to society as juvenile paupers, in order to be free to
do something adequate for herself, or she must go to the sweat-shops
for work which she can perform in the vile den possible to her
reduced income. But with the sweat-shops, married women who eke out
their husband's earnings, and single women who have but themselves
miserably to support, determine the scale of wages. And this scale
of wages, so determined, is so low that the mother and her three
children can live only in positive beastliness and semi-starvation,
till decay and death end their suffering.

To show that this mother, with her three children to support, cannot
compete in the sweating industries, I instance from the current
newspapers the two following cases:-

A father indignantly writes that his daughter and a girl companion
receive 8.5d. per gross for making boxes. They made each day four
gross. Their expenses were 8d. for car fare, 2d. for stamps, 2.5d.
for glue, and 1d. for string, so that all they earned between them
was 1s. 9d., or a daily wage each of 10.5d.

In the second ewe, before the Luton Guardians a few days ago, an old
woman of seventy-two appeared, asking for relief. "She was a straw-
hat maker, but had been compelled to give up the work owing to the
price she obtained for them--namely, 2.25d. each. For that price
she had to provide plait trimmings and make and finish the hats."

Yet this mother and her three children we are considering have done
no wrong that they should be so punished. They have not sinned.
The thing happened, that is all; the husband, father and bread-
winner, was struck down. There is no guarding against it. It is
fortuitous. A family stands so many chances of escaping the bottom
of the Abyss, and so many chances of falling plump down to it. The
chance is reducible to cold, pitiless figures, and a few of these
figures will not be out of place.

Sir A. Forwood calculates that -

1 of every 1400 workmen is killed annually.
1 of every 2500 workmen is totally disabled.
1 of every 300 workmen is permanently partially disabled.
1 of every 8 workmen is temporarily disabled 3 or 4 weeks.

But these are only the accidents of industry. The high mortality of
the people who live in the Ghetto plays a terrible part. The
average age at death among the people of the West End is fifty-five
years; the average age at death among the people of the East End is
thirty years. That is to say, the person in the West End has twice
the chance for life that the person has in the East End. Talk of
war! The mortality in South Africa and the Philippines fades away
to insignificance. Here, in the heart of peace, is where the blood
is being shed; and here not even the civilised rules of warfare
obtain, for the women and children and babes in the arms are killed
just as ferociously as the men are killed. War! In England, every
year, 500,000 men, women, and children, engaged in the various
industries, are killed and disabled, or are injured to disablement
by disease.

In the West End eighteen per cent. of the children die before five
years of age; in the East End fifty-five per cent. of the children
die before five years of age. And there are streets in London where
out of every one hundred children born in a year, fifty die during
the next year; and of the fifty that remain, twenty-five die before
they are five years old. Slaughter! Herod did not do quite so

That industry causes greater havoc with human life than battle does
no better substantiation can be given than the following extract
from a recent report of the Liverpool Medical Officer, which is not
applicable to Liverpool alone:-

In many instances little if any sunlight could get to the courts,
and the atmosphere within the dwellings was always foul, owing
largely to the saturated condition of the walls and ceilings, which
for so many years had absorbed the exhalations of the occupants into
their porous material. Singular testimony to the absence of
sunlight in these courts was furnished by the action of the Parks
and Gardens Committee, who desired to brighten the homes of the
poorest class by gifts of growing flowers and window-boxes; but
these gifts could not be made in courts such as these, AS FLOWERS

Mr. George Haw has compiled the following table on the three St.
George's parishes (London parishes):-

Percentage of
Population Death-rate
Overcrowded per 1000
St. George's West 10 13.2
St. George's South 35 23.7
St. George's East 40 26.4

Then there are the "dangerous trades," in which countless workers
are employed. Their hold on life is indeed precarious--far, far
more precarious than the hold of the twentieth-century soldier on
life. In the linen trade, in the preparation of the flax, wet feet
and wet clothes cause an unusual amount of bronchitis, pneumonia,
and severe rheumatism; while in the carding and spinning departments
the fine dust produces lung disease in the majority of cases, and
the woman who starts carding at seventeen or eighteen begins to
break up and go to pieces at thirty. The chemical labourers, picked
from the strongest and most splendidly-built men to be found, live,
on an average, less than forty-eight years.

Says Dr. Arlidge, of the potter's trade: "Potter's dust does not
kill suddenly, but settles, year after year, a little more firmly
into the lungs, until at length a case of plaster is formed.
Breathing becomes more and more difficult and depressed, and finally

Steel dust, stone dust, clay dust, alkali dust, fluff dust, fibre
dust--all these things kill, and they are more deadly than machine-
guns and pom-poms. Worst of all is the lead dust in the white-lead
trades. Here is a description of the typical dissolution of a
young, healthy, well-developed girl who goes to work in a white-lead

Here, after a varying degree of exposure, she becomes anaemic. It
may be that her gums show a very faint blue line, or perchance her
teeth and gums are perfectly sound, and no blue line is discernible.
Coincidently with the anaemia she has been getting thinner, but so
gradually as scarcely to impress itself upon her or her friends.
Sickness, however, ensues, and headaches, growing in intensity, are
developed. These are frequently attended by obscuration of vision
or temporary blindness. Such a girl passes into what appears to her
friends and medical adviser as ordinary hysteria. This gradually
deepens without warning, until she is suddenly seized with a
convulsion, beginning in one half of the face, then involving the
arm, next the leg of the same side of the body, until the
convulsion, violent and purely epileptic form in character, becomes
universal. This is attended by loss of consciousness, out of which
she passes into a series of convulsions, gradually increasing in
severity, in one of which she dies--or consciousness, partial or
perfect, is regained, either, it may be, for a few minutes, a few
hours, or days, during which violent headache is complained of, or
she is delirious and excited, as in acute mania, or dull and sullen
as in melancholia, and requires to be roused, when she is found
wandering, and her speech is somewhat imperfect. Without further
warning, save that the pulse, which has become soft, with nearly the
normal number of beats, all at once becomes low and hard; she is
suddenly seized with another convulsion, in which she dies, or
passes into a state of coma from which she never rallies. In
another case the convulsions will gradually subside, the headache
disappears and the patient recovers, only to find that she has
completely lost her eyesight, a loss that may be temporary or

And here are a few specific cases of white-lead poisoning:-

Charlotte Rafferty, a fine, well-grown young woman with a splendid
constitution--who had never had a day's illness in her life--became
a white-lead worker. Convulsions seized her at the foot of the
ladder in the works. Dr. Oliver examined her, found the blue line
along her gums, which shows that the system is under the influence
of the lead. He knew that the convulsions would shortly return.
They did so, and she died.

Mary Ann Toler--a girl of seventeen, who had never had a fit in her
life--three times became ill, and had to leave off work in the
factory. Before she was nineteen she showed symptoms of lead
poisoning--had fits, frothed at the mouth, and died.

Mary A., an unusually vigorous woman, was able to work in the lead
factory for TWENTY YEARS, having colic once only during that time.
Her eight children all died in early infancy from convulsions. One
morning, whilst brushing her hair, this woman suddenly lost all
power in both her wrists.

Eliza H., aged twenty-five, AFTER FIVE MONTHS at lead works, was
seized with colic. She entered another factory (after being refused
by the first one) and worked on uninterruptedly for two years. Then
the former symptoms returned, she was seized with convulsions, and
died in two days of acute lead poisoning.

Mr. Vaughan Nash, speaking of the unborn generation, says: "The
children of the white-lead worker enter the world, as a rule, only
to die from the convulsions of lead poisoning--they are either born
prematurely, or die within the first year."

And, finally, let me instance the case of Harriet A. Walker, a young
girl of seventeen, killed while leading a forlorn hope on the
industrial battlefield. She was employed as an enamelled ware
brusher, wherein lead poisoning is encountered. Her father and
brother were both out of employment. She concealed her illness,
walked six miles a day to and from work, earned her seven or eight
shillings per week, and died, at seventeen.

Depression in trade also plays an important part in hurling the
workers into the Abyss. With a week's wages between a family and
pauperism, a month's enforced idleness means hardship and misery
almost indescribable, and from the ravages of which the victims do
not always recover when work is to be had again. Just now the daily
papers contain the report of a meeting of the Carlisle branch of the
Dockers' Union, wherein it is stated that many of the men, for
months past, have not averaged a weekly income of more than from
four to five shillings. The stagnated state of the shipping
industry in the port of London is held accountable for this
condition of affairs.

To the young working-man or working-woman, or married couple, there
is no assurance of happy or healthy middle life, nor of solvent old
age. Work as they will, they cannot make their future secure. It
is all a matter of chance. Everything depends upon the thing
happening, the thing with which they have nothing to do. Precaution
cannot fend it off, nor can wiles evade it. If they remain on the
industrial battlefield they must face it and take their chance
against heavy odds. Of course, if they are favourably made and are
not tied by kinship duties, they may run away from the industrial
battlefield. In which event the safest thing the man can do is to
join the army; and for the woman, possibly, to become a Red Cross
nurse or go into a nunnery. In either case they must forego home
and children and all that makes life worth living and old age other
than a nightmare.


With life so precarious, and opportunity for the happiness of life
so remote, it is inevitable that life shall be cheap and suicide
common. So common is it, that one cannot pick up a daily paper
without running across it; while an attempt-at-suicide case in a
police court excites no more interest than an ordinary "drunk," and
is handled with the same rapidity and unconcern.

I remember such a case in the Thames Police Court. I pride myself
that I have good eyes and ears, and a fair working knowledge of men
and things; but I confess, as I stood in that court-room, that I was
half bewildered by the amazing despatch with which drunks,
disorderlies, vagrants, brawlers, wife-beaters, thieves, fences,
gamblers, and women of the street went through the machine of
justice. The dock stood in the centre of the court (where the light
is best), and into it and out again stepped men, women, and
children, in a stream as steady as the stream of sentences which
fell from the magistrate's lips.

I was still pondering over a consumptive "fence" who had pleaded
inability to work and necessity for supporting wife and children,
and who had received a year at hard labour, when a young boy of
about twenty appeared in the dock. "Alfred Freeman," I caught his
name, but failed to catch the charge. A stout and motherly-looking
woman bobbed up in the witness-box and began her testimony. Wife of
the Britannia lock-keeper, I learned she was. Time, night; a
splash; she ran to the lock and found the prisoner in the water.

I flashed my gaze from her to him. So that was the charge, self-
murder. He stood there dazed and unheeding, his bonny brown hair
rumpled down his forehead, his face haggard and careworn and boyish

"Yes, sir," the lock-keeper's wife was saying. "As fast as I pulled
to get 'im out, 'e crawled back. Then I called for 'elp, and some
workmen 'appened along, and we got 'im out and turned 'im over to
the constable."

The magistrate complimented the woman on her muscular powers, and
the court-room laughed; but all I could see was a boy on the
threshold of life, passionately crawling to muddy death, and there
was no laughter in it.

A man was now in the witness-box, testifying to the boy's good
character and giving extenuating evidence. He was the boy's
foreman, or had been. Alfred was a good boy, but he had had lots of
trouble at home, money matters. And then his mother was sick. He
was given to worrying, and he worried over it till he laid himself
out and wasn't fit for work. He (the foreman), for the sake of his
own reputation, the boy's work being bad, had been forced to ask him
to resign.

"Anything to say?" the magistrate demanded abruptly.

The boy in the dock mumbled something indistinctly. He was still

"What does he say, constable?" the magistrate asked impatiently.

The stalwart man in blue bent his ear to the prisoner's lips, and
then replied loudly, "He says he's very sorry, your Worship."

"Remanded," said his Worship; and the next case was under way, the
first witness already engaged in taking the oath. The boy, dazed
and unheeding, passed out with the jailer. That was all, five
minutes from start to finish; and two hulking brutes in the dock
were trying strenuously to shift the responsibility of the
possession of a stolen fishing-pole, worth probably ten cents.

The chief trouble with these poor folk is that they do not know how
to commit suicide, and usually have to make two or three attempts
before they succeed. This, very naturally, is a horrid nuisance to
the constables and magistrates, and gives them no end of trouble.
Sometimes, however, the magistrates are frankly outspoken about the
matter, and censure the prisoners for the slackness of their
attempts. For instance Mr. R. S-, chairman of the S- B-
magistrates, in the case the other day of Ann Wood, who tried to
make away with herself in the canal: "If you wanted to do it, why
didn't you do it and get it done with?" demanded the indignant Mr.
R. S-. "Why did you not get under the water and make an end of it,
instead of giving us all this trouble and bother?"

Poverty, misery, and fear of the workhouse, are the principal causes
of suicide among the working classes. "I'll drown myself before I
go into the workhouse," said Ellen Hughes Hunt, aged fifty-two.
Last Wednesday they held an inquest on her body at Shoreditch. Her
husband came from the Islington Workhouse to testify. He had been a
cheesemonger, but failure in business and poverty had driven him
into the workhouse, whither his wife had refused to accompany him.

She was last seen at one in the morning. Three hours later her hat
and jacket were found on the towing path by the Regent's Canal, and
later her body was fished from the water. VERDICT: SUICIDE DURING

Such verdicts are crimes against truth. The Law is a lie, and
through it men lie most shamelessly. For instance, a disgraced
woman, forsaken and spat upon by kith and kin, doses herself and her
baby with laudanum. The baby dies; but she pulls through after a
few weeks in hospital, is charged with murder, convicted, and
sentenced to ten years' penal servitude. Recovering, the Law holds
her responsible for her actions; yet, had she died, the same Law
would have rendered a verdict of temporary insanity.

Now, considering the case of Ellen Hughes Hunt, it is as fair and
logical to say that her husband was suffering from temporary
insanity when he went into the Islington Workhouse, as it is to say
that she was suffering from temporary insanity when she went into
the Regent's Canal. As to which is the preferable sojourning place
is a matter of opinion, of intellectual judgment. I, for one, from
what I know of canals and workhouses, should choose the canal, were
I in a similar position. And I make bold to contend that I am no
more insane than Ellen Hughes Hunt, her husband, and the rest of the
human herd.

Man no longer follows instinct with the old natural fidelity. He
has developed into a reasoning creature, and can intellectually
cling to life or discard life just as life happens to promise great
pleasure or pain. I dare to assert that Ellen Hughes Hunt,
defrauded and bilked of all the joys of life which fifty-two years'
service in the world has earned, with nothing but the horrors of the
workhouse before her, was very rational and level-headed when she
elected to jump into the canal. And I dare to assert, further, that
the jury had done a wiser thing to bring in a verdict charging
society with temporary insanity for allowing Ellen Hughes Hunt to be
defrauded and bilked of all the joys of life which fifty-two years'
service in the world had earned.

Temporary insanity! Oh, these cursed phrases, these lies of
language, under which people with meat in their bellies and whole
shirts on their backs shelter themselves, and evade the
responsibility of their brothers and sisters, empty of belly and
without whole shirts on their backs.

From one issue of the Observer, an East End paper, I quote the
following commonplace events:-

A ship's fireman, named Johnny King, was charged with attempting to
commit suicide. On Wednesday defendant went to Bow Police Station
and stated that he had swallowed a quantity of phosphor paste, as he
was hard up and unable to obtain work. King was taken inside and an
emetic administered, when he vomited up a quantity of the poison.
Defendant now said he was very sorry. Although he had sixteen
years' good character, he was unable to obtain work of any kind.
Mr. Dickinson had defendant put back for the court missionary to see

Timothy Warner, thirty-two, was remanded for a similar offence. He
jumped off Limehouse Pier, and when rescued, said, "I intended to do

A decent-looking young woman, named Ellen Gray, was remanded on a
charge of attempting to commit suicide. About half-past eight on
Sunday morning Constable 834 K found defendant lying in a doorway in
Benworth Street, and she was in a very drowsy condition. She was
holding an empty bottle in one hand, and stated that some two or
three hours previously she had swallowed a quantity of laudanum. As
she was evidently very ill, the divisional surgeon was sent for, and
having administered some coffee, ordered that she was to be kept
awake. When defendant was charged, she stated that the reason why
she attempted to take her life was she had neither home nor friends.

I do not say that all people who commit suicide are sane, no more
than I say that all people who do not commit suicide are sane.
Insecurity of food and shelter, by the way, is a great cause of
insanity among the living. Costermongers, hawkers, and pedlars, a
class of workers who live from hand to mouth more than those of any
other class, form the highest percentage of those in the lunatic
asylums. Among the males each year, 26.9 per 10,000 go insane, and
among the women, 36.9. On the other hand, of soldiers, who are at
least sure of food and shelter, 13 per 10,000 go insane; and of
farmers and graziers, only 5.1. So a coster is twice as likely to
lose his reason as a soldier, and five times as likely as a farmer.

Misfortune and misery are very potent in turning people's heads, and
drive one person to the lunatic asylum, and another to the morgue or
the gallows. When the thing happens, and the father and husband,
for all of his love for wife and children and his willingness to
work, can get no work to do, it is a simple matter for his reason to
totter and the light within his brain go out. And it is especially
simple when it is taken into consideration that his body is ravaged
by innutrition and disease, in addition to his soul being torn by
the sight of his suffering wife and little ones.

"He is a good-looking man, with a mass of black hair, dark,
expressive eyes, delicately chiselled nose and chin, and wavy, fair
moustache." This is the reporter's description of Frank Cavilla as
he stood in court, this dreary month of September, "dressed in a
much worn grey suit, and wearing no collar."

Frank Cavilla lived and worked as a house decorator in London. He
is described as a good workman, a steady fellow, and not given to
drink, while all his neighbours unite in testifying that he was a
gentle and affectionate husband and father.

His wife, Hannah Cavilla, was a big, handsome, light-hearted woman.
She saw to it that his children were sent neat and clean (the
neighbours all remarked the fact) to the Childeric Road Board
School. And so, with such a man, so blessed, working steadily and
living temperately, all went well, and the goose hung high.

Then the thing happened. He worked for a Mr. Beck, builder, and
lived in one of his master's houses in Trundley Road. Mr. Beck was
thrown from his trap and killed. The thing was an unruly horse,
and, as I say, it happened. Cavilla had to seek fresh employment
and find another house.

This occurred eighteen months ago. For eighteen months he fought
the big fight. He got rooms in a little house in Batavia Road, but
could not make both ends meet. Steady work could not be obtained.
He struggled manfully at casual employment of all sorts, his wife
and four children starving before his eyes. He starved himself, and
grew weak, and fell ill. This was three months ago, and then there
was absolutely no food at all. They made no complaint, spoke no
word; but poor folk know. The housewives of Batavia Road sent them
food, but so respectable were the Cavillas that the food was sent
anonymously, mysteriously, so as not to hurt their pride.

The thing had happened. He had fought, and starved, and suffered
for eighteen months. He got up one September morning, early. He
opened his pocket-knife. He cut the throat of his wife, Hannah
Cavilla, aged thirty-three. He cut the throat of his first-born,
Frank, aged twelve. He cut the throat of his son, Walter, aged
eight. He cut the throat of his daughter, Nellie, aged four. He
cut the throat of his youngest-born, Ernest, aged sixteen months.
Then he watched beside the dead all day until the evening, when the
police came, and he told them to put a penny in the slot of the gas-
meter in order that they might have light to see.

Frank Cavilla stood in court, dressed in a much worn grey suit, and
wearing no collar. He was a good-looking man, with a mass of black
hair, dark, expressive eyes, delicately chiselled nose and chin, and
wavy, fair moustache.


"Where home is a hovel, and dull we grovel,
Forgetting the world is fair."

There is one beautiful sight in the East End, and only one, and it
is the children dancing in the street when the organ-grinder goes
his round. It is fascinating to watch them, the new-born, the next
generation, swaying and stepping, with pretty little mimicries and
graceful inventions all their own, with muscles that move swiftly
and easily, and bodies that leap airily, weaving rhythms never
taught in dancing school.

I have talked with these children, here, there, and everywhere, and
they struck me as being bright as other children, and in many ways
even brighter. They have most active little imaginations. Their
capacity for projecting themselves into the realm of romance and
fantasy is remarkable. A joyous life is romping in their blood.
They delight in music, and motion, and colour, and very often they
betray a startling beauty of face and form under their filth and

But there is a Pied Piper of London Town who steals them all away.
They disappear. One never sees them again, or anything that
suggests them. You may look for them in vain amongst the generation
of grown-ups. Here you will find stunted forms, ugly faces, and
blunt and stolid minds. Grace, beauty, imagination, all the
resiliency of mind and muscle, are gone. Sometimes, however, you
may see a woman, not necessarily old, but twisted and deformed out
of all womanhood, bloated and drunken, lift her draggled skirts and
execute a few grotesque and lumbering steps upon the pavement. It
is a hint that she was once one of those children who danced to the
organ-grinder. Those grotesque and lumbering steps are all that is
left of the promise of childhood. In the befogged recesses of her
brain has arisen a fleeting memory that she was once a girl. The
crowd closes in. Little girls are dancing beside her, about her,
with all the pretty graces she dimly recollects, but can no more
than parody with her body. Then she pants for breath, exhausted,
and stumbles out through the circle. But the little girls dance on.

The children of the Ghetto possess all the qualities which make for
noble manhood and womanhood; but the Ghetto itself, like an
infuriated tigress turning on its young, turns upon and destroys all
these qualities, blots out the light and laughter, and moulds those
it does not kill into sodden and forlorn creatures, uncouth,
degraded, and wretched below the beasts of the field.

As to the manner in which this is done, I have in previous chapters
described it at length; here let Professor Huxley describe it in

"Any one who is acquainted with the state of the population of all
great industrial centres, whether in this or other countries, is
aware that amidst a large and increasing body of that population
there reigns supreme . . . that condition which the French call la
misere, a word for which I do not think there is any exact English
equivalent. It is a condition in which the food, warmth, and
clothing which are necessary for the mere maintenance of the
functions of the body in their normal state cannot be obtained; in
which men, women, and children are forced to crowd into dens wherein
decency is abolished, and the most ordinary conditions of healthful
existence are impossible of attainment; in which the pleasures
within reach are reduced to brutality and drunkenness; in which the
pains accumulate at compound interest in the shape of starvation,
disease, stunted development, and moral degradation; in which the
prospect of even steady and honest industry is a life of
unsuccessful battling with hunger, rounded by a pauper's grave."

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