Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

though the room was large and airy, and clean as whitewash could make it, and the babiesthere were about twenty altogether-showed no sign of ill-usage or neglect. Most of them looked healthy and well fed, and all scrupulously neat and tidy.

“But it was the unnatural stillness of the little things that affected me painfully. They sat on benches hardly raised from the floor, except a few who were lying on a bed in a corner of the room. All remained perfectly grave and noiseless, even when the basket of toys was brought in and placed in the midst of the circle. There was no jumping up, no shouting, no eager demand for some particularly noisy or gaudy plaything. They held out their tiny hands, and took them when they were bid, just looked at them listlessly for a minute, and then relapsed into quiet dulness again, equally regardless of the ladies' simulated expressions of delight and surprise made for their imitation, or the good clergyman's exbortation to them to be good children, and deserve all the pretty things the kind ladies gave them.' I saw only two children who looked really pleased, and understood how to play with the toys given them; and they, I was told, had only been in the house a few days.

I went to the bed, where three tiny little things were lying fast asleep; a fourth was sitting up wide awake, looking demurely at the strangers and unwonted display of toys, but not asking for anything. She was a pretty little girl of some two years old, with curly flaxen hair, and soft blue eyes,-a fair delicate little creature, who seemed made to be some fond mother's pet, but with the same languid spiritless look all the other children wore. I lifted her from the bed, and tried hard to bring a brighter expression to the childish face. I gave her one of the gayest toys, but it soon dropped from her passive hand. I showed her my watch; she looked and listened as I bade her, but gave no sign of plea

“Ah, said the nurse, that one's an orphan, and never knowed father or mother. She don't understand being made of or petted.' Poor little friendless one, and must she pass through all her desolate childhood, ignorant of what love or petting means? God help her ! It was very pitiful to look at that innocent's face, and to think that it might be no look of love would ever rest on it! As I put her down again on the bed, I kissed her, whispering at the same time some words of baby endearment, and then she nestled a little closer to me, and looked up into my eyes with the first faint glimmer of a smile on her lips, as if my words and looks had roused some answering feeling in her baby heart. I do not think any one could have borne that appealing wistful gaze unmoved. I confess my heart felt very heavy, as I left her to relapse again into that mournful gravity, more touching to see in such young creatures than tears or noisy complaints. I must repeat again that I saw

no signs of harshness or unkindness on the part of the two nurses ; but they were both old women, one paralytic; and it is naturally their first object to hush their charges into the state of stupid joyless inactivity, which gives them the least fatigue and trouble. "Goodness' and dull quiet are with them synonymous terms.

I remembered the many complaints made to us by mistresses of workhouse girls, that those girls never so much as knew how to handle an infant, and could not be trusted for a minute alone with the children;' and I longed to turn some of the elder girls from the school into the nursery, for at least some hours every week, under the charge of some good motherly woman, who would teach them both by precept and example how to manage young children. I am told this plan has been tried in some workhouses and found to succeed. Surely, it would be well to adopt it in all.

"Leaving the nursery, strewed with neglected rattles, rag-dolls, &c., we passed on to the large school-room, where all the children, girls, boys, and infants, were to be regaled with tea and plum-cake. The room was, like the other, spotlessly clean and tidy, as were also the children, who stood in long hushed rows before the tables, waiting to sing their grace before they began. The children of the infant school were as still and solemn as the babies ; not a smile among them. A little fellow, half hidden by a huge round plumcake, which stood on the table before him, attracted my attention by his woe-begone face, and piteous efforts to repress an occasional sob. He was one of the healthiest-looking of all the children there, with a brown rosy face, sturdy brown legs, and fat, dimpled arms--a great contrast to some of his poor, pallid, stunted companions. I lingered behind the rest of the party to ask what ailed him. The sobs came louder as he faltered out 'Mammy!' I enlarged on the glories of the coming Christmas tree, hoping to direct his mind from his grief for a little; but my eloquence was quite wasted; he only looked up and wailed out, “Mammy! mammy!' The sugar-plum I gave him was disdainfully thrown on the floor, as he begged, in passionate, broken accents, to be taken to mammy.' I was quite at a loss; but the mistress came up to us, and quieted him with the often repeated and often broken promise that, if Jemmy would be a good boy and leave off crying, she would take him very soon to see his mammy. The poor little fellow manfully choked down his sobs, and sat with eager black eyes fixed on the mistress, evidently trying hard to show her how good he was, in hopes of earning the promised reward.

“In answer to my questions, the mistress told me that Jemmy had only been in the house two days. He was brought in with his mother, a respectable woman from the country, who had been forced by adverse circumstances to seek shelter in the workhouse. She further said it was hard work getting mother and

sure.

child apart. "He was her only one, and they nature of boys enables them to escape had never been separated for so much as a with far less injury. day before, and, though he was three years oid, he clung like a baby to her, and she, poor soul,

A few days ago a tradesman who has was fretting worse for Jemmy than Jemmy taken from a workhouse school a girl was for her. No doubt the boy will soon get distinguished there for her good qualiused to do without his mother's daily love and ties, remarked to us with no little incare

, and be satisfied with the weekly visits dignation, “I don't know why we build which children in the workhouse schools are allowed to pay to their parents; but she will reformatories and penitentiaries and then have many a sore struggle before she can learn rear these workhouse girls on purpose patiently to resign her only child to strangers' to fill them! What can happen to them scant care and tenderness. I suppose the

when they are not able to earn a penny separation between mothers and children must exist, but I never felt so forcibly its by honest labour? This girl has been with hardship in particular cases. The perfect in- me three months, and my wife teaches difference with which the matron, a good- her all she can, but she is like a fool. natured looking woman, talked of both mother

We cannot trust her to mind the baby, or and boy's distress, showed she was too well used to such scenes.

sweep the room, or light the fire. She “While I was occupied with Jemmy, the breaks every bit of crockery she touches. children were standing quiet and silent before

If we send her a message she cannot find the yet untouched tea and plum-cake, listening

her way down two streets. Poor people to a long discourse from one of the clergymen, interspersed with anecdotes of sweet children,

cannot afford to keep such a servant; who unfortunately all died while still of very but, if we part with her, what will betender years, which it might perhaps have come of her ?—She is sure to go to been better to defer till after the good things

ruin." were disposed of. However, they were all too well drilled to manifest any signs of impa

Now this is precisely what happens to tience, except one very small boy, who, after these workhouse girls by hundreds every staring hard at his hot bowl of tea, was sud- year in this kingdom. It is a most denly inspired by the idea that it was meant

awful consideration how we leave these as a bath for his blue cold hands, and forthwith plunged them in, looking round at his

helpless creatures to almost inevitable companions with proud satisfaction, in spite of

destruction actually by system. We a whisper of Naughty, boy! See to him teach them indeed to read and write then!' addressed to him by an older and

and sew and sing hymns. All that part better-informed child. “At last the speeches were over, and the

of their education is probably quite as grace very nicely sung, and a refreshing clatter good as what is given in the day-schools of spoons,

and mugs, and subdued voices suc- of the ordinary poor. Also we teach ceeded.

I believe they all enjoyed them that portion of religion which may themselves in their way; but still the difference between their general bearing and that

be conveyed in the form of question and of ordinary National-school children was very answer by rote from a sharp “ certified” striking and very sad. By far the greater teacher (generally armed with a cane) number had a depressed, down-cast, and spirit- and a class of small scholars deeply inless look, almost as if they already felt themselves to belong to an inferior and despised

terested in the employment of that class, and would never have energy even to

theological instrument. But, if such try to rise above it. Surely it would be well literary and religious instruction as this not to go on herding pauper children con- be the creditor side of the account, what stantly together, but to let them attend some

is the debtor one? It is only the sum National school (as is done at Upton-onSevern, and a few other unions), and so be

of all that makes human nature (more mixed for some hours every day with non- emphatically woman's nature) beautiful, pauper children ?"

useful, or happy! Her moral being is

left wholly uncultivated, — the little Let us turn now to a stage beyond domestic duties and cares for aged paearly childhood and judge how the rent or baby brother are unknown. She workhouse system acts in education. I

possesses nothing of her own, not even must confine myself to the case of the her clothes or the hair on her head ! girls, lest the subject should surpass all How is she to go out inspired with bounds, and also because the tougher respect for the rights of property and

accustomed to control the natural im- touching anecdotes of the ignorance of pulses of childish covetousness? Worse their young charges. “One day,” says than all, the human affections of the the kind lady, “soon after A. B.'s argirl are all checked, and with them “ rival in the establishment, having been almost inevitably those religious ones “instructed in the art of laying the table which naturally rise through the earthly " and other branches of the service, she parent's love to the Father in heaven. " was desired to bring up the potatoes The poor workhouse girl is "the child “ for dinner. Very obediently she acof an institution”- not of a human “cepted the function, and accordingly ·mother! Nobody calls her by her produced the potatoes—in the pot !” Christian name or treats her in any way “The greater number of our girls had as if she individually were of any in “ never been in an ordinary dwellingterest to them. She bears her surname, “ house, and their awkwardness on if she luckily possess one, and the “ entering one was both provoking and name of some neighbouring lane or field “ ludicrous. The use of knives and forks if she be a foundling. She is driven was unknown to them; the hall-mat about with the rest of the dreary flock “ seldom failed to trip. them up; they from dormitory to school-room, and from “had not presence of mind enough to school-room to workhouse-yard — not carry a can of water, and it required harshly or unkindly, perhaps, but always practice and experience to enable

them as one of a herd whether well or ill “ to get up and down stairs without cared for. She is nobody's “ Mary” or falling.”—“It was soon discovered “Kate" to be individually thought of, “ that a course of rudimental objecttalked to, praised, or even perhaps im “ lessons should be gone through before patiently scolded and punished. What " one of these girls (averaging in age matter? There would have been love 161) could be trusted to execute the at the bottom of the mother's harsh most trifling order or commission. ness. For the workhouse girl, for "Har “ What could be expected from a girl ding” or “Oakfield,” there is no ques “who, having never seen a railway train, tion of love; and youth itself is shorn “ could not contain her terror and surof every ray of warmth and softness as “prise at being put into one-or from the poor creature grows up with her “ another who had indeed seen snow on cropped hair and hideous dress, and too “ the roofs and flagways of the union often with her face seamed and scarred mansion, yet innocently asked, on findby fell disease. As to knowing anything “ing the whole country white after a really useful, her mind is as blank as the fall, 'How will the dust be got off the white-washed walls of the dreary yard “ trees?'”_"Very difficult it is to teach which her hapless infancy has had for " these girls the value of property; their its playground and its whole portion “utter indifference, no matter what in God's world. The apparent stupi

amount of mischief they may achieve, dity of these girls when they go out to “ is equally perplexing and tantalising service, as we have said, is something “ to those in charge of them.”1 deplorable—though easily understood Among these Irish girls the evils of when we remember how impossible it workhouse treatment seem to have prois for them to learn by intuition such duced more fatal results even than all simple "arts of life” as the lighting of the stupidity common to their class in fires, roasting meat, hushing babies, and England. The Superior of a large contouching utensils more liable to breakage vent in Dublin herself assured us that than tin mugs and workhouse platters. fifty girls whom she had taken from one The excellent ladies who have founded of the Dublin unions had proved far St. Joseph's Institute, near Dublin, for more vicious and unmanageable than the purpose of employing these poor the two hundred convicts placed under girls in a safe and happy home, have the charge of her order in a neigh

bouring establishment. There is a pecu- A better day, however, we trust, is liarly ferocious scream, really worthy of dawning for these pauper children. For wild beasts, practised among these some time back the London unions have wretched girls whenever a mutiny takes been alive to the necessity of having place. It is commonly known in Ireland schools for their children out of town and as the Workhouse Howl! Few things separate from the workhouses. There can be conceived more shocking than are five of these district schools around the state of affairs revealed by a letter London, containing in all 7,000 children; from the Poor Law Commissioners to and Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds the Guardians of the South Dublin have followed the example. The house, Union, January 9th, 1861, wherein per- certified as an industrial school, opened mission is granted, in consideration of by the Honourable Mrs. Way, at Brockthe outrageous conduct of the young ham, near Reigate, where workhouse females in the workhouse, to expel them girls from twelve years old are trained from the house-i.e., to turn them on as servants, and Miss Louisa Twining's the streets ! Must not these guardians Home, in New Ormond Street, for girls shudder to reflect that many of these from fifteen to twenty-five from London girls have been under their charge from workhouses, promise much higher adearly infancy? If they are so hideously vantages again than the district schools. and hopelessly depraved that there is Here indeed the “entail of pauperism” nothing left for them but the streets, may, we trust, be fairly cut off, and all in God's name we ask on whom lies the the degrading circumstances of the paublame?

per life removed. The girls are brought In England the workhouse girls are into smaller communities, where the inrather depressed and stupified than ren- dispensable element of individual care dered thus defiant, but the result is and feeling is brought to bear on their the same in the end. When they go young hearts; and the nature of the out to service they disgust their em- house itself permits the practice of those ployers. The wretched girl is incapable, housewifely duties which cannot be idle, insolent, and is treated perhaps learned in the bare wards and among the harshly, perhaps with that worst cruelty machinery of huge troughs and boilers which disregards her moral safety and of a workhouse laundry and kitchen. sends her out at wrong times and places. For moral reasons also the smaller agThe experience of agents appointed to, gregations of girls are altogether preferhelp some of these children in one large able. As the late J. C. Symons, Her city has revealed also that they are sub- Majesty's Inspector of Schools, confessed, jected to the most abominable injustice “Whenever the legislature establishes in the withholding of their pittance of “ district schools it will be well to conwages. The girl soon learns on her " sider whether the girls' schools ought errands through the streets that there “ not to be very limited in size. There is another way of earning her bread “ is reason to fear that any large groups than in this drudgery of service—a far “ of girls are liable to become demoeasier way they tell her.—A few years “ ralised." In speaking of the present later the hapless friendless creature, now state of things in the large district a woman ruined and broken down, goes schools Miss Twining most justly reback to the dreary workhouse where marks: her joyless childhood was wasted. This time she is sent, not to the school, but

“It is an unnatural system, and one entirely

opposed to the order of God's providence as to the “Black Ward !” 1

displayed in the arrangements of family life,

Not only is it very difficult, if not impossible, 1 “In one metropolitan union, inquiries to organise an establishment containing 500 or being made concerning eighty girls who had 1,000 persons so as in any way to resemble a left the workhouse, and gone to service, it family household, even as regards its material was found that every one was on the streets."— arrangements; but it is absolutely impossible to The Workhouse Orphan.

introduce into it the elements of family life,

which we maintain are essential to the deve- take to found such houses, the same lopment and well-being of the woman's nature. The necessary scale on which all the operations in the workhouse. By the present order

amount which the girls now cost them are conducted (combined with the total absence of all private property), leads to habits of waste

of the Poor Law Board, the guardians and reckless consumption, which are totally in- can give only the usual amount of outcompatible with the future career of the girl,

door relief to girls who may be received who is destined first for service in a small

as inmates of the house, and private household, and afterwards will most probably become the poor wife of a labouring man. charity must supply the remainder of Establishments of these dimensions must also the expense. But it is not just that the be served by an army of officials, in whom it

matter should remain on this footing, is almost in vain to look for the element that will supply the place of home and family affec

and we trust the necessary alterations tions and sympathies to the poor outcast girl.

in the Poor Law will be considered at We are far from saying that there are no the approaching discussion in parliaremedies to be found for many of the evils ment. which we have alluded to, as at present impeding the full benefit of district pauper

A temporary expedient, which has schools, and still farther from implying that

been tried in one city with entire sucwith all their defects they are not immeasur- cess, we would earnestly commend to ably superior to the pauperising 'workhouse the attention of our readers who have school;' but we would earnestly ask those who have the power in their hands to pause

time to bestow on a task wherein a vast before they consent to multiply, at enormous

amount of preventive good may be percost, schools containing under one roof and formed with no outlay of money. It is one management 1,000 or 1,600 children, simply this—that in every union ladies especially when at the head of this internal should make themselves acquainted management is placed a man and woman who have previously only filled the post of work

(through the workhouse master or otherhouse master and matron.

wise) with the addresses of girls immedi"The Womanly element is sorely needed in ately on their being sent out to service. these institutions; and it is most earnestly They should then call on each mistress, to be desired, not only that there should be a council of ladies to confer with the matron on

express their interest in her little servant, all such matters as come within the province and request permission for her to attend of women, but also that there should be women a Sunday afternoon-class for workhouse inspectors appointed and sanctioned to take girls. Invariably it has been found that cognisance of the education and progress of the girls, both morally and industrially.

the mistresses take in good part such “ It is one of the most hopeful signs of

hopeful signs of visits, made with proper courtesy, and the present time that so strongly are these are led to greater consideration for their convictions beginning to make themselves felt,

servants and attention to guard them that 'homes for poor girls of the workhouse class are beginning to appear here and there against moral dangers. Usually, also, through the country. We feel convinced that

they have gladly availed themselves of these are based upon a true and sound prin

the Sunday-school, which, of course, ciple, and that their multiplication is earnestly affords an admirable " basis of operato be desired. A motherly care and love, com- tions” for all sorts of good, religious and bined with thorough training in humble and household duties, and supplemented by a con

secular, to these poor children. The main tinued watchful supervision on leaving the house, object is effected either way; the girls surely provides, as far as human wisdom and feel they have a friend whose influence thoughtful foresight can provide, for the suc- is wholly a moral one, and whose hand cessful start in life and future career of the poor friendless pauper girl; and we believe we

is ready to hold them up in the terrible are not presumptuous in looking for a large dangers which attend their lot. amount of success from the further development of such efforts."

Finally, how do we accomplish the All that is required for the success of

third end of the Poor Law, and afford. this noble experiment is that the guar

support and comfort, void of all penal dians should be enabled to pay to well

element, towards the sick and helpless qualified ladies, or societies, who under

who have no other asylum ?

Let it be understood that there are

« ZurückWeiter »