Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

from her, it would but have been the landmarks of a life that had in it every half-angry half-sorrowful disdain which capability for good with which a woman a high-minded woman could not help could be blessed. It is not right to feeling towards a man who forgot duty carry us on through these three marveland honour in selfish love, even though lous volumes, and leave us at the last the love were for herself. And, last standing by the grave of the brother and chief perplexity of all, we feel and sister, ready to lift up an accusathat, granting the case as our author tory cry, less to a beneficent Deity than puts it, the mischief done, the mutual to the humanly-invented Arimanes of passion mutually confessed, Stephen's the universe.--Why should such things

-“ piteous arguments have some justice on be? Why hast Thou made us thus ?” their side. The wrong done to him in But it may be urged, that fiction Maggie's forsaking him was almost as has its counterpart, and worse, in daily great as the wrong previously done to truth. How many perplexing histories Philip and Lucy :-whom no self-sacri- do we not know of young lives blighted, fice on her part or Stephen's could ever apparently by no fault of their own; of have made happy again.

blameless lives dragged into irresistible And, to test the matter, what reader temptations ; of high natures so meshed will not confess, with a vague sensation in by circumstances that they, as well as of uneasy surprise, to have taken far less we, judging them from without, can interest in all the good injured person- hardly distinguish right from wrong, ages of the story, than in this mad Stephen guilt from innocence; of living and and treacherous Maggie? Who that is loveable beings so broken down by capable of understanding—as a thing unmerited afflictions, that when at last which has been or is, or may one day be they come to an end, we look on the —the master-passion that furnishes the poor dead face with a sense of thankful. key to so many lives, will not start to ness that there at least, find how vividly this book revives it, or

“ There is no other thing expressed wakens it, or places it before him as a

“But long disquiet merged in rest.” future possibility ? Who does not think with a horribly delicious feeling, of such All this is most true, so far as we see. a crisis, when right and wrong, bliss and But we never can see, not even the wisest bale, justice and conscience, seem swept and greatest of us, anything like the whole from their boundaries, and a whole of even the meanest and briefest human existence of Dodsons, Lucys, and Tom life. We never can know through w at Tullivers, appears worth nothing com- fiery trial of temptation, nay, even sin, pared to the ecstacy of that “one kiss- for sin itself appears sometimes in the the last” between Stephen and Maggie wonderful alchemy of the universe to in the lane ?

be used as an agent for good,-a strong Is this right? The spell once broken soul is being educated into a saintly -broken with the closing of the book minister to millions of weaker souls : -every high and pure and religious coming to them with the authority of instinct within us answers unhesita- one whom suffering has taught how to tingly—"No."

heal suffering ; nay, whom the very

fact It is not right to paint Maggie only as of having sinned once, has made more she is in her strong, unsatisfied, erring deeply to pity, so as more easily to youth--and leave her there, her doubts rescue sinners.

And, lastly, we never unresolved, her passions unregulated, can comprehend, unless by experience, her faults unatoned and unforgiven : that exceeding peace—the “peace which to cut her off ignobly and accidentally, passeth all understanding,” which is leaving two acts, one her recoil of con- oftentimes seen in those most heavily science with regard to Stephen, and the and hopelessly afflicted: those who have other her instinctive self-devotion in lost all, and gained their own souls : patience: waiting until the "supreme quietly into dust, who have felt, all moment” of which our author speaks, through the turmoil or silence of exisbut which is to them not an escape tence, though lasting for threescore from the miseries of this world, but a years and ten, a continual still small joyful entrance into the world ever- voice, following them to the end : lasting.

“Fear not: for I am thy God.” Ay, thank heaven, though the highest Would that in some future book, as human intellect may fail to hear it, powerful as The Mill on the Floss,the there are millions of human hearts author might become a true “ Ayyados,” yet living and throbbing, or mouldering and teach us this !

WORKHOUSE SKETCHES.

BY FRANCES POWER COBBE.

some.

It is not as to a scene of touching a treble aim. 1st. They should repress pathos or tragic interest that we invite pauperism, by making the lives of the our readers, in asking them to examine vicious and idle disgraceful and wearithe condition of our Workhouses. There

Thus he who is yet outside the is pathos there, and many an unwritten workhouse may be spurred to industry tragedy. Often have we thought, in and frugality, by knowing that it is no hearing the tales so simply told from Castle of Indolence, but a stern millmany a bed of suffering, “Talk of “The round of labour, which awaits him if Romance of the Peerage !'; 'The Ro- he enter there, and the pauper himself, mance of the Workhouse' would offer if redeemable, may be goaded to better many a stranger and more harrowing habits. 2dly. The Poor Laws should incident." But these interests come provide for the education of orphan and later. We crave the reader's attention friendless children in such a manner as on this plea only : It is a duty laid on should secure them against becoming us all. In other countries the condition either criminals or paupers (as their of the destitute poor is mostly deter- parents commonly have been), and mined by government. Here the whole should fit them to earn their bread community is answerable for their treat- honestly. 3dly. The Poor Laws should ment. No system of democratic rule has extend to the sick, the aged, the disever been devised which, so effectually abled, to all who have no other asylum, as the New Poor Law, casts the respon- and whose present case is helpless and sibility of action on the whole popula- suffering, a shelter which should partake tion, male and even female. What of none of the penal elements which if it should some day be proved that belong to the treatment of the idle and under few despotisms have worse evils flourished ?

Such being, it is assumed, the legiti. In the present paper we cannot pre- mate ends of a Poor Law, it retend to make anything like an exhaustive mains to be considered whether on survey of the subject of the Poor Laws the whole the system commonly adopted generally. We shall merely attempt a effects any of these objects in a reasonbrief inquiry into three of the leading ably satisfactory degree. branches of workhouse arrangement, and state in conclusion the plans sug- First, then—Is pauperism repressed gested, or in operation, for the removal by our treatment of adult able-bodied of the more important evils in these. paupers, male and female ? We assume that the Poor Laws have

A pauper we may define to be “a

vicious pauper.

a

a

person who can work, but will not work oakum-picking, or in the idle lounging without coercion :” one who might have about the “women's yard.” It is a supported himself independently by his common assertion that proper separalabour, but has been degraded by idle- tions are made among the women, and ness or vice to fling himself on the the well-conducted freed from the concommunity for maintenance. To those tamination of the degraded. But, except who properly belong to this class it is in a few country unions, this rarely holds obvious that indulgent treatment is no good, and perhaps could hardly be exreal charity in the highest sense of the pected to do so. The case of one girl word. A workhouse, where they may at this moment in a London workhouse gossip and idle, and drone and grumble, (a case which we are sure might be is neither a threat nor a correction. On paralleled in half the unions in England) the other hand, the difficulty which offers to us a contemplation quite as already harasses us in our jails — to horrible as if we were accustomed to make confinement therein really penal, shut up our destitute children in a fever while forbearing all cruelty and afford- hospital or a lazar-house. The girl of ing all the means of health-is still whom I speak had been decently edumore serious in the case of workhouses, cated in a district school. Forced to go where there is no crime to be punished, into the workhouse, and there conductonly the negative fault of idleness to ing herself irregularly, she was threatened be repressed.

with some usual penalty. “I shall take On the whole, perhaps, as regards the my discharge,” she answered, “and go male able-bodied paupers, the treatment out of the house.” “But how will you pursued is less injudicious, and its re- support yourself, my poor girl ?” insults less unsatisfactory than in any other quired the kindly-disposed master. The branch of workhouse discipline. Even answer was horrible enough—she indihere, however, the state of stagnation cated bluntly the sinful "livelihood," and hopelessness in which life is passed whose secret she said she had learned ought surely to be combated by the since she came to the workhouse. 1 introduction of some system of rewards Every master and matron could mulwhich should afford hope to the meri- tiply cases like this, and corroborate the torious, and some penalties of a ne- assertion that a “girl is ruined if once gative kind which should make the she passes into the adult ward.”

In indolent feel that their position here well-ordered houses efforts are always was worse than that of the industrious. made, to save the children by passing Captain Crofton has suggested that his them directly from school to service. system of marks, which has been found But what then are the places which we to work so wonderfully well among the support at public cost, and wherein it convicts of Ireland, should be tried with is contamination for a girl once to set some modifications in the workhouses. her foot? We should wish to see this subject Again, for these miserable fallen properly considered.

women themselves. What are we doing But, whatever may be our judgment to save them, now they have been cast of the treatment of the male able-bodied up by the Dead Sea of vice, and left paupers, very different must be our con- stranded for a time within our reach clusions as regards the management of upon the shore? Here and there a few female adults, for whom it may be truly efforts are made, and warm, kind hands said that a residence in the workhouse is stretched out to draw them up. But commonly moral ruin.

usually we leave these most miserable and shreds of modesty which the poor beings unaided in their sin and shame creature may have brought in from the -sin felt now, perhaps for the first outer world are ruthlessly torn away, ere time, in all its horror, under that iron many weeks are past, by the hideous monotony of life, and bound to the comgossip over the degrading labour of

1 Workhouse Visiting Journal. No. 11, p. 532.

a

The last rags

pany of souls lost like their own. The considering their constitutional depreschaplain of a large union once described sion, poorly clad, considering their cold to us a scene which has haunted us ever abodes, and not only have no proper ensince—a ward full of these “unfortu- couragement given them to the healthy nates," locked up together through the sports of childhood, but are effectually whole blessed summer time, wrangling, debarred from them. Well can we recall cursing, talking of all unholy things, how this fact struck us for the first time till, mad with sin and despair, they on seeing a group of children in a workdanced, and shouted their hideous songs house in the country, turned for our in such utter shamelessness and fury that inspection into their “play-ground.” none dared to enter their den of agony. Rarely have we beheld so dismal a sight;

for the ugly yard miscalled by that pleaNow for the second object of the sant name was three inches deep in Poor Laws—the education of the young. coarse gravel, through which walking How do we succeed in our proper was difficult, and running impossible, aim of cutting off the entail of pau- even had not each poor little creature perism, and making the child of the been weighed down like a galley-slave drunken father or profligate mother an by a pair of iron-shod shoes as heavy as honest member of society?

lead. The poor babes stood huddled It must be admitted that we have in a corner, scared and motionless, when great difficulties to contend with in this bidden by the matron in an unctuous undertaking; for the poor children are manner to “play as usual, my dears !" commonly physically burdened with dis- We tried to play ourselves, but were ease inherited from their parents, or utterly foiled by those sad childish acquired in their own neglected infancy. looks. Our companion, the wife of the Perhaps it is true that, in the inscrutable chairman of that union, promised a mysteries of Providence, there is also a carriage load of toys next week. Jay moral proclivity to the coarser vices in she have remembered that promise to such children, while the apparently hap- the poor little ones,' to whom life had pier lot of others is to win the heavenly never yet brought such wonders as a goal through less miry paths of trial. ball or a skipping rope! Perhaps it However this may be, it is certain the was too late already to teach them what pauper child requires very especial care. such sports might be. He needs good food and clothing to A number of unions since visited, and strengthen and purify his frame from many inquiries from experienced perthe probable taint of scrofula ; and he sons, have confirmed our impression that, needs much tenderness and kindness in the usual treatment of children in of treatment, to draw out the affections workhouses, there is terrible disregard and sentiments which will have to con- of the natural laws of a child's being, tend with a low organization.

and that the consequences are most Are these cares for body and mind piteous and fatal. We cannot multiply really taken? Assuredly they are in examples; but the following little sketch some unions; and the healthy happy given us by a friend, of her impres. children are the just pride of the bene- sions of one of the rare gala-days of volent guardians. But all the experi- workhouse children, will sufficiently conence we have been enabled to obtain, vey the general results of our investiafter long attention to the subject, and gations : the visitation by ourselves and friends

“ The first time I made acquaintance with the of a vast number of workhouses, leads

children of C- Workhouse School, I went us to the sad conclusion that these well- with some friends to see them receive premanaged unions form the exceptions sents of toys, sugar-plums, &c., collected for and not the rule. The pauper children

distribution among them by some kind-hearted

ladies. We began with the nursery, where in the majority of workhouses are not the babies and children under three years old properly cared for. They are poorly fed, are kept. It was a cheerless sight enough,

though the room was large and airy, and clean no signs of harshness or unkindness on the as whitewash could make it, and the babies- part of the two nurses; but they were both there were about twenty altogether-showed old women, one paralytic; and it is naturally no sign of ill-usage or neglect. Most of them their first object to hush their charges into the looked healthy and well fed, and all scrupu- state of stupid joyless inactivity, which gives lously neat and tidy.

them the least fatigue and trouble. "Good“But it was the unnatural stillness of the ness' and dull quiet are with them synolittle things that affected me painfully. They

nymous terms.

I remembered the many sat on benches hardly raised from the floor, complaints made to us by mistresses of workexcept a few who were lying on a bed in a house girls, 'that those girls never so much corner of the room. All remained perfectly as knew how to handle an infant, and could grave and noiseless, even when the basket of not be trusted for a minute alone with toys was brought in and placed in the midst the children;' and I longed to turn some of of the circle. There was no jumping up, no the elder girls from the school into the nurshouting, no eager demand for some particu- sery, for at least some hours every week, larly noisy or gaudy plaything. They held out under the charge of some good motherly their tiny hands, and took them when they woman, who would teach them both by prewere bid, just looked at them listlessly for a cept and example how to manage young chilminute, and then relapsed into quiet dulness dren. I am told this plan has been tried in again, equally regardless of the ladies' simu- some workhouses and found to succeed. lated expressions of delight and surprise made Surely, it would be well to adopt it in all. for their imitation, or the good clergyman's Leaving the nursery, strewed with negexbortation to them to be good children, and lected rattles, rag-dolls, &c., we passed on to deserve all the pretty things the kind ladies the large school-room, where all the children, gave them.' I saw only two children who girls, boys, and infants, were to be regaled looked really pleased, and understood how to with tea and plum-cake. The room was, like play with the toys given them; and they, I the other, spotlessly clean and tidy, as were was told, had only been in the house a few also the children, who stood in long hushed days.

rows before the tables, waiting to sing their I went to the bed, where three tiny little grace before they began. The children of the things were lying fast asleep; a fourth was infant school were as still and solemn as the sitting up wide awake, looking demurely at babies ; not a smile among them. A little the strangers and unwonted display of toys, fellow, half hidden by a huge round plumbut not asking for anything. She was a pretty cake, which stood on the table before him, little girl of some two years old, with curly attracted my attention by his woe-begone face, flaxen hair, and soft blue eyes,-a fair delicate and piteous efforts to repress an occasional sob. little creature, who seemed made to be some He was one of the healthiest-looking of all fond mother's pet, but with the same languid the children there, with a brown rosy face, spiritless look all the other children wore. sturdy brown legs, and fat, dimpled arms—á I lifted her from the bed, and tried hard to great contrast to some of his poor, pallid, stunted bring a brighter expression to the childish companions. I lingered behind the rest of the face. I gave her one of the gayest toys, but party to ask what ailed him. The sobs came it soon dropped from her passive hand. I louder as he faltered out 'Mammy!' I enshowed her my watch; she looked and lis- larged on the glories of the coming Christmas tened as I bade her, but gave no sign of plea- tree, hoping to direct his mind from his grief sure. “Ah, said the nurse, that one's an for a little; but my eloquence was quite wasted; orphan, and never knowed father or mother. he only looked up and wailed out, “Mammy! She don't understand being made of or petted.' mammy!' The sugar-plum gave him was Poor little friendless one, and must she pass disdainfully thrown on the floor, as he begged, through all her desolate childhood, ignorant in passionate, broken accents, to be taken to of what love or petting means? God help her ! ‘mammy.' I was quite at a loss; but the misIt was very pitiful to look at that innocent's tress came up to us, and quieted him with the face, and to think that it might be no look of often repeated and often broken promise that, if love would ever rest on it! As I put her down Jemmy would be a good boy and leave off crying, again on the bed, I kissed her, whispering at she would take him

very soon to see his mammy. the same time some words of baby endear- The poor little fellow manfully choked down ment, and then she nestled a little closer to his sobs, and sat with eager black eyes fixed me, and looked up into my eyes with the first on the mistress, evidently trying hard to show faint glimmer of a smile on her lips, as if my her how good he was, in hopes of earning the words and looks had roused some answering promised reward. feeling in her baby heart. I do not think “In answer to my questions, the mistress any one could have borne that appealing wist- told me that Jemmy had only been in the ful gaze unmoved. I confess my heart felt house two days. He was brought in with his very heavy, as I left her to relapse again into mother, a respectable woman from the country, that mournful gravity, more touching to see who had been forced by adverse circumstances in such young creatures than tears or noisy to seek shelter in the workhouse. She further complaints. I must repeat again that I saw said it was hard work getting mother and

6

« ZurückWeiter »