LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter XIV

Contents Vol. I
Prelude 1
Prelude 2
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Contents Vol. II
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Note to Chapter XV
Contents Vol. III
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Note to Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Note to Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Note to Chapter XIII
‣ Chapter XIV
Index of Persons
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

“Why, then, a final note prolong
Or lengthen out a closing song,
Unless to bid the gentles speed,
“Who long have listed to my rede?”
ScottL’envoy to Marmion.
Moth. Is not L’envoy a Salve?
Armado. No, Page. It is an epilogue, or discourse to make plain
Some obscure precedence that hath tofore been sain.”

AFTER an absence of nearly thirty years, I have come again to dwell at Hampstead. There are here, as everywhere else in the suburbs of London, houses innumerable, where there were once green pastures. But the old village, and the old heath, are little changed, since Henry Brooke made them the scene of his “Fool of Quality;” since Fanny Burney took Evelina to the Assembly at “The Long Room;” and since George Steevens, the mischievous “Puck” of black letter, had the happiness to live here in his bachelor-quiet, unvexed by legions of donkey-drivers. During my residence at Hampstead from 1830 to 1835, I was a hard-worker; but I was not so indefatigable a corrector of proofs as Steevens,
“Whom late, from Hampstead journeying to his book,
Aurora oft for Cephalus mistook,
What time he brush’d her dews with hasty pace,
To meet the printer’s dev’let face to face.”*
Those five years of my residence here were the great turning-point of our modern history. Hampstead is not greatly changed; but what a change has come over England since the days of George the Fourth!

* “Pursuits of Literature.”

Let me endeavour to take a coup d’oeil of those moral causes which have created an era so essentially different from its predecessor.

In 1783, Charles Fox propounded in Parliament a doctrine which could then scarcely be called practical: “What is the end of all government? Certainly, the happiness of the governed.” He added—“Others may hold different opinions; but this is mine, and I proclaim it.”* In the early part of the next half century, Bentham’s axiom, that “the greatest happiness for the greatest number” is the true object of all legislation, was a text for speakers and writers who were a little before their age. This was an idea—as certain to influence the future of society as the idea of liberty or the idea of equality. But the English, it is said, are slow to adopt ideas. Step by step the principle of the happiness of the governed made a slow and timid advance. It is faintly to be traced in the slight mitigations of the sanguinary criminal code by Romilly, and the insertion of the wedge into the old barrier of Protection by Huskisson. But the idea never got completely hold of the national mind, as the rule of public and private conduct towards “the greatest number,” till the times which followed the bloodless revolution of 1832. I will attempt, in this retrospective chapter, to consider the various modes in which the idea has worked, in changing many of the former relations of our social life. Such changes in the condition of the people essentially belong to the science of politics. But with politics, in the ordinary sense of the term, I have no intention of meddling.

* Speech on the East India Bill.


It is scarcely forty years since that, in my rambles around Windsor, I was often deterred from striking into a by-path by the announcement—“Steel-traps and spring-guns are set in these preserves.” I had no desire to trespass on the sacred places in which the hare and the pheasant were enshrined. I sometimes thought of Quentin Durward and of the thickets of Plessis-les-Tours “surrounded with every species of hidden pitfall, snare, and gin to entrap the wretch who should venture thither without a guide.” The spirit of the fifteenth century seemed, in this one characteristic, to have survived in the nineteenth—the spirit of small respect for human life. It may in the present day be scarcely deemed credible, that in 1820, the Chief-Justice of the King’s Bench to a certain extent justified the practice of setting spring-guns, by using the following words: “I cannot say that repeated and increasing acts of aggression may not reasonably call for increased means of defence and protection.” He thought that no person, having notice given him, would be weak and foolish enough to expose himself to the perilous consequences of his trespass. Lord Suffield, who was mainly instrumental in procuring, in 1827, the abolition of this barbarous remnant of the feudal unconcern for the safety of life and limb, told a story in Parliament, which probably had as much effect in procuring this result, as if he had circumstantially related the injuries inflicted by these engines upon a dozen peasants or yeomen. “I have heard,” he said, “of a judge on the circuit, who not very long ago wishing to take air and exercise before the business in court commenced, or after it had concluded, was on the point of entering a wood where he would almost inevitably
have been shot, had he not received accidental intimation that spring-guns were set there.”

I have selected this instance of the extravagant notions which once prevailed as to the rights of property, to point to one of the main causes of the alienation of classes, which, more than any other cause, prevented the general reception of the idea, that to promote the happiness of the greatest number was the duty of all, and especially of the rich and powerful. The true rights of property have not been weakened because public opinion utters the most decisive “No” when a great man asks “May I not do what I like with my own?”

That interpretation of the rights of property, which admits the majority into a moral partnership with the minority, was the foundation of all the first great political changes that have given a new character to the present age. This interpretation gave us the Reform Bill, which swept away the vested interests in Nomination Boroughs. Corporation Reform took away the administration of large funds from self-elected and irresponsible bodies, to place them in the hands of those who would account to their fellow-citizens for their righteous employment for the public good. The abolition of the Corn Laws destroyed the tenacious hold of the landed interest upon their prescriptive claim to tax the food of the community, in the mistaken belief that dear corn and good rents were necessarily associated, and that the power of the rich to expend largely was the main support of the industrious, and the essential condition of the welfare of the poor. The overthrow of Negro Slavery in our West India Colonies recognized the principle that no rights of property could be main-
tained which were based upon injustice as between man and man. These changes were essentially revolutionary, but different from all other revolutions in bringing with them no civil war; no damage to the throne and the altar; no subversion of an ancient aristocracy; no abatement of the proper influence of the modern capitalist. I pass them by, to proceed to those social improvements which have grown out of them, evidencing the altered spirit in which we have come to regard “the greatest number.”

And first let me glance at those Fiscal changes which, one after another, have lightened the pressure of indirect taxation upon articles of necessity, and have thus not only lessened the cost of food, of clothing, of dwellings, of furniture, by the entire abolition or reduction of Customs and Excise duties, but have left industry free to do its proper work without supervision and restriction. In my “Companion to the Almanac” I shall find the necessary data for tracing the course of administrative and financial improvements, and all the other results of a principle of legislation which alone can maintain the harmony of a State:—
“For Government, through high, and low, and lower,
Put into parts, doth keep in one concent;
Congreeing in a full and natural close,
Like music.”
This is “the harmonic power of political justice,” which
Shakspere, by some means, derived from Plato.*

In 1820, the “Edinburgh Review,” in an elaborate

* See “Knight’s Pictorial Shakspere.” Illustrations to Henry V., Act I.

article on “
Taxation and the Corn Laws,” used these emphatic words: “It is no exaggeration to affirm, that, with the solitary exception of water, there is not a single necessary consumed in the empire which is not, directly or indirectly, loaded with a most oppressive impost.” There was one impost upon an article of prime necessity which first called upon the Legislature to listen to the general expressed public opinion. The Salt Duty was fifteen shillings a bushel—a tax equal to thirty times the cost of the salt. The revenue produced by this impost amounted to a million and a half; in spite of an immense amount of evasion and smuggling, which no penalties of fine or imprisonment could put down. In 1825 the tax was wholly repealed, having been previously reduced. There were at that time many political optimists who would exclaim—How is the repeal of this tax to improve the condition of the labouring classes? In the labourer’s household there is not a bushel of salt consumed in a whole year! There was amongst such reasoners a belief in a charming paradox—that government was a beneficent power, which followed the analogy of nature. As the evaporation of the earth’s surface was returned to it in refreshing showers and fertilizing dews, so the produce of taxes was always beneficially expended by the State for the universal good. History was rather against the theory, as applicable to the Salt Tax; for it told that the Gabelle—the salt code of France—had something to do in bringing about the Revolution.

It was several years before the British Parliament began again to bestir itself, in the repeal or mitigation of the multifarious taxes on necessaries which
few could affirm did not interfere with the happiness of the greatest number. Let me attempt a slight sketch of the position of an artisan and his family, from 1830 to 1864.

Thomas Cleave is the jobbing carpenter and builder of a small village—such a neglected and impoverished place as I have described as Combe in this volume (chap, iv., p. 70). He has succeeded to the cottage, the workshop, and the tools of his father. He marries a careful and industrious young woman; and he thrives in his humble way. By uniting the wages of his own labour, and the profits of his small stock, he contrives to live without any severe privations. There is very little new building going forward in Combe; for all building materials are extremely dear, through the operation of enormous duties upon timber, upon bricks, upon glass. His own cottage, though once tolerably comfortable, has been rendered dark and dismal by the heavy window tax; for half of the old casements which, before the war, permitted his parents to enjoy the fresh air and the bright sunshine, have been displaced by solid brickwork. His engagements sometimes compel him to work at night; but he always lights an extra candle grudgingly. His wife mends her children’s stockings by the thinnest bit of tallow in the chandler’s shop; and she is not particularly anxious that they should have clean linen, or even clean faces, for soap is extravagantly dear. The soap and the candle are held by the exciseman as two of the supporters of his administrative function; for he is always sealing-up and unsealing, locking-up and unlocking, the cauldrons and the utensils which the soap-boiler and the candle-maker require. In that household there must
be not only rigid economy, but a great deal of pinching self-denial. I have adverted to the narrative of
Christopher Thomson, who left off sugar in his tea that he might buy the “Penny Magazine” (vol. ii., p. 183). In 1829, Mr. Huskisson, in the House of Commons, expressed his belief that, in consequence of the enormous duty, the poor working man with a large family was denied the use of sugar; and that two-thirds of the poorer consumers of coffee drank that beverage without sugar. The duty upon foreign sugar then amounted to a prohibition; the duty upon sugar from our colonies was about 3d. per lb. The tax upon tea was an ad-valorem duty amounting to 200 per cent. In 1834 it was reduced to fixed duties averaging about 2s. 6d. the lb. Tea and sugar were thus only unusual luxuries for a poor family thirty years ago. Beer was the Englishman’s favourite beverage—the national drink, as he believed, which gave him strength and health. There was some reason in the belief; but when beer was about double its present price, the workman was compelled to moderation, if he did his duty to his family. Spirits and tobacco I pass by. They are not necessaries of life.

“By taxes innumerable, imposed immediately and through every medium by which man is assailable, an universal poverty is created in the midst of affluence.” It is curious that this lament should occur in an article on “The Drama.” The argument of the Reviewer is—that the heavy taxation of that time “deprived the people of the enjoyment of the theatre.” To those who upon principle opposed all popular amusements, especially theatrical, this instance of the effects of taxation would go for nothing.
They would rejoice in this, as they would regret that another manifestation of the benefits of taxation had fallen into disuse. A few years only had elapsed since the Barons of the Exchequer had solemnly decided that the scenes of the theatre, being painted canvas, were precisely the same as floor-cloth, and were liable to the same heavy duty. The exciseman measuring and calculating must have been a singular intruder at a rehearsal. This is one instance, amongst many, of the extreme sharpness with which the revenue laws were pressed into interpretations which had slight regard to their original intent and meaning. This official vigilance, which involved a good deal of oppression, gradually became relaxed as new ideas upon the subject of taxation were entertained in high places. It was at length discovered that the productiveness of a tax is not in proportion to a maximum rate. Then came, with the knowledge of this truth, the conviction that every tax which put the necessaries and comforts of life beyond the reach of the bulk of the people, had a tendency to degrade them in their habits and make them disloyal in their opinions. The security of the government was a necessary corollary of the happiness of the governed.

My imaginary Thomas Cleave has struggled on through thirty or forty years to maintain a decent position. He has educated his children, and has put them in a way to earn their own living. His condition during the last twenty years has been steadily improving, The great article of household consumption, bread, is about half the price it was before the repeal of the laws on the importation of corn. He has two stalwart sons working with him, at an increasing
business. There are the homesteads of the farmers to alter and improve. The land proprietors are building snug cottages in the place of the old hovels. He can do the work cheaply, and more as a skilled workman at a better profit, now the excessive taxes on building materials are taken away. He has opened the blocked-up windows of his old home, for there is no longer a window tax. His good dame does not think it necessary now to practise any severe stint in soap or candles. She can, though not very often, treat herself with a neat new gown, for printed cottons are no longer taxed. The afternoon tea is stronger than of old, and there is no lack of sugar for those who desire it. The good man has bought some useful and amusing books, and he does not begrudge himself a weekly newspaper. There was a time when he could not afford to receive letters from relations at a distance, or to write letters. Once or twice a year he took a long walk to the mansion of the county member, to see if the butler could obtain for him a frank, to send to his brother in Yorkshire. Penny Postage has settled that difficulty.

In the midst of the Reform agitation of 1831, Cholera Morbus first made its appearance in England. I have described some of the aspects of that time, in which the most equal minds could scarcely control their fears in presence of a strange visitation. The panic of some, however, led them to adopt the belief that their safety would depend upon their entire isolation from the rest of the community. In some households, a terror had been incited by the apprehension that domestics should be forbidden “to communicate with any one out-of-doors,” and that “all supplies of food must be received from the police
purveyors.”* Elaborate calculations were accordingly made for victualling the mansion or the villa during quarantine, with such a supply of bacon or flour as would dispense with the butcher and the baker. These extravagant fears and precautions would have been simply ludicrous, if the temporary preponderance of the feeling of indifference, or something worse, through which the Levite “passed by on the other side,” had not inspired grave apprehensions of the tendencies of increasing national wealth to make the prosperous selfish. But out of this calamity of the Cholera arose a new object of Legislation, the care of the Public Health; and with sanitary laws came the conviction that Legislation would be inefficient without private exertions of incessant vigilance, and incomplete without that personal sympathy with the needy, and that compassion for the ignorant, which are worth more than any amount of money-giving.

The middle-class inhabitants of English towns, under their old municipal and other local institutions, were careful to preserve some outward manifestations of a regard for cleanliness, and a consequent solicitude for the public health. I take Stratford-upon-Avon as an example—a town subject to frequent visitations of the plague. In 1552, John Shakspere, the father of the poet, and other inhabitants of Henley Street, were fined for making a dung-heap in the road. In 1558, several of the same persons were amerced for not keeping their gutters clean. The Court Rolls exhibit a similar regard for the public health in other instances. The butchers are to carry

* See “Quarterly Review,” vol. xlvi. p. 274.

forth their garbage after the hour of nine in the afternoon, and no householder is to receive a stranger to lodge for a night, without a special licence from the bailiff. Here then, three centuries ago, we find an anticipation of the Nuisances Removal Act of 1845, and the Common Lodging House Act of 1851. But during the long interval, the powers of Courts-Leet and of Bailiffs had fallen into disuse. In 1849, when a Report upon the sanitary condition of this town was published, it was alleged that the rate of mortality was unusually high, and was distinctly traceable to want of drainage, imperfect water supply, roads ill-paved or unpaved, foul open cesspools, and other abominations—all showing how little civilisation had advanced since the time when John Shakspere was fined for making a dung-heap before his door. But Stratford-upon-Avon was not a solitary case of neglect. Nearly all the country towns of England were as full of nuisances as I remember my native town of Windsor. The only indication of the presence of some authority, capable of preventing any encroachment upon public decency and comfort, was to be seen on an old painted board in the market-place, announcing that whoever laid any “dirt, filth, or rubbish” in the streets, would be proceeded against according to law. What the law was, few could tell, and none cared to know. At any rate, the law did not authorise any inspection of nuisances within the dwellings where the poor congregated, with pestiferous ditches all around them; nor was any care taken for a domestic provision of water by equable rating. There was a public pump or two, and there was the Thames. Water was an expensive luxury, even in the better houses. The old
water-mill below Windsor Bridge was the private property of an honest but eccentric plumber, who sometimes neglected to call for his charge during several years, and then, if there was any demur to paying the formidable arrear, would have no hesitation in threatening to cut off the supply. When I look at the altered state of things at the period at which I am writing, I could almost doubt the evidence, presented by the dates of ten or more Acts of Parliament, that the sanitary legislation which has called into action the useful labours of more than four hundred Boards of Health, and of the same number of Burial Boards, has not the recommendation of a higher antiquity than that of half a generation. We owe this legislation principally to two men, who will perhaps receive more ungrudging honour in another age than has been bestowed upon them in their own. The one is
Dr. Southwood Smith, who has been called “the father of sanitary reform;” for to him we are indebted for the discovery of a truth which has come upon us like a new light. It was formerly held that poverty and disease are inseparable. Dr. Southwood Smith proved, some six-and-thirty years ago, that the high rate of mortality observed to prevail amongst the poorer population, did not necessarily attach to poverty itself, but was to be traced to the circumstances by which the poor are ordinarily surrounded in their dwellings. His worthy fellow-labourer was Edwin Chadwick. Ten years ago, the Earl of Carlisle, in speaking of Mr. Chadwick’s labours in connection with the Poor Law and Sanitary Reform, alluded to a circumstance which had diminished the temporary popularity of many enthusiastic men—“a certain portion of posi-
tiveness and precipitation.” Two years afterwards, I expressed my opinion upon this implied objection to Mr. Chadwick’s administrative zeal. I repeat it now, for a friendship of thirty years ought not to interfere with the declaration of an honest conviction. “The ‘positiveness and precipitation’ which are thus conceded to a passing clamour, as a set-off against contemporary gratitude, have belonged, more or less, to every man whose earnestness has had to struggle with official indifference and procrastination. Mr. Chadwick came from the people. He was not, as
Burke said of himself, ‘swaddled, and nursed, and dandled into a legislator;’ and he had to encounter the bitterest hatred of men whose principle was to do nothing till they were forced, and then to do as little as possible. Many of the sanitary measures also with which Mr. Chadwick was connected disturbed various large interests; and he had thus the common fate of all social reformers who are more anxious to enunciate unwelcome truths than careful to conciliate the supporters of profitable errors.”

There is probably no such striking example of the rapidity with which an entirely new code of laws has been received into the public mind, and successfully established in defiance of local and personal interests, as that exhibited by the Sanitary Legislation of the last twenty years. Statutes, however, would have been passed in vain, had not the facts and principles, upon which they were based, been driven into the popular understanding by men such as those I have mentioned, who. despite of vested interests and deeprooted prejudices, were bent upon advancing the welfare of the greatest number, by attacking some of the causes of disease and destitution in their strong-
holds and privileged hiding-places. To cleanse the Augean stables of London and of four or five hundred provincial towns, was a labour that Hercules might have shrunk from; for Hercules did his work by strength of muscle, whilst the sanitary reformers applied themselves to their task with the power of reason and the experience of science. Wherever we go, the results are visible, except to those who have eyes and no eyes. In 1842,
Mr. Chadwick published his Report on Interments. Ten years before this Report called attention to a general evil, the Kensal Green Cemetery had been established by a Joint-Stock Company. The example was quickly followed at Norwood, at Highgate, and other suburban districts. But these receptacles in which “the sculptur’d urn and monumental bust” were carefully preserved amidst flowery walks and unsullied turf, were for the rich. Horrible grave-yards, revolting to the senses, were to be found in populous places that in the last generation were verdant fields, and in the narrow streets and courts of the City, where its hundred churches seemed to have little use beyond that of gathering in and around them the means of swift destruction to the living. Thirty years ago, there was a sight in St. Bride’s church-yard, which often took me out of my rapid course along Fleet Street to look upon. A dog had followed his master to the grave and had remained there for several years, fed indeed by the neighbours, but never straying beyond the gates, which were constantly open. His master’s grave was not a solitary one. Year after year the mounds in this church-yard had gone on increasing till the Cholera came in 1855. The back warehouses of my place of business in Fleet
Street looked upon this pestilential spot. I became ill, as were others of my establishment. This gloomy and dangerous area has now been partially closed, and so have nearly all the old burial-places of the metropolis. It is in the interest of the greatest number that they have been closed. For the enforcement and preservation of these general interests, eight statutes have been passed during the last twelve years, which give a power to Burial-Boards to close existing grounds and form new ones, and to keep the closed burial-places in proper order. It would have been impossible that this portion of our sanitary laws should have been worked out by the people themselves, at a large expense and often in opposition to personal feeling, had not the supreme principle of a great public good been paramount to all other considerations.

The carrying out of the Public Health Acts, in their various ramifications, has entirely depended upon the decisions of those who had to sustain the expense. The Local Boards of Health knew well that they must encounter very heavy expenses. The report of a surveyor was a preliminary step, for the consideration of a community whether it would resolutely encounter the addition of a considerable burden to the direct parochial rates, or go on under the old system of indirect taxation in the shape of lingering or acute disease, premature death, the destitution of families. Upon purely economical principles, the decision was right when a community decided that it was cheaper to encounter the direct taxation involved in an ample supply of pure water; in drainage; in paving and surface cleansing; in providing public baths and washhouses; and in esta-
blishing parks and pleasure grounds. I have before me some of the able Reports, so convincing in their practical view of great evils, that the English common sense began quickly to see that the best course was to pay the cost of the necessary remedies. Let me glance at a few of the instances that have come within my own observation.

To the Watering-places on every coast the idle and the busy resort in the pursuit of health. Than some of these twenty years ago, there were no fouler or more pestilential places. I was a summer visitor, with my family, a little before a fatal epidemic made the pretty little town of Sandgate a Golgotha. The official survey of 1849 showed that there was no system of sewerage, that drains discharged upon the beach, that there was no scavengering, that the atmosphere was vitiated by animal and vegetable matter in a state of decay, that nearly all the walls were polluted. Truly a pleasant spot for a summer holiday! Hyde was pronounced to have no proper supply of pure water, and the sewerage and drainage were both inefficient. There was scarcely a place to which invalids resort that was not more or less defective in all the great conditions of healthful existence. If these places of luxury were abandoned to ignorance and neglect, what would be the case with great ports, such as Bristol, Portsmouth, and Plymouth? But the evils in such communities were small, compared with the practices and miseries of a great mining and manufacturing population, such as that of Merthyr Tydfil. The fortunate dwellers in houses where there is a full and constant supply of water from public works scarcely know the value of this great blessing. Bad drainage was a common evil; but here the cot-
tages of the thousands of workmen could only be supplied from the distant springs—not by machinery, not from conduits, but by the personal labour of the poor female drudges of every household. The following description by a clergyman of the district seems to carry us back to past ages of uncivilization:—

“During winter there are from six to eight spouts, some half a mile, some a mile, distant from the houses, but in summer they are often reduced to three, the remainder being dried up. At these water-spouts (“pyshtylls” as they call it in Welsh) I have seen fifty, eighty, and as many as a hundred people waiting for their turn; the rule is that each should be supplied according to the time of arriving. The women have told me they have waited six, eight, and ten hours at a time, for their turn; and some then obliged to go away without any water at all. They have been known to wait up the whole of the night. In the case of women having a young family, they are left at home at these times to take care of themselves. Instances have occurred of children being burned to death while their mothers are waiting at the spouts. They have no other supply of water whatever fit to drink in summer time, and have no alternative but to wait.” Surely it was time that something should have been done for “the happiness of the greatest number.”

It was in large towns that the “Public Health Act” of 1848 had been chiefly working for ten years. In 1858, the “Local Government Act” was passed. The previous General Board of Health had been assailed by the old cry against centralisation, which was often a pretence for doing nothing. One of the ablest officers under the new Act was Mr. Henry Austin, Inspector.
His death was a great loss, not only on account of his professional experience, but from his capacity of taking a broad view of the responsibilities of all engaged in the great social duties involved in the care of the public health. In 1858, he wrote, at my request, a very able article upon the results of sanitary legislation in England, which thus concludes: “The initiation of practical measures of local improvement is made entirely a local concern under the new Local Government Act. By that Act the powers of local authorities are materially extended, and their responsibilities are correspondingly increased. It remains with themselves to determine how long they will reject the blessings and advantages held out to them,—how long they will remain satisfied with the extravagance and misery of neglect,—how long blindly refuse to join in the onward march of civilization, social comfort, and prosperity.” (“
Companion to Almanac”—1859.) The official administration of this Act and of a subsequent amended Act was entrusted to Mr. Tom Taylor as Secretary. A brilliant writer of wide reputation, he is one of the numerous examples, that the possession of genius and scholarship does not disqualify a man for the steady exercise of administrative functions. The prejudices of modern times have run counter to this opinion, but they are gradually yielding to the conviction, that the knowledge and energy which conduct to distinction in one walk, may be very safely trusted to prevent failure in another sphere of exertion.

The personal sympathy with the needy, and compassion for the ignorant, without which Sanitary Legislation would be incomplete, have not been want-
ing. I have visited many towns where Boards of Health had been established, or were attempted to be established. Seven years ago, when public opinion was often fluctuating between apprehensions of the cost of remedial measures and convictions of their necessity, I saw much of the popular feeling upon this question, in the West of England. Amidst a good deal of apathy and indifference, even in the members of Local Boards, I met with much earnestness and some enthusiasm. But the earnest and the enthusiastic were those who had not been afraid of entering the dwellings of the poor. Such would see how much their privations were increased by their own neglect of the means of healthful existence, in spite of mercenary landlords, and careless town councils. After the command of pure water was placed within their reach, and their houses drained; after the nuisances collected around their doors were abated; they had to learn many lessons which were untaught amidst the dirt and disease of their earlier years. For this teaching there were none so fit as women addressing themselves to women. The various modes in which, whether in the seclusion of the hamlet, or the dark places of the city, ladies have become ministering angels, wherever there is want or suffering, is a characteristic of our times in which we may well rejoice. Foremost amongst their good deeds are their labours in the Education of the Young; but the Diffusion of Sanitary Knowledge has opened a new field for their exertions. The “Ladies’ Sanitary Association” has printed a series of Tracts, in which all the great principles of health-preservation are set forth with accurate knowledge and admirable clearness. But it aims at something more than
tract-distributing. In an Address read at Bradford by the lady Secretary of this Association, there are these sensible words: “Our chief reliance must be on oral and practical teaching, and personal influences. In all organizations for visiting the poor, arrangements should be made for giving this practical instruction, and for bringing the influence of the visitors to bear upon the physical as well as the spiritual condition of the people. The latter, preeminently important though it is, certainly should not be so exclusively the object of attention, as it too often is, in the existing organizations for assisting the poor.”*

If, in looking back at the state of the public health thirty years ago, we may exclaim, with a reasonable pride, “Are we not improved?” we may equally rejoice that at the same period a spirit was awakened which put an end to the horrible neglect, and the severe treatment, of lunatics. There were not many counties in which there were asylums. There were private establishments, rarely subjected to any efficient supervision, in which insane persons were kept, at a heavy expense. But the pauper lunatic, or idiot, was either shut up in some dark room of the parish workhouse, or left to the unsafe custody of his relations. Bethlem (or Bedlam, as it was called) was the one asylum familiar to the popular mind; and this, for a long series of years, had always been associated with the scenes in Hogarth’s “Rake’s Progress,” in which idle spectators are represented as looking into the cages where “moody madness” sits desolate, or gazing with fear upon the frenzy of the naked

* “Social Science Transactions, 1864,” p. 713.

wretch, chained to the floor, who is tearing his own flesh.
Dr. Trusler, who “moralizes” upon Hogarth, exclaims, “Was it not for this charitable institution, what dreadful consequences would ensue!” The scandal of permitting the wretched patients of Bethlem to be made a show of, was put an end to; and then came a greater scandal, in the absence of publicity. The secrets of this “prison-house”—a royal institution, supported by ample endowments—were perfectly appalling, as appeared in evidence before a Parliamentary Committee. It has become a model of humane and rational treatment of this heaviest of human evils. There are now more than forty county asylums, and about twenty hospitals, where restraint, even of the gentlest kind, is the exception to the general practice; where the poor creatures are kept happy by exercise and employment; where they are not wholly cut off from their sense of responsibility as intelligent beings. The private asylums are under strict inspection; and the high character of the medical and legal Commissioners is a guarantee that the old frauds and abuses no longer exist, except in the inventions of the novelist.

The contrast between our present penal laws, and those of half a century ago, is one of the most striking examples of the altered aspect of the age. The Criminal Code was one of tremendous severity. Death was the penalty of a hundred and fifty crimes. Minor offences were attempted to be repressed with proportionate severity. The highest penalty was indeed rarely inflicted, in comparison with the number of capital convictions; but the substitute was transportation. The offender was got rid of, and little heed was taken of the crimes and miseries that trans-
portation involved. At last, public opinion was outraged by the rigours of the Criminal Code. Humanity was equally shocked by the certainty that the prisons throughout the land were nurseries of crime; that every convict left the filthy and ill-regulated den in which he had been shut up, a more hardened outcast of society than when he entered its walls. Prison Inspectors were appointed. The grosser evils were removed. Various systems of discipline were resorted to, in which mildness was the general rule. The felon, then, not only fared better than the pauper, but far more luxuriously than many a labourer who maintained his independence. Transportation became impracticable, and the sentence of penal servitude was adopted in the place of banishment to Colonies, where the presence of the depredator had become odious. After a half-century of experiments, our Convict System has, in a great degree, resolved itself into the assertion of principles, which are thus described by one who has done as much as any man for the solution of the most difficult problem that true philanthropy has ever had to decide upon.
Matthew Davenport Hill, in a paper read at York, in September, 1864, before the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, thus recorded the triumph which he had lived to see, after years of labour and conflict. My friend has his best reward: “The passing of the new Penal Servitude Act is an event which I trust will form an epoch in the history of our jurisprudence. The treatment of criminals with the unswerving purpose of reforming them, deviating neither into indulgence on the one hand, nor into unnecessary harshness on the other; their supervision after discharge, to protect the public
against the danger of their relapse, to protect themselves against unjust suspicion and consequent persecution, and also to afford them some aid in obtaining employment, under the all but overwhelming disadvantages attending their return to society: these, I rejoice to say, are now the accepted principles of our jurisprudence, applicable in greater or less degree to all but capital cases; and I look upon the Penal Servitude Act of the last session as having secured them from vicissitude.”

The treatment of criminals, “with the unswerving purpose of reforming them,” was long considered one of the Utopian visions of the benevolent. There were natural mistakes committed in the endeavour to realize this idea. Amongst others, was that of making “good conduct” the principle upon which a remission of punishment was to be granted. “Good conduct” is capable of many interpretations. The novelist was not far wrong when he exhibited a hypocritical villain as the pet of magistrates, chaplains, and gaolers. The Home Secretary has now told the proper authorities that “remissions are to be earned by industry alone—steady and laborious industry.” The Recorder of Birmingham thus comments upon this wise regulation: “Industry is the ground on which we must build; and, in order that the industry practised in the gaol may continue after the prisoner is at large, it must be willing industry.” The forced labour of the treadmill was one of the old mistakes of prison discipline. The convict was degraded by labour without any more profitable results than might have been attained by a steam-engine and a shaft. There could be no reformation when the moral sense, which few wholly lose, was outraged.


Whatever doubts may have arisen, or may still arise, upon the question of effectually reforming adult criminals, none could maintain that Reformatories for juvenile offenders were not better calculated to correct evil habits, and establish good principles, than the gaol, the solitary cell, and the whip. Reformatories are schools of industry for those young persons who have violated the laws of their country, and, by magisterial authority, are placed under instruction and discipline. Refuges are Industrial Schools, where food and shelter are provided for the houseless and destitute. Ragged Schools are for the instruction of the very poorest class, who without such moral and religious teaching might grow up into vagabonds and convicts, and would certainly have little chance of escaping from their rags. Such institutions have been set on foot, and effectually promoted, by very humble persons who saw the misery and vice around them. The noble and the influential came in time to their aid; and have fully deserved such honour as belongs to the labours of Lord Shaftesbury and Mary Carpenter, to promote “the happiness of the greatest number,” in taking thought for “the little ones” that were once left to hard taskmasters and profligate parents. One of the most valuable principles of the Factory Acts, in originating which Lord Shaftesbury was mainly instrumental, is the Education of Factory children.

To accomplish the good that is sought to be effected by elevating the very poorest in the social scale, the middle and upper classes have not shrunk from very close contact with the lower. In villages and small towns the duty is easier, and less revolting to delicate natures, than to penetrate into the darkest
recesses of the crowded rooms where misery and crime were formerly left unvisited, except by the police. In boldly fronting the indifference, if not the insults, with which the inspection of their miserable houses was once received by the poorest, the clergy have led the way. They have had the aid of true Deacons, and earnest Sisters of Mercy—not, indeed, set apart for their good work, but devoted to it from a high determination to do something more for their fellow-creatures than merely subscribing to public charities. Forty-five years ago, before such exertions were common,
Dr. Chalmers, one of the wisest of Christian teachers, proclaimed that “the law of reciprocal attraction between one heart and another is a law of nature as well as of Christianity, insomuch that no sooner does the regard of a philanthropist for the people of his district come to be recognized, than their regard for him, and that, too, both from the converted and unconverted, will attest of what kind of material our humanity is formed. . . . . . Though the ministration of gold and silver be that which fortune hath altogether denied him, it is both very striking and very encouraging to behold how, in spite of themselves, he steals the hearts of the people away from them; how, as if by the operation of some mystic spell, the most restless and profligate of them all, feel the softening influence of his presence and of his ‘doings’!”

There is a book which may truly be called beautiful, in its pious earnestness, as conspicuous as its ability—“The Missing Link.” The name of the book is derived from the experiment which has been successfully made, of employing poor women to carry religious teaching to the homes of poor women—to
set on foot “Female Missions to the dens of London.” Truly does the
authoress of this book say, “The City Missionary and the Scripture Reader cannot accomplish this Woman’s Mission. They meet in their morning rounds chiefly with women, dirty, lazy, and drunken; or, if industrious, at their work. Their husbands are generally ‘at work,’and in some cases they complain of the spiritual visit paid to their wives, as ‘just hindering them and bothering them.’ But we do not find that they have anything to say against our ‘Marians,’ and ‘Marthas,’ and ‘Sarahs,’ and ‘Rebeccas.’ These have all met with a genuine welcome from the Lower House of Lords, who know that their wives want teaching the common arts of life, and that even their own comfort depends upon the lesson being learned.”

One of the main objects of these “Passages” having been to trace the progress of Popular Education and the Diffusion of Knowledge, it is scarcely necessary that I should here enter upon this subject, as one of the evidences of that regard for “the greatest number” which I deem a characteristic of the present time. One of the most satisfactory results of educational improvement has been, that the great body of the people have learnt better how to take care of their own happiness. “With diffused wealth accompanying diffused knowledge, the grosser vices of the middle class have vanished. The riot and indelicacy that characterised the so-called enjoyments of too many of the traders, at the beginning of the century, have given place to the tranquil pleasures of Home, with some taste for Art and Literature. The reform of manners began somewhat earlier with the higher class. In the same way,
whatever coarseness and profligacy may still exist in the lower, drunkenness, and blasphemy, and indecency, are not the habits of the artisan class, but are the exceptions. It has been found out by those who undertake to teach their inferiors in station, that to wean them from coarse gratifications they must have rational amusements. Hence “Penny Readings,” and Cheap Concerts. Those who belong to what is called “the wage class” are becoming capitalists. They have learnt the value of the aide toi principle.
Lord Stanley, in a recent address to a Mechanics’ Institute, thus described the causes which are carrying forward “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” over which they have themselves control:—“I say, keep your independence, keep your self-reliance, and never fear but you will continue to do well. The work in which you are engaged is only part—it may be but a small part—of a great national movement. The school, the institute, the cheap newspaper, the cheap book, go together with the benefit society, the savings bank, the freehold cottage, the co-operative mill, and better still, the co-operative store. The object of all these is one—to lighten the heavy and threefold burden of ignorance, of poverty, and of labour. Failure there may be; mistakes there occasionally will be; there may be long delay and temporary falling back; but that that end will in some not inconsiderable degree be attained, is not only the earnest hope, but the confident expectation, of those in whose thoughts the welfare and the greatness of England are most constantly present.”

There are exceptional instances of employers of workmen, who look with jealousy and apprehension
upon the means thus described, for advancing the welfare of the greatest number by “self-help.” They scarcely dare to avow that Savings Banks, by which the receivers of wages are often enabled to become rivals in the employment of labour, are an abomination; but the Co-operative principle, in all its various forms, they hold to be dangerous to the natural and established order of society. There are also masters and mistresses of families, who do not “patronise,” as their phrase is, the cheap newspaper and the cheap book. The school, they think, may do some future good; but their belief is that it has done very much present harm. In domestic matters, it is their common complaint that Education has destroyed the old character of servants—that good female servants, especially, cannot be obtained, for National Schools have set them above their work. This complaint, whether just or not, involves questions which belong to our general social condition, of which the extent of domestic service in England is a remarkable feature. The increase of this section of the population, during the last thirty years, is one of the striking evidences of the increase of the means of household expenditure amongst the middle classes. In 1831, the female servants were about one thirteenth of the total female population; in 1861, they were about one-tenth. Out of a million of female domestics it is easily to be imagined that there are abundant specimens of the ignorance and conceit that make up what the satirists call servant-gallism. One who has laboured long and earnestly in the preparation of efficient “Teachers of the People,” has taken a most sensible view of the question of “Domestic Service
as affected by Popular Education.” When there was more distinction between the different orders of society, there was less separation. “The parlour was not so far off from the kitchen as it is now. In particular, the mistress saw more of her maidens, knew more about their work, and shared it to a greater extent than is at all common in these times. Now, she sits apart on Olympus. . . . . . The boarding-school is more responsible for this change than the national school. . . . . . The homely remark which I have heard from an elderly housekeeper is much to the purpose—‘Mistresses used to teach their servants.’”* What is called “the plague of servants” would be speedily abated, if the coldness and neglect of too many heads of families did not set up a bar of separation between the payers and the receivers of wages. It is the common mistake to believe that there is not a reciprocity of obligation. It is the especial mistake of a vast number of ignorant or imperfectly educated heads of families, to shudder at the slightest approach of their domestics to what they deem an evident imitation of the manners of their superiors, as exhibited in the power of reading novels or writing letters. This greater independence of domestic servants—their increased power of expending their wages upon dress, and their leisure upon their own gratifications—belongs to the general uplifting of every class into an approximation to the habits of the class above them. The increase of national wealth has necessarily caused its distribution through the smaller veins of the body politic, as well as the larger.

* “The Teachers of the People.” By the Rev. Derwent Coleridge. 1862.


At the beginning of the century, our great philosophic poet wrote, amongst his “Sonnets dedicated to Liberty,” several in which he laments over the tendencies of his age. He is—
To think that now our life is only drest
For show; mean handiwork of craftsman, cook,
And groom.”
Avarice and Prodigality were once held to be antagonistic. In
Pope’s verse, “lordly luxury” is opposed to “city gain.” Wordsworth saw the beginning of a change, from the old frugal spirit of the middle class, by whom money was slowly saved, to the passion for hasty acquisition, and the passion for profuse display. This is not
“The sense to value riches, with the art
To enjoy them.”
To the commercial man, wholly possessed with the dominant idea of making a fortune, and at the same time urged on to expense for the sake of appearances, the vice and the folly bring their own curses. These efforts sap the foundations of the old trading morality of England. There are too many whose respectability is based upon the worship of
“Rapine, avarice, expense—
This is idolatry; and these we adore:
Plain living, and high thinking, are no more.”
The prevalence of these “middle class” examples has had no inconsiderable share in producing profligate and unhappy children. The sons will not marry, until they can live in the style of their parents; the daughters will drive away every suitor who is not reputed rich. Vain regrets over lost
opportunities and ridiculous waste, make the Present miserable and the Future dark, to the head of such a household.

A political economist, who professes to speak the opinion of “the middle class” of this country, says that “the life of a man who leaves no property, or family provision, of his own acquiring, at his death, is felt to have been a failure.” I do not accept the doctrine as a true expression of the general feeling. There are thousands of the commercial class and the professional class, who have not been inordinately anxious to gather together “muckhills” of riches, to be spread abroad when their accumulators are gone. Nevertheless, these have not been like the “wicked and unprofitable servant,” who buried the one talent which his Master entrusted to him. Few of them, probably, have neglected to make some modest provision against absolute poverty which the system of Life Assurance affords. But, if they have wisely incurred a liberal expenditure of capital upon the education of their children; if they have placed their sons in positions where they may “learn and labour truly to get their own living;” if they have qualified their daughters to discharge sensibly and gracefully, whether as child, wife, or mother, the private and public duties which render the English lady the promoter of all social dignity and enjoyment, they have been amongst the most provident accumulators. They have laid up a profitable fund out of their consumption, by preserving their families, whilst they have lived amongst them, in the highest point of efficiency for future production. This doctrine may not be strictly the science of “the wealth of nations,”
but I believe that it has something to do with “the happiness of the greatest number.”

In many worldly respects my own life has not been “a failure.” It was probably a blessing in disguise, that circumstances, over which I had little control, long ago taught me that it was not for me to make a fortune, or to indulge in the ostentation of ample means. I have been content with the “plain living” that the philosophic poet sets above a life “only drest for show.” If “high thinking” have not been altogether wanting, I owe this to a love of books, and perhaps not less to the companionship of educated and intelligent friends. I believe that I have made very few enemies. Within my own proper sphere I have had as much social enjoyment as is compatible with the belief that “the chief end of man” is duty and not pleasure.

The fiftieth anniversary of my marriage has just passed. Half a century of congenial wedlock is a blessing accorded to few. It brought with it the further blessing of a family united in love; of a home where cheerful faces ever welcomed me. During forty years I had known no great sorrow. I had not been bereft of any one of those who were the joy of my manhood, and the comfort of my age. A dark cloud has cast its solemn shadow over my Golden Bridal; but I feel that our griefs, and the consolations which should come with them, are for ourselves, and not for the outer world. Taken as a whole, my life has been a happy one.

During the progress of these “Passages,” I have, as far as I could, steadily resisted the temptation of entering upon any details of my private circumstances or domestic relations. If, in closing this
narrative, I have stepped for an instant across the boundary line which I prescribed to myself, and if I look not beyond my own home for one to whom I can offer a concluding tribute of affection, I mast be forgiven, in the consideration that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh:”







January 16, 1865.