Sidor som bilder

neighbourhood, and make them slink back abashed into their loathsome dens. The house has that battered, worn aspect, which speaks of dissolute idleness, the windows are dark and dingy, and the street too narrow to admit a current of fresh air; and it needed, on the rainy day in March in which it was visited, but a slightly active imagination to call up visions of the robberies and murders which have been planned in it, and of which it has been the




The entrance to the school was dark, and their being no windows to illuminate the rickety staircase, we stumbled into the school-room on the first floor before we were aware. On entering, the eye was greeted by a spectacle to which, from its mingled humour and pathos, the pencil of Hogarth could have alone done justice. We found a group of from forty to fifty girls in one room, and about sixty boys in another; the girls, although the offspring of thieves, quiet, winning, and maidenly; but the boys full of grimace and antics, and, by jest and cunning glances, evincing that they thought the idea of attending school fine fun. Foremost amongst them was a boy apparently aged seventeen, but as self-collected as a man of forty, of enormous head, and with a physiognomy in which cunning and wit were equally blended, whose mastery over the other boys was attested by their all addressing him as 'captain.' The boys had their wan, vice-worn faces as clean as could be expected, and their rags seemed furbished up for the occasion; whilst their ready repartee, and striking original remarks, and the electric light of the eye, when some peculiar practical joke was perpetrated, evinced that intellect was there, however uncultivated or misused. Unless we are greatly self-deceived, we beheld in this unpromising assemblage as good a show of heads as we have ever seen in any other Sunday School, and the remark is justified by what we learned with respect to the shrewdness generally evinced by these children. The predominant temperament was the sanguine, a constitution which usually indicates great love for animal exercise; and during the time we were present, they appeared as if they could not sit quiet one moment-hands, feet, head, nay, the very trunk itself, seemed perpetually struggling to do something, and that something generally being found in sheer mischief.


"Hymns were occasionally sung to lively measures, the girls singing with a sweetness and pathos that sunk deep into the heart; but the boys were continually grimacing and joking, yet all the time attempting to look grave sober, as if they were paying the most respectful attention. When the superintendent told the boys that he was about to pitch the tune, and that they must follow him, the boy before mentioned as the captain cried out in a stage-whisper, Mr. says we are to follow him-I wonder where he's going to?a jest hailed with a general laugh by his confederates.


Amongst these boys, however, were some to whom the word of kindness was evidently a 'word in season,' and who drank in the tender accents with which they were addressed-perchance for the first time-as if it were music to their souls. Then, again, was to be seen some poor puny lad, as gentle in mind as in body, who was obviously dying from unfitness to cope with the requirements of his circumstances-poor tender saplings, growing in an atmosphere which was too bleak for any but the forest oak to brave. Untrained, except to crime, as most of the children are, much good has already been effected."

The expenditure had now reached £80 per annum, and still the cry went forth room, room, more room for children were daily refused admittance, those inside being already too closely packed in an inconvenient, unhealthy room.

Increased successes, however, introduced and multiplied perplexities. Many of the scholars came hungry and could not learn until food was given them, and when dismissed had no homes to go to. More space for the scholars, food for the starving, and employment and shelter for

the destitute, seemed indispensable. In humble dependence upon Divine aid, an appeal was made to the public, and means were provided by which large and commodious rooms, capable of accommodating five hundred children, were obtained and fitted up. Lord Ashley presided over a crowded meeting on the occasion of the opening of the schoolroom. The collection was large, which, with a grant from the Ragged School Union, met the exigencies of the case. The next day the room was thrown open to the sons and daughters of costermongers, balladsingers, sweeps, crossing-sweepers, beggars, day-labourers, and many nondescripts. Some of the children who were sent out by their parents to sell fruit, etc., were not allowed to go to school till they had sold all. The character and condition of the homes and the habits of the parents of most of the children militated greatly against the successful operations of the school, as the tender plant placed under the shelter of the hothouse for a season would feel exposure to the cold, so the effects produced by instruction were often blighted by the contaminating influences of home.

Amidst a multitude of discouragements and difficulties our friends continued their efforts in this unpromising soil, and augmented their labours until at length we find them with a Sabbath School having an average attendance of 110 in the morning, 200 in the afternoon, and 400 in the evening, sustained by a staff of 58 voluntary teachers. There is also a Day School of about 200 children, and a Week Evening School with about 170 children, youths and adults. The Sabbath Evening School presents a truly gratifying scene. About 400 scholars, varying in age from three to seventy years, grouped in classes of from fifteen to twenty, clad in garments that would fail to find a purchaser in "Rag Fair," with hair resembling matted tow, and with flesh evidently not on the most intimate terms with soap and water. Here may be seen the man in years and the child reading from the same lesson book, and stammering with erring tongue, the simplest elementary lesson. what is more astonishing is, that this assembly, which from appearance we might judge a strong police force necessary to reduce to discipline, is governed by the voice or signal of the superintendent; and the soft, gentle voices of the lady teachers are distinctly heard by each in their respective classes.

In the Day School during the winter months are to be seen at one end of the room a group of infants, on one side the juveniles, and on the other a number of rough-looking fellows, such as would make a stouthearted man tremble to meet in a lonely spot. These are instructed by two female teachers, who have such entire control over them, that a signal is sufficient to restore silence at any moment.

Visiting the Evening School on Monday, 20th September, we found 117 present, and the school in excellent order. In a retired gallery there were six adults and twelve lads mending their own tattered clothes. Of these, eight were shirtless, and five in pristine nakedness, save an old jacket or waistcoat thrown across their laps, having taken off their rags to darn or patch. While making our observations on this class, a lad with plump cheeks and in warm attire ran up the steps, having a thick coat over his arm, and exhibiting a hole in each of its elbows, offered twopence to any one who would mend it. We presently were informed that this boy was formerly like one of themselves, but then among the

most successful of the Shoe-blacks. Scarcely had he handed over the job to a willing hand, before a young man in decent working apparel came up, and took an active part in supplying the industrious ones with needles, thread, and cloth, and giving necessary instructions. This young man we ascertained had been a scholar in the school and an inmate of Westminster Refuge, from which he had been apprenticed, and was now a steady promising young man. Immediately underneath were about a dozen others mending their almost soleless and heelless shoes. At the other end of the school-room were two desks, at which thirty-one youths and adults were learning to write, and four full classes being exercised in reading and arithmetic.

We have now to speak of the Dormitory. This is a very necessary appendage. In the year 1849, Mr. Tomkins, with two friends, visited in the night-time the arches near the school, and found seventeen wretched, homeless, and friendless creatures huddled together, having crawled thither being unable to procure any other lodging-place. They were invited and came to the school the next morning, when bread was given them and subsequently instruction. Lord Ashley hearing of it, with his accustomed promptness and philanthropy visited this scene of wretchedness at midnight, and found a larger number of these poor creatures, some of whom were sent and received into the Westminster Juvenile Refuge and similar institutions, until an attic in a neighbouring court was taken, into which eight were admitted, who were exceedingly grateful though they had nought but the bare boards to rest their wearied limbs upon. Friends who were made acquainted with these facts contributed bread, left-off clothes, mattresses, etc. A small house of four rooms in Fox and Knot Court was shortly afterwards taken and fitted up as a Dormitory. Concerning fifty of these poor creatures it was ascertained that thirty-three had lost both parents, fourteen had only one parent, and three only had both parents living. Twenty-three had no shirt, sixteen no shoes, and most of them had their clothes in a most tattered and filthy condition. Some of them had not slept in a bed for five weeks, others for five months, and a few seldom for two years. At length, by the munificence of a benevolent lady, through the Earl of Shaftesbury, the present Refuge, of which the sketch as a frontispiece to this volume is a faithful representation, was fitted up underneath the school-room. It was opened in May, 1851, and accommodated ninety-eight persons. Had the accommodation been for twice that number it could have been filled every night. It has therefore been enlarged so as to sleep upwards 160 persons nightly. For an accurate description of one of these nocturnal scenes we refer our readers to page 84.

The receipts and expenditure have progressed year by year in proportion to the operations. The first year £10 covered all. The second double that sum. It then rose to £47, £80, £291, £500, and now upwards of £700 per annum is required to meet all claims, and yet there is ample room for extended efforts.

That our friends have not laboured in vain many gratifying results might be cited to show. At first the opposition of parents seemed insurmountable, but at length they signified their approval. On one occasion a father took the teacher by the hand and said, with much pathos, "God bless you sir, for what you have done. My children shall

come every time the school is open, and I shall try to persuade others to send theirs too."

The Missionary of the district writes, "I cannot describe the pleasure I feel in witnessing the change that has taken place among the little ones in the courts and alleys near West Street. The courts are pretty well cleared during school hours; but in the evening it is pleasing to see them in little groups on the steps, in the light of the lamps, singing the hymns they learn at school, such as, 'See the kind Shepherd Jesus stands,' etc. I consider it to be nipping the evil in the bud, checking bad habits, and pruning good ones.' The Missionary was frequently told by the parents "that they were glad that there was such a school to send their children to because they had become more obedient, and some of them could and did read the Bible to them."

[ocr errors]

Twenty-one young men and five girls have been sent to America and the colonies. Very satisfactory letters have been received from them and from their employers, and many now in the school are thus stimulated to good conduct, hoping thereby to obtain the great boon of a passage to a foreign land. Several lads are employed by the Shoe-black Society and promise to do well, beside not a few have obtained employment through the recommendation of teachers and friends. These were once numbered with the outcasts, having no other chance to obtain a livelihood but by practising dishonest arts, under the constant watch of a vigilant police force. It was but the other day a boy came to his teacher, and exhibiting 3s. in silver, said, "See here sir, this is my own money, I have honestly earned it-it is better than 6s. got by thieving. I was to-day trusted with gold; I rolled it up very carefully in paper and delivered it."

Since the days of the notorious "Jack Sheppard," who made this locality his hiding-place, this neighbourhood has never been without his successor. That one of the fraternity who has attained the unenviable notoriety of being the greatest adept in crime, assumed the name, which is acknowledged by his companions. The present Jack Sheppard has, however, found his way into this house of instruction, where he has sat quietly beneath the sound of the everlasting Gospel for nearly three years; a change for the better is visible in him.

Other cases, both interesting and hopeful, have and still do occupy the watchful and prayerful attention of the superintendent and teachers, who fondly hope that by God's blessing they may be numbered among those, whose character and condition have not only become improved, but who have heard and experimentally learned the way of salvation, and who but for such means would now be pests to society, inmates of our prisons, or candidates for transportation to a penal settlement. Notwithstanding all this work of faith and labour of love, the work is far from complete. Much has been done, more is being done, but very much remains to be done. There are still many homeless, friendless, and ignorant wanderers, who would gladly participate in the benefits bestowed, but cannot. Why? Because more room-more teachersand more money are needed. Reader, consider the talents God has intrusted to your care, and inquire, "Lord, what wilt thou have me

to do ?"



(Concluded from page 210.)

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives," etc. -LUKE iv. 18.

THERE is a prevailing, but very erroneous opinion abroad, in reference to the reformation of the criminal portion of the community, to the effect, that they who compose that class, must be improved in their moral habits by education, and qualified by discipline of one kind or another before they can profit by religious instruction. It is thought that a predisposition for acting upon the principles of the Gospel must be imparted by some other agency than the Gospel itself. In accordance with such opinions many schemes have been devised by philanthropists to bring that class up to the point of qualification which it is supposed will predispose them for the introduction of "the religious element" into those schemes. We are unwilling to speak of these opinions in the terms they deserve. Suffice it to say, they are a libel on Him whose love and knowledge of man, and man's necessities, transcend all human philanthropy. In opposition to such opinions, we maintain that it is dishonouring to Christ and his word, to make religion the mere handmaid of human plans of reform, as though it were only a matter of expediency, or convenience, to finish off the more solid work of the philanthropist. The truth is, that the religion of the Gospel is the sole divinely appointed lever for elevating the fallen sons of Adam, and predisposing them for benefiting by the schemes of the philanthropist. Other appliances may alter their circumstances without improving their character-but to limit ourselves to them is only building a house upon the sand. Knowing this to be the case, it is wisely provided that daily Scriptural instruction shall be afforded to the inmates of our prisons, and we wish now to give a brief sketch of the chapel, and its services, by means of which many whose consciences had long been asleep in sin, have been awakened and enlightened thereby.

A more painfully interesting sight can scarcely be imagined than that of a large congregation of some eight hundred or one thousand convicts, varying in age from eight to eighty years. The opinion commonly entertained respecting such persons is, that they are irreclaimable. Were this so we might reserve our efforts and direct them to other objects. But it is not so. Few can imagine how susceptible of kindness the most degraded of our race sometimes appear; or how different are the effects of severity and kindliness in dealing with them. The contrast of the workroom and the chapel will show this. In the former we have seen the passions triumph over discipline and hard labour. In the latter we have seen the stony heart melt under the simple preaching of the Gospel. In maintaining the superiority of the religious element over penal systems, as a reformatory agency, we are quite willing to admit the great value of other means in their proper place and order; and also to allow that a system of punishment is indispensable in the present state of society. But without further comment on this topic we merely observe, that as reformation should never be lost sight of even while punishment is being inflicted, so that penal system will be found most likely to accomplish such an important end, which approximates most to the principles of the Divine government which, while it lays on the rod, provides the way of escape for the transgressor. "Accordingly it has been found that the great success which has already attended the efforts made on behalf of England's outcasts' is to be ascribed, under God, to the prominence which has been given by the Government, to the moral and religious training of the prisoners."* This testimony points out the value of the chapel services in a prison, and leads us back to our subject.

* The Rev. Mr. Moran, Chaplain, Portland.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »