The People, Places, Events, Customs and More from the Victorian Era. Please Scroll Down to Explore Links to Other Sites of Historical Interest:

Thursday, 31 March 2011

"I Regard Spiritualism As One of the Greatest Curses that the World Has Ever Known." Or: The Fox Sisters & The Davenport Brothers:

Continuing with the theme of ghosts and Spiritualism, I thought I would write a little about two of the most famous families associated with it. Firstly, the Fox sisters, whom, in 1848, effectively began the Spiritualist movement after an event in their New York bedroom attracted the attention of, first the neighbours, then the whole of America and the world.

Secondly, the Davenport Brothers, mentioned by the writer of the article from The Leisure Hour  in my previous post, who toured America and Britain with a supposedly spiritual show in the mid-to-late 1850’s and throughout the ‘60’s.

The Fox Sisters:
The Fox Sisters, from New York, are considered to be the founders of the Modern Spiritualist movement. At the very least they were crucial to its creation, but were they just young girls having a laugh and playing a game, or could they really communicate with the dead?

The sisters, Leah, (1814 - 1890), Margaretta, (also called Maggie, 1833 - 1893) and Kate (1837 - 1892) claimed to be able to communicate with the spirits of dead people.

On March 31, 1848 Kate and Margaretta (then aged 11 and 15) reported strange knocking sounds in their bedroom at night. Kate spoke aloud to the source of the knocking sound, and invited it to play a game. She would click her fingers a certain number of times and the spirit would repeat the number using knocks upon the wall. The sisters claimed that the source of the knocking was a spirit they called Mr. Splitfoot.

Locals were invited to witness the mysterious goings-on, and over the next couple of days, the spirits communicated with them as much as possible. A code was established for yes and no answers, and over time it was established through extensive questioning of the spirit, that the beings knew a lot about the Fox family.

The story spread that the girls were communicating with spirits and people were fascinated to see the strange phenomena. Leah, the oldest sister, also claimed to have the ability to communicate with spirits and soon the three found themselves touring the region and demonstrating their abilities.

Thus began the Spiritualist movement. In the late 1800s in America, many families would gather in their parlours for séances in which they would try, using Tarot cards and Ouija boards, to communicate with dead sons, brothers, or fathers lost in war. Many ‘mediums’ began to pop up, who (depending on your beliefs) preyed upon people's grief and desperation to extract cash from them in exchange for vague ‘facts’ and stories about their deceased loved ones, who were, of course, all having a great time in Heaven and waiting for their living relatives to come and join them.

The Fox sisters, meanwhile, became celebrities, and popular with the upper class and members of high society who would ‘hire’ them for an evening of after dinner entertainment, allowing their guests a chance to communicate with the spirit world. During this period of fame they were also studied, observed and their mysterious messengers probed by skeptics. This attention added to their notoriety, and the sisters turned their unique situation into a career, touring music halls and giving 'performances' both in the U.S. and overseas.

By the late 1880's, however, the sisters were beginning to quarrel. Kate and Margaretta argued and fell out with their older sibling Leah, who claimed to be a medium, and the three of them had fallen out of favour with the advocates of Spiritualism. They endured plenty of criticism and fell on hard times. The two younger Fox sisters had become alcoholics over the past few years and, perhaps tired of their situation, publicly confessed to the true source of the mysterious knocks.

So, what was the secret to their ability to communicate with the dead? Bizarrely, it was their toe joints, which the girls were able to crack loudly at will. They even did so before an audience of over two thousand people in 1888 at the New York Academy of Music. Upon the stage they denounced their ability to commune with spirits, and proceeded to show how they were able to make their toe joints produce the knocking sounds which reverberated around the theatre. Kate would even go so far as to say to a newspaper; "I regard Spiritualism as one of the greatest curses that the world has ever known."

Strangely, (though perhaps because they needed money and wished to tour again?) a year later, in 1889, they retracted that confession and dismissed their ‘toe joint’ performance.
Kate and Margaret continued to tour, only this time audiences came to hear about how the young ladies had earlier defrauded them. On the side, the sisters continued to give séances to those who still believed that they were contacting spirits.

Their alcoholism continued, however, and went on to reach alarming levels, and both sisters eventually became unable to tour. Within five years, both Kate and Margerita died in poverty, shunned by former friends, and were buried in pauper's graves.

Skeptics claim the sisters were frauds who made a living out of pretending to talk to the spirits of the dead, whilst believers still maintain the truth of the sisters' original story, claiming that they were forced into ‘confessing’ that their ability was merely a prank.

The Davenport Brothers:
The Davenport Brothers, Ira Erastus Davenport (1839 - 1911) and William Henry Davenport (1841 - 1877) were American magicians in the late 19th century and sons of a New York policeman.

The brothers became famous by performing illusions that they claimed to be supernatural.

They began their careers in 1854, six years after the first instance of supposed spiritualism occurred in the Fox sisters’ bedroom. By now, the Spiritualist movement had taken off in America and after hearing the stories of the Fox sisters, the Davenports began to report similar occurrences. Their father took up managing his sons and the group was joined by William Fay, a Buffalo resident with an interest in conjuring.

Their shows were introduced by a former Restoration Movement minister, Dr. J. B. Ferguson, a follower of Spiritualism, who assured the audience that the brothers worked by spirit power rather than deceptive trickery. Ferguson was apparently sincere in his belief that the Davenports possessed spiritual powers.

The brothers' most famous effect was the box illusion. They were tied inside a box which contained musical instruments. When the box was closed, the instruments would begin to ‘be played’, but upon opening the box, the brothers would be observed still tied in the positions in which they had started the illusion. Those who witnessed the effect were made to believe supernatural forces had caused the trick to work, and spirits had been playing the instruments.

The Davenports toured America with their performances for ten years and then traveled to England where Spiritualism was beginning to become popular. Their "spirit cabinet" was investigated by the Ghost Club, who were challenging the brothers’ claim of being able to contact the dead. The result of the Ghost Club investigation was never made public.

Magicians including John Henry Anderson and Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin tried to expose the Davenport Brothers, writing exposés and performing duplicate effects without the aid of spirits. Also trying to expose the brothers’ as frauds were a pair of amateur magicians who followed them around Britain, tying the Davenports into their box with a knot that could not be easily removed.
By doing this, they exposed the trick to audiences who demanded their money back.
The Davenports embarked on a final American tour before younger brother William Henry's death in 1877. William Fay settled in Australia and elder brother Ira Erastus lived in America until the two reunited in 1895 and toured with a show that failed.

Ira told famous escape artist Harry Houdini – a skeptic of Spiritualism – that he and his brother had never confirmed belief in Spiritualism to their audiences and that announcements by Dr. Ferguson were part of the act. Houdini made clear to audiences that his escapes were feats of skill, not supernatural, and that performances by others were likewise, regardless of claims to the contrary.

Today Spiritualism continues to have hundreds of thousands of followers all over the world.

Friday, 25 March 2011

“I Felt Invisible Hands Playing With My Hair” Or: At a Victorian Spiritual Séance:

The Victorian fascination with, scepticism of, and attitude toward spiritualism, spiritual mediums and séances is something that I have been meaning to read about and to cover, but it is a subject that I have so far not managed to dip my toe into other than with reading Sarah Waters’ Affinity, John Harwood’s The Séance, and Faye L. Booth’s Cover the Mirrors. A journalistic piece about all things spiritual also lays largely unread at home save for a few chapters, in the shape of by Charles Maurice Davies’ Mystic London, written in 1875.

The séance, with the gas turned down and the woman sitting behind the curtain as onlookers gasp at various feats and ‘spiritual tricks’ is one of the primary images that comes to my mind when I think ‘Victorians’. This was an age of discovery and invention, but also one of freak-shows and con artists, ready to prey on the susceptible and, perhaps more pertinently depending on your beliefs, the gullible. The Victorian age was also one of science versus religion. It was an age when church attendances began to dwindle, and knowledgeable men began to raise a questioning finger at the idea of religion.

These conflicts are what fascinate me about the Victorian attitude to ghosts, séances and mediums, and so I was thrilled to come across the following article in The leisure Hour from August 1877, in which the author describes his attendance at a Spiritual Séance.

What I like about the article is that this was clearly a gentleman whose bias fell down upon the side of science. He has raised his questioning finger against the dubious practices he has seen performed before him and sought a scientific explanation to them. There is a line he writes which I love, because it symbolizes the attitude to religion-based rule in the mid to late 1800’s, in which people began to see church going as a chore, which lead to them eventually staying away. For me, this line encapsulates the entire idea of the Victorians who turned from religion to science. The line is:

“I began to mistrust him, but said nothing.”

Science was now providing the answers, the progress, the wealth and the lifestyle that religion no longer did. Educated gentlemen said nothing, they merely stopped going to church.

Onto the article. Apologies if it is rather long. It may be this, but it is also (I think) quite interesting.

At a Spiritual Séance
By invitation I attended, some time ago, what is called “a spiritual séance.” It was a private and preliminary meeting, confined chiefly to “representatives of the press.”
As this particular exhibition has disappeared from London I feel no hesitation in now publishing the results of my visit, although I refrained from doing so at the time.

The “medium” was a young lady, whose manifestations were described as of a most wonderful and mysterious character. The time was at eight o’clock p.m. I met several gentlemen, whose speech showed them as representing England, Ireland, Scotland and America, all apparently anxious to investigate the marvellous phenomena. They appeared to be men of education and ability. Some of them had witnessed similar exhibitions, while others had never seen anything of the kind.

There were two rooms, separated by folding doors. We were asked to examine the rooms as much as we wished, to see that there were no persons and no machines, electrical or other, concealed in them. We found several musical instruments on the tables and on the piano, to be played upon by the spirits during the séance.
When we had taken our seats in the larger saloon, the doors were locked and the key given to one of the gentlemen. The lady said that we might choose the one who was to keep the key, so as to know that no one could go through the doors in the dark to assist her.
She then asked if one of us would take some strips of cotton cloth, about an inch in breadth, and tie one around each arm a few inches above the wrist. One gentleman tied one with several knots quite fast to the arm, and then another gentleman tied the other piece of cloth fast to the other arm, while we watched them closely. A thread and needle were then taken by a third person, and the knots were firmly sewed together. The four ends, which were about eight inches in length, were now tied together behind the lady’s back, and then fastened securely to an iron ring about two inches in diameter, having a staple attached to it with a thread cut upon it, so that it could be screwed into the woodwork surrounding one of the windows.
Another iron staple was likewise fastened in the wall about two feet above the one to which the arms were tied.

The lady was seated on a stool with her hands securely fastened behind her in the staple, which had been first secured in its place. A piece of cotton cloth, about an inch in diameter, was also placed around her neck and well tied by one of the party to the upper ring. A small cord was next fastened around her ankles, binding them together, and the end was given to one of the gentlemen to hold fast, to show that she did not move her feet. A curtain was held up before her by a gentleman belonging to the house, who assisted her by holding one corner of it in his hands while the other end was fastened to the wall by a nail. The gas-light was now turned down very low, when the manifestations immediately commenced.

The first thing that the spirit did was to tie a knot in the strip of cotton cloth that had been tied around the lady’s neck by one of the party. It required but a moment, when the light was turned on, the curtain drawn aside, we found the lady securely tied to the rings.
A guitar was now placed on her lap, the room partly darkened, and the curtain again drawn up in front of her. Immediately we heard the sounding of the guitar, as though someone was playing upon it. We could also see the instrument pushed against the curtain, and then heard it thrown upon the floor, where the spirit continued to play upon it until the lady called “light,” which was again turned on, when we were requested to examine the fastenings. This we did, finding them all perfect.
Two small bells were now placed in her lap, and the curtain arranged as before, when the bells were taken, rung, and thrown upon the floor.

A small, square piece of board, about six inches across, was placed on a chair by her side, while a hammer and a nail were put into her lap. We soon heard the spirit driving the nail into the board, and when the curtain was drawn aside we examined the board, and found the nail well driven into it, while the hammer was lying on the floor.
A violin was next placed upon he lap, when we heard some one performing upon it very distinctly for a few minutes, when upon dropping the curtain we found the instrument lying on the chair by her side.
A pair of scissors and a folded paper were put in her lap, when a piece was, in a short time, cut out in the shape of a heart. A tambourine was now placed in her lap, with a glass of water on the top of it, when in a moment the glass was empty, - the spirit of the boy having drank the water, she said.
The mouth organ, tambourine and violin were all placed together on her lap, when we heard them all sound at one time. A circle or hoop was laid on her lap, which was afterwards found around her neck. A large wooden pail was put on her lap, and in a few seconds we saw it turned upside down over her head. 

After each experiment the room was lighted, and we were all invited to examine the bands and the rings, which apparently remained the same as when we securely tied them. A knife was now placed in the lady’s lap, and the bands were cut open by the spirit, so the medium stated.

Having examined the knots we found that they had not been untied. The gentlemen who were present said that it was beyond their comprehension, and really a great mystery.
The lady, after a few minutes conversation, seated herself in the centre of the parlour, and we all formed a complete circle around her by joining our hands. Before beginning the manifestations which were now to take place, she asked us to observe that, during this séance, she would continually strike her hands together so that we could hear them, that we might know that she did not use them while the spirits were performing their work.
The room was then darkened by turning down the gas. Soon an English gentleman felt the spirit unbutton his vest and take his watch out of his pocket. The Scotchman had his nose pulled and his spectacles taken off. I felt the spirit fanning my face, and invisible hands playing with my hair, and gently tapping my arms and legs.

After we had all felt the mysterious manifestations several times, the lady asked for someone to hold her hands firmly within theirs. The Scotchman volunteered to secure her hands, while a guitar was placed upon her head. The gentleman who held the curtain and turned off the gas each time was seated on my left. I observed that he placed my left hand into his left hand, so that his right hand was free.
I began to mistrust him, but said nothing.

We now heard music on the guitar for a short time. Then the Irishman on my right was hit on the head with the instrument, which, after touching some of the other gentlemen, returned over the lady’s head.
While the guitar was sounding sweetly, I leaned my head towards it, when I came into contact with an arm which drew back so suddenly that it threw the instrument on the floor. I had accidentally and unintentionally put an end to the wondrous manifestations.
None but the gentleman on my left, whose arm my head had touched, and myself, knew why the spirits had so very unceremoniously left the room.

The lady asked “what had happened,” and appeared rather surprised, while the gentleman on my left appeared somewhat confused. The room was now lighted. The lady explained that the spirits were sometimes suddenly called away to other scenes and other séances. The “gentlemen of the press” seemed however, quite contented with what they had seen, promising to give a good report of it to their friends.

After the others left, I remained, although my presence was probably not very acceptable after what had occurred. I examined the rings, and found how they might easily be taken from the wall if the lady could not free her hands by stretching the cotton bands sufficiently to withdraw them. It is quite a clever trick, as much so, perhaps, as the feats of the Davenport Brothers. Should the bands be so well ties that the lady cannot get her hands out of them or unscrew the ring, she is provided with a knife with which she can cut the bands from the arms after she has broken loose from the ring, and then substitute new bands concealed in her pocket, already tied and sewn together similar to those placed upon her by the party, with an extra ring.
Or she can use the same ring, quickly making the ends of the cotton fast to it, as gentlemen do not desire to scrutinize the fastenings very closely, and have not the least idea how the trick is performed.
It is one by which the credulous could easily be deceived.

In order to make the sound as though the lady was striking the back of her right hand into the palm of her left, she could strike on the cheek or forehead, or she could use two pieces of wood or other material fastened to the inside of each knee, so that she could beat them together. Sometimes ladies attach small cymbals to their knees and strike them together during their spiritual séances. The continual knocking is to make parties believe that both hands are occupied and therefore could not be otherwise engaged in pulling peoples noses, boxing their ears or playing other pranks which the spirits seem to take much delight in.
One hand is free, and with this hand, a fan or bell or other instrument can be putinto the mouth of an accomplice in the circle.

Sometimes spirit hands are seen as well as spirit faces in the dark. A mask is rubbed over with phosphorus, which is concealed by the medium until she desires to have it appear in the dark. Sometimes ladies’ and children’s gloves are covered with phosphorus and cleverly connected with a rubber tube, by blowing into which the hands of spirits are made to appear. The Davenport Brothers used to put them through the holes in their cabinet, sometimes a dozen at once, and then let out the air and conceal the gloves in their pockets.
In the performance I witnessed, of course the gentleman who sat on my left was the spirit who played the guitar and struck the Irishman over the head while the Scotchman was holding the hands of the medium. The Englishman found the Scotchman’s spectacles in his vest pocket after the séance was finished. I believe that at least two of the gentlemen present were in collusion with the lady.

The modus operandi may be varied. Sometimes a person enters the room to assist, using a false key. At other times the person is concealed in a wardrobe fitted up as the Proteus at the Polytechnic Institution, or in the mysterious cabinet of Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke, with looking glasses or spacious mirrors which reflect the sides or the top of the cabinet, giving it the appearance of the back part of the cabinet, while the person or persons are concealed behind the mirrors.
Other “spiritual” rooms have the marvellous trunk with a person placed inside of it, and when the room is darkened, the person easily gets out or in by means of a secret spring, which allows the end, side or bottom to open inwardly, although it may have several locks upon it, and a dozen cords wound around it, and different seals placed upon the knots.

Mr Maskelyne says “by special request of many who are desirous of entirely stamping out the superstitious doctrine falsely called spiritualism,” he gives his famous light and dark séances. I went to see the séances at the Egyptian Hall, and amidst various performances making up a really interesting “entertainment,” I saw the old Proteus cabinet used many years ago by Professor Pepper at the Royal Polytechnic, slightly altered.
Instead of having two mirrors to reflect the two sides of the cabinet, giving it the appearance of the back part of the box, there is substituted one mirror fixed on hinges at the top of the cabinet, by which the top of the box is reflected while the person is concealed behind the glass on a shelf which the mirror closes upon, giving the impression to the spectators that they are looking at the back of the cabinet, when they only see the top of the cabinet reflected in the mirror.

Psycho, which Mr. Maskelyne claims to be the “greatest wonder” of the nineteenth century, I take to be a clever repetition of the automaton chess-player. Having played chess with the famous “automaton,” I will give my explanation of how it is performed. The figure is first opened so that you can look through it near the middle of it, so as to allow you to examine a portion of it, and show you that there is no person concealed within. The little door is now closed, and the exhibitor commences to wind, or assumes to wind, up the machinery by turning a handle near the figure, which passes into the floor. This winding-up is simply to deceive, and to make a noise while the boy climbs through the floor beneath the figure, so that you cannot hear him. In the Psycho it is not necessary to have so intelligent a lad, and consequently Mr. Maskelyne has made his mask for the boy much smaller than that used for the chess player.

Mr. Maskelyne keeps his boy but a little while confined, while Mr. Hooper is obliged to keep his lad sometimes for several hours. Some may think Mr. Hooper’s boy too young to play chess so well, and to pass the knight over the chess-board so rapidly without missing a square, as he is able to, commencing from any square on the board.
I would remind them that Mr. Paul Morphy was one of the best chess-players in New Orleans when only ten or twelve years of age, and at the age of twenty-one he beat the best chess-players of Europe. When he came over the Atlantic and challenged Mr. Staunton, the acknowledged English champion of chess, Mr. Staunton refused to play with him, asking for several months’ time to prepare himself, although he had been preparing for twenty years constantly in playing and writing books on chess.

Mr Bennett, of the “New York Herald,” and many other wealthy men of America, were ready to back their countryman to any amount. Mr. Paul Morphy did not play for money, but for honour. He could easily have won his millions of dollars if he had played for them, and if that had been his ambition and aim.
When Mr. Maskelyne says that Psycho is only a “mechanical figure twenty-two inches high,” he does not include the box upon which it sits, and to which it is attached, wishing to make us believe that there is no space for a small human being to work the mask which is placed around the person. He could not make a small window or door in the in the body of Psycho without exposing the boy, and consequently the trick.

Opening the box below the figure does not in the least interfere with the boy inside the figure. Having no trap-door to pass through, as in the case with the chess-player, the boy must sit caged up like a monkey or a mummy during the examination of the box. The boy “Psycho” could perform just as well suspended by a cord, or seated on top of Maskelyne’s head, as while on the glass cylinder, provided another person could take the place that Mr. Maskelyne usually fills during the performance.

When it is stated in the public newspapers that “Psycho can play a game of whist, and perform a series of conjuring tricks without the aid of confederates or the assistance of Mr. Maskelyne,” the public must remember that the profession and trade of a magician is to deceive the people, and it is not expected that they will let the world know their secrets.
Those who believe that an automaton or mere mechanical figure can be made to multiply, add, or subtract any four numbers which any person in the audience may request, and in a few moments give a correct result, or, like the new marvel, Zoe, can make various drawings with skill and intelligence, such people are – well, we shall merely say that they quite misunderstand the object of such “entertainments.”

In justice to Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke I must add that they have the least “humbug” about them of any “professors” of the art, and in calling themselves “illusionists and anti-spiritualists” they candidly tell the public that they are deceiving them for their amusement, as well as for their own profit.

I was introduced some years ago to a family of Jews in Constantinople, and in their house witnessed far more feats in open daylight than I have seen performed in London by Dr. Lynn, Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke, Professor Peopper, or by any pretended spiritual medium. One of the younger Jewish maidens could cause a heavy table to rise several feet in the air while a dozen person were watching her closely, apparently by placing her fingers to the top of it.
She could keep it suspended but a short time in the air, when it would fall to the floor. It had fallen so heavily on many occasions that the legs were broken off, and when I witnessed the experiments there were several pieces of iron fastened to the legs in order to strengthen them.
She performed it twice the same day; the second time, however, required several minutes more than the first. She not only performed this experiment in her father’s house, but many times with another table at the residence of Mr. John P. Brown, Secretary of the American Legation. She did not profess to know how or why she was able to perform this and many other curious experiments, unless it was throught the assistance of some supernatural power.

There was no doubt some scientific and natural explanation; but I never heard it, nor ascertained the cause of the wonderful exhibitions. I am more puzzled by them now than by all that I have since witnessed in London or in America.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

“Each Street Lamp is Crowned with a Nightcap of the Purest Fleece”: Or: A Snowy Day in 1850’s London:

I Tweeted a few days ago that I had just read the best description of Victorian London on a snowy day that I was ever likely to come across in the 1857 novel;
“Paved with Gold, Or, the Romance and Reality of the London Streets: An Unfashionable Novel” By Augustus Mayhew, older brother of the famous Henry Mayhew.

If you can get hold of a copy of this book then I recommend doing so if you like Victorian novels, I have not read the whole thing yet, but what I have read so far is excellent. If the only 19th century books you’ve read are by Dickens, then give this a try.

Anyway, I decided - although it is slightly un-seasonal - to put the beginning paragraphs of the second chapter (in which Mayhew describes snowy London) here. Hopefully, you enjoy it as much as I do:

Chapter II: Frozen out:

“It was a bitter winter's day we have said. The snow had fallen thickly during the night, whilst all London was asleep, and the early waker in the suburbs, as he lay in his bed wondering what made the road so still and the morning light so bright, heard the song of the market carter, that without the rumble of a wheel he had traced creeping from the distance, cease suddenly, and followed by a cry of
"Here, police! Come along, look sharp!" Then, as his curiosity sent him shivering to the window, he saw in the dawn the black, steaming horse stretched at full length upon the white roadway, kicking up the powdery snow like foam, with the carter leaning on its neck, and the piles of green cabbages in the cart all dabbed with flocks of snow.

On the other hand, the heavier sleeper in the town was roused out of his last nap by the sound of shovels scraping harshly on the pavement, as if a hundred knife-grinders were at work in the street; and others, who dozed still later, had their dreams abruptly cut in two by some dozen cadgers from the nearest low lodging-house, who, with a frost-tipped bit of green stuff raised on a pole, were all shouting together, at the top of their voices, "Poor froze-out gard'ners poor froze-out gard'ner!"

Truly there is hardly a more startling sight than to wake up and find the town, which yesterday was black with its winter's coat of soot and dirt, suddenly changed to a city of almost silver beauty, seeming as if it were some monster capital at the Polar regions, glittering with its glacial architecture, and bristling with its monuments, pinnacles, and towers, like so many palaces and temples hewn out of ice.
Every house-top seems to be newly thatched with the virgin flocks, and every cornice striped as if with a trimming of the fairest down. All the verandahs are white as a tent-top, and the railings look as if made out of pith rather than ironwork; every window-sill, and, indeed, the least ledge on which the foamy powder can lie, is thick and bulging with its layer of alabaster-like particles. On each doorstep is spread the whitest possible mat, and each street-lamp is crowned with a nightcap of the purest fleece, whilst the huge coloured lamps over the chemists' seem gaudier than ever, and their blue and red bulls'-eyes look like huge gems set massively amid lumps of frosted silver.

The various signs over the tradesmen's shops are nearly blotted out by the drift that has clung to them. The monster golden boot above the shoemaker's is silvered over on the side next the wind; the "little dustpans" are filled with a pile of white fluff; the golden fleece, hanging over the hosiers' shops, seems to have changed its metallic coat for one of the purest wool; the three balls at the pawnbroker's appear to have been converted into a triad of gelder-roses; and the great carved lions and unicorns between the first- floor windows of the royal tradesmen, have huge dabs of snow resting on their necks, like thick, white, matted manes.
The surface of the earth itself is white as a wedding-cake. In the roadway, in the early morning, you can count the traffic by the ruts the wheels have made, for every one leaves behind it a glistening trail as if some monster snail had crawled along the way. What a change, too, has token place in the tumult of the busiest thoroughfares! The streets that formerly deafened you with their noise are now hushed as night, and everything that moves past is silent as an apparition. Even the big clots of snow that keep on falling from the copings and the lamps and trees startle you, from the utter absence of all sound, as they strike the earth. The wheels of the heaviest carts seem to be muffled, and roll on as if they were passing over the softest moss. The horses go along with their hoofs spluttering where the trodden ground has been caked into slipperiness, and the drivers walk at their head, with their hand upon the rein, while the nervous, timid brutes steam with the unusual labour, and their breath gushes down from their nostrils in absolute rays of mist.

It is at this period, too, that the ice-cart makes its appearance in the streets. The costermonger who can no longer drive his trade at the green-markets, now looks to the ponds for a living, and comes to town with a load of transparent splintery fragments, that seem like jagged pieces of broken plate-glass windows. The omnibuses have an extra horse put on when they reach the metropolitan hills, for the snow in the roads has long before mid-day been rolled into ice, and the highways are like a long, broad slide. To accommodate the outsides, hay has been wound round the stepping-irons, and the gents on the "knife-board," along the roof of the first busses, appear with thick railway-rugs tucked round their knees, whilst, at the different halting-places, the conductor jumps down and stamps on the pavement, as lie does a double-shuffle to warm himself, flinging his arms across his chest, and striking the breast of Isis top-coat with the same energy as if he were beating a carpet.

Snow or sunshine, London work must be done; but now the mechanics and clerks that you meet in the streets go along with their heads down and their hands in their pockets, at a half-trotting pace. Their necks are bound round with thick wisps of comforters, and the tips of their noses, that overhang the worsted network, are red, as if tinselled, and all sniff and cough, as they carefully dodge by the round iron plates over the coal-holes of the metropolis. The pavement in front of the bakers' shops is the only place from which the snow has entirely disappeared, and where the pedestrian can tread with safety. The whole town seems to swarm with boy and men sweepers, who go about from house to house, knocking at the doors, and offering to clear the pavement before the dwelling, according to Act of Parliament, for twopence. Everybody you meet has the breast of his great-coat and hat-rim dredged with white; and the police-man's shiny cape is, with its fur of snow, more like a nobleman's ermine tippet than the ordinary hard-weather costume of the force.

How bright the air, too, seems with the light reflected from the snow. You can see to the end of the longest streets like on an early summer morning. There is a white, cold look about the scene; and everything seems so black from the contrast of the intense glare of the ground, that even at noonday you might fancy that a silver harvest moon was shining in the skies, and that the snow itself, lying on one side of each object, was but the reflexion of the pale brilliance of the white beams falling on them.
The sky looks almost like a dome of slate, and the parks and squares like large new plaster models of countries without a single path or bed to be traced, except where the few passengers have worn a narrow dirty streak across them. The trees, too, are all ashy grey, and the objects in the distance seem to be twice as near as usual, while the dark specks of the people moving over the great snowy waste appear like blots on a sheet of paper.
The statues throughout the metropolis have lost all artistic modelling in their form, and strike one as being as rudely fashioned as if they were so many figures moulded by schoolboys out of snow.

 Some, however, are merely speckled with the flakes, and have their Grecian draperies splashed over with white, like a plasterer's clothes. Sir Robert Peel, gazing down Cheapside, looks as if some miller had rubbed violently up against him. Old Major Cartwright, seated in his arm-chair in Burton-crescent, has at least a couple of pounds of snow resting on the top of his skull and dabbed over his face, and giving him the appearance of having been newly lathered previous to having his head and cheeks shaved. The periwig of George III., at Charing Cross, has turned white in a night, like the hair of Marie Antoinette. The mounted effigy of F. M. the Duke of Wellington, at Hyde Park-corner, continues, despite a spadeful of snow at the nape of his neck, to point with his baton-which is now white as a wax- candle-majestically in the direction of the White Horse Cellar, his patient steed having its hind-quarters covered with so heavy a deposit that his Grace seems to be sitting, like a life-guardsman, on a mat of bleached sheepskin.
Now the water-supply of the metropolis begins to be almost as scarce as in Paris; while the water-pipes of the more prudent of the householders are seen bandaged round with straw, like the wheel- spokes of a new carriage. The turn-cocks, with their shiny leathern epaulets, go along with their immense keys, like those of some monster beer-barrel, and erect tall wooden plugs for the temporary supply of the neighbours, who flock there with pails and pitchers, and wait in a crowd to take their turn at the tap, while the waste water gutters and hardens over the snow like so much grease.

 But if there be a scarcity of water, the public-houses, at least, have determined to make up for it, for in the windows are printed placards announcing that "HOT ELDER WINE" and "HOT SPICED ALE" may be had within. Taking advantage, too, of the "inclemency" of the weather, all kinds of warm comestibles suddenly appear on the street-stalls. The fish kettles, full of "hot eels" and "pea-soup," have a cloud of steam issuing from them, and the baked potato-cans are spurting out jets of a high-pressure vapour, like the escape-pipe to some miniature steam-factory. As you walk along the street, too, the nostrils are regaled by pleasant odours of baked apples and roasted chesnuts from the neighbouring stalls, at which sit old women in coachmen's many-caped coats, with their feet in an apple-basket, and a rushlight shade, full of red-hot charcoal, at their side-the fire shining in bright orange spots through the holes.

The pert London sparrows seem almost to have disappeared with the frost, and the few that remain have a wretched half-torpid look, and have gone all fluffy and turned to a mere brown ball of feathers. In the suburbs, the robins are seen for the first time leaving little trident impressions of their feet on the garden snow, and their scarlet bosoms looking red as Christmas berries against the white earth. Then as the dusk of evening sets in, and you see in the squares and crescents the crimson flickering of the flames from the cosy sea-coal fire in the parlours, lighting up the windows like flashes of sheet- lightning, the cold, cheerless aspect of the streets without sets you thinking of the exquisite comfort of our English homes.

 But if grateful thoughts of comfort are suggested by the contrast of the snow, the same cause leads the more imaginative to think of the sharp, biting misery gnawing into the very bones of the luckless portion of London society. To those who can put on warm flannel, and encase their bodies in a thick great-coat, a sharp frost means only "healthy, bracing weather," and to such people the long evenings are welcome, from a sense of the happy family circle gathered round the bright cherry-coloured fire. To the well-born young silver-spoonbills of the West-end, Christmas is a season of mirth and holiday games, of feasting, pantomimes, and parties. By the elder gentlefolks it is regarded as a time of good cheer, with its cattle-shows and "guinea-hampers," and presents of fat turkeys from the country; for such as these, the butchers' shops are piled with prize-meat, coated with thick fat, and decorated with huge cockades-for such as these, the grocers' windows are dressed out with dried fruits and spices, and studded with lumps of candied peel; and Covent-garden is littered with holly, laurel, and mistletoe, and fragrant with the odours of bright-coloured fruits.

 But how, think you, must the cold be welcomed by those whose means of living cease directly the earth becomes like cast-iron with the frost. How merry must Christmas appear to those whose tattered clothes afford no more protection than broken windows against the bleak, stinging breeze. How pleasant and cosy must the long evenings be to such as have to spend them crouching under the dry arches; and how delicious the sight of the teeming markets to poor wretches who, to stay their hunger, must devour the refuse orange-peel lying about the stones there.”

I can almost smell that hot spiced ale. Magic!

Friday, 18 March 2011

“But Why All This Constant Change and Varying of the Fashions?” Or: Ladies Fashions in 1877:

As an addendum to last week’s ladies and fashion posts, I have added this article that I found in the periodical The Leisure Hour from June 1877. It concerns similar fashion related themes, though this article is sixteen years older than those posted last week concerning ladies fashions.
Interestingly, this article also mentions a man I have blogged about a few weeks ago, fashion pioneer Charles Worth, who, according to this article, worked at Jays Mourning Warehouse in London. (Though this is the only place I have seen that information.) 

The article deals chiefly with the way fashion in London worked, and why the ever changing tide of fashion was (and, I suppose therefore, is) a good thing.

Ladies Fashions
Changes of fashion in dress are proverbially frequent and great. My first recollection of my own mother is that of a pretty, delicately made young lady about the middle height, with black eyes, ivory complexion, and dark glossy hair, arranged on the top of her head in five or seven immense upright loops or bows, whilst over the forehead, it was arranged in French curls.
She wore a myrtle green brocaded silk dress, short enough to show the ankle and foot enclosed in white silken hose and black satin shoe. The body was cut low in the neck, but not nearly so low as evening dresses are now worn. Round the throat was a neckerchief of black net, covered with flowers worked in silk with a tambour needle, tied with studied negligence.
The huge leg-of-mutton sleeves were well stiffened out at the shoulders and tight to the wrists, where, one above another, two or three tight gold bracelets were clasped.

It needed a pretty woman to look well in such a costume, and hose were hard times for the very tall or the very stout. But even this costume was a great improvement on the dress worn some years before, specimens of which a certain old wardrobe contained, and which were sometimes lent us to play at “dressing up” and wearing “trains.” Those horrible dresses had the lowest of low bodies and the shortest of round waists. The worst of them – when the fashion had reached its height, I suppose – measured only a few inches from the neck to the waist, and the bust was fitted with the minuteness of a skin. I am sure the body did not exceed three inches in depth. The sleeves were equally short, and puffed, so as to stand out each side of the shoulders like wings. The skirts were short and gored tight to the form, measuring at the widest part barely three yards round.
The only merit they possessed was economy of material, for I remember hearing that my mamma and grandmamma each had a present of a china crepe shawl from abroad, which was either a shawl or a dress-piece., and mamma’s was made up into one of the very dresses I can remember as contained in the old wardrobe.
It was quite plain, except a row of small tabs round the neck, made of white taffetas by way of a berthe, and a very full, pinked-out rouche round the extreme edge of the skirt.

It is said that fashion always repeats itself after a lapse of years. Let us sincerely hope this very “undress” style may never come in again. A narrow scarf and long gloves were considered sufficient additions for walking abroad in mild weather. Addison relates an amusing story of his astonishment in visiting a remote country village to find the rural ladies attired in the very latest London fashions, till, on enquiring , he learnt that they had not changed their style of garments for ten years, and that the new “mode” was the revival of an old one. Apropos of this, I look up at my great-grandmother’s portrait. There she sits, good lady, a beauty in her days, in a damask robe of the new “peacock blue,” with square-cut body and Dolly Varden sleeves with their white frills, and brown hair dressed off the face, for all the world like a young lady of the present day, save for a peak to the stomacher.

Ladies’ attire has never been so artistically arranged or so generally becoming in any age as at the present day, and the ill-favoured never before had such a good time of it. She must be plain indeed who looks so now. Neither is our present style of dress costly. The universal “polonaise” tunic takes but little material, and the fashion of making the gown, or “costume,” as it is the order of the day to call it, of two materials, gives scope for doing up old dresses and utilising remnants.
Some readers may ask why the designs for ladies clothing are prettier at the present time than of yore.
Everyone knows that the fashions in dress emanate from the sister capital, the gay metropolis of “La belle France.” Worth, the great man-milliner, if he has to answer the grievous charge of tempting to ruinous extravagance, has yet, certainly inaugurated the reign of improved taste. Racking his own brains, and employing the most valuable assistance regardless of cost, to design shapes and forms in garments that shall enhance beauty and conceal its absence as much as possible, and at the same time follow out the laws of good taste, every successive effort has achieved a fresh success. The impetus once given, others have joined in the contest.
In France artists of some note are not too proud to draw the design of a garment or the pattern to be embroidered on it, and the manufacturers of articles of dress for ladies are not niggardly in making the reward worthy of their acceptance. Besides this, there are persons who obtain a good living by merely designing dresses. Amongst others, I could mention a certain Frenchman who announces his annual visit to London in a fashionable journal about February with a stock of bijouterie, false hair, and “designs for ladies’ dresses.” These designs are drawn and coloured by hand on tinted cardboard , and fetch from one to five guineas each.
He will only show two – or, at the outside, three – to a customer, and if a purchase is not made, he returns them to his portfolio, refusing to show any others, with a polite, but final “Then I have nothing which will suit you.”
But if purchased, one or two more will be brought out to tempt the customer to further outlay. These designs are most frequently sold to West end shops and high-class milliners.

But our own English people are not lax in inventing designs. Nay, it must not be forgotten that the now celebrated Worth, the guide of Parisian fashion, is an Englishman, once a member of the staff of assistants at a well known mourning warehouse in Regent Street, where they have at the present time head clerks who are employed constantly in designing new robes and mantles, and who draw well.

Some of our readers will say “But why all this constant change and varying of the fashions? Why cannot we establish one good style and keep to it? Why need women waste their money in constantly shifting the cut and custom of their garb?”
Here are three questions which need three answers.

Why this constant change?
But for this change manufacturers would grow stagnant, commerce would flag, and factory hands and needleworkers starve. Had not each woman of our community better be taxed a little in a frequent change of clothes, than half our women – and men and children too – starve? I ask those well meaning people who propose to save in clothes and give in charity, whether it is better to pay wages to working folk, or first to make, and then to feed, a race of paupers? Do not suppose that I am advocating or apologising for undue extravagance. The thrifty woman knows how to cut and turn her own and her children’s raiment. The honest woman will not spend more than she can afford; and why should the rich woman not disburse a little of her surplus wealth, and “make good for trade”?

I have yet another plea for fashion cleanliness and health. It is not goof for health to wear garments too long a time. They all imbibe, not only the impurity of the atmosphere, but some of the emanations of the body. We change our linen frequently, but the more thrifty among us make our dresses, mantles and such coloured garments as are dark and long-wearing, last a considerable time. It is well that we should not make them last too long. As long as they do not look shabby, we are tempted to overlook the question of health. Indeed, I believe it has never occurred to some minds. The cheerfulness a new garment induces is referred altogether to vanity, and the airy freshness imparted by cleanliness forgotten. So much for the part taken by purchasers and wearers of new dresses.

But the vendors of clothing and the dressmakers combine to make the changes of fashion as frequent as possible that their own trades may flourish. And in this conspiracy the ladies of rank join them. It is always the desire of women of position to wear a different style of dress from that of the populace, and this can only be achieved in these days of progress and equality by a constant succession of changes. As soon as my Lady Duchess appears in a new style, Mrs. Citizen, with the assistance of her mercer’s manufacturer, who has also been on the qui vive, has a clumsy copy of it.

No sooner is Mrs. Citizen seen in her new splendour than Betty, through the medium of a maker for the million, equally alert, is arrayed in a grotesque caricature of the thing. When I speak of a clumsy copy and grotesque caricature, I do so in no invidious spirit, with no absurd prejudice of aristocracy. It is a literal fact. The original design is almost always graceful, however peculiar it may be. The manufacturer and dressmaker of inferior capacity who copy it in inferior, and perhaps, unsuitable materials, too scantily or too amply cut, render an exaggerated caricature.
The ordinary female pedestrians of the lower-middle classes represent almost always a burlesque of the original fashion; and so as Dame Fashion gets reproached when Bad Taste should have all the blame.

“This is all very well,” says a crusty old gentleman at my elbow; “very well for an excuse. But look at your ugly fashion-plates; look at your journals for women-folk; what can you say in extenuation of them?” I reply, “There are fashion-plates and fashion-plates. You know nothing about it. In the first place, the newest and most elegant fashions are never published in fashion-plates. Our English aristocratic ladies have their dresses made by modes not yet published, and the French are in advance of them. It is not till a mode is going out of vogue with the crème de la crème in Paris that it is drawn and printed in French journals. We English are often a year behind the French, and if we have from a good source all their newest-printed fashion-plates, we should find such dresses in vogue in England just twelve months later. All our best coloured fashion-plates come from Paris, and have the name of the English journal that issues them printed on them after their arrival, or sometimes by the Parisian houses to order.

As for the smudgy, uncoloured prints we sometimes see, the best of them are stereotypes or casts from French woodcuts, badly printed. Some of the French originals of what look but ugly pictures as they are issued in England, are very beautiful and delicate in execution and graceful in appearance. The blottiness of the print seems actually to abolish the grace of the design.
But the inferior pictures of fashion, both coloured and black-and-white, are imported from Germany. The German fashions are for the most part clumsy copies from Parisian designs, and are often ugly and inelegant, as well as coarsely executed and ill-drawn. They are also much cheaper.

Many attempts have been made from time to time to produce fashion illustrations for ladies’ journals in this country, but have always failed, especially in the colouring, the class of persons employed for that purpose not possessing the same good taste as our foreign neighbours.
                                 G. C. C.

Friday, 11 March 2011

“Here they find helping hands” Or: The Victorian House of Charity

A couple of weeks ago the news was reporting that Westminster Council wanted to close soup kitchens to stop the homeless gathering there and, in effect, making the place look messy.

This story put me in mind of a few pieces of Victorian Journalism I have read on the subject of the homeless – there are many out there – and I had a look through my little collection and found this 1870 piece, ‘The Terrible Sights of London and Labours of Love in the Midst of Them’ by Thomas Archer.

Whilst many aspects of our society have made huge advancements since the late Victorian age, doesn’t the establishment described below, written in a time when the poor were supposedly forgotten about and ignored, put suggestions and councils like Westminster to shame?

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, then here is a link to it.

The House of Charity
Is surely so named in the scriptural sense of that last word in its title; for there is no reminder there that its inmates are to forfeit their claim to respect in return for alms. Plain in its simple comfort, and with a quiet order in its family arrangements that must make it a blessed retreat for the sorrowful, a calm resting-place for the harassed, it is all that its name implies, and more; for it belongs not only to the charity that giveth of its goods to feed the poor, but to that which 'thinketh no evil.'

It is a fine old house, standing at No. 1 Greek-street, Soho, and has certain historical associations belonging to it; for it was the town mansion of the celebrated Alderman Beckford, and still exhibits some of the decorations of ceiling and chimneypiece, and the breadth and ample space of staircase and passage, which distinguished the buildings of that time. By the way, it is interesting to know that the carved mantel and its supports, formerly belonging to the apartment that is now the committee room, were so fine an example of decorative art, that the promoters of the present charity obtained a handsome sum for them when they were sold for the benefit of the good work undertaken there. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the patron of this institution.

In the lower part of the house there are two large rooms on opposite sides of the hall, well warmed and lighted, and used as sitting-rooms, one for male, the other for female inmates.
They are supplied with books and newspapers; the latter in order that those in search of situations may see the advertisements; while the women are partially employed in making or mending their clothes, or in such needlework as may be given to .the three or four more permanent residents. The large room used as a refectory is plainly furnished, the men sitting at one table, the women at another; and the quantity and description of the food is such as would be provided in a respectable family; tea or coffee, and good bread-and-butter, morning and evening; meat and vegetables for dinner; and a supper of bread and cheese. There is no limit as to quantity; and if one could forget the distress which brings them thither, one might regard the family as employés of some well-ordered establishment, with good plain meals, and a clubroom on each side for meeting in after business-hours.

The dormitories, which occupy the upper floors of the two wings, are admirably contrived to secure that privacy the want of which would be so repulsive a feature to persons of superior condition. Each long and lofty room is divided into a series of enclosures, or cabins, by substantial partitions of about eight feet in height; and in each of these separate rooms, all of which are lighted from several windows, or by the gas-branches in the main apartment, there is a neat comfortable bed and bedstead, with space for a seat or a box, and a small table or shelf.

Between thirty and forty persons can be received here at one time; and those who are in search of employment, or who require to go out during the day, leave after breakfast, and return either to dinner or to tea. For a fortnight, or in many exceptional cases for a more extended time, the House of Charity becomes the home of those who, but for its aid, must apparently sink lower and lower, till they become not only utterly destitute, but in danger of being deeply degraded and even vicious. Here they find helping hands and judicious advice, as well as ready sympathy, and numbers of them are directed to situations; while the sick are placed in hospitals, or allowed to remain in the home, and attend as out-patients until admission can be found for them.

The poor women especially – many of whom are ladies by previous position and education – find it a refuge indeed, and learn that the sister who has charge of the whole household arrangements, as well as those who have more definite duties in relation to the female inmates themselves, and the rather arduous correspondence, accounts, and inquiries, may be appealed to with an assurance of hearty sympathy.
On part of the open area at the back of the building a chapel has recently been erected, where the warden himself officiates at morning and evening prayer; and it may well be believed that to many of those weary souls this sacred spot, with its pretty cathedral-like ornaments, its stained glass, and the suggestion of quiet and repose in its subdued light, may represent the retracement of the steps that have ended so disastrously, and yet so blessedly; and· may, in some sense, be associated with that outcome into renewed life for which their presence in the institution gives them reason to hope.

Standing within this building, however, I notice certain small blank unfinished spaces on the walls, and amidst the general appearance of completeness, an incompleteness not obvious at the first glance. I am pleased to learn, in explanation of this, that only the special contributions to the chapel fund are spent here, and that no more is done at the time than there is money to pay for; so that for the actual completion of details, and the addition (greatly needed) of a covered way from the house to the church-porch, funds are patiently awaited.

When I speak of the necessity for a covered way, it reminds me that many of the inmates come here sick as well as sad. To-night, in a warm and comfortable workroom near the dormitory – a room that is used, I think, as a kind of day-nursery for such children as are admitted – there are two young women sewing at a table, where they have just been supplied with tea and  bread and butter.
One of them is suffering from a consumptive cough; the other is an out-patient at a hospital for disease of the hip, and has to wear an instrument until she can be admitted as a regular case. It may be mentioned that the expenditure is frequently increased because of the infirm condition of many of the female inmates, who not only require more comforts and special food, but whose inability to do the work of the house entails the necessity of employing paid substitutes.
This fact accounts for a large number of cases sent to hospitals and convalescent homes. Clothing is also an item of expense; and the committee very earnestly appeals for gifts of apparel, either new or old, since without such aid many of the inmates cannot procure situations.

Would you know who these inmates are? The case-book would reveal a series of affecting stories; for in it are the plain statements – needing no touches of art to make them painfully interesting – of ladies, wives of professional men, brought .to sudden widowhood and poverty; of men of education cast adrift by failure or sickness, and not knowing where to seek their bread; of children left destitute or deserted; of women removed from persecution, and girls from the tainted atmosphere of vice; of weary wanderers, who, in despair of finding such a shelter, have spent nights in the parks; of foreigners stranded on the shore of a strange city; of ministers of the Gospel brought low; of servant-girls defrauded of their wages, or discharged almost penniless, and cast loose in the giddy whirl of London streets.

It is not alone for its temporary aid in affording a home that this most admirable House of Charity is distinguished; but it affords a good hope also by seeking situations in cases where peculiar circumstances make such a search difficult – for bereaved and impoverished ladies, for educated men, as well as for domestic and superior servants. Its supporters give this aid also to the work; and as they number amongst them many ladies and gentlemen of social influence, employment is frequently discovered for those whose misfortunes would otherwise be almost irretrievable.

Of 225 men, 351 women, and 79 children who came before the warden and council, and were admitted during the last official year:
243 were provided for more or less permanently;
110 were sent to homes, orphanages, and hospitals;
83 returned to their homes;
18 were passing on to homes or places of service, and stayed here on their way;
12 were emigrants waiting for their ships to sail;
80 left because of the expiration of the time allowed for their remaining;
13 left of their own accord;
And 21 were dismissed.
In the record of the social condition of the inmates, we find 17 tutors, schoolmasters, and teachers; 18 governesses and schoolmistresses; 47 clerks, shopmen, and travellers; 47 menservants, porters, and pages; 5 engineers; 2 engravers; 1 officer; 7 soldiers; 3 sailors; 7 surgeons, apothecaries, and chemists; and most of the rest representing a large number of respectable trades - including 1 'planter' – and some situations, the, most remarkable of which was that of 'master of a workhouse.' Of matrons, housekeepers, and nurses, there were 61; of maids-of- all-work, 86; and of other servant-maids, 113; while of needlewomen there were 20.

Of course the daily provision for the family of about thirty is considerable, and the kitchen is in almost constant use, while the laundry is scarcely sufficient for the needs of the establishment; but this regular succession of meals by no means represents the culinary operations of that glorious house. For there is a 'sick-kitchen' to look after; that is to say, a kitchen adjoining the regular kitchen of the establishment, to which poor applicants from the neighbouring district bring their cloths and basins, and carry away nourishing food to their poorer invalids.
At this very moment the soup for tomorrow's supply – rich in the aroma of meat and savoury vegetables – is concocting in a huge copper, from which the sister-superintendent will deftly ladle it into basins or jugs, and pass it to anxious recipients waiting at the wicket by the window.

And this is not all either, for 300 of the sick and hungry little ones of Soho sit down twice a week to a sick children's dinner table in the schoolroom of St. Mary, of which our warden is the vicar; and the caldrons of stew, as well as the great pots full of mealy potatoes, are all set boiling here at the grand old mansion in Greek-street.

The greater part, if not the entire cost, of these dinners is defrayed by the contributions of children who are better off in the world; and send their savings, or a percentage of them – pence, fourpennypieces, sixpences, and shillings – to be devoted to this purpose. Indeed, a special appeal is made to the children of well-doing parents.

While I am on this subject, I cannot refrain from mentioning in parenthesis that the committee of that admirable association, the Destitute Children's Dinners Society, in their third report, state that during the year ending September 30th, 1869, forty dining-rooms were opened in forty of the most impoverished localities of the metropolis; and 110,803 dinners supplied to the ragged and destitute children attending schools in their respective neighbourhoods.

Among those who receive the benefits of the institution in Greek-street, the large number of domestic servants represent a class to whom such a refuge is most acceptable and most necessary. It would be well, indeed, if there were other houses of charity for temporarily destitute or distressed persons of the better class; and it would be well also if a larger number of institutions were established for the reception of female servants looking for a situation, or temporarily unemployed through sickness. There are several now in operation under the direction of the Female Servants' Home Society, the office of which is at 85 Queen-street, Cheapside. There is another at 132 Walworth-road, forming one of the operations of the South-London Mission; and there is the Trewint Industrial Home in Mare-street, Hackney, where thirty girls over fifteen years of age are restrained from vice, to which they had been exposed by being without situations.

It is the comparatively helpless position of the female servant out of place, and cast loose to find a home for herself, which gives these special institutions such a claim. To what kind of home is a young woman ignorant of London and its ways – or if not entirely ignorant, with a flighty hankering after a little liberty, but with no present intention of improper companionship – likely to be introduced? Say that she takes lodging with the charwoman, or rents a room with another girl of her own class, what is likely to come of it when her remnant of wages is nearly exhausted?

Should she be of attractive appearance she is in danger of temptation every time she goes out after dark, and probably even in broad daylight; for the harpies who waylay her, know how to flatter her vanity or to work upon her fears for their own purpose. While should she come to the end of her money, and even have begun to part with a portion of her clothes and her poor little bits of finery, to pay for a lodging and a meal, her ruin probably is imminent. 

Among the multitude of lost and wretched women who throng our streets, and make (next to its deserted and destitute children) London's most terrible sight, the ranks that represent domestic servants brought to the deepest degradation of vice and misery are by far the fullest.