DURING an investigation into the condition of the coal-whippers and coal-backers employed in the Pool [of London], a statement was made to me by a coal-backer, who declared that it was an absolute necessity of that kind of labour, that the men engaged in 'backing' coals - that is to say, carrying them upon his back from the hold of a ship - should, though earning only 1l. per week, spend at least 12s. weekly in beer and spirits to stimulate them to their work. This sum the man assured me was a moderate allowance, for 15s. was the amount ordinarily expended by the men in drink every week.
Hence it followed that if this quantity of drink was a necessity of the calling, the men pursuing the severest labour of all - doing work that cripples the strongest in from twelve to twenty years - were the worst paid of all labourers, their actual clear gains being but from 5s. to 8s. weekly.
This struck me as being so terrible a state of things, that I could hardly believe it to be true; though I was assured by several coal-whippers, who were present on the occasion, that the coal-backer who had made the statement had in no way exaggerated his account of the sufferings of his fellow-workmen. I determined, nevertheless, upon inquiring into the question myself, and ascertaining by the testimony and experience of different classes of individuals engaged in this, the greatest labour, perhaps, performed by any class of labouring men, whether drink was really a necessity or luxury to the labourer.
Accordingly I called a meeting of the coal-whippers that I might take their opinion on the subject, when I found that out of eighty individuals only four were satisfied that fermented liquors could be dispensed with by the working classes. I was, however, still far from being satisfied upon the subject, and I determined, as the question is one of the greatest importance to the working men - being more intimately connected with their welfare, physical, intellectual, and moral, than any other - to give the matter my most patient and unbiassed consideration.
I was anxious, without advocating any opinion on the subject, to collect the sentiments of the coal-heavers themselves; and in order that I might do so as impartially as possible, I resolved upon seeing - lst, such men as were convinced that stimulating liquors were necessary to the labouring man in the performance of his work; 2nd, Such men as had once taken the pledge to abstain from the use of all fermented liquors, but had been induced to violate their vow in consequence of injury to their health; and 3rd, Such men as had taken the pledge, and kept it without any serious injury to their constitutions.
To carry the object out with the fulness and impartiality that its importance seemed to me to demand, I determined to prosecute the inquiry among both classes of coal-labourers, the coal-whippers, and the backers as well.
The result of these investigations I shall now subjoin. Let me, however, in the first place, lay before the reader the following:-
|COMPARATIVE TABLE OF THE DRUNKENNESS OF THE DIFFERENT TRADES IN LONDON.
(Above the Average Drunkenness.)
|Button makers, 1 individual in every||7.2||Printers, 1 individual in every||52.4|
|Tool-makers||10.1||Hatters and trimmers||53.1|
|Paper makers and stainers||12.1||Ironmongers||56.0|
|General and marine store-dealers||23.2||Clerks||73.4|
|Coach and cabmen||28.7||Coachmakers||78.8|
|Tinkers and tinmen||45.7||Drapers||102.3|
|(Below the Average Drunkenness.)|
|Carvers and gilders||125.2||Grocers||226.6|
The above calculations have been made from the official returns of the Metropolitan Police. The causes of the different degrees of intemperance I leave to others to discover.
I requested some of the men who had expressed various opinions respecting the necessity for drinking some kind of fermented liquor during their work to meet me, so that I might take down their sentiments on the subject more fully.
First of all came two of the most intelligent, who believed malt liquor to be necessary for the performance of their labour. One was a basket-man, and the other was an 'up-and-down' man, or whipper; the first doing the lighter, and the second the heavier sort of coal-whipping work. The basket-man, who, I afterwards discovered, was a good Greek and Latin scholar, said, 'If I have anything like a heavy day's work to do, I consider three pints of porter a necessity. We are not like other labouring men, having an hour to dinner. Often to save tide we take only ten minutes to our meals. One thing I wish to remark is, that what renders it necessary to have three pints of beer in winter and two pots in summer, is the coal-dust arising from the work, which occasions great thirst.
'In the summer time the basket-man is on the plank all day, and continually exposed to the sun, and in winter to the inclemency of the weather. What with the labour and the heat, the perspiration is excessive. A basket-man with a bad gang of men has no sinecure. In the summer he can wear neither coat nor waistcoat - very few can bear the hat on the head, so they use nightcaps instead. Tho work is always done in the summer time with only the shirt and trousers on, for the basket-man never takes off his shirt like the whippers.
'The necessity for drink in the summer does not arise so much from the extent of the labour as from the irritation of the coal-dust getting into the throat. There is not so much dust from the coals in the winter as in the summer, the coals being more damp in winter than in fine weather. It is merely the thirst that makes the drink requisite, as far as the basket-man is concerned. Tea would allay the thirst, but there is no opportunity for getting this on board the ship. If there were an opportunity of getting tea at our work, the basket-men might manage to do with it as well as with beer. Water I don't fancy, especially the water of the river; it is very impure, and at the time of the cholera we were prohibited from drinking it.
'If we could get pure water I do not think it would do as well for us, especially in winter time. In winter time it would be too cold, and too great a contrast to the heat of the blood. It would, in my opinion, produce stagnation of the circulation. We have had instances of men dying suddenly through drinking water when in a state of excitement.' (He distinguishes between excitement and heat, for he calls the basket-man's labour an exciting one, and the whipper's work a heating one.) 'The men who died suddenly were whippers. I never heard of a basket-man dying from drinking cold water whilst at his work. I don't think they ever try the experiment. The whippers have done so through necessity, not through choice. Tea is a beverage that I don't fancy, and I conceive it to be equally expensive, so I prefer porter.
'When I go off to my work early in the morning I take about a pint of coffee with me in a bottle, and warm it up on board at the galley fire for my breakfast. That, I find, quenches my thirst for the time as well as porter. Porter would be too insipid the first thing in the morning. I never drank coffee through the day while at work, so I cannot say what the effect would be.
'I drink porter when I'm at my work, not as giving me greater strength to go through my labour, but merely as a means of quenching my thirst - it being as cheap as any other drink, with the exception of water, and less trouble to procure.
'I was in the hospital about seven years ago, and the doctor asked me how many pints of beer I was in the habit of drinking per day. This was before our office was established. I told him on the lowest calculation six or seven - it was the case then, under the old system; and he then ordered me two pints of porter daily, as I was very weak, and he said I wanted a stimulus.
'I am not aware that it is the habit of the publicans to adulterate their porter with salt and water. If such is the case it would without doubt increase rather than diminish the thirst. I often found that the beer sold by some of the publicans tends more to create than allay thirst; and I am confident that if the working men generally knew that salt and water was invariably mixed by the publicans with the porter, they would no longer hold to the notion that it would quench their thirst. But to convince them of that it would be almost necessary that they should see with their own eyes the publicans adulterating the beer. If it is really the case that beer is adulterated with salt and water, it must be both injurious and heating to the working man. Some of the men who are in the habit of drinking porter at their work, very probably attribute the thirst created by the salt and water in the porter to the thirst created from the coal-dust, and continue drinking it from force of habit.
'The habit of drinking is doubtless the effect of the old system, when the men were forced to drink by the publicans who paid them. A most miraculous change, and one unparalleled in history, has been produced by altering the old mode of employing and paying the men. The reformation in the morals and character of the men is positively wonderful. Their sons are no longer thieves, and their daughters no longer prostitutes. Formerly it was a competition who could drink the most, for he that could do so got the most work. The introduction for a job was invariably, 'You know, Mr. So-and-So, I'm a good drinking man.' Seeing the benefit that has resulted from the men not drinking so much as formerly, I am of opinion - though I take my beer every day myself - a great good would ensue if the men would drink even less than they do now, and eat more. It would be more conducive to their health and strength.
'But they have not the same facility for getting food over their work as there is for getting beer. You see they can have credit for beer when they can't get a morsel of food on trust. There are no floating bakers or butchers like there are floating publicans or purlmen. If there were, and men could have trust for bread and meat while at their work on the river, I am sure they would eat more and drink less, and be all the better for it. It would be better for themselves and their families.
'The great evil of drink is that when a man has a little he often wants more, and doesn't know where to stop. When he once passes the Rubicon, as I call it, he is lost. If it wasn't for this evil, I think a pint or two of porter would make them do their work better than either tea or water. Our labour is peculiar. The air is always full of coal-dust, and every nerve and muscle of the body is strained, and every pore of the body open, so that the man requires some drink to counteract the cold.'
The next two that I saw were men who did the heaviest work at this kind of labour, that is 'up-and-down' men, or coal-whippers, as they are usually called. They had both of them been teetotallers: one had been so for eight years, and the other one had tried it for three months.
One who stood at least six feet and a half high, and was habited in a long blue great coat that reached to his heels, and made him look even taller than he was, said: 'I was a strict teetotaller for many years, and I wish I could be so now. All that time I was a coal-whipper at the heaviest work, and I have made one of a gang that have done as many as 180 tons in one day. I drank no fermented liquor the whole of the time. I had only ginger-beer and milk, and that cost me 1s. 6d. daily. It was in the summer time. I didn't 'buff it' then; that is, I didn't take my shirt off.
'I did this work at the Regent Canal, and there was a little milkshop close on shore, and I used to run in there when I was dry. I took about two quarts of milk and five bottles of ginger-beer, or about three quarts of fluid altogether. I found that amount of drink necessary. I perspire very violently. My shirt was wet through and my flannels wringing with the perspiration over the work.
'The rule amongst us is that we do twenty-eight tons on deck, and twenty-eight tons filling in the ship's hold. We go on in that way throughout the day, spelling at every twenty-eight tons. The perspiration in the summer time streams down our foreheads so rapidly, that it will often get in our eyes before we have time to wipe it off. This makes the eyes very sore, so much so that at night when we get home we cannot bear to sit with a candle. The perspiration is of a very briny nature, for I often taste it as it runs down to my lips. We are frequently so heated over our work that the perspiration runs down into our shoes, and then, from the dust and the heat of jumping up and down, the feet will be galled with the small coal, so that the shoes become full of blood.
'The thirst produced over our work is very excessive. It is completely as if you had a fever upon you. The dust gets into the throat and very nearly suffocates you. You can scrape the coal-dust off the tongue with the teeth, and do what you will it is impossible to get the least spittle into the mouth. I have known the coal-dust to be that thick in a ship's hold that I have been unable to see my mate, although he was only two feet distant from me. Both before and after I was a teetotaller, I was one of the strongest men in the business. I was able to carry seven hundredweight on my back for fifty yards, and I could lift nine half-hundreds with my right arm. But after finishing my day's work I was like a child from weakness.
'When we have done fourteen or twenty-eight tons we generally stop for a drop to drink, and then I have found that anything that would wet my mouth would revive me. Cold tea, milk, and ginger-beer are refreshing, but not so much as a pint of porter. Cold water would give a pain in the inside, so that a man would have to lie down and be taken ashore, and perhaps give up work altogether. Many a man has been taken to the hospital merely through drinking cold water over his work. It produces a weight and coldness over the chest. They say it has chilled the fat of the heart.
'I can positively state,' continued the man, 'that during the whole of eight years I took no fermented drink. My usual drink was cold tea, milk, ginger-beer, or coffee - whichever I could catch. The ginger-beer was more lively than the milk, but I believe I could do more work upon the milk. Tea I found much better than coffee. Cold tea was very refreshing, but unless I took it with me in a bottle it wasn't to be had. I used to take a quart of cold tea with me and make it last the whole day as well as I could. The ginger-beer was most expensive and would cost me 1s., or more than that, if I could get it. The milk would cost me 6d. or 8d. For tea and coffee the expenses would be about 2d. a day. But often I have done the whole day's work without any drink, because I would not touch beer, and then I was more fit to be carried home than walk. I have known many men scarcely able to crawl up the ladder out of the hold, they were so fatigued. For myself, being a very strong man, I was never so reduced, thank God. But often when I've got home I've been obliged to drink three pints of milk at a stretch before I could touch a bit of victuals.
'As near as I can guess, it used to cost me whilst at work a shilling a day for milk, ginger-beer, and other teetotal drinks. Whcn I was not at work my drinks used to cost me nothing. For eight years I stuck to the pledge, but I found myself failing in health and strength; I found that I couldn't go through a day's work as clever as I used before I left off drink, and when first I was a teetotaller. I found myself failing in every inch of my carcass, my limbs, my body, and all. Of my own free will I gave it up. I did not do so in a fit of passion, but deliberately, because I was fully satisfied that I was injuring my health by it.
'Shortly after I had taken the pledge I found I could have more meat than I used to have before, and I found that I neither got strong nor weak upon it. After about five years my appetite began to fail, and then my strength began to leave me; so I made up my mind to alter the system. When I returned to beer I found myself getting better in health and stronger daily. Before I was a teetotaller I used to drink heavy, but after teetotalism I was a temperate man.
'I am sure it is necessary for a hard-working man that he should drink beer. He can't do his work so well without it as he can with it in moderation. If he goes beyond his allowance he is better without any. I have taken to drinking beer again within the last twelve months. As long as a man does not go beyond his allowance in beer, his drink will cost him just as much when he is a teetotaller, as it will when he has not taken the pledge. The difference between the teetotal and fermented drinks I find to be this:- When I drank milk it didn't make me any livelier; it quenched my thirst, but did not give me any strength. But when I drink a pint or a quart of beer it does me so much good after a day's hard labour, that after drinking it I could get up and go to my work again. This feeling will continue for a considerable time. Indeed, I think that beer is much better for a working man than any kind of unfermented drink. I defy any man in England to contradict me in what I say, and that is, a man who takes his reasonable quantity of beer, and a fair share of food, is much better with it than without.'
The next two 'whippers' that I saw were both teetotallers. One had taken the pledge eight months ago and the other four years, and they had both kept it strictly. One had been cellar-man at a public house, and he said, 'I neither take spruce nor any of the cordials. Water is my beverage at my dinner.' The other had been an inveterate drunkard. The cellar-man is now a basket-man, and the other an up-and-down man, or whipper in the same gang.
The basket-man said: 'I can vouch for this from my own experience, that it is not necessary for a working man doing the very hardest form of labour to drink fermented liquors. I was an up-and-down man for two years without tasting a drop of spirits. I have helped to whip 189 tons of coal in a day without any, and that in the heat of summer. What I had with me was a bottle of cocoa, and I took with that plenty of steak, potatoes, and bread. If the men were to take more meat and less beer they would do a great deal better. It's a delusion to think beer ncccssary.
'Often the men who say the beer is necessary will deliver a ship, and not a half dozen pints be drunk aboard. The injury is done ashore. The former custom of our work - the compulsory system of drinking that we were under till lately - has so embedded the idea of drink in the men's minds that they think it actually necessary. It's not the least to be wondered that there's so many drunkards among them. I don't think we shall ever be able to undo the habit of drinking among the whippers in this generation.
'As far as I am concerned, since I have been a teetotaller I have enjoyed a more regular state of health than I used before. Now I am a basket-man I drink only water with my dinner, and during my work I take nothing. I have got a ship 'in hands,' going to work on Monday morning. I shall have to run backwards and forwards on a one-and-twenty foot plank, and deliver 300 tons of coals, and I shall do that upon water. That man,' pointing to the teetotaller who accompanied him, 'will be in it, and he'll have to help to pull the coals twenty foot above the deck, and he'll do it all upon cold water.
'When I was a coal-whipper myself, I used to drink cocoa. I took it cold with me in the morning, and warmed it aboard. They prophesied it would kill me in a week, but I know it's done me every good in life. I have drunk water when I was a working up and down, and when I was in the highest perspiration, and never found it injure me. It allays the thirst more than anything. If it didn't allay the thirst I shouldn't want to drink often; but if I take a drink of water from the cask I find my thirst immediately quenched. Many of the men who drink beer will take a drink of water afterwards, because the beer increases their thirst and heats them; that I believe is principally from the salt water in it; in fact, it stands to reason that, if beer is half brine, it can't quench the thirst. Ah! it's shocking stuff. The purl-men make up for the hands on the river.
'When I was drinking beer at my employment, I seldom exceeded three pints a day. That is what I took on board. What I had on shore, of course was not to help me do my labour. I know the beer used to inflame my thirst, because I have had to drink water after it over and over again. I never made a habit of drinking - not since the establishment of the office. Previous to that, of course I was compelled to drink. I've got 'jolly' now and then, but I never made a habit of it. It used to cost me 2s. or 2s. 6d. a week on the average for drink at the uttermost, because I could not afford more. Since I have taken the pledge I am sure it has not cost me 6d. a week. A teetotaller feels less thirst than any other man. I don't know what natural thirst is, excepting I've been eating salt provisions.
'I belong to a total abstinence society, and there are about a dozen coal-whippers, and about the same number of coal-backers, members of it. Some have been total abstainers for twelve years, and are living witnesses that fermented drinks are not necessary for working men. There are about 200 to 250 coal-whippers who are teetotallers. Those coal-whippers who have been total abstainers for twelve years are not weaker or worse in health for want of beer.'
This statement was denied by a person present; but a gentleman who was intimately acquainted with the whole body, mentioned the names of several men who had been - some ten years, and some upwards of twelve - strict adherents to the principles of teetotalisrn.
'The greatest quantity of drinking goes on ashore. I should say the men generally drink twice as much ashore as they do afloat. Those who drink beer are always thirsty. Through drinking their beer aboard a thirst is created, which they set to drinking ashore to allay; and after a hard day's labour a very little strong drink overcomes a man. One or two pots of beer and the man is loth to stir. He is tired, and the drink, instead of refreshing him, makes him sleepy and heavy. The next morning after drinking he is thirstier still, and then he goes to work drinking again. The perspiration will start out of him in large drops like peas. You will see it stream down his face and into his hands, with the coal dust sticking to him just as if he had a pair ot black silk gloves on him. It's a common saying with us about such a man that he's got the gloves on. The drunkards always perspire the most over their work.
'The prejudice existing among the men in favour of drink is such that they believe they would die if they went without it. I am quite astonished to see such an improvement in them as there is, and I do think that if the clergymen of the neighbourhood did their duty, and exerted themselves, the people would be better still. At one time there were as many as 500 coal-whippers total abstainers, and then the men were much better clothed, and the homes and appearance of the whippers were much more decent. What I should do if I drunk I don't know. I got 1l. for clearing a ship last week, and I shan't get any more till next Monday night, and I have a wife and six children to keep out of that. For this last fortnight I have only made ten shillings a week, so I'm sure I couldn't spare even a shilling a week for drink without robbing my family.'
The second teetotaller, who had been an inveterate drunkard in his time, stated as follows:-
Like the rest of the coal-whippers, he thought once he could not do without beer. He used to drink as much as he could get. He averaged two pots whilst at his work, and when he came ashore he would have two pots more. He had been a coal-whipper for upwards of twenty years, and for nineteen years and three months of that time he was a hard drinker - 'a regular stiff 'un,' said he, 'and I not only used,' he added, 'to get drunk myself, but I taught my children to drink as well. I have got some young ones as big as myself. Often I have gone home of a Sunday morning drunk myself, and found two of my sons drunk. They'd be unable to sit at the table. They were about fourteen then; and when they went out with me I used to teach them to take their little drops of neat rum or gin like their father. I have seen the youngest 'mop up' his half quartern as well as I did.
'Then I was always thirsty, and when I got up I used to go stalking round to the first public-house that was open, to see if I could get a pint or a quartern. My mouth was dry and parched as if I'd got a burning fever. If I had no work that day I used to sit in a public-house and spend all the money I had in my pocket. If I had no money I would go home and raise it somehow. I would ask the old woman to give me the price of apint, or perhaps the young 'uns were at work, and I was pretty safe to meet them coming home. Talk about going out of a Sunday! I was ashamed to be seen out. My clothes were ragged, and my shoes would take the water in at one end and let it out at the other. I keep my old rags at home to remind me of what I was. I call them the 'regimentals of the guzzlers.' I pawned everything I could get at. For ten or twelve years I used a beershop regularly. That was my house of call.
'Now my home is very happy. All my children are teetotallers. My sons are as big as myself, and they are at work, carrying one and three-quarters to two hundred weight up a Jacob's ladder thirty-three steps high. They do this all day long, and have been doing it for the last seven days. They drink nothing but water or cold tea, and say they find themselves better able to do their work. Coal-bucking is about the hardest work a man can perform. For myself, too, I find I am quite as able to do my day's work without intoxicating drinks as I was with them. There's my basket-man,' said he, pointing to the other teetotaller, 'and he can tell you whether what I say is true or not. I have helped to whip 147 tons of coal in the heat of summer. The other men were calling for beer every time they could see or hear a purl-man; but I took nothing. I don't think I perspired as much as they did.
'When I was in the drinking custom, I have known the perspiration run down my arms and legs as if I had been in a hot bath. Since I have taken the pledge I scarcely perspire at all. I'll have a good teetotal pill -that is, a pound of steak with plenty of gravy in it; that's the stuff to work upon. That's what the working man wants - plenty of it and less beer, and he'd beat a horse any day. I am certain that the working man can never be raised above his present position until he can give up drinking. That is why I am sticking to the pledge, that I may be a living example to the class, that they can and may work without beer. I have made my house happy, and I want to make every other working man's as comfortable.
'I tried the principles of teetotalism first on board a steamboat. I was a stoker, and we burnt twenty-seven cwt. of coals - that's very nearly a ton and a half - every hour we were at sea. There, with the heat of the fire, we felt the effects of drinking strong brandy. Brandy was the only fermented drink we were allowed. After a time I tried what other stimulants we could use. The heat in the hold, especially before the fires, was awful. There were nine stokers and four coal trimmers. We found that the brandy we drank in the day made us all ill. Our heads ached when we got up in the morning; so four of us agreed to try oatmeal and water as our drink, and we found that it suited us better than intoxicating liquor. I myself got as fat as a bull on it. It was recommended to me by a doctor in Falmouth, and we all of us tried it eight or nine voyages.
'Some time after I left the company I went to strong drink again, and continued at it till the 1st May last; and then my children's love of drink got so dreadful that I grew to hate myself for being the cause of it. But I couldn't give up the drinking. Two of my mates, however, urged me on to try. On the 1st of May I signed the pledge. I prayed to God the night before to give me strength to keep it, and never since have I felt the least inclination to return. When I had left off a fortnight I found myself a great deal better. All the cramps that I was loaded with when I was drinking left me. Now I am happy and comfortable at home. My wife's about one of the best women in the world. She bore with me in my troubles, and now she glories in my redemption. My children love me, and we all club our earnings together, and can always manage on the Sunday to have a joint of sixteen or seventeen pounds. My wife, now that we are teetotallers, need do no work; and in conclusion I must say that I have much cause to bless the Lord that ever I signed the teetotal pledge.
'After I leave my work,' added the teetotaller, 'I find the best thing that I can have to refresh me is a good wash of my hands and shoulders in cold water. This is twice as enlivening as ever I found beer. Once a fortnight I go to Goulston Square, Whitechapel, and have a warm bath. That is one of the finest things ever invented for the working man. Any person that uses them don't want beer. I invited a coal-whipper friend to come with me once. 'How much does it cost?' he asked. I told him 1d. 'Well,' he said, 'I'd sooner have half a pint of beer. I haven't washed my body for these twenty-two years, and don't see why I should begin to have anything to do with such new-fangled notions at my time of life.' I will say that a good wash is better for the working man than the best drink.'
These men ultimately made a particular request that their statements might be made to conclude with a verse from the temperance melodies:-
And now we love the social cheer
Of the bright winter eve;
We have no cause for sigh or tear,
Nor any cause to grieve.
Our wives are clad, our children fed;
We boast, where'er we go,
And it's all because we signed the pledge
A long time ago.'
At the close of my interview with these coal-whippers, I received from them an invitation to visit them at their own houses whenever I should think fit. It was clearly their desire that I should see the comforts and domestic arrangements of their houses. Accordingly on the morrow, I chose an hour when there could have been no preparation, and called at the lodgings of the first.
I found the whole family assembled in the back kitchen that served them for a parlour. As I entered the room, the mother was busy washing and dressing her children for the day. There stood six little things, all so young that they seemed about the same height, with their faces shining with the soap and water, and their cheeks red as tomatoes with the friction of the towel. They were all laughing and playing about the mother, who, with comb and brush in hand, found it no easy matter to get them to stand still whilst she made 'the partings' down their hair.
First of all the man asked me to step upstairs to see the sleeping rooms. I was much struck with the scrupulous cleanliness of the apartment. The blind was as white as snow, half rolled up and fastened with a pin. The floor was covered with patches of different-coloured carpet., showing that they had been bought from time to time, and telling how difficult it had been to obtain the luxury. In one corner was a cupboard with the door taken off, the better to show all the tea-cups, tumblers, and stained glass mugs, that, with two decanters well painted with flowers, were kept more for ornament than use. On the chimney-piece was a row of shells, china shepherdesses and lambs, and a stuffed pet canary in a glass case by way of centre ornament. Against the wall, surrounded by other pictures, hung a half-crown watercolour drawing of the wife with a child on her knee, matched on the other side by the husband's likeness cut out in black paper. Pictures of bright-coloured ducks, and a print of Father Matthew, the teetotaller, completed the collection.
'You see,' said the man, 'we manages pretty well; but I can assure you we has a hard time of it to do at all comfortable. Me and my wife is just as we stands. All our other things is in pawn. If I was to drink I don't know what I should do. How others manage is to me a mystery. This will show you I speak the truth,' he added, and going to a secretary that stood against the wall, he produced a handful of duplicates. There were seventeen tickets in all, amounting to 3l. 0s. 6d., the highest sum borrowed being 10s.
'That'll show you I don't like my poverty to be known, or else I would have told you of it before. And yet we manages to sleep clean.' And he pulled back the snow-white sheets beneath. 'There's not enough clothes to keep us warm, but at least they're clean. We're obliged to give as much as we can to the children. Cleanliness is my wife's hobby, and I let her indulge it. I assure you last week my wife had to take the gown off her back to get a shilling with it. My little ones seldom have a bit of meat from one Sunday to another, and never a bit of butter.'
I then descended into the parlour. The children were all seated on little stools that their father had made for them in his spare moments, and warming themselves round the fire, their little black shoes resting on the white hearth. From their regular features, small mouths, large dark eyes, and fair skins, no one would have taken them for a labouring man's family. In answer to my question, the man said, 'The eldest of them (a pretty little half-clad girl, seated in one corner) is ten, the next seven, that one five, that three, and this (a little thing perched upon a table near the mother), two. I've got all their ages in the Bible upstairs.'
I remarked a strange look about one of the little girls. 'Yes, she's always suffered with that eye, and down at the Hospital they lately performed an operation on it.' An artificial pupil had been made.
The room was closed in from the passage by a rudely built partition. 'That I did myself in my leisure,' said the man; 'it makes the place snugger.'
As he saw me look at the clean rolling-pin and bright tins hanging against the will, he observed, 'That's all my wife's doing. She has got them together by some times going without dinner herself, and laying out the 2d. or 3d. in things of that sort. That is how she manages. To-day she has got us a sheep's-head and a few turnips for our Sunday's dinner,' he added, taking off the lid of the boiling saucepan.
Over the mantelpiece hung a picture of George IV., surrounded by four other frames, one of them containing merely three locks of hair. The man, laughing, told me, 'two of them are locks of myself and my wife, and the light one in the middle belonged to my wife's brother, who died in India.'
by Henry Mayhew