Obrázky na stránke

The cistern was partially closed in by a little lean-to roof of broken tiles, incrusted inside and outside with soot and cobwebs; so that, whenever it rained, the blacks washed into the water. The closet was in such a condition as to be perfectly unuseable, and the sewerage leaked out in pools into the court on to which the back windows opened. The tap for the drinking water was close to the ground, and in such a position as to ensure contamination. There was no dust-bin, and the yard had, in addition, heaps of decaying animal and vegetable refuse. The stench was simply unbearable. As one of the poor women said, “Oh, it's time some one should come and see to us : nobody seems to care, and when the hot weather comes we shall be sure to have the cholera. The landlord won't do anything: he's been asked often enough; but it's only the rent he cares about.' Inside the house the walls were black with filth and damp, the banisters and plaster all broken away, the flooring in holes; yet for one stifling little room opening on to this court, the people were paying 3s. 6d. a week. Upstairs a woman was suffering from a diphtheritic sore-throat and pains in all her limbs; on the first floor a man had been lying ill for the last six weeks with a severe rheumatic attack; another had been removed to the infirmary. The house next door was in a similar state of repair. Their only water supply, there also, was drawn from the same polluted source, and the closet accommodation for six families was absolutely nil.

It were easy to multiply indefinitely cases such as these. Perhaps it may be more useful to cite a few cases with which the authorities have found it difficult to deal, owing to the deficiency of the law.

And first in order and importance comes the question of overcrowding. On the whole, the most flagrant and difficult cases are not those where many members of the same family inhabit the same

These can be more easily traced and remedied, such, for instance, as one case, reported to the Sanitary Aid Committee, where seven members of a family inhabited a small dark basement kitchen, the ceiling of which was below the level of the street; or a still worse case, where no less than eleven members of one family-father, mother, three grown-up sons, and six young children—all inhabited a similar kitchen. The father was a costermonger, and, in addition to his family, kept his barrow of shell-fish in the room at night. When, as too frequently happened, his fish were stale, the smell was so dreadful that the other tenants at last complained to the Sanitary Aid and got it remedied.

The most difficult cases of overcrowding are those where a single tenant is known to let out part of her room to as many as eight, ten, and even twelve lodgers, who all herd together on the floor indiscriminately, coming in after six o'clock at night, and going off before six in the morning, during which hours the Inspectors and Medical Officer of Health have no power of entry. The scenes


[ocr errors]

that ensue are beyond description ; but the tenants have no remedy, as such rooms are usually let for the purpose by a landlady of bad character, who, together with her lodgers, terrorise over the more respectable tenants, and frighten them into silence by threats of violence.

Another evil in connection with overcrowding which has been generally overlooked, is the case of open street doors at night. Numbers of these tenement houses are without lock or key, and, in the worst districts, the staircases are made the resort at night of the lowest characters, who seek refuge there when the publichouses are closed, and refuse to go away. The foul language and indecent behaviour of these people constitute an unbearable nuisance to the more respectable occupiers. One man stated that he had got up as often as five or six times in a night to turn these intruders out, but without avail. They or others returned, and at last he gave it up in despair. The police have no power to interfere, save for the protection of property, and these people can always evade them by pleading permission to sleep there from someone, usually the most disreputable person in the house. These tenements not coming under the Common Lodging House Acts, cannot be regulated by the authorities, and where the sub-landlord is non-resident, and, moreover, perfectly indifferent so long as be gets his rent, the respectable occupiers have no redress. Moreover, any bad characters living in the house have been known deliberately to encourage the intruders because it facilitated vice where they were not under the control of the police. The evil consequences are patent. A permanent hotbed of vice is constituted for the younger generation, who hear every sound through the thin partition walls, even where the boys are not, as frequently happens from the overcrowded state of the dwellings, allowed to sleep on the stairs in their very company. Nay, worse still, bad step-parents have been known positively to turn out their young girls there, knowing the almost inevitable consequence. One little girl of twelve complained lately to a lady and was saved. How many more have not a friend to turn to, and without any fault of theirs are launched on a life of shame, it is hard to say.

Mothers, whose own characters are far from good, have said with tears in their eyes that they would give anything to save their daughters from the constant contamination. Surely, it is shameful that, having to pay the extortionate rents that these poor people do, they should be unable even to shield their children from the lowest forms of sin.

Then with regard to the water supply. There is at present no power whereby a medical officer of health can order two cisterns. And the pollution of water by sewer-gas is a fertile source of typhoid and other kindred diseases in these low localities. Indeed, insufficiency of water generally is a very frequent complaint. The cases already noticed are examples of this, but many others might be

given. Owing to the landlord's ignorance of the state of the law, two cisterns are often ordered, where they could not really be enforced ; but as the more vigilant action of the sanitary authorities excites their spirit of opposition, it is to be expected that these orders will be resisted, and it would be well if the authorities were armed with sufficient powers beforehand.

The same remark holds good of many much-needed structural repairs. Under the present wording of the law, it is very difficult to enforce repairs of roofs, flooring, banisters, plastering, &c., in cases where the state of the tenement cannot be proved to have been distinctly injurious to health. Even when repairs are ordered, they are often carried out with great tardiness and needless discomfort to tenants; the inspector is afraid to press them, for fear the owner should come in and force the vestry to buy the whole house under the Torrens Act. In one case, which was brought before the Sanitary Aid Committee on July 7 last, repairs are, after endless delays on the part of the landlord and endless pressing on the part of the Sanitary Aid visitor, only being now finally carried out. This case alone suffices to show how unlikely it is that a single tenant, who stands at the mercy of the landlord, will continue fighting his own battle for nine weary months. Yet the house was in a lamentable state of repair, incrusted with the filth of years, with broken ceiling, broken windows, fire-places falling out, back yard unpaved, closet out of repair, and the whole house so swarming with vermin that the children could hardly sleep at night.

Again, with regard to closet accommodation, the law is very indefinite. In one case brought before the Sanitary Aid Committee there was but one closet for fifty people, and the medical officer of health declined to act till very considerable pressure had been brought to bear on him.

There is also considerable difficulty in getting untrapped drains efficiently attended to, or even in providing for their disconnection with the drinking water. Yet nothing can be more appalling than the state of the drains in many of these houses. For example, in one kitchen inhabited by a man, his wife, and five children, the smells were so fearful, that the inmates complained to the Sanitary Aid, saying that they woke up in the morning with a mist about their heads,' and feeling so sick and giddy that the man could not go to work till he had had twopenny-worth of brandy. They thought something must be very wrong, as the fearful smell was accompanied by a kind of steam, which rose up constantly from one corner under the floor whence the smell proceeded. The boards were taken up at the instance of the Sanitary Aid, and immediately underneath was found nothing but a soft black mass of the most horrible sewerage which had percolated through a broken drain under the floor. In this case the landlord was extremely annoyed that any complaint should have been made at all.

Another point which requires attention is the state of the manure heaps which are allowed to collect in the large cab mews in the midst of these poor localities. In one case, where thirty horses were kept, the manure was piled up in a heap, often ten or twelve feet high, under the windows and outside the door of a family of seven people. Close by was another house containing from thirty to forty people, the windows of which looked out on to the manure heap. In hot weather the rooms were filled with a sickening odour. The medical officer of health made an order that the manure was to be removed three times a week, but the order was rarely carried out, and he declined further action. There should be power either to order an iron cart, with a cover, which must be emptied when full, or else a closed-in pit sunk in the ground. Manure left standing in the way which it constantly is, in these crowded localities, constitutes a real nuisance and danger to health.

These few remarks are offered with the view of bringing some of the practical difficulties of Sanitary Aid work before those who have the power to remove them.

To the question, What is the practical upshot of volunteer sanitary work? we think the answer is definite enough. Firstly, it brings the force of public opinion to bear on the apathy of landlords and authorities, thus strengthening the hands of the inspectors in their labours. It teaches the tenants to realise the powers which they possess under the existing sanitary laws, and encourages them to seek redress for their distresses. It keeps the inspectors up to their work, by insisting on the complaint being fully and not partially and perfunctorily remedied. It prevents vestry orders from being served and not obeyed, and teaches landlords to respect the rights of their tenants. Finally, we have substantial evidence that in the district where this work has been most efficiently and earnestly carried out, it has had a distinct tendency to lower the value of bad property: the landlords themselves declaring that soon it will be no longer worth while to buy up

the remainder of old leases because they are now forced to spend so much in repairs.

We fully believe that were these volunteer agencies taken up warmly and persistently by trained workers all over London, an amount of good would be done in helping to solve the problem of our slums which can hardly be over-rated.

In conclusion, let us say that Sanitary Aid work opens out a wide field for that noble practical effort which is so far higher a test of sympathy than any cheap declamation; it teaches the poor how true and deep is the desire of the more happily circumstanced to aid their needs, and so, beyond even the sanitary work, it serves as a connecting link in that golden chain of brotherhood which binds rich and poor in exalted and noble fellowship.



The publication of this book has been expected with eagerness, and it is not surprising that such has been the case. It is just twelve years since a unique personality passed away from among men; a name which had occupied a most prominent place in the world of thought and of controversy ceased to appear any longer as that of a contemporary, and a voice was silent which, within a certain range at least, had stirred the heart and spirit as no voice in modern times bad ever done. If any surprise were expressed, it would almost seem to be caused by the patience with which the absence of any biography of Mr. Maurice has been borne ; but the reason of this is, I think, not far to seek. Those who knew Mr. Maurice, either personally or by his writings, knew him so well-his presence was so constant, and his thoughts and convictions were so real to them, and had become so perfectly their own—that they felt less the need of a biography than in the case of almost any other man.

I am inclined to think, however, that all feeling of indifference will be exchanged for enthusiasm when the present volumes are perused, for, if the subject of the biography was unique, the work itself may, I think, be said to be unique also. It cannot be said to be an autobiography, for no autobiography could possibly be so spontaneous, or have contented itself so exclusively with thought and opinion; but for this very reason it is not so much a book at all as it is Mr. Maurice himself, not perhaps in the flesh, but certainly in the spirit. The book is unique in the position and circumstances of its editor, and it has been produced upon principles of candour and personal abnegation which, if not unique, are at least infrequent. Few biographers have said less about their subject than Colonel Maurice has said about his father, and few have allowed their subject to speak so largely and unreservedly. Colonel Maurice says in his Preface : Nothing whatever has been kept back or concealed as to my father. My sole object has been to present him as he was.' The question whether letters do represent a man is one which must, I think, be decided afresh in each individual case ; but, cceteris paribus,

| The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice. Editcd by his son Frederick Maurico (London: Macmillan & Co. 1884). VOL. XV.-No. 87.

3 K

« PredošláPokračovať »