Imatges de pÓgina

express his gratitude for King Edward the Seventh's courtesy and kindness, and for the pleasure he received from the courteous reception accorded to him in London when he was entertained at the Guildhall. His presence in London will do much to facilitate the discovery of a modus vivendi between the British and the Egyptian authorities under our military occupation. All I would venture to suggest now is that the necessary condition of any such arrangement must be based on the goodwill of the Khedive and his active participation in public affairs. Lord Cromer, Sir Eldon Gorst, and Sir Edward Grey are all high authorities on Egyptian politics ; and all I need say is that so excellent an opportunity for coming to an AngloEgyptian cordial understanding is hardly likely to occur again.





No one who has not experienced the effect of coming from the New World to settle in the Old World can quite appreciate the strong impression made by contrast between the social state left behind and that before our eyes. The outlines stand out in strong relief, while on the contrary, as long as we moved only in the surroundings to which we were habituated, we observed nothing but the details and even these only when they presented to our notice something new. There are two distinguishing characteristics of the Old World society which are often commented upon by Colonials ; and these are conservatism of ideas and inequality of social condition. These two characteristics are at the bottom of the difference between the problem of poverty as it appears in the West End of London and as it appears in New Zealand. I have chosen these two places as extreme types of old and new civilisation. In the East End there is something like a frank reversion to barbarism, but the parasitism of the West marks it as more directly the product of an antique system. It is often said, “But you have poor people in New Zealand, too, and the only real difference is that the colony has at present a small population. This is nothing like an adequate explanation of the whole matter. The two points which deserve attention are first what constitutes the difference between the social condition of the lowest strata in the Old and the New Britain, and secondly whether these differences are in truth' solely the result of size and age, or are likely to be permanent.

In part the difference lies in the prevalence of poverty and in part in its intensity and its contrast with luxurious extravagance. We in the Newest England of the South ’ have indigent and vicious persons, but we have not an immense mass born into want and depravity with scarcely any chance of rising beyond them. Roughly speaking, the abjectly poor amongst us are those exceptional persons who, through weakness or crime, or mere accident, have been thrown out of the track of decent living. But here there are miles of streets inhabited by them alone ; miles of monotonous and featureless houses, dingy inferior shops and dreary wells of back yards, all ugly, featureless, and dull-coloured. Outside a few fashionable neighbourhoods of the West End, there is more poverty in proportion to the number of people, and much more in proportion to the square mile, than in any of our little colonial towns. The fact that there is on the other hand much greater wealth for the favoured few does not make the balance straight for the sufferers. It is just that contrast between say Piccadilly and the Euston Road, which is most saddening and most shameful. To walk from one to the other is to plunge from the extreme of exquisite and fantastic luxury to unresisting misery and depravity. In the one locality are women, the products of beauty culture, spending their lives in places of amusement, worn out often with what ought to be occasional relaxations, physically suffering from excess of self-indulgence, displaying incessant changes of summer finery or costly furs which will be thrown aside from mere caprice and restless love of novelty long before they are even damaged. In Regent Street and Bond Street unseasonable fruit raised with infinite pains and expense is sold for ten shillings or twenty shillings a pound, and there are costly confections and jellies and game to match the fruit. In other places, by no means the lowest parts of London, human bodies and souls are cheap. The clothing supplied is shoddy, the furniture ready to fall to pieces. The very sight and smell of the food are offensive. No such vile things can be found in the colony as those offered for sale in the purlieus of Bloomsbury. I have seen an indescribable grey-coloured substance sold as meat at fourpence a pound, and have heard of a butcher's shop in a southern suburb where twopence halfpenny a pound is the regular price, though the fair price for decent English mutton is 18. 2d. per pound. It is little to say that this cheap food is unfit for human consumption; it is unfit for dogs. Stale fish and eggs and poultry, withered vegetables, decayed fruit, atrocious cheap cakes, all exposed for hours, perhaps days, to the taint of the city's malodorous dirt-laden atmosphere, are sold as a mere matter of course and without the slightest check. The beer and spirits which the over-worked and the workless alike consume in great quantities are of even worse quality than the provisions. This is the nourish. ment that produces those blotched and unhealthy faces and those figures so often distorted by disease or deformity. It is this miserable cheapness that dresses the men and women, even the young girls, in clothes that rot and discolour and hang in rags about their owners, making the streets an eyesore. Here the poor cannot have good plain living if they wish ; they must take the refuse from the markets of the rich. The better qualities are literally picked out for wealthy neighbourhoods. Some time ago the Chronicle published a witty article on ‘The Food Area,' by a journalist who had discovered from experience that outside a certain radius in the

metropolis, a decent meal was not to be had at any price. Yet it is food that most of all forms the bodies of the people, and it is the people who form the nation. Worse even than the dearth of good things is the coarse and disgusting abundance of bad things. There is an impassable gulf between the habits, the feelings, and the character of those who inhabit Mayfair and those who dwell on the dreary borders of Regent's Canal. They have far less in common with each other than each has with foreigners of their own rank. Here Dives and Lazarus will never really meet face to face until they come together for the final judgment, when their sins and their merits may be balanced very differently from now. In our own country we are very often troubled and ashamed by cases of hardship and want, but when we come in view of London's nether world, it seems as if we had never seen real poverty before. Three winters ago, on visiting a charitable friend, I found her in deep distress at the suffering that had quite casually come before her notice. 'I cannot stay in this country, ' she said ; 'it is too dreadful to see what these people suffer, and to be able to do nothing for them. And this was in Edinburgh, which has not the depth of misery there is in London. At the West End it is not horrors that are in evidence; when they exist, civilisation succeeds in keeping them out of sight. It is the grossness, the inferiority, the degradation of manhood and of womanhood that sicken the very soul to watch.

It is not barbarism. Savages have primitive virtues that go some way towards compensating for the fierceness of animal instincts. But here there is a peculiar degeneracy, bred by an excess of material civilisation.

The problem of the unemployed and of the unemployable of all that great section of the unfit-has not yet been solved in any part of the earth. Though it is much worse in the great cities of Britain than elsewhere, it is not peculiar to them. What strikes a Colonial, more than the amount of actual destitution, is the mass of poor workers always on the verge of destitution, ready to sink into it at the first accident. Hundreds, indeed thousands, whom we should count as poor, are not reckoned so here. These are not paupers. They are merely the lower strata of the employed. They are far worse off than the corresponding class in the Colonies. They are wretchedly underpaid, their hours are longer and their wages lower. They have no margin to save from. It is often inaccurately said that, though wages are lower in England, money goes much farther. So far as the poor are concerned this is a fallacy. After observing the market prices in both countries, I am satisfied that good plain living is cheaper and more easily obtained in the Colonies. There is more variety to be had in London, and it is true that for people above a certain social level luxuries are much cheaper. But wholesome food and decency seem beyond the reach of the West End poor. To take a few examples ; first-class meat such as day labourers eat in the Colonies is at least double the Colonial price ; milk, bread, and eggs, taking a rough yearly average, about the same ; fresh fish decidedly dearer, vegetables, except potatoes, cheaper and more abundant; so, too, is fruit. Clothing is cheaper bere, though I have not found any such difference as is sometimes supposed. Rents, including rates and taxes, are far higher for decent rooms in decent neighbourhoods, and it is almost impossible to avoid some outlay on omnibus or train. But the curse of the London market is that cheap refuse which ought to be destroyed by sanitary inspectors, and which is generally the only kind of goods supplied to “low neighbourhoods.' It would be good to see new fires kindled in Smithfield and other market places, to burn up, not heretics or treatises this time, but tons of provisions that are now sorted out for the sustenance of the workers.

There are deeper depths than any I have touched on yet, and these the New World does not yet know. We have not any class so low as the lowest in London. Some time before leaving New Zealand I spent a day visiting Burnham, the central Industrial School of the colony. The majority of the children looked healthy and fairly happy and decent, but amongst them was one undersized degenerate creature who seemed to belong to a race not quite human. The superintendent pointed him out and remarked, 'That boy is a London street Arab, you don't get that type here.' All Londoners know this savage

of the slums who haunts the West as well as the East. The type may be uncommon, but it is only an extreme development of characteristics that are too frequently seen. Mr. Howells in a recent criticism says that the English aristocracy have distinction, but adds that distinction is one of the things for which the nation pays too dear. The heaviest price it pays is the physical, mental, and moral inferiority of the undistinguished mass. It is considered bad taste now to use the terms upper' and 'lower' classes or

superior' and 'inferior'; but it is no offence against taste to keep up irreconcilable class separation, and to assume all the superiority that was once frankly claimed. It would be better to drop the pretence of consideration and to say openly that the working classes are an inferior species of mankind. There is not enough independence and self-respect amongst subordinates. If they assert themselves, it is with insolence. The rich, for their part, are often in a spasmodic and uncertain way excessively generous, but they object to any appearance of equality. It is curious to hear employers without a sense of humour say, as a severe reproach, that their employés ' are getting so independent nowadays.' The idea of a fair bargain between master and man or between mistress and maid, in which the subordinates make their own terms, seems to the aristocratic mind absolutely farcical. The result is the parasitic dependency of the West End poor. Servants, landladies, charwomen, small shopkeepers and

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