12 DECEMBER 1931, Page 20

THE FOUNDLING SITE .. [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

• Sin,—Mrs. Janet Trevelyan's appeal for the purchase of the Foundling Site may well lead us to recall -certain facts in the history of the institution which seem to be writ large for' our admonition. The Foundling Hospital was largely created and preserved through the enterprise of individuals who were relatively poor and by no means young.

Richard Comm, whose -name is commemorated by Coram Street, was a man of humble parentage and calling. A native of Lynn and bred to a seafaring life, he became in middle life master of a trading vessel. Between his voyages his business obliged him to sojourn frequently at Rotherhithe, and to be out late and early ; and his kindly heart was wrung by the spectacle of new-born infants exposed on dung-heaps, and of older children prowling the streets like starving cats at all

times and in all weathers. .

He sold his ship, and for seventeen years devoted his energies and time to the materialization of a great idea. By 1739 he had secured a Royal Charter for the Foundling House, opened in Hatton Garden. He died a poor man ; but his bones rest beneath the chapel of the institution which owed its existence to his life. Even his portrait, painted by Hogarth (it gave the painter " more pleasure hi painting than any other "), was turned to the Foundlings' profit. It was not in those days considered criminal to organize a charity lottery, and Hogarth announced that his portrait of Captain Coram would be offered as the first prize. The winner was a maiden lady who had taken several tickets, but a prudent or prudish friend having suggested that an excessive interest in these baStard children might be misconstrued, she

transferred the portrait to the painter, who presented it . .

appropriately to the Hospital.

If the shades of Captain Coram and Hogarth revisit the glimpses of this moon they must surely grieve over the changed aspect of a district--which the poet. Gray; engaging lodgings in Southampton Row, foimd so agreeably "-rus-in- urbish " that " I believe I- shall stay here, save for little

excursions and vagaries, for a year." •

Few people to-day would choose to stay year in and year out in this thickly populated district. Yet hundreds of children cannot leave it, even for " little excursions and vagaries." To them an open playing space is still the joy of life. Are the compassion and ingenuity of Captain Comm and of Hogarth extinguished in the . hearts of modern