CHRISTMAS DUTIES IN one fashion or another, care for the
poor always flourishes to- wards Christmas; and this year it is marked by more than usual solicitude. The thought for the wretched consecrates the festivi- ties of the wealthy. New associations for the benefit of the poor, to which we have already alluded, give token of activity.
One has been formed under the auspices of the Bishop of Lox- DON, at several meetings in London House, the episcopal residence.
" The primary design of this association," says an advertisement in the papers, " is to furnish the means of administering to the ex- treme necessity of the poor, after due inquiry into the circum- stances of each particular case "; but " its ultimate object is, to aid in removing the moral causes which create or aggravate want, to encourage prudence, industry, and cleanliness, as parts of Chris- tian duty, and to promote kindly feelings between those classes of society which are kept so far asunder by the difference of their worldly conditions." For, as the prospectus says-
" It is obvious, that to dispense pecuniary relief indiscriminately, and with reference solely to the apparent or actual necessity of the cafe, without inquiry as to the past or provision for the future, is, to say the least of it, but a half. measure of charity, and has a tendency to generate or increase the very evils which it seeks to cure. An inquiry into the causes of distress, and into the best means of preventing its recurrence, by infusing into those who labour under it sound principles of action, and forming them to habits of economy, industry, and foresight, is obviously necessary to insure to the exertions of be- nevolence their proper results. Mere liberality in almsgiving, unaccompanied by an endeavour to remove the causes of that destitution which calls it forth, will not answer the requirements of Christian charity." Alms will be administered by District Visiting Societies, acting in conjunction with the parochial clergy ; and the business of the Association will be conducted by a Committee of members belong- ing to the Church of England; but "the fund shall be adminis- tered to objects deserving of relief, without distinction of religious persuasion.' It will desirable to keep that short clause always in view, or this society might degenerate into one for the purchase of conformity under the name of alms. The Committee includes a Bishop, a Minister of State, Members of Parliament, Judges of the land, and people of all professions and parties : for example—Lord ASHLEY, Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE, Sir ROBERT INGLIS, Lord DUDLEY STUART, Lord ROBERT GROSVENOR, Mr. RAIKES CURRIE, Mr. JOHN LABOUCHERE, Mr. JOHN GEORGE SHAW LEFEYRE.
The society in question as yet has no name at all, or it has a very periphrastic title comprising a summary of its objects. Ano- ther is called "Philanthropic Union for Refuge for the Destitute." It may seem a trifling matter, yet it would be well if associations would attend to the ordinary rules of composition when they have titles to invent. In a broad and proper sense of the term, an of would do quite as well as the former for—as we say harbour of refuge place of refuge; or else the whole title should be changed. The refuge, which may be called Lord RANELAGLI'S, promises to be worthy of a better name than that which has been given to it. For present purposes, it combines with the City Association, and is, it seems, to constitute a West-end branch of that body ; but it aspires to do more : "the objects proposed to be effected are— first, to provide nightly shelter for the houseless ; secondly, to co- operate and advise with other charitable establishments, and here- after to extend the benefits of the institution, as far as funds and increased knowledge as to the wants of the poor may permit." In this Committee also are Peers and Members of the House of Commons, only of less mark than in the foregoing : it can boast of a Minister—the Earl of LINCOLN, an officer of the Household—the Earl of ERROLL ; and it possesses Lord JOHN MANNERS. This is better work than fighting for that superannuated chevalier Don CAR.. LOS, or hunting an exile into disgrace; and Lord RANELAGH will earn the best of names among us if he push it to practical success. Better than honour to himself, he will bring comfort to hundreds and thousands of the wretched. To do good for its own sake, is happiness to the sincerely benevolent and to the really wise. But the association to which we are disposed to look for the greatest results is not a charitable one, in the usual sense of the term ; neither is it a trading speculation. We mean the Metro- politan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes. It proposes to help the poor in the best way—not by alms- giving, the benefits of which are half lost amid squalid and neglected circumstances, but by a direct improvement of those circumstances, and by enabling the poor to turn their resources to the best account. And while the proposed rate of interest on the capital employed must prevent any man from grudging what he invests, its limited amount will forbid all mere trading inducements and speculation. It seems to rest on a solid basis, and to be capable of attaining sub- stantial benefit. Its great difficulty will probably be to remove the prejudices of the poor themselves ; and for that purpose it should use every possible means. No help of the kind will be too trivial or minute. Every thing that might give to the General Mansion a workhouse or prison-like character should be avoided. Cold grey and gloomy tints should not sadden the walls, nor gaudy colours mock the care-worn hours of decent poverty ; but warm and cheer- ful hues should enliven the abode. In Glasgow Bridewell, when we saw it, two kinds of coverlid were in use for the beds in the cells--a sober red, and a heavy dark green : the harsh, cold, sombre hue of the green was as cheerless as a rainy day ; the red as cheer- ful as a comfortable fire. T he difference could hardly be imagined by those who have not studied the effect of colours on the mind, even when critically unconscious. The red was probably as cheap as the green. In like manner, a slight difference in the design, rather than in the material or labour, would impart a pleasing or repulsive character to the architecture : mere proportion and ar- rangement can effect wonders as those know who have compared the house-architecture of Italy with that of England. A shade of colour, a cornice, a window near the ground, to be seen through, might render the structure an humble palace ; and invite the needy to provide for themselves cheap but decent homes, with all the regenerating concomitants—cleanliness, order, purer habits, con- tent. We are anxious that in this first critical experiment every detail should be duly pondered.