[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] Sin,—Every enthusiast for better
housing will be profoundly grateful to you for your article upon the subject. But many. will greatly regret the sentences in which you suggest that a large part of the blame for the existence of slums is to be laid at the door of those who occupy them. It is the stock argument of those who are opposed to any drastic reforms, and it is not true.
I can claim some little experience in the matter. Twenty- five years ago I lived for some years in Bermondsey ; since then I have worked in the poorest part of Southwark, I have seen something of conditions in North Kensington, and am now in charge of one of the parishes of Westminster. During this period I have been familiar with what must in the aggregate be thousands of working-class homes. The general impression left upon my mind is one of amazement at thd' cleanliness with which even the poorest and most miserable homes are kept ; and this is especially true in recent years.
Twenty-five years ago your statement would have been true of a considerable proportion of " slum " homes ; to-day it is true only of a small minority. One of the most encourag- ing signs of the times is the far higher standard of personal cleanliness and the far greater care for the homes which exist to-day than was the case a quarter of a century ago. Yon, have only to watch the girls and boys on their way to work or to see them in the evenings when the day's work is Over to realize the change that has taken place. You need only go into the elementary schools of the poorer neighbourhoodd, where you will find the children shabbily dressed perhaps; but not much less clean and tidy than the boys of our Public Schools. Slovenly, careless, dirty mothers do not turn out children such as you can see in any school to-day. Of course there are exceptions, but I believe that I shall have the support of most social workers in saying that it is no longer true, in the great majority of cases, that the poorer of our fellow citizens, if they were given better houses; would
relapse into their congenital laziness and accustomed dirt." All but a very few would welcome the chance to live the clean and healthy life which they have learnt to long for.—