Ria 0 RA.*
This volume is indicative of the better things of its title, more, whims, in what it promises than in what it altogether performs. Meliora consists of a variety of papers on the present condition of the working classes, and the abject poor below them, contributed by various persons, at the request of the young and philanthropic Viscount Ingestre. Some of these oontnbutors are well known writers and clergymen, others are amateurs, Under the title of "The Beer-shop Evil," the Reverend Sidney Godolphin Osborne promulgates a plan for a sort of regulated club, for reading, con- versation, and the supply of refreshments, to keep the lads of the village from the demoralizing beer-shop. The Reverend C. Girdle- stone writes a paper, half-sermon, half-essay, on "Rich and Poor," in. which the natural necessity of a difference of conditions is in- sisted on, as well as discrimination in charity. Dr. Hook of Leeds contributes a lecture nominally on "Institutions for Adult Edu- cation" ; in reality a survey of the history and objects of mechanics' institutes, a Whig-Liberal creation ; an account of Conservative projects for the same purpose ; and Dr. Hook's own plan to es- tablish institutions which should enable the working classes to continue their education after leaving schooL "Sailors' Homes," by Montague Gore, describes existing establishments and advocates more of them, to save Jack from crimps and lodginghouse-keepers.
Popular Investments," by the Reverend S. B. Owen, is an investi-
gation cif the erroneous principles on which benefit societies are generally founded, with suggestions for improved institutions. "A Plea for the Education of the Million," by the Reverend T. Beames, gives instances of destruction which education might perhaps have averted, besides advocating popular education. The Policy of Prevention," by Dr. Guy, is a paper on Sanitary Reform. "On the .A.dulteration of Food," by 'Viscount Goderich, gives an ac- count of existing cooperative stores for the sale of genuine articles to their members, and advocates their extension. The miseries and mischiefs of common lodginghonses with their remedy by means of model houses, are sensibly treated by two or three writers. "The Dwellings of the Working Classes in British North Ame- rica," by the Reverend C. G. Nicolay, is an informing description of the buildings themselves; perhaps a significant hint, that in spite of present economical advantages in ample food and a large demand for labour, the New World is storing up materials for fu- ture agitations for sanitary reform,—owing less, we really believe, to ignorance, than to the pressure of a present necessity, the want of social stimulus, and the disposition of mankind to rest satisfied with slight improvements, where they are not goaded on by some sort of competition. Two Governors treat of Prison Discipline and Prisoners; Mr. Robert Baker pens some "Words for the Working Classes," the object of which is to inculcate industry, de- termination, and self-reliance; and Mr. Henry Mayhew, under the title of "Home is Home be it never so Homely," sketches several homes of the very poor, to show the falsity of the proverb.
All these papers indicate the attention now paid by men of va-
rious callings, characters, and conditions, to our social evils, and their zeal to exert themselves in seeking for remedies. They con- tain many facts bearing upon the subjects, and suggestions more or less useful, though probably too much depending upon indivi- dual qualities and superintendence for generally successful work- ing. Something like them, too, may be met anywhere. The most original and striking contributions are "Letters to a Friend," by the originator and editor of the volume, Lord Ingestre ; "Leaves from the Lives and Opinions of Working Men, by Themselves" ; and "Truths from a Pawnbroker,"—though this last is rather a de- fence of the trade and an exposition of its troubles, than an account of the working of the pawning system among the poor. These have not the breadth of view, the feasibility of suggestion, and the lite- rary merit that distinguish many of the contributions especially from practised writers. Their interest is in their race—the flavour of the soil—their very want of literary skill, and the honest trans- parency which reflects as distinctly as in confession their ideas and when they come to propositions the mistakes, of the writers. Lord Ingestre's Letters are a sort of autobiography of his philanthropic career ; giving an account of what first turned his attention to the subject m the country, his subsequent explorations in London, his efforts and arguments among friends in reference to the lodgings of the poor in lodginghonses, and the " practical " reasons by which he was met. There is something of juvenility in parts of them—the writer began at eighteen—and something of the honest unreservedness of a " freshman "; but they are interesting as the picture of a mind struggling against example and convention to reach the right and to practise it There are also some sketches of humble and of London life. Here is a singular combination of the *.steliera ; or Better Times to Come. Being the Contributions of many Men
lung the Present State and Pablisbed by Parker and B
Prospects of Society. Edited by Visoount ingestre.
fine and useful arts, and an instance ef gradation in professional rank, where one would scarcely look for it. "A few words as to amusements and recreation of the people. In Lou. don, after visiting lodginghouses, we went to places of entertainment and low dancing saloons : in one, where I entered, a man was pointed out, re- spectably dressed ; he was dancing. I waa told that he gained his livelihood by drawing pictures of a ship, a steam-engine, on the pavement ; that this he sold to a beggar for a shilling for the day, who sat by it and begged. This man drew often fourteen or seventeen of these pictures in various lo- calities, in early morning, before people were about, and thus made his live- lihood. Near him was a swell-mobsman. You might have taken hiss for a gentleman' he was so well dressed. It is very curious to observe the num
her of de rent grades amongst thieves : a man who would steal a watch would not speak to a pocket-handkerchief thief." "Leaves from the Lives and Opinions of Working Men" con- sists of essays on various subjects, and of two autobiographies, both from sons of Crispin, one an Englishman the other a Scotch.. man. They coffer a curious insight into the daily life and the feel. lags and opinions of artisans ; exhibiting the hardships and priva- tions they have to encounter, and, worse than either, apparently, the proud man's contumely, though the proud man is no greater than a master tradesman. The ideas of either as to remedies for their evils are narrow enough; but the Seotehman has the advan- tage in every point of -view. There is more robustness of charac- ter about him, more shrewdness of remark, and apparently more of adventure in his career. The following account of his earlier life and companions has the reality of Franklin's autobiography ; though the colonist had not such pinching circumstances to en-
"When scarcely eight years old, I was sent to farm-service; where I soon learned other lessons than those taught me by my parents. I was taught to be ridiculously superstitious ; being entertained every night with ghost stories, which took possession of the mind, to the exclusion of useful know- ledge, for many years. Some of my masters were great tyrants. I will mention one as an instance. He was rich, but ignorant and vulgar. Often, to my astonishment, without any apparent cause, he would curse and damn our souls to bell; the consequence was, the men in their turn damned the souls of the horses, and I the cows. I relate these seemingly unimportant things, to show how the poor man, instead of having it in his power to at- tend to the formation of character in his offspring' -is compelled to part with them at an early age, with their pure and pliant minds to be manufactured and moulded at the will and caprice of interested strangers, to be made vir- tuous or vicious, intelligent or otherwise, according to those into whose hands they may happen to fall. "In my twelfth year, I commenced to learn the trade of shoemaking, with my father. At that time there was a great dearth in the country • and we felt it severely. Little does the proud aristocrat, whose step 'has never crossed the threshold of the honest poor man's dwelling, know of the anxiety and struggles within to bring tip respectably a family of ten or more chil- dren. I will here give one instance of patient suffering. In Scotland, no legal claim for support can be made except by the aged and impotent ; but at this time, through the kindness of some private gentlemen, coals, meal, and other things, were given to those who applied. "My mother, though reduced to the greatest extremity to find her little ones in food, refused the proffered assistance, saying, that Charity would bring a stigma on her children, which would be spoken of to their shame when they were men and women.' The swine, the only butcher-meat we ever had, on that occasion was sold to buy potatoes; and on potatoes with salt, a little melted fat, or a herring, we breakfasted, dined, and supped. Sometimes the supply of even that was so scanty that we eat our meals in secret to conceal the poverty : yet on that fare my father worked hard, from five and six in the morning till ten or eleven at night, and prayed and thanked God with as much fervour as in times of better fortune.
"At sixteen, with half-a-crown, a little bundle, and the benediction of my father and mother, I went forth to the world, to fight the battle of life on my own account; walked thirty miles to a town, got employment by re- commendation, and took my place where ten men were busy making boots and shoes. Except one, (who like the master, was an atheist,) they were all very ignorant, and their language and conversation low. One delighted in poaching; another was a gravedigger, but (no quacks being there) his cus- tomers came in slowly, and he filled up his time at shoemaking. The athe- ist, my bedfellow, was studying phrenology. The gravedigger supplied him with skulls for manipulation ; several of which, to my horror, were kept under our bed. They all drank whisky like fishes. I joined the atheist as a bass singer in the church choir, and with him I attended church regularly. He criticized the sermons with levity. The music-teacher was a wit, a jolly fellow, used to set us in roars of laughter, made puns at the expense of reli- gion, or anything else. Here I could not escape contamination. In two years the master died ; and I suppose I ought to state that it was said he repented. The atheist obtained a good situation in a spinning-mill (like all old aailor, be left his craft to spin yarns.) I mention this, because he said it was BrOvidence that favoured him"