+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


UMBRELLAS to mend, and chairs to mend,
and clocks to mend, are called in our streets
daily. Who shall count up the numbers of
thousands of children to mend, in and about
those same streets, whose voice of ignorance
cries aloud as the voice of wisdom once did,
and is as little regarded; who go to pieces for
the want of mending, and die unrepaired!

People are naturally glad to catch at any
plea, in mitigation of a great national wickedness.
Many good persons will urge, now-a-days,
as to this neglected business of boy-mending,
"O! but there are the Ragged Schools!"
Admitting the full merit of the ragged schools;
rendering the highest praise to those
disinterested and devoted teachers, of both sexes,
who labour in them; urging the consideration
of their claims on all who pass through the
streets of great towns with eyes in their
heads, and awakened hearts in their breasts;
we still must not disguise the plain fact that
they are, at best, a slight and ineffectual
palliative of an enormous evil. They want system,
power, means, authority, experienced and
thoroughly trained teachers. If the instruction
of ordinary children be an art requiring
such a peculiar combination of qualities and
such sound discretion, that but few skilled
persons arrive at perfection in it, how much
more difficult is the instruction of those who,
even if they be children in years, have more
to unlearn than they have to learn; whose
ignorance has been coupled with constant
evil education; and among whose intellects
there is no such thing as virgin soil to be
found! Good intentions alone, will never be
a sufficient qualification for such a labour,
while this world lasts. We have seen something
of ragged schools from their first establishment,
and have rarely seen one, free
from very injudicious and mistaken teaching.
And what they can do, is so little, relatively
to the gigantic proportions of the monster
with which they have to grapple, that if their
existence were to be accepted as a sufficient
excuse for leaving ill alone, we should hold it
far better that they had never been.

Where, in England, is the public institution
for the prevention of crime among that
neglected class of youth to whom it is not
second but first Nature; who are born to
nothing else, and bred to nothing else?
Where, for these, are the bolts and bars,
outside the prison-door, which is so heavily
fastened within? Nowhere, to our
knowledge. The next best thingthough there is
a broad, deep gulf between the twois an
institution for the reformation of such young
offenders. And to that, we made a visit on
one of these last hot summer days.

A dull mist of heat had taken possession
of the streets. Through the warm mist we
roll in a warm omnibus. Over the parapet
of London Bridge we see London in a heavy
lump with the hot mist about it, and almost
expect that St. Paul's presently will throw out
a spark, and the whole town, like a firework,
begin to fizz and crackle. There is nothing
that we might not be permitted to expect as
a result of heat, upon the hottest morning of
the hottest dog-days within the memory of
the oldest dog.

People who sit with us in the carriages of
the Brighton train, wonder (and really not
without occasion, as we ignorantly think) why
a terminus must be built with a cover in the
shape of an oven, and why it must bake batches
of passengers in railway trains like cakes in
tins. Now we are off, and it is cooler. We
pass over the red, underdone surface of London,
upon which the blacks are falling cruelly;
if London be now frying, it will make a dirty
dish, we fancy. Here are market gardens,
fields, hills, stations, woods, villages, and
wayside inns. Here is Red Hill, where the train
stops, and we get out.

There is a cluster of inns outside the station,
and certain freeholders of East Surrey, warm
with sun and politics, seek coolness in beer
outside the inns. They are a little noisy; but,
passing between hedges we begin to toil up hill.
The distant song of the freeholders is drowned
by the nearer song of the thrush; and the dog
roses that make a roadside garden of each
hedge, put our hearts in good humour with
the dog-days. Every hedge is a garden.
Where did we ever see more wild flowers
clustered together? There is a very California
of honeysuckle. There are clumps of mallow,
blossoming on hillocks beside every gate
that leads into the corn fields; there are
yellow stars of the ranunculus, and crimson
poppy blossoms, and the delicate peaked fairy
hats of which Bindweed is ostensibly the