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IN the city of London, in two contiguous
thoroughfaresthe shabbiest, dingiest, poorest
of their classthere are two Houses of
Poverty. To the first, entrance is involuntary,
and residence in it compulsory. You are
brought there by a catchpole, and kept there
under lock and key until your creditors are
paid, or till you have suffered the purgatory
of an Insolvent Court remand. This house is
the Debtor's Prison of Whitecross Street. I
know it. I have seen the mysteries of the
Middlesex side, and have heard the lamenting
in the Poultry Ward. Its stones have
sermons; but it was not to hear them that I
travelled, last Tuesday evening, Cripplegate-
ward. My business in Whitecross Street
was of no debtor or creditor nature; for I was
there to visit another house of poverty, the
asylum of the Society for affording Nightly
Shelter to the Houseless.

Let me, in the first instance, state briefly
what this society professes to do. The manner
in which it is done will form a subject
for after-description. "It is the peculiar
object and principle of this charity" (I quote
the report) "to afford nightly shelter and
assistance to those who are really houseless
and destitute during inclement winter
seasons, and the occasional suspension of
outdoorwork, in consequence of the rigour of the
weather. To fulfil this intention, it is
provided that an asylum shall be open and
available at all hours of the night, without
the need, on the part of the applicant, of a
ticket, or any other passport or plea but his
or her own statement of helpless necessity."
The relief afforded is limited to bread in a
sufficient quantity to sustain nature, warm
shelter, and the means of rest. Thus, little
inducement is offered to those removed in the
slightest degree from utter destitution, to
avail themselves of the shelter for the sake of
the food. But, in all cases of inanition or
debility from exhaustion or fatigue,
appropriate restoratives, such as gruel, wine, brandy,
soup and medicine, are administered under
medical superintendence. "Many have been
thus rescued," says the report, "from the
grasp of death."

I have two friends who do not approve
of institutions on the principle stated above.
My good friend Pragmos objects to them
as useless. He proves to me by figures, by
tables, by reports from perspicacious
commissioners, that there is no need of any
destitution in London; and that, statistically,
tabularly, honourable-boardically-speaking,
there is no destitution at all. How can there
be any destitution with your outdoor relief, and
your indoor relief, your workhouse test, your
relieving officers and your casual ward?
Besides, there is employment for all. There are
hospitals and infirmaries for the sick,
workhouse infirmaries for the infirm. Prosperity, the
war notwithstanding, is continually increasing.
None but the idle and the dissolute
need be houseless and hungry. If they are,
they have the union to apply to; and,
consequently, asylums for the houseless serve no
beneficial end; divert the stream of charitable
donations from its legitimate channels;
foster idleness and vice, and parade, before
the eyes of the public, a misery that does not

So far Pragmos. He is not hard-hearted;
but simply, calmly conscious (through faith in
Arabic numerals, and in the ninety-ninth
report of the Poor Law Commissioners) that
destitution cannot be. But, he has scarcely
finished quoting schedule D, when my other
and sprightlier friend Sharplynx takes me to
task, humorously, jocularly. He rallies me,
"Destitution, my boy," says Sharplynx,
familiarly, "gammon! How can you, a shrewd
man of the world" (I blush), "an old stager"
(I bow), "be taken in by such transparent
humbug! Haven't you read the Times?
Haven't you read the Jolly Beggars? Did
you never hear of cadgers, silver-beggars,
shallow-coves? Why sir, that fellow in
rags with the imitation paralysis, who goes
shivering along, will have veal for supper
to-night: the kidney end of the loin, with
stuffing, and a lemon squeezed over it.
That woman on the doorstep has hired the
two puny children at fourpence a-day; and
she will have a pint and a-half of gin before
she goes to bed. That seemingly hectic fever
flush, is red paint; those tremblings are
counterfeit; that quiet, hopeless, silent resignation
is a dodge. Don't talk to me of being
houseless and hungry! The impostors who
pretend to be so, carouse in night cellars.
They have turkey and sausages, roast pork,