I am not writing of the "lower class," as that term is usually understood, but of the class even further down, the lowest class. Underneath even those casually employed who, in spite of long periods of out of work, do struggle to play an honest part in the world, is the class to which I belong. Ever recruited by droppings from the lower side of the stratum of life immediately above us, our number is continually kept up, and we are an actual fact in society - the despair of reformers and the misery of ourselves. For is there is no hope of better things. Now and again someone may be forced into our midst by the stress of circumstances, and, looking upon our method of life as temporary so far as he is concerned, may lift himself out of it again; but our distinguishing feature is that we have no hope for the future; we have become so hardened in it that we accept, without dreaming of other possibilities, the permanence of our position, and so go on sullenly despairing, or, rather, too hopeless to know despair, which only comes from unavailing hope, and hope we have none. Counting ourselves happy if we can see, two days ahead, the surety of food and shelter, we trust to the chance of each hour to supply the need that comes with it. There is one other thing to be said before touching such incidents of our way of life, as may interest readers, and that is that, although we are a distinct social order, yet between us there is nothing of common interests, each of us is separate from all the others, and lives as isolated a life as if he were the only one so existing - lives to look upon the men and women around him in the world as his natural prey; lives, fashioned in God's own image, as a solitary beast might prowl through the world.
It has just gone midnight. I have been walking aimlessly about during the evening, and have come to rest for a few moments in one of the stone recesses on the bridge; but the wind sweeps with bitter coldness up the river, and the hurrying clouds warn me that the open air will be bad lodging tonight - even to those who are as used to it as I am. The streets will be cleared early on such a night, and if I wish to raise the four pence for the rare luxury of a bed, there is no time to waste. The first dash of the rain has come already, blurring the lights along the river, and beating upon these cold stone seats. Just down over the south end of the bridge there used to be some sheltered seats outside the church; but when they found that we sued them at night they removed them, did these good people of Christchurch, and, as they did not open His house as a shelter for us, we must come to the unsheltered bridge now. I wonder if I can raise that four pence! Well, here goes to try.
The Strand is not so crowded as usual. Ah, here comes a likely subject. No; he walks stolidly on as if perfectly unconscious of my existence. He has nothing for a homeless man, but can afford to speak to that girl in the bright dress who came up just as I left him, and treat her to cigarettes at the tobacconist's over the way, and, in all probability, more spending to follow.
I don't suppose that I am a very desirable looking companion for anyone, for my coat is in tatters, my feet showing through rents in my boots, and it would be impossible for a human face to wear a very good favoured expression under my conditions; but, for all that, I am not an actual dog, as every passer by seems to think me. Even the vendors of matches and various trifles despise me and deride my appearance; the gaudily dressed children of sin look at me in disgust as I pass, but I don't envy them; the officious policeman pushes me off the path and makes me walk in the gutter; I am the butt for everyone's scorn. Up and down I wander amongst the lessening throng; those who can afford it hail hansoms and go home; those who cannot, and have met no "friend" to take them, cast a lingering look up and down, and then disappear. Now and again a drunken swell lurches past, now staggering off into the roadway, and now stumbling against the houses. I am evidently in for a night of it.
There is an archway near Waterloo bridge where such as I creep at night to catch a hasty sleep. As I go, the early market wagons begin to roll in; those still left in the streets gather in groups round the warmth of the coffee stalls; the police are not so much in evidence as they were, and one comes upon them by twos and threes in obscure corners, enjoying a quiet pipe. Here and there some one in similar plight to myself, with head bent down against the wind, and hands thrust deeply into such pockets as his mass of rags can boast, is making doggedly for his accustomed haunt. And I, too, go to my rest - such a rest as Christian England provides for her outcasts in this most enlightened age.
Preaching to a crowded congregation, at St. Luke's, Camberwell, last night, the Rev. H.B. Chapman (Vicar) dwelt on the lessons of the murders. Alluding to the growing demand for practical remedies, he said - To generalise is easy, and this is a common and just accusation against the clergy who were too prone to utter mild platitudes about the ethics of Jesus. So long as they ignored facts, and preserved a conspiracy of silence on the great social problems of life, they must not wonder at cynics classing the population as composed of men, women, and clergymen. Clergymen must no longer shirk these facts, nor use Jesus Christ as a scapegoat for laziness, if they would not have practical men regard them as old women and sentimental dreamers. Having eloquently described the horrors of the gin palace and the slum noticed during a Saturday night spent in Whitechapel, the preacher urged that the State must take in hand the great social problems which had too long been shelved by party time pullers. The State should give every man and woman a chance to live. Englishmen don't want patronage, but justice, which Lamennais had described as the bread of the people.
Whitechapel, in its widest sense, meant the centralised cry of the poor and the destitute. Too long had the Church and the Legislature neglected the heathen at our very doors, and unless our Governments did their duty they would be forced to do it by a desperate and dangerous power. Physically, the State must legislate on behalf of labour more than it had done. Work must be provided for the men and women who were starving. It was all very well for armchair theorists to say that these poor creatures would not work, but human nature proved the contrary. Men with wives and children crying for bread would gladly work if they got the chance. One way of providing this would be the Eight Hours' Bill operating on tramways, railways, Government and other factories. No doubt this would be a terrible disaster to directors of the gigantic public companies. Dividends might not be large, and shareholders might grumble, but it was time the great majority of men were considered. Whilst men were ground down to the slavery of fourteen and sixteen hours a day, drunkenness and crime would darken our national life. Call for the brute force of a man, as Nasmyth had said, but you will degrade him. He goes to his house, or wretchedly single room, so physically exhausted that it was an utter absurdity to tell that man to read and improve himself and utter nonsense to expect him to come to church and listen to dry sermons. No, he must go out and seek the excitement of the pot house or the music hall. Remembering the ghastly slavery to which tramway men and women and the victims of sweating were daily doomed, what wonder that men and women drink, gamble, fight, and even murder. Secondly, the State must promote a more equitable distribution of the profits of industry, and it was high time a check was put upon the rapacity of capitalism. Meanwhile, working men must combine to resist the unholy "trusts" which were being formed by capitalists. It was a cruel and cursed lie to assert that might was right, and the State must adopt its direct contrary. So long as the House of Commons was mainly composed of capitalists, working men might whistle for justice; and he, Mr. Chapman, looked forward to an early date to a large representation direct from the masses. Continuing, he enforced the necessity for a sound, radical taxation of wealthy ground landlords as the first step in the direction of a better housing for the poor, who, under present conditions, could not properly house themselves, but who, if neglected much longer, would one day house and feed themselves at the expense of the rich and the privileged. It was sheer uselessness to tell the honest and respectable poor to go to the workhouse. Had the good people who were continually saying this been there themselves? Had they no respect for the feelings of the poor? He, as a Guardian, knew that many honest poor would rather starve, or die, than enter the workhouse. The Poor laws must be amended, and especially on behalf of the poor widows who were struggling bravely to lead a decent life. Outdoor relief must help that class of the poor to pay the rent which would otherwise be the cause of their going on the streets. Amongst other proposals, Mr. Chapman urged a resolute grappling with the liquor traffic by means of Local Option and Sunday closing (with accompanying opening of libraries, art galleries, and all healthy, gladdening and civilising institutions), stringent laws to keep children out of public houses, and the spread of bright, attractive and well managed coffee taverns in all parts of the metropolis. Finally, he advocated State suppression of public vice, prevention of marriages under 21, and State provision, on the Birmingham plan, of free meals for destitute children in Board schools.
The police are, writes a Correspondent this morning, watching with great anxiety a house in the East end, which, it is believed, was the actual lodging made use of by someone connected with the East end murders. From various statements made by the neighbours, the landlady had a lodger, who, since the Sunday morning of the murder, has been missing. It appears, according to the statements made by the landlady to her neighbours, her lodger returned home early on the Sunday morning, and she was disturbed by his ,moving about. She rose very early, and noticed her lodger had changed some of his clothes. He told her he was going away for a little time, and he asked her to wash the shirt he had taken off, and get it ready for him by the time he came back. When she took the shirt she was astonished to find the wristbands and part of the sleeves completely saturated with wet blood. Acting on the advice of some of her neighbours, she gave information to the police and showed them the shirt. They then took possession of it, and obtained from her a full description of the lodger. A reporter visited the house early this morning. He had a conversation with the landlady, a German, who appeared very reticent. She, however, stated that a detective and two police officers had been in the house ever since information was given.
A strange and suspicious incident in connection with the Whitechapel murders has just been explained by the arrest, late on Saturday, of a German whom the police had every reason to suspect as being connected with the murder of Elizabeth Stride, at Berner street. The affair has until now been kept a profound secret; but the matter was, it is asserted, regarded at first as of such importance that Inspector Reid, Inspector Abberline, and the other officers engaged in the case, believed that a clue of a highly important character had been obtained. It appears that Detective Sergeants W. Thicke and S. White, of the Criminal Investigation Department, made a house to house inquiry in the locality of the Berner street murder. They then discovered that on the day after that crime a German left a bloodstained shirt with a laundress at 22 Batley (sic) street - a few yards from the seat of the tragedy - and remarking, "I shall call in two or three days," departed in a hurried manner. His conduct was deemed highly suspicious. Detectives Thicke and White, who probably know more of the East end criminals than any other officers, arrested the man suspected on Saturday night. He was conveyed to Leman street Station, and inquiries were immediately set on foot. These resulted in the man's release this morning. Our representative made an inquiry respecting the above incident this afternoon, and ascertained that the shirt had a quantity of blood on the front and on both sleeves.
Inquiries at the police stations in the Eastern district at four o'clock this morning showed that there was no one in custody in connection with the Whitechapel murder. Shortly before midnight a man was arrested on suspicion of being the murderer, in a lodging house in Brick lane by Sergeant Cook and other officers. The inmates regarded his conduct as suspicious, and informed the police. He was conveyed to Commercial street Station, amid some excitement; but in the course of half an hour he was set at liberty, as he was able to convince the authorities he was not the man for whom they are in search.
Superintendent Farmer, of the River Tyne police, has received information which, it is considered, may form a clue to the Whitechapel murders. An Austrian seaman signed articles on board a Faversham vessel in the Tyne, on Saturday, and sailed for a French port. Afterwards it was found that his signature corresponded with the facsimile letters signed "Jack the Ripper," and that the description of the man also corresponded with that of the Whitechapel murderer now being circulated by the Metropolitan police. Superintendent Farmer will today telegraph the result of his inquires to the Criminal Investigation Department.
The police are in possession of what is likely to prove a most important piece of evidence in connection with the discovery of the mutilated body in a cell of the new police buildings at Westminster. It has been supplied by an inhabitant of Llanelly, South Wales. He happened to be in Cannon row on the Saturday before the body was found, and at an hour when the place was practically deserted. His attention was directed to a man who climbed over a hoarding into the ground whereon the new police office is being erected, and where afterwards the body was discovered. Two other men were with him who had a barrow on which was a bundle. The whole proceeding seemed curious and afterwards, when the remains were found, the South walian "put two and two together," handed in his information and a description of the man. The result is that a workman has since been interviewed in the vicinity, who admits having been on the spot the day in question, though his business there is not very clear. Beyond this the police, it is said, succeed in obtaining no clue.
A man, who gave the name of William Russell, was charged at the Maidenhead Police court, today, with having attempted to commit suicide in a police cell. He made a statement previously to the effect that he threw a woman over Westminster bridge, on Tuesday night. He also said he was steward on board the American ship, the National ?, and that, being discharged about a week ago, he picked up with a woman called Annie, with whom he had several drinks. They subsequently quarrelled, and he threw the woman over the bridge. Inquiries were made by the Maidenhead police, but they were informed that, as far as the London police were aware, nothing was known of a woman having been thrown over the bridge as stated. The prisoner was remanded for a week.