3 December 1888
WHAT MRS. S.A. BARNETT HAS TO SAY.
It is always gratifying, and generally instructive, to listen to what a good and clever woman has to say upon any huge and troublesome moral problem. The instinctive faculty for getting at or very near the truth in such cases is a peculiarity of the educated and sympathetic female mind, and there is no one familiar with the strange and tragical phases of social life in the East of London who is entitled to be heard with more respectful attention than the amiable and observant wife of the indefatigable vicar of St. Jude's, Whitechapel.
There are periods in the social and moral history of this great metropolis when public attention is, for the time, rivetted upon some particular district, and when an exceptional, albeit a generally painful, interest is awakened in its inhabitants. Such a one is upon us now in consequence of the fiendish tragedies which have darkened the very name of the East end by their horrors, and it is only at such periods that the public conscience is awakened to the contemplation of the grim horrors of poverty, degradation, and crime which are of daily occurrence in our midst, and to which these more notable tragedies may be almost said to form the natural sequel. Mrs. S.A. Barnett's has taken advantage of this fact to call a closer attention to the lives lived from day to day, and from year to year, by those whose claim to human brotherhood and sisterhood Society is too apt to ignore. This appeal, and a thoroughly touching and womanly one it is, appears in the current number of the National Review, under the title of "East London and Crime," forming one of a series of articles on "The Social Problem."
The writer complains, and with very good reason too, that "people speak and write as if the inhabitants of East London were all degraded and crime stained, as if the streets were not safe for the passage of respectable people; as if its denizens had the monopoly of vice; and as if in its houses virtue were unloved, and righteousness unpursued." Against these ignorant assumptions, Mrs. Barnett protests on the strongest grounds, and pleads that people, instead of allowing their minds to be swayed by these prejudices, should endeavour to seek out the simple, unadulterated truth upon the question. "The majority of East London inhabitants," she maintains, "are well intentioned citizens, often with a low standard of life and principle, but generally law abiding; with narrow interests and limited outlooks, but with consciences which they keep alive, and a moral which, if low, is nevertheless obeyed."
Here are some statistics quoted by the writer, which are of more than ordinary interest at the present time. "The people of the Tower Hamlets number, roughly, 456,000 people, and of these only some 71,000 belong to the class of unskilful labour from which, as a rule, in East London the criminal classes are recruited; or, to put the same fact in another form, out of nearly 90,000 heads of families, some 15,000 earn their living by irregular work, or work paid for, owing to its poorness of execution, at a lower than the market rate of payment. If the matter is reduced to percentages it will show that 65 per cent of the East London people are above the line of poverty, 22 per cent on the line, while those who fall chronically below it into the region of distress are 13 per cent."
In the face of thee figures, and of the recent events which have made that part of the metropolis so notorious Mrs. Barnett holds that much of the misunderstanding which prevails with respect to the denizens of that district is due to the entire ignorance which the rich and poor of London have of each other. Upon this point she remarks: "With some knowledge both of rich and poor, I have learned to think that the rich people's ignorance of the poor is most to be regretted; the circumstances of the poor develop beauties of character which with difficulty grow apart from the atmosphere of labour, sacrifice, effort, and obedience. Such lives and characters it is almost impossible to describe. They must be loved and lived with before they can be really known; but the knowledge of them makes 'the bliss of solitude' even more surely than Wordsworth's daffodils." Then follow a number of illustrations of filial affection and family solicitude, which, though in most cases roughly expressed, are very beautiful in their innate tenderness and loyalty.
Mrs. Barnett is deeply and somewhat unreasonably indignant at the attitude of the daily Press with respect to the recent murders. She maintains that the publication of such details as have come to light is a disgrace to our humanity, and an unmitigated evil to the rising generation. This, however, is a point upon which a great many people will entirely disagree with her. This is certainly not the age for hushing up the particulars of great crimes, and it is this important factor of a public demand which Mrs. Barnett unfortunately omits from the calculation upon which her protest is based.
"But these Whitechapel horrors," continues the writer, "disgraceful as they, injurious as has been their effect on the public mind, and painful as it is to live through them, will not be in vain of the thinkers and the responsible are awakened to the condition of the poor quarters of London, their police supervision, and their local boards; or if the gentle and refined are aroused, until conscience struck, they are compelled to sacrifice some of their happiness and ease, and to give and share with the rough and the ignorant all that males life gentle and refined to themselves. That the kindly have already been awakened there can be no doubt, and large sums of money have been offered and raised to meet the evil."
We regret that we have not the space to quote more extensively from this truly important and interesting article.
THIS TIME AT KING'S CROSS.
THE VICTIM TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL.
NO TRACE OF THE MAN.
This morning, at about one o'clock, intense excitement was caused in the district of King's Cross by a report that another attempt had been made to murder a woman. It appeared that Harriet North, an unfortunate, residing at 12 Wood street, Cromer street, Gray's Inn road, was accosted in the Euston road by a young man, with a black moustache. After some conversation she accompanied him up Belgrave street, King's Cross, and a few minutes afterwards she found that she had been stabbed with some sharp instrument in the abdomen. She exclaimed, "Oh, my God, what have you done?" and the man, without replying, ran off. The woman called out, and Sarah Ann Masters, a companion of hers, went to her assistance. Police constables Hy. Stone, 273E, and Chas. Palmer, 871E, also went to her and, finding she was bleeding profusely from the wound, they removed her to the Royal Free Hospital, Gray's Inn road, where she was seen by Dr. henry Tonks, one of the house surgeons, and was by him admitted into the Milne Ward. Whether the wound is serious or not, has not yet been ascertained. The man made good his escape. The woman North states that he was apparently a foreigner, and that he wore a heavy black moustache.
On inquiry at the Royal Free Hospital, Gray's Inn road, this morning, respecting the woman Harriett North, reported to have been stabbed at King's Cross, this morning, the Central News was informed that she was in no danger whatever. The matter had been much exaggerated, as it is doubtful of she had been stabbed at all. There are some scratches on the were (sic) part of the body but these might have been caused by sharp fingernails, in a struggle. The woman will most likely leave the hospital today. No importance is attached to the matter.
The Press Association says: The injury discovered on examination is in the nature of an abrasion, and could not have been inflicted by any sharp instrument, such as a knife. So strong is Mr. Tonks's opinion that it is not a case of premeditated assault, that he thinks the man probably was as much alarmed at the appearance of blood as the woman herself, and so made his escape. A woman named Sarah Ann Masters, who lives in the same house as Worth (sic), was with her for a few minutes before the occurrence, Masters having been accosted by the same man. >From a statement of Masters it would appear that the woman Worth was herself under the impression that she had been stabbed with a knife, and that in her alarm she called Masters to her assistance. the woman's fears as to the nature of her injury are not, however, borne out by the surgeon in whose temporary charge she has been placed.
Mr. James Monro, the new Chief Commissioner, who today enters upon his duties at Whitehall, is the subject of the above sketch. He is the son of the late Mr. George Monro, a solicitor, practising before the Supreme Courts, Edinburgh, and was born on November 25, 1838. He has consequently just completed his 50th year. Mr. Monro is a graduate of the University in his native city, and like many a Scotchman, early in life went out to India, where he was destined to have a distinguished official career. This was in or about the year 1860. His first appointment, if we are not mistaken, was in the Bengal Presidency. The reputation of the young official for administrative capacity soon grew, and we find him in rapid succession filling the posts of assistant magistrate and collector, district judge, and, finally, inspector general of police in the Presidency. In the latter position he had a very large body of men under his control, and the admirable way in which he handles the force was universally admitted (sic). Mr. Monro served with a distinction during the Wahabi conspiracy that gained him the thanks of the Indian Executive of the period. A curious turn of events a few years ago changed entirely the current of Mr. Monro's life and led him to severing his connection with India. It so happened that at the time when Mr. Howard Vincent resigned his appointment as head of the Central Criminal Investigation Department, Mr. Monro was in London on leave of absence, and although he had no friends in commanding positions at the Home Office, yet he did not hesitate to make application for the vacancy. His career in the far East was one that immediately commended itself to the authorities, and his appointment as Assistant Commissioner of Police soon followed. At the time when he assumed his new duties London was demoralised by the series of dynamite outrages perpetrated by Gallagher and his fellow conspirators; and how well, and with what success, Mr. Monro directed the operations of the detective department during the crucial period, is now a matter of history. His recent differences with Sir Charles Warren are too recent to need recapitulation. At all events, for a time he withdrew from Whitehall, though he continued to be one of the Home Secretary's confidential advisers at the Home Office. Now again he had been reinstated with increased authority, and there is every reason to believe that the appointment will be a good one. Mr. Monro, we may state, is a very popular man in the detective department, and enjoys the thorough confidence of his subordinates. A stiffly built, middle height man, with short side whiskers, firmly chiselled face and a head that is rapidly getting bald, Mr. Monro unfortunately suffers from one great physical disability. He is very lame, and can only with difficulty mount on horseback. When in India some years ago he met with a serious accident while in pursuit of an offender whom he was endeavouring to arrest. In attempting a wall over which the culprit had disappeared, his horse fell, and it was discovered by the doctors that the gallant official's hip joint had been permanently disabled. This is a physical infirmity that we believe will not debar the new Chief Commissioner from a thorough and efficient discharge of duties that must inevitably tax even his superabundant energies.