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wash, or cook, or what not. Go on, girls ! " and the girls
instantly begin to read again, and the mistress, opening a
door, brings us out into the passage. " We have room for
twenty-two," says the little mistress ; " and we dress them,
and feed them, and teach them as well as we can. On
wctk-clays they wear anything we can find for them, but
they have very nice frocks on Sundays. I never leave
them; I sit with them, and sleep among them, and walk
with them ; they are always friendly and affectionate to me
and among themselves, and are very good companions."

In answer to my questions, she said that most of the
children were put in by friends who paid half a crown a
week for them, sometimes the parents themselves, but they
could rarely afford it That besides this, and what the girla



58 ANNA THACKERAY.

could earn, 200 a year is required for the rent of the
house and expenses. " It has always been made up," says
the mistress, " but we can't help being very anxious at times,
as we have nothing certain, nor any regular subscriptions.
Won't you see the laundry ? " she adds, opening a door.

In the laundry is a steam, and a clatter, and irons, and
linen, and a little mangle, turned by two little girls, while
two or three more are busy ironing under the superintend-
ence of a- washerwoman with tucked-up sleeves ; piles of
shirt-collars and handkerchiefs and linen are lying on the
shelves, shirts and clothes are hanging on lines across the
room. The little girls don't stop, but go on busily.

" Where is Mary Anne ? " says the mistress, with a little
conscious pride.

" There she is, mum," says the washerwoman, and Mary
Anne steps out, blushing, from behind the mangle, with a
hot iron in her hand and a hanging head.

"Mary Anne is our chief laundry-maid," says the mis-
tress, as we came out into the hall again. " For the first
year I could make nothing of her ; she was miserable in the
kitchen, she couldn't bear housework, she wouldn't learn
her lessons. In fact, I was quite unhappy about her, till
one day I set her to ironing ; she took to it instantly, and
has been quite cheerful and busy ever since."

So leaving Maiy Anne to her vocation in life, we went
jp-stairs to the dormitories. The first floor is let to a lady,
and one of the girls is chosen to wait upon her ; the second
floor is where they sleep, in fresh light rooms with open
windows and sweet spring breezes blowing in across gar-
dens and court-yards. The place was delightfully trim and
fresh and peaceful; the little gray-coated beds stood in
rows, with a basket at the foot of each, and texts were
hanging up on the wall. In the next room stood a ward-
robe full of the girls' Sunday clothes, of which one of them
keeps the key ; after this came the mistress's own room, as
fresh and light and well kept as the rest.



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 59

These little maidens scrub and cook and wash and sew.
I?hey make broth for the poor, and puddings. They are
taught to read and write and count, and they learn geogra-
phy and history as well. Many of them come from dark,
unwholesome alleys in the neighborhood, from a dreary
country of dirt and crime and foul talk. In this little con-
vent all is fresh and pure, and the sunshine pours in at
every window. I don't know that the life is very exciting
there, or that the days spent at the mangle, or round the
deal table, can be very stirring ones. But surely they are
well spent, learning useful arts, and order and modesty and
cleanliness. Think of the cellars and slums from which
these children come, and of the quiet little haven where
they are fitted for the struggle of life, and are taught to be
good and industrious and sober and honest. It is only for
a year or two, and then they will go out into the world
again, into a world, indeed, of which we know but little,
a world of cooks and kitchen-maids and general servants.
I daresay these little industrious girls, sitting round that
table and spelling out the Gospel of St. John this sunny
afternoon, are longing and wistfully thinking about that
wondrous coming time. Meanwhile the quiet hour goes by.
I say farewell to the kind, smiling mistress ; Mary Anne is
still busy among her irons; I hear the mangle click as I
pass, and the wooden door opens to let me out.

In another old house, standing in a deserted old square
near the city, there is a school which interested me as
much as any of those I have come across, a school :or
little Jewish boys and girls. We find a tranquil, roomy eld
house, with light windows looking out into the quiet square
with its ancient garden ; a carved staircase ; a little hall
paved with black and white mosaic, whence two doors lead
respectively to the Boys' and Girls' schools. Presently a
little girl unlocks one of these doors, and runs up before us
into the school-room, a long, well-lighted room full of other



60 ANNA THACKERAY.

little girls busy at their desks : little Hebrew maidens with
Oriental faces, who look up at us as we come in. This is

always rather an alarming moment ; but Dr. , who knows

the children, comes kindly to our help, and begins to tell us
about the school. " It is an experiment," he says, " and
one which has answered admirably well. Any children are
admitted, Christians as well as Jews ; and none come with-
out paying something every Aveek, twopence or threepence,
as they can afford, for many of them belong to the very
poorest of the Jewish community. They receive a very
high class of education." (When I presently see what they
are doing, and hear the questions they can answer, I begin
to feel a very great respect for these little bits of girls in
pinafores, and for the people who are experimenting on
them.) " But the chief aim of the school is to teach
them to help themselves, and to inculcate an honest self-
dependence and independence." And, indeed, as I look at
them, I cannot but be struck with a certain air of re-
spectability and uprightness among these little creatures,
as they sit there, so self-possessed, keen-eyed, well-mannered.
" Could you give them a parsing lesson ? " the doctor asks
the schoolmistress, who shakes her head, and says it is their
day for arithmetic, and she may not interrupt the order of
their studies ; but that they may answer any questions the
doctor likes to put to them.

Quite little tlu'ngs, with their hair in curls, can tell you
about tons and hundredweights, and how many horses it
would take to draw a ton, and how many little girls to draw
two thirds of a ton, if so many little girls went to a horse ;
and if a horse were added, or a horse taken away, or two
eighths of the little girls, or three fourths of the horse, or
one sixth of the ton, until the room begins to spin
breathlessly round and round, and I am left ever so far
behindhand.

"Is avoirdupois an English word?" Up goes a little



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 61

hand, with fingers working eagerly, and a pretty little
creature, wLh long black hair and a necklace, cries out that
it is French, and means, have weight.

Then the doctor asks about early English history, and the
hands still go up, and they know all about it ; and so they
do about civilization, and despotism, and charters, and Picts
and Scots, and dynasties, and early lawgivers, and coloniza-
tion, and reformation.

"Who was Martin Luther? Why did he leave the
Catholic Church ? What were indulgences ? "

" You gave the Pope lots of money, sir, and he gave you
dispensations." This was from our little portress.

There was another little shrimp of a thing, with wonder-
ful, long-sJit, flashing eyes, who could answer anything
almost, and whom the other little girls accordingly brought
forward in triumph from a back row.

" Give me an instance of a free country ? " asks the tired
questioner.

" England, sir ! " cry the little girls in a shout.

" And now of a country which is not free."

"America," cry two little voices; and then one adds,
" Because there are slaves, sir." " And France," says a
third ; " and we have seen the emperor in the picture-
shops."

As I listen to them, I cannot help wishing that many of
our little Christians were taught to be as independent and
self-respecting in their dealings with the grown-up people
who come to look at them. One would fancy that servility
was a sacred institution, we cling to it so fondly. We seem
to expect an absurd amount of respect from our inferiors ;
we are ready to pay back just as much to those above us in
station : and hence I think, notwithstanding all the kindness
of heart, all the well-meant and well-spent exertion we see
in the world, there is often too great an inequality between
those who teach and those who would learn, those who give
and those whose harder part it is to receive.



62 ANNA THACKERAY.

We were quite sorry at last when the doctor made a little
bow, and said, " Good morning, young ladies," quite politely,
to his pupils. It was too late to stop and talk to the little
boys down below, but we went for a minute into an inner
room out of the large boys' school-room, and there we found
half a dozen little men, with their hats on their heads, sitting
on their benches, reading the Psalms in Hebrew ; and so we
stood, for this minute before we came away, listening to
David's words spoken in David's tongue, and ringing rather
sadly in the boys' touching childish voice.

But this is not by any means the principal school which
the Jews have established in London. Deep in the heart
of the city, beyond St. Paul's, beyond the Cattle
Market, with its countless pens, beyond Finsbury Square,
and the narrow Barbican, travelling on through a dirty,
close, thickly peopled region, you come to Bell Lane, in
Spitalfields. And here you may step in at a door and sud-
denly find yourself in a wonderful country, in the midst of
an unknown people, in a great hall sounding with the voices
of hundreds of Jewish children. I know not if it is always
so, or if this great assemblage is only temporary, during the
preparation for the Passover, but all along the sides of this
great room were curtained divisions, and classes sitting
divided, busy at their tasks, and children upon children as
far as you could see ; and somehow as you look you almost
see, not these children only, but their forefathers, the Chil-
dren of Israel, camping in their tents, as they camped at
Succoth, when they fled out of the land of Egypt and the
house of bondage. Some of these here present to-day are
still flying from the house of bondage ; many of them are
the children of Poles and Russians and Hungarians, who
have escaped over here to avoid conscription, and who arrive
destitute and in great misery. But to be friendless, and in
want, and poverty-stricken is the best recommendation for
admission to this noble charity. And here, as elsewhere,



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 63

any one who comes to the door is taken in, Christian as
well as Jew.

I have before me now the Report for the year 5619
(1858), during which 1,800 children have come to these
schools daily. 10,000 in all have been admitted since the
foundation of the school. The working alone of the estab-
lishment salaries, repairs, books, laundresses, &c.
amounts to more than 2,000 a year. Of this a very con-
siderable portion goes in salaries to its officers, of whom I
count more than fifty in the first page of the pamphlet.
" 12 to a man for washing boys," is surely well-spent
money; "3 to a beadle, 14 for brooms and brushes,
1 19*. Qd. for repair of clocks," are among the items.
The anntial subscriptions are under 500, and the very
existence of the place (so says the Report) depends on
voluntary offerings at the anniversary. That some of these
gifts come in with splendid generosity I need scarcely say.
Clothing for the whole school arrives at Easter, once a year,
and I saw great bales of boots for the boys waiting to be
unpacked in their school-room. Tailors and shoemakers
come and take measurings beforehand, so that everybody
gets his own. To-day, these artists having retired, car-
penters and bricklayers are at work all about the place, and
the great boys' school, which is larger still than the girls', is
necessarily empty, except that a group of teachers and
monitors are standing in one corner talking and whisper-
ing together. The head-master, with a black beard, comes
down from a high desk in an inner room, and tells us about
the place, about the cleverness of the children, and the
scholarship lately founded ; how well many of the boys turn
out in after life, and for what good positions they are fitted
by the education they are able to receive here ; " though
Jews," he said, "are debarred by their religious require-
ments from two thirds of the employments which Christians
are able to fill. Masters cannot afford to employ workmen



64 ANNA THACKERAY.

who can only give their time from Monday to Friday after-
noon. There are, therefore, only a very limited number of
occupations open to us. Some of our boys rise to be min-
isters, and many become teachers here, in which case gov-
ernment allows them a certain portion of their salary."

The head-mistress in the girls' school was not less kind
and ready to answer our questions. During the winter
mornings, hot bread-and-milk are given out to any girl who
chooses to ask for it, but only about a hundred come for-
ward, of the very hungriest and poorest. When we came

away from Square a day before, we had begun to

think that all poor Jews were well and warmly clad, and
had time to curl their hair and to look clean and prosperous
and respectable, but here, alas ! comes the old story of want
and sorrow and neglect. What are these brown, lean, wan
little figures, in loose gowns falling from their shoulders,
black eyes, fuzzy, unkempt hair, strange bead necklaces round
their throats and ear-rings in their ears ? I fancied these
must be the Poles and Russians ; but when I spoke to one
of them, she smiled, and answered very nicely, in perfectly
good English, and told me she liked writing best of all, and
showed me a copy very neat, even, and legible.

Whole classes seemed busy sewing at lilac pinafores,
which are, I suppose, a great national institution; others
were ciphering and calling out the figures as the mistress
chalked the sum upon a slate. Hebrew alphabets and sen-
tences were hanging up upon the walls. All these little
Hebrew maidens learn the language of their nation.

In the infant-school, a very fat little pouting baby, with
dark eyes, and a little hook-nose and curly locks, and a blue
necklace, and funny ear-rings in her little rosy ears, came
forward, grasping one of the mistresses' fingers.

" This is a good little girl," said that lady, " who knows
her alphabet in Hebrew and in English."

And the little girl looks up very solemn, as children



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 65

do, to whom everything is of vast importance, and each
little incident a great new fact. The infant-schools do
not make part of the Bell Lane Establishment, though
they are connected with it, and the children, as they grow
up, and are infants no longer, draft off into the great free-
school.

The infant-school is a light, new building close by, with
arcaded play-grounds, and plenty of light and air and
freshness, though it stands in this dreary, grimy region. As
we come into the school-rooms we find, piled up on steps at
either end, great living heaps of little infants, swaying, kick-
ing, shouting for their dinner, beating aimlessly about with
little legs and arms. Little Jew babies are uncommonly
like little* Christians ; just as funny, as hungry, as helpless,
and happy now that the bowls of food come steaming in.
One, two, three, four, five little cook-boys, in white jackets
and caps and aprons, appear in a Hue, with trays upon
their heads, like the processions out of the Arabian Nights ;
and as each cook-boy appears, the children cheer, and the
potatoes steam hotter and hotter, and the mistresses begin
to ladle them out.

Rice and brown potatoes is the manna given twice a
week to these hungry little Israelites. I rather wish for
the soup and pudding certain small Christians are gobbling
up just about this time in another corner of London ; but
this is but a halfpenny-worth, while the other meal costs a
penny. You may count by hundreds here, instead of by
tens ; and I don't think there would be so much shouting at
the little cook-boys if these hungry little beaks were not
eager for their food. I was introduced to one little boy
here, who seemed to be very much looked up to by his
companions because he had one long curl right along the
top of his head. As we were busy talking to him, a
number of little things sitting on the floor were busy strok-
ing and feeling with little gentle fingers the soft edges of a
5



66 ANNA THACKERAY.

coat one of us had on, and the silk dress of a lady who was
present.

The lady who takes chief charge of these 400 babies
told us how the mothers as well as the children got assist-
ance here in many ways, sometimes coming for advice,
sometimes for small loans of money, which they always
faithfully repay. She also showed us letters from some of
the boys who have left and prospered in life. One from a
youth who has lately been elected alderman in some distant
colony. She took us into a class-room and gave a lesson to
some twenty little creatures, while, as it seemed to me, all
the 380 others were tapping at the door, and begging to be
let in. It was an object-, and then a scripture-lesson, and
given with the help of old familiar pictures. There was
Abraham with his beard, and Isaac and the ram, hanging
up against the wall ; there was Moses, and the Egyptians,
and Joseph, and the sack and the brethren, somewhat out
of drawing. All these old friends gave one quite a homely
feeling, and seemed to hold out friendly hands to us
strangers and Philistines, standing within the gates of the
chosen people.

Before we came away the mistress opened a door and
showed us one of the prettiest and most touching sights I
have ever seen. It was the arcaded play-ground full of
happy, shouting, tumbling, scrambling little creatures : little
turnbled-down ones kicking and shouting on the ground,
absurd toddling races going on, whole files of little things
wandering up and down with their arms round one another's
necks: a happy, friendly little multitude indeed: a sight
good for sore eyes.

And so I suppose people of all nations and religions love
and tend their little ones, and watch and yearn over them.
I have seen little Catholics cared for by kind nuns with
wistful tenderness, as the young ones came clinging to their
black vails and playing with their chaplets ; little High-



LITTLE SCHOLARS. 07

Church maidens growing up rosy and happy amid crosses
and mediaeval texts, and chants, and dinners of fish, and
kind and melancholy ladies in close caps and loose-cut
dresses ; little Low-Church children smiling and dropping
courtesies as they see the Rev. Mr. Faith-in-grace coming
up the lane with tracts in his big pockets about pious ne-
groes, and broken vessels, and devouring worms, and I
dare say pennies and sugar-plums as well.

Who has not seen and noted these tilings, and blessed,
with a thankful, humble heart, that fatherly Providence
which has sent this pure and tender religion of little chil-
dren to all creeds and to all the world?



ANDANTE.

BEETHOVEN'S SIXTH SYMPHONY.
BY A. WEST.

SOUNDING above the warring of the years,
Over their stretch of toils, and pains, and fears,
Comes the well-loved refrain,
That ancient voice again.

Sweeter than when beside the river's marge
We lay and watched, like Innocence at large,

The changeful waters flow,

Speaks this brave music now.

Tender as sunlight upon childhood's head,
Serene as moonlight upon childhood's bed,

Comes the remembered power

Of that forgotten hour.

The little brook with merry voice and low,
The gentle ripples rippling far below,
Talked with no idle voice,

Though idling were their choice.

Now through the tumult and the pride of life,
Gentler, yet firmly soothing all its strife,

Nature draws near once more,

And knocks at the world's door.

She walks within her wild, harmonious maze,
Evolving melodies from doubt and haze,

And leaves us freed from care,

Like children standing there.



ON DREAMS.

BY SIR THOMAS BROWNE.



HALF our days we pass in the shadow of the earth ;
and the brother of death exacteth a third part of our
lives. A good part of our sleep is peered out with visions
and fantastical objects, wherein we are confessedly deceived.
The day upplieth us with truths ; the night, with fictions
and falsehoods, which uncomfortably divide the natural ac-
count of our beings. And, therefore, having passed the day
in sober labors and rational inquiries of truth, we are fain
to betake ourselves unto such a state of being, wherein the
soberest heads have acted all the monstrosities of melancholy,
and which unto open eyes are no better than folly and mad-
ness.

Happy are they that go to bed with grand music, like
Pythagoras, or have ways to compose the fantastical spirit,
whose unruly wanderings take off inward sleep, filling our
heads with St. Anthony's visions, and the dreams of Lipara
in the sober chambers of rest.

Virtuous thoughts of the day lay up good treasures for
the night; whereby the impressions of imaginary forms
arise into sober similitudes, acceptable unto our slumbering
selves and preparatory unto divine impressions. Hereby
Solomon's sleep was happy. Thus prepared, Jacob might
well dream of angels upon a pillow of stone. And the best
sleep of Adam might be the best of any after.*

* the best sleep of Adam, <fc.] The only sleep of Adam recorded is that
which God caused to fall upon him, and which resulted in the creation



70 SIR THOMAS BROWNE.

That there should be divine dreams seems unreasonably
doubted by Aristotle. That there are demoniacal dreams
we have little reason to doubt. Why may there not be
angelical ? If there be guardian spirits, they may not be
inactively about us in sleep ; but may sometimes order our
dreams : and many strange hints, instigations, or discourses,
which are so amazing unto us, may arise from such founda-
tions.

But the phantasms of sleep do commonly walk in the
great road of natural and animal dreams, wherein the
thoughts or actions of the day are acted over and echoed
in the night. Who can therefore wonder that Chrysostom
should dream of St. Paul, who daily read his epistles ; or
that Cardan, whose head was so taken up about the stars,
should dream that his soul was in the moon ! Pious per-
sons, whose thoughts are daily busied about heaven, and the
blessed state thereof, can hardly escape the nightly phan-
tasms of it, which though sometimes taken for illuminations,
or divine dreams, yet rightly perpended may prove but
animal visions, and natural night-scenes of their awaking
contemplations.

Many dreams are made out by sagacious exposition, and
from the signature of their subjects ; carrying their interpre-
tation in their fundamental sense and mystery of similitude,
whereby he that understands upon what natural fundamental
every notion dependeth may, by symbolical adaptation, hold
a ready way to read the characters of Morpheus. In dreams
of such a nature, Artemidorus, Achmet, and Astrampsichus,
from Greek, Egyptian, and Arabian oneiro-criticism, may
hint some interpretation ; who, while we read of a ladder in
Jacob's dream, will tell us that ladders and scalary ascents
signify preferment; and while we consider the dream of
Pharaoh, do teach us that rivers overflowing speak plenty,

of woman. It does not veiy clearly appear whether Sir Thomas calls it
the best sleep of Adam in allusion to its origin or its result.



ON DREAMS. 71

lean oxen, famine and scarcity ; and therefore it was but
reasonable in Pharaoh to demand the interpretation from
his magicians, who, being Egyptians, should have been well
versed in symbols and the hieroglyphical notions of tilings.
The greatest tyrant in such divinations was Xabuchodonosor,
while, besides the interpretation, he demanded the dream
itself; which being probably determined by divine immission,
might escape the common road of phantasms, that might have
been traced by Satan.

When Alexander, going to besiege Tyre, dreamt of a
Satyr, it was no hard exposition for a Grecian to say, " Tyre
will be thine." He that dreamed that he saw his father
washed by Jupiter and anointed by the sun, had cause to
fear that fye might be crucified, whereby his body would be
washed by the rain, and drop by the heat of the sun. The



Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 26 of 66)