A. Egmont (Alfred Egmont) Hake.

Suffering London; or, The hygiene, moral, social, and political relations of our voluntary hospitals to society online

. (page 10 of 14)
Online LibraryA. Egmont (Alfred Egmont) HakeSuffering London; or, The hygiene, moral, social, and political relations of our voluntary hospitals to society → online text (page 10 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

their country is, therefore, to use their wealth and
power in such a way as to make the lot of those
who are born in poverty, who are left behind in the
race of life, as bearable a lot as possible.

A time will, no doubt, come when discontent will
be less rampant, and when men and women will
have learned to look more to their own personal
qualifications and exertions, and less to political
reforms, as means towards improving their condition.
But such a state of things is far off, and at present
the tendency is the other way. In the meantime the
responsibility of the wealthy daily increases


In spite of bad laws, defective systems, prevail-
ing prejudices, there would be no class hatred were
men to adhere strictly to the teachinLTs of relieion
in the matter of charity. I say deliberately religion
.and not Christianity, because the Jewish, the
INIahomedan, and the Buddhist creeds hold up
-charity as a cardinal virtue. It is not my inten-
tion to add one more to the many treatises and
^discourses upon the evils of this life, all of which
■end with the foregone conclusion that we should
be happier if more religious. But, in view of the
fact that in this country there are a great number
•of sincerely religious people who, on religious
grounds, are willing to exercise all the charity
in their power, it may be useful to disentangle
the perplexities which confront us, and thus arrive
.at a practical method of charity.

It is useless to disguise the stern command-
ments which Christ has given us. The text which
-says that it is easier for a camel to go through the
eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the
Kingdom of God, summarises Christ's opinion re-
garding the responsibility of wealth. We have
heard many ingenious, and sometimes even amaz-
ing, explanations of this passage. When a
wealthy parson preaches to a wealthy congrega-
tion, the plain, literal interpretation of this text
must, to say the least, appear embarrassing. One
accepted explanation of the text is extremely
quaint. It is to the effect that the phrase used, the


needle's eye, does not actually refer to the eye of a
needle, but to a small gate in the wall round Jerusalem,
through which a loaded camel could not pass, but
through which a saddleless camel could squeeze by
going clown on his knees. This interpretation,
bristles with pretty suggestions for symbolic dis-
course. Thus, it might be said, that the rich man's
soul can enter heaven if it unburden itself of its
load of wealth ; that the millionaire can gain salva-
tion by kneeling in prayer; that many wealthy people
prefer the high and wide gate, and so forth. It is
strange that this little gate in the walls of Jeru-
salem was not discovered before. It is evident
that the old churches, and especially the Catholic
Church, did not explain away the meaning of the
text, for poverty was one of the vows of most of
their religious communities. Then again, look at
the moral to which the accepted reading points.
Does it not obviously illustrate that a man can,
after all, serve two masters, God and Mammon —
a thing so utterly opposed to the whole of Christ's
teaching ? There are many other passages recorded
of Christ's sayings which cannot leave any doubt
of the meaning of His teachings and the example
of His life.

Did He not impress His disciples with the sinful-
ness of hoardinor riches ? Indeed, the first Christian
community thus came to be based on socialistic prin-
ciples — it condemned the retention of wealth for
personal purposes.

To such an extent had this leadino^ feature of


Christ's tcachini^ been obscured th;it the cry, " La
propricte, c'est le vol," emanated from frec;-thinker.s
as a protest against Christianity. These nien had
studied reliq-Ion in the Church, instead of in the
Scriptures, But in England of to-day, on the other
hand, the advocates of Socialism have not failed to
jjerceive how great a support can be drawn froni the
New Testament in favour of their Utopian dreams.
Many years ago a foreign friend of mine told me
that Socialism would never be acceptable to Eng-
land until it assumed a reliofious cruise, and that,
then, it would prove irresistible ; and it cannot now
be denied that many preachers are becoming
pnpular by blending Christianity with Socialism.

b'ew people seem to realise what should at once
be patent to anyone who studies the recorded
words of Christ with an unbiased mind. His
whole desire was to deviate and improve humanity
— to promote terrestrial happiness, as a means of
preparing us for a spiritual life. This, there can be
little doubt, is the true explanation of His allusion
to God's kingdom on earth. The Christian religion
has thus naturally become the religion of civilisation.
The Jewish prophets spoke seldom of a future
life, and looked for reward and punishment in
this. They avowedly made earthly bliss their great
aim, but their religion has not succeeded in realising
it, while the Christian religion, which avowedly
makes celestial happiness its aims and terrestrial
ha[)piness the first stage, has found votaries all
over the Mobe. The Buddhist relisjion aimed


at many thinii^s, but certainly not at terrestrial
happiness. With its stern precepts of self-sacrifice,
it is more calculated to produce painful asceticism
than earthly bliss.

What Christ impressed upon us was the misery
^vhich follows from man's selfishness. He strove to
show that a community of human beings resolved
upon securing advantages each for himself would
be a hell upon earth. He also wished us to realise
that, on the other hand, a community in w^hich
each individual resolved to do his utmost for his
fellows would achieve the highest degree of happi-
ness. This is the essence of Christianity. If ap-
plied and used as a guide in our social system,
amazine results would be achieved ; and then we
should recognise, in what the theologians call the
■Christian Brotherhood, that natural law — the soli-
darity of humanity.

If we bear in mind that Christ wished to impress
the minds of the people with the truth, that by
mutual aid they would attain to far greater happi-
ness than by general enmity, the meaning of His
doctrines regarding wealth cannot be misunderstood.
■Only by sharing their fortunes with the people could
the rich in Palestine two thousand years ago have
brought about the desired brotherhood. The actual
(i-iving away of their money was of secondary im-
portance in those days. The main object in view
was general happiness — God's kingdom on earth.
The rich man, who, under the social system of
that period, clung to his wealth for selfish motives —

THE KESPONsir.iLiTV OF ^\•I■:AT;l'l T. 129

und thus allowed misery to r;;row up around him —
was condemned by Christ.

If we apply Christ's words to modern circum-
stances, their meaninof is evident : we must remembc^r
that we hold wealth, not for the pur[)ose of grati-
fyino- selfish desires, but in trust for the general
i^ood. This interpretation is confirmed by the Par-
able of the Talents. No rich man would intelli-
gently carry out Christ's precepts who gave away
his fortune without considering the consequences to
society. To keep it and use it for good ends would
be better obedience. He is not the rich man re-
ferred to by Christ, except when he is selfish and
when his actions are detrimental to society ; he
does more than give away his wealth when he
uses his fortune in such a way as to favour the
general well-being, and permanently benefit the
sufferers from poverty. The man who has dedi-
cated his fortune and his life to good causes does
not die the rich man's death, alluded to by Christ,
as unable to enter Heaven. He is the faithful
servant who returns to his master after making
good use of the talents entrusted to him.

Those wealthy English men and women who
have resolved to be guided in their lives by
Christian tenets, can have no doubt about the
duties Christ has imposed upon them, nor need
they be perplexed by apparent contradictions be-
tween His words and modern social science : for if

they study the spirit rather than the letter of their



Master's precepts, they will find that, while Christ
solemnly lays stress upon the responsibility of
wealth, He always exhorts them to practise wisdom
in the fulfilment of duty.

Thus, religion, patriotism, philanthropy, and self-
preservation, all warn the wealthy to remember
and fulfil their responsibilities to their poorer
brethren. And, after all, this is the surest w^ay of
realising happiness. Neglect of urgent responsi-
bilities can only end in self-reproach and degradation.
The consciousness of such neglect would bring a
pang with every tale of woe, and would sit like a
spectre at every feast.

But in this country there is fortunately not so
much need to exhort the wealthy classes to charity
as to point out the best way in which charity can be
joractised with really good results. Large amounts
intended for charity are yearly wasted on unworthy
objects. The number of institutions which appeal
to the thriving classes for contributions is legion.
Thev could be divided into two classes, the useful
and the nugatory. The latter class again could be
subdivided into those promoted by rascality and
those promoted by fanaticism. Looked at under the
lens of logic, many would fall into the last cate-
gory which now enjoy a reputation of great useful-

We have had specimens of many vast schemes
munificently supported, which, though they looked
alluring on paper, have been wrecked on the old and


well-known rocks of faulty economy and antagonism
to the laws which refjulate human societies.

It goes without saying that of all charity, direct,
personal charity is the one to be first recommended.
But, as I have ^ilready had occasion to say, there are
large numbers of people whose opportunities for such
charity are altogether out of proportion to the sum
they are able and willing to devote to the victims
of misery. Therefore, in a busy and wealthy country
like this, charitable agencies are indispensable.

The subject of charitable agencies is one on
which a large book might be written, and, were it
written, our Voluntary Hospitals would have to be
.treated in the first chapter.

Where could we find institutions which, wiih such
small resources, confer such a vast amount of cjood,
not only on the poor and the suffering, but on
society as a whole ? The great danger of charity is
the humiliation and corruption it may produce ; but
the charity exercised through our hospitals can have
no such effect ; for only those are directly benefited
who are already dependent on somebody's charity
— that charity from which, for some inscrutable pur-
pose of Providence, no one can escape.

Nor is it often that the aid proffered by the
hospitals is abused. There are, of course,
malingerers, hypochondriacs, to be met with, but
they are, as a rule, easily detected, and do not inflict
o^reat loss on the hospital funds.

What makes illness among people of meagre


means such a terrible calamity is the era of evils
which it marshalls in : cessation of wages, large
expenses, loss of situations, indebtedness, and
broken up homes. Anyone who has reflected on
causes and consequences must have been struck
with what an interminable series of consequences
may flow from one small cause. Scribe does not
exaggerate when, in his " Verre d'Eau," he makes a
glass of water produce a change of government and
peace with France. History shows that the most
trivial incidents have, by their consequences, enor-
mously influenced the destiny of hum.anity. Thus,
the evil that happens to one man may bring untold
misery, degradation, and vice to thousands from
generation to generation : for every incident in each
man's life affects the future of himself and others,
and so long as the world lasts each consequence
becomes in its turn the cause of many other

It must, therefore, be of the utmost importance to
contemporary or future society to save a man or a
family from the many causes of evil which follow in
the wake of sickness. From this point of view the
blessings which flow from our hospitals are in-
calculable and eternal.

If it were given to the wealthy of this country to
behold in this or in a future life the good their
wealth has produced, or the evil it has prevented,
they would find that whatever they have spent on
the hospitals has been a splendid investment.



" JVork untJioiit hope draws Jiectar in a sieve,
And hope unthoiit an object cannot live."

Numbers Refused Admittance to the Hospitals — A Sacred Duty
Neglected — Proportion of Beds to the Population — Country
Patients in London Hospitals— London's Charity to Non-
Londoners — Income below Expenditure — The Wealth of Lon-
don — The Amount Required — Sanitoriums Abroad — Redis-
tribution — Out-Post Hospitals — Usefulness of Branches —
The Need of more Personal Service — House Visitors —
Cramped Sites.

To all Londoners who are proud of their city it

should be humiliating in the extreme to learn that

<3ur duty towards the indigent sufferers is badly

fulfilled in consequence of insufficient means ; that

•out of six adult applicants for treatment in the

hospit?ils only one is received ; and, what is worse,

for each child-patient which gains access to the

hospitals, three little sufferers are sent away. This

refusal of assistance to vast numbers who stand

sorely in need of it, creates sufferings and troubles

in the homes of the poor to which clergymen,

doctors, and other visiting friends can testify.

Why should London be so deplorably back-



ward in the performance of a duty that every
reUgion in the world enjoins, — a duty that cannot be
neglected without violating our best instinct ?
The number of hospital beds in London is only
2 to each looo inhabitants, and by the influx of
cases from the country, only i bed to lOOO is^
available for the London poor. The great
medical skill, the wide experience in curing and
in operating which the Metropolis affords, the want
of well-conducted hospitals in country districts, the
predilection of country practitioners for those hos-
pitals in which they have studied and which they
can trust — all this naturally tends towards filling a
portion of the available beds with country patients-
Many of these could no doubt pay for the relief they
obtain, and others could probably make a partial
contribution. It seems to me just and desirable
that something should be done to induce such coun-
try patients as can pay to discharge at least a portion
of their obligation to the hospitals. As matters now
stand the teeming millions of London can only count
upon one bed per thousand, a proportion which is
unique among the large towns of Great Britain.
Glasgow, Newcastle, Wolverhampton have t,^ beds-
per lOOo; Edinburgh, 3I ; Dublin, 6| ; Norwich,
Belfast, Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester, and Bristol
have an average of 2^ beds per 1000, If, again
we compare London with the other capitals of
Europe, we find that our Metropolis is deplorably
deficient in hospital accommodation.


The London Voluntary Hospitals provide u|;-
wards ot 8000 beds, of which, sad to say, about
2000, or 25 per cent., are unoccupied for want of

It is want of funds which prevents the develop-
ment of our free hospital system to the extent which
is needed, and which the fair name of London de-
mands. When I speak of want of funds, I do not,
of course, mean that London as a whole is too poor
to supply the tritie required for the hospitals ; nor
that there is more callousness or selfishness here
than in other places. That the upper and upper-
middle and well-to-do working-classes could supply
ten times the amount required without perceptible
denial, is, in my opinion, a fact ; and that we Lon-
doners are ever ready to relieve sufferings, not only
here but in any part of the globe, has been proved
over and over again. What is wanted is a general
awakening to the present disgraceful state of things
— a recognition of the sacred duty we neglect.

The reliable income of the Voluntary Hospitals
is, or at least was in 1891, ^250,000 below the ex-
penditure, with two thousand beds empty. The utilisa-
tion of these would necessitate another ^120,000.
To bring the occupied beds up to 2 beds for each
1000 inhabitants would entail ^300,000. The de-
ficiency in the income of the hospitals may, there-
fore, be put down at ^670,000.

This amount would be easily obtainable in London,
for it contains thousands of millionaires, or, at least.


people who have the incomes of millionaires, a
capitalist class which invests hundreds of millions in
bankrupt foreign Governments and foolish foreign
enterprises, tens of thousands of shopkeepers,
traders, and skilled artisans, whose incomes exceed
those of many a foreign Minister of State, and a
vast body of officials who divide between them a
goodly share of our hundred million Budget.

My belief is that twice the sum of ^670,000 could
easily be raised in London for the benefit of destitute
sufferers. This would represent only about six
shillings per head of the population, or about three
halfpence per week. And yet so small a contribu-
tion would confer immense advantages on society,
for it would be used on the principle of voluntary
co-operation, free from the socialistic and bureau-
cratic taint. Such an addition to the income of our
Voluntary Hospitals would enable London to give
extension to other institutions connected with them,
such as Medical Schools, Nursing Institutions, and
Convalescent Homes.

Without being a medical man I think I am safe
in concluding that if change of climate and winter
residence in such countries as the Riviera, Algiers,
and Egypt can save the life of the wealthy and their
children, it should do the same for the poor. It
would be easy for Londoners to complete the hos-
pital system, which I hope may one day be their
pride, with Convalescent Homes and Sanitoriums in
suitable climates. They might be so managed as


to benefit not only the poor who cannot pay at all,
but also those who can pay the low rate of ex[)enses
which co-operation can effect, though not the consider-
able outlay involved in individual residence abroad.
1 do not expect the average Londoner to rise to the
moral height of Ibsen's minister, Brand, who sacri-
ficed the life of one, his own child, for the benefit of
the many. But it seems to me that when we allow
useful human life to perish, which could be saved at
the expense of a few pounds, the question aristjs,
How do we stand with regard to the sixth com-
mandment ?

One great need of our present hospital system,
— one great object for which funds are needed, is
redistribution. One effect of the want of system
which, as I have already pointed out, has character-
ised the development of the hospital movement, is
that the establishments are too close together — all
in the central districts. From this several serious
•drawbacks accrue. The sufferers have to be taken
long distances, when they come from the outlying
<.listricts, and their transport is inconvenient, painful,
and often dangerous to life.

The different districts not having their special
hospitals, the choice made by patients is often
<jrratic, and they are frequently taken far greater
distances than would be required were it the
rule or the custom to go to the nearest hospital.

One bad consequence of the inadequate distribu-
tion is that inhabitants take no interest and no j)ride


in an institution the existence of which might be a.
matter of Hfe and death to them. Nor have they
sufficient knowledge of the hospitals. As a rule^
the average Londoner has never set his foot inside
a hospital, and, as matters now stand, few are likely
to enter the wards unless carried there. This lack
of acquaintance with the hospitals must be attri-
buted to the absurd notions which many people
have of such places. In the opinion of some
these institutions mainly exist for the supply of sub-
jects for dissection, while, as to fever hospitals, they
are apt to be looked upon as the old-world pest-
houses and as centres of infection. Such erroneous,
opinions are not only held by the uneducated, but
by many persons who ought to be better informed.
With such views current, it is not to be wondered at
if the importance and the usefulness of our healing-
establishments are overlooked, and the interest in
them is slight and ineffective.

According to the opinion of medical men and
others who have given a great deal of attention tO"
the question, a redistribution could be best carried
out by the establishment of what I may call out-post
hospitals in the centre of each district, especially in
those inhabited by the poor. They should be
branches of the great central hospitals, and be con-
nected with them. In this way the severely felt
want of four thousand beds should be met. It has.
been estimated that this could be done by an outlay
of ^600,000 to ^800,000, including sites and build-


ings. It can readily be understood what a boon
such an estabhshment in the centre of each district
would be, and what great services it could render to
the working-man, whose career is now often broken
because he and his family are left to struggle with
disease in their own honie. The inhabitants of the
districts, especially the employers of labour, would
certainly take a keener interest in a local establish-
ment than in the far-off central one, and the friendly
rivalry which would naturally spring up between the-
districts, with regard to the care of the hospitals,
would be productive of most beneficial results. The
prejudices against hospital treatment which, though
disappearing, still exist, would soon vanish before a
closer contact with these branches. A certain num-
ber of beds might always be kept in reserve in case
of great fires, explosions, or similar calamities, caus-
ing a sudden demand for aid.

There is another great need that must be met
before our Voluntary Hospitals can become what
they ought to be — the need of more personal
service As a non -expert, I would say that
there are many ways in which the personal ser-
vices of the leisured class could be enlisted ia
favour of the hospitals, and of the poor sufferers
in general. But, wishing to be as practical as
I can, I shall only refer to one need in this
respect, which is generally acknowledged to be
strongly felt, and one which, it is to be hoped, will
be speedily met. I refer to the personal services of


house visiting, a duty useful in itself, and indis-
pensable to those who desire to educate themselves
as governors, and to qualify for seats on the hospital
committees. In the present undeveloped state of
our hospitals there is room for about seventeen
hundred house visitors, and, if London awakens
from its present deplorable apathy with regard to
the suffering poor, a far larger number will be re-
quired. The duties are light and far from unpleas-
ant, and would certainly add a new and vivid interest
to many a young man's life ; and for any man who
aspires to civic or political honours, or any public
trust, the duty of house visitor to a hospital should
be the initial stage.

The cramped condition of many of the hospital
sites is another unsatisfactory feature which should be
remedied as soon as funds allow. Adjacent proper-
ties should, in many cases, be bought, so as to make
the site of the hospitals self-contained in one block,
with no other building between them and the streets.
In this way better working, greater ease, and more
fresh air would be secured.



N'obkssc oblige.

London and its Parliamentary Divisions — The Hos[)ital Sunday
and Saturday Council — Proposed Hospital Guilds — London
Division Lodges — Congregation Lodges — Appointment of
Officers — Prestige of Metropolitan jSIembers — The Pellamists
of America — The County Council — The Housing of the Poor

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14

Online LibraryA. Egmont (Alfred Egmont) HakeSuffering London; or, The hygiene, moral, social, and political relations of our voluntary hospitals to society → online text (page 10 of 14)