Henry Mayhew.

London labour and the London poor; a cyclopaedia of the condition and earnings of those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work online

. (page 24 of 98)
Online LibraryHenry MayhewLondon labour and the London poor; a cyclopaedia of the condition and earnings of those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work → online text (page 24 of 98)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Waterton's Wanderings in South America ;
Southey's History of Brazil ; Young's Residence
on the Mosquito Shore; Gardiner's Travels in
Jirazil; Hawkshaw's Reminiscences; Stephenson's
Historical and Descriptive Narrative; Humboldt's
Personal Narrative ; Prince Adalbert's Travels ;
Jlacgregor's Progress of America.

Digitized by Microsoft®

forms. This, however, we learn only from
the general terms in which traveller after
traveller has described those regions, espe-
pecially the cities. Absolute information
we have none, except with respect to the
station occupied by women, and their moral
demeanour in society. Statistics are en-
tirely wanting. All writers seem by mu-
tual consent to have avoided our subject,
and left us to conjecture the extent and
character of prostitution in Mexico, Rio
Janeiro, Lima, and the various other cities
of South America.

In Mexico, the women of the upper or
idle classes are described as elegant, po-
lished, and fascinating, perfectly easy in
society, and attached above all things to
the gaieties of life. Their morals appear
to be similar to those of the female sex in
the older cities of Spain — that is, there
are many profligates among them ; but a
large number are well-conducted, virtuous
women, not very timid in society, but not
immodest. Among the lower classes the
average of Spain may also be adopted — if
we may ground an opinion on the vague
accounts we receive from travellers.

In Lima, society is far more profligate.
The women are superior to the men in
little more than affection for their children ;
in other respects their general conduct is
loose. They are devoured with that pas-
sion for intrigue — not amounting in many
cases to actual adultery — which has been
a famous trait in the manners of that
country in Europe whence South America
has derived all its impress of civilization.
One remark which is true of Lima, applies
also to the other cities. The veil, which
in some countries is worn as the guard
of virtue, is here the screen of vice. It is
inviolable. The woman so draped may
pass her own husband unrecognised, so
that she can play truant as she pleases.
Two or three females of good station often
pay visits at the houses of strange men,
without being known. Men sometimes
take up with their own wives in the streets,
or at some place of public entertainment,
or on the alameda, or city promenade,
without being aware who their compa-
nions are.

The state of manners indicated by fre-_
quent allusions to these facts is far from
pure. We have also a few other glimpses
into the society of Mexico and Lima. In
the former there were, in 1842, 491 persons
— 312 men, and 179 women — committed to
prison for " prostitution, adultery, bigamy,
sodomy, and incest ;" besides 65 men, and
21 women, for "rape and incontinence." So
far for the capital of Mexico.


In Lima, the chief city of Peru, the
number of illegitimate children annually
born is about 860 ; and of new-born infants
exposed and found dead, 460. Two-thirds
of the former, and four-h'fths of the latter,
belong to the coloured population — which
ia, indeed, in a proportionate majority. A
dea,d child is picked up without any sen-
sation being excited among the inhabitants
of the locality in which it is found. Fre-
quently it is cast away unburied. Ischudi
has seen these little carcasses dragged about
by vultures, in the public streets.

The white Creoles are noted for sen-
suality, as well as a brutal want of senti-
ment towards their offspring. The dances
in which they indulge are some of them
of indescribable obscenity, and the whole
population is addicted to demoralizing
pleasures. In Lima, however, though deli-
cate modest women are rare, actual adul-
t;ery is not often committed by that sex.
The men seem to obey the exhortation of
Cato, who encouraged prostitutes, while
he abhorred unfaithful wives — ■" Courage,
my friends ; go and see the girls, but do
not corrupt the married womeu." Concu-
binage is more common, or rather, perhaps,
more public than in Europe, and the father
is usually very fond and careful of his
natural children. Where marriage is con-
tracted, it is, all over the Continent, ful-
filled at an early age. In Brazil the
neglect of this institution and the pro-
fligate intercourse of the sexes have di-
minished the population to an immense
extent. In Rio Janeiro, however, we are
told that the manners of the people have
much improved since they have become
more republican in their manners and
ideas. The women there are shy and re-
tired, but ignorance and awkwardness
more than modesty may be assigned as the
cause. While slavery was a public insti-
tution, which the government desired to
abolish, the only restriction in the inter-
course of the sexes was among the slaves.
Procreation among them was as far as pos-
sible prevented ; the women and the men
in Janeiro were locked up at night in
separate apartments, and carefully watched
during the day.

In Chili, also, a reform of manners has
commenced since the reduction of the mili-
tary power, which is proverbially demorali-
sing. The higher classes of females have
a character for modesty and virtue, but
the men generally indulge themselves in
vicious pleasures to a very considerable
extent. It is, perhaps, in Brazil that society
is most corrupt, for there the common
decencies of life are, among the inferior

orders, grossly disregarded. Matheson, the
traveller, slept in the same room with
a young married couple ; girls are sold
as concubines, and children are hired out
by their mothers to prostitution. The youth
of that sex bathe, while very young, entirely
naked, and afterwards with scarcely any
clothing, before the public eye, so that alto-
gether the manners of the people are want-
ing in decency.

Travellers agree in assigning as one chief
cause of this general demoralization, the
profligate conduct of the Roman Catholic
clergy ; their lives are, in many cases — ■
and of course there are many exceptions
also ■ — exceedingly scandalous. Numbers
of them, bound by their vowS to celibacy,
live with concubines, and are not even
faithful or constant to them. Where the
priests have such influence, and indulge in
such practices, we may expect to find a low
state of morals. That this is the case in
the cities of the South America most tra-
vellers agree in declaring; but imfortu-
nately their notices are only vague gene-
ralities, and we have no positive information
as to the extent and character of prostitu-
tion in those cities *.



A VEEV slight notice of the West Indies
will suifice, until we arrive at that division
of our inquiry which includes the half-
civilized communities, and the colonial
societies related to Great Britain. Of the
barbarous race scarcely a vestige remains,
arid of the negro population a general
view is all that is required, except with
reference to the prostitution carried on
under the encouragement of the European
settlers, which we shall hereafter describe.
When Columbus first visited the beautiful
islands of the West Indian group, he found
two classes of people inhabiting them —
the savage and cannibal Caribs, who de-
lighted in war, and preyed upon the weaker
and more effeminate tribes ; and the com-
paratively innocent and simple communi-
ties, whose unwarlike habits rendered them
victims to their more powerful neighbours.
The characteristics of these distinct popu-
lations were strongly illustrated in their

* Macgregor's Progress of America ; Kidder's
Eesidence in Brazil ; Walpole's Four Years in the
Pacific; Ruschenberger's Three Years in the
Pacific ; Eovings in the Pacific, by a Merchant ;
Mayer's Mexico as it is ; Matheson's Travels in
Brazil ; Wilkes's Exploring Expedition ; Cald-
cleugh's Travels in South America ; Kobertson's
Letters on South America.

Digitized by Microsoft®



treatment of women. The mild and
peaceful islanders admitted the female
sex to a participation in the delights
and enjoyments of life, allowed their
women to mingle with them in the
dance, to inherit power, to wear what
ornaments they fancied; and shared, in-
deed, with them all the opportunities of
happiness which belonged to their savage
condition. Among the cannibal Caribs, on
the other hand, a different fashion pre-
vailed. The handsomest and youngest of
female captives taken in war were pre-
served as slaves and companions, while
their other prisoners were devoured. The
lot of these exiles, however, was little
superior to that of the Carib women them-
selves. The nation was low and barbarous,
and accordingly treated its women with
harshness and indignity. Proud of their
superior power and courage, the men looked
down on the females as on an inferior sex,
whose degradation was natural and just.
Although a wife was awarded as the prize
of valour, she was regarded as property
acquired. She was her husband's slave.
All the drudgery of his habitation fell on
her. She bore his implements for war or
for the chase. She carried home the game
he had killed; and never sat down to a
meal with him, or even dared to eat in his
presence. She approached him with abject
humility, and if she ever complained of
ill usage, it was at the peril of her life.
Nevertheless, the child born of this slave
was loved and tended with wonderful care.
This description, however, must apply to
the weaker race of women, not to those
Amazons described by Columbus, who, well-
trained to war, rivalled in power of muscle
and vigour of limb the bnll-stranglers of

These, however — the original inhabitants
of the West-Indian Islands — ^have disap-
peared, and been succeeded by another
race or compound of races, among which
the Negroes only claim our notice at pre-
sent. Among the blacks of Antigua, as an
example of the rest, immorality is a cha-
racteristic which may be traced to the in-
stitution of slavery. Infanticide is fre-
quently practised by them, especially since
the Emancipation Act was passed. The
reason of this circumstance, which at first
seems strange, is very clear. Under the
institution of slavery, negroes were not
allowed to marry, or, at least, their mar-
riages were never held as binding before the
law. They therefore cohabited, and their
unions lasted usually only so long as the
caprice of affection, or the heat of a criminal
appetite existed. Women, therefore, con-

tinually had five, six, seven, eight, or nine
children by various fathers, and no disgrace
was attached to the fact. A new system
was introduced by the abolition of the
slave system. The sentiments of shame
and modesty have been cultivated in their
minds ; and the idea of female virtue has
at least been awakened, so that they often
seek to escape the consequences of an illicit
amour by destroying the offspring.

One of the demoralizing effects of slavery
was the encouragement of a species of
concubinage. Howards, indeed, were held
out by some masters to such of the negroes
as lived faithfully with a single partner ;
but the prevalence of vice was all but
universal. A permanent engagement be-
tween a man and a woman was seldom
formed. Two females frequently lived
with one man, and of these one was con-
sidered his wife and the other his mis-

When the negroes were emancipated,
in 1834, many of them were anxious to
be legally married. Numbers had been
already united in wedlock by the mis-
sionary preachers ; yet, though complete in
its character, and regarded as a sacred tie,
this act was not held as binding by the
law, and many of the emancipated negroes,
putting away the partners of their com-
pulsory servitude, took new companions to
their homes.

The offence of bigamy was not uncom-
mon among them, and still continues to
be so. It is prohibited under a severe
enactment, but many devices are adopted
to elude the law. Concubinage is less
openly practised than formerly, but the
tie of marriage is by no means generally
respected. Chastity is indifferently re-
garded ; and where the men do not prize
it in women, women will be at little
pains to preserve it for the men. Women
are sometimes married who have been
living in concubinage with several per-
sons, and become the mothers of numerous

The condition of the free female negroes
is by no means so degraded as in the ori-
ginal country of the blacks. Women enjoy
an independent existence, and live as they
please, though many of them labour. Their
character is not distinguished by morality.
Decency was entirely obliterated from their
ideas, and they are only beginning to re-
cover it. Women who were daily stripped
and exposed to receive a whipping from
the hands of men, could not be expected
long to retain the sense of feminine shame ;
and this process, acting upon one generation
after another, has left its impress on the

Digitized by Microsoft®



character of the negro population. Huraau
nature, also, was outraged by the gross ty-
ranny of the planters. The intercourse of
the sexes was regulated, not with a view
to the morals of the negroes, but to the
propagation of the species. They were
coiipled like beasts, to increase the number
of slaves on the estate. In consequence of
this the degradation of the negro popula-
tion was so complete that, after it was
emancipated, a woman considered it more
honourable to become the mistress of a
white, than the wife of a black man. In
all the islands, indeed, this yile system was
carried on. In St. Lucia, however, the
intercourse was almost unrestrained, and
consequently became in a degree promis-
cuous ; for moral law there was none.
The St. Lucia negro, in fact, is, even at
this day, averse to matrimony, and in-
clined to support concubines, to none of
whom is he faithful, even for an interval
of time. Yet he is thoroughly attached to
his children. It has been observed, that
if any improvement in the morality of the
iiland has taken place, it is' more in the
tone than in the temper, in the appearance
than in the reality. Infanticide is never
practised, or only as a rare and secret
crime. It is prevented, however, not by
moral restraint, but by the motherly feel-
ings of the women— -by the absence of
reproach on bastardy, and the facility for
rearing children.

In Santa Cruz the same low condition
of manners is observable in the negro po-
pulation ; though in Jamaica the negroes
are generally married, and are, on the
whole, faithful to the engagement. This,
however, is the result of the Emancipation
Act. Previously to that mighty social re-
form, marriage, or a connubial contract of
any kind, was rare ; and the intercourse of
the sexes was loose, profligate, and lewd.
The men lived either with several concu-
bines at once, or replaced one by another,
as their inclination prompted. When the
missionaries endeavoured to change this
state of things, any couples which sub-
mitted to their teaching were sure to be
ridiculed and jeered by the servile and
demoralized populace. When slavery was
abolished, so far had the corruption of
manners proceeded, that numbers of the
women, in the delirium of their new
liberty, abandoned themselves to their
vicious appetites, and became common

The example of Europeans has not by
any means displayed to the negroes any
instruction in morality; on the contrary,
it has, to a great extent, encouraged their

vices. This we shall show in a future
division of the subject. We therefore leave
at present the other islands which form the
plantation colonies of England and Spain :
we shall hereafter visit the native com-
munity which has recently made itself
ridiculous by enacting the forms of an
empire — we allude to Hayti, or St. Do-
mingo. The brief notice we have given
is intended to apply to the rude black po-
pulation, but not in respect of its relation
to the white communities *.

Of Peostituiion in Java.

Is the island of Java, which is perhaps the
most fertile and beautiful country in the
world, a curious system of manners now
prevails. Hindoos have been succeeded by
Mohammedans, and these by Dutch : eacL
of the conquering races has impressed some
characteristic trait on the population, and,
unfortunately, the stamp of vice is more
easily set than any other. The character
and condition of the female sex in Java
indicate the whole state of manners there.
The men are somewhat cold towards the
women, a fact which some learned Theban
has ascribed to their feeding more on vege-
table than on animal substances, but they
are neither cruel nor negligent towards
them. The institution of marriage is univer-
sally known, if not universally practised or
generally respected. The lot of women may
be described as peculiarly fortunate; in
general they are not iU-used at all, and
when, as among some of the more opulent,
they are secluded, they are rather with-
drawn from the indiscriminate gaze of the
people, than shut up in lonely secrecy, for
they are by no means v/atched with that
exaggerated jealousy which in some parts
of the East renders the husband a continual
spy on the actions of his wife. Though
the man pays a price for his bride, he does
not therefore disdain or abuse her.

The condition of the sex in Java is, in-
deed, an exception to the habitual custom
of Asiatics. The women eat with the men,
associate with them in all the offices and
pleasures of life, and live on terms of
mutual equality.

* Capadose's Sixteen Years in the West
Indies ; Antigua and the Antiguans ; Breen'a
Historical Account of St. Lucia; Gurney's Winter
in the West Indies ; Bidwell's West Indies as
they Are ; Stewart's State of Jamaica ; Lloyd's
Lelters from the West Indies; Bayley's Pour
Years' Residence ; Southey's History of the West
Indies ; Washington Irving's Life and Voyages of
Columbus ; Baird's Impressions of the West
Indies, &c.

Digitized by Microsoft®



Many queeas have, in diiFerent States,
occupied the throne. The sex is nowhere
in the island, as a rule, treated with coarse-
ness, violence, or neglect. They are indus-
trious, and hard-working, but they labour
more through desire of praise than through
fear of chastisement, and are admitted to
the performance of many honourable tasks.
Among the wealthier classes men some-
times act tyrannically in their households ;
but this must be taken as the characteristic
not of the race, but of individuals. Those
who seclude their wives do so only from
the common eye; English gentlemen have
often been introduced into the most private
chambers of the harem, while the wives
and daughters of the greatest chiefs have
appeared at the entertainments given by
the European residents in Batavia, Suma-
rang, and other cities, where they conduct
themselves usually with modesty and good

Polygamy and concubinage are tolerated,
that is, they are practised among the nobility
of Java, who do not allow public opinion
to interfere with the gratification of their
desires ; both of these customs «re looked
upon, however, rather as vicious luxuries,
than as established social institutions; yet,
however limited their extent, they never
fail to degrade the position and to vitiate
the character of the female sex. Some
circumstances in the feelings of the people
prevent either practice from being gene-
rally adopted, and the evil is thus, in its
moral influence, mitigated. The first wife
is always mistress of the household, and
the others are little more than her hand-
maids, who contribute to her husbands
gratification, but never share his rank or
his wealth. No man of station will give
his daughter as a second or third wife,
unless to a chief of far higher nobility
than himself; the inferior wives or con-
cubines are therefore of an inferior class.
Thus the artificial distinctions of classes
vitiate the public morals, for a woman con-
siders it dishonourable, not to prostitute
herself, but to prostitute herself to a poor
man of humble birth.

When we say that polygamy and con-
cubinage are not general in Java, the
reader must by no means infer a high state
of manners to exist there. On the con-
trary, Java is the most immoral country in
insular Asia. The woman who would be
ashamed to become the second wife of a
chief might not be ashamed to commit
adultery with him ; in general terms, both
sexes are extremely profligate and de-
praved, though the poets and historians
of the island boast of chasfjl^jgfe^ "'"

tingiiishing ornament of their women ; be-
cause a married female shrieks when a
strange man attempts to kiss her before
her attendants and a large mixed com-
pany, they hold up their sex in Java as
the standard of feminine purity and virtue.

In most islands of the Indian Archipelago,
divorces are not easy to be obtained; but
in Java the total separation of married
people may be procured with the utmost
freedom and facility. It is a privilege in
which the women indulge themselves to a
most wanton degree, and often so much as
to fall little short of prostitution. A wife
may turn away her husband by paying
him a certain sum of money; he is not,
indeed, absolutely bound to accept this, but
usually does so, in conformity with the
established opinion of society, that it is
disreputable to live with a woman on such,
terms. Women often change their partners
three or four times before they are thirty
years of age ; some have been seen boast-
ing of a twelfth husband. In Java the
means of subsistence abound, and are easy
to be procured as well by females as by men ;
one sex is, therefore, in a great measure,
independent of the other ; women find no
difficulty in living without husbands. They
are not, consequently, forced to remain in
a state of bondage through fear of being
drifted destitute upon the world ; but, un-
fortunately for the theories of our new
female reformers, the sex in Java, though
thus enfranchised, is proverbially dissolute
and libertine.

This, nevertheless, in reality is no argu-
ment for those who attempt to show that
the female sex, enjoying perfect liberty,
makes use of its freedom to indulge in
vicious pleasures. The women of Java
are dissolute, not because they are free of
control, but because the whole society of
the island is profligate. Among the
wealthier classes, especially, the utmdst
immorality prevails with respect to the
intercourse of the sexes. In the great
native towns the population is debauched
to the last degree. Intrigues among the
married women continually occur; and
females of high rank have intercourse with
paramours, to the knowledge, and almost
before the faces, of their husbands. The
men are tame and servile, often not daring
to revenge their honour or assert the con-
jugal right, and they are by no means
inspired with that fiery spirit of jealousy
which among many Asiatics renders a wife
sacred from all but her husband's eye.
Females of respectable rank are often the
subject of conversation. An inquiry after
^f-Mkif&Sbff'&^^y is held by no means in^




suiting, but rather as a conTentional act
of courtesy.

Flagrant instances of the loose character
of Javan manners have come to the notice
of travellers. Before the island was ab-
solutely conquered by the Dutch, one of
its great princes, being desirous of pur-
chasing the favour of the people, gave
many public feasts and entertainments, at
which the wives and daughters of the
chiefs attended. He seduced one of his
guests, a married woman, and was in the
habit of passing the night with her, while
her husband was engaged with his duty
on the public guard. One morning, by
chance, the chief returned home earlier
than usual, and detected them together.
He had, however, discovered the rank of
the paramour, and discreetly coughed, that
the prince might have "an opportunity to
escape. He then went into the chamber,
and severely flogged his guilty wife. She
fled, and complained to the king of the
treatment she had received. He being in
the critical position of making good his
claim to a crown, dared not exercise the
usual prerogative of a throne; but called
for the man he had injured, made him
many rich gifts, and offered him, as com-
pensation, the handsomest woman in his
own household. The husband accepted
the peace-oiferings, and was content to
take back his adulterous wife. The relation

Online LibraryHenry MayhewLondon labour and the London poor; a cyclopaedia of the condition and earnings of those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work → online text (page 24 of 98)