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

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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 49 of 98)
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misery. One afternoon, as usual, I came
to see her. She exclaimed the moment she
perceived me, I am cheerful to-day. May
I not recover ; I sufier no pain. But her
looks belied her words ; her features were
frightfully haggard and worn ; her eyes, dry
and bloodshot, had almost disappeared in
their sockets, and her general appearance



denoted the approach of him she had heen
so constantly invoking. Unwrapping some
bandages, 1 proceeded to examine her,
when an extraordinary change came over
her, and I knew that her dissolution was
not far distant. Her mind wandered, and
she spoke wildly and excitedly in her own
language. After a while she exclaimed,
"J'ignore ou je suia. C en est fait." An
expression of intense suffering' contracted
her emaciated features. " Je n'en puis plus,"
she cried, and adding, after a slight pause, in
a plaintive voice, " Je me meur.s," her soul
glided impalpably away, and she was a
corpse. As a pendant to these remarks, I
extract an expressive passage from an old
book. "There are also women (hke birds
of passage) of a migratory nature, who re-
move after a certain time from St. James's
and Marylebone end of the town to Coveut
Garden, then to the Strand, and from thence
to St. Giles and Wapping ; from which latter
place they frequently migrate much further,
even to New South "Wales. Some few re-
turn in seven years, some in fourteen, and
some not at all. During their stay here,
hke birds they make their nests upon
feathers, some higher, some lower than
others. At first they generally build them
on the fiAt-floor, afterwards on the second,
and then up in the cock-loft and garrets,
from whence tbey generally take to the
open air, and become ambulatory and
noctivagous, and as their price grows less,
their wandering increases, when many
perish from the inclemency of the weather,
and others take their flight abroad."*

Sedusives, or those that live in Private Houses
and Apartments.

Two classes of prostitutes come under
this denomination — first, kept mistresses,
'and secondly, prima donnas or those who
I'live in a superior style. The first of these
j'is perhaps the most important division of
,1 the entire profession, when considered with
, regard to its effects upon the higher classes
jof society. Lais, when under the protec-
tion of a prince of the blood ; Aspasia, whose
friend is one of the most influential noble-
men in the kingdom ; Phryue, the chfire
amie of a well-known officer in the guards,
or a man whose wealth is proverbial on the
Stock Exchange and the city, — have all
great influence upon the tone of morality
extant amongst the set in which their dis-
tinguished protectors move, and indeed the
reflex of their dazzling profligacy falls upon

Life and Adventures of Col. George Hanger,


and bewilders those who are in a lower
condition of hfe, acting as an incentive to
similar deeds of hcentiousness though on a
more hmited scale. Hardly a parish in
London is free from this impurity. Where-
ever the neighbourhood possesses peculiar
charms, wherever the air is purer than
ordinary, or the locality fashionably dis-
tinguished, these tubercles on the social sys-
tem penetrate and abound. Again quoting
from Dr. Ryan, although we cannot authen-
ticate his statements — " It is computed,
that 8,000,000?. are expended annually on
this vice in London alone. This is easily
proved: some girls obtain from twenty
to thirty pounds a week, others more,
whilst most of those who frequent thea-
tres, casinos, gin palaces, music halls, &c.,
receive from ten to twelve pounds. Those
of a still lower grade obtain about four or
five pounds, some less than one pound,
and many not ten shillings. If we take
the average earnings of each pnostitute at
lOOZ. per annum, which is under the
amount, it gives the yearly income of
eight millions.

" Suppose the average expense of 80,000
amounts to 20Z. each, 1,600,0002. is the re-
sult. This sum deducted from the earn-
ings leaves 6,400/)00Z. as the income of the
keepers of prostitutes, or supposing 5000
to be the number, above lOOOZ. per annum
each — an enormous income for men in
such a situation to derive when compared
with the resources of many respectable and
professional men."

Literally every woman who yields to her 1
passions and loses her virtue is a prosti- )
tute, but many draw a distinction between
those who live by promiscuous intercourse, j
and those who confine themselves to one!
man. That this is the case is evident from
the returns before us. The metropolitan
police do not concern themselves with the t
higher classes of prostitutes ; indeed, it
would be impossible, and impertinent as
well, were they to make the attempt. Sir
Richard Mayne kindly informed us that the
latest computation of the number of public
prostitutes was made on the 5th of April,
1858, and that the returns then showed a
total of 7261.

It is frequently a matter of surprise )
amongst the friends of a gentleman of posi-
tion and connection that he exhibits an in-
vincible distaste to marriage. If they were
acquainted with his private affairs their
astonishment would speedily vanish, for
they would find him already to all intents
and purposes united to one who possesses
charms, talents, and accomplishments, and

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who will in all probability exercise the
same influence over him as long as the
former continue to exist. The prevalence
of this, custom, and the extent of its rami-
iications is hardly dreamed of, although its
effects are felt, and severely. The torch of
Hymen burns less brightly than of yore,
and even were the blacksmith of Gretna
still exercising his vocation, be would find
his business diminishing with startling
rapidity year by year.

It is a great mistake to suppose that
kept mistresses are without friends and
without society; on the contrary, their ac-
quaintance, if not select, is numerous, and it
is their custom to order their broughams
or their pony carriages, and at the fashion-
; able hour pay visits and leave cards on one
! another.

They possess no great sense of honour,
although they are generally more or less reh-
igious. If they take a fancy to a man they
do not hesitate to admit him to their favour.
vMost kept women have several lovers who
are iu the habit of caUicg upon them at
difierent times, and as they are extremely
careful in conducting these amours they
perpetrate infidelity with impunity, and in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred escape
detection. When they are unmasked, the
process, unless the man is very much in-
fatuated, is of course summary in the ex-
treme. They are dismissed probably with
a handsome doudeur and sent once more
adrift. They do not remain long, however,
in the majority of cases, without finding
another protector.

A woman who called herself Lady ■

met her admirer at a house in Bolton Eow
that she was iu the habit of frequenting.

At first sight Lord became enamoured,

and proposed sur le cliamp, after a little pre-
liminary conversation, that she shoiild hve
with him. The proposal with equal rapi-
dity and eagerness was accepted, and with-
out further dehberation his lordship took
a house for her in one of the terraces over-
looking the Regent's Park, allowed her four
thousand a year, and came as frequently as
he could, to pass his time in her society.
She immediately set up a carriage and a
.stud, took a box at the opera on the pit
tier, and lived, as she very well could, in ex-
cellent style. The munificence of her
friend did not decrease by the lapse of
time. She frequently received presents of
jewelry from him, and his marks of atten-
tion were constant as they were various.
The continual contemplation of her charms
instead of producing satiety added fuel to
the fire, and he was never happy when out

of her sight. This continued until one day
he met a young man in her loge at the
opera, whom she introduced as her cousin.
This incident aroused his suspicions, and
he determined to watch her more closely.
She was surrounded by spies, and in rea-
lity did not possess one confidential atten-
dant, for they were all bribed to betray
her. For a time, more by accident than
precaution or care on her part, she suc-
ceeded in eluding their vigilance, but at
last the catastrophe happened ; she was
surprised with her paramour in a position
that placed doubt out of the question, and
the next day his lordship, with a feq
sarcastic remarks, gave her her conge and
five hundred pounds.

These women are rarely possessed o ;
education, although they undeniably havi
ability. If they appear accomphshed you!
may rely that it is entirely superficial. Their
disposition is' volatile and thoughtless, '
which quahties are of course at variance !
with the existence of respectabihty. Their i
ranks too are recruited from a class where
education is not much iu vogue. The
fallacies about clergymen's daughters and
girls from the middle classes forming the '
majority of such women are long ago ex-
ploded ; there may be some amongst them,
but they are few and far between. They
are not, as a rule, disgusted with their way
of living ; most of them consider it a means
to an end, and in no measure degrading or ~
polluting. One and all look forward to
marriage and a certain state in society as
their ultimate lot. This is their bourne,
and they dp all in their power to travel
towards it.

"I am not tired of what I am doin;;,'" a
woman once answered me, " I rather like it.
I have aU I want, and my friend loves me
to excess. I am the daughter of a trades-
man at Yarmouth. I learned to play the
piano a little, and I have naturally a good
voice. Yes, I find these accomplishments
of great use to me ; they are, perhaps, as
you say, the only ones that could be of use
to a girl like myself. I am three and
twenty. I was seduced four years ago. I
tell you candidly I was as much to bliime
as my seducer ; I wished to escape from
the drudgery of my father's shop. I have
told you they partially educated me ; I
could cypher a little as well, and I knew
something about the globes ; so I thought
I was quahfied for something better than
minding the shop occasionally, or sewiiig,
or helping my mother in the kitchen and
other domestic mattei-s. I was very fond
of dress, and I could not at home gratify

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nay love of display. My parents were
stupid, easy-going 61d people, and ex-
tremely uninteresting to me. All these
causes combined induced me to encourage
tlie addresses of a young gentleman of pro-
perty in the neighbouriiood, and without
much demur I yielded to his desires. We
then went to London, and I have since
that time lived with four different men.
We got tired of one another in six months,
and I was as eager to leave him as ho was
to get rid of me, so we mutually accommo-
dated one another by separating. Well,
my father and mother don't exactly know
where I am or what I am doing, although
if they had any penetration they might
very well guess. Oh, yes ! they know I
am alive, for I keep them pleasantly aware
of my existence by occasionally sending
them money.. What do I think will be-
come of me? What an absurd question.
I could marry to-morrow if I liked."
] This girl was a fair example of her class.
jThey live entirely for the moment, and
j; care little about the morrow until they are
F actually pressed in any way, and then they
I are fertile in expedients.

We now come to the second class, or
those we have denominated prima donnas.
(These are not kept like the first that we
/ have just been treating of, although several
f men who know and admire them are in
' the habit of visiting them periodically.
', From these they derive a considerable re-
j venue, but they by no means rely entirely
I upon it for support. They are continually
I increasing the number of their friends,
which indeed is imperatively necessary, as
absence and various causes thin their ranks
considerably. They are to be seen in the
'parks, in boxes at the theatres, at concerts,
and in almost every accessible place where
fashionable people congregate ; in fact in all
places where admittance is not secured by
vouchers, and in some oases, those appa-
rently insuperable barriers fall before their
tact and address. At night their favourite
rendezvous is in the neighbourhood of the
, Haymarket, where the hospitality of Mrs.
Kate Hamilton is extended to them after
the fatigues of dancing at the Portland
Kooms, or the excesses of a private party.
Kate's may be visited not only to dissipate
ennui, but with a view to replenishing an
exhausted exchequer ; for as Kate is care-
ful as to who she admits into her rooms — ■
men who are able to spend, and come with
the avowed intention of spending, five or
six pounds, or perhaps more if necessary —
these supijer-rdoms are frequented by a
better set of men and women than perhaps

any other in London. Although these are
seen at Kate's they would shrink from ap-
pearing at any of the caC6s in the Hay-
market, or at the supper-rooms with which
the adjacent streets abound, nor would
they go to any other casino than Mott's.
They are to be seen between three and five
o'clock in the Burlington Arcade, which is
a well known resort of cyprians of the
better sort. They are weU acquainted
with its Paphian intricacies, and will, if
their signals are responded to, ghde into a
friendly bonnet shop, the stairs of which '
leading to the coenacula or upper chambers
are not irinocent of their well formed
" bien chauss<3e " feet. The park is also, as
we have said, a favourite promenade, where
assignations may be made or acquaintances
formed. Equestrian exercise is much liked i
by those who are able to afford it, and is
often as successful as pedestrian, fre-
quently more so. It is di£&cultto say what
position in hfe the jiarents of these Women i
were in, but generally their standing in
society has been inferior. Principles of
lax morality were early inculcated, and the ,
seed that has been sown has not been slow
to bear its proper fruit.

It is true that a large number of mil-
liners, dress-makers, farriers, hat-binders,
silk-binders, tambour-makers, shoe-binders,
slop-women, or those who work for cheap
tailors, those in pastry-cooks, fancy and
cigar shops, bazaars, servants to a great ex-
tent, frequenters of fairs, theatres, and danc-
ing-rooms, are more or less prostitutes
and patronesses of the numerous brothels
London can boast of possessing ; but these
women do not swell the ranks of the class
we have at present under consideration.
More probably they are the daughters of
tradesmen and of artizans, who gain a super- !
ficial refinement from being apprenticed,
and sent to shops in fashionable localities,
and who becoming tired of the drudgery
sigh for the gaiety of the dancing-saloons,
freedom from restraint, and amusements
that are not in their present capacity within
their reach.

Loose women generally throw a veil over
their early life, and you seldom, if ever, •■
meet with a woman who is not either a se- ■
duced governess or a clergyman's daughter ; 1
not that there is a word of truth in such
an allegation — but it is their pecuHarwhim
to say so.

To show the extent of education among
women who have been arrested by the
pohoe during a stated period, we print the
annexed table, dividing the virtuous cri-
minals from the prostitutes.

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Dbqkee of Tnsteuotion amongst Prostitutes compared with the Degree of Instruction
among Women not Prostitutes, arrested for breaking various laws (London). The City
not included.

Periods — taking 10,000 in each period.
Total of women an-ested of both classes 405'362.

Degree of Instruction amongst virtuous women brought
up in the Police Courts for various offences during the
years elapsing from 1837 to 18j4 inclusive.

1st period 6 years 1837-42

2nd „ 6 „ 1843-48

3rd , 6 „ 1849-54

1st period 9 years 1837-45

2nd ,, 9 „ 1846-54

Total period 18 „ 1837-54



















-2 a




§ 327
•g 279
S ■ 209



-i 22
-£ 20
? 17

I 20

> 20

Periods — taking 10,000 in each period.
Total of women arrested of both classes 405"362.

Degree of Instruction among Prostitutes similarly

1st period 6 years 1837-42

2nd 6 „ 1843-48

3rd , 6 „ 1849-54

1st period 9 years 1837-45

2nd , 9 „ 1849-54

Total period 18 „ 1837-54




.■g 4,524
^ 3,672
g 2,305




3 *










% 12

This table shows us that public women
are a little less illiterate than those who
together with them form the most infamous
part of the population. But we must re-
member that this is hardly a fair criterion of
the education of all the prostitutes, or of
prostitutes as a class, becau.?e we have
only summed up those who were arrested
for some crime or offence, so we may justly
suppose them to have been the worst of
their class in every respect.

We see however that of the total number
of women arrested during a period of 18
years, there were in every 10,000 —

3,498 not knowing how to read or

6,129 able to read only, or read and
write badly.
351 able to read and write well.
22 educated in a superior manner.


We next come to the consideration of ?
convives, or those who live in the same i
house with a number of others, and we will
commence with those who are independent '
of the mistress of the house. These wo-/
men locate themselves in the immediate!,
vicinity of the Haymarket, which at nightt^
is their principal scene of action, when the
hospitable doors of the theatres and casinos
are closed. They are charged enormously
for the rooms they occupy, and their land-
lords defend themselves for their extor-
tionate demands, by alleging that, as
honesty is not a leading feature in the
characters of their lodgers, they are com-
pelled to protect their own interest by
exacting an exorbitant rent. A drawing-
room floor in Queen Street, Windmill Street,
which is a favourite part on account of its
proximity to the Argyll Eooms, is worth
three, and sometimes four pounds a- week,
and the other Stages in proportion. They I
never stay long in one house, although!

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I some will remain for ten or twelve months
i ' in a particular lodging. It is their principle
i to get as deeply into debt as they are able,
; and then to pack up their things, have
jthem conveyed elsewhere by stealth, and
I defraud the landlord of his money. The
houses in some of the small streets in the
neighbourhood of Langham Place are let to
the people who underlet them for three
hundred a-year, and in some cases at a
higher rental. This class of prostitutes do
not live together on account of a gregarious
instinct, but simply from necessity, as
their trade would necessarily exclude them
from respectable lodging-houses. They
soon form an acquaintance with the girls
who inhabit the same house, and address
one another as " my dear," an unmeaning,
but very general epithet, an hour or two
after their first meeting. They sometimes
prefer the suburbs to reside in, especially
while Cremorue is open ; but some live at
Brompton and Pimlico all the year round.
One of their most remarkable characteristics
is their generosity, which perhaps is un-
paralleled by the behaviour of any others,
whether high or low in the social scale.
They will not hesitate to lend one another
'" money if they have it, whether they can
spare it or not, although it is seldom that
they can, from their innate recklessness
and acquired improvidence. It is very com-
mon, too, for them to lend their bonnets
and their dresses to their friends. If a
woman of this description is voluble and
garrulous, she is much sought after by the
men who keep the caf6s in the Haymarket,
to sit decked out in gorgeous attire behind
the counters, so that by her interesting
appearance and the esprit she displays, the
habitues of those places, but more usually
those who pay only a casual visit, may be
/entrapped into purchasing some of the
; wares and fancy articles that are retailed
•' at ten times their actual value. In order
to effect this they wiU exert all their talents,
and an inexperienced observer would ima-
gine that they indeed entertain some feel-
ing of affection or admiration for their
victim, by the cleverness with which they
simulate its existence. The man whose
vanity leads him to believe that he is
selected by the beautiful creature who con-
descends to address him, on account of his
personal appearance, would be rather dis-
gusted if he were to perceive the same
blandishments lavished upon the next
comer, and would regret the ten shillings
he paid with pleasure for a glove-box, the
positive market value of which is hardly
one-fifth of the money he gave for it,

thing that one may strictly speaking de-
nominate womanly. Modesty is utterly
annihilated, and shame ceases to exist in
their composition. They all more or less /
are given to habits of drinking. '

" When I am sad I drink," a woman
once said to us. " I'm very often sad,
although I appear to be what you call
reckless. Well ! we don't fret that we
might have been ladies, because we never
had a chance of that, but we have forfeited
a position nevertheless, and when we think
that we have fallen, never to regain that
which we have descended from, and in some
cases sacrificed everything for a man who
has ceased to love and deserted us, we get
mad. The intensity of this feehng does
wear off a little after the first ; but there's
nothing Hke gin to deaden the feelings. '
What are my habits % Why, if I have no
letters or visits from any of my friends, I
get up about four o'clock, dress (" en dis-
habille ") and dine ; after that I may walk
about the streets for an hour or two, and
pick up a,ny one I am fortunate enough to
meet with, that is if I want money ; after-
wards I go to the Holborn, dance a little,
and if any one likes me I take him home
with me, if not I go to the Haymarket, and
wander from one caf6 to another, from
Sally's to the Carlton, from Barn's to Sam's,
and if I find no one there I go, if I feel in-
clined, to the divans. I like the Grand
Turkish best, but you don't as a rule find
good men in any of the divans. Strange'
things happen to us sometimes : we may
now and then die of consumption ; but the
other day a lady friend of mine met a
gentleman at Sam's, and yesterday morning
they were married at St. George's, Hanover
Square. The gentleman has lots of money,
I believe, and he started off with her at
once for the Continent. It is very true
this is an unusual case ; but we often do
marry, and well too ; why shouldn't we, we '
are pretty, we dress well, we can talk and \
insinuate ourselves into the hearts of men i
by appealing to their passions and their ■

This girl was shrewd and clever, perhaps
more so than those of her rank in the pro-
fession usually are ; but her testimony is '
sufficient at once to dissipate the foolisli|
idea that ought to have been exploded long '
ago, but which still lingers in the minds o '
both men and women, that the harlot's
progress is short and rapid, and that there
is no possible advance, moral or physical ; ;
and that once abandoned she must always j
be profligate.

Another woman told us, she had been

There is a great ihaxiAoJi^gfij^d^'^fiJIIfcBSf^ff^ fo"^ tw'o years; she became so



frcm necessity ; she did not on the whole
dislike her way of living ; she didn't think
about the sin of it ; a poor girl must live ;
she wouldn't be a servant for anything;
this was much, better. She was a lady's
maid once, but lost her place for staying
out one night with the man who seduced
her ; he afterwards deserted her, and then

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 49 of 98)