Home-Life of the Lancashire Factory Folk during the Cotton Famine
Edwin Waugh

Part 2 out of 4

an' me together has spent a shillin' i' drink all that time. Why, to
tell yo truth, we never had nought to stir on. My husband does bod
get varra little upo th' hand-loom i' th' best o' times--5s. a week
or so. He weighves a sort o' check--seventy-three yards for 3s." The
back door opened into a little damp yard, hemmed in by brick walls.
Over in the next yard we could see a man bustling about, and singing
in a loud voice, "Hard times come again no more." "Yon fellow
doesn't care much about th' hard times, I think," said I. "Eh, naw,"
replied she. "He'll live where mony a one would dee, will yon. He
has that little shop, next dur; an' he keeps sellin' a bit o' toffy,
an' then singin' a bit, an' then sellin' a bit moor toffy,--an' he's
as happy as a pig amung slutch."

Leaving the weaver's cottage, the rain came on, and we sat a few
minutes with a young shoemaker, who was busy at his bench, doing a
cobbling job. His wife was lying ill upstairs. He had been so short
of work for some time past that he had been compelled to apply for
relief. He complained that the cheap gutta percha shoes were hurting
his trade. He said a pair of men's gutta percha shoes could be
bought for 5s. 6d., whilst it would cost him 7s. 6d. for the
materials alone to make a pair of men's shoes of. When the rain was
over, we left his house, and as we went along I saw in a cottage
window a printed paper containing these words, "Bitter beer. This
beer is made of herbs and roots of the native country." I know that
there are many poor people yet in Lancashire who use decoctions of
herbs instead of tea--mint and balm are the favourite herbs for this
purpose; but I could not imagine what this herb beer could be, at a
halfpenny a bottle, unless it was made of nettles. At the cottage
door there was about four-pennyworth of mauled garden stuff upon an
old tray. There was nobody inside but a little ragged lass, who
could not tell us what the beer was made of. She had only one
drinking glass in the place, and that had a snip out of the rim. The
beer was exceedingly bitter. We drank as we could, and then went
into Pump Street, to the house of a "core-maker," a kind of labourer
for moulders. The core-maker's wife was in. They had four children.
The whole six had lived for thirteen weeks on 3s. 6d. a week. When
work first began to fall off, the husband told the visitors who came
to inquire into their condition, that he had a little money saved
up, and he could manage a while. The family lived upon their savings
as long as they lasted, and then were compelled to apply for relief,
or "clem." It was not quite noon when we left this house, and my
friend proposed that before we went farther we should call upon Mrs
G_, an interesting old woman, in Cunliffe Street. We turned back to
the place, and there we found

"In lowly shed, and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we schoolmistress name,
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame."

In a small room fronting the street, the mild old woman sat, with
her bed in one corner, and her simple vassals ranged upon the forms
around. Here, "with quaint arts," she swayed the giddy crowd of
little imprisoned elves, whilst they fretted away their irksome
schooltime, and unconsciously played their innocent prelude to the
serious drama of life. As we approach the open door--

"The noises intermix'd, which thence resound,
Do learning's little tenement betray;
Where sits the dame disguised in look profound,
And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around."

The venerable little woman had lived in this house fourteen years.
She was seventy-three years of age, and a native of Limerick. She
was educated at St Ann's School, in Dublin, and she had lived
fourteen years in the service of a lady in that city. The old dame
made an effort to raise her feeble form when we entered, and she
received us as courteously as the finest lady in the land could have
done. She told us that she charged only a penny a-week for her
teaching; but, said she, "some of them can't pay it." "There's a
poor child," continued she, "his father has been out of work eleven
months, and they are starving but for the relief. Still, I do get a
little, and I like to have the children about me. Oh, my case is not
the worst, I know. I have people lodging in the house who are not so
well off as me. I have three families living here. One is a family
of four; they have only 3s. a-week to live upon. Another is a family
of three; they have 6s. a-week from a club, but they pay me 2s. a-
week. for rent out of that. . . . . I am very much troubled with my
eyes; my sight is failing fast. If I drop a stitch when I'm
knitting, I can't see to take it up again. If I could buy a pair of
spectacles, they would help me a good dale; but I cannot afford till
times are better." I could not help thinking how many kind souls
there are in the world who would be glad to give the old woman a
pair of spectacles, if they knew her.


We talked with the old schoolmistress in Cunliffe Street till it was
"high twelve" at noon, and then the kind jailer of learning's little
prison-house let all her fretful captives go. The clamorous elves
rushed through the doorway into the street, like a stream too big
for its vent, rejoicing in their new-found freedom and the open face
of day. The buzz of the little teaching mill was hushed once more,
and the old dame laid her knitting down, and quietly wiped her weak
and weary eyes. The daughters of music were brought low with her,
but, in the last thin treble of second childhood, she trembled forth
mild complaints of her neighbours' troubles, but very little of her
own. We left her to enjoy her frugal meal and her noontide reprieve
in peace, and came back to the middle of the town. On our way I
noticed again some features of street life which are more common in
manufacturing towns just now than when times are good. Now and then
one meets with a man in the dress of a factory worker selling
newspapers, or religious tracts, or back numbers of the penny
periodicals, which do not cost much. It is easy to see, from their
shy and awkward manner, that they are new to the trade, and do not
like it. They are far less dexterous, and much more easily "said,"
than the brisk young salesmen who hawk newspapers in the streets of
Manchester. I know that many of these are unemployed operatives
trying to make an honest penny in this manner till better days
return. Now and then, too, a grown-up girl trails along the street,
"with wandering steps and slow," ragged, and soiled, and starved,
and looking as if she had travelled far in the rainy weather,
houseless and forlorn. I know that such sights may be seen at any
time, but not near so often as just now; and I cannot help thinking
that many of these are poor sheep which have strayed away from the
broken folds of labour. Sometimes it is an older woman that goes by,
with a child at the breast, and one or two holding by the skirt of
her tattered gown, and perhaps one or two more limping after, as she
crawls along the pavement, gazing languidly from side to side among
the heedless crowd, as if giving her last look round the world for
help, without knowing where to get it, and without heart to ask for
it. It is easy to give wholesale reasons why nobody needs to be in
such a condition as this; but it is not improbable that there are
some poor souls who, from no fault of their own, drop through the
great sieve of charity into utter destitution. "They are well kept
that God keeps." May the continual dew of Heaven's blessing gladden
the hearts of those who deal kindly with them!

After dinner I fell into company with some gentlemen who were
talking about the coming guild--that ancient local festival, which
is so clear to the people of Preston, that they are not likely to
allow it to go by wholly unhonoured, however severe the times may
be. Amongst them was a gray-haired friend of mine, who is a genuine
humorist. He told us many quaint anecdotes. One of them was of a man
who went to inquire the price of graves in a certain cemetery. The
sexton told him that they were 1 pound on this side, and 2 pounds on
the other side of the knoll. "How is it that they are 2 pounds on
the other side?" inquired the man. "Well, becose there's a better
view there," replied the sexton. There were three or four millowners
in the company, and, when the conversation turned upon the state of
trade, one of them said, "I admit that there is a great deal of
distress, but we are not so badly off yet as to drive the operatives
to work for reasonable wages. For instance, I had a labourer working
for me at 10s. a-week; he threw up my employ, and went to work upon
the moor for 1s. a-day. How do you account for that? And then,
again, I had another man employed as a watchman and roller coverer,
at 18s. a-week. I found that I couldn't afford to keep him on at
18s., so I offered him 15s. a-week; but he left it, and went to work
on the moor at 1s. a-day; and, just now, I want a man to take his
place, and cannot get one." Another said, "I am only giving low
wages to my workpeople, but they get more with me than they can make
on the moor, and yet I cannot keep them." I heard some other things
of the same kind, for which there might be special reasons; but
these gentlemen admitted the general prevalence of severe distress,
and the likelihood of its becoming much worse.

At two o'clock I sallied forth again, under convoy of another member
of the Relief Committee, into the neighbourhood of Messrs Horrocks,
Miller, and Co.'s works. Their mill is known as "Th' Yard Factory."
Hereabouts the people generally are not so much reduced as in some
parts of the town, because they have had more employment, until
lately, than has been common elsewhere. But our business lay with
those distressed families who were in receipt of relief, and, even
here, they were very easy to find. The first house we called at was
inhabited by a family of five--man and wife and three children. The
man was working on the moor at one shilling a-day. The wife was
unwell, but she was moving about the house. They had buried one girl
three weeks before; and one of the three remaining children lay ill
of the measles. They had suffered a great deal from sickness. The
wife said, "My husband is a peawer-loom weighver. He had to come
whoam ill fro' his wark; an' then they shopped his looms, (gave his
work to somebody else,) an' he couldn't get 'em back again. He'll
get 'em back as soon as he con, yo may depend; for we don't want to
bother folk for no mak o' relief no lunger than we can help." In
addition to the husband's pay upon the moor, they were receiving 2s.
a week from the Committee, making altogether 8s. a week for the
five, with 2s. 6d. to pay out of it for rent. She said, "We would
rayther ha' soup than coffee, becose there's moor heytin' in it." My
friend looked in at the door of a cottage in Barton Street. There
was a sickly-looking woman inside. "Well, missis," said my friend,
jocularly, "how are you? because, if you're ill, I've brought a
doctor here." "Eh," replied she, "aw could be ill in a minute, if aw
could afford, but these times winnot ston doctors' bills. Besides,
aw never were partial to doctors' physic; it's kitchen physic at aw
want. Han yo ony o' that mak' wi' yo?" She said," My husban' were
th' o'erlooker o' th'weighvers at "Owd Tom's.' They stopt to fettle
th' engine a while back, an' they'n never started sin'. But aw guess
they wi'n do some day." We had not many yards to go to the next
place, which was a poor cottage in Fletcher's Row, where a family of
eight persons resided. There was very little furniture in the place,
but I noticed a small shelf of books in a corner by the window. A
feeble woman, upwards of seventy years old, sat upon a stool tending
the cradle of a sleeping infant. This infant was the youngest of
five children, the oldest of the five was seven years of age. The
mother of the three-weeks-old infant had just gone out to the mill
to claim her work from the person who had been filling her place
during her confinement. The old woman said that the husband was "a
grinder in a card-room when they geet wed, an' he addled about 8s. a
week; but, after they geet wed, his wife larn't him to weighve upo'
th' peawer-looms." She said that she was no relation to them, but
she nursed, and looked after the house for them. "They connot afford
to pay mo nought," continued she, "but aw fare as they fare'n, an'
they dunnot want to part wi' me. Aw'm not good to mich, but aw can
manage what they wanten, yo see'n. Aw never trouble't noather teawn
nor country i' my life, an' aw hope aw never shall for the bit o'
time aw have to do on." She said that the Board of Guardians had
allowed the family 10s. a week for the two first weeks of the wife's
confinement, but now their income amounted to a little less than one
shilling a head per week.

Leaving this house, we turned round the corner into St Mary's Street
North. Here we found a clean-looking young working man standing
shivering by a cottage door, with his hands in his pockets. He was
dressed in well-mended fustian, and he had a cloth cap on his head.
His face had a healthy hunger-nipt look. "Hollo," said my friend, "I
thought you was working on the moor." "Ay," replied the young man,
"Aw have bin, but we'n bin rain't off this afternoon." "Is there
nobody in?" said my friend. "Naw, my wife's gone eawt; hoo'll not be
mony minutes. Hoo's here neaw." A clean little pale woman came up,
with a child in her arms, and we went in. They had not much
furniture in the small kitchen, which was the only place we saw, but
everything was sweet and orderly. Their income was, as usual in
relief cases, about one shilling a head per week. "You had some
lodgers," said my friend. "Ay," said she,"but they're gone." "How's
that?" "We had a few words. Their little lad was makin' a great
noise i' the passage theer, an' aw were very ill o' my yed, an' aw
towd him to go an' play him at tother side o' th' street,--so, they
took it amiss, an' went to lodge wi' some folk i' Ribbleton Lone."

We called at another house in this street. A family of six lived
there. The only furniture I saw in the place was two chairs, a
table, a large stool, a cheap clock, and a few pots. The man and his
wife were in. She was washing. The man was a stiff built, shock-
headed little fellow, with a squint in his eye that seemed to enrich
the good-humoured expression of his countenance. Sitting smiling by
the window, he looked as if he had lots of fun in him, if he only
had a fair chance of letting it off. He told us that he was a
"tackler" by trade. A tackler is one who fettles looms when they get
out of order. "Couldn't you get on at Horrocks's?" said my friend.
"Naw," replied he; "they'n not ha' men-weighvers theer." The wife
said," We're a deal better off than some. He has six days a week upo
th' moor, an' we'n 3s. a week fro th' Relief Committee. We'n 2s. 6d.
a week to pay eawt on it for rent; but then, we'n a lad that gets
4d. a day neaw an' then for puttin' bobbins on; an' every little
makes a mickle, yo known." "How is it that your clock's stopt?" said
I. "Nay," said the little fellow; "aw don't know. Want o' cotton,
happen,--same as everything else is stopt for." Leaving this house
we met with another member of the Relief Committee, who was
overlooker of a mill a little way off. I parted here with the
gentleman who had accompanied me hitherto, and the overlooker went
on with me.

In Newton Street he stopped, and said, "Let's look in here." We went
up two steps, and met a young woman coming out at the cottage door.
"How's Ruth?" said my friend. "Well, hoo is here. Hoo's busy bakin'
for Betty." We went in. "You're not bakin' for yourselves, then?"
said he. "Eh, naw," replied the young woman," it's mony a year sin'
we had a bakin' o' fleawr, isn't it, Ruth?" The old woman who was
baking turned round and said, "Ay; an' it'll be mony another afore
we han one aw deawt." There were three dirty-looking hens picking
and croodling about the cottage floor. "How is it you don't sell
these, or else eat 'em?" said he. "Eh, dear," replied the old woman,
"dun yo want mo kilt? He's had thoose hens mony a year; an' they
rooten abeawt th' heawse just th' same as greadley Christians. He
did gi' consent for one on 'em to be kilt yesterday; but aw'll be
hanged iv th' owd cracky didn't cry like a chylt when he see'd it
beawt yed. He'd as soon part wi' one o'th childer as one o'th hens.
He says they're so mich like owd friends, neaw. He's as quare as
Dick's hat-bant 'at went nine times reawnd an' wouldn't tee. . . .
We thought we'd getten a shop for yon lad o' mine t'other day. We
yerd ov a chap at Lytham at wanted a lad to tak care o' six
jackasses an' a pony. Th' pony were to tak th' quality to Blackpool,
and such like. So we fettled th' lad's bits o' clooas up and made
him ever so daycent, and set him off to try to get on wi' th' chap
at Lytham. Well, th' lad were i' good heart abeawt it; an' when he
geet theer th' chap towd him at he thought he wur very likely for
th' job, so that made it better,--an' th' lad begun o' wearin' his
bit o' brass o' summat to eat, an' sich like, thinkin' he're sure o'
th' shop. Well, they kept him there, dallyin', aw tell yo, an' never
tellin' him a greadley tale, fro Sunday till Monday o' th' neet, an'
then,--lo an' behold,--th' mon towd him that he'd hire't another;
and th' lad had to come trailin' whoam again, quite deawn i'th'
meawth. Eh, aw wur some mad! Iv aw'd been at th' back o' that chap,
aw could ha' punce't him, see yo!" "Well," said my friend, "there's
no work yet, Ruth, is there?" "Wark! naw; nor never will be no moor,
aw believe." "Hello, Ruth!" said the young woman, pointing through
the window, "dun yo know who yon is?" "Know? ay," replied the old
woman; "He's getten aboon porritch neaw, has yon. He walks by me
i'th street, as peart as a pynot, an' never cheeps. But, he's no
'casion. Aw know'd him when his yure stickt out at top ov his hat;
and his shurt would ha' hanged eawt beheend, too,--like a Wigan
lantron,--iv he'd had a shurt."


"Oh, reason not the deed; our basest beggars
Are in the poorest things superfluous:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man's life is cheap as beast's."
--King Lear.

A short fit of rain came on whilst we were in the cottage in Newton
Street, so we sat a little while with Ruth, listening to her quaint
tattle about the old man and his feathered pets; about the children,
the hard times, and her own personal ailments;--for, though I could
not help thinking her a very good-hearted, humorous old woman,
bravely disposed to fight it out with the troubles of her humble
lot, yet it was clear that she was inclined to ease her harassed
mind now and then by a little wholesome grumbling; and I dare say
that sometimes she might lose her balance so far as to think, like
"Natterin' Nan," "No livin' soul atop o't earth's bin tried as I've
bin tried: there's nob'dy but the Lord an' me that knows what I've
to bide."

Old age and infirmity, too, had found Ruth out, in her penurious
obscurity; and she was disposed to complain a little, like Nan,
sometimes, of "the ills that flesh is heir to:"-

"Fro' t' wind i't stomach, rheumatism,
Tengin pains i't gooms,
An' coughs, an' cowds, an' t' spine o't back,
I suffer martyrdom.

"Yet nob'dy pities mo, or thinks
I'm ailin' owt at all;
T' poor slave mun tug an' tew wi't wark,
Wolivver shoo can crawl."

Old Ruth was far from being as nattle and querulous as the famous
ill-natured grumbler so racily pictured by Benjamin Preston, of
Bradford; but, like most of the dwellers upon earth, she was a
little bit touched with the same complaint. When the rain was over,
we came away. I cannot say that the weather ever "cleared up" that
day; for, at the end of every shower, the dark, slow-moving clouds
always seemed to be mustering for another downfall. We came away,
and left the "cant" old body "busy bakin' for Betty," and "shooing"
the hens away from her feet, and she shuffled about the house. A few
yards lower in Newton Street, we turned up a low, dark entry, which
led to a gloomy little court behind. This was one of those
unhealthy, pent-up cloisters, where misery stagnates and broods
among the "foul congregation of pestilential vapours" which haunt
the backdoor life of the poorest parts of great towns. Here, those
viewless ministers of health--the fresh winds of heaven--had no free
play; and poor human nature inhaled destruction from the poisonous
effluvia that festered there. And, in such nooks as this, there may
be found many decent working people, who have been accustomed to
live a cleanly life in their humble way in healthy quarters, now
reduced to extreme penury, pinching, and pining, and nursing the
flickering hope of better days, which may enable them to flee from
the foul harbour which strong necessity has driven them to. The dark
aspect of the day filled the court with a tomb-like gloom. If I
remember aright, there were only three or four cottages in it. We
called at two of them. Before we entered the first, my friend said,
"A young couple lives here. They are very decent people. They have
not been here long; and they have gone through a great deal before
they came here." There were two or three pot ornaments on the
cornice; but there was no furniture in the place, save one chair,
which was occupied by a pale young woman, nursing her child. Her
thin, intelligent face looked very sad. Her clothing, though poor,
was remarkably clean; and, as she sat there, in the gloomy, fireless
house, she said very little, and what she said she said very
quietly, as if she had hardly strength to complain, and was even
half-ashamed to do so. She told us, however, that her husband had
been out of work six months. "He didn't know what to turn to after
we sowd th' things," said she; "but he's takken to cheer-bottomin',
for he doesn't want to lie upo' folk for relief, if he can help it.
He doesn't get much above a cheer, or happen two in a week, one week
wi' another, an' even then he doesn't olez get paid, for folks ha'
not brass. It runs very hard with us, an' I'm nobbut sickly." The
poor soul did not need to say much; her own person, which evinced
such a touching struggle to keep up a decent appearance to the last,
and everything about her, as she sat there in the gloomy place,
trying to keep the child warm upon her cold breast, told eloquently
what her tongue faltered at and failed to express.

The next place we called at in this court was a cottage kept by a
withered old woman, with one foot in the grave. We found her in the
house, sallow, and shrivelled, and panting for breath. She had three
young women, out of work, lodging with her; and, in addition to
these, a widow with her two children lived there. One of these
children, a girl, was earning 2s. 6d. a week for working short time
at a mill; the other, a lad, was earning 3s. a week. The rest were
all unemployed, and had been so for several months past. This 5s.
6d. a week was all the seven people had to live upon, with the
exception of a trifle the sickly old woman received from the Board
of Guardians. As we left the court, two young fellows were lounging
at the entry end, as if waiting for us. One of them stepped up to my
friend, and whispered something plaintively, pointing to his feet. I
did not catch the reply; but my friend made a note, and we went on.
Before we had gone many yards down the street a storm of rain and
thunder came on, and we hurried into the house of an old Irishwoman
close by. My friend knew the old woman. She was on his list of
relief cases. "Will you let us shelter a few minutes, Mrs _?" said
he. "I will, an' thank ye," replied she. "Come in an' sit down.
Sure, it's not fit to turn out a dog. Faith, that's a great storm.
Oh, see the rain! Thank God it's not him that made the house that
made the pot! Dear, dear; did ye see the awful flash that time? I
don't like to be by myself, I am so terrified wi' the thunder. There
has been a great dale o' wet this long time." "There, has," replied
my friend; "but how have ye been getting on since I called before?"
"Well," said the old woman, sitting down, "things is quare with us
as ever they can be, an' that you know very well." There was a young
woman reared against the table by the window. My friend turned
towards her, and said, "Well, and how does the Indian meal agree
with you?" The young woman blushed, and smiled, but said nothing;
but the old woman turned sharply round and replied, "Well, now, it
is better nor starvation; it is chape, an' it fills up--an' that's
all." "Is your son working?" inquired my friend. "Troth, he is,"
replied she. "He does be gettin' a day now an' again at the breek-
croft in Ribbleton Lone. Faith, it is time he did somethin', too,
for he was nine months out o' work entirely. I am got greatly into
debt, an' I don't think I'll ever be able to get over it any more. I
don't know how does poor folk be able to spind money on drink such
times as thim; bedad, I cannot do it. It is bard enough to get mate
of any kind to keep the bare life in a body. Oh, see now; but for
the relief, the half o' the country would die out." "You're a native
of Ireland, missis," said I. "Troth, I am," replied she; "an' had a
good farm o' greawnd in it too, one time. Ah! many's the dark day I
went through between that an' this. Before thim bad times came on,
long ago, people were well off in ould Ireland. I seen them wid as
many as tin cows standin' at the door at one time. . . . Ah, then!
but the Irish people is greatly scattered now! . . . But, for the
matter of that, folk are as badly off here as anywhere in the world,
I think. I dunno know how does poor folk be able to spind money for
dhrink. I am a widow this seventeen year now, an' the divle a man or
woman uvver seen me goin' to a public-house. I seen women goin' a
drinkin' widout a shift to their backs. I dunno how the divvle they
done it. Begorra, I think, if I drunk a glass of ale just now, my
two legs would fail from under me immadiately--I am that wake." The
old woman was a little too censorious, I think. There is no doubt
that even people who are starving do drink a little sometimes. The
wonder would be if they did not, in some degree, share the follies
of the rest of the world. Besides, it is a well-known fact, that
those who are in employ, are apt, from a feeling of misdirected
kindness, to treat those who are out of work to a glass of ale or
two, now and then; and it is very natural, too, that those who have
been but ill-fed for a long time are not able to stand it well.

After leaving the old Irishwoman's house, we called upon a man who
had got his living by the sale of newspapers. There was nothing
specially worthy of remark in this case, except that he complained
of his trade having fallen away a good deal. "I used to sell three
papers where I now sell one," said he. This may not arise from there
being fewer papers sold, but from there being more people selling
them than when times were good. I came back to Manchester in the
evening. I have visited Preston again since then, and have spent
some time upon Preston Moor, where there are nearly fifteen hundred
men, principally factory operatives, at work. Of this I shall have
something to say in my next paper.


"The rose of Lancaster for lack of nurture pales."

It was early on a fine morning in July when I next set off to see
Preston again; the long-continued rains seemed to be ended, and the
unclouded sun flooded all the landscape with splendour. All nature
rejoiced in the change, and the heart of man was glad. In Clifton
Vale, the white-sleeved mowers were at work among the rich grass,
and the scent of new hay came sweetly through our carriage windows.
In the leafy cloughs and hedges, the small birds were wild with joy,
and every garden sent forth a goodly smell. Along its romantic vale
the glittering Irwell meandered, here, through nooks, "o'erhung wi'
wildwoods, thickening green;" and there, among lush unshaded
pastures; gathering on its way many a mild whispering brook, whose
sunlit waters laced the green land with freakish lines of trembling
gold. To me this ride is always interesting, so many points of
historic interest line the way; but it was doubly delightful on that
glorious July morning. And I never saw Fishergate, in Preston, look
better than it did then. On my arrival there I called upon the
Secretary of the Trinity Ward Relief Committee. In a quiet bye-
street, where there are four pleasant cottages, with little gardens
in front of them, I found him in his studious nook, among books,
relief tickets, and correspondence. We had a few minutes' talk about
the increasing distress of the town; and he gave me a short account
of the workroom which has been opened in Knowsley Street, for the
employment of female factory operatives out of work. This workroom
is managed by a committee of ladies, some of whom are in attendance
every day. The young women are employed upon plain sewing. They have
two days' work a week, at one shilling a day, and the Relief
Committee adds sixpence to this 2s. in each case. Most of them are
merely learning to sew. Many of them prove to be wholly untrained to
this simple domestic accomplishment. The work is not remunerative,
nor is it expected to be so; but the benefit which may grow out of
the teaching which these young women get here--and the evil their
employment here may prevent, cannot be calculated. I find that such
workrooms are established in some of the other towns now suffering
from the depression of trade. Some of these I intend to visit
hereafter. I spent an interesting half-hour with the secretary,
after which I went to see the factory operatives at work upon
Preston Moor.

Preston Moor is a tract of waste land on the western edge of the
town. It belongs to the corporation. A little vale runs through a
great part of this moor, from south-east to north-west; and the
ground was, until lately, altogether uneven. On the town side of the
little dividing vale the land is a light, sandy soil; on the other
side, there is abundance of clay for brickmaking. Upon this moor
there are now fifteen hundred men, chiefly factory operatives, at
work, levelling the land for building purposes, and making a great
main sewer for the drainage of future streets. The men, being almost
all unused to this kind of labour, are paid only one shilling per
day; and the whole scheme has been devised for the employment of
those who are suffering from the present depression of trade. The
work had been going on several months before I saw it, and a great
part of the land was levelled. When I came in sight of the men,
working in scattered gangs that fine morning, there was, as might be
expected, a visible difference between their motions and those of
trained "navvies" engaged upon the same kind of labour. There were
also very great differences of age and physical condition amongst
them--old men and consumptive-looking lads, hardly out of their
teens. They looked hard at me as I walked down the central line, but
they were not anyway uncivil. "What time is 't, maister?" asked a
middle-aged man, with gray hair, as he wiped his forehead. "Hauve-
past ten," said I. "What time says he?" inquired a feeble young
fellow, who was resting upon his barrow. "Hauve-past ten, he says,"
replied the other. "Eh; it's warm!" said the tired lad, lying down
upon his barrow again. One thing I noticed amongst these men, with
very rare exceptions, their apparel, however poor, evinced that
wholesome English love of order and cleanliness which generally
indicates something of self-respect in the wearer--especially among
poor folk. There is something touching in the whiteness of a well-
worn shirt, and the careful patches of a poor man's old fustian

As I lounged about amongst the men, a mild-eyed policeman came up,
and offered to conduct me to Jackson, the labour-master, who had
gone down to the other end of the moor, to look after the men at
work at the great sewer--a wet clay cutting--the heaviest bit of
work on the ground. We passed some busy brickmakers, all plastered
and splashed with wet clay --of the earth, earthy. Unlike the
factory operatives around them, these men clashed, and kneaded, and
sliced among the clay, as if they were working for a wager. But they
were used to the job, and working piece-work. A little further on,
we came to an unbroken bit of the moor. Here, on a green slope we
saw a poor lad sitting chirruping upon the grass, with a little
cloutful of groundsel for bird meat in his hand, watching another,
who was on his knees, delving for earth-nuts with an old knife.
Lower down the slope there were three other lads plaguing a young
jackass colt; and further off, on the town edge of the moor, several
children from the streets hard by, were wandering about the green
hollow, picking daisies, and playing together in the sunshine. There
are several cotton factories close to the moor, but they were quiet
enough. Whilst I looked about me here, the policeman pointed to the
distance and said, "Jackson's comin' up, I see. Yon's him, wi' th'
white lin' jacket on." Jackson seems to have won the esteem of the
men upon the moor by his judicious management and calm
determination. I have heard that he had a little trouble at first,
through an injurious report spread amongst the men immediately
before he undertook the management. Some person previously employed
upon the ground had "set it eawt that there wur a chap comin' that
would make 'em addle a hauve-a-creawn a day for their shillin'." Of
course this increased the difficulty of his position; but he seems
to have fought handsomely through all that sort of thing. I had met
him for a few minutes once before, so there was no difficulty
between us.

"Well, Jackson," said I, "heaw are yo gettin' on among it?" "Oh,
very well, very well," said he," We'n more men at work than we had,
an' we shall happen have more yet. But we'n getten things into
something like system, an' then tak 'em one with another th' chaps
are willin' enough. You see they're not men that have getten a
livin' by idling aforetime; they're workin' men, but they're strange
to this job, an' one cannot expect 'em to work like trained honds,
no moor than one could expect a lot o' navvies to work weel at
factory wark. Oh, they done middlin', tak 'em one with another." I
now asked him if he had not had some trouble with the men at first.
"Well," said he, "I had at first, an' that's the truth. I remember
th' first day that I came to th' job. As I walked on to th' ground
there was a great lump o' clay coom bang into my earhole th' first
thing; but I walked on, an' took no notice, no moor than if it had
bin a midge flyin' again my face. Well, that kind o' thing took
place, now an' then, for two or three days, but I kept agate o'
never mindin'; till I fund there were some things that I thought
could be managed a deal better in a different way; so I gav' th' men
notice that I would have 'em altered. For instance, now, when I coom
here at first, there was a great shed in yon hollow; an' every
mornin' th' men had to pass through that shed one after another, an'
have their names booked for th' day. The result wur, that after
they'd walked through th' shed, there was many on 'em walked out at
t'other end o' th' moor straight into teawn a-playin' 'em. Well, I
was determined to have that system done away with. An', when th' men
fund that I was gooin' to make these alterations, they growled a
good deal, you may depend, an' two or three on 'em coom up an' spoke
to me abeawt th' matter, while tother stood clustered a bit off.
Well; I was beginnin' to tell 'em plain an' straight-forrud what I
would have done, when one o' these three sheawted out to th' whole
lot, "Here, chaps, come an' gether reawnd th' devil. Let's yer what
he's for!" 'Well,' said I, 'come on, an' you shall yer,' for aw felt
cawmer just then, than I did when it were o'er. There they were,
gethered reawnd me in a minute,--th' whole lot,--I were fair hemmed
in. But I geet atop ov a bit ov a knowe, an' towd 'em a fair tale,--
what I wanted, an' what I would have, an' I put it to 'em whether
they didn't consider it reet. An' I believe they see'd th' thing in
a reet leet, but they said nought about it, but went back to their
wark, lookin' sulky. But I've had very little bother with 'em sin'.
I never see'd a lot o' chaps so altered sin' th' last February, as
they are. At that time no mortal mon hardly could walk through 'em
'beawt havin' a bit o' slack-jaw, or a lump o' clay or summat flung
a-him. But it isn't so, neaw. I consider th' men are doin' very
weel. But, come; yo mun go deawn wi' me a-lookin' at yon main


"Oh, let us bear the present as we may,
Nor let the golden past be all forgot;
Hope lifts the curtain of the future day,
Where peace and plenty smile without a spot
On their white garments; where the human lot
Looks lovelier and less removed from heaven;
Where want, and war, and discord enter not,
But that for which the wise have hoped and striven--
The wealth of happiness, to humble worth is given.

"The time will come, as come again it must,
When Lancashire shall lift her head once more;
Her suffering sons, now down amid the dust
Of Indigence, shall pass through Plenty's door;
Her commerce cover seas from shore to shore;
Her arts arise to highest eminence;
Her products prove unrivall'd, as of yore;
Her valour and her virtue--men of sense
And blue-eyed beauties--England's pride and her defence."

Jackson's office as labour-master kept him constantly tramping about
the sandy moor from one point to another. He was forced to be in
sight, and on the move, during working hours, amongst his fifteen
hundred scattered workmen. It was heavy walking, even in dry
weather; and as we kneaded through the loose soil that hot forenoon,
we wiped our foreheads now and then. "Ay," said he, halting, and
looking round upon the scene, "I can assure you, that when I first
took howd o' this job, I fund my honds full, as quiet as it looks
now. I was laid up for nearly a week, an' I had to have two doctors.
But, as I'd undertakken the thing, I was determined to go through
with it to th' best o' my ability; an' I have confidence now that we
shall be able to feight through th' bad time wi' summat like
satisfaction, so far as this job's consarned, though it's next to
impossible to please everybody, do what one will. But come wi' me
down this road. I've some men agate o' cuttin' a main sewer. It's
very little farther than where th' cattle pens are i' th' hollow
yonder; and it's different wark to what you see here. Th' main sewer
will have to be brought clean across i' this direction, an' it'll be
a stiffish job. Th' cattle market's goin' to be shifted out o' yon
hollow, an' in another year or two th' whole scene about here will
be changed." Jackson and I both remembered something of the troubles
of the cotton manufacture in past times. We had seen something of
the "shuttle gatherings," the "plug-drawings," the wild starvation
riots, and strikes of days gone by; and he agreed with me that one
reason for the difference of their demeanour during the present
trying circumstances lies in their increasing intelligence. The
great growth of free discussion through the cheap press has done no
little to work out this salutary change. There is more of human
sympathy, and of a perception of the union of interests between
employers and employed than ever existed before in the history of
the cotton trade. Employers know that their workpeople are human
beings, of like feelings and passions with themselves, and like
themselves, endowed with no mean degree of independent spirit and
natural intelligence; and working men know better than beforetime
that their employers are not all the heartless tyrants which it has
been too fashionable to encourage them to believe. The working men
have a better insight into the real causes of trade panics than they
used to have; and both masters and men feel more every day that
their fortunes are naturally bound together for good or evil; and if
the working men of Lancashire continue to struggle through the
present trying pass of their lives with the brave patience which
they have shown hitherto, they will have done more to defeat the
arguments of those who hold them to be unfit for political power
than the finest eloquence of their best friends could have done in
the same time.

The labour master and I had a little talk about these things as we
went towards the lower end of the moor. A few minutes' slow walk
brought us to the spot, where some twenty of the hardier sort of
operatives were at work in a damp clay cutting. "This is heavy work
for sich chaps as these," said Jackson; "but I let 'em work bi'th
lump here. I give'em so much clay apiece to shift, and they can
begin when they like, an' drop it th' same. Th' men seem satisfied
wi' that arrangement, an' they done wonders, considerin' th' nature
o'th job. There's many o'th men that come on to this moor are badly
off for suitable things for their feet. I've had to give lots o'
clogs away among'em. You see men cannot work with ony comfort among
stuff o' this sort without summat substantial on. It rives poor
shoon to pieces i' no time. Beside, they're not men that can ston
bein' witchod (wetshod) like some. They haven't been used to it as a
rule. Now, this is one o'th' finest days we've had this year; an'
you haven't sin what th' ground is like in bad weather. But you'd be
astonished what a difference wet makes on this moor. When it's bin
rain for a day or two th' wark's as heavy again. Th' stuff's heavier
to lift, an' worse to wheel; an' th' ground is slutchy. That tries
'em up, an' poo's their shoon to pieces; an' men that are wakely get
knocked out o' time with it. But thoose that can stand it get
hardened by it. There's a great difference; what would do one man's
constitution good will kill another. Winter time 'll try 'em up
tightly. . . Wait there a bit," continued he, "I'll be with you
again directly." He then went down into the cutting to speak to some
of his men, whilst I walked about the edge of the bank. From a
distant part of the moor, the bray of a jackass came faint upon the
sleepy wind. "Yer tho', Jone," said one of the men, resting upon his
spade; "another cally-weighver gone!" " Ay," replied Jone, "th' owd
lad's deawn't his cut. He'll want no more tickets, yon mon!" The
country folk of Lancashire say that a weaver dies every time a
jackass brays. Jackson came up from the cutting, and we walked back
to where the greatest number of men were at work. "You should ha'
bin here last Saturday," said he; "we'd rather a curious scene. One
o' the men coom to me an' axed if I'd allow 'em hauve-an-hour to
howd a meetin' about havin' a procession i' th' guild week. I gav'
'em consent, on condition that they'd conduct their meetin' in an
orderly way. Well, they gethered together upo' that level theer; an'
th' speakers stood upo' th' edge o' that cuttin', close to Charnock
Fowd. Th' meetin' lasted abeawt a quarter ov an hour longer than I
bargained for; but they lost no time wi' what they had to do. O'
went off quietly; an' they finished with 'Rule Britannia,' i' full
chorus, an' then went back to their wark. You'll see th' report in
today's paper."

This meeting was so curious, and so characteristic of the men, that
I think the report is worth repeating here:--"On Saturday afternoon,
a meeting of the parish labourers was held on the moor, to consider
the propriety of having a demonstration of their numbers on one day
in the guild week. There were upwards of a thousand present. An
operative, named John Houlker, was elected to conduct the
proceedings. After stating the object of the assembly, a series of
propositions were read to the meeting by William Gillow, to the
effect that a procession take place of the parish labourers in the
guild week; that no person be allowed to join in it except those
whose names were on the books of the timekeepers; that no one should
receive any of the benefits which might accrue who did not conduct
himself in an orderly manner; that all persons joining the
procession should be required to appear on the ground washed and
shaven, and their clogs, shoes, and other clothes cleaned; that they
were not expected to purchase or redeem any articles of clothing in
order to take part in the demonstration; and that any one absenting
himself from the procession should be expelled from any
participation in the advantages which might arise from the
subscriptions to be collected by their fellow-labourers. These were
all agreed to, and a committee of twelve was appointed to collect
subscriptions and donations. A president, secretary, and treasurer
were also elected, and a number of resolutions agreed to in
reference to the carrying out of the details of their scheme. The
managing committee consist of Messrs W. Gillow, Robert Upton, Thomas
Greenwood Riley, John Houlker, John Taylor, James Ray, James
Whalley, Wm. Banks, Joseph Redhead, James Clayton, and James
McDermot. The men agreed to subscribe a penny per week to form a
fund out of which a dinner should be provided, and they expressed
themselves confident that they could secure the gratuitous services
of a band of music. During the meeting there was great order. At the
conclusion, a vote of thanks was accorded to the chairman, to the
labour master for granting them three-quarters of an hour for the
purpose of holding the meeting, and to William Gillow for drawing up
the resolutions. Three times three then followed; after which,
George Dewhurst mounted a hillock, and, by desire, sang 'Rule
Britannia,' the chorus being taken up by the whole crowd, and the
whole being wound up with a hearty cheer." There are various schemes
devised in Preston for regaling the poor during the guild; and not
the worst of them is the proposal to give them a little extra money
for that week, so as to enable them to enjoy the holiday with their
families at home.

It was now about half-past eleven. "It's getting on for dinner
time," said Jackson, looking at his watch. "Let's have a look at th'
opposite side yonder; an' then we'll come back, an' you'll see th'
men drop work when the five minutes' bell rings. There's many of 'em
live so far off that they couldn't well get whoam an' back in an
hour; so, we give'em an hour an' a half to their dinner, now, an'
they work half an' hour longer i'th afternoon." We crossed the
hollow which divides the moor, and went to the top of a sandy
cutting at the rear of the workhouse. This eminence commanded a full
view of the men at work on different parts of the ground, with the
time-keepers going to and fro amongst them, book in hand. Here were
men at work with picks and spades; there, a slow-moving train of
full barrows came along; and, yonder, a train of empty barrows
stood, with the men sitting upon them, waiting. Jackson pointed out
some of his most remarkable men to me; after which we went up to a
little plot of ground behind the workhouse, where we found a few
apparently older or weaker men, riddling pebbly stuff, brought from
the bed of the Ribble. The smaller pebbles were thrown into heaps,
to make a hard floor for the workhouse schoolyard. The master of the
workhouse said that the others were too big for this purpose--the
lads would break the windows with them. The largest pebbles were
cast aside to be broken up, for the making of garden walks. Whilst
the master of the workhouse was showing us round the building,
Jackson looked at his watch again, and said, "Come, we've just time
to get across again. Th' bell will ring in two or three minutes, an'
I should like yo to see 'em knock off." We hurried over to the other
side, and, before we had been a minute there, the bell rung. At the
first toll, down dropt the barrows, the half-flung shovelfuls fell
to the ground, and all labour stopt as suddenly as if the men had
been moved by the pull of one string. In two minutes Preston Moor
was nearly deserted, and, like the rest, we were on our way to



"There'll be some on us missin', aw deawt,
Iv there isn't some help for us soon."

The next scene of my observations is the town of Wigan. The
temporary troubles now affecting the working people of Lancashire
wear a different aspect there on account of such a large proportion
of the population being employed in the coal mines. The "way of
life" and the characteristics of the people are marked by strong
peculiarities. But, apart from these things, Wigan is an interesting
place. The towns of Lancashire have undergone so much change during
the last fifty years that their old features are mostly either swept
away entirely, or are drowned in a great overgrowth of modern
buildings. Yet coaly Wigan retains visible relics of its ancient
character still; and there is something striking in its situation.
It is associated with some of the most stirring events of our
history, and it is the scene of many an interesting old story, such
as the legend of Mabel of Haigh Hall, the crusader's dame. The
remnant of "Mab's Cross" still stands in Wigan Lane. Some of the
finest old halls of Lancashire are now, and have been, in its
neighbourhood, such as Ince Hall and Crooke Hall. It must have been
a picturesque town in the time of the Commonwealth, when Cavaliers
and Roundheads met there in deadly contention. Wigan saw a great
deal of the troubles of that time. The ancient monument, erected to
the memory of Colonel Tyldesley, upon the ground where he fell at
the battle of Wigan Lane, only tells a little of the story of
Longfellow's puritan hero, Miles Standish, who belonged to the
Chorley branch of the family of Standish of Standish, near this
town. The ingenious John Roby, author of the "Traditions of
Lancashire," was born here. Round about the old market-place, and
the fine parish church of St Wilfred, there are many quaint nooks
still left to tell the tale of centuries gone by. These remarks,
however, by the way. It is almost impossible to sunder any place
entirely from the interest which such things lend to it.

Our present business is with the share which Wigan feels of the
troubles of our own time, and in this respect it is affected by some
conditions peculiar to the place. I am told that Wigan was one of
the first--if not the very first--of the towns of Lancashire to feel
the nip of our present distress. I am told, also, that it was the
first town in which a Relief Committee was organised. The cotton
consumed here is almost entirely of the kind from ordinary to
middling American, which is now the scarcest and dearest of any.
Preston is almost wholly a spinning town. In Wigan there is a
considerable amount of weaving as well as spinning. The counts spun
in Wigan are lower than those in Preston; they range from 10's up to
20's. There is also, as I have said before, another peculiar element
of labour, which tends to give a strong flavour to the conditions of
life in Wigan, that is, the great number of people employed in the
coal mines. This, however, does not much lighten the distress which
has fallen upon the spinners and weavers, for the colliers are also
working short time--an average of four days a week. I am told, also,
that the coal miners have been subject to so many disasters of
various kinds during past years, that there is now hardly a
collier's family which has not lost one or more of its most active
members by accidents in the pits. About six years ago, the river
Douglas broke into one of the Ince mines, and nearly two hundred
people were drowned thereby. These were almost all buried on one
day, and it was a very distressing scene. Everywhere in Wigan one
may meet with the widows and orphans of men who have been killed in
the mines; and there are no few men more or less disabled by
colliery accidents, and, therefore, dependent either upon the
kindness of their employers, or upon the labour of their families in
the cotton factories. This last failing them, the result may be
easily guessed. The widows and orphans of coal miners almost always
fall back upon factory labour for a living; and, in the present
state of things, this class of people forms a very helpless element
of the general distress. These things I learnt during my brief visit
to the town a few days ago. Hereafter, I shall try to acquaint
myself more deeply and widely with the relations of life amongst the
working people there.

I had not seen Wigan during many years before that fine August
afternoon. In the Main Street and Market Place there is no striking
outward sign of distress, and yet here, as in other Lancashire
towns, any careful eye may see that there is a visible increase of
mendicant stragglers, whose awkward plaintiveness, whose helpless
restraint and hesitancy of manner, and whose general appearance,
tell at once that they belong to the operative classes now suffering
in Lancashire. Beyond this, the sights I first noticed upon the
streets, as peculiar to the place, were, here, two "Sisters of
Mercy," wending along, in their black cloaks and hoods, with their
foreheads and cheeks swathed in ghastly white bands, and with strong
rough shoes upon their feet; and, there, passed by a knot of the
women employed in the coal mines. The singular appearance of these
women has puzzled many a southern stranger. All grimed with
coaldust, they swing along the street with their dinner baskets and
cans in their hands, chattering merrily. To the waist they are
dressed like men, in strong trousers and wooden clogs. Their gowns,
tucked clean up, before, to the middle, hang down behind them in a
peaked tail. A limp bonnet, tied under the chin, makes up the head-
dress. Their curious garb, though soiled, is almost always sound;
and one can see that the wash-tub will reveal many a comely face
amongst them. The dusky damsels are "to the manner born," and as
they walk about the streets, thoughtless of singularity, the Wigan
people let them go unheeded by. Before I had been two hours in the
town, I was put into communication with one of the active members of
the Relief Committee, who offered to devote a few hours of the
following day to visitation with me, amongst the poor of a district
called "Scholes," on the eastern edge of the town. Scholes is the
"Little Ireland" of Wigan, the poorest quarter of the town. The
colliers and factory operatives chiefly live there. There is a
saying in Wigan --that, no man's education is finished until he has
been through Scholes. Having made my arrangements for the next day,
I went to stay for the night with a friend who lives in the green
country near Orrell, three miles west of Wigan.

Early next morning, we rode over to see the quaint town of
Upholland, and its fine old church, with the little ivied monastic
ruin close by. We returned thence, by way of "Orrell Pow," to Wigan,
to meet my engagement at ten in the forenoon. On our way, we could
not help noticing the unusual number of foot-sore, travel-soiled
people, many of them evidently factory operatives, limping away from
the town upon their melancholy wanderings. We could see, also, by
the number of decrepid old women, creeping towards Wigan, and now
and then stopping to rest by the wayside, that it was relief day at
the Board of Guardians. At ten, I met the gentleman who had kindly
offered to guide me for the day; and we set off together. There are
three excellent rooms engaged by the good people of Wigan for the
employment and teaching of the young women thrown out of work at the
cotton mills. The most central of the three is the lecture theatre
of the Mechanics' Institution. This room was the first place we
visited. Ten o'clock is the time appointed for the young women to
assemble. It was a few minutes past ten when we got to the place;
and there were some twenty of the girls waiting about the door. They
were barred out, on account of being behind time. The lasses seemed
very anxious to get in; but they were kept there a few minutes till
the kind old superintendent, Mr Fisher, made his appearance. After
giving the foolish virgins a gentle lecture upon the value of
punctuality, he admitted them to the room. Inside, there were about
three hundred and fifty girls mustered that morning. They are
required to attend four hours a day on four days of the week, and
they are paid 9d. a day for their attendance. They are divided into
classes, each class being watched over by some lady of the
committee. Part of the time each day is set apart for reading and
writing; the rest of the day is devoted to knitting and plain
sewing. The business of each day begins with the reading of the
rules, after which, the names are called over. A girl in a white
pinafore, upon the platform, was calling over the names when we
entered. I never saw a more comely, clean, and orderly assembly
anywhere. I never saw more modest demeanour, nor a greater
proportion of healthy, intelligent faces in any company of equal


"Hopdance cries in Tom's belly for two white herrings.
Croak not, black angel; I have no food for thee."
--King Lear.

I lingered a little while in the work-room, at the Mechanics'
Institution, interested in the scene. A stout young woman came in at
a side door, and hurried up to the centre of the room with a great
roll of coarse gray cloth, and lin check, to be cut up for the
stitchers. One or two of the classes were busy with books and
slates; the remainder of the girls were sewing and knitting; and the
ladies of the committee were moving about, each in quiet
superintendence of her own class. The room was comfortably full,
even on the platform; but there was very little noise, and no
disorder at all. I say again that I never saw a more comely, clean,
and well conducted assembly than this of three hundred and fifty
factory lasses. I was told, however, that even these girls show a
kind of pride of caste amongst one another. The human heart is much
the same in all conditions of life. I did not stay long enough to be
able to say more about this place; but one of the most active and
intelligent ladies connected with the management said to me
afterwards, "Your wealthy manufacturers and merchants must leave a
great deal of common stuff lying in their warehouses, and perhaps
not very saleable just now, which would be much more valuable to us
here than ever it will be to them. Do you think they would like to
give us a little of it if we were to ask them nicely?" I said I
thought there were many of them who would do so; and I think I said

After a little talk with the benevolent old superintendent, whose
heart, I am sure, is devoted to the business for the sake of the
good it will do, and the evil it will prevent, I set off with my
friend to see some of the poor folk who live in the quarter called
"Scholes." It is not more than five hundred yards from the
Mechanics' Institution to Scholes Bridge, which crosses the little
river Douglas, down in a valley in the eastern part of the town. As
soon as we were at the other end of the bridge, we turned off at the
right hand corner into a street of the poorest sort--a narrow old
street, called "Amy Lane." A few yards on the street we came to a
few steps, which led up, on the right hand side, to a little terrace
of poor cottages, overlooking the river Douglas. We called at one of
these cottages. Though rather disorderly just then, it was not an
uncomfortable place. It was evidently looked after by some homely
dame. A clean old cat dosed upon a chair by the fireside. The bits
of cottage furniture, though cheap, and well worn, were all there;
and the simple household gods, in the shape of pictures and
ornaments, were in their places still. A hardy-looking, brown-faced
man, with close-cropped black hair, and a mild countenance, sat on a
table by the window, making artificial flies, for fishing. In the
corner over his head a cheap, dingy picture of the trial of Queen
Catherine, hung against the wall. I could just make out the tall
figure of the indignant queen, in the well-known theatrical
attitude, with her right arm uplifted, and her sad, proud face
turned away from the judgment-seat, where Henry sits, evidently
uncomfortable in mind, as she gushes forth that bold address to her
priestly foes and accusers. The man sitting beneath the picture,
told us that he was a throstle-overlooker by trade; and that he had
been nine months out of work. He said, "There's five on us here when
we're i'th heawse. When th' wark fell off I had a bit o' brass
save't up, so we were forced to start o' usin' that. But month after
month went by, an' th' brass kept gettin' less, do what we would;
an' th' times geet wur, till at last we fund ersels fair stagged up.
At after that, my mother helped us as weel as hoo could,--why, hoo
does neaw, for th' matter o' that, an' then aw've three brothers,
colliers; they've done their best to poo us through. But they're
nobbut wortchin' four days a week, neaw; besides they'n enough to do
for their own. Aw make no acceawnt o' slotchin' up an' deawn o' this
shap, like a foo. It would sicken a dog, it would for sure. Aw go a
fishin' a bit neaw an' then; an' aw cotter abeawt wi' first one
thing an' then another; but it comes to no sense. Its noan like
gradely wark. It makes me maunder up an' deawn, like a gonnor wi' a
nail in it's yed. Aw wish to God yon chaps in Amerikey would play
th' upstroke, an' get done wi' their bother, so as folk could start
o' their wark again." This was evidently a provident man, who had
striven hard to get through his troubles decently. His position as
overlooker, too, made him dislike the thoughts of receiving relief
amongst the operatives whom he might some day be called upon to
superintend again.

A little higher up in Amy Lane we came to a kind of square. On the
side where the lane continues there is a dead brick wall; on the
other side, bounding a little space of unpaved ground, rather higher
than the lane, there are a few old brick cottages, of very mean and
dirty appearance. At the doors of some of the cottages squalid,
untidy women were lounging; some of them sitting upon the doorstep,
with their elbows on their knees, smoking, and looking stolidly
miserable. We were now getting near where the cholera made such
havoc during its last visit,--a pestilent jungle, where disease is
always prowling about, "seeking whom it can devour." A few sallow,
dirty children were playing listlessly about the space, in a
melancholy way, looking as if their young minds were already
"sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," and unconsciously
oppressed with wonder why they should be born to such a miserable
share of human life as this. A tall, gaunt woman, with pale face,
and thinly clad in a worn and much-patched calico gown, and with a
pair of "trashes" upon her stockingless feet, sat on the step of the
cottage nearest the lane. The woman rose when she saw my friend.
"Come in," said she; and we followed her into the house. It was a
wretched place; and the smell inside was sickly. I should think a
broker would not give half-a-crown for all the furniture we saw. The
woman seemed simple-minded and very illiterate; and as she stood in
the middle of the floor, looking vaguely round she said, "Aw can
hardly ax yo to sit deawn, for we'n sowd o' th' things eawt o'th
heawse for a bit o' meight; but there is a cheer theer, sich as it
is; see yo; tak' that." When she found that I wished to know
something of her condition--although this was already well known to
the gentleman who accompanied me--she began to tell her story in a
simple, off-hand way. "Aw've had nine childer," said she; "we'n
buried six, an' we'n three alive, an' aw expect another every day."
In one corner there was a rickety little low bedstead. There was no
bedding upon it but a ragged kind of quilt, which covered the
ticking. Upon this quilt something lay, like a bundle of rags,
covered with a dirty cloth. "There's one o' th' childer, lies here,
ill," said she. "It's getten' th' worm fayver." When she uncovered
that little emaciated face, the sick child gazed at me with wild,
burning eyes, and began to whine pitifully. "Husht, my love," said
the poor woman; "he'll not hurt tho'! Husht, now; he's noan beawn to
touch tho'! He's noan o'th doctor, love. Come, neaw, husht; that's a
good lass!" I gave the little thing a penny, and one way and another
we soothed her fears, and she became silent; but the child still
gazed at me with wild eyes, and the forecast of death on its thin
face. The mother began again, "Eh, that little thing has suffered
summat," said she, wiping her eyes; "an', as aw towd yo before, aw
expect another every day. They're born nake't, an' th' next'll ha'
to remain so, for aught that aw con see. But, aw dar not begin o'
thinkin' abeawt it. It would drive me crazy. We han a little lad o'
mi sister's livin' wi' us. Aw had to tak' him when his mother deed.
Th' little thing's noather feyther nor mother, neaw. It's gwon eawt
a beggin' this morning wi' my two childer. My mother lives with us,
too," continued she; "hoo's gooin' i' eighty-four, an' hoo's
eighteen pence a week off th' teawn. There's seven on us,
o'together, an' we'n had eawr share o' trouble, one way an' another,
or else aw'm chetted. Well, aw'll tell yo' what happened to my
husban' o' i' two years' time. My husban's a collier. Well, first he
wur brought whoam wi' three ribs broken--aw wur lyin' in when they
brought him whoam. An' then, at after that, he geet his arm broken;
an' soon after he'd getten o'er that, he wur nearly brunt to deeath
i' one o'th pits at Ratcliffe; an' aw haven't quite done yet, for,
after that, he lee ill o'th rheumatic fayver sixteen week. That o'
happen't i' two years' time. It's God's truth, maister. Mr Lea knows
summat abeawt it--an' he stons theer. Yo may have a like aim what
we'n had to go through. An' that wur when times were'n good; but
then, everything o' that sort helps to poo folk deawn, yo known.
We'n had very hard deed, maister--aw consider we'n had as hard deed
as anybody livin', takkin' o' together." This case was an instance
of the peculiar troubles to which colliers and their families are
liable; a little representative bit of life among the poor of Wigan.
From this place we went further up into Scholes, to a dirty square,
called the "Coal Yard." Here we called at the house of Peter Y_, a
man of fifty-one, and a weaver of a kind of stuff called, "broad
cross-over," at which work he earned about six shillings a week,
when in full employ. His wife was a cripple, unable to help herself;
and, therefore, necessarily a burden. Their children were two girls,
and one boy. The old woman said, "Aw'm always forced to keep one
o'th lasses a-whoam, for aw connot do a hond's turn." The children
had been brought up to factory labour; but both they and their
father had been out of work nearly twelve months. During that time
the family had received relief tickets, amounting to the value of
four shillings a week. Speaking of the old man, the mother said,
"Peter has just getten a bit o' wark again, thank God. He's hardly
fit for it; but he'll do it as lung as he can keep ov his feet."


"Lord! how the people suffer day by day
A lingering death, through lack of honest bread;
And yet are gentle on their starving way,
By faith in future good and justice led."

It is a curious thing to note the various combinations of
circumstance which exist among the families of the poor. On the
surface they seem much the same; and they are reckoned up according
to number, income, and the like. But there are great differences of
feeling and cultivation amongst them; and then, every household has
a story of its own, which no statistics can tell. There is hardly a
family which has not had some sickness, some stroke of disaster,
some peculiar sorrow, or crippling hindrance, arising within itself,
which makes its condition unlike the rest. In this respect each
family is one string in the great harp of humanity--a string which,
touched by the finger of Heaven, contributes a special utterance to
that universal harmony which is too fine for mortal ears.

From the old weaver's house in "Coal Yard" we went to a place close
by, called "Castle Yard," one of the most unwholesome nooks I have
seen in Wigan yet, though there are many such in that part of the
town. It was a close, pestilent, little cul de sac, shut in by a
dead brick wall at the far end. Here we called upon an Irish family,
seven in number. The mother and two of her daughters were in. The
mother had sore eyes. The place was dirty, and the air inside was
close and foul. The miserable bits of furniture left were fit for
nothing but a bonfire. "Good morning, Mrs K_," said my friend, as we
entered the stifling house; "how are you geting on?" The mother
stood in the middle of the floor, wiping her sore eyes, and then
folding her hands in a tattered apron; whilst her daughters gazed
upon us vacantly from the background. "Oh, then," replied the woman,
"things is worse wid us entirely, sir, than whenever ye wor here
before. I dunno what will we do whin the winter comes." In reply to
me, she said, "We are seven altogether, wid my husband an' myself. I
have one lad was ill o' the yallow jaundice this many months, an'
there is somethin' quare hangin' over that boy this day; I dunno
whatever shall we do wid him. I was thinkin' this long time could I
get a ricommind to see would the doctor give him anythin' to rise an
appetite in him at all. By the same token, I know it is not a
convanient time for makin' appetites in poor folk just now. But
perhaps the doctor might be able to do him some good, by the way he
would be ready when times mind. Faith, my hands is full wid one
thing an' another. Ah, thin; but God is good, after all. We dunno
what is He goin' to do through the dark stroke is an' us this day."
Here my friend interrupted her, saying, "Don't you think, Mrs K_,
that you would be more comfortable if you were to keep your house
cleaner? It costs nothing, you know, but a little labour; and you
have nothing else to do just now." "Ah, then," replied she; "see
here, now. I was just gettin' the mug ready for that same, whenever
ye wor comin' into the yard, I was. "Here she turned sharply round,
and said to one of the girls, who was standing in the background,
"Go on, wid ye, now; and clane the flure. Didn't I tell ye many a
time this day?" The girl smiled, and shuffled away into a dingy
little room at the rear of the cottage. "Faith, sir," continued the
woman, beating time with her hand in the air; "faith, sir, it is not
aisy for a poor woman to manage unbiddable childer." "What part of
Ireland do you come from, Mrs K_?" said I. She hesitated a second or
two, and played with her chin; then, blushing slightly, she replied
in a subdued tone, "County Galway, sir." "Well," said I, "you've no
need to be ashamed of that." The woman seemed reassured, and
answered at once, "Oh, indeed then, sir, I am not ashamed--why would
I? I am more nor seventeen year now in England, an' I never
disguised my speech, nor disowned my country--nor I never will,
aither, plase God." She had said before that her husband was forty-
five years of age; and now I inquired what age she was. "I am the
same age as my husband," replied she. "Forty-five," said I. "No,
indeed, I am not forty-five," answered she; "nor forty naither."
"Are you thirty-eight?" "May be I am; I dunno. I don't think I am
thirty-eight naither; I am the same age as my husband." It was no
use talking, so the subject was dropped. As we came away, the woman
followed my friend to the door, earnestly pleading the cause of some
family in the neighbourhood, who were in great distress. "See now,"
said she, "they are a large family, and the poor crayters are
starvin'. He is a shoemaker, an' he doesn't be gettin' any work this
longtime. Oh, indeed, then, Mr Lea, God knows thim people is badly
off." My friend promised to visit the family she had spoken of, and
we came away. The smell of the house, and of the court altogether,
was so sickening that we were glad to get into the air of the open
street again.

It was now about half-past eleven, and my friend said, "We have
another workroom for young women in the schoolroom of St Catherine's
Church. It is about five minutes' walk from here; we have just time
to see it before they break up for dinner." It was a large, square,
brick building, standing by the road side, upon high ground, at the
upper end of Scholes. The church is about fifty yards east of the
schoolhouse. This workroom was more airy, and better lighted than
the one at the Mechanics' Institution. The floor was flagged, which
will make it colder than the other in winter time. There were four
hundred girls in this room, some engaged in sewing and knitting,
others in reading and writing. They are employed four days in the
week, and they are paid ninepence a day, as at the other two rooms
in the town. It really was a pleasant thing to see their clear,
healthy, blond complexions; their clothing, so clean and whole,
however poor; and their orderly deportment. But they had been
accustomed to work, and their work had given them a discipline which
is not sufficiently valued. There are people who have written a
great deal, and know very little about the influence of factory
labour upon health,--it would be worth their while to see some of
these workrooms. I think it would sweep cobwebs away from the
corners of their minds. The clothing made up in these workrooms is
of a kind suitable for the wear of working people, and is intended
to be given away to the neediest among them, in the coming winter. I
noticed a feature here which escaped me in the room at the
Mechanics' Institution. On one side of the room there was a flight
of wooden stairs, about six yards wide. Upon these steps were seated
a number of children, with books in their hands. These youngsters
were evidently restless, though not noisy; and they were not very
attentive to their books. These children were the worst clad and
least clean part of the assembly; and it was natural that they
should be so, for they were habitual beggars, gathered from the
streets, and brought there to be taught and fed. When they were
pointed out to me, I could not help thinking that the money which
has been spent upon ragged schools is an excellent investment in the
sense of world-wide good. I remarked to one of the ladies teaching
there, how very clean and healthy the young women looked. She said
that the girls had lately been more in the open air than usual.
"And," said she, speaking of the class she was superintending, "I
find these poor girls as apt learners as any other class of young
people I ever knew." We left the room just before they were
dismissed to dinner.

A few yards from the school, and by the same roadside, we came to a
little cottage at the end of a row. "We will call here," said my
friend; "I know the people very well. "A little, tidy, good-looking
woman sat by the fire, nursing an infant at the breast. The house
was clean, and all the humble furniture of the poor man's cottage
seemed to be still in its place. There were two shelves of books
hanging against the walls, and a pile of tracts and pamphlets, a
foot deep, on a small table at the back of the room. I soon found,
however, that these people were going through their share of the
prevalent suffering. The family was six in number. The comely little
woman said that her husband was a weaver of "Cross-over;" and I
suppose he would earn about six or seven shillings a week at that
kind of work; but he had been long out of work. His wife said, "I've
had to pop my husban's trousers an' waistcoat many a time to pay th'
rent o' this house." She then began to talk about her first-born,
and the theme was too much for her. "My owdest child was thirteen
when he died," said she. "Eh, he was a fine child. We lost him about
two years sin'. He was killed. He fell down that little pit o'
Wright's, Mr Lea, he did." Then the little woman began to cry, "Eh,
my poor lad! Eh, my fine little lad! Oh dear,--oh dear o' me!" What
better thing could we have done than to say nothing at such a
moment. We waited a few minutes until she became calm, and then she
began to talk about a benevolent young governess who used to live in
that quarter, and who had gone about doing good there, amongst "all
sorts and conditions of men," especially the poorest.

"Eh," said she; "that was a good woman, if ever there was one. Hoo
teached a class o' fifty at church school here, though hoo wur a
Dissenter. An' hoo used to come to this house every Sunday neet, an'
read th' Scripturs; an' th' place wur olez crammed--th' stairs an
o'. Up-groon fellows used to come an' larn fro her, just same as
childer--they did for sure--great rough colliers, an' o' mak's. Hoo
used to warn 'em again drinkin', an' get 'em to promise that they
wouldn't taste for sich a time. An' if ever they broke their
promise, they olez towd her th' truth, and owned to it at once. They
like as iv they couldn't for shame tell her a lie. There's one of
her scholars, a blacksmith--he's above fifty year owd--iv yo were to
mention her name to him just now, he'd begin a-cryin', an' he'd ha'
to walk eawt o'th heause afore he could sattle hissel'. Eh, hoo wur
a fine woman; an' everything that hoo said wur so striking. Hoo
writes to her scholars here, once a week; an' hoo wants 'em to write
back to her, as mony on 'em as con do. See yo; that's one ov her


"Come, child of misfortune, come hither!
I'll weep with thee, tear for tear."

The weaver's wife spoke very feelingly of the young governess who
had been so good to the family. Her voice trembled with emotion as
she told of her kindnesses, which had so won the hearts of the poor
folk thereabouts, that whenever they hear her name now, their
tongues leap at once into heart-warm praise of her. It seems to have
been her daily pleasure to go about helping those who needed help
most, without any narrowness of distinction; in the spirit of that
"prime wisdom" which works with all its might among such elements as
lie nearest to the hand. Children and gray-haired working men
crowded into the poor cottages to hear her read, and to learn the
first elements of education at her free classes. She left the town,
some time ago, to live in the south of England; but the blessings of
many who were ready to perish in Wigan will follow her all her days,
and her memory will long remain a garden of good thoughts and
feelings to those she has left behind. The eyes of the weaver's wife
grew moist as she told of the old blacksmith, who could not bear to
hear her name mentioned without tears. On certain nights of the week
he used to come regularly with the rest to learn to read, like a
little child, from that young teacher. As I said in my last, she
still sends a weekly letter to her poor scholars in Wigan to
encourage them in their struggles, and to induce as many of them as
are able to write to her in return. "This is one of her letters,"
said the poor woman, handing a paper to me. The manner of the
handwriting was itself characteristic of kind consideration for her
untrained readers. The words stood well apart. The letters were
clearly divided, and carefully and distinctly written, in Roman
characters, a quarter of an inch long; and there was about three-
quarters of an inch of space between each line, so as to make the
whole easier to read by those not used to manuscript. The letter ran
as follows:--"Dear friends,--I send you with this some little books,
which I hope you will like to try to read; soon, I hope, I shall be
able to help you with those texts you cannot make out by yourselves.
I often think of you, dear friends, and wish that I could sometimes
take a walk to Scholefield's Lane. This wish only makes me feel how
far I am from you, but then I remember with gladness that I may
mention you all by name to our one Father, and ask Him to bless you.
Very often I do ask Him, and one of my strongest wishes is that we,
who have so often read His message of love together, may all of us
love the Saviour, and, through Him, be saved from sin. Dear friends,
do pray to Him. With kind love and best wishes to each one of you,
believe me always, your sincere friend, __." I have dwelt a little
upon this instance of unassuming beneficence, to show that there is
a great deal of good being done in this world, which is not much
heard of, except by accident. One meets with it, here and there, as
a thirsty traveller meets with an unexpected spring in the
wilderness, refreshing its own plot of earth, without noise or

My friend and I left the weaver's cottage, and came down again into
a part of Scholes where huddled squalor and filth is to be found on
all sides. On our way we passed an old tattered Irishwoman, who was
hurrying along, with two large cabbages clipt tight in her withered
arms. "You're doin' well, old lady," said I. "Faith," replied she,
"if I had a big lump ov a ham bone, now, wouldn't we get over this
day in glory, anyhow. But no matter. There's not wan lafe o' them
two fellows but will be clane out o' sight before the clock strikes
again." The first place we called at in this quarter was a poor
half-empty cottage, inhabited by an old widow and her sick daughter.
The girl sat there pale and panting, and wearing away to skin and
bone. She was far gone in consumption. Their only source of
maintenance was the usual grant of relief from the committee, but
this girl's condition needed further consideration. The old widow
said to my friend, "Aw wish yo could get me some sort o' nourishment
for this lass, Mr Lea; aw cannot get it mysel', an' yo see'n heaw
hoo is." My friend took a note of the case, and promised to see to
it at once. When great weltering populations, like that of
Lancashire, are thrown suddenly into such a helpless state as now,
it is almost impossible to lay hold at once of every nice
distinction of circumstances that gives a speciality of suffering to
the different households of the poor. But I believe, as this time of
trouble goes on, the relief committees are giving a more careful and
delicate consideration to the respective conditions of poor

After leaving the old widow's house, as we went farther down into
the sickly hive of penury and dirt, called "Scholes," my friend told
me of an intelligent young woman, a factory operative and a Sunday-
school teacher, who had struggled against starvation, till she could
bear it no longer; and, even after she had accepted the grant of
relief, she "couldn't for shame" fetch the tickets herself, but
waited outside whilst a friend of hers went in for them. The next
house we visited was a comfortable cottage. The simple furniture was
abundant, and good of its kind, and the whole was remarkably clean.
Amongst the wretched dwellings in its neighbourhood, it shone "like
a good deed in a naughty world." On the walls there were several
Catholic pictures, neatly framed; and a large old-fashioned wooden
wheel stood in the middle of the floor, with a quantity of linen
yarn upon it. Old Stephen I__ and his cosy goodwife lived there. The
old woman was "putting the place to rights" after their noontide
meal; and Stephen was "cottering" about the head of the cellar steps
when we went in. There were a few healthy plants in the windows, and
everything gave evidence of industry and care. The good-tempered old
couple were very communicative. Old Stephen was a weaver of diaper;
and, when he had anything to do, he could earn about eight shillings
a week. "Some can get more than that at the same work," said he;
"but I am gettin' an old man, ye see. I shall be seventy-three on
the 10th of next October, and, beside that, I have a very bad arm,
which is a great hindrance to me." "He has had very little work for
months, now," said his wife; "an' what makes us feel it more, just
now, is that my son is over here on a visit to us, from Oscott
College. He is studying for the priesthood. He went to St John's,
here, in Wigan, for five years, as a pupil teacher; an' he took good
ways, so the principals of the college proposed to educate him for
the Church of Rome. He was always a good boy, an' a bright one, too.
I wish we had been able to entertain him better. But he knows that
the times are again us. He is twenty-four years of age; an' I often
think it strange that his father's birthday and his own fall on the
same day of the month--the 10th of October. I hope we'll both live
to see him an ornament to his profession yet. There is only the
girl, an' Stephen, an' myself left at home now, an' we have hard
work to pull through, I can assure ye; though there are many people
a dale worse off than we are."

From this place we went up to a street called "Vauxhall Road." In
the first cottage we called at here the inmates were all out of
work, as usual, and living upon relief. There happened to be a poor
old white-haired weaver sitting in the house,--an aged neighbour out
of work, who had come in to chat with my friend a bit. My friend
asked how he was getting on. "Yo mun speak up," said the woman of
the house, "he's very deaf." "What age are yo, maister?" said I.
"What?" "How old are yo?" "Aw'm a beamer," replied the old man, "a
twister-in,--when there's ought doin'. But it's nowt ov a trade
neaw. Aw'll tell yo what ruins me; it's these lung warps. They maken
'em seven an' eight cuts in, neaw an' then. There's so mony
'fancies' an' things i' these days; it makes my job good to nought
at o' for sich like chaps as me. When one gets sixty year owd, they
needen to go to schoo again neaw; they getten o'erta'en wi' so many
kerly-berlies o' one mak and another. Mon, owd folk at has to wortch
for a livin' cannot keep up wi' sich times as these,--nought o'th
sort." "Well, but how do you manage to live?" "Well, aw can hardly
tell,--aw'll be sunken iv aw can tell. It's very thin pikein'; but
very little does for me, an' aw've nought but mysel'. Yo see'n, aw
get a bit ov a job neaw an' then, an' a scrat amung th' rook, like
an owd hen. But aw'll tell yo one thing; aw'll not go up yon, iv aw
can help it,--aw'll not." ("Up yon" meant to the Board of
Guardians.) "Eh, now," said the woman of the house, "aw never see'd
sich a man as him i' my life. See yo, he'll sit an' clem fro mornin'
to neet afore he'll ax oather relief folk or onybody else for a

In the same street we called at a house where there was a tall, pale
old man, sitting sadly in an old arm-chair, by the fireside. The
little cottage was very sweet and orderly. Every window was cleaned
to its utmost nook of glass, and every bit of metal was brightened
up to the height. The flagged floor was new washed; and everything
was in its own place. There were a few books on little shelves, and
a Bible lay on the window-sill; and there was a sad, chapel-like
stillness in the house. A clean, staid-looking girl stood at a
table, peeling potatoes for dinner. The old man said, "We are five,
altogether, in this house. This lass is a reeler. I am a weighver;
but we'n bin out o' wark nine months, now. We'n bin force't to tak
to relief at last; an' we'n getten five tickets. We could happen ha'
manage't better,--but aw'm sore wi' rheumatism, yo see'n. Aw've had
a bit o' weighvin' i'th heawse mony a day, but aw've th' rheumatic
so bad i' this hond--it's hond that aw pick wi'--that aw couldn't
bide to touch a fither with it, bless yo. Aw have th' rheumatic all
o'er mo, nearly; an' it leads one a feaw life. Yo happen never had a
touch on it, had yo?" "Never." "Well; yo're weel off. When is this
war to end, thinken yo?" "Nay; that's a very hard thing to tell." "
Well, we mun grin an' abide till it's o'er, aw guess. It's a mad mak
o' wark. But it'll happen turn up for best i'th end ov o'."


"Mother, heaw leets we han no brade,--
Heawever con it be?
Iv aw don't get some brade to eat,
Aw think 'at aw mun dee."
--Hungry Child.

It was about noon when we left the old weaver, nursing his rheumatic
limbs by the side of a dim fire, in his chapel-like little house.
His daughter, a tall, clean, shy girl, began to peel a few potatoes
just before we came away. It is a touching thing, just now, to see
so many decent cottages of thrifty working men brought low by the
strange events of these days; cottages in which everything betokens
the care of well-conducted lives, and where the sacred fire of
independent feeling is struggling through the long frost of
misfortune with patient dignity. It is a touching thing to see the
simple joys of life, in homes like these, crushed into a speechless
endurance of penury, and the native spirit of self-reliance writhing
in unavoidable prostration, and hoping on from day to day for better
times. I have seen many such places in my wanderings during these
hard days--cottages where all was so sweet and orderly, both in
person and habitation, that, but for the funereal stillness which
sat upon hunger-nipt faces, a stranger would hardly have dreamt that
the people dwelling there were undergoing any uncommon privation. I
have often met with such people in my rambles,--I have often found
them suffering pangs more keen than hunger alone could inflict,
because they arose from the loss of those sweet relations of
independence which are dear to many of them as life itself. With
such as these--the shy, the proud, the intelligent and uncomplaining
endurers--hunger is not the hardest thing that befalls:-

"When the mind's free,
The body's delicate; the tempest in their minds
Doth from their senses take all else,
Save what beats there."

People of this temper are more numerous amongst our working
population than the world believes, because they are exactly of the
kind least likely to be heard of. They will fight their share of the
battle of this time out as nobly as they have begun it; and it will
be an ill thing for the land that owns them if full justice is not
done to their worth, both now and hereafter.

In the same street where the old weaver lived, we called upon a
collier's family--a family of ten in number. The colliers of Wigan
have been suffering a good deal lately, among the rest of the
community, from shortness of labour. It was dinner-time when we
entered the house, and the children were all swarming about the
little place clamouring for their noontide meal. With such a rough
young brood, I do not wonder that the house was not so tidy as some
that I had seen. The collier's wife was a decent, good-tempered-
looking woman, though her face was pale and worn, and bore evidence
of the truth of her words, when she said, "Bless your life, aw'm
poo'd to pieces wi' these childer!" She sat upon a stool, nursing a
child at the breast, and doing her best to still the tumult of the
others, who were fluttering about noisily. "Neaw, Sammul," said she,
"theaw'll ha' that pot upo th' floor in now,--thae little pousement
thae! Do keep eawt o' mischief,--an' make a less din, childer, win
yo: for my yed's fair maddle't wi' one thing an' another . . .
Mary, tak' th' pon off th' fire, an' reach me yon hippin' off th'
oondur; an' then sit tho deawn somewheer, do,--thae'll be less bi
th' legs." The children ranged seemingly from about two months up to
fourteen years of age. Two of the youngest were sitting upon the
bottom step of the stairs, eating off one plate. Four rough lads
were gathered round a brown dish, which stood upon a little deal
table in the middle of the floor. These four were round-headed
little fellows, all teeming with life. "Yon catched us eawt
o'flunters, (out of order,)" said the poor woman when we entered;
"but what con a body do?" We were begging that she would not disturb
herself, when one of the lads at the table called out, "Mother; look
at eawr John. He keeps pushin' me off th' cheer!" "Eh, John,"
replied she; "I wish thy feyther were here! Thae'rt olez tormentin'
that lad. Do let him alone, wilto--or else aw'll poo that toppin' o'
thine, smartly--aw will! An' do see iv yo connot behave yorsels!"
"Well," said John; "he keeps takkin' my puddin'!" "Eh, what a
story," replied the other little fellow; "it wur thee, neaw!" "
Aw'll tell yo what it is," said the mother, "iv yo two connot agree,
an' get your dinner quietly, aw'll tak that dish away; an' yo'st not
have another bite this day. Heaw con yo for shame!" This quietened
the lads a little, and they went on with their dinner. At another
little table under the back window, two girls stood, dining off one
plate. The children were all eating a kind of light pudding, known
in Lancashire by the name of "Berm-bo," or, "Berm-dumplin'," made of
flour and yeast, mixed with a little suet. The poor woman said that
her children were all "hearty-etten," (all hearty eaters,)
especially the lads; and she hardly knew what to make for them, so
as to have enough for the whole. "Berm-dumplin'," was as satisfying
as anything that she could get, and it would "stick to their ribs"
better than "ony mak o' swill;" besides, the children liked it.
Speaking of her husband, she said, "He were eawt o' wark a good
while; but he geet a shop at last, at Blackrod, abeawt four mile off
Wigan. When he went a-wortchin' to Blackrod, at first, nought would
sarve but he would walk theer an' back every day, so as to save
lodgin' brass,--an sich like. Aw shouldn't ha' care't iv it had
nobbut bin a mile, or two even; for aw'd far rayther that he had his
meals comfortable awhoam, an' his bits o' clooas put reet; but Lord
bless yo,--eight mile a day, beside a hard day's wark,--it knocked
him up at last,--it were so like. He kept sayin', 'Oh, he could do
it,' an' sich like; but aw could see that he were fair killin'
hissel', just for the sake o' comin' to his own whoam ov a neet; an'
for th' sake o' savin' two or three shillin'; so at last aw turned
Turk, an' made him tak lodgin's theer. Aw'd summut to do to persuade
him at first, an' aw know that he's as whoam-sick as a chylt that's
lost its mother, just this minute; but then, what's th' matter o'
that,--it wouldn't do for mo to have him laid up, yo known. . . .
Oh, he's a very feelin' mon. Aw've sin him when he couldn't finish
his bit o' dinner for thinkin' o' somebody that were clemmin'."
Speaking of the hardships the family had experienced, she said, "Eh,
bless yo! There's some folk can sit i'th heawse an' send their
childer to prow eawt a-beggin' in a mornin', regilar,--but eawr
childer wouldn't do it,--an', iv they would, aw wouldn' let 'em,--
naw, not iv we were clemmin' to deeoth,--to my thinkin'."

The woman was quite right. Among the hard-tried operatives of
Lancashire I have seen several instances in which they have gone out
daily to beg; and some rare cases, even, in which they have stayed
moodily at home themselves and sent their children forth to beg; and
anybody living in this county will have noticed the increase of
mendicancy there, during the last few months. No doubt professional
beggars have taken large advantage of this unhappy time to work upon
the sympathies of those easy givers who cannot bear to hear the wail
of distress, however simulated--who prefer giving at once, because
it "does their own hearts good," to the trouble of inquiring or the
pain of refusing,--who would rather relieve twenty rogues than miss
the blessing of one honest soul who was ready to perish,--those
kind-hearted, free-handed scatterers of indiscriminate benevolence
who are the keen-eyed, whining cadger's chief support, his standing
joke, and favourite prey; and who are more than ever disposed to
give to whomsoever shall ask of them in such a season as this. All
the mendicancy which appears on our streets does not belong to the
suffering operatives of Lancashire. But, apart from those poor,
miserable crawlers in the gutters of life, who live by habitual and
unnecessary beggary, great and continued adversity is a strong test
of the moral tone of any people. Extreme poverty, and the painful
things which follow in its train--these are "bad to bide" with the
best of mankind. Besides, there are always some people who, from
causes within themselves, are continually at their wits' end to keep
the wolf from the door, even when employment is plentiful with them;
and there are some natures too weak to bear any long strain of
unusual poverty without falling back upon means of living which, in
easy circumstances, they would have avoided, if not despised. It is
one evil of the heavy pressure of the times; for there is fear that
among such as these, especially the young and plastic, some may
become so familiar with that beggarly element which was offensive to
their minds at first--may so lose the tone of independent pride, and
become "subdued to what they work in, like the dyer's hand,"--that
they may learn to look upon mendicancy as an easy source of support
hereafter, even in times of less difficulty than the present.

Happily, such weakness as this is not characteristic of the English
people; but "they are well kept that God keeps," and perhaps it
would not be wise to cramp the hand of relief too much at a time
like this, to a people who have been, and will be yet, the hope and
glory of the land.


"Poor Tom's a-cold! Who gives anything to poor Tom?"
--King Lear.

One sometimes meets with remarkable differences of condition in the
households of poor folk, which stand side by side in the same
street. I am not speaking of the uncertain shelters of those who
struggle upon the skirts of civilisation, in careless, uncared-for
wretchedness, without settled homes, or regular occupation,--the
miserable camp followers of life's warfare,--living habitually from
hand to mouth, in a reckless wrestle with the world, for mere
existence. I do not mean these, but the households of our common
working people. Amongst the latter one sometimes meets with striking
differences, in cleanliness, furniture, manners, intellectual
acquirements, and that delicate compound of mental elements called
taste. Even in families whose earnings have been equal in the past,
and who are just now subject alike to the same pinch of adversity,
these disparities are sometimes very great. And, although there are
cases in which the immediate causes of these differences are evident
enough in the habits of the people, yet, in others, the causes are
so obscure, that the wisest observer would be most careful in
judging respecting them. I saw an example of this in a little bye-
street, at the upper end of Scholes--a quarter of Wigan where the
poorest of the poor reside, and where many decent working people
have lately been driven for cheap shelter by the stress of the
times. Scholes is one of those ash-pits of human life which may be
found in almost any great town; where, among a good deal of despised
stuff, which by wise treatment might possibly be made useful to the
world, many a jewel gets accidentally thrown away, and lost. This
bye-street of mean brick cottages had an unwholesome, outcast look;
and the sallow, tattered women, lounging about the doorways, and
listlessly watching the sickly children in the street, evinced the
prevalence of squalor and want there. The very children seemed
joyless at their play; and everything that met the eye foretold that
there was little chance of finding anything in that street but
poverty in its most prostrate forms. But, even in this unpromising
spot, I met with an agreeable surprise.

The first house we entered reminded me of those clean, lone
dwellings, up in the moorland nooks of Lancashire, where the sweet
influences of nature have free play; where the people have a
hereditary hatred of dirt and disorder; and where, even now, many of
the hardy mountain folk are half farmers, half woollen weavers,
doing their weaving in their own quiet houses, where the smell of
the heather and the song of the wild bird floats in at the workman's
window, blent with the sounds of rindling waters,--doing their
weaving in green sequestered nooks, where the low of kine, and the
cry of the moorfowl can be heard; and bearing the finished "cuts"
home upon their backs to the distant town. All was so bright in this
little cottage,--so tidy and serene,--that the very air seemed
clearer there than in the open street. The humble furniture, good of
its kind, was all shiny with "elbow grease," and some parts of it
looked quaint and well-preserved, like the heirlooms of a careful
cottage ancestry. The well polished fire-irons, and other metal
things, seemed to gather up the diffuse daylight and fling it back
in concentrated radiances that illuminated the shady cottage with
cheerful beauty. The little shelf of books, the gleaming window,
with its healthy pot flowers, the perfect order, and the trim
sweetness of everything, reminded me, as I have said, of the better
sort of houses where simple livers dwell, up among the free air of
the green hills--those green hills of Lancashire, the remembrance of
which will always stir my heart as long as it can stir to anything.
This cottage, in comparison with most of those which I had seen in
Scholes, looked like a glimpse of the star-lit blue peeping through
the clouds on a gloomy night. I found that it was the house of a
widower, a weaver of diaper, who was left with a family of eight
children to look after. Two little girls were in the house, and they
were humbly but cleanly clad. One of them called her father up from
the cellar, where he was working at his looms. He was a mild,
thoughtful-looking man, something past middle age. I could not help
admiring him as he stood in the middle of the floor with his
unsleeved arms folded, uttering quiet jets of simple speech to my
friend, who had known him before. He said that he hardly ever got
anything to do now, but when he was at work he could make about 7s.
2d. a week by weaving two cuts. He was receiving six tickets weekly
from the Relief Committee, which, except the proceeds of a little
employment now and then, was all that the family of nine had to
depend upon for food, firing, clothes, and rent. He said that he was
forced to make every little spin out as far as it would; but it kept
him bare and busy, and held his nose "everlastingly deawn to th'
grindlestone." But he didn't know that it was any use complaining
about a thing that neither master nor man could help. He durst say
that he could manage to grin and bide till things came round, th'
same as other folk had to do. Grumbling, in a case like this, was
like "fo'in eawt wi' th' elements," (quarrelling with a storm.) One
of his little girls was on her knees, cleaning the floor. She
stopped a minute, to look at my friend and me. "Come, my lass," said
her father, "get on wi' thi weshin'." "I made application for th'
watchman's place at Leyland Mill," continued he, "but I wur to lat.
. . . There's nought for it," continued he, as we came out of the
house, "there's nought for it but to keep one's een oppen, an' do as
weel as they con, till it blows o'er."

A few yards from this house, we looked in at a slip of a cottage, at
the corner of the row. It was like a slice off some other cottage,
stuck on at the end of the rest, to make up the measure of the
street; for it was less than two yards wide, by about four yards
long. There was only one small window, close to the door, and it was
shrouded by a dingy cotton blind. When we first entered, I could
hardly see what there was in that gloomy cell; but when the eyes
became acquainted with the dimness within, we found that there was
neither fire nor furniture in the place, except at the far end,
where an old sick woman lay gasping upon three chairs, thinly
covered from the cold. She was dying of asthma. At her right hand
there was another rickety chair, by the help of which she raised
herself up from her hard bed. She said that she had never been up
stairs during the previous twelve months, but had lain there, at the
foot of the stairs, all that time. She had two daughters. They were
both out of the house; and they had been out of work a long time.
One of them had gone to Miss B_'s to learn to sew. "She gets her
breakfast before she starts," said the old woman, "an' she takes a
piece o' bread with her, to last for th' day." It was a trouble to
her to talk much, so we did not stop long; but I could not help
feeling sorry that the poor old soul had not a little more comfort
to smooth her painful passage to the grave. On our way from this
place, we went into a cottage near the "Coal Yard," where a tall,
thin Irishwoman was washing some tattered clothes, whilst her
children played about the gutter outside. This was a family of
seven, and they were all out of work, except the father, who was
away, trying to make a trifle by hawking writing-paper and
envelopes. This woman told us that she was in great trouble about
one of her children--the eldest daughter, now grown up to womanhood.
"She got married to a sailor about two year ago," said she, "an' he
wint away a fortnit after, an' never was heard of since. She never
got the scrape ov a pen from him to say was he alive or dead. She
never heard top nor tail of him since he wint from her; an' the girl
is just pinin' away."

Poor folk have their full share of the common troubles of life,
apart from the present distress. The next place we visited was the
"Fleece Yard," another of those unhealthy courts, of which there are
so many in Scholes--where poverty and dirt unite to make life doubly
miserable. In this yard we went up three or four steps into a little
disorderly house, where a family of eleven was crowded. Not one of
the eleven was earning anything except the father, who was working
for ls. 3d. a day. In addition to this the family received four
tickets weekly from the Relief Committee. There were several of the
children in, and they looked brisk and healthy, in spite of the dirt
and discomfort of the place; but the mother was sadly "torn down" by
the cares of her large family. The house had a sickly smell. Close
to the window, a little, stiff built, bullet-headed lad stood,
stript to the waist, sputtering and splashing as he washed himself
in a large bowl of water, placed upon a stool. By his side there was
another lad three or four years older, and the two were having a bit
of famous fun together, quite heedless of all else. The elder kept
ducking the little fellow's head into the water, upon which the one
who was washing himself sobbed, and spat, and cried out in great
glee, "Do it again, Jack!" The mother, seeing us laugh at the lads,
said, "That big un's been powin' tother, an' th' little monkey's
gone an' cut every smite o' th' lad's toppin' off. "" Well," said
the elder lad, "Aw did it so as nobody can lug him. "And it
certainly was a close clip. We could see to the roots of the little
fellow's hair all over his round, hard head. "Come," said the
mother, "yo two are makin' a nice floor for mo. Thae'll do, mon;
arto beawn to lother o' th' bit o' swoap away that one has to wash
wi'; gi's howd on't this minute, an' go thi ways an' dry thisel',
thae little pouse, thae." We visited several other places in Scholes
that day, but of these I will say something hereafter. In the
evening I returned home, and the thing that I best remember hearing
on the way was an anecdote of two Lancashire men, who had been
disputing a long time about something that one of them knew little
of. At last the other turned to him, and said, "Jem; does thae know
what it is that makes me like thee so weel, owd brid?" "Naw; what is
it?" "Why; it's becose thae'rt sich a ___ foo!" "Well," replied the
other, "never thee mind that;" and then, alluding to the subject
they had been disputing about, he said, "Thae knows, Joe, aw know
thae'rt reet enough; but, by th' men, aw'll not give in till


"Here, take this purse, thou whom the Heaven's plagues
Have humbled to all strokes."
--King Lear.

In the afternoon of the last day I spent in Wigan, as I wandered
with my friend from one cottage to another, in the long suburban
lane called "Hardy Butts," I bethought me how oft I had met with
this name of "Butts "connected with places in or close to the towns
of Lancashire. To me the original application of the name seems
plain, and not uninteresting. In the old days, when archery was
common in England, the bowmen of Lancashire were famous; and it is
more than likely that these yet so-called "Butts" are the places
where archery was then publicly practised. When Sir Edward Stanley
led the war-smiths of Lancashire and Cheshire to Flodden Field, the
men of Wigan are mentioned as going with the rest. And among those
"fellows fearce and freshe for feight," of whom the quaint old
alliterative ballad describes the array:-

"A stock of striplings strong of heart,
Brought up from babes with beef and bread,
From Warton unto Warrington
From Wigan unto Wiresdale--"

and, from a long list of the hills, and cloughs, and old towns of
the county--the bowmen of Lancashire did their share of work upon
that field. The use of the bow lingered longer in Lancashire than in
some parts of the kingdom--longer in England generally than many
people suppose. Sir Walter Scott says, in a note to his "Legend of
Montrose:" "Not only many of the Highlanders in Montrose's army used
these antique missiles, but even in England the bow and quiver, once
the glory of the bold yeomen of that land, were occasionally used
during the great civil wars."

But I have said enough upon this subject in this place. My friend's
business, and mine, in Wigan, that day, was connected with other
things. He was specially wishful that I should call upon an
acquaintance of his, who lived in "Hardy Butts," an old man and very
poor; a man heavily stricken by fortune's blows, yet not much tamed
thereby; a man "steeped to the lips" in poverty, yet of a jocund
spirit; a humorist and a politician, among his humble companions. I
felt curious to see this "Old John," of whom I heard so much. We
went to the cottage where he lived. There was very little furniture
in the place, and, like the house itself, it was neither good nor
clean; but then the poverty-stricken pair were very old, and, so far
as household comfort went, they had to look after themselves. When
we entered, the little wrinkled woman sat with her back to us,
smoking, and gazing at the dirty grate, where a few hot cinders
glowed dimly in the lowmost bars. "Where's John?" said my friend.
"He hasn't bin gone eawt aboon five minutes," said she, turning
round to look at us, "Wur yo wantin' him?" "Yes, I should like to
see him." She looked hard at my friend again, and then cried out,
"Eh, is it yo? Come, an' sit yo deawn! aw'll go an' see iv aw can
root him up for yo!" But we thought it as well to visit some other
houses in the neighbourhood, calling at old John's again afterwards;
so we told the old woman, and came away.

My friend was well known to the poor people of that neighbourhood as
a member of the Relief Committee, and we had not gone many yards
down "Hardy Butts" before we drew near where three Irishwomen were
sitting upon the doorsteps of a miserable cottage, chattering, and
looking vacantly up and down the slutchy street. As soon as they
caught sight of my friend, one of the women called out, "Eh, here's
Mr Lea! Come here, now, Mr Lea, till I spake to ye. Ah, now;
couldn't ye do somethin' for old Mary beyant there? Sure the colour
of hunger's in that woman's face. Faith, it's a pity to see the way
she is,--neither husband nor son, nor chick nor child, nor bit nor
sup, barrin' what folk that has nothin' can give to her,--the
crayter." " Oh, indeed, then, sir," said another, "I'll lave it to
God; but that woman is starvin'. She is little more nor skin an'
bone,--and that's goin' less. Faith, she's not long for this world,
any how. . . . Bridget, ye might run an' see can she come here a
minute. . . . But there she is, standin' at the corner. Mary! Come
here, now, woman, till ye see the gentleman." She was a miserable-
looking creature; old, and ill, and thinly-clothed in rags, with a
dirty cloth tied round her head. My friend asked her some questions,
which she answered slowly, in a low voice that trembled with more
than the weakness of old age. He promised to see to the relief of
her condition immediately-- and she thanked him, but so feebly, that
it seemed to me as if she had not strength enough left to care much
whether she was relieved or not.

But, as we came away, the three Irishwomen, sitting upon the door-
steps, burst forth into characteristic expressions of gratitude.
"Ah! long life to ye, Mr Lea! The prayer o' the poor is wid ye for
evermore. If there was ony two people goin' to heaven alive, you'll
be wan o' them. . . That ye may never know want nor scant,--for the
good heart that's batein' in ye, Mr Lea." We now went through some
of the filthy alleys behind "Hardy Butts," till we came to the
cottage of a poor widow and her two daughters. The three were
entirely dependent upon the usual grant of relief from the
committee. My friend called here to inquire why the two girls had
not been to school during the previous few days; and whilst their
mother was explaining the reason, a neighbour woman who had seen us
enter, looked in at the door, and said, "Hey! aw say, Mr Lea!"
"Well, what's the matter?" " Whaw, there's a woman i'th next street
at's gettin' four tickets fro th' relief folk, reggilar, an' her
husban's addlin' thirty shillin' a week o' t' time, as a sinker--he
is for sure. Aw 'm noan tellin' yo a wort ov a lie. Aw consider sick
wark as that's noan reet--an' so mony folk clemmin' as there is i'
Wigan." He made a note of the matter; but he told me afterwards that
such reports were often found to be untrue, having their origin
sometimes in private spite or personal contention of some kind.

In the next house we called at, a widow woman lived, with her
married daughter, who had a child at the breast. The old woman told
her story herself; the daughter never spoke a word, so far as I
remember, but sat there, nursing, silent and sad, with half-averted
face, and stealing a shy glance at us now and then, when she thought
we were not looking at her. It was a clean cottage, though it was
scantily furnished with poor things; and they were both neat and
clean in person, though their clothing was meagre and far worn. I
thought, also, that the old woman's language, and the countenances
of both of them, indicated more natural delicacy of feeling, and
more cultivation, than is common amongst people of their condition.
The old woman said, "My daughter has been eawt o' work a long time.
I can make about two shillings and sixpence a-week, an' we've a
lodger that pays us two shillings a week; but we've three shillings
a-week to pay for rent, an' we must pay it, too, or else turn out.
But I'm lookin' for a less heawse; for we cannot afford to stop here
any longer, wi' what we have comin' in, --that is, if we're to live
at o'." I thought the house they were in was small enough and mean
enough for the poorest creature, and, though it was kept clean, the
neighbourhood was very unwholesome. But this was another instance of
how the unemployed operatives of Lancashire are being driven down
from day to day deeper into the pestilent sinks of life in these
hard times. "This child of my daughter's," continued the old woman,
in a low tone, "this child was born just as they were puttin' my
husband into his coffin, an' wi' one thing an' another, we've had a
deal o' trouble. But one half o'th world doesn't know how tother
lives. My husban' lay ill i' bed three year; an' he suffered to that
degree that he was weary o' life long before it were o'er. At after
we lost him, these bad times coom on, an' neaw, aw think we're poo'd
deawn as nee to th' greawnd as ony body can be. My daughter's
husband went off a-seekin' work just afore that child was born,--an'
we haven't heard from him yet." My friend took care that his visit
should result in lightening the weight of the old woman's troubles a

As we passed the doors of a row of new cottages at the top end of
"Hardy Butts," a respectable old man looked out at one of the
doorways, and said to my friend, "Could aw spake to yo a minute?" We
went in, and found the house remarkably clean, with good cottage
furniture in it. Two neighbour children were peeping in at the open
door. The old man first sent them away, and then, after closing the
door, he pointed to a good-looking young woman who stood blushing at
the entrance of the inner room, with a wet cloth in her hands, and
he said, "Could yo do a bit o' summat to help this lass till sich
times as hoo can get wark again? Hoo's noather feyther nor mother,
nor nought i'th world to tak to, but what aw can spare for her, an'
this is a poor shop to come to for help. Aw'm uncle to her." "Well,"
said my friend, "and cannot you manage to keep her?" "God bless yo!"
replied the old man, getting warm, "Aw cannot keep mysel'. Aw will
howd eawt as lung as aw can; but, yo know, what'll barely keep one
alive 'll clem two. Aw should be thankful iv yo could give her a bit
o' help whol things are as they are." Before the old man had done
talking, his niece had crept away into the back room, as if ashamed
of being the subject of such a conversation. This case was soon
disposed of to the satisfaction of the old man; after which we
visited three other houses in the same block, of which I have
nothing special to say, except that they were all inhabited by
people brought down to destitution by long want of work, and living
solely upon the relief fund, and upon the private charity of their
old employers. Upon this last source of relief too little has been
said, because it has not paraded itself before the public eye; but I
have had opportunities for seeing how wide and generous it is, and I
shall have abundant occasion for speaking of it hereafter. On our
way back, we looked in at "Old John's" again, to see if he had
returned home. He had been in, and he had gone out again, so we came
away, and saw nothing of him. Farther down towards the town, we
passed through Acton Square, which is a cleaner place than some of
the abominable nooks of Scholes, though I can well believe that
there is many a miserable dwelling in it, from what I saw of the
interiors and about the doorways, in passing.

The last house we called at was in this square, and it was a
pleasing exception to the general dirt of the neighbourhood. It was
the cottage of a stout old collier, who lost his right leg in one of
Wright's pits some years ago. My friend knew the family, and we
called there more for the purpose of resting ourselves and having a
chat than anything else. The old man was gray-haired, but he looked
very hale and hearty--save the lack of his leg. His countenance was
expressive of intelligence and good humour; and there was a touch of
quiet majesty about his massive features. There was, to me, a kind
of rude hint of Christopher North in the old collier's appearance.
His wife, too, was a tall, strong-built woman, with a comely and a
gentle face --a fit mate for such a man as he. I thought, as she
moved about, her grand bulk seemed to outface the narrow limits of


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