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ROUGH BEGINNINGS. On the evening of the 13th July, 1846, the school was opened. Crowds of dirty, ragged, bold, and reckless youths, far exceeding every expectation, presented themselves for admission. Only a portion of them could be taken in; seventy of each, boys and girls, being deemed as many as could be at first efficiently instructed and governed by two teachers. Those admitted were accordingly restricted to this number. A strange and motley group they were ; the pencil of Hogarth only could do justice to the pathos and the humour of the spectacle they formed. Many of them had been the frequent inmates of prisons, some of almost all those in and about the metropolis, but were, with reference to the discipline of these, emphatically
“Worse for mending, washed to fouler stains.” Some were from the worst dens of infamy, kept by their own parents, and some were themselves its victims, at once the offspring and devotees of shameless impurity. Some were the children of convicts, and in the way too likely to occasion their becoming such themselves. Many were orphans. A large proportion subsisted by what they got upon the streets as costermongers, vagrants, thieves, etc. And yet there was about them something interesting and hopeful. The girls were maidenly and modest in their demeanour, and the boys had vivacity and kindly humour. It was evident they regarded the idea of their going to school as forming matter for "fine fun.” On the evening when opened, the boys and girls were, for a short time, assembled in the same room, and after being duly instructed about what was proposed to be done for them, and what would be expected from them, they were addressed by their newly installed master on the subject of obedience. Cunning glances were rapidly interchanged in all directions ; every variety of imaginable grimace was exhibited; now and then a goodnatured jest was uttered, commonly at the master's expense, or a strange antic performed; and in a few instances, attempts were made to upset all order, and turn the business into fun. After several unsuccessful essays at this, one bold fellow sang out, “Ah! if I had a donkey what wouldn't go,” and the whole mass burst out into a loud and wild laugh. The master paused, and then said, “Well, now suppose you had a donkey what wouldn't go, and you had a load of corn to carry to a given place, and you found yourself in consequence conquered, would that be right in the donkey” “No, sir," answered every voice. “Certainly not," said the master, “and I hope that young man does not mean to compare you to donkeys. I should be sorry to do so, for you have minds that can think and reason, you have souls that will not die, and my desire is to lead you to exercise those minds, and to learn the value of your souls. But let me here just say, you must not look on the donkey as being everywhere that stupid and unmanageable sort of animal which the cruelty of Englishmen has made him. If he is well fed and regularly cleaned, he is a pretty and useful creature. In some countries, even princes would think it no disgrace to ride upon one, and when you and I become more acquainted, I shall be able to tell you of a Prince of princes who rode on one, But now to come back to the point we had in hand; there is the donkey and the load to be carried, and this young man wants the donkey to go; tell me what is to be done."
Why, hold a bunch of carrots before his nose, to be sure,” responded one drily. “That,” said the master," would be very kind of you, and you may depend upon it that donkey would like it much better than the broomstick, such as many beat and torture him with, and I am very much obliged to that youth for the bunch of carrots, and it is my intention to hold out to you such inducements as may lead you to continue under my care until you know the value and importance of instruction ; so now, my boys, follow me into our own school-room.” “ This is a jolly good cove, aint hep” said
the lads, good-humouredly, as, with many strange grimaces and antics, they moved off after him; “I shall like this school." But it was not always in such mild and manageable forms that their disorderly tendencies and eccentric dispositions showed themselves. There were a number of Irish lads who had, on some account, conceived a feeling of hostility towards the rest, and entered into a conspiracy against them. They had determined to fall suddenly upon their supposed enemies on leaving school, and had furnished themselves with short sticks, which they attempted to conceal beneath their clothes. Thanks to their tattered garments, this device failed; for, from beneath the garb of some whose jackets had long before taken leave of their sleeves, and, in fact, were but the ragged remnants of their former selves, the sticks looked out, and told tales in school. These unsightly weapons, thus unluckily protruding from their worn-out scabbards, quite defeated their wicked plot, and gave occasion for a wholesome lecture on Peace.” Notwithstanding, a second attempt was made soon after ; although, in this instance, the viper was killed before it was fairly hatched, it was desirable in future, for a limited time, to secure the presence of a policeman. It happened, fortunately, that the one obtained was a young man of kindly disposition, and of some sympathy with the work, he having been accustomed, in previous years, to teach in a Sabbath School; he accordingly took a lively interest in the operations of the boys and girls, sometimes hearing them read, and then helping them in their sums, and so the lads, out of very respect and love, called him the "King of the Peelers.”
Degraded as these poor outcasts were, and fallen as they seemed to be, even beyond help and hope, they were by no means entirely destitute of a sense of the importance of instruction. One poor boy, being observed for several nights to fall asleep, was asked how it was. “I thinks," said he, “it's cause I gets up so early in the morning.” At what time do you get up, my boy?” he was
“At four o'clock,” was the reply. And why do you get up 80 soon "
“Cause I sells watercresses, and if I didn't go at that time I couldn't get 'em."
Of the privations to which these hapless youths are subject, few have any idea. Perceiving two boys much taken up with something, and apparently at play, the master called upon them to give up the playthings to him; they put into his hand a short pipe and a small paper of tobacco. They were but thirteen years
* I bought them, sir," was the reply: Why, do you smoke, R- ?” The little fellow coloured up, and said, “Yes, Mr. C « On putting it upon the mantle-piece," says Mr. Miller, “I said to a young man near me, one of the scholars, Who would think that that little fellow smoked.' • They have that,' said he, 'instead of wittles. When they are at the water side, and have no grub, they smoke instead of eating.'” These poor boys were what they call mud-larks, a description of youths who are accustomed to attend at the river-side on the ebbing of the tide, and wade into the mud in search of coals and other store that chance may have thrown in the way, and who depend on these acquisitions for their support.
Notwithstanding their great and manifold privations, they were not unwilling to pay for the advantages of education so far as they could. Many of those who wished to write, very readily paid for their own copy-books, and a considerable proportion of them, when informed by Mr. Miller that the Ragged School Union would sell them Bibles for sixpence each, and that they might subscribe for them in the smallest sums as they might be able, immediately gave in their names. “I'll have one,” said one girl before all the rest, lifting up, at the same time, her halfpenny in her hand; “put my name down, sir.” Her mother was the keeper of a house notorious at once as a harbour for young thieves and a retreat
for abandoned girls. All that was first attempted or contemplated in this school was to give instruction in a kindly and attractive manner to these wretched objects in
reading, writing, and arithmetic, in the Sacred Scriptures, in religious and moral truth, and other branches of human knowledge, as far as might be practicable. But there was subsequently introduced a new and important arrangement, intended practically to train them to the habit of industry, and to an acquaintance with certain useful kinds of handicraft.
The girls were taught plain needlework, and the boys tailoring and shoemaking. Classes were formed for instruction in each of these arts, and competent persons engaged to teach them.
By the end of the first half year after their formation, it was announced that the tailors had made numerous caps and several pairs of trowsers, the button-holes only being the work of their teacher, and that the shoemakers also had made surprising progress.
An incident is given in the first annual report, illustrative of this. It was Mr. Miller's practice to obtain for the school, as far as he could, gifts of castoff clothes, first, as an exercise, to be repaired by the scholars, then to be given as rewards for industry and good conduct. They were found more eligible for this purpose even than new garments, inasmuch as they could not be pawned by their friends, as those not unfrequently were. One of these gifts deserves notice :
A gentleman having previously, within a few days, presented the school with three parcels of cast-off clothes, called at the secretary's house with a fourth, thus humorously endorsed :
“ I leave at Mr. Miller's door,
Their humble servant, Joseph Payne." In one parcel there were sent, among other things, a pair of boots, which were afterwards given to one of the boys to mend. Mr. Miller perceiving him doing his best at soleing and heeling them, and mistaking them for a pair of his own he had given, promised the boy a shilling towards a new pair for himself in case he should finish them nicely, Mr. Miller intending to wear them as a proud trophy of success in this department of his labours. They were satisfactorily completed, cleaned, and put upon the shelf to await an occasion worthy of them. But when the occasion came, and he attempted to put them on, he discovered, to his sore disappointment, that they were not his. They were afterwards found to have been sent as a gift to the school by that devoted and valuable friend of the ragged juveniles, Joseph Payne, Esq., barrister-at-law. To him they were accordingly forwarded, with the history of the case ; he readily paid the cost, and subsequently, on Ragged School occasions, with honest pride and pleasure, wore and esteemed them as the substantial badges of a moral triumph far more exalted than any achieved by the warrior's sword.—Roger Miller.
* Penny theatres,” says Mr. Talbot, “ have been the ruin of thousands. Wherever a penny theatre exists, it is not only an intolerable nuisance to the neighbourhood, but is sure to draw all the children of the lower orders to witness the most obscene and immoral performances, and when once the habit of attending these places is fixed, it is sure to lead to prostitution and robbery and all imaginable crimes.”
Plaus and Progress.
THE SHOE-BLACKS AND THE EXHIBITION.
Temple, July 21st. DEAR SIR,-To-day was a happy day at Off Alley. The Polishing Brigade assembled early in the morning, with clean hands, clean uniforms, and bright and cheerful faces, for it was the day appointed for their visit to the Crystal Palace. Their appearance attracted great attention in the streets as they marched along two and two, preceded by three enormous cakes, each about a yard in length. The Shoe-blacks behaved admirably amongst the crowd of sight-seers in the Exhibition, and after some time spent in walking through it in a body, they were allowed to disperse, and to wander about as they pleased.
Some listened to the organs and pianos, others passed judgment upon the specimens of boots and shoes, or listened to the deafening noise of the machinery, and a few stared at the Chinaman, until his pigtails nearly stood on end with amazement.
Then they formed in line at the western door, and before leaving the place gave three hearty cheers, which brought hundreds of people to witness the sight. After romping on the grass by the Serpentine, the boys were well plied with new milk and currant cake, and the procession traversed the streets again in the same excellent order which had been preserved throughout.
The success of the Shoe-black Society is now beyond a doubt. Our accounts for the past week are not made up, but the thirty-five boys earned £26 during the week before, and there appears no reason why their receipts should not continue at the rate of £1,200 per annum.
I may mention that arrangements are in progress for another mode of employment during the winter. It is proposed to sweep the pavement in front of the shop-doors in the leading thoroughfares for the sum of one penny a day. And the shopkeepers already applied to upon the subject have all signified their approval of the design, and their intention to support the Committee in carrying it into practical effect.
When it is remembered that the present income (at the above rate) of the Shoe-blacks is about one-third of that of the Ragged School Union, it will not be too much to expect that your readers should do all in their power to aid in the extension of the plans now proposed by the Committee of the Shoe-black Society.
A visit to the Exhibition would not, perhaps, be beneficial to all the children of our Ragged Schools ; but I hope to see a select number of them (say 500) rewarded by such a treat. Half of the money necessary for this object is already guaranteed, and perhaps this notice may cause the remainder to be at once supplied without drawing upon the ordinary funds.
Yours, etc., J. M.
FOUR REASONS FOR BEING A RAGGED SCHOOL TEACHER. RAGGED SCHOOLS have deservedly obtained a great interest in Christian efforts, and in these schools the true spirit of the Gospel is practically exemplified. “They that are whole," said our Lord, “need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Luke v. 31, 32. The same views are entertained by his true followers, and the same spirit actuates them to care for the lost and the helpless. Whatever subjects have elicited the energies of patriotism and philanthropy, they are all rivalled by those which are peculiarly and essentially of a Christian character. Ragged Schools, while paying due attention to the promotion of temporal advantages, primarily contemplate the spiritual and eternal good of souls.
FOUR REASONS FOR BEING A RAGGED SCHOOL TEACHER.
Much could be said to qualify the desire to be identified with such holy and loving enterprises. One might desire to be thus engaged, in order,
1st. To be in harmony with the works of God.—“All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord,” Psa. cxlv. 10. From what we know of these works, they are all characterised by incessant activity. The sun incessantly emits his rays, to enliven, enlighten, and beautify the planets. The earth on which we live puts forth an almost infinite variety of vegetation, and which the solar rays paint with a thousand hues. The atmosphere which envelopes the globe is in perpetual motion; its undulations continue for the reflection and refraction of light, the vibrations of sound, and for other wise and gracious purposes. The ocean knows no rest; its libratory motion every twelve hours, with its currents and winds, maintain an unremitting activity, and promote, in many respects, its beneficial influence. Nor is it less so with man. The incessant pulsation in the human frame is absolutely necessary for the preservation of life and health. Also, the spirit to live and prosper must be active: “ Ān idle soul shall suffer hunger," Prov. xix. 15. Activity is equally necessary for the Christian graces ; for “ Faith without works is dead," James ii. 20. Ragged Schools afford an ample sphere for the exercise of every Christian grace. Oh, for more unreserved devotedness to such works of faith and love!
2nd. To prove one's interest in the love of Christ.-—“The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead : and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again,” 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. By this law of love the apostle accounted himself a debtor to the whole world, till he should embrace every opportunity of making known the unsearchable riches of Christ. “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also,” Rom. i. 14, 15. In its constraining influence this love is the same in all. No longer can those who possess it remain indifferent respecting the wants of their brethren of mankind. “Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” 1 John iï. 17. Rather, like the good Samaritan, he runs to the help of those who have fallen among thieves, and is willing to endure all loss, and encounter all danger, in return for such matchless grace.
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Demands my soul, my life, my all.” 3rd. To be useful in the Saviour's cause.—No real good can be wrought apart from the Divine blessing. Yet God has instituted means for effecting his purposes of love and mercy. He might have arranged to produce the fruits of the earth without the toil of the husbandman, and to save sinners without “the foolishness of preaching," 1 Cor. i. 21. “Nay, but, О man, who art thou that repliest against God ? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?” Rom. ix. 20. 'It is incumbent on the husbandman to cultivate the soil and to scatter the precious grain ; and in the Lord's people has been deposited the treasure of the Gospel, as in earthen vessels, 2 Cor. iv. 7; not to be retained simply, but to be borne to those who are perishing for lack of knowledge. In each case the excellency of the power is of God and not of man. To be useful, then, one must be active; and there are no more promising and important spheres of usefulness than among those who are sought to be benefited by these schools. “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not which shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good,” Eccles. xi. 6. "In due season we shall reap, if we faint not,” Gal. vi. 9.
4th. Because of the reflex advantages. The waters of the ocean are exhaled by the sun, and borne in the clouds across the earth. They then descend in rain and dew, and, after fertilizing the earth, go to supply the springs “which run among the hills." From these are formed the rills which become trib to the rivers, and the rivers pour their contents, refreshed again, into the bosom of the ocean. It is thus that the Lord ever returns a blessing into the bosom of those who are engaged in his vineyard. But this is, perhaps, the least incentive to Christian activity, as those who love the Saviour are influenced by benevolent, and not by selfish motives. Still, as God has graciously connected a blessing with every requirement, one may desire to be usefully