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reduced at that time. Two women were seen in the act of stripping a dead child, for the purpose of clothing a living one.
At that time Mrs Fry clothed many of the children, and some of the women, and read to them some passages in the Bible; and the willing and grateful manner with which, even then, they attended to her admonitions, left upon her mind a strong desire to do more for their advantage, and a conviction that much might be done. Circumstances, however, rendered any efforts, on her part, impossible, for the long period of three years.
About Christmas, 1816,, she resumed her visits, and found that many, and very essential, improvements had been made by the Jail Committee; especially, the females were less crowded, as they occupied, in addition to their former rooms, the state-apartments, consisting of six wards and three cells, and the yard attached to them: They were provided with mats; and two gratings were erected. to prevent close communication between the prisoners and their visitors: With all these improvements, however, the prison was a dreadful scene. She found, she believes, all the women playing at cards, or reading improper books, or begging at the gratings, or fighting for the division of the money thus acquired, or engaged in the mysteries of fortune-telling; for then there was amongst them-one who could look into futurity; and the rest, who believed nothing else, were eager and implicit believers in the truth of her divinations. Want of employment was the subject of their continual lamentation. They complained that they were compelled to be idle; and that, having nothing else to do, they were obliged to pass away the time in doing wrong. p. 117-19.
Her design, at this time, was confined to the instruction of about seventy children, who were wandering about in this scene of horror, and for whom even the most abandoned of their wretched mothers thanked her, with tears of gratitude for her benevolent intentions; while several of the younger women flocked about her, and entreated, with the most pathetic eagerness, to be admitted to her intended school. She now applied to the Governor, and had an interview with the two Sheriffs and the Ordinary, who received her with the most cordial approbation; but fairly intimated to her their persuasion that her efforts would be utterly fruitless.' After some investigation, it was officially reported, that there was no vacant spot in which the school could be established; and an ordinary philanthropist would probably have retired disheartened from the undertaking. Mrs Fry, however, mildly requested to be admitted once more alone among the women, that she might conduct the search for herself. Difficulties always disappear before the energy of real zeal and benevolence: an empty cell was immediately discovered, and the school was to be opened the very day after.
The next day she commenced the school, in company with a young lady, who then visited a prison for the first time, and whe
since gave me a very interesting description of her feelings upon that occasion. The railing was crowded with half naked women, struggling together for the front situations with the most boisterous violence, and begging with the utmost vociferation. She felt as if she was going into a den of wild beasts; and she well recollects quite shuddering when the door closed upon her, and she was locked in, with such a herd of novel and desperate companions. This day, however, the school surpassed their utmost expectations: their only pain arose from the numerous and pressing applications made by young women, who longed to be taught and employed. The narrowness of the room rendered it impossible to yield to these requests, whilst a denial seemed a sentence of destruction, excluding every hope, and almost every possibility of reformation. Their zeal for improvement, and their assurances of good behaviour, were powerful motives; and they tempted these ladies to project a school for the employment of the tried women, for teaching them to read and to work.
• When this intention was mentioned to the friends of these ladies, it appeared at first so visionary and unpromising, that it met with very slender encouragement: they were told, that the certain consequence of introducing work would be, that it would be stolen; that though such an experiment might be reasonable enough, if made in the country, among women who had been accustomed to hard labour; yet it was quite destitute of hope, when tried upon those who had been so long habituated to vice and idleness. It was strongly represented, that their materials were of the very worst description; that a regular London female thief, who had passed through every stage and every scene of guilt; who had spent her youth in prostitution, and her maturer age in theft and knavery; whose every friend and connexion are accomplices and criminal associates, is of all characters the most irreclaimable.-Novelty, indeed, might for a time engage their attention, and produce a transient observance of the rules of the school: but violent passions would again burst out; and the first offence that was given would annihilate the control of their powerless and self-appointed mistresses. In short, it was predicted, and by many too, whose wisdom and benevolence added weight to their opinions, that those who had set at defiance the law of the land, with all its terrors, would very speedily revolt from an authority which had nothing to enforce it, and nothing more to recommend it than its simplicity and gentleness. That these ladies were enabled to resist the cogency of these reasons, and to embark and to persevere in so forlorn and desperate an enterprize, in despite of many a warning without, and many an apprehension within, is not the least remarkable circumstance in their proceedings; but intercourse with the prisoners had inspired them with a confidence which was not easily to be shaken; and feeling that their design was intended for the good and the happiness of others, they trusted that it would receive the guidance and protection of Him, who often is pleased to accomplish the highest purposes by the most feeble instruments.
With these impressions, they had the boldness to declare, that if a committee could be found who would share the labour, and a matron who would engage never to leave the prison, day or night, they would undertake to try the experiment; that is, they would find employment for the women, procure the necessary money, till the city could be induced to relieve them from the expense, and be answerable for the safety of the property committed into the hands of the prisoners.
This committee immediately presented itself; it consisted of the wife of a clergyman, and eleven members of the Society of Friends. They professed their willingness to suspend every other engagement and avocation, and to devote themselves to Newgate; and, in truth, they have performed their promise. With no interval of relaxation, and with but few intermissions from the call of other and more imperious duties, they have lived amongst the prisoners. At first, every day in the week, and every hour in the day, some of them were to be found at their post, joining in the employments, or engaged in the instruction of their pupils; and at this very period, when the necessity of such close attendance is much abated, the matron assures me, that, with only one short exception, she does not recollect the day on which some of the ladies have not visited the prison; that very often they have been with her by the time the prisoners were dressed; have spent the whole day with them, sharing her meals, or passing on without any; and have only left the school long after the close of day. p. 121-125.
Even this astonishing progress could not correct the infidelity of men of benevolence and knowledge of the world. The Reverend Ordinary, though filled with admiration for the exèrtions of this intrepid and devoted band, fairly told Mrs F. that her designs, like many others for the improvement of that wretched mansion, would inevitably fail.' The Governor encouraged her to go on--but confessed to his friends, that he could not see even the possibility of her success. But the wisdom of this world is foolishness, and its fears but snares to entangle our feet in the career of our duty. Mrs F. saw with other eyes, and felt with another heart. She went again to the Sheriffs and the Governor;-near one hundred of the women were brought before them, and, with much solemnity and earnestness, engaged to give the strictest obedience to all the regulations of their heroic benefactress. A set of rules was accordingly promulgated, which we have not room here to tran scribe; but they imported the sacrifice of all their darling and much cherished vices;-drinking, gaming, card-playing, novel reading, were entirely prohibited-and regular application to work engaged for in every quarter. For the space of one month these benevolent women laboured in private in the midst of their
unhappy flocks at the end of that time they invited the Corporation of London to satisfy themselves, by inspection of the effect of their pious exertions.
In compliance with this appointment, the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, and several of the Aldermen attended. The prisoners were assembled together; and it being requested that no alteration in their usual practice might take place, one of the ladies read a chapter in the Bible, and then the females proceeded to their various avocations. Their attention during the time of reading; their orderly and sober deportment, their decent dress, the absence of every thing like tumult, noise, or contention, the obedience, and the respect shown by them, and the cheerfulness visible in their countenances and manners, conspired to excite the astonishment and admiration of their visitors.
Many of these knew Newgate, had visited it a few months before, and had not forgotten the painful impressions made by a scene, exhibiting, perhaps, the very utmost limits of misery and guilt.They now saw, what, without exaggeration, may be called a transformation. Riot, licentiousness, and filth, exchanged for order, sobriety, and comparative neatness in the chamber, the apparel, and the persons of the prisoners. They saw no more an assemblage of abandoned and shameless creatures, half naked and half drunk, rather demanding, than requesting charity. The prison no more resounded with obscenity, and imprecations, and licentious songs; and, to use the coarse, but the just, expression of one who knew the prison well," this hell upon earth exhibited the appearance of an industrious manufactory, or a well regulated family.
The magistrates, to evince their sense of the importance of the alterations which had been effected, immediately adopted the whole plan as a part of the system of Newgate, empowered the ladies to punish the refractory by short confinement, undertook part of the expense of the matron, and loaded the ladies with thanks and benedictions. p. 130, 131.
We can add nothing to this touching and elevating statement. The story of a glorious victory gives us a less powerful or proud emotion-and thanks and benedictions appear to us never to have been so richly deserved.
A year, says Mr B., has now elapsed since the operation in Newgate began; and those most competent to judge, the late Lord Mayor and the present, the late Sheriffs and the present, the late Governor and the present, various Grand Juries, the Chairman of the Police Committee, the Ordinary, and the officers of the prison, have all declared their satisfaction, nixed with astonishment, at the alteration which has taken place in the conduct of the females.
"It is true, and the Ladies' Committee are anxious that it should not be concealed, that some of the rules have been occasionally broken. Spirits, they fear, have more than once been introduced; and it was discovered at one period, when many of the ladies were absent, that card playing had been resumed. But, though truth
compels them to acknowledge these deviations, they have been of a limited extent. very I could find but one lady who had heard an oath, and there had not been above half a dozen instances of intoxication; and the ladies feel justified in stating, that the rules have generally been observed. The ladies themselves have been treated with uniform respect and gratitude.' p. 132, 133.
At the close of a Session, many of the reformed prisoners were dismissed, and many new ones were received-and, under their auspices, cardplaying was again introduced. One of the ladies went among them alone, and earnestly and affectionately explained to them the pernicious consequences of this practice; and represented to them how much she would be gratified, if, even from regard to her, they would agree to renounce it.
'Soon after she retired to the ladies' room, one of the prisoners came to her, and expressed, in a manner which indicated real feeling, her sorrow for having broken the rules of so kind a friend, and gave her a pack of cards: four others did the same. Having burnt the cards in their presence, she felt bound to renumerate them for their value, and to mark her sense of their ready obedience by some small present. A few days afterwards she called the first to her, and telling her intention, produced a neat muslin handkerchief. To her surprise, the girl looked disappointed; and, on being asked the reason, confessed she had hoped that Mrs would have given her a Bible, with her own name written in it, which she should value be yond any thing else, and always keep and read. Such a request, made in such a manner, could not be refused; and the lady assures me, that she never gave a Bible in her life, which was received with so much interest and satisfaction, or one, which she thinks more likely to do good. It is remarkable, that this girl, from her conduct in her preceding prison, and in court, came to Newgate with the worst of characters. p. 134.
The change, indeed, pervaded every department of the female division. Those who were marched off for transportation, instead of breaking the windows and furniture, and going off, according to immemorial usage, with drunken songs and intolerable disorder, took a serious and tender leave of their companions, and expressed the utmost gratitude to their benefactors, from whom they parted with tears. Stealing has also been entirely suppressed; and, while upwards of twenty thousand articles of dress have been manufactured, not one has been lost or purloined within the precincts of the prison.
We have nothing more to say; and would not willingly weaken the effect of this impressive statement by any observations of Let us hear no more of the difficulty of regulating provincial prisons, when the prostitute felons of London have been