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Dtt^ara, S?em lark 






Cornell University Library 

Eighteen months' imprisonment : 

3 1924 031 279 775 

a Cornell University 
y Library 

The original of tliis book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 924031 279775 






D S- 





Broadway, Ludgate Hii.l 










"SETTLING down" 20 


" IRISON fare" .31 




vi Contents. 















Contents. vii 



'corpulency" 122 



"oakum" let us sing rs9 









viii Contents. 




PRISON ceCebrities 256 











Contents. ix 






I. — "Black Maria." Frontispiece. 

2. — A Cheerful Group .60 

3. — "Should old Acquaintance be Forgot?" , . 63 

4. — The Effects of a Warm Bath at "Coldbath" 141 

5. — A Cell, 8 a.m i6i 

6.— A Cell, 8 p.m 178 

7. — A Typical Turnkey 205 

(a) Its Normal Expression. 

[b) Corroborative Evidence. 

8.— Counting 241 

9. — "Negatives Kept" 271 

10. — Gardening — " Something Approaching " . 282 

II.— Gardening — " The Line Clear " . . . .287 

12. — Whence comest thou, Gehazi? (an exhortation 

TO repentance) .... . , 333 





On a dreary afternoon in November, cheerless 
and foggy as befitted the occasion, and accom- 
panied by that gentle rain which we are told 
" falleth on the just and on the unjust," I suddenly, 
though hardly unexpectedly, found, myself in the 
hands of the law, as represented by a burly police- 
man in a waterproof cape and a strong Somerset- 
shire accent. The circumstances that led up to 
this momentous change can be briefly described. I 
had gone to the office of a solicitor — one White, 
with whom I had had previous monetary transac- 
tions — with reference to a new loan on a bill of 
exchange; and it must be distinctly understood 
that, any allusions I may make to this individual's 

2 Eighteen, Months' Imprisonment. 

vocations are not to be misinterpreted, for I have 
the highest respect for his integrity and aptitude 
for business, legal or otherwise, and cannot but 
admire (as I'm sure every honest reader will) the 
horror with which any dishonest act inspired him, 
which, though it did not deter him from conscien- 
tiously completing the transaction as a matter of 
business, was equally swift in retributive justice, 
and condemnatory (to use his own expression) of 
compounding a felony. Mr. White, in short, is a 
money-lender, who, in addition to the advantages 
derivable from his legal assistance, is always pre- 
pared on undoubted security— such as a bill of 
sale or a promissory note — to make cash advances 
at the rate of 240 per cent. I am justified in 
quoting this as the gentleman's rate of interest, for 
I paid him ;£'S for a loan of ;^4S for fourteen days, 
a transaction that his cheque on a Holborn bank 
will testify. The only marvel that suggests itself 
to my mind is, that a person who is so scrupulous 
in refusing to " compound a felony," as he termed 
it when he assisted in involving me in the meshes 
of the law, should retain the ill-gotten and usurious 
sum of ;^s one moment after he was aware (as he 
has been for a year) that it was the proceeds of a 

"My Arrest" 

fdrgery. But perhaps I am wronging the worthy 
man ; he may have subscribed it towards the 
Hunt he honours with his patronage, or have paid 
it as his subscription to the London and Discounty 
Club, to which, I presume, he belongs. 

At first sight this . rate of interest may appear 
somewhat high, but a moment's reflection will 
dispel the idea. Here was a gentleman, a mem- 
ber of the honourable profession of the law — one 
who (as he told me) actually hunted with Her 
Majesty's hounds, and, for aught I know, may 
have been honoured with a nod from the Master of 
the Buckhounds — one, moreover, who occasionally 
dined with impecunious Irish lords, with whom he- 
had transacted business, and talked of such aristo- 
cratic clubs as the " Wanderers' " and the " Bea- 
consfield " with as much sang-froid and a degree 
of familiarity such as you .and I, gentle reader, 
might refer to the " Magpie and Stump " at Hol- 
loway, and which to me at the time was truly 
appalling ; here, I say, was a gentleman endowed 
with all these recommendations actually conde- 
scending to minister to one's pecuniary wants ; and 
one would indeed have been unworthy of such 
advantages had one carped or squabbled over such 

B 2 

4 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

vulgar trifles as a paltry 240 per cent. There is 
certainly another point of view from which -this 
" financial" business may be regarded ; but if the 
Master of the Rolls and the " Incorporated Law 
Society " take no exception to this occupation of 
one of their members, it is clearly no business of 
ours to find fault with a gentleman who materially 
adds to his income by combining the profitable 
trade of usury with the profitless profession of the 

It is a prevalent and very erroneous impression 
to associate voracity and sharp dealings with the 
Hebrew race, for I've found from experience (and 
I'm admittedly an authority) that for meanness, 
haggling, and exorbitant terms, with a cloak of 
hypocrisy to cover this multitude of sins, the 
Hebrew is considerably out-distanced by his 
Christian confrere. I might indeed go a step 
further, and add, that, barring a repellant manner 
during the preliminaries of a transaction, but which 
is purely superficial, the dealings of the children of 
Israel are based on strictly honourable and consi^ 
derate grounds. No one has ever heard of a Jew 
robbing you first and then prosecuting you ; they are 
invariably satisfied with one course or the other. 

"My Arrest:' 

(I may here be permitted a slight digression to note 
that I intend ere long to publish a list of usurers 
never before attempted, based on my personal ex- 
perience of them, including members of almost 
ever^ trade and profession, and which for com- 
pleteness and accuracy of detail will put to the 
blush the hitherto feeble attempts, of such society 
journals as Town Talk, Truth, &c.) 

At about four o'clock, then, on this dreary No- 
vember afternoon I found myself with three or 
four others in Mr. White's waiting-room. I verily 
believe one of my companions was a detective, a 
suspicion that subsequent- events tend to confirm. 
In the frowzy room I found myself waiting for 
more than an hour, during which time my naturally 
'cute disposition, coupled with a consciousness of 
guilt, convinced me with a " suspeeciun " similar to 
that of the old lady at the subscription ball at 
Peebles, " amoonting to a positive ceertainty " that 
something was up. This apprehension was by 
no' means allayed by my distinctly seeing the 
shadow of the burly policeman, in cape and hel- 
met, oil the frosted window, as. he ascended the 
stairs ; -and had I been so inclined, there was 
liothing to have prevented me from at once burn- 

Eighteen Months^ Imprisonii:ent. 

ing the damning document then in my pocket and 
walking down-stairs. But I was perfectly callous 
and indifferent to the result ; indeed, I can only 
attribute my feelings at the time to those of a 
madman who hailed with delight any change' that 
substituted incarceration and an unburthened mind 
for liberty and an uneasy conscience. The rest of 
the incidents in this prologue are easily told, and 
the next ten minutes (which abounded with sayings 
and doings, however commendable from a moral 
point of view, sadly out of place in a usurer's 
parlour) found me in a cab, in company with a 
policeman, with Mr. White, money-lender, solicitor, 
and commissioner to administer oaths, on the box, 
his fishy' partner inside, and driving at the rapid 
rate habitual to the fleetest four-wheelers of three 
miles an hour en route to Bow Street. Luck now 
favoured me, and I was fortunate enough to obtain 
an interview with Mr. Vaughan, who was on the 
eve of departure, and who, in a few hurried and 
well-chosen words, and in a metallic tone of voice 
that I can only, with all respect, compare to the 
vibrations of the telephone, which I heard some 
years ago in its infancy, conveyed to me the 
momentous intelligence that I was remanded till 

"My Arrest" 

Tuesday. This was by no means my first ap- 
pearance at Bow Street Police Court, for though 
not on so serious a charge as the present, I had on 
a former occasion made the acquaintance (offi- 
cially) of the worthy magistrate. The circum- 
stances are briefly these, and though in no way 
bearing on my present narrative, may be reason- 
ably introduced, as a combination of sweets and 
bitters, such as one gleans by the advertisements, 
are to be associated with "chow-chow," "nabob 
pickles," &c., &c. Some four years ago I had 
the honour of accompanying a well-known but 
not equally appreciated young baronet, and High 
Sheriff of an Irish county, notorious for his 
" Orange " (and orange-bitters with a dash of gin) 
proclivities, to a low music-hall. The weather was 
hot, and the evening an exceptionally warm one in 
June, such an one, indeed, that the most ab- 
stemious might have been pardoned for exceeding 
the bounds of moderation. About midnight we 
presented ourselves at the portals of that virtuous 
but defunct institution, and were refused a box on 
the plea of inebriation. So indignant, however, 
were both myself and my blue-blooded if not blue- 
ribboned companion at this monstrous insinuation 

8 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

that we at once proceeded to Bow Stteet, and laid 
at formal complaint with the inspector on night 
duty. The books, and probably that official's 
marginal notes, would doubtless place facts and 
our respective intellectual conditions at the time 
beyond the shadow of a doubt. For my own part, 
I confess (With that frankness that has always been 
my ruin) that if I was not absolutely inebriated, I 
was decidedly " fresh." As regards my companion, 
however, I will not presume to venture an opinion, 
although High Sheriffs admittedly never get 
drunk ; — is it likely, then, that this one, the pride 
of his county and an ornament to its Bench, could 
so far forget himself .■' Absurd ! The sequel, 
however, has - yet to be told ; and a few nights 
afterwards, about 9 P.M., alone, and disguised as a 
gentlenaan in evening clothes, I went to the Night 
House and requested to' see the proprietor. A 
bilious individual hereupon came into the passage, 
and, supported by a .crowd of "chuckers out," 
hurled me on to the verandah, where luck and my 
proximity to the worthy publican enabled me to 
deal one blow on a face, .which eventually turned 
out to be that of Barnabas Amos ; but a member 
of "the' force" happened to be passing, and the 

"My Arrest" 

gentle Amos, not content with having previously 
taken the law into his own hands with questionable 
success, now appealed to the constable, and, in 
short, gave me in charge for an assault. I will 
not weary the reader by a description of my deten- 
tion for twenty minutes in the police station, till I 
was bailed out by a householder ; nor of the pro- 
ceedings next morning before the magistrate. 
Suffice it to say that the case was dismissed ; that 
the daily papers honoured me by devoting half a 
column to a report of the case ; that six months 
after, alone and unaided, I opposed the renewal of 
the licence for the night-house ; that my thirst for 
revenge was thoroughly satiated ; and that I had 
"the gratification of depriving the'Amos of a weekly 
profit of £ 300, besides about £ 500 for legal ex- 
penses ; and that the Middlesex magistrates did 
their duty and proved themselves worthy of their 
responsible position by almost unanimously re- 
fusing the licence, despite the fervid and well fee'd 
eloquence of Solicitor-General and voracious 
barristers, and thus stamped out about as festering 
a heap of filth and garbage as any that had ever 
infested this modern Babylon. Mr. Barnabas 
Amos and I were thenceforth quits, and, barring a 

lo Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

chuckle he no doubt had at my subsequent 
troubles (such as a less magnanimous person than 
myself might have had at his eventual bankruptcy), 
I may fairly congratulate myself on having had 
the best of the little encounter. But another fea- 
ture of this case suggests itself, and I cannot dis- 
miss this long digression without a few words in 
conclusion. My quasi friend, the High Sheriff, 
did not come well out of this matter. We had, as 
it were, rowed in the same boat on this eventful 
night, we had both been refused a box on the 
same grounds, and yet he left me to bear, not 
only the brunt of the police-court row, but, by a 
judicious silence, got me the credit of having tried 
but signally failed to lead him from the paths of 
rectitude and virtue. I am prepared to make 
every allowance for a man in his position, lately 
married to a young and innocent wife, whose ears 
it was only right should not be polluted with such 
revelations as a night-house would naturally sug- 
gest if associated with her husband's name ; and I 
was perfectly alive to the necessity of screening 
him, and willing that my name only (as it did) 
should appear in the proceedings j nevertheless, 
there is a right and a wrong way of attaining 

"My Arrest:' it 

such an end, and the High Sheriff will, I am con-- 
vinced, on reflection, admit that he might have 
attained the same result in a more straightforward 
manner, and have spared the feelings of his 
bride and possibly her younger sisters equally as 
well without leaving a " pal "^to use a vulgar ex- 
pression — in the lurch without an apology. With 
this digression I will return (in the spirit) to 
Bow Street, and close the chapter with a bang 
such as accompanied the closing of my cell door, 
and await the arrival of " Black Maria." 



After a delay of about twenty minutes — when 
for the first time I found myself an inmate of a 
police cell — a very civil gaoler (with the relative 
rank of a Police Sergeant) announced to me, with 
a " Now, Captain," the arrival of one of Her Ma- 
jesty's carriages. One has frequently heard of the 
Queen's carriages meeting, and not meeting, distin- 
guished personages, such as Mr. Gladstone, Sir 
Garnet Wolseley, the King of the Zulus, and Ger- 
man princelings ; but the carriage I refer to must 
not be confused with this type. They are far from 
comfortable, the accommodation is limited, and the 
society questionable ; and had it not been for the 
courteous consideration of the conductor (a Police 
Sergeant) I should have been considerably puzzled 
in attempting to squeeze my huge bulk of 19 
stone 13 lbs. (as verified a few minutes later in 

The House of Detention. 1 3 

Her Majesty's scales) into a compartment about 16 
inches in breadth. As a fact, however, I remained 
in the passage, and thus obtained a view of streets 
and well-known haunts under very novel and 
degrading conditions. Everyone appeared to 
stare at this van, and everyone seemed to me to 
particularly catch my eye ; but this, of course, was 
pure fancy, resulting, I presume, from a guilty con- 
science—for within the dark tunnel of this centre 
passage it was impossible that anyone in the 
streets could see, much less distinguish, anyone 
inside. I discovered a few weeks later that these 
uncomfortable police vans were infinitely superior 
and more roomy than those attached to Her Ma- 
jesty's prisons ; in fact, I should say they were the 
only attempt (as far as I could discover) at making 
a distinction between an untried, and consequently 
innocent (vaunted English law— twaddle) person, 
and a convicted prisoner. 

My experiences at the " House of Detention " 
and subsequently at " Newgate " convince me that 
justice demands a great alteration in the rules 
regarding untried prisoners, who are allowed and 
disallowed certain newspapers at the caprice of the 
chaplain, and actually restricted as to the class of 

14 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

eatables their friends may send them. An instance 
of this occurred in my case. A kind friend one 
day brought me a hamper containing, as I was 
informed, a roast fowl and a tongue ; the warder at 
the entrance-gate, however, told him that these 
were luxuries in the estimation of the Home- 
ofifice, and therefore less suited to the palate of an 
untried (and consequently innocent) man than a 
chop or steak fried in tallow and procured from the 
usual eating-house ; and as my friend had dragged 
this white elephant of a parcel about with him for 
sonfie time, he gave it bodily to the turnkey, 
who consequently reaped the advantage of the 
intended kindness to me. Next morning I com- 
plained to the Governor, who assured me he 
should have made no objection to the " luxury " of 
a fowl ; in short, I had been the victim of the zeal 
of an illiterate and astute official, who, putting two 
and two together^ and weighing the probable effect 
of his veto on an inexperienced' inhabitant of the 
outer world, had arrived at a very happy arrange- 
ment whereby I was deprived and he benefited to 
the extent of a well-selected hamper. I found the 
Governor a very good sort. His suit of dittos was 
a little of the " thunder and lightning " pattern ; but 

The House of Detention. 1 5 

if his clothes were loud, his manners were not — 'in 
short, he was essentially a gentleman, both in 
appearance and manners, a beau ideal of the heavy 
dragoon that existed before the Cardwellite era, I 
purposely refer to his manners being those of a 
gentleman because it does not always occur that 
those situated in a similar position possess the 
higher recommendation. 

The " House of Detention " appeared to me the 
most awfully depressing place to which my erring 
footsteps had ever led me. The darkness, the 
stillness, the novelty of the situation, all tended to 
this conclusion ; and I cannot do better than de- 
scribe what occurred, and leave the verdict in the 
hands of the reader. Conceive then a man, who 
an hour pi-eviously was a free citizen, suddenly 
finding himself stepping out of a police van into a 
gloomy, white-washed passage, and being inspected 
and counted with a dozen others by a bumptious 
turnkey, puffed out with his own importance, 
addicted, as I have previously mentioned, to cold 
fowl and tongue, but otherwise oblivious to the 
veriest rudiments of civilization. Conceive, then, 
the sensations of a man such as I, finding himself 
suddenly cohfronted by such a biped,^who, scanning 

1 6 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

first a paper and then you, begins to drawl out, 
" What's your name ? Your age ? Married , or 
single ? Protestant or Romanist ? " and a volley of 
such like rubbish, which only tends to exasperate 
one, and which might well be dispensed with, 
seeing that all the desired information is on the 
paper, and, having been supplied by one's self not 
an hour before, is sure to be corroborated, whether 
correct or not, and considering, too, that this farce 
is repeated every time you enter and leave the 
place, and which in a case of frequent remands 
might occur twice a day. One can hardly nar- 
rate a single item regarding the treatment of an 
untried prisoner that does not call for redress, Le.,. 
if the absurd theory is still persisted in that an un- 
tried man is an innocent one. What right has an 
innocent man to be debarred the privilege of 
seeing friends (under reasonable restrictions) as 
often as he pleases, instead of being limited to one 
visit of fifteen minutes a day ? Why should one 
be allowed to purchase Town Talk and .not 
Truthf Why should the Graphic be permitted 
and not the? Dramatic News ? These are anoma- 
lies no logic can explain away, and have no 
right to be left to the caprice of a prison official. 

The House of Detention. 1 7 

The food supply as at present arranged is a cruel 
system ; a prisoner under remand is gratified at 
hearing that he may procure his own food, and 
naturally shrinks at the idea of subsisting on prison 
fare till absolutely compelled. No greater mistake 
ever was made — the latter is good, clean, and sup- 
plied gratis; the former is nasty in the extreme, 
and scandalously dear. If the doubtful "privilege" 
is to be continued, it is time the .Government, in 
common fairness, controlled the tariff; at present 
a prisoner is at the mercy of the eating-house 
keeper, and liable to any charge he may choose to 
make. I must admit that the caterers for the 
" House of Detention " were civil and compara- 
tively reasonable, whereas those at Newgate were 
exactly the opposite. I shall give a detailed' 
account later on of how I was fleeced at the Old 
Bailey, and I would earnestly warn all prisoners 
awaiting trial to stick to the prison fare, and care- 
fully to avoid the refreshments supplied from the 
cat's meat houses in the neighbourhood. With 
these slight- digressions I shall proceed to a de- 
scription of the routine at the " House of Deten- 
tion," with its rules and regulations and privileges, 
and the impressions they conveyed to me ; and I 

i8 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

Cannot do better than impress on the reader that 
this book makes no pretensions to literary merit, 
but must be regarded rather as a journal of facts, 
whose principle claim is based on their having been 
written by a man who is probably as well known 
as any in England. I ask no praise, I'm equally 
pblivious to abuse ; criticism I'm absolutely in- 
different to, being convinced . that either my noto- 
riety, my popularity, my identity, or unpopularity,' 
will. procure. me readers far in excess of any book 
of greater merit ; and it is a consolation to feel, 
that my friends will be glad that I got through' 
some months with a degree of comfort never before 
paralleled, and my enemies (male and especially 
female) will be chagrined at discovering that 
" Imprisonment with Ha:rd Labour " in my case 
meant kindness from first to last hardly credible, 
absolutely devoid of any labour at all, and accom- 
panied with luxuries as regards eating and drink-, 
ing that could not have been surpassed had I been 
stopping at a first-class . hotel and paying thirty 
shillings a day for board and lodging. Many 
apparent contradictions may moreover suggest 
themselves, but taken in the light of a diary, these 
contradictory views must be regarded as reflecting. 

The House of Detention. 19 

circumstances as they appeared to me from time to 
time under various phases. Suffice it to say that I 
have carefully avoided exaggeration, that every- 
thing I narrate can be fuHy substantiated, and may 
be unhesitatingly accepted as the experiences of a 
man endowed with an average amount of brains, who 
kept his eyes wide open, and who had opportunities 
given him that no man ever had before, whether 
higher or lower in the social or criminal scale, of 
seeing a vast amount of the " dark side of nature." 
In my innocence I once fancied I had seen a good 
deal, and knew a lot ; but the following narrative 
will prove that I was a very babe and suckling, 
before I became a " Government ward." Heaven 
forbid that anyone should purchase his experience 
at such a price ; nevertheless, bn the principle that 
has guided me through life of trying to see every- 
thing and do everything, I can only attempt to 
justify my escapades by endorsing the theory 
(slightly altered) of the immortal Voltaire, that a 
man who would go through what I have is "?<« 
fois un philosophe, mais deux fois un criminel d^er- 



Fresh arrivals appear to come to this awful 
place at every hour of the day and night. The 
police courts belch forth their motley loads on an 
average about twice a day, and when the Sessions 
are " on," prisoners arrive as late as nine and ten 
of a night, and the rumbling of " Black Marias," 
the shouting of warders, the turning of keys, the 
slamming of doors, and a hundred other " regula- 
tions " that make night hideous, lead one to imagine 
oneself in a third-class hostelry alongside a railway 
station. The absence of clocks, too, that strike (for 
even they are on the silent system), combined with 
the primitive hour of retiring to rest, bewilders one 
in arriving at anything like an approximate idea of 
time between the bell at night and the bell at 6 A.M. 
After my first interview with Mr. Vaughan, and 
with the sound of his melodious voice still ringing 

" Sctflinp Do7vn." 21 

in my ears, I found myself about 6 p.m. alighting 
from the police van inside a dismal courtyard. 
We had just passed through a massive gate, and had 
been " backed " on to the entrance of a long and 
uninviting-looking corridor, but beyond that I had 
not the faintest idea of where I was ; and if I had 
been told that the House of Detention was situated 
in the centre aisle of the British Museum, I should 
not have been in a position to dispute it. As we 
stepped out, carefully assisted by an official actuated 
apparently rather by precaution than courtesy, and 
carefully scanned and counted, I found myself with 
eight or nine others standing in a row on a huge 
mat. There was an entire absence of "dressing"- 
in this ragged line, and thus destiny placed me 
between a ragamuffin with a wooden leg and an 
urchin of about twelve. My bulk, sandwiched 
between them, formed a charming picture, and 
filled up the mat, if not the " background." My 
friend, the police sergeant, with a courtesy that 
officialism failed to rob him of, handed us over to 
the " Detentionite " barbarian, who, first inspecting 
us, and then "righting" us, went through the 
offensive and unnecessary formula of catechizing 
us— such as " What is your name ,' " " Who ga "— 

22 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

I mean, "Your age," &c., &c. This to me was 
the first and greatest humiliation ; the iron entered 
my very soul, and I realized how awful it all was. 
Implacable enemies, vindictive tradesmen, revenge- 
ful women, chuckle and shout ; but time is short, 
and seventeen days will find me in clover, sur- 
rounded by every consideration that is possible, 
and as happy as circumstances will permit. When 
we had all been counted and booked, we were 
escorted downstairs and thrust into very small and 
separate cells. These cells were literally not more 
than three feet square, and their only furniture 
consisted of a block of stone intended for a seat. 
The turnkey, who showed and carefully locked me 
in, explained that I should only be there a few 
minutes, as we were merely awaiting the arrival 
of the chief warder. After the lapse of. a few 
minutes, we were taken one by one into the office, 
where a further scrutiny, "inside and out" took 
plaice. Here, at a desk, sat a warder in front of a 
ledger ; there was, moreover, a weighing-machine 
and a couple of turnkeys. This constituted the 
entire furniture ! The chief warder, blazing in gold 
lace and pegtop trousers that filled me with admi- 
ration at thetime, now appeared, and having come 

''Settling Down" 23 

to the conclusion that I was not one of the " un- 
washed" division, kindly exempted me from the 
usual bath, the preliminary and very necessary step 
on these occasions. The chief warder was a very 
decent and unaffected little man, and comparatively 
free from the penny-halfpenny bounce that charac- 
terizes the chief warder species in general. I here 
underwent, for the second time, the catechizing 
process, which being again carefully booked, I was 
invited in the most dulcet tones to unrobe to the 
extent of everything except my socks and trousers. 
With my thoughts wandering to the weighing- 
machine, " how careful," thought I, " they must be 
in accurately weighing one;" and my conjecture was 
in a measure correct, but my inexperience did not 
prepare me ■ for the accompanying formula that 
took place. As I divested myself one by one of 
my coat, hat, boots, vest, shirt, &c., a pair of nimble 
hands ran over them with lightning rapidity, which 
in their turn passed them on to another pair of 
equally nimble or nimbler hands. In the twinkling 
of an eye, the contents of my pockets were laid on 
the table — the modest quill toothpick was not even 
exemptjed ; fjngers passed over every seam and 
lining of my clothes, and then the same "delicate 

24 Eighteen Months* Imprisonment. 

touch " was applied to my loins and ankles. I was 
then requested to get on the machine, and the 
astounding fact recorded that a mountain of 
humanity in his shirt and socks weighed 19 stone 
1 3 lbs, I have been particular in accurately relat- 
ing this fact, for later on I treat on the subject of 
obesity ; and the remarks I there make, and the 
hints I offer, based on very careful observation and 
experience, will, I am confident, commend them- 
selves to the corpulent, and, IF ACTED ON, will 
prove very beneficial to those who really desire to 
reduce themselves. Every article found on me — 
money, toothpicks, pocket-book, watch, studs, 
sleeve-links, &c. — were then carefully booked and 
neatly tied up, and having resumed my clothing, I 
proceeded upstairs to my future abode. 

I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without 
noting the consideration that prompted the warder 
to give me a couple of bone studs to replace my 
own, without which I could not have kept my shirt 
closed. It was a kindly act, and tends to show 
that, as a rule and with very few exceptions, prison 
warders are a well-disposed race if properly treated, 
and desirous of rendering any civility to men of 
my class. If a prisoner is fool enough to stand 

"Settling Down." 25 

on his dignity, he must not be surprised if his 
conduct is resented. Another peculiarity I ob- 
served here for the first time, but which I found to 
be the invariable rule at " Newgate " and " Cold- 
bath," was, that on arrival one was always placed 
in a most uncomfortable cell in the basement or 
even below, and gradually promoted upwards. I 
can only suppose it was intended as a kind of pur- 
gatory, with the idea of giving one a bird's-eye 
view of what might be expected should one's 
behavipur make him ineligible for the greater 
luxuries associated with " apartments on the draw- 
ing-room floor." 

Having dressed, I accompanied a turnkey 
through innumerable passages abounding in steel 
gates, which snapped like rat traps as we passed 
through, till we emerged into what appeared the 
main passage of the prison. My conductor here 
handed me over to another warder with a " Here 
you are ; here's another one ; " and I again, and 
for the third time, had to undergo the " abridged 

I found this warder a capital fellow. He tried 
to put matters as cheerfully as he could ; and when 
ushering me into my cell, and noting my horror at 

26 Eighteen Months Imprtsonment. 

its bleak appearance, said in a manner that was 
kindly meant, " Oh ! you'll be all right when you've 
settled down a bit." 

" Settled down a bit ! " As well ask the guinea- 
pig that is put into the rattlesnake's cage to settle 
down, as to expect a man suddenly deprived of 
liberty to settle. down in such a place. If I had 
not been of a very sanguine disposition, and 
one that can nerve himself to submit to anything, 
I should certainly have broken down, as I verily 
believe many d,o. On thfe contrary, I began to 
examine the uncomfortable place, read the notices 
for one's guidance, and entered into a conversation 
with my guide and gaoler. He began by telling 
me that if I wanted supper I must order it sharp ; 
and when I expressed a wish to have something, 
he. kindly promised to order in a. chop and a pint 
of beer. The next thing that attracted my atten- 
tion was the hammock ; and as my only experience 
of these uncomfortable substitutes for French bed- 
steads was from a distant view on a troopship, and 
as the idea of 20 stone suspended in mid air was 
out of the question, and as the tesselated floor 
appeared excessively hard, I determined not tq 
risk a fall, for the fall of that house would certainly 

"Settling Downy ly 

have been great. I discovered, however, that rou- 
tine and prison discipline made it absolutely impos- 
sible for any exception to be made unless specially 
granted, and as none but the highest official, such 
as the Governor (or even the Home Secretary, as 
I presumed, or perhaps the Queen), could sanction 
a change of such importance as substituting a cot 
for a hammock, no time was to be lost in ferreting 
out some one of sufficient authority to assume the 
-responsibility. At length the doctor was found, 
and after seeing me and hearing my weight, gave 
the necessary order, subject to the Governor's ap- 
proval in the morning. 

I have often wondered in how many quires of 
foolscap this humane act involved the little man. I 
only hope he got no wigging from the Home Office 
for this assumption of responsibility, for I found him 
most kind and courteous, and in return I fear I 
worried him out of his life by applications for sleep- 
ing draughts, which he invariably let me have 
without a murmur, I took this opportunity also 
.of getting his permission to keep my gas burning 
all night, for I felt that sleep was but of the ques- 
tion ; and as I had asked for and been promised 
the special Standard, which invariably contains 

28 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

some paragraphs of interest of a world-reno.vned 
General's, I began to hope that I might "settle 
down," as my friend the warder had suggested. 
But settling down in theory and settling down in 
practice, especially iji the " House of Detention," 
are two distinct things. The privilege of keeping 
my gas burning, too, involved a most unpleasant 
consequence, diametrically opposed to "settling 
down." Anyone whose light is left burning is sup- 
posed to be concocting some hideous treachery, and 
has to be " seen " every fifteen minutes ; and thus 
through this long dreary winter night and every 
subsequent ten nights of mystay found me being 
taken stock of every quarter of an hour. I must — 
without being aware of it — about this time have 
commenced the " settling down " process, for I 
could actually bring myself to uttering the feeblest 
jokes, such as "Ah! how are you, old cockle.' 
Just in time ; another minute and I should have 
burrowed through the ventilator." These little 
sallies, I am bound to admit, did not always meet 
with the reception their pungency merited. Occa- 
sionally they extracted a grin or a chaffy reply ; 
at others a grunt and a bang of the trap-door. But 
I have again wandered from my first entrance 

"Settling Down." 29 

into my cell, and demonstrating (what I honestly 
pleaded) my utter amateurishness in the writing of 
a book. I must only hope that the tale it unfolds 
will make up for this defect. A rattle of a tin 
knife on a pewter vessel, followed by the turning 
of the key, announced the arrival of my supper ; 
and, oh, shades of Romano, how " my heart beat 
for thee!" 



A GREASY cold chop, smelling as if it had been 
cooked in " Benzine collas," and with about as 
much warmth as would be imparted to it by a flat 
iron, a slice of bread that had evidently been cut 
in the early part of the day, with salt, mustard, a 
lump of cheese, and a potato piled up beside it, and 
a pint of the flattest, blackest, nastiest ale in a 
yellow jug without a spout, with my name pasted 
on it and the plate, constituted my meal, and 
nothing but philosophy and a certain amount of 
hunger could have induced me to attempt to tackle 
it. I did, however, and bolted the food and gulped 
down the liquid, and continued the contemplation 
of my cell. A few minutes later my warder again 
appeared with the "special" and removed my 
" tray ; " and the ringing of the most melancholy- 
toned bell I had ever heard up to then warned 

'^Prison Fare" 31 

me that bed-time had arrived, and I proceeded to 
turn in for my first night under lock and key. 
Believe me, reader, there is more in this than my 
words can convey. Writing as I now am, in a 
comFortable bed at six in the morning (for my past 
experience has instilled very early habits into me), 
with the window open, and the sea within a few 
yards of me, surrounded by every luxury and com- 
fort that an affectionate mother can think of, and 
in a genial climate in the South of France, I cannot 
even now look back without a shudder to that 
fearful first night of less than a year ago ; and the 
'chop and the hammock, and the key turning, and 
the " settling down " appear as vividly before me 
as the most hideous nightmare of an hour's previous 

At 6 A.M, — and in November this means in the 
pitch dark — a bell rings ; not a heavy tolling bell, 
but a shrill, sharp, hand bell, wrung with all the 
vigour that a prison warder can impart to it. He 
walks up and down the long and dreary passages, 
the noise rising and falling as he approaches and 
recedes. I sat up on my pallet of horsehair, and 
took it for granted I had better get up. By the 
considerate thoughtfulness of our free and enlight- 

32 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

ened Government every requisite for a (hurried) 
toilet is here provided, obviating the very slightest 
necessity for ever leaving one's apartments. A 
tap and diminutive brass basin, a water-closet 
(guaranteed, I should say, to produce typhoid in a 
marvellously short space of time), a piece of yellow 
soap the size of a postage stamp, and a towel of 
the solidity of the main sheet of an ironclad, and 
bearing unmistakable " marks of the beasts " that 
had been my immediate predecessors, were all at 
hand, leaving no excuse for the most whimsical for 
abstaining from a thorough good (official) wash, I 
found, as my experience increased, that the two 
things most neglected in Her Majesty's prisons are 
cleanliness and godliness. A terrible make-believe 
distinguishes them both ; but if you only burnish 
up the outside of the cup and the platter, the 
inside may, figuratively speaking, be full of dead 
men's bones. I shall adduce very good reasons for 
these assertions when time and niy destiny have 
"settled me down" in Coldbath Fields. 

After a delay of half-an-hour the counting 
process began, which consisted of a whole cloud of 
turnkeys passing rapidly in front of the various 
cell doors. A little further delay, and I was invited 

"Prison Fare" 33 

to " exercise." I went out once and only once, for 
as a philosopher one must pocket one's foolish likes 
and dislikes, and endeavour to see everything ; but 
the penance was so fearful that I had a word with 
the doctor, and obtained exemption from that 
date. Conceive, then, a large and bleak courtyard, 
flagged and partially gravelled, bounded on three 
sides by the prison walls, and on the fourth by high 
railings and a still higher wall beyond it ; conceive, 
too, a couple of hundred of the scum of London, 
the halt and the lame, the black chutnee seller and 
the mendicant newsvendor, with here and there 
some unfortunate devil like myself in the garb of 
a gentleman ; add to this a warder standing on a 
pedestal at each corner, and another roaming round 
in the centre, and then cap this awful picture by 
watching this frowsy tag-rag mass walking round 
in a circle about a yard apart, and you may possibly 
form some slight notion of my feelings. When I 
got to' the outer door that led into the yard, I 
hesitated for a moment, ancj I told a warder that I 
really did not think I could face the ordeal ; but 
he advised me, in what was kindly meant, to have 
a try, and that if I walked round no one would 
take a bit of notice of me. I found this assurance 


34 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

was hardly strictly correct, for my huge size and 
evident superiority (in clothes if not in morals) 
drew notice on me ; and many a scoundrel as he 
limped by asked me, in a gin-and-water voice, 
what I was " in for," and whether it was the " fust " 
time. I, however, ignored their delicate overtures 
towards sociability, and longed for daylight and 
its accompanying breakfast. The hour's exercise 
eventually passed by, and I returned to my den, 
where shortly afterwards my breakfast appeared. 
This came from the eating-house over the way, and 
a nastier, colder, or more revolting conglomeration 
of roll sliced and buttered, a fried egg, and a piece 
of bacon that must have spent the night in a rat- 
trap, and a pint of chicory in a yellow jug, I never 
saw. I ventured to draw the warder's attention to 
the proximity that existed between these various 
delicacies, but he explained that mine was only one 
of some seventy other breakfasts of " privileged " 
prisoners, and that they had been in the passage 
for over an hour. Assuming, therefore, that my 
dejeuner had probably been sandwiched between a 
burglar's tripe and onions and some other brother 
malefactor's tea and shrimps, I held my breath and 
" laid on," and was surprised what a hole I had 

" Prison Fare." 35 

made in all the good things in an incredibly short 
period. But time (especially in Houses of Deten- 
tion) waits for no man, and in a twinkling my 
breakfast things were removed, and a bell sum- 
moned us to chapel. I now found myself in church, 
and after a ten minutes' farce, which embraced 
every modern religious improvement — such as 
singing, a sermon, and a chaplain in a white 
surplice — we were again escorted back, and awaited 
the visit of the Governor. 

The chaplain at the " House of Detention " was, 
I should say, rather a good sort ; he and I had 
frequent conversations, and as he was the man who 
had once put a spoke into Bignell's "Argyll" 
wheel, and as I was the humble instrument that 
had " smashed, defeated, and utterly pulverized " 
Barnabas Amos and his night-house, a bond of 
mutual interest at once sprang up between us as 
enemies of immorality in general, and Bignell and 
Amos in particular. This reverend gentleman 
was, I should say, decidedly High Church; he 
wore all day (and for aught I know all night) a 
black skull-cap and gown, and possessing an 
enormous red beard, that came down to his waist, 

he invariably inspired me with much the same 

V 2 

36 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

amount and sort of reverence that I entertain 
when contemplating stained-glass likenesses of 
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. His manner at 
first was a little pompous, especially when he was 
telling me of the sort of books he would permit 
and not permit me to order in ; he was, however, 
despite these peculiarities, unmistakably a gentle- 
man, both in manner and appearance — two qualifi-- 
cations I subsequently discovered were sadly de- 
ficient in more than one of his species. And now 
the door was opened with a terrific bang, and I 
was told by a turnkey with bated breath and evi- 
dently suffering from excessive mental excitement, 
that " the Governor " was coming round, and before 
I had time to shake myself together, and rise to 
receive him, the great man was in my cell. Cap- 
tain was the beau ideal of a plunger, and had 

served many years in the K. D.^G.'s. He even- 
tually exchanged from soldiering to *' prisoning," 
and had served his time as " Deputy " of Exeter 
and Cold Bath Fields prisons. I was told at this 
latter retreat that he was in those days excessively 
zealous in the matter of dust, and that his great 
height enabled him to extract infinitesimal atoms 
of this irrepressible commodity from shelves and 

"Prison Fare'' 37 

ventilators that men more of the " Zachaeus " 
type would never have noticed. Like most men, 
however, time had blunted his zeal for these trifles, 
and when I saw him he had grown out of these 
absurdities of his novitiate, and appeared as one 
who had an unpleasant duty to perform, and who 
was anxious to do it as pleasantly as possible. He 
accosted me as one might • expect a gentleman 
would, and asked me if there was anything he 
could do to ameliorate my condition .' I men- 
tioned certain things, and he at once gave the 
necessary orders for my being permitted news- 
papers, pen, ink, and paper, my gas at night, and 
exemption from chapel and exercise. All this 
brought it to near twelve o'clock, when dinners 
commenced being " served ;" and without detailing 
all the horrors I ate, suffice it to say that another 
plateful of offal, such as a hyaena would jib at, duly 
made its appearance, and was as duly demolished, 
more or less. The first day in this terrible place 
is perhaps more awful than any subsequent one ; 
for, irrespective of the novelty of the situation and 
not having " settled down," it must be taken into 
consideration that one has barely had time to com- 
municate with friends and solicitors, and thus the 

38 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

day passes wearily away, affording ample time for 
reflection and the realisation of the fact that one 
may be in the heart of London and yet as far away 
from friends and relatives as if in the middle of 
the Desert of Sahara. The above sketch will 
pretty accurately convey an idea of a day's routine 
in the House of Detention, excepting perhaps a 
visit from a friend daily, a restriction that is as 
iniquitous as it is illogical, and which I trust the 
authorities will consider worthy of alteration. 
Visits from solicitors constitute another feature of 
this existence. Visits from friends are made as 
uncomfortable as can well be conceived ; the 
drop window in the cell door, 12 inches by 8, 
and carefully covered with zinc netting, is opened, 
and with the visitor on the one side in the cold 
and dark passage, and the prisoner on the other in 
his cell, it is really difficult to hear all that is said, 
for the echo and shouting that is going on 
throughout requires a very practised ear to catch 
the muffled sounds. If any reader has ever put 
his head into a sack (which I haven't) and tried to 
talk, or heard the ghost speak at a transpontine 
theatre, some idea of the extraordinary hollow 
change in the voice may be imagined. A more 

"Prison Fare." 39 

inconsiderate system could hardly be adopted, and 
absolutely debars respectable persons from sub- 
mitting to the ordeal entailed by such visits. The 
visits of solicitors are, however, far better managed, 
and permitted with a degree of comfort that quite 
surprised me. A private room is placed at your 
disposal, where you can say (and, as I found, do) 
pretty much what you please without let or hin- 
drance ; and beyond having a badge temporarily 
placed on your arm to indicate the number of your 
cell, and having the door carefully locked, you 
might fancy yourself having a tite-ci-tHe on a 
rainy day in the second class refreshment-room of 
the Crystal Palace. Only two unusual circum- 
stances occurred to vary the monotony of my daily 
life ; the one was the being served with a writ by a 
foolish tailor in Pall Mall, or rather his executors, 
for poor old Morris had long since paid the penalty 
of affluence and good feeding. That any men of 
the world, such as I supposed them to be, should 
have lent themselves to anything so childish as to 
serve a man with a " writ " who was awaiting his 
"trial on a charge that might involve a seclusion 
" for years or may be for ever " passes my compre- 
hension. I often felt I owed an apology to the 

40 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

unhappy deputy of these irrepressible snips, for he 
must have found it cold and very miserable whilst 
awaiting my arrival in that cheerless corridor, and 
I registered a vow, when the opportunity occurred, 
to express my regret for the scant comfort and 
apparent want of courtesy he received at my 
hands ; but I was the victim of cruel circum- 
stances over which I .had no control. Another 
event that intruded itself on the even tenor of my 
ways was a letter from " Georgina " ; and as the 
narration will involve a certain essential digression 
to make matters clear, I must again ask the 
reader's indulgence. 



Who has not heard of Georgina ? Ask Gounod, 
ask Monsieur Riviere, ask Mr. Vaughan, ask me, 
ask yourself, indulgent reader. I made this lady's 
acquaintance some five years ago, about eleven P.M., 
outside Covent Garden Theatre, when she was 
apparently being supported by her seconds and 
spongeholders, after her third or fourth round (I 
forget which) with the " Leicester Square Pet " or 
the " Regent Street Chicken," or both. I was not 
an eye-witness of this revival of the good old days 
of the ring, so my statement as to details must not 
be implicitly accepted. I, however, made one of 
an excited and surging mob, and gleaned that the 
cause was the fair Georgina, who had lately been 
" removed " from inside the theatre. In a thought- 
less moment, and with an eye to business, and with 
the hope of turning an honest penny by taking 

42 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

this amiable creature into the provinces (for I 
dabbled in things theatrical in those days) I en- 
tered into conversation with one of her satellites, 
which ripened into an intimacy of the most de- 
plorable aiid expensive nature, and ended in the 
climax that procured me a most abusive and 
threatening letter whilst in the House of Deten- 
tion, and subsequently a visit from her on my 
second appearance at Bow-street, where she occu- 
pied a prominent position in the front row. 
Immediately, then, after this lady's notoriety con- 
nected with the above contretemps, it struck me 
that she could not fail to " draw " in the provinces, 
if not on her merits as a vocalist, at least on 
account of her other amiable accomplishments. A 
series of visits to her residence ended in my secur- 
ing the professional services of this inestimable 
treasure ; and though the terms and conditions with 
which she hampered her agreement to accompany 
me on a six weeks' tour were sufficient to have 
made a more experienced man hesitate, I at length 
consented to all she proposed, and our agreement 
was virtually completed. Georgina is, I should 
say, an implacable foe ; she is also, I should fancy, 
a good friend until a row — an inevitable conse- 

Georgina. 43 

quence — takes place. This latter characteristic 
showed itself on this occasion ; she made it a sine 
qud noil, and refused to budge an inch unless I 
agreed to permit her to be accompanied by a huge 
French woman whom she called her companion, 
and a sickly youth whom she designated her secre- 
tary. I was not only to cart this worthy couple 
about first-class, but to pay for their board and 
lodgings. As the French person was as voracious 
as a cormorant, and as the secretary was apparently 
suffering from some complaint that impelled him 
to eat inordinately three or four times a dayf and 
as provincial hotels are proverbially expensive 
when the ordinary routine is in the least deviated 
from, and as nothing but the best and most 
rcchercJU menu was considered good enough for 
this worthy trio, my bill and my feelings after a 
three days' experience may be easier imagined 
than described ; added to all this, Georgina's deli- 
cate health precluded her from abstaining from 
food for any length of time, and thus when we 
journeyed from one town to another a hamper of 
prog had to be invariably made up for sustaining 
nature in the transit. Good heavens ! such appe- 
tites would have eaten one out of house and home, 

44 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

even if any profits had been made ; but when the 
takings were absolutely " nil," and the working 
expenses about ;^ioo a week, it will not surprise 
the reader to learn that I lost ;£'400 in less than a 
fortnight, and returned to London a sadder and a 
wiser man. I cannot omit one absurd feature in 
this " starring " tour which occurred in a town very 
far north, and which happily brought my disastrous 
tour to an abrupt and unexpected conclusion. The 
hour that the concert was to commence was eight ; 
the audience, had been respectfully solicited to be 
in tlfKr places -by that hour — a request, I am bound 
to admit, the entire audience present considerately 
complied with — everything, in short, was done by 
visiting, puffing, advertising, and personally can- 
vassing, that ingenuity and activity on my part 
could suggest ; and at a quarter before eight I 
awaited behind the curtain (seeing, but unseen), 
with throbbing heart, the arrival of the vast crowds 
that I confidently expected. The fair and amiable 
one was seated on a fauteuil, radiant with smiles 
and attired in a matchless robe of white water silk 
and ruffles — a kind of mixture between the " Marie 
Antoinette " and the " Gorgonzola " styles, or what 
the cross would be, if such styles do or ever have 

Georgina. 45 

existed — (should any lady read this description she 
will, I trust, pardon any imperfections of detail.) 

The female cormorant was administering some 
light stimulant, for Georgina is subject to fits of 
nervousness, incredible as this may appear. The 
emaciated one was in front assisting in looking 
after the ~ money-taker ; and I feel thankful to 
Providence on his account, if not on my own, that 
this was far from an arduous task, for the poor 
fellow was evidently delicate and physically in- 
capable of lifting a heavy cash-box, and so, with 
all my faults, blood-guiltiness cannot be laid to my 
charge. Time-meanwhile was rapidly passing, and 
a huge clock pointed to three minutes to eight, then 
two minutes, then one, and then eight o'clock struck, 
and, oh horror of horrors 1 the sole occupant of the 
enormous building was the critic of the local paper. 
Decency forbade our opening the concert to this 
solitary unhappy man ; it appeared to me to be 
cowardly to attack him alone, and to pit him single- 
handed against the invincible Georgina, who had 
demolished a conductor and his manager a week 
previously, and who now showed symptoms of 
" annoyance " that nothing but my soothing powers 
prevented bursting into a flame. My plan of action 

46 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

was immediately taken ; to hesitate a moment was 
to be lost. I at once sent for the " secretary," and 
first thought of telling him to make a short speech 
from the stage to our solitary audience ; but reflec- 
tion decided me in approaching him myself. I 
apologised for the unusual occurrence (it had in 
reality happened wherever we had been, though 
not to the extent of less than seven or eight) ; I 
offered to return him his money, for I was well 
aware his was a complimentary ticket, and verily 
believe that the united purses of the entire com- 
pany could not have scraped together five shillings. 
He muttered something I tried not to hear, and 
next day repaid my intended courtesy by a flaming 
smashing article that would effectually have ruined 
us had we moved elsewhere. But events were 
occurring at the same time which put it out of my 
power to continue this disastrous tour. About 
eleven o'clock the landlord of the hotel presented 
himself at my room, said the lady and her friends 
had left, and politely but firmly intimated that he 
could not permit me to remove my luggage till a 
little bill of £'?! was settled. The rest is soon told. 
I hurried back to London, remitted the £%, and 
abandoned the tour. I had not, however, heard the 

Georgina. 47 

last of my musical bete noire ; she and the " secre- 
tary" both dunned me for their railway fares, 
which I of course ignored, and I heard no more of 
her till she dug me out at the House of Detention, 
when she threatened me with legal proceedings for 
detaining, as she alleged, her photographs — the real 
fact being that, after our last stampede, her photo- 
graphs that were displayed were seized by some 
indignant creditor in expectation of a ransom. 
For my part I hope I have really heard the last of 
this irrepressible creature. 



An eventful day was now approaching, and on 
the morrow I was to appear at Bow Street for 
the first time after my formal remand of the pre- 
vious Friday. I felt an instinctive conviction that 
my appearance (even though it had not appeared 
up to that time in the newspapers) would be gene- 
rally known, and draw together a crowd actuated 
by motives either of like, dislike, or curiosity ; nor 
was I wrong in my surmise. An official at the 
police court informed me that numbers of inquiries 
had been made as to the time of my probable 
appearance ; and as the appointed hour drew near 
fresh arrivals and those that had been waiting since 
lo A.M. combined in making up a crowd that 
literally crammed the court. It was, I admit, a 
very trying ordeal, for I had been pretty accurately 
informed what persons were in the court and wait- 

Bow Street. 49 

ing to see the "fun." I did, however, the best 
(though, I fear, a very foolish) thing under the 
circumstances, and primed myself with liquor, 
which certain friends, by dint of great ingenuity, 
managed to convey to me, for the gaoler, though a 
most civil and obliging man, was a terrible dis- 
ciplinarian, and one that was not to be " squared." 
Had I not taken these repeated nips — and I'm 
afraid to say how much I imbibed — I firmly 
believe I could never have gone through the 
examination with the sangfroid I displayed. 

About 1 2 o'clock a hurrying of feet approaching 
my cell announced to me that my turn was come ; 
and after a momentary pause in the passage I 
found myself escorted by a constable and in the 
dock. I can never forget that terrible moment. In 
front, on each side, and behind me was a dense 
throng, representing every class of persons I had 
ever had dealings with. One expected a certain 
amount of hostility from the side of the prosecution, 
but the array of faces I then saw opened up in me 
a new train of thoughts. Here was a room thronged 
with people I had befriended and people I 
had never injured ; men I had stood dinners 
to when their . funds were lower than mine ; 

50 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

lodging-house keepers that had fleeced me, and 
waiters I had tipped beyond their deserts ; name- 
less attorneys from the slums of the City, courting 
daylight and publicity in the hopeless endeavour 
to get their names into print by the gratuitous offer 
of their valuable but hitherto unappreciated ser- 
vices — all craning their necks to stare at and exult 
over a poor devil, who, whatever his faults, was 
now at a disadvantage. It was the old adage of 
" hitting a man when he is down ; " and I'm thank- 
ful for the experience that has enabled me to form 
a just estimate of the worthlessness of such profes- 
sions of friendship. On the other hand, I heard of 
many persons — to their honour, be it said — who 
abstained from being present through feelings of 
generous consideration. My quasi-ixitxiA. Georgina 
occupied a conspicuous place in the front row. I 
verily believe she never took her eyes off me, but 
her offensive stare had no charm for me ; I had 
more serious matters to occupy my mind. A 
mountain of flesh that I was once on terms of 
intimacy with was also present, panting with 
excitement, but, like the Levite of old, " he passed 
over on the other side." I will not weary the 
reader with details that repeat themselves almost 

Bow Street. 51 

daily in the police reports ; suffice it to say that I 
was again remanded for another week, and then for- 
mally committed for trial at the next sessions of 
the Central Criminal Court. 

On my two previous remands to the House of 
Detention I had always managed to remain at Bow 
Street till the S o'clock van took its load of 
victims. It was, at all events, a change, and in- 
finitely more agreeable than the depressing atmo- 
sphere of Clerkenwell. On the day, however, of 
my committal to Newgate I was informed that I 
could not, as before, wait till 5 P.M., but must be 
ready to start at 2. The rope was clearly getting 
" tauter " ; discipline was gradually assuming its 
sway, the circles around me smaller and smaller. 
The other occupants of the " Black Maria " were, 
like myself, all committed for trial ; and as we 
drove along I was much surprised at the marvellous 
knowledge they appeared to have gained of me 
and my affairs. I was, as before, standing in the 
passage and not in a compartment, and conse- 
quently could hear all that passed between the 
various passengers. My case was the sole subject 
of conversation ; occasionally I was the object of a 
little mirthful sally. Thus, a man who had been 

X 2 

52 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

sentenced to three months' imprisonment in default 
of paying a fine, said, " Ah, Capting, you might 
give us two of them quids to pay my fine " — refer- 
ring to some money that had been alluded to in 
the court as having been in my possession at the 
time of my arrest. Another hinted that I " Best 
take a good look at the streets, 'cos all wud be 
changed like afore I cum out agin." Another 
assured me that the warm baths in Newgate " wus 
fine but 'ot." A lady, too, graced our party ; she 
was tawdry, I admit, and lived in the Dials. Her 
misfortune was that she had mistaken someone's 
purse for her own. She was howling over her ill- 
luck for the first part of the journey, but before we 
arrived at our destination had quite recovered her 
usual spirits. She told me she was an actress — an 
assertion I am not in a position to dispute,Hhough 
I found her conversation quite as intellectual as 
that of the usual ballet-girl class ; and as she 
was the last " lady " I was likely to see or 
hear for some time, I paid great respect to her 
conversation. All these familiarities were terribly 
grating to me ; they were more difficult to bear 
than any of my previous humiliations. They were, 
as it were, the first instalments of being addressed 

Bow Street. 53 

as an equal by inferiors who had hitherto recog- 
nised me as a superior ; and as we drove along, 
past objects as familiar to me as my own face, I 
felt the lump rising in my throat, and I dread to 
think what weakness I might have been guilty of 
had not a sharp turn brought us in front of New- 
gate, and the opening of a huge gate on its creak- 
ing hinges recalled me to a sense of my unenviable 
position. The van, having crossed the courtyard, 
was backed against the door, where a string of 
warders formally received us ; and after again sub- 
mitting to the painful ordeal of being catechized, I 
found myself traversing a dismal and nearly dark 
corridor ; and then the hideous conviction forced 
itself on me for the first time that I was actually a 
prisoner and securely lodged in Newgate. 



So much has been written about this national 
Bastile, and so many have gone over the building, 
that one feels as if writing about " a tale that is 
told." Nevertheless, I trust my narrative may 
describe things never before alluded to, and be 
found to contain matters of interest that came 
under my personal observation. The first thing at 
Newgate that a fresh arrival has to submit to is 
the indispensable bath, accompanied by a very 
minute and simultaneous search. I was at once 
ushered downstairs and into a very roomy and 
luxurious bath room, quite as good as any supplied 
for eighteenpence at West End establishments, 
and being invited to undress and get into the 
bath, had the gratification of observing my clothes 
undergo, one by one, a very thorough overhauling. 
Each item was severally manipulated, and I am 

Newgate. 5 5 

convinced not a pin could have escaped detection. 
Meanwhile I was splashing and thoroughly en- 
joying, myself, much as one has seen a duck that 
has been cooped up for a week when suddenly 
turned into a pond. I had not had such a revel 
for ten days, and in the ecstacy of the moment I 
felt as if it was almost worth the journey to New- 
gate for such a luxury. This periodical bath is 
one of the greatest " inflictions " the average 
prisoner has to submit to, and numerous instances 
came under my observation at a later period, of 
ingenuity displayed by frowzy malefactors to evade 
this regulation. Twenty minutes found me again 
"clothed and in my right mind," and I was 
ushered into a cell on the same subterraneous 
floor. This cell was certainly the most empty I 
had ever seen ; its entire furniture literally con- 
sisted of a camp stool and a thermometer, and this 
latter instrument caused me considerable annoy- 
ance, for I am not exaggerating when I assert that 
an absurd make-believe display of anxiety for 
one's welfare involved a visit and calculation of the 
temperature every half-hour through the night. I 
utterly failed to fathom this custom, the more so 
as the turnkey who made the calculation probably 

5 6 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

understood as much about it as he did of 
astronomy, and can only attribute it to the in- 
herent politeness developed in the officials who 
periodically have lodgers whom they begin by 
feeding up, and eventually end by launching into 
eternity with a hand shake, if we are to believe the 
papers. This idea is not my own, but was suggested 
to me by a terrible scamp and fellow lodger whom 
I shall presently introduce to the reader. An ab- 
surd habit that prevailed at Newgate, and which 
contrasted strangely with the other customs, was 
that of the chief warder as he finally counted us 
at night. This official, having glared at you with 
an expression such as the rattlesnake may be pre- 
sumed to give the guinea-pig just before dinner, 
invariably said "Good night!" I was so struck 
by this unique and time-honoured custom that I 
asked my friend and valet — for he cleaned out my 
cell and did other jobs for me — Mr. Mike Rose 
what it meant. "Well," he said, "they gets into 
a sort of perlite way like, 'cos whenever a cove 
swings they nigh alius shakes hands with 'im, and 
maybe this is 'ow they gits perlite like." There 
was something so original in this logic that I could 
not but be impressed by it, and though I failed to 

Newgate. 57 

discover the connection between the two circum- 
stances, still I had realized that Mr. Mike Rose 
was a bit of a character and worth cultivation. 
Very shortly after my incarceration in the ther- 
mometer-furnished cell I was visited by the sur- 
geon, and having obtained his permission to have 
a bed instead of a hammock, a wooden tressel was 
brought in with sheets, bolster, and blankets. I at 
once proceeded to make my couch, deeming bed 
the best place on such a cold and cheerless after- 
noon ; and 6 o'clock P.M. found me in bed, vainly 
endeavouring to get warm, with my eye fixed on 
the thermometer, and muffled up to the chin with 
sheets and blankets, all of which were stamped 
in letters three inches long with the ominous words 
" Newgate Prison." I really believed that my 
first night's experience at the " Hpuse of De- 
tention " was sufficiently awful, but it was nothing 
to my sensations here. The associations of the 
place, the idea that many a murderer had probably 
occupied this very cell, and possibly slept in these 
identical bed-coverings, all forced themselves upon 
me. The bells of the numerous churches which 
abound round Newgate also seemed desirous of 
adding to one's misery by joyful peals ; they were 

58 Eighte&n Months' Imprisonment. 

practising their weekly bell-ringing, and one chime 
was repeating over and over again — in mockery of 
me, as it were — Haydn's " Hymn of the Creation," 
and " The Heavens are telling " kept floating into 
my ears through granite walls and iron bars ; and 
though I tried very hard to stifle sound by burying 
myself under the " broad-arrowed " bed-clothing, 
all my efforts were futile, till sleep, kind sleep, took 
pity on. me, and I wandered in my dreams far 
away from my dreadful abode, only to be recalled 
to the hideous reality by the mournful prison bell, 
and — 

" Sorrow returned with the light of the morn, 
And the voice in my dreaming ear melted away." 

The daily routine is somewhat different to that 
of the " House of Detention." One official only 
counts the prisoners of a morning, and asks you at 
the time if you wish to see the doctor during the day. 
I was once tempted to express this wish with a view 
of procuring a sleeping draught. He questioned me 
as to my symptoms in an apparently interested 
manner,and eventuallyordered me a dose of "No. 2." 
No. 2, 1 may here state, is a ready-made article, and 
is baled out of a huge jar into a dirty tin cup. I 
took my dose, and, without further detailing the 

Newgate. 59 

result, am extremely grateful I had not been pre- 
scribed No. I. If I had, it is very doubtful whether 
this narrative would ever have been written. The 
first day is occupied with details to which consider- 
able importance appear to be attached — namely, 
your description — every particular of which is care- 
fully booked by the head of each department, and a 
more senseless, harassing ordeal can hardly be con- 
ceived. Surely one inspection and general descrip- 
tion (this was my third within ten days) ought to 
suffice, and might without much trouble be for- 
warded from one prison to another. It is idle to 
deny that half the questions put to you are abso- 
lutely unnecessary, and the conviction is forced on 
you that you are being pumped from sheer curiosity. 
Thus the Chaplain, in the blandest manner, only to 
be acquired by constant attendance on murderers 
previous to execution, asked me questions that 
appeared most impertinent — as to where I lived, 
and if I had any relatives, and where they lived. I 
at once told him I considered all this quite unneces- 
sary, and declined to enlighten him. Immediately 
after breakfast on the first morning the prisoners are 
taken in packs of about twenty before the Gover- 
nor. This man is what is known in the army as 

6o Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

a " Ranker " — that is, one who by merit has raised 
himself from the rank and file to his present 
position — and had apparently brought with him 
many of those habits which, however commendable 
in a turnkey, are beneath the dignity of a Governor 
and lower the position he ought to occupy. Acting 
on the habits associated with his ybuth, this 
Governor commenced a minute examination of 
one's physiognomy. Seizing you by the nose or 
ear (I forget which), and scowling hard, he began, 
" Eyes grey, complexion fresh, mole on neck, &c. ; " 
and having further personally superintended your 
being measured and weighed, you were filtered 
through, as it were, into the presence of the Chap- 
lain, who tried to pump you as before described, and 
who, in his turn, passed you on to the doctor, who 
appeared to have a kind of roving commission to 
endeavour to extract any crumbs of information 
omitted by his two confreres. The whole style and 
system at Newgate was excessively low. I was 
moreover very much struck by the resemblance 
that appeared to exist between the officials from 
the highest to the lowest. Every one had the same 
unpleasant expression that suggested the idea that 
they lived in gloomy streets, where the drainage 


P. 60. 

Newgate. 6i 

was bad. I attribute this in a measure to a com- 
mendable desire on the part of the subordinates to 
imitate their chief, who had not a pleasant expres- 
sion, and shows how necessary it is that Govern- 
ment should select a gentleman by birth and 
manners — irrespective of every other recommenda- 
tion — for a position of such delicacy as that of a 
prison Governor. The next ordeal one had to 
submit to was " Chapel," and, barring the novelty of 
the scene, I can hardly conceive a more absurd 
farce. The pumping Chaplain was here metamor- 
phosed into the surpliced cleric, and it is difficult 
to decide in which character he was most objection- 
able. In justice I must commend him for the 
brevity of his remarks, for from find to finish — from 
" When the wicked man " to the end of the sermon 
— was all compressed into fifteen minutes, and away 
we again trudged, like Alice in Wonderland, in 
search of further novelty. The Chapel of Newgate 
is a very awful place ; anything more calculated to 
banish reverential feeling and inspire horror can 
hardly be conceived. On each side is a huge cage, 
different from anything I had ever seen, except, 
perhaps, the elephant house at the Zoological. In 
these, prisoners convicted and prisoners awaiting 

62 Eighteen Monthi Imprisonment. 

trial are severally placed, thus eflfectually dividing 
the Scotland Yard sheep from the Scotland Yard 
goats. Above, protected by small red curtains, 
were diminutive balconies, capable of holding three 
persons at inost ; these were for the accommodation 
of murderers, from whence they receive the conso- 
lations of religion (official) whilst awaiting strangu- 
lation. The vibration of a curtain led me to 
the conclusion that one of these mortuaries was 
daily occupied, a suspicion that was confirmed 
by events which I subsequently heard and saw. I 
discovered, indeed, that a gentleman who. had cut 
the throats of half his family, and who eventually 
benefited by the religious consolation of the Chap- 
lain and the delicate attentions of Mr. Marwood, 
was a fellow-lodger at the same time as myself. I 
saw the poor wretch every day passing and repass- 
ing, and later on "assisted" at certain prelimi- 
naries in his honour. I moreover had a bird's-eye 
view of his last appearance in public, facts that I 
shall duly narrate hereafter. 

" Exercise " was an indispensable feature of life 
in Newgate, and nothing, I believe, could have 
exempted one from this ordeal. It answered, 
indeed, more purposes than one. Health was doubt- 

Newgate, 63. 

less essential ; identification, however, was consider- 
ably more important. Three times a week, and 
before starting on our circus-like walk, all the 
prisoners awaiting trial, amounting to over two 
hundred, were ranged shoulder to shoulder round 
the walls, a preliminary that at first puzzled me 
considerably, I was not, however, left long in 
ignorance. A little way off, and apparently ap- 
proaching, I heard the measured tramp of an ad- 
vancing crowd, and suddenly there appeared a long 
string of men in single file ; these were the detec- 
tives, some seventy or eighty in number, bent on a 
mission of recognition. Slowly they passed before 
us, each one staring and occasionally stopping and 
addressing a prisoner, or whispering to one of their 
companions. These preliminary enquiries often led 
to minuter inspections ; and if they expressed the 
wish, a prisoner was afterwards honoured by a 
private view, and carefully compared with photo- 
graphs and police descriptions. This, no doubt, is 
a very essential proceeding, and many a man 
" wanted " for an undiscovered crime in another 
part of the kingdom, and committed months or 
years previously, is recognized by this salutary 
custom. As may be supposed, this inspection had 

64 Eighteen Monthi Imprisonment. 

absolutely no personal interest to me. Still the 
ordeal, degrading in the extreme, never failed to 
inspire me with horror ; and I dreaded the morn- 
ings when the "detecs," as they were lovingly 
termed, made their appearance. There was some- 
thing so weird and uncanny in the whole thing — the 
distant tramp, the solemn march past, the offensive 
leer, the familiar stare, all combined to make a 
horrible impressiop. A more repulsive body of 
men than these " detecs " can hardly be conceived, 
got up as they were in every kind of costume — men 
in pot hats and slap-bang coats, others in shabby- 
genteel frock coats and tall hats ; some in fustians 
and others in waterproofs and leggings, but all 
with the same unmistakable expression. I hope 
the authorities are not under the impression that 
these individuals are unknown to the law-breaking 
community, for no greater fallacy can possibly 
exist. I never missed an opportunity hereafter of 
asking habitual criminals this question, and am 
satisfied that their appearances, their beats, and 
their daily routine are known to every habitual 
criminal in London. I'll prove this hereafter. 
Meanwhile, one has only to look about in the 
streets, and he cannot fail to observe a civilian 

Newgate. 65 

frequently talking to a policeman. This man is 
not asking his way, but is in nineteen cases out of 
twenty a " recogniser " ; nor can it be wondered at 
if their foolish actions and evident unwillingness to 
conceal their vocation makes them as distinguish- 
able as they are. I will confidently assert that 
every pickpocket and every " unfortunate " knows 
each and every one of these detectives ; and as they 
invariably frequent the same beat, and pursue the 
same tactics at the same time every day, it can 
hardly be wondered at. I know — and it will 
hardly be asserted that I could know it except by 
having heard it from others — that a detective is 
" due " daily at King's Cross Metropolitan Station 
about two P.M., and remains about an hour, and 
that on race-days he is there before the return from 
the meeting. If this is true — as I believe it to 
be — it is natural to suppose that other facts are 
equally well known. I could adduce a hundred 
instances of this sort, for I made burglars my par- 
ticular study, and will disclose hereafter my ideas 
of the many fallacies that at present exist on this 
subject, and the causes that lead to burglaries, and 
how they are easiest avoided. I never lost the 
opportunity of questioning a burglar or a pick- 

66 Eighteen Months" Imprisonment. 

pocket, and during the next few months I saw some 
very fair specimens of these respective species. 
My remarks must not be taken as referring to the 
higher Scotland-yard detectives, than whom no 
cleverer body exists, but to these trumpery plain- 
clothes men, or " recognisers," that may be seen at 
every corner, and who, I verily believe, do more to 
impede than further justice. 



In the corner of the yard where I daily exer- 
cised stood an unpretending looking shed, with 
slate roof and large folding doors, and resembling 
a coach-house more than anything I can compare 
it to. This building always puzzled me, and I 
enquired of my friend and fellow-lodger, Mr. Mike 
Rose, what it was. I then discovered it was the 
scaffold, that grim limb of the law on which so 
many wretches have periodically suffered within 
three weeks of their sentence at the Old Bailey 
Sessions, or, as they are familiarlj' knoWn, " The 
C. C. C." I was most anxious to have a minute 
examination of this masterpiece of Marwood's, for 
it is admitted that that eminent manipulator of 
the carotid artery has brought his genius to bear 
on the grim subject with such success that drop, 

knot, and platform have all arrived at the highest 

r 2 

68 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

possible degree of perfection. It was the custom 
to utilise the services of certain prisoners every 
day in general cleaning and helping about the 
prison, and as I was convinced that " the scaffold " 
would, like every other prison institution, require a 
periodical clean up, I suggested to my turnkey 
that if the chance occurred he should select me to 
assist in this cheerful and instructive duty. He 
laughed at the idea of my doing such work, and 
added that they only selected men whose ante- 
cedents had habituated them to scrubbing and 
cleaning ; but I explained to him that if Mike 
and I were selected, that Mike would do all the 
washing, and that I would exercise a sort of moral 
effect and general supervision that could not 
possibly make the slightest difference to him, and 
was based on an agreement between Mike and 
myself, whereby for a consideration of bread and 
butter, and mydeavings generally, he was to clean 
out my cell daily and make himself useful to me, 
and on my behalf This warder was a very good 
sort — indeed, about the only one that had not that 
offensive " bad drainage " expression I had noticed 
in the others. So he promised compliance, and 
one day after dinner I found myself in company 

The Scaffold. 69 

with Mike, crossing the yard — I with a duster and 
he with a mop and pail en route to the scaffold. 
There is something horrible in this idea, and many 
readers will probably consider my act and desire 
to participate in such a task as in the worst 
possible taste, but I felt I should never have 
such a chance again, and being, moreover, a phi- 
losopher, and actuated, even at that early stage, 
with a determination of some day writing my 
experiences, I lost no opportunity from the first 
day of my incarceration to the last to see every- 
thing by hook or by crook. I can fairly say I 
attained my object, and saw more than any other 
man has ever done before, and- that too under such 
favourable circumstances as something more than 
chance enabled me to. It may not here be out of 
place 'to say that I have read every book, sen- 
sational or realistic, that purports to describe 
prison life, and have invariably come to the con- 
clusion that the writers never really wrote from 
personal observation, or, if they did, had failed 
signally in giving a correct description of what 
actually exists. Many were well-written books, 
but they were NOT prison life. This narrative (to 
use an advertising phrase) supplies a want long 

7o Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

felt, and if it abounds with faults of composition — 
as I readily confess it does —it compensates in a 
measure for its shortcomings by the accuracy of its 
details. It is written in a vein, moreover, more 
likely — as I hope — to meet public approval than 
that snivelling, sanctimonious style adopted by its 
predecessors, and which, even if sincere, would 
nevertheless be palling, but where indulged in by 
some scheming, anonymous, rascally jail-bird, is as 
impertinent as it is nauseous. I have no faith in 
converted burglars. The entire scaffold is a most 
unpretending construction, and situated in any 
other yard but Old Bailey might' pass observation 
as a highly-polished and tidy out-house. The 
floor is level with the outer yard, so that the chief 
actor is spared the painful necessity of trying to 
ascend a flight of steps with quaking knees and an 
air of assumed levity. A few steps, quite un- 
observable whilst standing on the "drop," lead 
down from the back of the flooring into a bricked 
pit below, and a long bolt, worked by a wheel, 
enables this apparently solid flooring to split from 
the centre and to launch the victim in mid-air into 
the centre of this truly " bottomless pit." I 
minutely examined all this, and (as its thorough 

The Scaffold. Ji 

dusting necessitated) rubbed and burnished every 
portion I could think of. My confrere, mean- 
while, was on his hands and knees, scrubbing away 
like grim death, and preparing the floor for the 
ceremony that was to take place a few days 
hence. Mike all this time was giving me the 
benefit of his vast experience ; and as he appeared 
to hear everything that was going on, he led me to 
understand that eight A.M. on Monday next 
would witness one of those dreadful private exe- 
cutions that periodically take place, witnessed by 
none but prison officials, and associated, I verily 
believe, in many instances by circumstances of 
brutality that would not admit of publicity. He 
added that we might by luck get a view of the 
procession, or at least hear a little, for, as he con- 
siderately pointed out, our cells actually over- 
looked the yard. I was most anxious to hear how 
we might attain to this unusual excitement, and 
listened attentively whilst Mike enlightened me in 
something of the following style : — " Yer see, 
they'll begin to fake the cove about eight — ah, 
afore that, and none of us, see, will be allowed out 
that morning, you bet ; so if we can get a bit of 
glass out of the windey — see — and plug it round 

72 Eighteen Monthi Imprisonment. 

wi' bread, why none on 'em wud be none the wiser, 
and we might see a rare lot; never you mind, 
leave it to me, and to-morrow when I cleans your 
cell, I'll fix it for yen" This was indeed some- 
thing to look forward to, and next morning when 
Mike appeared he led me to understand, by the 
most hideous grimaces, that he had succeeded* on 
his own window, and prepared to do the same by 
mine ; so leaving him to himself, I withdrew into 
another cell, for it is a peculiarity of prison system 
that if two men are together, or even near one 
another, they are invariably watched, but if alone 
they are comparatively unobserved, and free to 
prosecute any undertaking without the least risk 
of detection. Mike's gestures, accompanied by a 
rolling of his eyes in the direction of the window, 
convinced me on my return that he had succeeded 
in his undertaking, and having the highest opinion 
of his constructive and destructive capabilities, I 
determined not t;o approach the window nor to 
test his work till the supreme moment arrived. 
Mike was one of those individuals who undergo 
imprisonment as a matter of course, and with con- 
siderably greater advantage than most men. I do 
not here include myself, for mine was an excep- 

The Scaffola. 73 

tional case; he had benefited by the experience 
of years, and though only a young man, appeared 
to be intimate with every prison in the kingdom ; 
he was, moreover, a most willing and respectful 
man and a capital worker, and, as such, a favourite 
with the warders, who knew they could always 
depend on a job being well done by him ; he was, 
consequently, all day employed on odd jobs, which 
carried with them privileges that enabled him to 
roam about and give the uninitiated — such as 
myself — the benefit of his profound and varied 
experience. Mike, I fear, was a terrible ruffian ; 
he was now awaiting his trial for burglary and 
personal violence, and though he assured me it 
was a mere nothing, and a grossly exaggerated 
and trumped-up charge, I gleaned from the facts 
that came out at his trial that he had rifled the 
contents of a small shop in the City Road, and 
that when the old woman who lived on the pre- 
mises had ventured to remonstrate, that Mike had 
marked his sense of such an unjustifiable proceed- 
ing by half throttling her, and eventually making 
away " for a little season." He assured me, how- 
ever, it was " nothing," adding, however, that as it 
was his fourth conviction, he quite expected penal 

74 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

servitude. He informed me also that he had 
written an elaborate defence, which he proposed 
reading to the judge and jury. This defence he 
insisted on showing me, and I am bound to say that 
a more damning document, or one more capable of 
hanging a man, I never saw ; but luck and circum- 
stances happily (for him) prevented him carrying 
out his intention of reading it, and Mike by the 
omission got oiif with two years' hard labour. Mr. 
Rose, who was about four-feet-four in his stockings, 
communicated to me, amongst other interesting 
facts, that he was a volunteer, and I could not 
help realising on various occasions after he had 
been performing violent exercise in my cell, that 
there was some truth in the adage that " a Rose by 
any name would smell as sweet." Mike, in short, 
was a character, and whether in chapel, where he 
apparently led the choir and knew every response 
by heart, or in the prison, where he appeared au 
coiirant with- everything and everybody, I found 
him a most useful neighbour, invariably obliging 
and respectful, and willing to turn his hand to 



The eventful day at length dawned when the 
scaffold was to be brought into requisition. " The 
condemned sermon " of the day before, to say 
nothing of the evident bustle that was going on, 
had suiKciently prepared our minds for what was 
about to happen ; and the getting our breakfasts 
half an hour earlier, and the omission of the usual 
passage cleaning, all clearly pointed to some 
unusual occurrence. My friend the warder, too, 
kept me thoroughly au coiirant with what was 
passing, and when giving me my breakfast added, 
"Well, I sha'n't be back just yet, as I've got to. 
assist at a little business down below that will take 
about an hour." After, therefore, he had left me, 
I mounted my stool, and having contemplated 
Mike's handiwork with considerable satisfaction, 
removed the pane of glass and awaited the proces- 

76 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

sion with very much the same sensation that I have 
looked out for the passing of the Lord Mayor's 
Show or Mr. Hengler's circus. The view I anti- 
cipated can hardly be said to have been obtained 
under the most favourable circumstances. Perched 
on a stool, and liable, if detected, of getting into a 
very serious scrape, was in itself sufficient to infuse 
a certain amount of alloy into the transaction ; but 
when to all this must be added my own feelings — 
that here was I, ONE prisoner actually confined 
within the same walls, and watching the execution 
of ANOTHER prisoner — it will readily be conceived 
that a piquancy was introduced into the proceeding 
such as seldom or ever has fallen to the lot of an 
individual in my position. I could not have had 
long to wait, though the discomfort of my position 
and the anxiety attending it made it appear a 
matter of hours ; and no twenty stone of humanity 
ever suffered more torture than I did whilst with 
craned neck and squinting through a crevice I 
awaited the advent of this hideous procession. The 
dismal toll of St. Sepulchre's bell and the distant 
tramp of advancing footsteps, however, announced 
that the " time had come." I could distinctly hear 
the " Ordinary " repeating in .very ordinary tones 

A Private Execution. TJ 

portions of the Burial Service as the weird proces- 
sion passed below me ; a dense fog made it very 
indistinct, but there it was almost beneath me — 
the warders first, then the Governor, and then the 
condemned man trussed like a turkey, supported 
by Marwood, and immediately preceded by the 
chaplain. I could have dropped a biscuit amongst* 
the party, so near were they, as they passed through 
a wicket and were lost to sight. A solemn silence 
now ensued, followed after a few moments that 
appeared like hours by a terrible thud ; and I 
pictured to myself the lately scrubbed floor giving 
way, and my fellow-prisoner suspended mid-air in 
that dark and bottomless pit. The closing of the 
outer shed doors recalled me to my senses, and the 
approaching sound of footsteps, as the " small and 
early party " dispersed, some to breakfast and 
some to the morning paper, but all to reassemble 
an hour hence for the inquest, the quicklime, the 
thrusting into a hole, and the general obliteration 
of the morning's work, suggested to me the ad- 
visability of at once restoring my apartment 
to its normal condition. So with one piece of 
bread jammed into the window, and another 
jammed into my mouth, I resumed my breakfast 

78 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

as if perfectly oblivious of the terrible drama that 
had just taken place. A few hours later we were 
exercising in the identical yard, and the modest 
coach-house with its closed doors looked as disused 
as the portals of a swimming-bath on Christmas 

The scene just enacted and the debris of my 
breakfast forcibly recalled to my mind an execu- 
tion I witnessed many years ago from, as I believe, 
the identical eating-house that had just supplied 
me with my breakfast. It was in '65, as near as I 
can recollect, that myself and three or four others 
engaged a room on the first floor with two windows 
to witness the execution of Miiller for the murder 
of Mr. Briggs. A public hanging has been so often 
and so graphically described that I hesitate to 
attempt to add anything that is not already known. 
On the night before (Sunday) we agreed to 
rendezvous at 10 o'clock at the Raleigh Club. It 
was raining in torrents, and it was a question in 
our minds whether or no we should brave the 
elements ; but an empty four-wheeler standing out- 
side settled the point, and we proceeded on our 
ghastly journey. As it turned out, the deluge was 
all in our favour, for had it been fine we should 

A Private Execution. 79 

never have got near the place, and would assuredly 
have shared the fate of a cab-load of young Guards- 
men who had preceded us about an hour, and who 
unluckily arrived between the showers and never 
got beyond Newgate Lane ; at this point they 
were politely but firmly invited to descend, stripped 
to their shirts, and then asked where the cabman 
should drive them to. We, however, were more 
fortunate. In a sheet of water that even the 
stoutest burglar found to be irresistible, we alighted 
in a comparatively deserted street in front of our 
unpretending coffee-house ; and a few minutes 
found us in a cosy room with a blazing fire, and a 
servant who had preceded us laying out the con- 
tents of a hamper of prog. The scene on the 
night previous to a public execution afforded a 
study of the dark side of nature, not to be obtained 
under any other conditions. The lowest scum of 
London appeared to be here collected in dense 
masses, which, as the hour, of execution approached, 
amounted, according to the Times, to at least 
100,000 people. The front of Newgate was strongly 
barricaded, huge barriers of stout beams traversing 
the street in all directions ; they were intended as 
a precaution against the pressure of the crowd ; 

8o Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

they, however, answered another purpose, not 
wholly anticipated by the authorities. As the 
crowd increased, so wholesale highway robberies 
were of momentary occurrence ; and victims in the 
hands of some two or three desperate ruffians were 
as far from help as though divided by a continent 
from the battalions of police that surrounded the 

The scene that met our view as we pulled up 
the windows and looked out on the black night 
and its still blacker accompanyists baiifies descrip- 
tion. A surging mass, with here and there a 
flickering torch, rolled and roared before us ; above 
this weird scene arose the voices of men and women 
shouting, singing, blaspheming ; and as night ad- 
vanced, and the liquor gained firmer mastery, it 
seemed as if hell had delivered up its victims. To 
approach the window was a matter of danger; 
volleys of mud immediately saluted us, accompanied 
by more" blasphemy and shouts of defiance. It 
was difficult to believe we were in the centre of a 
civilised capital that vaunted its religion and yet 
meted out justice in such a form. 

The first step towards the morning's work was 
the appearance of workmen about 4 A.M. ; this was 

A Private Execution. 8i 

immediately followed by a rumbling sound, and we 
realized that the scaffold was being dragged round. 
A grim, square, box-like apparatus was now in- 
distinctly visible, as it was slowly backed against 
the "debtors' door." Lights now flickered about 
the scaffold ; it was the workmen fixing the cross- 
beams and uprights. Every stroke of the hammer 
must have vibrated through the condemned cells, 
and warned the wakeful occupant that his time 
was nearly come. These cells are situated at the 
corner nearest Holborn, and passed by thousands 
daily who little know how much misery that bleak 
white wall divides them from. Gradually as day 
dawned the scene became more animated, and 
battalions of police marched down and surrounded 
the scaffold. Meanwhile a little unpretending door 
was gently opened ; this is the " debtors' door," 
and leads direct through the kitchen on to the 
scaffold. The kitchen on these occasions is turned 
into a temporary mausoleum, and draped with 
tawdry black hangings, which conceal the pots 
and pans, and produce an effect supposed to be 
more in keeping with the solemn occasion. From 
our standpoint everything was visible inside the 
kitchen and on the scaffold ; to the surging mass 

82 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

in the streets below this bird's-eye view was, how- 
ever, denied. Presently an old and decrepit man 
made his appearance, and cautiously " tested " the 
drop ; but a foolish impulse of curiosity led him to 
peep over the drapery, and a yell of execration 
saluted him. This was Calcraft, the hangman, 
hoary-headed and tottering and utterly past his 

The tolling of St. Sepulchre's about 7.30 a.m:. 
announced the approach of the houi^ of execution ; 
meanwhile a steady rain was falling, which, how- 
ever, in no way decreased the ever-increasing crowd* 
As far as the eye could reach was a sea of human 
faces. Roofs, windows, church rails, and empty 
vans — all were pressed into the service, and tightly 
packed with human beings eager to catch a glimpse 
of a fellow-creature on the last stage of life's 
journey. The rain by this time had made the 
drop slippery, and necessitated precautions on 
behalf of the living if not on those appointed to 
die ; so sand was thrown over a portion (not of the 
drop — that would have been superfluous), but on 
the side, the only portion that was not to give way. 
It was suggestive of the pitfalls used for trapping 
wild beasts — a few twigs and a handful of earth, 

A Private Execution, 83 

and below a gaping chasm. Here, however, all 

was reversed ; there was no need to deceive the 

chief actor by resorting to such a subterfuge : he 

was to expiate his crime with all the publicity a 

humane government could devise. The sand was 

for the benefit of the " ordinary," the minister of 

religion, who was to offer dying consolation at 8* 

and breakfast at 9 A.M. 

The procession now appeared, winding its way 

through the kitchen, and in the centre of the group 

walked Miiller, a sickly, delicate-looking lad, 

securely pinioned and literally as white as marble. 

As he reached the platform, he looked up, and 

placed himself immediately under the hanging 

chain. At the end of this chain was a hook, which 

was eventually attached to the hemp round the 

poor wretch's neck. The concluding ceremonies 

did not take long, considering how feeble the aged 

hangman was. A white cap was first placed over 

his face, then his ankles were strapped together, 

and finally the fatal noose was put round his neck, 

the end of which was then attached to the hook. 

I fancy I can see Calcraft now, laying the " slack " 

of the rope that was to give the fall lightly on -the 

doomed man's shoulder, so as to preclude the 


84 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

possibility of a hitch; and then stepping on tiptoe 
down the steps and disappearing below. The 
silence now was truly awful. I felt my heart in 
my mouth ; it was the most terrific suspense I had 
ever realized. I felt myself involuntarily saying, 
" He could be saved YET, YET, YET ; " and then a 
'thud, that vibrated through the street, announced 
that Muller was launched into eternity. My eyes 
were literally glued to the spot. I was fascinated 
by the awful sight ; not a detail escaped me. Cal- 
craft meanwhile, apparently not satisfied with his 
handiwork, seized hold of the wretch's feet and 
pressed on them for some seconds with all his 
weight, and with a last approving look shambled 
back into the prison. Meanwhile the white cap 
was getting tighter and tighter, until it looked 
ready to burst ; and a faint blue speck that had 
almost immediately appeared on the carotid artery 
after the drop fell gradually became more livid till 
it assumed the appearance of a huge black bruise. 
Death, I should say, must have been instantaneous, 
for he never stirred a muscle, and the only move- 
ment that was visible was that from the gradually 
stretching rope as the body kept slowly swinging 
round and round. The hanging of the body for 

A Private Execution. 85 

an hour constituted part of the sentence, an interval 
that was not lost upon the multitude below. The 
drunken again took up their ribald songs, con- 
spicuous amongst which was one that had done 
duty pretty well through the night, and ended 
with, " Muller, Miiller, he's the man " ; but the 
pickpockets and the highwaymen reaped the 
greatest benefit. It can hardly be credited that 
respectable old City men on their way to business, 
with watch-chains and scarf-pins, in clean white 
shirt-fronts, and with unmistakable signs of having 
spent the night in bed, should have had the fool- 
hardiness to venture into such a crowd, but there 
they were in dozens. They had not long to wait for 
the reward of their temerity. Gangs of ruffians at 
once surrounded them ; and whilst one held them 
by each arm, another was rifling their pockets. 
Watches, chains, and scarf-pins passed from hand 
to hand with the rapidity of an eel ; meanwhile 
their piteous shouts of " Murder ! " " Help ! " 
" Police ! " were utterly unavailing. The barriers 
were doing their duty too well, and the hundreds 
of constables within a few yards were perfectly 
powerless to get through the living rampart. 

From our window I saw an interesting case of 

86 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

mistaken identity, and I was glad to have the 
opportunity of saving an innocent man from arrest. 
The incident was referred to in the next day's 
papers, and was briefly this. A well-dressed old 
man had had his scarf-pin pulled out, and a police- 
man by this time being luckily near, a lad standing 
by was taxed with the theft. We, however, from 
our vantage ground had seen the whole aiifair, and 
recognized the real culprit, who was standing 
coolly by whilst the innocent man was being 
marched off. By shouting and hammering with 
our sticks, we eventually succeeded in attracting 
the notice of the constable, and pointed out the 
real culprit, and the pin v/as then and there found 
on him. 

Whilst these incidents were going on, 9 o'clock 
was gradually approaching, the hour when the 
body was to be cut down. A few minutes pre- 
viously two prisoners had brought out the shell — a 
common deal one, perforated with holes. I remem- 
ber remarking at the time how small it looked ; 
and my conjecture proved correct, for it was with 
difficulty that the body could be squeezed in. It 
showed with what consummate skill and regard to 
economy the exact size of the body must have 

A Private Execution. 87 

been calculated. With its clothes on, the corpse 
was too big for the shell ; divested of them, how- 
ever, there was doubtless ample room, not only 
for it, but for the layers of quicklime that enveloped 
it. And now Calcraft again appeared, and pro- 
ducing a clasp-knife, with one arm he hugged 
the body and with the other severed the rope. It 
required two slashes of the feeble old arm to com- 
plete this final ceremony, and then the head fell 
with a flop on the old man's breast, who, staggering 
under the weight, jammed it into the shell. The 
two prisoners then carried it into the prison, the 
debtors' door closed till again required to open for 
a similar tragedy, and the crowd meanwhile having 
sufficiently decreased, enabled us to go home to 
bed, and to dream of the horrors of the past twelve 



Visits at Newgate are made under great disad- 
vantage, and have not even the recommendation of 
privacy. A few of the more respectable (as regards 
clothes) prisoners, such as myself, were allowed to 
see our daily visitors in a portion of the enclosure 
a little removed, but still so near the regular place 
that it was almost impossible to hear what was said 
on account of the terrible roar made by the united 
lungs of a hundred malefactors and their demon- 
strative friends. Visits are only permitted between 
two and four o'clock, and as everybody comes about 
the same hour, the babel that ensues may be readily 
conceived. As, moreover, we are untried, and con- 
sequently innocent, people, these restrictions as to 
time and numbers are clearly unjust, and merit 
alteration. Solicitors are permitted to consult with 
their clients in glass boxes, where all can be seen 

"Newgate Etiquette!' 89 

but nothing heard. These cases are situated in the 
direct route through which sight-seers are con- 
ducted. An amusing incident occurred to me on 
one occasion. I was in deep consultation with an 
eminent solicitor of Gray's Inn Square, as a herd 
of some ten country bumpkins, male and female, 
were being piloted about, and I distinctly saw their 
conductor make a motion that evidently referred to 
me. I cannot, of course, say what that communi- 
cation was, but it was evidently enough to raise the 
desire on the part of one of the females to have a 
closer inspection of me. With a light step, such as 
a sack of coals might make on a skating rink, the 
biped cautiously stalked me, and deliberately 
flattened her "tip-tilted," turn-up nose against 
the window. Without a moment's warning, I 
bounded from my chair and shouted out, " Sixpence 
extra for the chamber of horrors." The fair crea- 
ture jumped as if shot from a catapult, and I fancy 
I can now see her black stockings and frowzy 
petticoat as she flew towards her party. Hemma 
Hann had been taught a lesson ! 

There are certain abuses that call for immediate 
and rigorous suppression at Newgate, the more so 
as it is a place where prisoners are, as it were, in 

9© Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

transit, and thus many things that might be made 
real advantages are (or were a year ago) gross in- 
justices. I refer specially to the "privilege" of 
procuring your own food. Men awaiting trial are 
naturally ignorant of the system and its details, 
and I cannot do better than state what occurred to 
me, and the absolute injustice I was subject to ; for 
my case is only similar to that of many others, who 
have not perhaps the same advantage as I have of 
ventilating the grievance. 

I was asked on the first day what I would like to 
order, and deeming it safest to avoid mistakes I 
gave one order to hold good daily. I ordered a 
pint of milk and a plate of bread and butter for 
breakfast ; a plate of meat and a pint of ale for 
dinner ; and for supper a pint of milk and a plate 
of bread and butter. Now I ask any unprejudiced 
reader what ought such food to have cost, supplied 
to a prisoner from a common coffee-house in such a 
district .-' 

I have been at the trouble of enquiring at this 
and similar eating-houses, and find that their prices 
for the above articles are, for a pint of milk, 4d. ; 
bread and butter, 3d. ; a plate of meat and vege- 
tables, 8d. ; bread, id.; and a pint of ale, 4d. ; 

^'Newgate Etiquette" 91 

total, 2s. 3d. But a free citizen and a caged 
prisoner are two different things, for which there 
are two different prices. For the above homely 
fare I was charged 3s. 6d. a day, and as my money 
was in the hands of the prison authorities, I had 
absolutely no redress. No notice was ever taken of 
a complaint, though I made a dozen. Often my 
beer did not come, but I was charged all the same ; 
my milk was frequently forgotten, and eventually 
appeared an hour after in a boiled state — and yet 
this scandalous charge was paid daily. I ask any 
humane government, is not this a shame ? What 
is the only inference that can possibly be drawn .'' 
Surely it is within the bounds of possibility that 
these officials, badly paid and half fed, supplement 
their day's food at the expense of the prisoner ; if 
they do not, would they permit the coffee-house 
keeper to reap such profits } Common sense sug- 
gests there must be collusion. I am foftified in this 
opinion by what I've lately seen. During the past 
few weeks I've been round this grimy district, and 
seen the turnkeys running in and out from the 
wicket opposite into certain of these houses that I 
could indicate, and the honorary membership that 
appears to exist leaves no room for any interpreta- 

92 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

tion but the one suggested. I sincerely hope this 
matter may not be deemed too trivial to be looked 
into, and that it will be the means of introducing 
an improvement of the system, whereby a prisoner 
can procure articles at fixed prices, and that this 
tariff is hung up in every cell. My treatment was 
so glaringly unjust that I cannot lose the oppor- 
tunity of giving publicity to the sequel. On the 
eve of my departure to " Cold Bath Fields," I was 
asked to sign the usual paper which purported to 
show how my money, ;^i Ss. 4d., had been ex.- 
pended, and as a proof of my being satisfied with 
it. This I distinctly declined to do ; and one would 
have supposed that in an establishment where 
"justice" plays so prominent a part, my refusal 
would at least have elicited an enquiry. On the 
contrary, however, pressure was actually brought to 
bear on me, and even the Governor lowered himself 
by making 'it a personal matter. The man, as I 
said before, was not a gentleman by birth, but I 
was hardly prepared for such violent partizanship 
on his part. " So I hear you decline to sign the 
receipt for your money. Very well ; I shall retain 
the money, and report your conduct to the 
Governor of Cold Bath Fields." This was the 

''Newgate Etiqtiette." 93 

dignified speech that greeted me next morning. In 
reply, I assured him that I certainly should not 
sign, and he might report me to whomsoever he 
pleased. Thus ended our squabble ; and it might 
as well have been spared, for I found on my arrival 
at Cold Bath Fields that only 4s. S Jd. had been sent 
with me,and that consequently the eating-house man 
had been paid £\ os. lojd. by his patron the 
Governor on my behalf, and despite my protest. 
With the abolition of Newgate as a prison, except 
during the sessions, it is sincerely to be hoped that 
these crying scandals have been abolished too. 

One thing that struck me particularly was the 
small number of warders in comparison to the 
prisoners. Seven or eight, from the Governor to 
the lowest turnkey, comprised the entire staif, and 
were responsible for the safety of some two hun- 
dred prisoners. Such a number was clearly in- 
adequate, and the risk they ran, however remote, 
was forcibly brought to my notice by a conversa- 
tion I once overheard. Amongst others awaiting 
trial was a desperate-looking ruffian of low 
stature, with bull head and black shaggy eyebrows — 
a man who had undergone more than one sentence 
of penal servitude, and who, to judge by his 

94 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

appearance, was capable of any atrocity. This 
ruffian was pointing out one morning how easy it 
would be to make a dash at the warders, and then, 
without the possibility of opposition, simply to 
walk out. The plan certainly seems feasible, 
especially during chapel, where four or five warders 
are absolutely at the mercy of two hundred 
prisoners. One can only suppose that a moral 
restraint exists, and on which the authorities rely, 
that would prevent many from joining in such a 
mutiny, and who, if a choice had to be made, 
would prefer to join issue with the warders rather 
than with their unsavoury opponents. During the 
sessions the regular staff is augmented by five or 
six additional hands, for the most part feeble old 
men, suggestive of sandwich men out of employ- 
ment. I was much amused by one of these 
patriarchs who was left in absolute and sole charge, 
and daily superintended the exercise of some fifty 
or sixty prisoners. I never lost an opportunity of 
having a chat with him, as he stood shivering in a 
threadbare ulster, with a dew-drop on his nose, a 
ragged comforter round his neck, and his poor old 
gums rattling in the drafty yard. I found, how- 
ever, that he was not devoid of official dignity, and 

^^ Newgate Etiquette." 95 

had a very high conception of the position and 
importance of " officers," as every turnkey likes to 
be styled. I remember saying to the poor old 
chap one day, " Ypu officers must have a very diffi- 
cult duty to perform, what between maintaining 
your dignity and doing your duty strictly." A 
leer, such as one might associate with a magpie 
looking down a marrow-bone, was all he vouch- 
safed in reply for a moment, and I feared he sus- 
pected I was pulling his leg ; but I was eventually 
reassured by his replying, " Yis, there's no re- 
sponsibler dooty than an officer's." "Yes," I 
replied, " but I've always heard that you officers 
are sad dogs ;" and as I moved away I heard the 
old gums clatter as if pleased at the compliment, 
and if I had had a shilling in my pocket I should 
certainly have given it to the old " officer." The 
first day of the sessions had now arrived, and I 
rose with mingled feelings of anxiety and plea- 
sure ; anxiety for what the day might bring forth, 
and pleasure at the thought that anything was 
better than the uncertainty that at present involved 
my future, and hailing with delight the prospect of 
knowing the worst. I never expected, however, 
that my case would be tried on the first day, and 

96 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

was therefore considerably taken back when, about 
3 P.M., my door was suddenly opened, and 
with a " Come along, you're wanted in -the Court," 
a warder made his appearance. The awful reality 
now burst on me for the first time that I was on 
the point of appearing in a criminal dock to 
answer a charge of forgery, and uttering forged 
bills. I won't weary the reader by saying more 
than that I pleaded guilty to the uttering, but 
denied the forging, as I still do, and ever shall ; 
but being informed that the two acts were con- 
sidered synonymous, my plea was registered as 
" guilty," and I was sentenced to eighteen months 
imprisonment with hard labour. I am now enter- 
ing on a phase of my career which may be 
considered as the commencement proper of my 
narrative, and one that I expected, from the steps 
that led up to it, would consist of harshness and 
brutality, such as one reads of in stories of the 
Bastile and other prisons ; whereas, on the con- 
trary, I was leaving all that behind, and about to 
experience a kindness and consideration I can 
never adequately describe or be sufficiently grate- 
ful for. But a word or two is necessary before we 
leave Newgate to enable me to describe the Old 

'^Newgate Etiquette'.' 97 

Bailey Court House and its sombre approaches, its 
subterraneous passages, and dingy cells. I must 
also make a digression to narrate the heart-break- 
ing story of a poor wretch which he himself told 
me, and which I've reason to believe is strictly 
true, and to which his position as a man of title — 
I shall refrain from giving his name — imparts a 
considerable degree of interest. It is a tale which 
demonstrates to what a contemptible state a man 
can bring himself by the excessive use of stimu- 
lants, and how that degradation is augmented 
when wedded to immorality, culminating in the 
inevitable shipwreck that waits on bright prospects 
and a long rent roll when drink and prostitution 
appear at the altar, only to be divorced, as in the 
present case, by a term of penal servitude. 



On the morning after my arrival at Newgate it 
was with considerable surprise that I saw a man in ■ 
convict dress, who was apparently the object of 
special watch and guard. My curiosity was con- 
siderably increased from the circumstance of his 
being the only individual out of some two hundred 
in this conspicuous attire ; he was moreover clearly 
not a novice, but wore the dreadful suit with the 
apparent ease of a man to whom it was by no 
means a novelty. He looked horribly ill, and a 
terrible eruption that showed itself on his neck, 
face, and hands gave unmistakable evidence that 
the unhappy wretch was literally rotten ; added to 
this, however, there was a something about him, a 
'^je ne sais quoi," that marked the gentleman' and 
asserted the blue blood, despite the convict dress, 
the loathsome disease, and the degrading surround- 

The Titlea Convict. 99 

ings. A fixed melancholy seemed never to desert 
him. When he moved, it was with eyes cast down, 
and nothing appeared to interest him ; it was the 
motions of a human machine, bowed down with 
grief or shame, or meditating some awful ven- 
geance. I was so struck with all this that I deter- 
mined to lose no opportunity of scraping an 
acquaintance yirith the mysterious stranger. I 
enquired of a warder, but all he knew or pretended 
to know was that he was undergoing a sentence of 
20 years' penal servitude, and had lately been 
drafted there from a convict prison ; that he had 
only been there a few days, and would in all proba- 
bility be moved elsewhere very shortly. Chance 
favoured my desire -to make his acquaintance. It 
was on a Saturday afternoon, a time devoted to a 
very general and extra clean up, and when almost 
everyone is put on a job. My warder — like a 
brick — had put me, at my urgent request, to 
"dusting" the rails, a duty, I had observed, at 
which the convict was frequently employed, I got 
as near as discretion would permit, and ventured to 
ask him who and what he was. He looked at me 
at first with a mingled expression of surprise and 

distrust, but being apparently reassured by either 

H 2 

lOO Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

my manner or my dress, began in short, jerky sen- 
tences in something of the following style : " You 
ask me who I am. That's a question I haven't 
heard for six long years. Since that time I've 
been an unit, 4016 of Portland, and praying night 
and day that death would release me." I was 
alarmed at his excited manner ; his eyes flashed, 
he quivered like a maniac, and I begiged him to be 
calm. This appeal seemed to touch some long 
dried-up spring ; kind words evidently sounded 
strange to him, and a tear trickled down his seamed 
and hollow cheeks. The weakness, however, was 
but momentary, and wiping his eyes with his coarse 
blue handkerchief, he began in a melancholy vofce 
the following sad story : — 

" You ask me who I am, or rather who I was. 
Know, then, that six years ago I was known as 
■ ." I started at the name, for it was a well- 
known and titled one. "At an early age my 
parents died, leaving me the possessor (under 
guardians) of ;^20,ocx) a year, an estate in England, 
and another in Ireland, a house in London, and 
an ancient title. My uncle and guardian, alas! 
was "actuated by no affection for me, but con- 
sidered that if he placed me under a good tutor, 

The Titled Convict. lot 

insured me a liberal education, and sent me to see 
the world, he was fairly earning the handsome 
salary allowed him by the Court of Chancery, 
whose ward I was. At the age of i8 I started 
with my tutor on a three years' tour, it having been 
decided that I should thus have seen everything, 
and made a fitting termination to the education of 
a man with the bright prospects I so confidently 
considered were in store for me. Would to God I 
had been born a navvy ; I should never then have 
become what you now see me. The eventful era in 
my life at length arrived. After seeing everything 
and going half over the world, I found myself in 
England again, and on the eve of being invested 
with the absolute control of my huge estates. I 
will not insult you, nor deceive myself, by conceal- 
ing any of my blemishes. Know, then, I was a 
drunkard, a confirmed sot at 21, too weak to resist 
the dram bottle, and capable of every folly, every 
crime, when under the influence of its fatal spell. 
I moreover hated the society of gentlemen, and 
was never happy except in low company. In 
London, whither I came after taking possession of 
my estates, I did not know a soul ; the few respect- 
able friends or relatives of my father I studiously 

I02 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

avoided. Pleasure for me was only to be attained 
by herding with cads and prostitutes. My position, 
my title, my wealth, made this an easy task, and I 
soon became acquainted with a number of that 
voracious, threadbare class. My most intimate 
friends were broken-down gentlemen and spend- 
thrifts of shady reputation ; fighting men and 
banjo men, and blood-suckers of every type, who 
flattered my vanity, and led me as it were, with the 
one hand, whilst they rifled my pockets with the 
other. They ate at my expense, they drank at my 
expense ; I paid their debts in many instances, and 
any rascal had only to recount to me a tissue of 
lies for me to at once ofl"er him consolation by the 
' loan ' of a cheque. ' What matters it,' thought I ; 

• was I not , and had I not more money than I 

could possibly spend in a century ? ' I was passion- 
ately fond of theatres, not respectable ones where I 
should have had to behave decently, but low East- 
end and transpontine ones, where I was a very 
swan amongst the geese, and where my title and 
wealth obtained me the inestimable privilege of 
going behind the scenes, and throwing money about 
in handfuls. On these almost nightly visits I was 
invariably dunned and asked for aid by every 

The Titled Convict. 103 

designing knave ; they saw I was a fool, and 
usually drunk, and what I mistook for homage was 
in reality the treatment that only a contemptible' 
drunkard with money, such as I, ever gets. Every 
scene-shifter had a harrowing tale, or an imaginary 
subscription list, to all of whom I administered 
bounteous monetary consolation ; and any varlet 
with a whole hand, and a greasy rag round it, at 
once received a ' fiver ' as a mark of sympathy for 
his painful accident. In short, I was a fool, looked 
on as only fit to be fleeced, and simply tolerated 
for the sake of my money. Would to God I had 
confined myself to these contemptible but other- 
wise harmless follies ! 

" It was on a dull foggy night — a night I can 
never forget — rthat some half-dozen of my boon 
companions had been dining with me at a cele- 
brated restaurant. The cUbris of the dessert had 
not been removed,, and they were sipping their 
coffee whilst I was settling the bill, when a sugges- 
tion was made that we should go to the ' Sussex.' 
The ' Sussex ' was a very disreputable theatre, 
situated somewhere over the water, and supported 
entirely by the lowest classes and a few golden 
calves, such as myself, who were serving their 

I04 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

apprenticeship, and who were permitted the in- 
estimable privilege of going behind the scenes — 
entering the green-room, or indeed any room, and 
paying ten shillings a bottle for as much fluid of 
an effervescent nature in champagne bottles as 
anybody and everybody chose to call for. On 
these occasions we were ushered into the sacred 
precincts, with a certain amount of implied caution 
similar to and about as necessary as that assumed 
by a ragamufiin in the streets when asking you to 
buy a spurious edition of the Fruits of Philosophy. 
This, however, in my ignorance, only enhanced the 
pleasure. We were, as I believed, participating in 
some illegal transaction, permitted only to the 
most fortunate. As a fact, we were violating no 
law ; and if the Lord Chamberlain did not object, 
Scotland Yard certainly didn't. Etiquette on these 
occasions demanded that we should be formally 
introduced to the various ' ladies ' that frequented 
the green-room — a custom I considered highly 
commendable, for in my ignorance I believed that 
not the slightest difference existed between the 
highest exponent of tragedy and the frowsiest 
ballet-girl in worsted tights and spangles. 

" On this particular night, as I was watching 

The Titled Convict. 105 

the transformation scene being 'set/ and listening 
to the sallies of the tawdry ' fairies ' that crowded 
the wings, my attention was attracted by a tall 
woman, who was gnawing a bone with a gusto that 
conveyed to me the impression she hadn't eaten 
for a month. I felt for the poor creature, and went 
and stood near her. I thought at the time (for I 
was very drunk) that she was the most beautiful 
being I had ever seen ; her pink-and-white com- 
plexion (it was in reality dabs of paint) appeared 
to me to be comparable only to a beautiful shell. 
I was spellbound by the sight, and instantaneously 
and hopelessly in love. It would have been a 
mercy — may God forgive me ! — if that bone had 
choked her. That woman eventually became ' her 
ladyship.' But I'm anticipating." 

The poor fellow here became so affected that 
I begged him to pause ; it was, however, use- 

" The sight of her in a measure sobered me, and 
I asked her who and what she was, She told me 
a harrowing tale of how she was the eldest of seven 
children ; that her mother was bed-ridden and her 
father blind ; and how she toiled at a sewing- 
machine all day and at the theatre all night, and 

io6 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

then only earned a miserable pittance, barely suf- 
ficient to keep a roof ov«r their heads. The recital 
affected me considerably (drunken people are 
easily moved to tears), as she went on to tell me 
how she had been in the theatre since ii that 
morning (for it was the- pantomime season, and 
there had been a morning performance), and how, 
she had not tasted food until a carpenter had kindly 
given her the remains of his supper. I lost no 
time in procuring a bottle of champagne, and felt 
happier than I had for years as she placed a 
tumblerful t9 her parched lips and drank it off at 
a gulp. A few moments later I saw ' little Rosie ' 
(for so she told me her blind parent loved to call 
her) being lashed to an 'iron,' and posing as an 
angel for the great transformation scene in course 
of preparation. I subsequently discovered — though, 
alas ! too late — that ' little Rosie ' was nightly to 
be seen outside the ' Criterion ' and in front of the 
' Raleigh,' and was known as 'big Rose.' But my 
mind has again got in advance of my story. Oh, 
dear ! oh, dear ! where am 1 1 " 

At this stage I really got alarmed, for his 
excitement was, evidently increasing. Happily, 
however, a passing official necessitated silence, and 

The Titled Convict. 107 

he eventually resumed with comparative com- 

" I will not weary you with unnecessary details ; 
suffice it to say that within a month we were 
married, and the vows that were made * till, death 
should us part ' were eventually broken by the 
living death that consigned me to penal servitude. 
After our marriage ' little Rosie's ' nature gradually 
began to change ; and the frankness and naivete 
that had so captivated me gradually gave way to 
habits and sentiments that astonished and alarmed 
me. I verily believe that, had I found in her the 
woman I hoped and believed her to be, I should 
truly have reformed, and given up that vile curse, 
drink. Instead of that, however, I found at my 
elbow one who was always ready to encourage me 
in the vice. Port was her favourite tipple, and 
though my own state seldom permitted me to judge 
of her consumption, still in my lucid intervals of 
sobriety I was astonished at the amount she con- 
sumed. Gradually we began to turn night into 
day, and nights of debauch regularly followed the 
few hours of daylight we seldom or ever saw. 
Even yet I had not abandoned all hope of reform. 
My conscience smote me when I was sober enough 

io8 Eighteen Monthi Imprisonment. 

to heed it, and in hopes of avoiding temptation I 
hurried with my wife to Ireland ; but even here 
she could not rest quiet. The cloven foot persisted 
in showing itself, and we were tabooed by the 
whole-county. In this I found further cause for 
mortification — I who might have been looked up 
to and sought after. I tried to spare my wife's 
feelings by concealing the real cause of our 
existence being ignored ; but, fool that I was, I 
gave way to her importunings, and actually called 
on those who had avoided us. The well-merited 
reward of my temerity was not long in coming. 
Some of the county families returned our cards by 
post, whilst others sent them back by a servant ; 
and at a subscription ball that took place not long 
after we received the cut dead. This filled up the 
cup of my humiliation, and I rushed back to 
London. I had realised the fact that virtue won't 
herd with vice. 

" A cousin about this time made his appearance, 
and gradually became a daily visitor ; and had my 
muddled faculties been more capable of forming an 
opinion, I might have been puzzled how a well- 
dressed and apparently gentlemanly man could be 
the nephew of either the blind father or the bed- 

The Titled Convict. 109 

ridden mother. Gradually, however, my suspicions 
were aroused, and I'employed a detective to watch 
them both. He fulfilled his duty, alas ! too well, 
and I received incontestible proof that my wife 

was a , and that the ' cousin ' was a man with 

whom she had lived for years. A sickly child, too, 
that frequently came to the house, and whom she 
often told me, with tears in her eyes, was her ' dead 
sister's,' I had reason to suspect was a much nearer 
relative. But my feelings outstride my discretion. 
I'm again going too fast, and surely you've heard 
enough ? " 

I begged him to continue, for I was deeply 
interested in his tale. 

" My wife now began to display reckless extrava- 
gance ; nothing was good enough for her ; the 
handsome settlement I had made on her failed to 
meet a fraction of her expenses, and she became 
so degraded as to borrow money of my very ser- 
vants. Love, they say. Is blind, and in my case, I 
fear, was frequently blind drunk. On these occa- 
sions I would agree to anything, and gradually 
signed away first one thing, and then another, till 
I found myself divested of house, estates, every- 
thing, and a pensioner on my wife's bounty. It 

no Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

may seem incredible that anything should be 
capable of bringing the blush of shame to such as 
I — I who for six long years have worn this dread- 
ful dress — but, believe me, my cheeks tingle even 
now when I think of it all. I was at length com- 
pelled to resort to the pawnbroker's, and watch, 
chain, ring, everything, found their way to an 

establishment in Road. My credit, once 

good, was entirely gone ; tradesmen to whom I 
owed money began to dun me ; others refused 
me the smallest credit ; servants, washerwomen, 
butchers, and bakers all were creditors ; writs and 
County Court summonses were of daily occur- 
rence ; and the family mansion that my ancestors 
had never disgraced was in the hands of the 
bailiffs. How I cried out in my anguish will never 
be known. Relations I had none to whom I 
could apply for sympathy or advice. My only 
friend was ' drink,' and in my misery I turned to 
it with redoubled energy. I have not much more 
to tell ; the climax which brought me here was 
very near at hand. One afternoon I had returned 
to our lodgings (we were then in apartments at 28, 

Place) rather sooner than expected from a 

fruitless endeavour to borrow'a few pounds. I had 

The Titled Convict. iii 

stopped at every public-house, and gulped down a 
dram of cheap spirits, in hopes of lightening my 
sorrow ; I was, I believe, almost mad with misery 
and drink. As I entered the room the first thing 
that met my gaze was the hated 'Cousin.' To 
seize a loaded pistol that always hung over the 
mantel-piece was the work of a second, and, with- 
out aim, without deliberation, I fired. The report 
and my wife's screams alarmed a policeman who 
happened to be passing by ; he entered and found 
her swooning on the ground, but happily uninjured. 
Thank God ! I'm free of that crime — and the tell- 
tale bullet lodged in the wall. Concealment was 
hopeless. I was there and then arrested, and 
eventually sentenced, on the evidence of my 
wife and her paramour, to 'twenty years' penal 
servitude.' " 

His excited state alarmed me. I feared we 
should be observed, but it was hopeless to attempt 
to check him as, with eyes starting, and the tears 
flowing fast, he added, pointing to his seamed and 
blotchy face : " The worst has yet to be told ; look 
at these scars that I shall carry with me to. the 

grave. Can you suspect what they are .' My ." 

" Hush !" I said, " they have noticed us." 

112 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

I never saw him again, but heard, months after, 
that the unhappy man had died, and that the 
bright expectations accruing from youth, birth, and 
fortune, that had been formed six short years ago, 
lie buried in a nameless convict's grave. 

Not long ago I walked round to the pawn shop 

in Road, with the morbid desire of testing 

the truth of some of his assertions, and found that 
the watch, chain, and ring were still there. I in- 
formed the worthy pawnbroker of the real name 
and sad fate of his former customer, and was 
almost tempted to purchase the cat's-eye as a sou- 
venir of my quasi-friend ; but more prudent coun- 
cils prevailed, and I relegated them to the auction- 
room, to go forth with their crests and monograms, 
a sad memento of fallen greatness. 



After my sudden summons to attend the Court 
I found myself in the- yard below, where, in com- 
pany with some twenty others, I was placed in 
rotation according to a list the Governor and chief 
warder were " checking." This formula being com- 
pleted, we proceeded in single file, preceded by an 
"officer" and followed by a patriarch, along the 
subterraneous passages that connect the prison 
with the Old Bailey Court-house. These passages 
are the last remnants of the old prison, and demon- 
strate the change that has taken place in the 
accepted notions of insuring the safety of prisoners. 
Every few yards a massive iron door some inches 
thick, with huge bolts and a ponderous key, bars 
the passage. Having passed through all these, we 
came to a halt in a dark recess, partially lighted by 
gas, on each side of which were arched cells, sug» 

1 14 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

gestive of those of the Adelphi. Into each of 
these five or six of us were conducted, for by the 
prison system prisoners before trial may be herded 
together ; after conviction, however, all that ceases, 
and one is " supposed " henceforth to be isolated. 
After a delay of some twenty minutes, and during 
which I was initiated into the style of society I 
might expect for the future, my name was called 
and I was conducted up a wooden stair. The hum 
of voices — for I could see nothing — indicated to 
me that I was in the vicinity of the Court and 
on the stair leading into the dock — one of those 
mysterious boxes I had often seen from the oppo- 
site side, where criminals popped up and popped 
down so suddenly and so mysteriously. 

I had seen many murderers sentenced to death 
from that very dock, and was often puzzled at the 
geography of the place ; all this, however, was now 
made perfectly clear. It was with mingled feelings 
of astonishment and bewilderment that I found 
myself, suddenly and without warning, the observed 
of all observers. The crowded Court, the forest of 
well-known faces — vindictive prosecutors, reluctant 
witnesses, quasi-friends come to gloat over my mis- 
fortune, and one or two real sympathisers— ^all 

The Central Criminal Court. 1 1 5 

appeared glued together to my bewildered gaze. 
Beyond, and seated against the wall, were innumer- 
able figures robed in flowing scarlet gowns, and 
presenting to my senses so ghastly and weird a 
picture that I can compare it to nothing but that 
impressive trial scene in " The Bells," to which Mr. 
Irving imparts such terrible reality. It only 
required the mesmerist to complete the resemblance ; 
and he must have been there, although invisible, 
for I was mesmerized, or at least completely dazed. 
,By degrees, however, I recovered my senses, and 
embracing the whole scene, summed up the vanity 
of human sympathy and the value to be attached 
to friendship, as it is called. Reader, whoever you 
are, take the word of a man who has been rich and 
surrounded by every luxury. Friends will cluster 
round you in your prosperity as they did round me, 
and when they have eaten you out of house and 
home, and robbed you by fair means or foul, by 
card playing and racing, you must not be surprised 
if you discover that the most vindictive and un- 
compromising are those you least expected. " For 
it was not an enemy that reproached me, then I 
could have borne it — neither was it he that hated 

me, that did magnify himself against me ; but it 

I 2 

1 1 6 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

' was a man, mine equal, my guide, and my acquaint- 
ance — yea, mine own familiar friend in whom I 
trusted, which did eat of my bread — hath lifted up 
his heel against me." 

The ordeal at length had been gone through, 
and I was on my return journey to the prison as a 
" convicted prisoner." A prisoner after sentence 
consists of only two classes, the " convict " and the 
" convicted prisoner," and it is marvellous how soon 
the difference shows itself. The " convicted 
prisoner " finds absolutely no change beyond being 
deprived of the questionable privilege of procuring 
his own food at an exorbitant rate. With the 
" convict," however, things are very different. 
Immediately after sentence he is stripped of all his 
clothes, his hair and beard are cropped as close as 
scissors can do it, and he is metamorphosized by 
the assumption of the coarse brown ^nd black 
striped convict dress. The change is so marvellous 
that it is difficult at first to recognize a man. One 
poor fellow I saw, a gentlemanly-looking man from 
the Post-office, that I frequently spoke to, was so 
changed when I saw him next morning in Chapel 
that I could not for the moment recognize the poor 
wretch who kept grinning at me with an air of 

The Central Criminal Court. t i 7 

levity as assumed as it was painful. I am not 
ashamed to admit that I thanked Providence I had 
escaped that fearful doom. It is not generally 
known that two years' imprisonment is the limit of 
a sentence of hard labour, after which the next 
higher punishment involves five years' penal servi- 
tude. There is a vast deal of ignorance displayed 
on this subject, even by those who might be sup- 
posed to know better. It is generally believed 
that imprisonment with hard labour is a severer 
punishment than penal servitude. No greater 
fallacy ever existed. I base my assertion, not so 
much on personal experience (for I was exception- 
ally fortunate), as on what I saw of the treatment 
of others ; and I confidently assert — and my 
opinion would be corroborated by every respect- 
able prisoner (if such an anomaly can exist) — that 
two years' "hard labour" is an infinitely lighter 
punishment than even two years of penal servitude 
would be ; and I can only attribute the general 
acceptation of this error to the fact that convicts 
get a little more food than convicted prisoners, and 
prisoners as a rule will do anything for " grub." 

I have now brought my experiences of Newgate 
to a close, and shall briefly describe our departure 

ii8 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

to our final and respective destinations. An un- 
usual bustle one morning indicated that something 
out of the ordinary was about to happen, and 
though we received no actual warning, if was gener- 
ally buzzed about that we were to make a start 
after breakfast At breakfast-time the warder told 
me to put my things together, and half an hour 
later found me and sixteen others marshalled in the 
corridor, where, being carefully compared with our 
respective descriptions, we were formally handed 
over to a detachment of warders from Coldbath 
Fields. Other parties were being simultaneously 
paraded for Holloway and Pentonville, the latter 
all in convict dress and as pitiable a looking set as 
can well be conceived. I discovered, both now 
and subsequently, that a human being is invariably 
referred to as if he were a parcel. Thus, on 
arrival, one is said to be "received," and one's de- 
parture is described as being " sent out." This is 
not intended in an offensive sense, but may be 
taken rather as a figure of speech. In the adjoin- 
ing yard were half a dozen vans — indeed, I had 
never before seen such a formidable array, except, 
perhaps, a meet of the four-in-hand club on a 
rainy day — and into one of these I was politely 

The Central Criminal Court. 1 1 9 

conducted, with a degree of precaution as un- 
necessary as it was absurd. 

No reader can accuse me of rounding the points 
of this ungarnished story, or endeavouring to con- 
ceal any incident, however unpleasant. As, how- 
ever, my subsequent experiences may discover a 
treatment so kind and exceptional as to appear 
almost incredible, I must only ask the reader to 
credit me with the veracity that my previous 
frankness entitles me to expect. My anxiety on 
this point is considerably enhanced by the contra- 
diction it will bear to other narratives I have read, 
and which, purporting to describe prison life, in- 
variably represent it as a hot-bed of cruelty, where 
prisoners are starved and otherwise ill-treated, all 
of which I emphatically deny, and cause me to 
doubt whether one single specimen of these so- 
called personal narratives is anything else but 
an " idle tale," written with a view of enlisting 
sympathy, and possibly turning an honest penny. 
If these writers and these prisoners had seen as 
much as I have (from outside) of prisons on the 
Continent, in Morocco, and in China, they would 
think themselves very fortunate in their present 
quarters. I — who have seen prisoners starving in 

I20 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

prisons in Morocco, and absolutely " unfed," except 
by the charity of visitors, who usually scramble a 
few shillings' worth of bread amongst them ; and 
who, for a dollar to the jailor, have seen a China- 
man at Shanghai brought out, made to kneel down 
and have his head sHced off like a water-melon — 
have no patience -yvith these well-fed, well-clothed, 
and well-housed rascals. I would send all these 
discontented burglars and their " converted " bio- 
graphers to China or Morocco, and omit to supply 
them with return tickets. I have lately read a book 
connected with penal servitude, by an anonymous 
writer, in which this innocent lamb is whining 
throughout of his hardship in being compelled to 
herd with criminals ; and it says a great deal for his 
imitative capacity that he should so naturally and 
so thoroughly have adopted the almost universal 
" injured innocence " tactics of the habitual crimi- 
nal. One great nuisance at all prisons is the 
almost universal habit that prisoners have of pro- 
testing their innocence ; they protest it so often to 
everybody on every possible occasion, that they 
eventually begin to believe that they really are 
innocent. I found these guileless creatures great 
bores ; indeed I am (I am convinced) well within 

The Central Criminal Court. 121 

the mark when I assert that there were only about 
three-and-twenty guilty persons besides myself 
amongst the fifteen hundred prisoners in Cold- 
bath Fields. This compulsory herding with 
innocent burglars is a great trial, and one that 
never enters into the calculation of a judge. 

A short drive at a good pace on this early 
December morning brought us to the gates of 
Coldbath Fields Prison ; and as I stepped out, I 
could not help recalling Dante's famous line — 

" All hope abandon ye who enter here." 

It only proves how apt one is to form erroneous 
ideas from first impressions. I was never more 
mistaken in my life. 



From my birth up to within the past twelve 
months I have had the misfortune to be afflicted 
with one of the most dreadful diseases that flesh is 
heir to. It is one that entails suffering both to 
body and mind, and from which a vast proportion 
of humanity suffers in a more or less aggravated 
form. It is a slow and insidious disease that 
never decreases of its own accord, but on the con- 
trary developes itself with one's increasing years as 
surely as the most virulent cancer. It has this 
advantage, however, over this latter dreadful com- 
plaint — that it invariably yields to treatment con- 
scientiously applied ; but it has also this disadvan- 
tage, that, whereas other afflictions invariably 
enlist the sympathy of our fellow-creatures, this 
one never fails to be jeered and hooted at and 
turned into ridicule by the coarse and vulgar of 

" Corpulency" 

our species. This complaint, surprising as it may 
appear, is held in contempt by most of the faculty, 
and I doubt whether it has ever received baptism 
in the English or any other pharmacopoeia. I will 
therefore without further preamble state, for the 
benefit of afflicted humanity, that it is called 
" obesity." In the course of my remarks I may be 
led into the use of what may appear strong expres- 
sions ; and if I should unwittingly offend the 
susceptibilities of any fat reader, he or she will, I 
trust, forgive it, as coming from one who has, as 
it were, gone through the mill, and been subjected 
to the like ridicule and the like temptations as 

For thirty-eight years I've been a martyr to 
obesity. At my birth, as I am credibly informed, 
I was enormous — a freak of nature that was clearly 
intended for twins. As I developed into boyhood 
I still maintained the same pronounced pattern ; 
and when I entered the Army as an ensign, it was 
said, with a certain amount of truth, that I was 
eighteen years of age and i8 stone in weight. 
I am particular in giving these otherwise uninterest- 
ing details, for I am aware from experience how 
fat people catch at every straw to evade a " regi- 

124 Eighteen Months' Imprisonmetit. 

men/' and invariably say as I did, " Nothing will 
make me thin," " I've tried everything," " It's 
natural in our family," " My father weighed nine- 
teen stone," &c., &c. I say to these people, " This 
is rubbish. I don't care if your father weighed 
forty and your grandmother fifty stone ; I'll 
GUARANTEE to REDUCE you perceptibly and with 
PERFECT SAFETY if you'll guarantee to follow my 

For the past fifteen years I've tried every 
remedy, with, however, the invariable result — that 
they did me no good, or at least so little that I 
came to the conclusion that the result did not 
repay the inconvenience. It must here be under- 
stood that when I refer to " remedies," I do not 
speak of some that aspire to that title, which, if 
they don't kill, don't certainly cure ; nor of others 
which will assuredly first cure and then as certainly 
kill — ^though I confess to have given even these a 
trial, and swallowed ingredients that don't come 
well out of analysis. I would warn all zealous fat 
people to be careful of these concoctions, and at 
least consult a physician before saturating their 
systems with poisons. I do not even refer to other 
"remedies," admittedly and which I have found 

' ' Corpulency'' 125 

safe, though before concluding my hints I shall 
have a word to say about them, and give my 
opinion of their respective titles to merit, on the 
principle that " a wink is as good as a nod to a 
blind horse." In support of my claim to credence 
I may state that my appearance was known to 
almost everybody, many of whom have since seen 
me as I now am ; and though I cannot produce 
testimonials from a corpulent clergyman in Aus- 
tralia who weighed 40 stone and now only 14, and 
never felt better in his life, nor from the fat 
Countess del Quackador, of Buenos Ayres, who 

attributes her recovery to the sole use of , 

still I can produce myself, and seeing is usually 
admitted to be half way to believing. My theory 
is based on that of that excellent man and apostle 
of corpulency, the late Mr. Banting— a theory 
which, as propounded by him, was in a crude state, 
but, like all great discoveries, is capable of improve- 
ment based on experience. In short, I agree with 
him as a whole, but differ on many essential points. 
I felt, whilst practising his treatment, that some- 
thing was wanting, and my experience has since 
discovered what that something is. Others like 
myself may have found the Banting theory deficient 

126 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

beyond a certain point. I would ask these to give 
mine a fair trial for three months. 

Anyone who has waded through my narrative 
will observe that the dietary I subsisted on for 
some months of my life was in itself incapable of 
reducing a man ; and it was thanks to the liberal 
margin I had to work upon, and the facilities I 
enjoyed for not only weighing myself, but also my 
food, that I attribute in a great measure the per- 
fecting of my theory, and the reliance that may be 
placed on it. Banting lays down as a principle 
that "quantity may fairly be left to the natural 
appetite, provided the quality is rigidly adhered 
to." In this I disagree with him, but on the 
contrary confidently assert that until the subject is 
reduced to its proper size, it is absolutely impera- 
tive to limit the quantity as well as the quality. 
The quantity, however, is a liberal one, both as 
regards solid and fluid. At the same time it must 
be remembered that great ignorance exists as to 
the weight of the commonest articles of dietary, 
and to form an estimate of their weight by their 
appearance can only be attained by experience. 
One often hears of persons that " don't eat more 
than a bird," and stout people are invariably 

' ' Corpulency. " 127 

accredited with being small eaters. It would 
astonish these persons to find that they consume 
in blissful ignorance three or four pounds a day. 
I would recommend every corpulent person to 
purchase a set of cheap scales capable of weighing 
accurately one, two, four, and eight ounces (an 
ounce is a word that conveys a diminutive impres- 
sion, yet eight of them constittite half a pound) ; 
these can be procured at any ironmonger's at a 
cost of two or three shillings. I would also suggest 
a half-pint measure ; this involves an outlay of 
about twopence. Without these two articles no 
corpulent person's house can be considered properly 
furnished. Before commencing the experiment it 
is indispensable to be accurately weighed, taking 
care to weigh all you have on (separately and at 
another time), so that your exact weight can be 
arrived at, whether attired in summer or winter 
clothing. By degrees this weekly weighing be- 
comes an amusement, and one that increases as 
your weight decreases. 

The following table may be accepted as fairly 
accurate, and shows what the respective natural 
weights of persons ought to be. I do not lay 
down a hard and fast rule, that in no case ought it 

128 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

to be exceeded. On the contrary, my theory, 
based on personal experience, convinces me that 
every person has his own peculiar weight and 
dimensions as intended by Nature, and when he 
has found his " bearings " — which he will have no 
difficulty in doing, as I shall explain hereafter, by 
unmistakable symptoms — any further reduction is 
attended with difficulty, and is, indeed, unneces- 
sary. Taken, however, as something to work upon, 
the following scale, obtained from a leading insur- 
ance company, may be studied with advantage ; 
and when the corpulent reader has arrived within 
half a stone of the specified weight — a generous 
concession surely— he may then, but not till then, 
begin to take occasional liberties, both as regards 
quantity and quality. I am offering these remarks 
to those only who conscientiously intend to give 
my theory a fair trial. To those lukewarm disciples 
who would like to be thin, without possessing the 
self-denial necessary for this most simple remedy, 
I cannot do better than apply the views I once 
heard expressed by a piper to a cockney officer in 
a Highland regiment who asked him to play the 
" Mabel " valse — that " it would only be making a 
fool of the tune and a fool of the pipes." 




Average Weight for a Person 


8 stone, 

2 or 3 lbs. 



Q inches. 


8- 9» 

• s 





I— 2„ 






8- 9„ 






II — 12., 













6- 1„ 



















9— io„ 






4- S,. 






10— I2.„ 












When the reader has attained to within half a 
stone of these figures, he will have the game in 
his own hands, and can regulate his system with as 
much accuracy as a clock. On November 25th, 
1881, I weighed the enormous weight of 19 stone 
13 lbs. On October ist, 1882, I weighed 12 stone 
4 lbs., and witha loss of 18 inches in girth — i.e., a 
reduction of 7 stone 9 lbs. ; and as this can be 
verified, my opinion is at least worthy of attention. 
I consider it absolutely necessary that one should 
at first limit one's self to 2 pounds solid and 3 
pints fluid daily ; and I cannot do better than 
give the dietary I have pursued for the past five 
or six months in the south of France : — 

At 6 A.M. — I take half-a-pint of black coffee and 
one ounce of coarse brown bread or biscuit. 

130 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

Atg AM. — I breakfast off four ounces of lean 
meat, three ounces of brown bread or biscuit, and 
half-a-pint of black coffee. 

At 2 P.M.— I have six ounces lean meat, three 
ounces brown bread or biscuit, six ounces green 
vegetables, and half-a-pint of any fluid except ale, 
effervescing wines, or aerated waters. 

After Dinner — I take half-a-pint of coffee. 

At 6 P.M. — I take half-a-pint of coffee. 

At Supper — I have two ounces brown bread or 
biscuit, and a couple of glasses of sherry or claret, 

Independently]of this I eat fruit ad lib. I find as 
a broad rule that all vegetables that grow above 
ground, such as cauliflower, artichokes, sprouts, &c. 
(except peas and rice), are conducive to health ; 
whereas all that grow underground, such as 
potatoes, carrots, beet-root, &c., are fat persons' 
poison. It is immaterial what meat one eats, 
whether fish, flesh — except pork — or fowl, but it is 
necessary to avoid the fat. Stout persons will find, 
as I did, an inclination to smuggle in a little, but 
they must flee from the temptation. A severe 
trial at first is confining one's self to this quantity 
and quality, whilst others are indulging to a greater 
extent at the same table ; but the feeling soon 

'" Corpulency y 1 3 1 

wears off, and must be looked on as the penalty 
attached to Pharaoh's fat kine. Fat people never 
consider that if they were suffering from a cancer 
they would not hesitate to submit to amputation — 
and amputation is not unattended with pain— to 
prolong life ; and yet they waver regarding the 
treatment of corpulency — an equally certain enemy 
to life — with a painless remedy ! Do they in- 
variably also, in other paths of life, return good for 
evil, and heap coals of fire on an enemy's head ? 
And yet here is a hideous, ungainly, deadly foe 
pampered and fattened at the cost of life, comfort, 
and appearance. And then the ridicule ! I ask 
you, amiable fat reader, is that agreeable? I 
would, in fact, make obesity penal, as calling for 
special legislation, whereby the police would be 
justified in arresting oleaginous pedestrians, clap- 
ping them into the scales at the nearest police- 
station, and if they exceeded a certain number of 
feet in circumference, or weight, at once procure 
their summary imprisonment, without the option of 
a fine. The streets would thus be cleared of these 
fleshy obstructions ; besides which, if the law 
recognises attempted suicide as a crime in one 
way, why not in another.' The dietary I have 


132 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

suggested is conducive to constipation, a result 
that brown bread remedies considerably, if not 
entirely removes. There are brown breads and 
brown breads, however, and after trying a good 
many, I have come to the conclusion that the 
" whole meal bread " made by Messrs, Hill and 
Son, of 60, Bishopsgate Street Within, and 3, 
Albert Mansions, Victoria Street, is admirably 
adapted to the requirements of the corpulent. It 
keeps the bowels open, is delicious in flavour, and 
entirely free from the alum that finds its way into 
many other kinds. Some six months ago I had 
an interview with a member of this firm, and ex- 
plained my views of the advantages that would 
attend a biscuit made of the same meal. I have 
lately tasted some made by them, that are ap- 
parently specially adapted for the consumption of 
the corpulent ; and as they have agents in every 
part of the kingdom, the regular supply is within 
the reach of all. I strongly commend these to all 
my readers. There is one more item to which I 
attach great importance, namely, the taking at 
bed-time of one teaspoonful of liquorice-powder 
(German Pharmacopoeia) in half a tumbler of 
water. This quantity may be gradually increased 

' ' Corpulency!' 1 3 3 

as circumstances seem to require ; and as a good 
deal depends on the purity: and freshness of this 
drug, the advisability of going to a good chemist 
cannot be too strongly urged. I have often been 
told that smoking is injurious to the corpulent, but 
this I consider sheer nonsense. I smoke from 
morning to night, and, on the contrary, believe it 
makes up for the larger amount of food one had 
previously been in the habit of consuming. In 
America, where I spent many happy years, I was 
never without " a smoke," a habit I still continue, 
though with the disadvantage of having to substi- 
tute British for the fragrant Oronoko and Perique 
tobaccos. This latter is, in my estimation, whether 
used as cigar, cigarette, or in a pipe, the finest 
tobacco in the world, I have discovered, beyond 
doubt, that a person afflicted with obesity Is 
affected by the smallest transgression of the strict 
regimen. I have for experiment taken one lump 
of sugar in my coffee at meals, and found that this 
single innovation has produced an increase of a 
pound in my weight in a week ; indeed, a person 
disposed to this affliction is as sensitive as an 
aneroid. It was in May last that I first deter- 
mined to reap at least one benefit from my late 

134 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

incarceration, and, by a careful regard to quantity 
and quality, to test effects that my position and 
the time at my disposal offered great facilities for, 
and thus reduce corpulency to a science, and its 
reduction to a certainty. A reference to other 
portions of this narrative will put it beyond a 
doubt that the unlimited amount of food at my 
disposal made this an easy task. I will not here 
go into these particulars, as a detailed account 
necessary for the unbroken interest in my narrative 
will be found elsewhere, but will confine myself to 
giving a table of the reduction I made in myself 
by my own free-will and determination. 


November 25th 
December 7th . 

19th . . 
January loth 

» 3lst . . 
March 20th 
May i8th 
June 6th . 

„ 20th to July 2nd 
July isth 

„ 29th . 
September 2nd 
9th . 
,1 23rd . 

October ist . . . . 

I weighed 19 


13 pounds 


9 . 









































Making a total loss of 107 lbs. (7 stone 9 lbs.) in 

Corpulency y 135 

3^8 days. This loss was not obtained without 
great determination and self denial, but was it not 
worth it ? If any corpulent reader could see my 
photograph of November, 1881, and November, 
1882, he would, I think, admit it was, and receive 
a stimulus to persevere as I did. A reference to 
the above table will show no diminution between 
June 20th and July 2nd. I attribute this to my 
having found what I call my " bearings," for though 
continuing in the same course, I could not get away 
from 15 stone 8 lbs. I persisted, however, and 
eventually succeeded ; and the next date shows a 
steady decline. I would recommend no experi- 
mentalist to trangress this bound, and when they 
find that after a fortnight's continuance of the 
strict system they have obtained no perceptible 
diminution of weight they should STOP ; they have 
found their "bearings," and any further perse- 
verance is attended with unnecessary inconveni- 
ence. The time, however, has then come for most 
careful watch and guard, and the slightest liberty 
is accompanied by a proportionate increase. 
Yielding to the kindly meant advice of friends, I 
some months ago took new milk and other fatten- 
ing luxuries, with the result of increasing a stone 

136 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

in six weeks. I had, however, the remedy in my 
own hands, and can now play fast, and loose with 
an amusing degree of certainty. I can, without an 
effort, reduce or increase my weight three or four 
pounds in a week, and having attained the com- 
fortable weight of 13 stone 10 lbs, I am determined 
never again to turn the scale beyond 14 stone. I 
allow this margin as the legitimate perquisite of 
advancing years. 

In conclusion, I guarantee reduction with perfect 
safety to all who will honestly, try the following 
regimen in its integrity for three months : — 

Breakfast. — Eight ounces coarse brown bread 
(yesterday's baking) ; four ounces lean meat ; one 
pint coffee or other fluid. 

Dinner. — Four and a-half ounces brown bread ; 
six ounces any lean meat (or, if preferred as an 
occasional substitute, half-pint of soup — ten ounces) ; 
six ounces green vegetables ; one pint fluid. 

Tea. — One and a-half ounces brown bread ; half 
a pint of coffee. 

Supper. — One or two glasses of wine, or a glass of 
spirit and water (except rum) ; and two ounces 

Total. — Two pounds solid and three pints fluid. 

^^ Corpulency." 137 

Bed-tune. — One teaspoonful liquorice powder 
(German pharmacopoeia) in half a tumbler of water. 

I have parcelled the above out into meals to 
meet the ordinary taste, though it is quite imma- 
terial how or when the quantity is taken. It isi 
moreover, a matter of perfect indifference whether 
tea (no sugar or milk), claret, or, in fact, any other 
fluid (except ale and aerated or effervescing drinks), 
is substituted for coffee. 

The principal points on which I differ from the 
so-called " Banting " system are : — 

(a) The limiting of the quantity till a proper 
reduction has taken place. 

(3) The occasional substituting (if desired) of 
soup for meat, which I have found attended with 
no inconvenience. 

{c) The substitution of brown bread or brown 
biscuit for toast or rusk — thereby obviating con- 

{d) The taking of liquorice powder at bed-time 
in lieu of the alkaline on rising. 

To the uninitiated the above may appear trifles ; 
their advantage can only be estimated by those 
who have tried both systems. 



As the key turned in the ponderous door, and I 
found myself, with sixteen others, standing on a 
huge mat in a dismal corridor, I realised that I 
had arrived " home," or at what I might consider 
as such, for — as I imagined — the next eighteen 
months. I had already passed one week in 
Newgate, and really thought, in the sanguineness 
of my heart, that I had made a considerable 
hole in my sentence, and that the remaining 
seventy-seven weeks would soon slip by. My 
first intimation that the place was inhabited, ex- 
cept by mutes, was hearing a metallic voice saying, 
pro bono publico, " You'll find that talking is not 
permitted here^you mustn't talk." By peering 
into the gloom I discovered that the voice belonged 
to a bald head, and the bald head to a venerable 
head warder. The poor old man was super- 

Coldbath Fields. 139 

annuated shortly after, and evidently meant to 
show the recruits he was not to be trifled with, 
and that there was life in the old dog yet. We 
were next taken through endless corridors to the 
■ " Reception Room." Can any name be more sug- 
gestive of satire, except perhaps " Mount Pleasant," 
the hill so called on which the prison stands, 
bounded at each corner by a public-house, and a 
" pop-shop " here and there sandwiched in between ! 
The reception we received in the Reception Room 
was far from a cordial one ; it was, indeed, as cold 
as the weather outside. The Reception Room is 
octagon shape, with benches arranged over the 
entire floor ; on these we were directed to sit 
down, about a yard apart. In front was a large 
desk and a high stool, on which a turnkey was 
perched, whose sole duty was to prevent the least 
intercourse between the prisoners; in fact, the 
entire room- and its fittings conveyed the impres- 
sion of being connected with a charity school for 
mutes. The Reception Room is the first and last 
place a prisoner passes through ; it is here that, on 
his arrival, he is transformed into the Queen's 
livery, and again on his departure reverts to 
citizen's clothing — it is, in fact, the filter through 

140 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

which the dregs of London have to pass before 
becoming sufficiently purified to be again per- 
mitted to mingle with the pure stream outside. 
The silence of the grave is its normal condition, 
where the novice receives a foretaste of the " silent 
system." We must have sat thus silently for at 
least an hour, when a door from outside was 
unlocked, and a warder, accompanied by two 
prisoners carrying sacks, made their appearance. 
The contents of these, being thrown on the floor, 
were discovered to be boots, not new ones, or even 
pairs, but very old and dirty, mended and patched 
■with lumps of leather on the soles, on the heels, 
and, in fact, anywhere. We were now invited to 
" fit " ourselves, and a scramble ensued amongst a 
section of the prisoners. I selected a nondescript 
pair, tied by a cord, as unsuited a couple as ever 
were united, the right foot of which would have 
fitted an elephant, and the left have been tight for 
a cork leg. With this unsavoury acquisition on 
my lap I resumed my seat. It is the custom, as I 
before hinted, to show one the worst of everything 
at first, and the rule that applied to the cells was 
clearly in force regarding the boots. I found, how- 
ever, that after the general "fit," and when a 



Coldbath Fields. 141 

comparative lull ensued, that some of -the more 
fortunate ones had better ones supplied, and I 
shortly after received a new.pair in exchange for 
my " fit." The next thing that made its appear- 
ance was a basket full of caps and stocks. Here I 
was less fortunate, and the size of my head pre- 
cluded the possibility of a fit. The basket was 
followed by a bundle of wooden labels, on each of 
which our various names were inscribed ; with 
these in our hands, we were told to " Come along." 
My label considerably puzzled me. We now found 
ourselves in the corridor devoted to baths, where 
each man received a bundle of clothing. The 
object of the label now manifested itself; it was 
to attach to our clothes — not likely to be wanted 
for some time. The bundles consisted of a pair of 
blue worsted socks, a blue striped shirt, a blue 
pocket-handkerchief the thickness of a tile, a 
towel as coarse as a nutmeg-grater, and a suit of 
clothes. The clothes, when new, are really very 
good, and by no means objectionable. There is 
nothing of that conspicuous, degrading appear- 
ance about them that distinguishes the convict 
dress. "On the contrary, the trousers and vest are 
well cut, and made of good warm mole-skin ; the 

142 Eighteen, Months' Imprisonment. 

jacket is a capital material, and were it not for 
painful associations, and the possibility of un- 
pleasant attentions from zealous policemen, I 
would gladly have a suit of the jacket material. 
The otherwise agreeable effect is somewhat marred 
by the broad-arrow Government mark, which 
appears to be applied regardless of all symmetry 
and indeed of all expense. No general rule 
apparently exists as to the marking of this cloth, 
which one must conclude is left entirely to the 
discretion and good taste of the individual armed 
with the paint-pot. This want of uniformity thus 
lends an agreeable variety to the different appear- 
ances of individuals ; for my part, I always felt that 
I resembled the " Seven of Spades." The Baths 
are, as I found them at Newgate, in themselves 
excellent, and if one could forget one's probable 
predecessor, the enjoyment would be considerably 
enhanced. They were, I daresay, perfectly clean, 
though I always fancied I detected a Seven-Dials 
mouse-trap flavour in the atmosphere, and in the 
water. The bath, as a,n institution, admirably 
fulfils its twofold function ; it insures a thorough 
wash, and removes the last trace of one's" former 
self. Entering the apartment with the bundle 

Coldbath Fields. 143 

under my arm, I proceeded to divest myself of my 
clothing. I had not, however, been many seconds 
submerged before an eye was applied to the peep- 
hole, followed by the entrance of a turnkey, and 
all my clothing was carefully removed. The pro- 
cess of re-dressing was not an easy one ; nothing 
came within a foot of my size except the socks ; 
the over-alls declined to do anything like meeting, 
and a piece of twine was pressed into the service. 
The waistcoat was another trial, necessitating the 
turnkey calling for the "corpulent waistcoat." 
Trussed up in this fashion, I patiently awaited the 
" corpulent " waistcoat, a marvel of tailoring. The 
chest measurement could not -have exceeded 
thirty-six ; whilst the waist (.') must have been 
one hundred. From the " corpulent " one only 
reaching half-way down my chest, I concluded 
that its original owner must have been about five- 
foot-nothing. But the warder very good-naturedly 
said " he'd make it all right," and not long after I 
was measured, and within twenty-four hours pos- 
sessed a brand-new suit. My enormous size also 
necessitated special shirts ; a couple were made in 
an incredibly short space of time, and all through 
my career I experienced the benefit of wearing linen 

144 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

that had never been contaminated by contact 
with " baser metal." The warder to whom I was 
indebted for these delicate attentions was one of 
the best in the prison, and though I never came 
much in contact with him, I understood he was a 
great favourite. He was connected with the 
stores, and could get more done in an hour than 
one of the blustering kind in a week. Before 
leaving the baths, I would wish to draw attention 
to a custom that calls for immediate alteration. 
The system at present in vogue is for all prisoners 
to have a bath immediately on arrival, after which 
they undergo medical examination. At these 
examinations, aS is well known, many creatures 
are found, not only to be alive with vermin, but 
suffering from itch. With these facts, that are not 
to be gainsaid, common sense surely suggests a 
medical examination before instead of after the 
bath, an arrangement which, however disagreeable 
to the surgeons, would be a considerable benefit to 
the prison inmates generally. It is a common 
occurrence for men who have been in prison three, 
and even six months, to be found to be suffering 
from itch, and it is equally certain that they caught 
it in these baths, which are pro bono publico once 

Coldbath Fields. 145 

a fortnight. I thank God I was spared -any of 
these " plagues," though I never took my periodical 
dip without finding my thoughts wandering to 
Scotland and the Argyll (not Bignell's). 

Having joined my companions we were recon- 
ducted to the reception-room, which by this time 
was crowded by contributions from the various 
Police-courts. My Newgate friend Mike was now 
thoroughly in his element ; he appeared to take a 
pride in showing his intimacy with the etiquette of 
the place, and seemed quite hurt if a warder didn't 
recognize him as an old acquaintance. As I looked 
down the benches now fully occupied, I fancied I 
could have distinguished every new comer from the 
habitue by the way they wore their caps. The 
new hands put them on in such a manner that they 
resembled a quartern loaf, whilst the more experi- 
enced — such as Mike— cocked them with a jaunty 
air as if proud of the effect. At a later period I 
observed that a great deal of vanity existed on the 
subject of toilet amongst the regular jail-birds : 
they plastered down their hair— as I know— with 
the greasy skimmings of their soup, or applications 
of suet pudding ; and many — incredible as it may 

146 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. ,- 

appear — shaved regularly with their tin knives and 
the back of a plate for a mirror. Hair-cutting now 
commenced, and anyone whose hair was too long 
was effectually operated on. It is a mistake to 
suppose that prisoners' hair is cut in the barbarous 
manner that is applied to convicts ; nothing is done 
to them beyond what a soldier has to submit to — 
namely, having his hair and beard of moderate 
length. As I have all through life kept what I 
have as close as possible, the hair-cutting in my 
case was dispensed with, and through the subse- 
quent few months I had always to ask for the 
services of the barber, and invariably received the 
same reply — " Surely, yours is short enough ! " 


There was one item in the crop I was never sub- 
jected to — probably because my moustache was 
small — but which I certainly should not have liked ; 
it was the habit of clipping the ends square to the 
lip. I've often seen men in London and elsewhere 
with this dis,tinctive crop, which I should now in- 
variably associate with prison life ; and if I met a 
Bishop who affected this style it would be difficult 
to convince me that I had not met him "else- 
vhere." The next person that intruded himself 

Coldbath Fields. 147 

was — as I was informed — a chaplain. His attire 
was far from clerical, and consisted of a billycock 
hat — not a good, honest, disreputable one, but one 
of your shabby-genteels, so infinitely more fatal — a 
coat that suggested Crosse and Blackwell's cut, and 
boots suspiciously resembling the prison make. 
He interrogated me in my turn, though I fear his 
curiosity was far from satisfied. His mania was 
the ceremony of " confirmation," and when he dis- 
covered I had omitted that essential form, I at once 
passed into his black books. Happily, I was per- 
fectly indifferent to his displeasure or his patronage 
— indeed the latter would have been the most un- 
bearable. He never forgave me, however, as a 
discreditable tiff we had long after conclusively 
proved. As I got to see more of this shining light 
I began to suspect that he must have been a Jesuit, 
he did so much to make Protestantism obnoxious. 

I was next passed on to a schoolmaster— a 
gradual improvement in accordance with the 
system is here apparent — who amused me by in- 
quiring if I could read, how I spelt " oxen," if I 
could write, and if I thought I could "write a 

letter .' " This latter question was very conclusively 

L 2 

148 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

set at rest a week later by an incident that occurred 
in which I was the chief culprit, and which neces- 
sitated the collective wisdom of the Home Office 
and a full bench of the Visiting Justices to adjudi- 
cate upon. Meanwhile, I had " passed " this 
scorching examination, and had to sit quietly by 
and listen to illiterate costermongers and rascally 
pickpockets being severally questioned. It had its 
amusing features, although I felt how degrading it 
was for a public school-boy and a gentleman by 
birth and education to be compelled under any 
combination of circumstances to submit to be 
catechized by such a trio. The next person to 
appear was the doctor — the dearest, kindest old 
gentleman I ever met. His manner to all was alike 
considerate and kind ; one, moreover, who seemed 
to be aware that the position of a gentleman 
(unless usurped by a cad) loses nothing of its 
dignity by a courteous bearing towards inferiors or 
men placed in a painful position — a manner that 
inspired respect and yet precluded the possibility of 
a liberty, a refreshing contrast to a nondescript that 
had preceded him, and the beau id^al of a fine old 
English gentleman. Stripped to the waist and 

Coldbath Fields. 149 

behind a screen, we were one by one subjected to 
a minute examination, A schemer had a very 
sorry look-out with this eminent physician ; no 
dodge could possibly avail, for he was intimate 
with every " ailment " that criminal flesh is heir to. 
It was amusing, after hearing some rascal relate the 
numerous complaints from which he was suffering, 
to hear the surgeon quietly say with a smile, " Oh, 
you'll soon be all right," and to see the hospital 
warder write down, " Fit, hard labour." This short 
and apparently informal ceremony is the most 
momentous in one's future career, and, though 
unaware of it at the time, I" was not surprised later 
on at the importance attached to it by the experi- 
enced criminal. By it one's future treatment is 
entirely guided, and the class of labour is carefully 
selected in acpordance with its decision. A card, 
then and there signed by the surgeon, and which is 
always fixed on one's cell door, decides one's, future 
vocation ; and " Hard labour," or " Light labour 
and bed," bear a significance incredible to the un- 
initiated. As I stood before the kind old man 
stripped to the. waist (or rather to where my waist 
now is) I was amused by his astonishment at my 
enormous proportions. I satisfied him I was not 

150 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

deceiving him by a reference to an operation I had 
once undergone ; and this, coupled with my un- 
natural size, decided him I was incapable of hard 
labour, and the words, "Light labour and bed," 
were recorded on my card. Before many hours 
had passed I realized the benefit of those magic 
words. These preliminaries, as is always the case 
in well-constructed dramas or farces, only led up 
to the event of the day — the inspection by the 
Governor. In Her Majesty's prisons these indi- 
viduals are clothed in attributes something more 
than mortal, and receive an amount of homage 
sufficient to turn the head of a fool or a snob. In 
this instance the Governor was neither, and 
though a strict disciplinarian, was the justest and 
" straightest " man I ever met. Prisoners and 
warders were equally amenable to. his discipline, 
and the slightest dereliction of duty brought_ him 
down on you like a load of bricks. There was no 
abuse or verbosity accompanying this discipline, 
and though he was feared, I believe he was equally 
liked and respected by every man in the prison. 
The advent of such a personage naturally involved 
a proportionate amount of preparation, and every- 
thing received an overhaul. Men who wore Her 

Coldbath Fields. 151 

Majesty's livery for the first time, and were mere 
babes in the mysteries of its graceful adjustment, 
were told to put their stocks " square on,'' or button 
this button .and not that of their vests and jackets ; 
lumps of coal that had burned crooked were care- 
fully straightened, and even the coal-box got a lick 
of whitewash at the last moment. We were then 
rehearsed in a sort of drill : every man was informed 
that when " attention " was called he was at once 
to " spring " up smartly and remain standing-^an 
old vagrant, aged 100 to judge by his appearance, 
"sprang '' with so much zeal that I really thought 
he had cricked his neck. When all the prepara- 
tions were considered complete, and we had 
attained an efficiency worthy the reputation of the 
" North Corks," and as some minutes had yet to 
elapse before the great man's arrival, it was deemed 
advisable to fix our thoughts in the same reveren- 
tial groove by reading certain rules for our future 
guidance. The following notice is one of the half- 
dozen that hang up in every cell — all of which I 
shall produce hereafter. They can hardly be con- 
sidered as light reading, or such as one would select 
unless absolutely compelled ; nevertheless, they 
afforded me a certain amount of occupation by 

t52 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

learning them by heart during the many solitary 
hours I spent hereafter : — 




1. Prisoners shall not disobey the orders of the 
Governor or of any officer of the prison, nor treat 
them with disrespect. 

2. They shall preserve silence, and are not to 
cause annoyance or disturbance by making unne- 
cessary noise. 

3. They shall not communicate or attempt to 
do so with one another, or with any strangers or 
others who may visit the prison. 

4. They shall not disfigure any part of their 
cells or damage any property, or deface, erase, 
destroy, or pull down any rules or other papers 
hung up therein, or commit any nuisance, or have 
in their cells or possession any article not sanc- 
tioned by the orders and regulations. 

5. They shall not be idle, nor feign sickness 
to evade their work. 

Coldbath Fields. 153 

6. They shall not be guilty of profane language, 
of indecent or irreverent conduct, nor shall they use 
threats towards or commit assaults upon officers or 
one another. 

7. They shall obey such regulations as regards 
washing, bathing, hair-cutting, and shaving as 
may from time to time be established, with a 
view to the proper maintenance of health and 

8. They shall keep their cells, utensils, clothing, 
and bedding clean and neatly arranged, and shall 
when required clean and sweep the yards, passages, 
and other parts of the prison. 

9. If any prisoner has any complaint to make 
regarding the diet, it must be made immediately 
after a meal is served and before any portion of it 
is eaten. Frivolous and groundless complaints, 
repeatedly made, will be dealt with as a breach 
of prison discipline. 

10. A prisoner may, if required for the purposes 
of justice, be photographed. 

11. Prisoners shall attend divine service on 
Sundays, and on other days when such service is 
performed, unless they receive permission to be 
absent. No prisoner shall be compelled to attend 

154 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

the religious service of a church to which he does 
not belong. 

12. The following off(^nces committed by male 
prisoners convicted of felony or sentenced to hard 
labour will render them liable to corporal punish- 
ment : — 

1st. Mutiny or open incitement to mutiny in 
the prison, personal violence to any 
officer of the prison, aggravated or re- 
peated assaults on a fellow-prisoner, repe- 
tition of insulting or threatening language 
to any officer or prisoner. 
2nd. Wilfully and maliciously breaking the 
prison windows, or otherwise destroying 
the prison property. 
3rd. When under punishment, wilfully making 
a disturbance tending to interrupt the 
order and discipline of the prison, and 
any other act of gross misconduct or in- 
subordination requiring to be suppressed 
by extraordinary means. 
13. A prisoner committing a breach of any of 
the regulations is liable to be sentenced to confine- 
ment in a punishment cell, and such dietary and 
other punishments as the rules allow. 

Coldbath Fields. 155 

14. Any gratuity granted to a prisoner may be 
paid to him through a Prisoners' Aid Society, or in 
such way as the Commissioners may direct. 

15. Prisoners may, if they desire it, have an 
interview with the Governor or superior authority 
to make complaints or prefer requests ; and the 
Governor shall redress any grievance or take such 
steps as may seem necessary. 

16. Any prisoner wishing to see a member of the 
Visiting Committee shall be allowed to do so on 
the occasion of his next occurring visit to the 

Printed at H.M. Convict Prison, Millbank. 

A slamming of doors and turning of keys, and 
a perfect Babel of voices shouting " Attention ! " 
heralded the Governor's approach. I can only 
compare the discord to that which invariably 
accompanies the progress of an African tribe 
through a friendly village. A few pop-guns and 
a tom-tom or two would certainly make the resem- 
blance more complete, though they would probably 
be objected to by the Home Office on the plea of 
want of precedent. 

The halo of venferation that surrounds a prison 

156 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

governor is by no means confined to himself, but 
obliquely and in a modified form imparts itself to 
the humblest of his followers. A miserable door- 
slammer that usually accompanied him, and com- 
bined with this important duty the occasional 
distribution of letters, amused me on one occasion 
when I ventured to ask him if he had a letter for 
me. Such a liberty " from the likes of me to the 
likes of him " was hardly to be tolerated ; and he 
had the cheek to send me a message that "he 
objected to be spoken to when accompanying the 

The door at length opened, and the great man 
was in the room. " Attention ! " was shrieked 
out as only sycophants can do, and duly responded 
to ; and the halt and the maim, " Old Hundred," 
myself, burglars, and pickpockets, presented one 
uninterrupted, swerving, rickety line. As a spec- 
tacle, it must have been truly imposing, during 
which the Governor sat down. Our names were 
then respectively called out, and we crossed from 
one bench to another to show, as it were, our 
action. Not a muscle of the inspecting officer's 
face moved during these scenes in the arena ; and 
it might have been the Sphinx inspecting the 

Coldbath Fields. 157 

army of Pharaoh, so little attention did he appa- 
rently pay to us. Nothing, however, had escaped 
him ; and I learnt to believe there was some truth 
in the assertion that he had eyes in his boots, if 
not in his pockets also. 

As may be supposed, these various inspections 
took a considerable time, and the day was drawing 
in before they were all ended. We were thereupon 
informed that we should occupy temporary cells 
for " this night only," and that our final allotment 
to various parts of the prison would be postponed 
till the morrow. The cell I now found myself in 
was indeed a small one — evidently only used as a 
half-way house, and fitted as sparingly as the 
thermometer one at Newgate. A notice posted up 
warned us not to go to bed till the bell rang at eight ; 
and not wishing to break a rule before I had been 
in the place a day, I foolishly complied with the 

Meanwhile it was getting dark, and though a 
gaspipe was. fitted into the wall, there was not the 
slightest indication of its being likely to be lit. 
Mike, who had frequently been here before, inti- 
mated his intention of turning in, and, " order be 
blowed ! " strongly advised us to do the same. I 

158 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

only regret I was weak enough not to. The 
gloom gradually increased till we were left in outer 
darkness. To find the bed-clothing would ' now 
have been a difficulty ; to make any resemblance 
to a bed an absolute impossibility. Still, on the 
strength of the notice, I waited through many dark 
and cold hours, until a brute with a human voice 
shouted out from somewhere, " You chaps will get 
no light to-night, so you can turn in when you 
please." I was informed afterwards this was a 
favourite and utterly unauthorized assumption of 
authority on the part of this bully, and I trust it 
has only to be noticed to preclude the possibility 
of its continuance. It was a barbarous and 
cowardly act, and strictly opposed to the usual 
system of the prison. How I got through that 
cold night I cannot tell, for bed, bedding and light 
were all strangers to me ; but night, more merciful 
than man, threw its mantle over me, and I slept as 
sound as only the weary can. 



Next morning after breakfast we were drafted 
to our various localities, and, incredible as it may 
appear, and to show how efficient is the isolation 
system, men with whom I parted company that 
morning I never saw again, though I knew they 
were in the same building. Our various destina- 
tions were indicated in a somewhat primitive style 
— a huge chalk-mark on our backs. As I threaded 
my way through various wards with a C scrawled 
on my back, a smell of tar indicated our approach 
to what might under altered circumstances have 
been presumed to be a ship-chandler's ; it was, 
however, only the oakum district. We were here 
received by the warder in command, and I was 
assigned to the fifth storey. I was further pre- 
sented with my official number — 594, on a brass 

i6o Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

I now discovered the benefit of "light labour 
and bed." This particular ward, together with the 
two in its immediate vicinity, is principally de- 
voted to fresh arrivals ; bed is the exception and 
oakum is the rule. It is absolutely impossible for 
any accident to exempt you from commencing 
your career for one month in these wards ; it rests, 
however, with yourself whether you pick oakum or 
find a substitute. I decided on the latter course. 
The system of prison life is such a contemptible 
one, and the espionage, jealousy, currying favour, 
and tale-bearing so general between the officials 
from the highest to the lowest, that this portion of 
my task is a very delicate one. Whatever I write 
will be carefully sifted ; and if I give the slightest 
clue capable of being followed up, I should pro- 
bably injure some warder, assistant warder, or 
prisoner who did me incalculable services at great 
personal risk ; and as this is the last thing I have 
the smallest intention of doing, I wish to state, 
once for all, that all names and dates I give are 
intentionally altered, and that any official who 
ever befriended me has nothing to fear from my 

As I ascended the spiral staircase a shout of 


S A.M. 

"Oakum" Let Us Sing. i6i 

" Coming up ! " intimated to the attics that a fresh 
victim was approaching, and I was formally 
received and conducted to my cell. The first 
impression of my permanent address was not 
encouraging. On a shelf was a Bible and prayer- 
book, a tin plate, a tin mug, and a tin knife, a 
wooden spoon, a box of salt, and a piece of soap, 
producing a combination such as may be seen in 
any of the illustrated papers during a small war, 
and supposed to illustrate, as circumstances require, 
the utensils in daily use amongst Zulus, Ashantis 
or whatever savages we may happen to be slaugh 
tering at the time. In another corner was a 
diminutive basin the size of a saucepan, a slop-pail, 
and a can of water. On a shelf was a rug and 
two blankets ; bed or bedstead was conspicuous 
by its absence ; and on the table was a lump of 
rope. My turnkey, having examined my card, 
ordered in a bed and bedstead, and explained that 
the rope was to be converted into oakum. A few 
words and we understood one another; in short, 
he was a man after my own heart. I have no 
scruple in mentioning this, for I regret to say the 
man was dismissed shortly after — through no fault 
of mine, though indirectly connected with me. I 

1 62 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

can never forgive myself when I reflect that I had 
any share in the transaction, though it is a consola- 
tion to know that, had he been as careful as he 
ought, nothing could have brought the offence 
home to him. In the first instance, he was the 
victim of as foul a piece of treachery as ever dis- 
grabed humanity, and then he lost his head, and 
compromised himself when absolute silence would 
have cleared him. I shall narrate the particulars 
later on. In addition to the above-named furniture, 
the walls were decorated with a number of printed 
notices describing your duties, diet, &c., and a 
prayer ( ! ) ; a wooden — so much a dozen — effort, 
supposed to be specially adapted to the require- 
ments of " awakening burglars." I learnt all these 
by heart by way of amusement, and will give them 
for the benefit of the reader. I take especial plea- 
sure in reproducing them, as I believe they've never 
seen daylight before. 

System of Progressive Stages for Male 
Prisoners Sentenced to Hard Labour. 

I. A prisoner shall be able to earn on each 
weekday 8, 7, or 6 marks, according to the degree 

"Oakum" Let Us Sing. 163 

of his industry ; and on Sunday he shall be awarded 
marks according to the degree of his industry 
during the previous week. 

2. There shall be four stages, and every prisoner 
shall pass through them or through so much of 
them as the term of his imprisonment admits. 

3. He shall commence in the first stage, and 
shall remain in the first stage until he has earned 
28 X 8, or 224 marks ; in the second stage until 
he has earned 224 more marks, or 448 in the 
whole ; in the third stage until he has earned 224 
more marks, or 672 in the whole ; in the fourth 
stage during the remainder of his sentence. 

4. A prisoner whose term of imprisonment is 
twenty-eight days or less shall serve the whole of 
his term in the first stage. 

5. A prisoner who is idle, or who misconducts 
himself, or is inattentive to instruction, shall be 

(i) To forfeit gratuity earned or to be 
earned, or 

(2) To forfeit any other stage privileges. 

(3) To detention in the stage in which he is 

until he shall have earned in that stage 

an additional number of marks. 

M 2 

164 Eighte&n Months Imprisonment. 

(4) To degradation to any lower stage (whether 
such stage is next below the one in which 
hie is or otherwise) until he has earned 
in such lower stage a stated number of 

As soon as the prisoner has earned the 
stated number, then, unless he has in the 
meantime incurred further punishment, 
he shall be restored to the stage from 
which he was degraded, and be creditecJ 
with the number of marks he had pre- 
viously earned therein. 

6. None of the foregoing punishments shall 
exempt a prisoner from any other punishment to 
which he would be liable for conduct constituting 
a breach of prison regulations. 

7. A prisoner in the first stage will 

(«) Be employed ten hours daily in strict 
separation on first class hard labour, of 
which six to eight hours will be on crank, 
treadwheeljOr work of a similar nature. 

(J)) Sleep on a plank-bed without a mattress. 

[c) Earn no gratuity. 

8. A prisoner in the second stage will 

{a) Be employed as in the first stage until he 

" Oahim" Let Us Sing. 165 

has completed one month of imprison- 
ment, and afterwards on hard labour of 
the second class. 

{B) Sleep on a plank-bed without a mattress 
two nights weekly and have a mattress 
on the other nights. 

{c) Receive school instruction. 

(d) Have school books in his cell. 
{e) Have exercise on Sunday, 

(/) Be able to earn a gratuity not exceed- 
ing IS. 

(^g) The gratuity to a prisoner in this stage, 
whose sentence is not long enough for 
him to earn 224 marks in it, may be cal- 
culated at id. for every 20 marks earned. 

9. A prisoner in the. third stage will — 

{a) Be employed on second class hard labour. 
{b) Sleep on a plank-bed without a mattress 

one night weekly, and have a mattress on 

other nights, 
(c) Receive school instruction. 
{d) Have school books in his cell. 

(e) Have library books in his cell. 
(/) Have exercise on Sunday. 

i66 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

{g) Be able to earn a gratuity not exceeding 
IS. 6d. 

{h) The gratuity to a prisoner in this stage, 
whose sentence is not long enough for 
him to earn 224 marks in it, may be cal- 
culated at id. for every 12 marks earned. 
10. A prisoner in the fourth stage will — 

(«) Be eligible for employment of trust in the 
service of the prison. 

{b) Sleep on a mattress every night. 

(c) Receive school instruction. 

{d) Have school books in his cell. 

{e) Have library books in his cell. 

(/) Have exercise on Sunday. 

{g) Be allowed to receive and write a letter 
and receive a visit of twenty minutes ; and 
in every three months afterwards to 
receive and write a letter, and receive a 
visit of half-an-hour. 

{li) Be able to earn a gratuity not exceeding 


{i) The gratuity to a prisoner in this stage, 
whose sentence is not long enough for 
him to earn 224 marks in it, may be cal- 
culated at id. for every 10 marks earned. 

"Oakum" Let Us Sing. 167 

(7) The gratuity to a prisoner in this stage, 
whose sentence is long enough to enable 
him to earn more than ig6 marks, may be 
calculated at the same rate, provided that 
it shall not in any case exceed los. 

Printed at H.M. Convict Prison, Millbank. 

The composition of this abstract, alternating as 
it does between threats of punishment and hopes 
of "employments of trust," clearly stamps it as 
intended to appeal to. the feelings and adapt itself 
to the capacities of the lowest classes. That any 
man of education could be roused to any degree of 
ambition by such " trust " as would be likely to be 
placed in him, is to suppose an impossible absur- 
dity. The " system " throttles any sudh contin- 
gency, and leads — as all short-sighted policies do — 
to men believing in no such thing as good faith, 
and having no inward restraining motive for ab- 
staining from deception. Why will not the Chief 
Commissioner of Prisons see that the brutC' power 
at their disposal is wholly inadequate to pre- 
vent a man with a modicum of brains and a few 
sovereigns from doing as he pleases ? Let them 
try the " confidence trick " in a modified form 

1 68 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

with the better class of prisoners, and if it is found 
to fail, revert to the hard and fast rule. A discre- 
tionary power in the hands of such a man as the 
Governor of Coldbath Fields would thoroughly 
test the experiment. 

What trash " employment of trust " sounds to a 
man who knows that from first to last — however 
exemplary his behaviour — he is suspected, and 
never supposed to be lost sight of! 

Personally, I felt I'd as lief be in the punishment 
cells as in any " employment of trust " ; they are 
both birds of the same feather, recognizing no code 
but brute force, distrust, and degrees of punishment. 
I can only compare the prison system to a huge 
machine, capable of crushing a man body and soul, 
or handling him so lightly that nothing but the 
" idea " and its moral obligations remain to remind 
him of its hideous proximity. If any further proof 
is required of the truth of -my deductions, my per- 
sonal experience will amply provide it. 

Short Prayers for Morning and Evening. 

O God and Holy Father, Thou hast in mercy 
watched over me through the night ; in Thy tender 

" Oakum'' Let Us Sing. 169 

love keep me this day from evil. I have greatly- 
sinned against Thee. Do Thou turn me from all 
my evil ways ; wash me in the blood of Jesus, and 
let Thy Spirit lead me that I may hate sin and love 
what is right. Let Thy grace preserve me amidst 
all trials, that I may be made truly a servant of 
Jesus Christ and ever love and serve my God and 
Saviour. Amen. 


O God, Thou hast safely brought me to the close 
of another day. May Thy goodness lead me to 
repentance that I may give Thee my heart. For- 
give all my evil thoughts, and words, and deeds. 
What good thoughts I have had from Thee do 
Thou strengthen, that I may love Thee more and 
serve Thee better. Keep me, O God, and all whom 
I love, from danger or sin this night, and so pre- 
serve us by Thy grace that at last we may sleep in 
Jesus and be for ever with the Lord. Amen. 

This hypocritical effusion hangs over one's table, 
and is supposed to be admirably adapted for 
"awakening" burglars, and turning pickpockets 
from the error of their ways. As a literary com- 

170 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

position it is beneath criticism, and would disgrace 
a " National School " boy in a proclaimed district. 
I don't know who is the inspired author, nor how 
they are sold by the dozen. 


" Prisoners who desire assistance from the agent 
of the Discharged Prisoners' Relief Committee, in 
finding employment on discharge, should apply to 
the Governor fourteen days before they go out, 
when their cases will be investigated. Wilfully false 
statements as to antecedents, &c., will disqualify a 
prisoner from assistance, as will also misconduct in 

There is no institution I heard so much abused 
as the above, and although I cannot speak from 
personal knowledge, I should say that a thorough 
enquiry into its working (not its profession) might 
possibly be attended with benefit. Beyond seeing 
a fly-blown old man waddling about the prison, 
who, I was informed, was the agent, I know 
nothing, and care less, about this doubtless admir- 
able institution. 

" Oakum " Let Us Sing. 



No. I. 

Men, Women, and Boys under Sixteen Years of Age, 
with and without hard labour. 

Breakfast . Daily . . 8 ounces bread. 

^. ^ ., (i\ pint stirabout (containing 3 ounces 



Indian meal and 3 ounces oatmeal). 
8 ounces bread. 




No. 2. 
Men WITH Hard Labour. 
Daily . . 6 ounces bread, I pint gruel. 

W H '' \ \ ^ ou'i'^ss bread, 8 ounces suet pudding. 

^Frida ^^^ } ^ """'^^^ ^'■^^'^' ^ """"^^^ potatoes. 

Tuesday, 1 
Thursday, and > 6 ounces bread, J pint soup. 
^ Saturday . ) 


. 6 ounces bread, i pint gruel. 

Men WITHOUT Hard Labour, Women, and Boys under 
Sixteen Years of Age. 

Breakfast . Daily . . S ounces bread, I pint gruel. 

/•Sunday andl 5 ounces bread, 6 ounces suet pud- 
Wednesday. J ding. 
Monday and 1 , o„u(,eg bread, 8 ounces potatoes. 
Dinner . ■{ Friday . J ■' 
Tuesday, ) 
Thursday, and > S ounces bread, i pint soup. 
V Saturday . ) 

Supper . Daily 

5 ounces bread, I pint gruel. 

172 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 




No, 3. 

Men with Hard Labour. 

Daily . . 8 ounces bread, i pint gruel. 

^Sunday and '14 ounces bread, 8 ounces potatoes, 8 
Wednesday . J ounces suet pudding. 
Monday and 18 ounces bread, 8 ounces potatoes, 3 
Friday . , / ounces cooked beef (without bone). 

Ttarsdayfand \ ^ °'^'^^^^ ^^^^^' ^ °""'=«= potatoes, \ 
. Saturday . j ?'"' =°"P- 


6 ounces bread, i pint gruel. 

Men without Hard Labour, Women, and Boys under 
Sixteen Years of Age, 

Breakfast . Daily 




6 ounces bread, i pint gruel. 

■Sunday and 
Wednesday . 
Monday and 

Thurs^dav'and \ ^ ounces bread, 6 ounces potatoes, | 
-'' ' pint soup. 

[^4 ounces bread, 6 ounces potatoes, 6 
ounces suet pudding. 
6 ounces bread, 8 ounces potatoes, 3 
ounces cooked beef (without bone). 

6 ounces bread, i pint gruel. 




No. 4. 
Men with Hard Labour, 
Daily . . 8 ounces bread, I pint porridge. 

{Sunday and 16 ounces bread, 8 ounces potatoes, 12 
Wednesday./ ounces suet pudding. 
Monday and 1 8 ounces bread, 12 ounces potatoes, 4 
Friday . / ounces cooked beef (without bone). 
Thursdav'and ( ^ °""°^^ "orisA, 8 ounces potatoes, 1 


pint soup. 
8 ounces bread, 1 pint porridge. 

"■Oakum" Let Us Sing, 173 

Men without Hard Labour, Women and BcfYS under 

Sixteen Years of Age. 

Breakfast . Daily . , 6 ounces bread, I ]nni gruel. 

/ Sunday and l 4 ounces bread, 8 ounces potatoes, 10 
Wednesday, f ounces suet pudding. 
■• Monday and j_ 6 ounces bread, 10 ounces potatoes, 3 
Dinner . < Friday . / ounces cooked beef (without bone). 

Th^Kdav^and ( ^ """"^^^ ^''^^^' ^ °""''^^ potatoes, i 
I Saturday ." [ P"^t so"P- 

Supper . Daily . . 6 ounces bread, I pint gruel. 

On Mondays beans and fat bacon may be sub- 
stituted for beef. At the expiration of nine 
months one pint of cocoa, with two ounces extra 
bread, may be given at breakfast three days in the 
week, in lieu of one pint of porridge, or gruel, if 

The following will be the terms to which the 
above diets will be applied : — 

Prisoners sentenced to seyen days and under. 
No. I diet for the whole time. 

Prisoners sentenced to more than seven days, 
and not more than one month, No. i diet for 
seven days, and No. 2 diet for remainder of term. 

Prisoners sentenced to more than one month, 
and not more than four months, No. 2 diet for one ■ 
month, and No. 3 diet for remainder of term. 

Prisoners sentenced to more than four months. 

174 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

No. 3 diet for four months, and No. 4 diet for 
remainder of term. 

Table of Substitutes 

For cooked English beef or potatoes, which may 
be issued, if deemed necessary, by the authorities. 
In lieu of four ounces cooked English beef: 
Five ounces Colonial beef or mutton, preserved 
by heat (served cold) ; nine ounces beans, one 
ounce fat bacon, four ounces American or other 
foreign beef, preserved by cold (weighed after 
cooking), eight ounces cooked fresh fish; six 
ounces cooked salt meat ; twelve ounces cooked 
salt fish. 

In lieu of three ounces cooked English beef : 
Three-and-three-quarter ounces Colonial beef 
or mutton, preserved by heat (served cold) ; seven 
ounces beans, three-quarters of an ounce fat bacon ; 
three ounces American or other foreign beef, pre- 
served by cold (weighed after cooking) ; six ounces 
cooked fresh fish ; four-and-a-half ounces cooked 
salt meat ; nine ounces cooked salt fish. 

In lieu of twelve ounces potatoes : 

Eight ounces cabbage or turnip-tops ; twelve 

''Oakum" Let Us Smg. 175 

ounces parsnips, turnips, or carrots ; twelve ounces 
preserved (dried) potatoes ; eight ounces leeks ; 
twelve ounces rice (steamed till tender). 

In lieu of ten ounces potatoes : 

Seven ounces cabbage or turnip-tops ; ten 
ounces parsnips, turnips, or carrots ; ten ounces 
preserved (dried) potatoes ; seven ounces leeks ; 
ten ounces rice (steamed till tender). 

In lieu of eight ounces potatoes : 

Six ounces cabbage or turnip-tops ; eight ounces 
parsnips, turnips, or carrots ; eight ounces pre- 
served (dried) potatoes ; six ounces leeks ; eight 
ounces rice (steamed till tender). 

In lieu of six ounces potatoes : 

Four ounces cabbage or turnip-tops ; six ounces 
parsnips, turnips, or carrots ; six ounces preserved 
(dried) potatoes ; four ounces leeks ; six ounces 
rice (steamed till tender). 

All the meats to be weighed without bone. 

All vegetables to be weighed after cooking. 

Printed at H.M, Convict Prison, Millbank, 

176 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

A careful perusal of Dietary 4 will convince the 
reader that it is sufficiently generous to obviate 
any loss of weight, and yet, as a rule, prisoners fall 
away on it, (There are some extraordinary ex- 
ceptions to this rule, and one man, a gentleman by 
birth, and an ex-officer in the army, increased two 
stone in a few months ; the absolute half-starved 
vagrant also, of course, fattens on it.) I can only 
attribute it to the voracious way they bolt their 
food. It is stated of that eminent projector, the 
late Mr. Rumford, that he once submitted to the 
then Elector of Saxony a scheme whereby he 
might reduce the expense of maintaining his army, 
without impairing its efficiency, by a very simple 
method, namely, to reduce the amount, but compel 
his soldiers to masticate their food. I cannot say 
if the suggestion was acted on, but I am 
thoroughly convinced that if prisoners received 
less, and were compelled to eat slower, a consider- 
able saving to the state and an improvement in 
the appearance of the men would be effected. 
Personally I found during the very few weeks I 
subsisted on this diet that it was more than I 
could possibly eat, and withal good. The gruel, I 
confess, is an acquired taste, and I was almost 

" Oahim" Let Us Sing. 177 

immediately permitted to substitute cocoa. The 
porridge was also a sad disappointment. I in- 
nocently hoped to have found the delicious com- 
position associated with the land of cakes and 
immortal Burns, and could have burst into tears in 
recognising it as intensified gruel. Its nourishing 
powers, however, are not to be gainsaid ; and to see 
malefactors shovelling it away, as I have, one 
would suppose they enjoyed it. The recitation of 
the substitutes for cooked beef I am compelled to 
characterise an official quibble. During the few 
months I spent at Coldbath I never heard — as I 
certainly should — of any beef being issued at all, 
the invariable substitute being Colonial meat served 
cold, except on one occasion, when salt fish was 
supplied. On the merits of this last item I cannot 
speak personally, for long before that I was on 
a daily diet of mutton and mutton broth, as I de- 
scribe hereafter. For the preserved Colonial meat, 
however, I have nothing but praise. "Served," 
as it was, under every disadvantage, I found it 
excellent ; and as it can be purchased for seven- 
pence a pound, the marvel is that the poorer 
classes, who seldom or never taste butcher's meat, 


178 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

do not patronise it more largely. I can only sup- 
pose its merits are unknown. 

The bedstead, or " plank-bed," ae it is termed, is 
the hardest couch I • ever felt ; with a mattress on 
it I could feel every grain in the wood, and 
shuddered to think of my com,panions, all of whom 
had to submit for a month to the board '' pure and 
simple." It is only raised three inches from the 
floor, and is two feet in breadth — a tight fit for 
twenty stone. I had now fairly settled down in 
my final destination for a month, and will describe 
the routine of the day : — 

6 A.M. — Rise. 
6.30 „ — Breakfast. 

7 „ — Take down the day's work, and 

receive a fresh supply. 

8 to 9 „ — Exercise. 

9 „ — Chapel (three times a week). 
12 noon — Dinner. 

5 P.M. — Supper. 

8 „ —Bed. 

8.30 „ — Lights out. 

A slight difiference existed between the regula- 
tion here and at Newgate on the subject of " lights 

8 P.M. 

P. 178. 

"Oakum'''' Let Us Sing. 179 

out." At Coldbath it was a serious offence to 
retire before 8 P.M. At Newgate it was, however, 
optional, though hampered with an absurd con- 
dition. One evening, at this latter awful place, I 
had determined on a comfortable read ; with this 
object I undressed about 7 P.M., and, pulling my 
bed under the lamp, abandoned myself to the 
perusalof Chambers' Magazine, for 1878. Barely, 
however, had I commenced, when " in a moment 
all was dark." I ascertained next morning that it 
was a rule to put out the gas as soon as a man got 
into bed ; whether from economical motives or as 
an extra mode of annoyance, I never troubled to 

The brown bread, which was often warm from 
the oven, was as good as any I have ever tasted, 
and the quantity enough to satisfy anyone ; and 
yet the ordinary prisoner would devour his and 
gratefully accept as much as anyone else would 
give him. I found that prisoners would do any- 
thing for food, and through my entire career I 
bartered it in exchange for soap, &c. Amongst 
other recipients of my bounty was a German Jew 
who lived near me. He spoke very little English, 

and as I speak German fluently, I often had a 

N 2 

i8o Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

word with him. He told me the usual story about 
being sentenced for nothing ; and though I did 
not believe a word of it, it led to his being put on 
my free list. A more voracious appetite I never 
met with, and the way he bolted half a pound of 
bread and three or four potatoes was truly appal- 
ling ; indeed, so unsatisfactory was it, that I trans- 
ferred my patronage after a week ; one might as 
well have tried to fill Nelson's monument. Giving 
away food is strictly prohibited — a regulation that 
necessitates certain precautions, commendable for 
their suitability rather than their cleanliness. The 
usual mode is for the donor to stuff bread, pota- 
toes, or a lump of suet down his stocking or inside 
his shirt, and when time and circumstance permit, 
to transfer it to the recipient of his bounty, who in 
his turn first shoves it up his back or into his cap, 
to be transferred at leisure into the mouth or else- 
where. This manipulation never commended itself 
to me ; and my rule, though not much more refined, 
had at least the advantage of avoiding any personal 
contact with the greasy dainties. I placed all my 
food in my pocket-handkerchief, and transferred it 
bodily in exchange for the others'. This rule only 
applied to the clean linen day, when I was enabled 

" Oakum " Let Us Sing. 1 8 1 

without delay to get rid of my brother-reprobate's 
mouchoir. On other occasions I received their 
pocket-handkerchiefs clean, and returned them 
later on full of good things. I let it be understood 
that I never took a handkerchief unless it was 
clean ; and so perfect did the system become, that 
I had only to s,z.y en passant, "Your handkerchief 
to-morrow," and it was duly handed to me washed 
and perfectly clean. I only once was offered a 
treat of this kind. It was a poor black man (I 
often see him about). I watched him fumbling in 
his chest and eventually produce a crust ; this he 
secreted for some minutes in his fist, and then 
said, " Here, master," and held it out to me. I can 
see his look of surprise that followed my refusal ; 
but it was kindly meant, and though I declined 
the emetic, I wouldn't have hurt his feelings for 
the world. Soup that I didn't consume I usually 
placed outside the door, hoping that my regular 
" cleaner " would reach it in time. In this, how- 
ever, I was often disappointed, for my custom 
having got known, a raid was frequently made on 
it by others — a practice I determined to try and 

I was suffering at this time from liver complaint, 

1 82 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

and had on my shelf a concoction of taraxacum 
and podophyllin. Of this I poured one day about 
two doses into my mutton broth ; and as it was 
somewhat discoloured by the process, I added half 
a cup of soapsuds and a handful of salt. Not 
long after the two thieves arrived, and I could 
distinctly hear their long gulps as they swallowed 
the savoury concoction. My commendable endea- 
vour to break them of pilfering was, however, a 
complete failure ; and the only remark I overheard 
was, " I say, Bill, it's damned salt, ain't it .' " 

TK^ soap one received had to last a fortnight, and 
was not sufficient for a thorough wash daily and 
the periodical bath, and I experienced great incon- 
venience at first by having to economize ; but 
when it had got mooted about that there " was a 
swell as was mug enough to swap grub for soap," 
my market became literally glutted, and I was 
enabled to revel in a bath every morning. 

Washing one's cell floor was not an agreeable 
duty. At first I puffed and blew like a grampus, 
but it soon became a very simple affair, and I 
became a perfect adept at the charwoman business. 
I heard whilst here, from a reliable source, of some 
man who after leaving the prison was staying at a 

" Oakum " Let Us Sing. \ 83 

West-end hotel, and who, seeing a servant shirking 
her duty whilst scrubbing the doorstep, and unable 
to resist the force of habit, very kindly gave her 
the benefit of his experience, and stripping off his 
coat, proceeded to lay-to assiduously. I should 
not hesitate to do the same under certain circum- 
stances. This " doing " one's own apartment was 
the only derogatory duty I had ever to perform ; 
and as it was a private show, and clearly for one's 
own benefit, I never had the slightest objection to it ; 
the more so as the taking of my morning bath (the 
saucepan on the floor) had half completed the 

Oakum-picking cannot be called an intellectual 
employment. I should say, too, it was decidedly 
monotonous, though I can hardly speak from per- 
sonal experience. I tried the experiment of un- 
ravelling the rope, but it was so intensely provoking 
that I turned my thoughts to evading the necessity. 
My turnkey and I were friends within twenty-four 
hours, and I consulted him about getting a substi- 
tute. As turnkey and prisoner had both left before 
I had, I may say, without injuring anyone, that 
for a weekly consideration my task was picked 
daily. Of a morning a bundle was mysteriously 

184 Eighteen Months Impmsonment. 

thrown into my cell, and a few moments later I 
proudly descended with " my work," and dropped 
the unused rope on the stair. The usual task that 
prisoners have to pick is three pounds a day, but 
being a light-labour man I was only assigned one 
pound. I invariably returned a portion of this 
modified amount unpicked, thereby lulling the 
suspicions of a dense but offensively-inclined task- 
master. Oakum is one of the most tell-tale com- 
modities I ever came across. If merely unravelled, 
it remains black and juicy ; but the more it is 
picked and pulled the paler it gets, till it is capable 
of assuming the appearance of Turkish tobacco. 
An experienced eye can at once detect the amount 
of labour bestowed on it, and some of the huge 
bundles I saw my confreres carrying down were 
works of art as regards finish. The man who 
actually picked my oakum was the " cleaner," a 
privileged individual with a roving commission. 
His duties frequently brought him to my cell, and 
he told me he was a " racing man." I discovered, 
however, as we became better acquainted, that the 
designation is capable of considerable expansion, 
and that his peculiar talent was the " three- card 
trick." He knew every racecourse in England as 

" Oaktim" Let Us Sing. 185 

well as every prison, and never failed of a morning 
to inquire how I had slept, adding, that he always 
slept badly the first few nights in a strapge prison ; 
and my reply that I was not affected in a " similar 
way " appeared to cause him considerable surprise. 
In my unravelling process I one day chanced to 
come across a bit of cane. It was certainly moist 
from proximity to the tar, but I carefully dried 
and subsequently smoked it. I can hardly say the 
pleasure was unalloyed, for it bore such a resem- 
blance to the fragrant British Havanna that I got 
alarmed, and put it out. It was the only smoke 
I had for months. 

Exercise at Coldbath was an important institu- 
tion, and considering it was the only fresh air I at 
first experienced in the day, I always looked for- 
ward to it. An hour is the regulation time, but 
seldom is the boon of that duration ; and if the 
warder is otherwise engaged, the exercise has to 
give way, and thus the prisoner is deprived of a 
healthy occupation to meet the convenience of a 
selfish turnkey. Overlooking the exercise-yard 
attached to C ward were a row of houses, and I 
often wondered what the lookers-on thought of the 
moving mass of misery that circled round below 

1 86 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

them. To me, with my limited facilities, there was 
ample room for reflection ; and I often marvelled 
how such various types of humanity could have 
been collected, or indeed that they ever existed. 

One feeble old m-an particularly attracted my 
notice. He was almost unable to walk round from 
sheer old age, and appeared altogether incapable of 
having qualified in any way for lodgings at Cold- 
bath. I asked a warder what on earth he had done. 

"Well," he said, " they say he's a bad 'un. He's 
here for violently assaulting the police, and got six 

" But," I added, " he don't look as if he would 
last so long ; he must be at least a hundred ! " 

"Very likely," was the reply. "The fact is, a 
new rule has come in lately, and pauper prisoners 
are buried in the prison ; so they sent him here in 
hopes of starting our new cemetery." 

Another peculiarity that struck me forcibly was 
the apparently universal obstruction that appeared 
to exist in the criminal throat. It was absolutely 
epidemic, and the sounds — such as are made by an 
over-wound moderator lamp — that accompanied 
their fruitless endeavours to obtain relief were 
excessively revolting.. This and the like are the 

"Oakum" Let Us Sing. 187 

worst features of coming in contact with these 
dirty wretches. Many habits usually looked upon 
as filthy were freely indulged in, and anyone who 
instinctively abstained from participating was 
looked upon as an outsider. A foolish habit I had 
contracted in my youth of applying my pocket- 
handkerchief to its natural use was, I fancy, speci- 
ally resented. I could never shake off these 
feelings, and though with them, was never " one of 
them." I always kept them at arms' length, and 
invariably received some implied recognition of my 
superiority. The better class of prisoners for the 
most part addressed me as " Capting," or " Sir " ; 
and even the lowest, if they spoke — which I never 
encouraged — did so with some small degree of 
reserve. The neighbourhood abounds with street- 
organs ; indeed, it is the head-quarters where the 
instrumentalists for the most part live, the conse- 
quence being that, like the lady of Bambury Cross, 
we had music wherever we "goed." About this 
time a certain popular air was much in vogue, and 
evidently much admired by the criminal classes. 
I enquired the name of this vile music-hall ditty, 
but without effect ; and can only describe it by the 
fact that no sooner did it cotrimence than the whole 

1 88 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

mob appeared to cheer up, and took up a sort of 
gin-and-water refrain which they buzzed out — " Ho 
moy littul tarling, 'ow are yew ? " The wretch who 
composed it deserves a month. It is impossible to 
describe the, monotony of these days without occu- 
pation — for my deputy did my task — and without 
books. The religious tract, as a leaflet was officially 
styled, had to last a fortnight ; and I knew by 
heart all about "The Sweet Recollections of a 
Sweep," and "The Converted Charwoman of 
Goswell Road." "What Pickest Thou, you 
Wretch ">. " and " How are your Poor Fingers, you 
Blackguard .' " were also works contained in this 
religious repertoire, and altogether of a more 
thrilling description. They were generally under- 
stood to have been the work of a local divine, 
as indeed their style suggested. The library 
books are a very sorry lot, though probably well 
adapted to the capacities of their readers. The 
rule, too, that permits their change only once a 
fortnight is in itself a species of torture unworthy 
of the system that sanctions them at all. The type 
for the most part is large, and such as an educated 
man can read in a day. Why, then, spoil a gracious 
act by limiting its very innocent scope. Such, too, 

"Oakum"" Let us Sing. 189 

is the reckless supervision of these literary treasures 
that I received no less than seven school histories 
of England during my career. I felt this as almost 

a reflection on the Dean of W and my classical 

education generally. 

There was, however, a reserve library for the 
special benefit of the " serious " minded, and men 
of education with strict Episcopalian proclivities. 
This issue, and its attendant patronage, is vested 
entirely in the hands of the chaplain — a custom it 
is high time to alter — and considering I had never 
been confirmed, it is a marvel how I was ever 
included in its favoured ranks. The blessing was 
not, however, an entirely unmitigated one ; and 
" Locke's Essay on the Mind," " The Theory of 
Sturm," and such light reading usually fell to my 
share. Happily I was independent of it all, 
although an amusing and undignified squabble 
some months later deprived me of even this modi- 
fied clerical patronage. 

I must mention one incident connected with my 
"three card" acquaintance before leaving the oakum 
district. It was after chapel, and he was in my 
cell, when, after sundry enquiries as to how I liked 
the service, &c., he said — 

igo Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

" I calls it bad, very bad taste, the way they goes 
on, even in chapel, at a chap about his work. Didn't 
you hear this morning about the oakum ? " 

" Oakum," I said ; " I don't remember any 
allusion to it." 

" O yes you do," he replied. " D'you mind my 
nudging you .■' " and then I recollected receiving a 
dig in the ribs, which I failed to understand at the 
time, as they began to sing, " O Come, let us sing," 
&c. The racing man had made a mistake in the 
spelling, and very properly resented the allusion. 

My transfer from this hateful district was, how- 
ever, nearer than I supposed, and an unexpected 
occurrence a few days after my arrival brought 
about this welcome change. My door was one day 
suddenly opened, and my friend the turnkey 
appeared in breathless agitation. 

" Summat's up," he jerked out ; '' mind you tells 
em nothink. You're going to be transferred at 



Something was indeed up ; a letter, in fact, 
that I had clandestinely written had been inter- 
cepted. Personally I was indifferent to the result ; 
the worst had been done to me when I found my- 
self in prison. Degrees of punishment had no 
terrors for me, and I was equally callous as to 
whether employed in a " situation of trust " or 
languishing in a punishment cell. To me all 
appeared tarred with the same brush, and I loathed 
the privileges and punishments, the indulgences 
and deprivations, the spiritual comforts, and every 
other contingency with the same intensity. As 
regards the turnkey, however, my sympathy was 
enlisted. Here was a poor man, with a wife and 
family, liable to dismissal, and even imprisonment, 
if convicted of carrying letters. At the time I was 
at a loss to understand how the traffic could 

192 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

possibly have been discovered. I was confident I 
had not been observed writing, and had seen the 
letters securely secreted in the warder's pouch. 
Unless, then, he had been guilty of some indiscre- 
tion, the discovery seemed impossible. Such a 
contingency as foul play from without never 
entered my head, and yet, alas, such a thing had 
actually occurred. 'A servant in the family of one 
of my correspondents had lately been detected in 
a series of systematic thefts from her employers, 
extending over many months. The discovery 
naturally involved her immediate dismissal, and 
by way of gratitude for their refraining from 
prosecuting her, she purloined my letter, and 
assuming a position of authority, called at the 
prison and produced the document. Her motive 
was clearly revenge, but the truth (as it always 
does) eventually came out, and the mystery that 
shrouded the transaction for months has happily 
been dispelled, and the temporary doubt (almost 
excusable) that associated the act with very 
dear friends has given way to a regret that 
I could ever have doubted their honour. As to 
the thieving, sneaking wretch, she decamped with 
her spoils; and though her photograph has been 

The Visiting Justices. 193 

freely distributed in the " three ball " quarter, she 
has hitherto evaded discovery. For my part I would 
gladly subscribe a trifle for the present address of 
Mrs. Smith. With the mystery that surrounded 
everything that occurred in the place, I tried in 
vain to ascertain whether anything had really been 
discovered, but day after day passed, and the affair 
had apparently blown over. This, however, was an 
erroneous impression ; it was only the lull that pre- 
cedes the storm, and not a stone was being left 
unturned to sift the matter. The turnkey, at the 
time only suspected of complicity in the matter, 
was carefully watched. When he left of an evening 
his every footstep was dogged, and a nightly report 
of his rambles duly made. A letter, too, that he 
foolishly posted in a neighbouring pillar-box 
pointed indirectly to his connivance, and subse- 
quent inquiries at the district receiving office made 
matters possibly clearer. A close relationship 
exists between such Government institutions as 
post-offices, prisons, and police-stations, which 
affords greater facilities to constituted authorities 
for unearthing mysteries than to ordinary mortals. 
I was ignorant in those days of this affinity, and 
an easy prey to such trumpery contingencies ; but 

194 Eighteen Months Imprisonment, 

I eventually reduced the trafificking to a science 
impossible of detection, and unfailing in its results. 
Can it be wondered at — surrounded as one is by 
underpaid officials, who begin at twenty-one shil- 
lings and twenty-three shillings a week, with a 
gradual increase, after years of toil, to a possible 
twenty-eight shillings, and with a prospect, after 
twenty years' service, of receiving a pension of ten 
shillings a week — can it be wondered at, I ask, 
that these worthy men are unable to resist a bribe ? 
I should regret to have to prove my words, but if 
I was in the position again, I think I could under- 
take to be in daily communication with the outer 
world, despite bolts and bars and the "special" 
observation I was always subject to. This is no 
idle boast, as subsequent events will prove ; and the 
ajithorities have only themselves to thank for exer- 
cising no discretionary power in their treatment of 
prisoners, when the facts I mention prove con- 
clusively that a great difference does exist and 
always will between the vagrant and the gentle- 
man, even in prison, in more ways than one. The 
underpaid turnkey is still more unfairly handi- 
capped, and it resolves itself into his choosing 
between my ^5 and the Government;^!. What 

The Visiting Justices. 195 

more natural than that he should elect the former, 
when the most ordinary precaution will guard 
against detection. I don't think the authorities 
ought to begrudge the so-called gentleman this 
solitary advantage. No one can deny that six 
months to a man of education is an infinitely severer 
trial than eighteen to a costermonger. The one 
has to battle with the mind, conscience, remorse, 
shattered prospects, loss of caste, a blighted future, 
food, clothing, surroundings, all inferior to what he 
has been accustomed to ; to submit, moreover, to 
be addressed by inferiors in a tone of authority, 
besides a hundred-and-one other humiliations 
impossible to remember : the other finds himself 
amongst friends, loses nothing by his incarceration, 
is better clothed, fed, and housed than if he were 
at home, and, in the case of an artizan, reverts to 
his every-day employment ; and yet this is -seldom 
taken into consideration, and justice is ladled out 
to gentleman and vagrant alike. I cannot assert 
this as my own experience, for justice was indeed 
tempered with mercy to me, and I am fully 
sensible of the consideration I received, both at 
my trial and hereafter. Under ordinary circum- 
stances one would be accused of ingratitude for 

196 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

breaking rules and deceiving those in authority 
who had treated one well, but I never took this 
personal view of it, I was fighting a system that 
I despised, not individuals that I respected. So I 
looked on it as a game of "brag," a kind of 
"French and English," a question of bolts and 
bars versus brains, where the latter had apparently 
the worst of it, where undue importance was 
attached to watching and spying, and nothing left 
to one's parole. About a week after my transfer 
(I was now in the needlework ward, and being 
initiated into the mysteries of darning stockings) 
I received a summons to appear before the 
Governor. I knew now that the letter-writing 
had been discovered, or, as my friend the turnkey 
had expressed it, " Summat was up." He told 
me, in a few words, that it had come to his know- 
ledge that I had been sending out clandestine 
letters, and requested me to inform him if that 
was the case, and who had been my channel of 
communication, adding that he was prepared to 
take down any statements I might feel disposed to 
- make. The idea of denying it never entered my 
head — I was perfectly indifferent as to what might 
happen; I thereupon informed him that I had 

The Visiting Justices. 197 

written, ais he alleged, three letters, and that I was 
quite prepared to bear the consequences. I, how- 
ever, respectfully declined to give him any infor- 
mation as to my employ^. I was then requested to 
wait outside, and the order was given to send for 

Mr. B . "Well," I thought, "if poor old 

B tells them as much as I have he need not 

fear being identified as my brother conspirator," 
A moment later, and I was recalled : a glance at 

the unhappy B convinced me that fear had 

robbed him of his self-possession, and that he had 
not observed the salutary advice he had given me 
as to "telling 'em nothink." His face was the 
colour of a boiled turkey, and the keys at his side 
(a sorry burlesque on authority) were rattling from 

tremour. The Governor then said, "Mr. B 

has admitted that he took a letter for you, so I 
presume you have now .no objection to admit it." 
In courtesy to the nervous donkey I asked him if 
that was correct, and on his replying in the 
affirmative, I at once made a clean breast of it. 
The poor man was thereupon suspended from 
duty, and a week later summarily dismissed. I 
tried to make him every reparation in my power, 
and shortly after I procured him a billet at thirty 

198 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

shillings a week, but when I sent to his lodgings I 
found he had left. I heard afterwards he had 
gone into the country, where I hope by this time 
he has recovered his position. My case had yet to 
be dealt with, and as the Governor was not quali- 
fied to adjudicate on such a serious offence as this 
is considered, I was remanded to appear before 
the Visiting Justices. I heard terrible rumours of 
these avenging Solons, and of the floggings, 
solitary confinements, and other barbarities that 
followed in the wake of their fortnightly visits, 
and was prepared — but perfectly indifferent — for 
the worst. My information for the most part was 
derived from brother malefactors, and consequently 
likely to be considerably exaggerated. I found, 
indeed, that this was the case, and when the event- 
ful day — Black Wednesday — arrived, I discovered 
that the dreaded justices were a full bench of 
Middlesex magistrates, my old friends who had 
smashed, pulverized, and otherwise annihilated 
Barnabas Amos on my representations, and who 
I hoped and believed were gentlemen capable of 
weighing the pros and cons of my peculiar case. 
My expectations were more than verified. The 
punishment cells, as I had had them described, 

The Visiting Justices. 199 

and of which I hereafter got a bird's-eye view — 
from outside — were not inviting abodes. There 
are twelve of them, fitted with double doors, war- 
ranted to preclude all sound from penetrating 
beyond. They contain no furniture, except a 
plank and a stool, both fixed to the floor, and the 
two blankets and rug that constitute the entire 
bed and bedding are issued every night and re- 
moved every morning. Water is supplied three 
times a day, and the food is stirabout and dry 
bread, administered on homoeopathic principles. 
Books there are none — indeed, the subdued light 
would make them superfluous ; the occupants, 
moreover, have no employment, the distraction of 
oakum-picking even being fiendishly denied them. 
Men who had undergone this punishment told me 
that the effect was indescribable, this combination 
of gloom, idleness, and profound silence, and their 
wasted appearance after a fortnight's incarceration 
fully confirmed their assertions. The penalty, as 
I was credibly informed, for sending a letter out 
was ten days at least in the punishment cells ; and 
a preliminary I underwent of being carefully 
weighed on the morning of the eventful day raised 
the betting- in my estimation to six to four on 

2O0 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

the cells. A kind friend expressed great sym- 
pathy for me, but feared I must make up my mind 
to this degrading punishment. But he was wrong ; 
the weighing was superfluous, and I got off with a 

The Middlesex magistrates having heard the 
case, which was put before them in the kindest 
light by the Governor, and taking into con- 
sideration the dastardly act, whereby the offence 
was in a measure discovered, informed me through 
the chairman that they knew my position and 
were sorry for it, pointed out the gravity of 
my offence, and finished with an admonition — a 
treatment that only gentlemen could have accorded 
to such as I. This generosity induced me to 
registef a mental vow that I would not abuse their 
kindness. I felt indeed as if I were on my parole ; 
but the foolish act of an illiterate jailor — instigated, 
I suspect, by a vindictive snob — a few days after, 
armed with the authority, but incapable of dis- 
criminating between the treament most likely to 
be deterrent to a man like myself and that desir- 
able with a costermonger, turned me from my 
good resolutions. I saw it was a question of the 
" best man wins," that confidence was -a thing that 

The Visiting Justices. 201 

never entered their heads, and that I had nothing 
to gain by passive submission. For the first and 
only time in my career I felt insulted, and deter- 
mined henceforth to double my precautions, to 
evade every regulation, and to lose no opportunity 
of bribing everything and everybody with whom 
I came in contact. The act that decided me in 
this course was being formally searched. A few 
days after my admonition I was unexpectedly 
visited by two warders, and ordered to change 
everything I had on for a fresh supply, which they 
brought in. Meanwhile my cell was turned upside 
down. The salt was capsized into the plate ; my 
bed minutely examined ; the table and stool tapped 
and shaken ; and matches struck and poked down 
the ventilators ; and when they discovered I had 
neither pencil nor paper, I was left to readjust my 
apartment. As I said to them at the time, nobody 
in his senses would have supposed that a man who 
had so lately escaped a severe punishment would 
be such a fool as to incur the risk of possessing 
contraband articles. As a fact, I had got rid of 
all my combustibles a few days before ; and if any 
of the officials can remember a stoppage in a certain 
drain about that time, they can make a pretty 

202 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

shrewd guess at what became of them. The above 
incident may, I hope, attract the notice of someone 
in authority, and be the means of giving a discre- 
tionary power to governors of prisons as regards 
the treatment of a certain class of prisoners. Sauce 
for the goose is not always sauce for the gander, 
and it's for the authorities to decide whether 
certain results cannot be attained by tact that can 
never be "Assured by brutality. 



A GREAT variety of trades are represented in 
Coldbath Fields — such as tailors, shoemakers, 
blacksmiths, tinsmiths, worsted-workers, laundry- 
men, bakers, needlemen, basket-makers, mat- 
makers, printers, bookbinders, carpenters, plumbers, 
and glaziers. Of these mat-making and laundry- 
work are considered the hardest. The men selected 
for following any of the above vocations are looked 
upon as privileged individuals, and infinitely better 
off than the ordinary oakum-picker — a task that 
everyone has to submit to for one month, although 
many never get beyond it and its accompanying 
isolation during the two years of their imprisonment. 
A good deal of the comfort or otherwise with which 
these trades are followed depends on the, warders 
in charge. If the warder is a brute, the prisoners 
become demoralized, crime is rampant, and reports 

204 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

and punishment the natural consequence. If he 
happens to be reasonable and just in his dealings, 
contentment reigns, the work is well done, and 
insubordination is unknown. I saw and heard a 
great deal in support of this assertion, and during 
my few months' retirement managed to poke my 
nose into a good many queer corners. The laundry 
bears an unenviable notoriety, both on account of 
the excessive hard labour and the brutality with 
which it is enforced. There are about sixty men 
employed in this department, who have severally 
to wash one or other of the following quantities 
daily : — 30 shirts, 80 sheets, 200 towels, 500 pocket- 
handkerchiefs, 18 blankets, 250 pairs of socks. 
Such quantities would tax the capacity of an expert 
washerwoman ; but when a novice — probably a 
clerk or respectable tradesman — is put to the task, 
its magnitude is at first insurmountable. Instead 
of 30 shirts, the poor wretch finds he cannot 
manage more than S, which next day he succeeds 
in bringing up to 15. Meanwhile his hands 
become chafed and sore, and he sees the doctor 
in hopes of getting relief; but the doctor is power- 
less. A cut finger is not a serious complaint 
though probably a very painful one ; and he has 

Prison Trades. 205 

no alternative but to send him back. This in 
itself is considered as malingering ; and the poor 
devil is brought before the Governor for idleness 
and feigning sickness, and is sentenced to one 
day's bread and water as a first offence. Should 
this " crime " be repeated, he gets an increased 
punishment, and is either flogged or sent to the 
punishment cells. This is no overcoloured descrip- 
tion. A prisoner in such a case has neither justice 
nor any means of proving the injustice. Any 
report, however garbled, is necessarily believed; 
and if corroboration is necessary,- a dozen turnkeys, 
from every part of the prison, will come forward, 
and emphatically endorse their comrade's charge. 
The prisoner meanwhile is not allowed to speak, 
and if he did would not be believed, and, as often 
happens with the lower classes, is actuated by fear, 
which only increases his apparent guilt. 

It is not the prison authorities that can be held 
responsible for this burlesque on justice, for more 
humane, honourable, and just men than the 
Governor and Surgeon of Coldbath Fields do not 
exist. It is the vile system that gives no discre- 
tionary power to these officials, and considers that 
a man once overtaken in a fault ought forthwith 

2o6 Eighteen Moniks' Imprisonment. 

to be treated like a dog ; and, not satisfied with 
this inhuman conclusion, deputes the carrying out 
of their system to a set of ignorant, cringing, 
underpaid warders and turnkeys — in many cases 
ill-conditioned by nature, and brutal, eye-serving, 
and untrustworthy by habit. 

One victim of this cruel system, that was under- 
going fifteen months' imprisonment, worn out by 
work, x:onstant reports, punishment, and illness, 
and who was refused permission to revert to 
oakum-picking in preference to remaining in the 
laundry, went back to his solitary cell one Saturday 
night, and in sheer desperation hanged himself; 
and Sunday morning found him suspended by his 
bed-straps from the bell-handle, cold and stone 
dead. Another lad of i8, who had been reported 
for talking, and sentenced to bread and water, 
took it so much to heart that on his cell door being 
opened about 2 P.M. he rushed past the turnkey, 
and threw himself over the railings. He was 
picked up insensible and taken to the hospital, 
when, incredible as it may appear, he was found 
to be absolutely uninjured, although he had 
jumped from a fifth story and landed on a stone 
.floor. On his dinner tin the unhappy youth had 

Prison Trades. 207 

scratched, " Dear father and mother, brothers and 
sisters I wish you all good-bye and have 3 days 
cells and 3 days bread and water and pushed 
about. From A. Burke.'' The lad was thereupon 
brought before the visiting justices, and in con- 
sideration of his youth only got seven days in the 
punishment cells. 

It cannot be denied that great malingering and 
deception are practised by prisoners, which neces- 
sitates the greatest vigilance on the part of the 
officials. Nothing is commoner than for them to 
pretend attempted suicide ; and instances are of 
frequent occurrence where a man, having calculated 
the time to a nicety, proceeds to hang himself as 
his door is being opened. These gentlemen are 
almost invariably flogged. 

On the other hand, it is equally certain that 
justice is not meted out in the disposal of every- 
day offences. Discipline demands that the warders 
must be supported ; and even if they are known 
to be lying or grossly exaggerating, " the system " 
necessitates their being believed. If, therefore, 
this humble stratum of humanity is supposed to be 
entitled to a particle of fair play, it calls for the 
immediate attention of Sir Edmund Du Cane. I 

2o8 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

would suggest the advisability of an experienced 
ex parte official being daily present at these orderly- 
room farces, who could watch the cases and weigh 
the evidence. Until this is done a prisoner has 
about as much prospect of justice as had Arabi 
before the arrival of Mr. Broadley. In this rhumJ 
of justice as administered at Coldbath Fields I 
must be permitted to disown all reflections on the 
Governor, for whom I have the profoundest respect. 
It is the system that I blame, and sympathize 
with a conscientious man being compelled by 
regulation to conform to its usages. 

About eighty men are employed as tailors ; of 
these the best workmen are employed in the shop, 
the remainder doing piecework in their respective 
cells. They make the entire clothing for officers 
and prisoners for this and many other prisons. 
The work is exceptionally good — a fact not to be 
wondered at, considering they count amongst their 
ranks journeymen and cutters from many of the 
principal West-end houses. The basket-making is 
exceptionally good, and to a great extent made to 
the order of the leading shops ; and the specimens 
of neat work I have seen quite surprised me. 
Mat-making is a severe type of hard labour. The 

Prison Trades, 209 

daily task is one yard, and men who have been 
employed at it have assured me that it is very 
hard work. The mat-room is fitted with twelve 
looms for the make of the best doormats. The 
Government has a contract with Treloar, a shop- 
keeper in Ludgate ; and as he is supposed to have 
a large connection, it may be assumed that repu- 
tedly honest feet are constantly being brought into 
contact with the work of dishonest hands. 

The bakery is worth a visit, if only to see the 
mountains of bread in course of preparation. In 
this place about twenty-four men are constantly 
employed putting in or taking out loaves frbm 
two huge ovens. All the bread, whether white or 
brown, is made in separate loaves of the average 
size of a penny roll ; and when it is added that 
some 4000 of these are consumed daily, represent- 
ing a gross weight of over half a ton, in Coldbath 
Fields alone (to say nothing of Holloway Gaol 
and the House of Detention, which are also 
supplied from here), some idea of the proportions 
of " our bakery " may be arrived at. The kitchen 
is, if anything, still more interesting. I have never 
seen anything to approach the size of the vats and 
utensils, unless, perhaps, in a pantomime scene 

2IO Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

representing Gorgeybuster the giant's cuisine. 
Everything is here cooked by steam, and excellent 
the cookery is. The soup, which is supplied three 
times a week, is exceptionally good. It finds its 
way from the kitchen in enormous tubs, and on 
arrival at the various wards is transferred into 
greasy, half-washed tins ; still it does not lose its 
excellence, and I invariably enjoyed the soup. 
The usual amount made on soup days is about 
200 gallons, and the daily quantity of potatoes 
consumed about 7 cwt. As may be supposed, 
certain farces and abuses have crept into this 
department. Specimens of the cookery are daily 
laid out for the inspection of the surgeon and 
Governor. If they should, however, omit this 
essential form, it is amply compensated for by the 
voracity of some of the head warders, who fre- 
quently sacrifice inclination at the shrine of duty 
and make a substantial meal during the tasting 
process. Beef-tea for the use of the patients is 
also made here — a brew that would be considerably 
strengthened by being doctored in the hospital 
kitchen instead of where it is. A pound of beef is 
the liberal allowance for each pint of beef-tea. 
The usual custom that prevails, however, is for the 

Prison Trades. 211 

beef to be eaten ^ by those who ought to know 
better, and for Colonial meat to be substituted for 
it. I assert this advisedly, and offer it as the pos- 
sible solution of the knotty problem of why com- 
plaints are of such' frequent occurrence. Home 
Office papers, please copy ! Despite all the assertions 
to the contrary, I freely confess I never found fault 
with the prison fare ; and if one could keep one's 
thoughts from wandering to " Bignon's " or the 
" Caf^ Helder," one could thoroughly enjoy the 
liberal fare. I experienced this dietary, pure and 
simple, for two or three months, so may be fairly 
considered capable of forming an opinion. 

The carpenters' and smiths' shops call for no special 
notice beyond the custom in vogue, whereby all 
men are carefully searched before returning to 
their cells. This is, no doubt, an essential cere- 
mony, as turnkeys' scalping-knives, in the shape of 
chisels, might occasionally go astray, not forgetting 
the modest pencil, the most treasured possession 
of Her Majesty's prisoners. 

The oakum shed finds employment for about a 
dozen men. In it piles of old rope are being con- 
tinually chopped up, weighed, and tied into bundles 
varying from one to three pounds in weight. I 

212 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

have often seen van loads of this apparently worth- 
less rope discharging cargo at this shed, and was 
surprised to see the same though quite unrecognis- 
able rope leaving the prison a week or two after 
converted into the finest oakum, to be again utilized 
for the manufacture of rope. 

The paper room is the most original and inte- 
resting of the various institutions in this original 
and interesting place. I do not know if it lies in 
the route through which visitors are conducted, but 
if it does it will repay a minute inspection. Into 
this room the sweepings of the Houses of Parlia- 
ment and the various Government Offices in the 
United Kingdom find their way. All old tele- 
grams, after being kept six months at the General 
Post Office, are sent here to be destroyed, to say 
nothing of old ledgers, directories, blue books, 
almanacks, &c. ; in short, a heterogeneous mass of 
things useful and things useless, all higgle-de- 
piggledy, to be sorted and torn into small pieces, 
and eventually converted into paper by Alderman 
Waterlow and his sons (these last named indi- 
viduals do their share of the work at home). 
Amongst this pile the most valuable discoveries 
are of daily occurrence ; and articles priceless in 

Prison Trades. 213 

the estimation of a prisoner, such as pen-knives,, 
boxes of cigarettes, butt-ends of cigars, writing 
paper, envelopes, novels, coins, pencils, and postage 
stamps, are hourly exhumed. About 200 men are 
employed in this department, whose duty is to 
tear up into small atoms a certain amount of waste 
paper daily. Of the above number some 20 of 
the most trustworthy (i.e., those who are the 
greatest adepts in the art of secreting property 
about their persons) are employed in overhauling 
the supply, and delivering up contraband goods — 
that they may not require — before passing it to be 
manipulated by their less trustworthy confreres. 
Great precautions are supposed to be taken against 
the possibility of a prisoner appropriating any of 
this "treasure trove," and they are each and all 
subjected to a minute examination before returning 
to their cells. That this search meets all the re- 
quirements of the case may be gleaned from the 
quantities of things that find their way into the 
prison. I was never without a capital pen-knife, 
and when I lost mine (or when it was stolen), as I 
did on more than one occasion, I never had any 
difficulty in procuring another. The stationery 
that I used for my " private " correspondence was 

214 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

-invariably House of Commons paper, and, except- 
ing perhaps being almost imperceptibly soiled, was 
as good as new. The traffic in tobacco through 
this agency is by no means inconsiderable, and 
before I had made my personal arrangements for 
a weekly supply I have frequently exchanged food 
for cigarettes ; but they were far from satisfactory, 
and I found them infinitely better adapted for 
choking than chewing. Butt-ends of cigars, too, 
find a ready market ; but at this point I invariably 
drew the line, and preferred — inveterate smoker 
though I am — to forego the luxury of chewing a 
cigar that had been half-masticated by some scor- 
butic quill-driver. The special trade that I was 
put to was worsted work. I was officially described 
as a " needleman," a title I had more claim to than 
may appear at first sight. Needlemen are em- 
ployed either in knitting stockings, making shirts, 
or darning blankets, shirts, or socks. I had the 
choice of any of these delectable pursuits, and 
selected the latter as the most easy of evasion. 
Darning burglars' stockings, I admit, sounds a 
humble and unsavoury vocation ; but considering 
they are boiled for about three days before passing 
into the needlemen's hands, any antipathy on the 

Prison Trades. 215 

subject must be attributed to sheer prejudice. 
Other motives also influenced me ; it was far the 
lightest and most elastic job, and a reserve bundle 
I always kept in stock did me good service on the 
thimble rig principle. The allotted task was 15 
pair a day at least, but thanks to my " reserve " (a 
far greater success than Mr. Cardwell's), and 
" auxiliaries " of other kinds, I found that two pair 
and sometimes three a day met all the " require- 
ments of the service." The nature of my wo'rk 
amusingly exemplified Locke's theory of the 
"Association of Ideas," and I never took up a 
stocking without having vividly presented to my 
mind the scene in " Faust," where Marguerite is 

2i6 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

bound to lame the wearer. I speak from personal 
knowledge, for one afternoon I experimentalized 
with one of my specimen repairs and blistered my 
foot for a month. I often had qualms of con- 
science as I saw the numerous men that were 
limping round at exercise — the number of whom 
appeared to increase in proportion to the quantity 
of stockings I darned — and I could not help 
feeling that I was the unintentional cause of all 
this misery. My deplorable incapacity in the Berlin 
wool and fancy line was once nearly getting me 
into a terrible scrape. Amongst the pedestrians 
that exercised at the same time as myself was an 
ex-convict and desperado, who prided himself on 
the recital of his past experiences, and who had 
undergone penal servitude in Australia and Eng- 
land almost without interruption during the past 
20 years. He was a Hercules in appearance, 
addicted to the use of his fists on the slightest 
provocation, and about the last man whose suscep- 
tibilities one would care to offend. On his arrival 
some twelve months previously he had laid down 
some wholesome rules for the guidance of those 
whom it might concern. " I don't wants any 
'umbug as long as I'm 'ere " — this was the burthen 

Prison Trades. 217 

of his instructions. "I'll do my work as well as 
I'm able, and you'll alius find me willing and 
respec'ful-like ; but if any of you attempts to bully 
or 'umbug me I'll cut your throats from ear to ear.'' 
Conceive, then, my feelings on seeing this amiable 
creature one morning struggling with his stocking. 
A glance convinced me it was my handiwork. 
With a terrible oath, and livid with rage, he ex- 
pressed a wish that he only knew the chap that 
had " fixed " his stocking. With an equally fer- 
vent but inaudible prayer I sincerely hoped he 
never would. 



The unfortunate contretemps that had in- 
directly associated me with the dismissal of a 
warder caused me to be looked upon for some 
time by his confreres with considerable distrust ; it 
was generally understood, however, that I was not 
a man that could be bullied with impunity, and 
would -unhesitatingly have reported any attempt of 
the kind. I attribute this diagnosis of my charac- 
ter to my bearing from the first. I made it a rule 
to be scrupulously courteous to the humblest turn- 
key if he showed an inclination to treat me civilly, 
whilst I ignored the position of those who attemp- 
ted to hector over me, and convinced them by my 
manner that I looked on them as my inferiors. 
When I reflect on the bearing of the various 
officials towards other prisoners, I am at a loss to 
understand how I was permitted the latitude I was. 

" The Outer World." 219 

I can only attribute it to that moral and indefinable 
effect certain men of birth and education, and 
naturally arrogant in disposition, do and always 
will exercise, no matter how temporarily circum- 
stanced, over their inferiors. This bearing asserted 
itself without my knowledge, and I had my likes 
and dislikes from the highest to the lowest. Thus 
I liked and respected the Governor, and ignored 
his deputy ; I liked one chaplain, and cordially 
despised the other ; I liked and venerated the kind 
old surgeon, which would be exaggerating my 
feelings regarding his assistant. None of my 
antipathies could probably instance any absolute 
case against me, yet they were respectively aware 
of my estimate of their merits. To remove this 
feeling of distrust amongst the turnkeys was by no 
means easy. I had to watch my opportunity to 
get into conversation, and then carefully to 
smuggle in "a word in season." This necessary 
formula was not unattended with risk, and I had 
to discover the disposition of my man and not say 
the wrong word in the wrong place. My know- 
ledge of human nature gave me a considerable 
advantage in these negociations ; it was like 
playing blind-man's-buff with one eye exposed. 

2 20 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

and I soon had the measure of every official in the 
prison. Some nuts I admit to have found very 
difficult to crack, but they eventually yielded to 
treatment ; others were hopeless cases, and some I 
labelled " dangerous " and carefully avoided. I 
had, however, attained my object ; and wherever I 
went, or wherever I was located, I was always 
within " measurable distance " of one ministering 
angel, and often two. The principal cause of my 
unbroken success may be attributed to my having 
no confidants — my right hand literally knew not 
what my left was doing ; and Jones, the turnkey, 
who lived in fear and trembling that Brown would 
suspect his trafficking with me, was a' source of 
hourly anxiety to Brown, who dreaded Jones 
getting wind of his kindly interest in my affairs. 
I always assured these respective worthies that 
they had nothing to fear from me if they would 
only exercise ordinary discretion on their own 
parts, and as I was above the weakness of carry- 
ing about a fagot of pencils or cigars, it is hardly 
to be wondered at that diplomacy triumphed. 
Through one channel or another I heard every- 
thing that was going on, and was on more than- 
one occasion amused by having repeated to me 

" The Outer World!' 221 

the special cautions that were issued regarding me. 
The Deputy Governor was no friend of mine ; 
indeed I should be doing him an injustice if I 
omitted to state that he disliked me as cordially as 
I did him. He was of that pronounced military 
type associated in my mind with the Fifth West 
Indian Regiment, and suggested the idea of 
having been promoted from the adjutantcy of that 
distinguished corps to a company in a non-pur- 
chase regiment during the Cardwellite era. A 
switch, and an almost brimless pot hat, worn on 
one side, completed the picture of this typical 
sabreur. He apparently took a considerable 
interest in my affairs, and frequently asked ques- 
tions, -and gave wholesome advice to the turnkeys 
regarding their intercourse with me. " Have 
nothing to do with that man " was the burthen of 
his song, all of which was invariably repeated to 
me. His duties assimilated very much with those 
of a garrison Quarter-master, and he was supposed 
to poke about and discover dirt in impossible, 
places ; occasionally, however, they resembled 
those of a boatswain in H.M. navy ; as, for 
example, at the flogging of garrotters, and the 
birching of little boys, when he counted the 

222 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

strokes. I had to be careful of this individual, 
for I am confident he had his suspicions about my 
little games ; but it was the old story of the iron- 
clad charging the outrigger, and with all the 
facilities at his disposal he was no match for me in 
a matter of finesse. To such a state of perfection 
had I now brought my arrangements, that every- 
thing of interest was at once known to me ; and 
the hanging of Dr. Lamson, Prince Leopold's 
wedding, and the bombardment of Alexandria, all 
assisted in their turn to relieve the monotony of 
my existence. Nor was my system confined to 
gloomy Clerkenwell,' but penetrated into the 
sanctity of the more fashionable Belgravia; and 
conversations of peculiar interest to me, that took 
place at table or in the privacy of the closet, and 
that I had a motive for hearing, were repeated to 
me within a day with a minuteness of detail that 
would astonish the gossipers. This is no idle 
boast, as documents and dates in my ppssession 
can and may testify. In short I was in telephonic 
communication with the outer world (registered 
number 594). But a master hand was re- 
quired to keep this huge machinery in order, 
which, no sooner was it removed, than it crumbled 

" The Outer World." 

to pieces. Within a week after my final departure, 
papers began to be picked up, and a scientific 
elaboration, incapable of detection, was degraded 
to the level and shared the same fate as the 
commonest pickpocket's ruse. The moral that is 
to be gleaned from all this is : If you wish a thing 
done well, do it yourself I trust the sequel to my 
departure above narrated may afford a melan- 
choly satisfaction to those interested, and convince 
them that no extra precautions are necessary to 
prevent the repetition of these innovations ; the 
rules in force are amply suflicient for the ordinary 
prisoner. But my constitution, suffering from this 
severe strain, and assisted considerably by fever 
and ague, began to give way, and led to a change 
in my everyday life. In short I was ill, and ad- 
mitted into hospital. As I ascended the stairs 
that led from the worsted wards I had the con- 
solation of feehng I should not be forgotten. I 
had indeed left my mark ; I had crippled half the 

There are many abuses that might be changed 
with advantage, and which I cannot do better 
than point out, in hopes that somebody in 
authority will read, mark, and inwardly digest 

2 24 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

them. On each cell door is a card setting forth 
your name, sentence, and full particulars. This 
placarding of one's name is surely useless, as one 
is never called by it, and the only objeet it appears 
to serve is to enable prisoners to discover all about 
one another. My cell was once situated on the 
high road to the chapel, and every malefactor 
en route to worship made it his business to master 
my history. This surely is unfair, and hardly con- 
templated by the authorities. If it is absolutely 
essential that one's name is to be placarded, why 
not inside instead of outside the door, as was the cus- 
tom before the Government took over the prisons ? 
Too much at present is left to the turnkeys. 
They are, indeed, the channel of communication 
and the only official with whom the ordinary 
prisoner comes in contact. The chief warder 
deputes details to the principal warders of divi- 
sions, who in their turn confide them to the warders 
of wards, who again leave the carrying out to the 
turnkeys of flights. It is not fair that so much 
should be left to these assistants — which, despite 
any assertion to the contrary, is the case — and who, 
though counting in their ranks many highly respect- 
able men, have also some desperate rascals — vin- 

''The Outer World." 225 

dictive, deceitful, and utterly unfit for any discre- 
tionary powers, and who would stick at no degree 
of brutality if capable of being indulged in with 

The use of the same baths by prisoners and men 
previous to medical examination cannot be too 
strongly deprecated. That a clean man should be 
compelled to risk contagion with one suffering from 
itch or covered with vermin is as filthy as it is 
disgraceful. With all the space at their disposal 
the wonder is a swimming bath has never com- 
mended itself. 

Every warder in charge of a ward has a prisoner 
allotted to him, who performs such necessary duties 
as cleaning his office and assisting him in his 
multifarious ret^irns. These men are generally 
selected from the clerk or tradesman class, and 
have great facilities for knowing everything that 
passes through the office. I have found, indeed, 
that they know and hear a great deal too much. 

Thus a descriptive return containing every 
particular about one from one's youth up, and sup- 
posed to be a confidential document, is carefully 
studied by these cleaners, and facts likely to be of 
general interest — especially about " celebrities " — 

2 26 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

go the round of the prison. These documents 
should either not be in the warders' charge, or if 
so, should be carefully locked up. In my opinion 
they would be more appropriately assigned to the 
care of the principal' warders of divisions. These 
cleaners, if dishonestly or greedily inclined, appro- 
priate considerably more than their share of the 
daily rations. In one ward I seldom, or ever, got 
my supply of Monday bacon, which had either 
been filched or bitten in half ; and as the original 
supply does not exceed the proportions of a 
postage stamp, it can ill afford this wholesale 

I cannot leave the subject of " warders " without 
bearing my testimony to their excellency as a 
class — I specially refer to those in charge of wards, 
and not to their washerwomen and plumbers and 
glaziers confreres. The multiplicity of returns they 
have to render daily, the alterations, however 
trivial, that are constantly occurring and have to 
be noted, and the serious consequences attending 
the slightest error or omission, all combine to make 
their duties and responsibilities more arduous than 
any class of men I have seen. Their pay for this, 
moreover, is so small — 29s. a week, with a gradual 

''The Outer World." 227 

rise — ^that many otherwise excellent men shrink 
from accepting promotion. The colour-sergeants 
of the army might learn a lesson from these war- 
ders, and if the " descriptive return " in use, and 
which supplies every information, was substituted 
for the ponderous ledgers, small books, defaulter 
sheets, &c., as used in the army, it would come like 
the Waverley pen — 

As a blessing and boon to sergeants and men. 

Q 2 



On my admission into hospital I was at first 
sent to the convalescent ward, a huge room devoted 
to light and unpronounced cases. It accommo- 
dates 40 patients, and the entire furniture may be 
roughly estimated as consisting of 40 beds, 40 
tables, 40 chairs, one shovel and tongs, and one 
thermometer. The beds are ranged round the 
entire room, the tables and chairs a yard apart 
forming two rows down the centre ; the thermo- 
meter is suspended from a beam, the shovel is 
chained to one fire-place, and the tongs to the 
other. A high desk and a still higher stool com- 
plete the furniture of this singular room. The 
fixtures are of a more unique kind ; at one end are 
the cabinets, at the other the lavatories. These 
are simply boarded partitions, extending only 
about three feet from the ground — so constructed 

" The Convalescent Ward:' 229 

as to make it absolutely impossible to conceal more 
than one-third of the body, however engaged ; 
thus admirably adapted for observation, but 
utterly regardless of privacy or decency, and re- 
volting in their proximity to a room devoted to 
convalescents. Along the walls here and there are 
chains hanging. These are the alarm bells for 
communicating with the outer yard in case of fire, 
mutiny, or other emergency. At each corner are 
the padded cells — grim, sombre constructions — 
admirably adapted for deadening sound, and fitted 
with every appliance for the restraint of violent 
and demented criminals. The proximity of these 
cells is very awful, and the shrieks that occasionally 
emanate from them, and the sights I have seen, 
would have filled me with horror six months pre- 
viously. The treatment of convalescents is as 
original as can well be conceived. The day is 
mapped out into the following portions, which are 
observed with a punctuality seldom attained except 
by chronometers : — 

6 A.M. Rise, and roll up your bed. 

6,30 „ Breakfast. 

1 1 „ Visit by surgeon. 

12 (noon). Dinner. 

230 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

3 to 4 P.M. Exercise. 

5 „ Supper. 

6 „ Bed. 

The dietary is the simple prison fare, although 
many (I amongst others) are on what is known as 
ordinary diet — i.e., cocoa, mutton broth, and a chop 
— and others on low diet, consisting of tea, bread- 
and-butter, beef-tea, rice pudding, &c. Discipline 
is little or nothing relaxed here; indeed the 
general system is evidently based on what is con- 
sidered applicable to confirmed patients not suffer- 
ing from any acute disease, and lunatics real and 
pretended. Shortly after rising a shout of "Physic!" 
causes a rush to get the first pull at one's respective 
medicines ; and as the same mug does duty for 
everything, and as time is an object, it has been 
found that a dose of hop mixture is not improved 
if augmented by the dregs of the black draught 
left by one's predecessor. Being always up and 
washed whilst my brother-reprobates were still 
dozing, I was invariably the first to benefit by a 
clean mug, and devoted the next few minutes to 
watching the frowsy cluster of depravity, half 
dressed, half awake, and just out of bed, drink or 
throw away their doses as opportunity permitted. 

" The Convalescent Ward." 231 

Although strictly prohibited, many of these wretches 
usually turned in with their stockings on, and in 
some instances with their trowsers ; and on rising, 
having previously assumed boots and vest, pro- 
ceeded to wash. I minutely watched this ceremony, 
and seldom detected the slightest desire to do 
more than make clean the extreme outer rim of 
their cups and platters, extending — humanly 
speaking — from, the hand to the elbow, and from 
the chin to the ear. Although in many respects 
preferable to the prison proper, this convalescent 
ward was one of the severest ordeals I had to 
undergo. I would not have missed it for the 
world, nevertheless, to sleep, live, move, and 
have one's being amongst thirty or forty pick- 
pockets, idiots, burglars, and lunatics, implies an 
experience that baffles description. At 6.30 the 
advent of two wash-tubs, containing respectively 
cocoa and gruel, announces breakfast, which, being 
carefully measured into tins, is consumed in an 
incredibly short time, and devoured with the 
voracity never to be seen except in menageries or 
prisons. It must be remembered that the room 
contains specimens of some of the sharpest pick- 
pockets in London, and experts at every dodge 

232 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

for the deceiving of their fellows, compelled by 
circumstances to be huddled together, and relieved 
from the isolation of separate cells that makes 
them comparatively powerless for mischief. It 
cannot be wondered at, then, that the rules require, 
if anything, to be more stringent ; but all the 
vigilance of the sharpest warder is powerless, and 
no two eyes capable of seeing or preventing the 
wholesale exchange of food that now begins. If 
the warder is looking this way, a loaf will change 
hands for a mug of gruel in the twinkling of an 
eye ; if he suddenly turns round, advantage is 
taken of it to swap something on the other side ; 
and at dinner hour especially, I have seen bread, 
potatoes, and lumps of meat flying about with a 
rapidity, precision of aim, and a profound silence, 
only disturbed by the " flop, flop," as they reached 
the various hands, that would have done credit to 
the most expert Oriental -Whitechapel juggler. 
'After breakfast everyone is supposed to remain at 
his table without interruption the entire day, except 
during exercise, and time is only to be beguiled by 
reading such wholesome literature as " The Con- 
verted Burglar, and how he did it," as the chaplain 
may be graciously pleased to supply. At the side 

" The Convalescent Ward." 233 

of each table is considerately placed a handful of 
fibre, which is purely optional whether picked or 
no. I attribute its presence indeed to the associa- 
tion that invariably exists in official minds between 
hospitals, chapels, and mortuaries, and only capable 
of being dealt with on the principle that a certain 
old gentleman " finds some mischief still for con- 
valescent hands to do." 

Happily no one really is ill in the convalescent 
ward (he would then be removed to the hospital), 
or it would be absolutely impossible to bear the 
incessant fuss from officials and filth from the 
prisoners that never cease day or night. Not 
twenty minutes elapse during the twenty-four 
hours that someone is not passing through ; and 
as every approach is barricaded and double locked, 
the rattle of keys, the hobnailed boots of head 
warders pounding over the floor, and the shouting 
and yelling; and the necessity of " sitting up " to 
your table as they pass through, make it almost 
unbearable for even a convalescent. In addition 
to this is the absolute necessity of keeping one's 
eye on one's next-tabled neighbour. If you turn 
round during a meal, a piece of food disappears, 
and any trifle you may happen to possess cannot 

234 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

be . considered your own from one moment to 
another. I had a worsted needle that I prized 
considerably ; it fulfilled the duties of a toothpick, 
and had been my constant companion and com- 
forter for weeks. It was, indeed, my most cherished 
possession. I usually kept it inside my cap, and 
my cap outside my head ; here at least it was safe, 
but one day, in a fit of absence, I crossed over 
the room. On my return I discovered that my 
cap had been rifled and the needle gone. 

An old man (though only one of many) added 
considerably to my burthen. He -took a great 
fancy to me — or my food — and seldom lost a chance 
of persecuting me. He was never without a 
pocket-handkerchief stuffed full of crusts, chop 
bone^ suet pudding, or any garbage he could find, 
firmly clutched by day, and placed under his 
pillow at night. He was by way of being a 
gentleman, and said, with some degre^ of truth, 
that he was a general officer (he was at present 
undergoing three months' retirement for stealing a 
sovereign. from a sixpenny lodging-house keeper). 
He approached one with the blandest smile, hoped 
you were not seriously ill, and asked how your 
appetite was. This, indeed, was the burthen of 

" The Convalescent Ward." 235 

his song : — If you told him it was bad, he begged 
you to kindly reserve your fragments for him ; if 
you said it was good, he stole what he could. The 
result was consequently the same ; and so to get 
rid of him I promised to help him when I could. 
This nasty old man slept two beds from me, and 
often during the night, "when everything was 
still," I have watched him unpack his treasure, 
and, selecting certain of the stalest pieces for 
immediate use, carefully tie up and restore the 
bundle to beneath his pillow or mattress. 

This hoarding and stealing of food was by no 
means confined to the " General " ; it was, indeed, 
so much in vogue that periodical raids were made 
on the beds, and even inside the shirts men were 
wearing, which invariably resulted in the exhuma- 
tion of sundry delicacies. So strong was the ruling 
passion that one wretch with half a lung, who was 
allowed extras which he never consumed, rather, 
than part with a crumb, would hide chops and 
even rice pudding in his pocket-handkerchief and. 
towel, or secrete them in his bedding or about his 

That food was a drug in the market may be 
reasonably assumed ; and if further proof was 

236 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

wanting, the reckless waste that took place after 
meals would amply provide it. The supplies of 
soup, porridge, cocoa, and gruel were invariably in 
excess of the regulation personal allowance, Dis- 
cipline, however, demanded that so much and no 
more should be given to each man ; and I have 
seen gallons of capital soup and cocoa thrown 
down the sink daily that many a starving wretch 
outside would gratefully have devoured. I do not 
blame the hospital warders for this custom so 
much as the kitchen officials for either sending too 
much or adding too much water, for experience 
had taught them that it was equally dangerous to 
give more or less than the regulation allowance, 
and that they would probably be reported by one 
thief, if another thief got more than himself ; and 
it was a common occurrence for vagrants who had 
never heard of arrowroot before coming to Cold- 
bath to complain of the thinness of their nightly 
allowance as " unfit to be eaten." I once suggested 
to the head hospital warder (but my proposal was 
never carried out) that the staple food of discon- 
tented vagrant invalids should be treacle and 
brimstone, and that if they complained of their diet, 
the treacle should be omitted by way of variety. 

" The Convalescent Ward'.' 237 

I don't know what is the annual expense of food, 
fuel, and gas in the various prisons, but I con- 
fidently assert that an immense saving would result 
if the coal at present issued ad lib. for the use of 
the warders was as carefully weighed as the pri- 
soners' various allowances. These turnkeys, whose 
supply of coal at home is probably limited to half 
a hundred a week, cannot here do without fires 
banked up a foot high night and day in the various 
corridors ; and I have often been awakened in 
various parts of the prison by the shovelling and 
piling on of coals on even temperate nights. I 
should like no better billet than to be appointed 
contractor for the coal and potatoes used and 
wasted in Her Majesty's prisons. 

Another means of keeping down the present 
excessive expenses connected with prisoners' keep 
and warders' coals would be the adoption of the 
sensible course pursued in France, whereby the 
clothes of murdered men and the instruments with 
which the murders have been committed, if not 
claimed within three months, are sold by public 
auction. This might be supplemented by the sale 
of the articles found in cabs and elsewhere, often 
comprising objects of considerable value, and at 

238 Eighteen Months', Imprisonment. 

present taken to Scotland Yard and never claimed. 
It will possibly be urged that all this would be 
opposed to English tastes and ideas ; and yet it is 
an incontrovertible fact that the principal purchasers 
at these " art" sales in Paris are English and Ameri- 
cans, that the price of articles which have belonged 
to notorious criminals generally rules very high, 
and that the ghastly relics for the most part find 
their way to England. 

Exercise was a most ridiculous ceremony ; the 
tables were pushed back, and everyone proceeded 
round and round in two rings. A scene I once 
saw at some theatre, representing the "casual 
ward " of a workhouse, more nearly resembles it 
than anything I can think of. 

Amongst my numerous companions in this 
delectable sport was a celebrated pickpocket; who 
was good enough on my invitation to show me 
" how it's done." My request, indeed, appeared to 
flatter his vanity so much that on more than one 
occasion, when I was not thinking of his particular 
talent, he has removed my pocket-handkerchief, 
and politely returned it as if pretending to pick it 
up. I once saw him bring his science to bear on a 
thoughtless warder, who, through ignorance pro- 

" The Convalescent Ward." 239 

bably of his special talent, had asked him to brush 
him down. A wink from the thief drew my atten- 
tion to his movements, and I watched him with 
profound interest. For some seconds he confined 
himself to the legitimate brushing, but as he 
worked round and the arm of his victim was 
slightly raised, with the unemployed hand he 
deliberately opened the warder's pouch, took out a 
piece of tobacco, and then quietly re-buttoned it ; 
with another smudge of the brush and "I think 
that'll do, sir," he resumed his place. I wouldn't 
have betrayed him for the world ; indeed, I gave 
him some bread for the exhibition. 

It was pretty generally known that I was very 
green, and that I was anxious to see everything ; 
indeed, I never lost an opportunity of conversing 
with everyone capable of telling me an adventure ; 
so that one way and another I heard a* lot, much 
of which I shall hereafter narrate. 

Another oddity with whom I was associated 
was a kleptomaniac. Nothing was safe from him, 
and his eye was as quick as his hand. He might 
be seen at all hours sneaking about, thrusting his 
arm between mattresses and occasionally into 
people's pockets. He was undergoing two years' 

240 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

imprisonment for stealing two ounces of tobacco. So 
impossible was it for him to keep his hands from 
picking and stealing that it was frequently neces- 
sary to lock him into a separate cell for weeks at a 
time, only to be released after piteous appeals and 
promises not to offend again, which were invariably 
broken on the first opportunity. He was as nimble 
as a cat, and occasionally gave an acrobatic per- 
formance on the sly, The poor wretch was 
admittedly an imbecile, and it seems inexplicable 
how he ever incurred the punishment he received, 
though he was probably happier at Coldbath than 
he was ever likely to be elsewhere. One day he 
could not be found, and after the hue-and-cry had 
been raised and the prison and grounds' scoured, 
he was found concealed in a tank on a portion of 
the roof.~ What he could have wanted there is 
beyond comprehension, for he dreaded the water 
and never washed unless compelled. 

I've heard a great deal of prisoners escaping, and 
from the penal establishments it is unquestionably 
practicable. At a prison conducted, however, on the 
Coldbath Fields' principle such an idea is simply 
absurd. I do not refer to the impediments of locks 
and doors so much as to the full blaze of light system 



' 1;!;; 

" The Convalescent Ward" 241 

along the corridors. The constant countings, too, 
and patrols night and day would at once discover 
the truant, to say nothing of the 20-feet wall that 
surrounds the building. I "have occasionally read 
descriptions of escapes from the Bastile, where 
prisoners with a yard of rope, a spare shirt, and an 
oyster knife, have burrowed and scaled and got 
clean off. I am not in a position to dispute these 
assertions, but I will willingly undertake to provide 
the most expert acrobat with a sack fulL of ropes, 
crowbars, and Hnen, in his cell, and stake my 
existence that he does not proceed five feet beyond 
his premises without detection. The escape of a 
notorious burglar from Millbank Convict Prison 
last year gave rise at the time to considerable dis- 
cussion amongst the officials at Coldbath Fields. 
That a man should be able to break through the 
roof of a cell during the early hours of morning 
without creating a disturbance seems incredible, and 
had the corridors had the same acoustic properties 
as those at Coldbath, would have been simply 
impossible without collusion. So extraordinarily is 
sound conveyed in these vast and barren tunnels 
that every word spoken during the night at the 
other end of the passage is distinctly audible, 

242 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

whereas conversation close by is almost unintelli- 
gible, so great is the echo. I think Mr. Burglar 
Lovell may congratulate himself that he had not 
been relegated to Coldbath Fields, for he would most 
assuredly have derived less benefit there from his 
sixty feet of rope than he appears to have done at 
Millbank. A prisoner attempting to escape forfeits 
all the time he may have completed of his sen- 
tence — a sufficient deterrent for a sane, man ! A 
very disgusting adjunct to the convalescent ward is 
" Itch Bay," and though comparatively distinct, is 
actually next door, and leads from it. It is devoted 
to those filthy creatures who, on admission, are 
found to abound in vermin, or who, after months in 
prison — as can be verified — have caught the disease 
(according to my theory) by using the universal 
bath. The treatment of this complaint can hardly 
be said to be a pleasant, although undoubtedly a 
very effectual one. A man is taken to " the bay," 
made to strip off all his clothes, put into a separate 
cell, and smeared with a thick coating of mercurial 
ointment, and left to soak for three days at least, 
and often longer. His bedding may best be de- 
scribed as an ointment mattress, with " blankets to 
match," so saturated is everything in this fearful 

" The Convalescent Ward." 243 

quarter, the stench from which pervades the pas- 
sage, and works into the convalescent ward. I used 
almost daily to see these loathsome objects, either 
before admission or after three days' retirement, 
and it is difficult to say which is the most revolting. 
On admission, and previous to treatment, I have 
seen three or four of these unclean things waiting 
to be admitted. During this time — often an hour 
and more — they sit in the convalescent ward, use 
the furniture, and circulate with the others. This 
surely is wrong, and may justly be laid to the 
charge of negligent warders ! On leaving they are 
again taken through the ward, devoid of all cover- 
ing but the saturated blanket, and conducted to a 
bath. This bath is a fixture in the hospital kitchen. 
Yes, the itch bath in the principal prison of civilized 
London is in the fiospital kitchen ! I have seen 
these social pariahs splashing about within a few 
feet of the kitchen fire, whilst a rice pudding was 
being made — an appetizing accompaniment to the 
preparation of human food. This gross outrage on 
cleanliness must fairly be charged to the Home 
Office people ; and as the kitchen is situated in the 
main thoroughfare, and passed through almost daily 
by visiting justices or prison commissioners, it is 

R 2 

244 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

clearly no official's business to point it out — and if 
a surgeon represented it he would probably be told 
to mind his own business. This is in conformity 
with prison usage, and anyone mentioning, or 
taking apparent interest in a trifle not actually 
connected with his special department, is at once 
suspected of some sinister motive. I have heard 
officials regret this disgusting institution, and their 
inability to remedy it. 

I have more horrors connected with this kitchen 
to mention when I describe the hospital, and hope 
some one whose business it is will redress this 
crying shame. As a set-ofF to the many discom- 
forts attending the convalescent ward, were the 
facilities it offered for the uninterrupted working of 
the telephone, and so multifarious were the oppor- 
tunities, and so utterly impossible detection, that I 
omitted the commonest precautions as absolutely 
superfluous. My favourite time for correspondence 
was between two and four in the morning. I 
noticed that nature usually asserted itself on turn- 
key humanity, and that the most watchful became 
drowsy about this time. It must be remembered 
that a night warder is in the room all night, and 
that the gas, though turned down, is alight. I fre- 

" The Convalescent Ward." 245 

quently wrote for two hours at a time, and as my 
bed was next the fire-place I had the advantage of 
poking it into a blaze as circumstances required. I 
often wondered, whether these watch-dogs were 
really dozing. That they had not the faintest sus- 
picion I am confident ; the very possibility of such 
coolness may possibly have disarmed them, for I 
have written for hours under their very noses. One 
night I had a considerable scare. I had been 
carried away by the interest of my letter, and 
whether I had thought aloud and some word had 
escaped me I cannot say, but on peeping round the 
mantelpiece I saw one of the most ferocious of the 
tribe — who was on duty that night — leaning for- 
ward and peering in my direction. His eyes glis- 
tened like a chetah's as he cautiously approached 
the fire-place — the mantelpiece and one bed alone 
separated our respective positions, the rattle of a 
paper, or a hurried motion, would have been fatal ; 
so, proceeding to mutter in my sleep, I slid my 
arm over a very damning pile. For some mo- 
ments he stood intently watching me, and then 
happily began to poke the fire. Had he delayed 
much longer I should inevitably have betrayed 
my.self; as it was, the noise "justified" my being 

246 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

disturbed, and I rolled round, "papers under," as 
Bell's Life would once have described a pugilistic 
round. The danger was now past, but I had quite 
determined, if he had asked me any unpleasant 
questions, to have made a dash at the fire-place 
and destroyed the evidence. There is a curious 
invention that exists in various parts of the prison. 
Detector-clocks are intended to show that a 
warder must have been alert every half-hour, by 
being required to press down a pin. This pin 
is so constructed that it cannot be let down except 
at the exact time, or unless the clock is unlocked. 
These various clocks undergo a minute inspection 
the following morning, and if all the pins are not 
down the delinquent is fined a shilling, or even 
more, for each omission. I could tell some curious 
stories about these detector clocks, but their narra- 
tion might be interpreted as pointing in directions 
I have no intention of indicating. I may, how- 
ever, without compromising anyone, state that if 
the authorities conceive they are aware of the exact 
number of keys that open these clocks, they are 
considerably out of their reckoning. 

" My eye, old man," I one morning said to an 
acquaintance, " you've missed two or three pins." 

" The Convalescent Ward." 247 

" Never mind," he replied ; " I've got a pal out- 
side that'll make it all right before I'm relieved." 

At 6.30, when my friend was, I hope, comfortably 
in bed, I saw the Detector inspected and found 
" correct." 

On one occasion a friend kindly supplemented 
the rubbishy literature provided by the chaplain by 
lending me to read the book of "Rules for the 
Guidance "of Warders and Assistant- Warders." 
They can hardly be said to be as interesting as those 
lately published by Howard Vincent for the guid- 
ance of the police, although, situated as I was, they 
were to me vastly more important. I had intended 
to have produced them verbatim, but they are not 
of sufficient general interest. They, however, deal 
with the various duties of warders in that absurd 
style which attempts to impress on them the 
responsibility and general respectability of what 
if carried out in its integrity, is a contemptible 
system of espionage. 



In one of the padded cells was a dangerous 
lunatic. For weeks and months he had kept up 
an incessant conversation with himself, occasionally 
diversified by shrieks and yells. At first it was 
believed the man was shamming, and he was taken 
before the visiting justices and sentenced to be 
flogged, but this usually infallible cure had not the 
desired effect. Clothes were converted into rags 
in an incredibly short space of time. He was 
handcuffed in front, and still they were destroyed. 
He was handcuffed behind with the same result. 
On his door being opened he would be found naked, 
the handcuffs on the floor, and his clothes in 
shreds. Canvas sacks, with slits for the head and 
hands, were suggested, and, first clothed, then 
handcuffed with his hands behind him, and finally 
covered with the huge sack, he was again con- 

Criminal Lunatics. 249 

signed to the cell. The same result, however, 
invariably followed, and the kind-hearted doctor, 
despairing of cure, and though inwardly convinced 
it was an artfully contrived sham, yet loth to per- 
sist in the stringent remedies that alone were 
effectual, gave him the benefit of the doubt, and 
consigned him to the Criminal Lunatic Asylum at 
Hanwell. I have frequently seen this maniac fed. 
His door was opened and he was brought out, 
and, half-naked and handcuffed, bleared, filthy, and 
bleeding from self-inflicted injuries, with dis- 
hevelled hair, and glaring like a panther, this wild 
beast in human form would open his mouth, and 
gruel and bread be shovelled in bounteously. 
Attempts would occasionally be made to induce 
him to wash, but at best they were qualified suc- 
cesses, and the assistance of four or five turnkeys 
had eventually to be resorted to. It was im- 
possible to believe this being was sane and capable 
of keeping up the deception for such a time. 
Sleep was out of the question, for night was made 
hideous by the muffled shouts and blasphemies 
that forced themselves through the padded cell. 
But a reprieve at length came, and it was with a 
sense of relief that I one morning saw him taken 

250 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

oft to Hanwell. The lull, however, was not of 
long duration-, and he was eventually sent back as 
" cured." The cure showed itself in a curious way. 
On finding -himself again in his old quarters, and 
smarting under a pretended sense of breach of 
faith, he raved that the doctor at Hanwell had 
promised to release him if he withdrew his claim 
to the crown of Ireland. And now a reign of 
terror began in earnest, and shouting for Parnell, 
his secretary, the Empress Eugdnie, and Old 
Ireland, he raved and roared day and night. 
How human nature could bear such a strain 
appeared marvellous. One night all was calm. 
" Thank goodness ! " I thought, " he's collapsed." 
Had he .' The wish, alas ! was father to the 
thought, and the lull was only the precursor of the 
storm. Whilst we were sleeping the maniac was 
maturing his plans, and a shout of " Fire ! " one 
night reminded us of his proximity. Smoke was 
now issuing from the padded cell. To draw back 
the ponderous bolts was the work of a second. 
To distinguish anything was absolutely impossible. 
Blinding smoke filled the cell, and as it poured out 
a terrible sight presented itself On the floor was 
the charred mattress, the horse-hair alight, and the 

Criminal Lunatics. 251 

plank bed smouldering, and peacefully lying 
beside it was the madman. The first idea was 
that he was dead, but the smoke that would have 
killed a sane man had but temporarily stupefied 
him. In an instant he was on his feet, and, his 
arms being free, made a desperate attack with 
pieces of glass on the two men who had humanely 
approached him. Further help was now sent for, 
during which time he kicked, struck, and bit every- 
thing within reach, and it required sixteen men to 
secure and remove this wild beast in human form. 
The extent of his mischief now made itself ap- 
parent. How he had removed the handcuffs 
remains a mystery, but with the cunning and 
dexterity only to be found in maniacs, he had 
succeeded in reaching the gas, which, situated ten 
feet from the ground, and protected by a strong 
glass, must have taxed his ingenuity, not only to 
reach, but eventually to open, and yet this had 
been done so quietly that forty men and a watch- 
ful warder in the adjoining room heard nothing. 
With the fire now at his disposal, he had burnt the 
straps that were lashed round his body to secure 
the sack, but finding the effect not sufficiently 
expeditious, had proceeded to pull out the bed- 

252 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

stuffing, and lying down naked, bruised, and 
bleeding, beside the smouldering mass, calmly 
awaited the conflagration that was to free him. 
The cell presented an extraordinary appearance. 
On the floor were broken glass, burning wood, and 
his clothes torn to shreds ; here the handcuffs, 
there the charred straps : the walls were smeared 
with filth and dabbed with porridge ; the plank 
bed was torn up, and plaster and brickwork 
removed : a terrible wreck, an incredible perfor- 
mance, and all the work of two hands, handcuffed 
behind and strapped, and surrounded by every 
precaution that official ingenuity could suggest. 

This final escapade materially assisted the 
magisterial finding as to the extent of the 
maniac's "cure," and he was again consigned to 

Another lunatic of a different type was an 
inmate of the convalescent ward, a harmless, 
inoffensive creature, that had been flogged out of 
his senses. His physique proclaimed him in- 
capable of doing bodily harm to a calf He was 
not more than five feet high, with a fore-arm like a 
robin's thigh, and the receding forehead, sunken 
ey«, and conical skull associated with imbecility ; 

Criminal Lunatics. 253 

but he had once " threatened " a warder, a hulking, 
round-shouldered old woman, that might have 
squeezed the life out of him without turning a hair, 
and discipline demanded he should be reported, 
and the visiting justices sentenced him to be 
flogged. From that day he never spoke, and 
would sit for hours without moving ; suddenly 
he would break out into an immoderate fit 
of laughter, to be immediately followed by a 
paroxysm of grief, and, laying his head on the 
table, would sob like a child. Nothing appeared 
likely to restore his naturally limited intellect, and 
the country will be at the expense of keeping this 
" dangerous criminal " for another twelvemonth, who 
would be infinitely more at home at Earlswood 
Asylum for Idiots. A perfect child occupied 
another of these hospital cells, an incorrigible 
young scamp of about fourteen, that nothing 
seemed capable of taming. Everything within 
reach he proceeded to destroy, and clothes sup- 
plied him in the morning were in shreds at night. 
He, too, was constantly handcuffed ; he refused to 
eat, and for a week nothing passed his lips. One 
day, on his door being opened, he was found sus- 
pended by a bed-strap from the bell-handle : 

2 54 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

another second, and life would have been extinct. 
For this he was taken before the visiting justices 
and birched. It had, however, no deterrent effect, 
and up to the time of his release he remained the 
same incorrigible young ruffian. There is no hope 
for such a lad ; his future is bound to be a repeti- 
tion of many instances I saw amongst the adults, 
who had commenced a career of crime with birch- 
ings, followed by three and five years in a 
reformatory, and ending with imprisonment and 
eventually penal servitude. Another companion 
that was the source of occasional anxiety, had 
been an inmate of a lunatic asylum, and though 
usually quiet, was subject to extraordinary fits. 
The first intimation of one coming on was a 
demoniacal groan, and in an incredibly short time 
a space was cleared round him. It had been 
found, indeed, that nothing could arrest the first 
paroxysm, and on the " band beginning to play," 
a stampede invariably ensued : and not without 
cause, for everything within reach became an 
instant wreck, and tables, chairs, books, and (when 
procurable) arms and noses, were ruthlessly at- 
tacked by hands, feet, and teeth. When com- 
paratively restored it took six or eight men to 

Criminal Lunatics. 255 

remove him into a cell, and the only thing that 
appeared to rouse him was the presence of the 
priest. So efficacious was this remedy that when 
everything else failed, the Roman Catholic chap- 
lain was invariably sent for, and in a moment oil 
appeared to be thrown on the troubled waters, 
and the maniac arose subdued, and clothed in 
his right mind. Here was a religion that appeared 
to appeal to the feelings, and to produce results 
never attained by brow-beating and personality — 
a lesson to be laid to heart, and worthy of imita- 
tion, though in the quarter it was most needed it 
was, I fear, utterly thrown away. Personally this in- 
fluence did not surprise me, for though debarred, 
by being a Protestant, from coming into actual con- 
tact with the priest, I was considerably struck, and 
almost fascinated, by the kind smile and friendly 
salutation he had for all his co-religionists. An 
Italian by nationality, with all the refinement of 
manner habitual to his countrymen, this polished 
gentleman was a pronounced contrast to the fi're- 
and-brimstone snob occasionally met with in the 
" Established " ranks. 



I WAS surprised at the number of respectable 
men — such as solicitors, an ex-officer of Guards, 
a bank manager, a man of title, stockbrokers, 
cashiers, ex-officers of the army and navy, clerks, 
clergymen, &c. — in Coldbath Fields. Some of 
these had quite lost (supposing they ever had any) 
their pristine semblance of respectability; others, 
again, retained the appearance of persons of educa- 
tion, and spoke and deported themselves as such. 
A lamentable instance of the fatal effisct of asso- 
ciating with the scum, and the ease with which a 
young man of good position can acquire the style 
and appearance of a vagrant, was exemplified in 

young B . He was not more than 25 or 26, 

had been a subaltern in the Guards, and 

came, moreover, of a good county stock ; and yet 
in six short months he had so far degenerated as 

Prison Celebrities. 257 

to be punished on the day his sentence expired for 
stealing a loaf from a fellow prisoner. 

A worthy old man with grey hair and venerable 
appearance, and who might have passed for the 
chairman of a board of directors, appeared every 
morning at mine and other cells in the passage 
with a dust-pan, and with methodical precision 
removed the sweepings. He told me he had been a 
solicitor with a large connection, with chambers in 

Street, and had a wife and grown-up family 

in a comfortable house in a well-known suburb. 
His imprisonment was perceptibly telling on him, 
and his hair and beard grew whiter every day. 

A bustling, business-like man, one day attracted 
my attention. He was connected with the stores, 
and brought me a new pair of boots. He had 
been the manager of a London bank, and under- 
going retirement for six months for some error 
regarding the ownership of ;^300. 

A tall, smart-looking man that was pointed out 
to me, was, I was informed, an individual who" 
attained notoriety some two years ago over a 
mining scheme. He was suffering two years' incar- 
ceration for a miscalculation of over ;^7ooo. 

A man who called himself Count H , and an 

258 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

ex-convict to boot, was languishing for a year, 
because certain noblemen had had the bad taste to 
object to his having obtained money from them by 
false pretences. This nobleman ! had a mania 
for petitioning the Home Office (I will give a 
specimen of his style hereafter). 

In addition to these, numerous individuals who 
had been gentlemen in their day were known to me 
by sight. Conspicuous amongst them, was an old 
jail bird and ex-convict, who had 20 years ago 
been a captain in the army, and ever since had 
existed (and still is) in prison, for terms of seven, 
five, five, two, and one years. AH the starch had 
been thoroughly wrung out of him, though he occa- 
sionally stood on a dilapidated kind of dignity. 
I once asked him where a friend of his had gone. 
He replied, " I don't know ; we don't speak now ; 
he's no gentleman. Will you believe it, he had the 
impertinence to doubt my word," As his word had 
been doubted a good many times during the past 
20 years, I was considerably amused by this 
assumption of dignity. 

Many prisoners are under the impression that 
they have only to petition the Home Office to 
procure a remission of their sentence. It seems 

Prison Celebrities. 259 

perfectly immaterial to them, whether they have 
the slightest grounds for this assumption or not, 
and it frequently happens that, instead of mitigat- 
ing their offence, they put matters in a more un- 
favourable light by airing their grievances, whilst 
others make a rambling statement referring to 
every subject but the one particularly concerning 

Count H was a specimen of this class. 

He was undergoing a well-merited 12 months' 

imprisonment for defrauding the Dukes of S 

and M and other noblemen of sums of money, 

by representing himself as the son of some indi- 
vidual, which he certainly was not. It is, of 
course, possible that he may (to use a vulgar 
expression) have been " changed at nuss," though 
the fact that he had previously undergone five 
years' penal servitude for a similar offence mini- 
mizes the probability that he was acting under a 
misapprehension. . The Count ! had no sooner 
taken up his quarters than he expressed a desire to 
petition the Home Secretary. A " form " being 
supplied him, which he retained four days, eventu- 
ally reappeared so blurred and smeared with blots 
and erasures that its transmission was impossible. 

H 2 

26o Eighteen Months' ImpAsonment. 

A second attempt was more successful, and the 
following exhaustive specimen of penmanship and 
veracity struggled up to the Home Office, and 
eventually struggled back : — " That your petitioner, 
on being discharged from Pentonville Convict 
Prison, at the expiration of five years' penal servi- 
tude, found that certain moneys and property, 
valued at several hundred pounds, had been stolen 
by his agent, who collected his rent on his estates 
in Italy ; that being at that time without funds to 

go abroad, he had written to the Duke of S 

and Duke of M and others, "asking for a loan 

until he received his rents. That his father really 

was Count H and a friend of these noblemen, 

and that the charge of false pretences was conse- 
quently incorrect. That he had held diplomatic 
appointments, and been decorated for gallant 
service, and that he possesses a coronet with 
S.P.Q.R., all of which clearly proves his identity. 
In conclusion, your petitioner appeals to you with 
confidence as a lawyer of renown, and a scion of 

the noble house of Vernon. — Signed, H ." 

I have corrected " the Count's " spelling as far as 
possible ; the logic and composition were, however, 
past redemption. The rogue evidently knew the 

Prison Celebrities. 261 

Home Secretary's claim to "Royal descent," as 
delicately hinted at in the concluding paragraph. 

Another individual petitioned against his hair 
and beard being cut, on religious grounds, and 
quoted the Law of Moses as forbidding these for- 
malities. This specimen did not, I believe, leave 
the establishment. 

I was frequently struck by the vast difference in 
the sentences awarded in what appeared to me to 
be parallel cases, and tried in vain to discover any 
system that might be supposed to regulate them. 
It cannot be denied that a great difference of 
opinion exists apparently amongst judges on the 
subject of crimes and their punishment, and that 
whereas one judge will administer justice with 
harshness, another will attain the same desirable 
end with a regard to humanity. With these re- 
spective characteristics, the criminal classes are 
thoroughly conversant, and it would astonish the 
Bench if they heard how accurately their respect- 
ive peculiarities are summed up. Thus one judge 
is credited with being very severe on conspiracy 
and long firm cases, whilst another is supposed to 
be " down " on burglars, whilst it is generally con- 
ceded that a plea of guilty will invariably fare 

262 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

better than one of not guilty. For my own part I 
fancied I had noticed that conspiracy is considered 
the most serious offence, and that two men con- 
spiring to defraud another of ^^50 will run the risk 
of a severer punishment than the individual who 
unaided steals £ 500. 

I will quote a few first offences which, apparently 
similar, differ considerably as regards their sen- 
tences : — 

(«) A solicitor for passing a forged cheque for 
;^i8 that had been paid to him: 18 
months' imprisonment with hard labour. 

{a) A bank manager for appropriating;^ 300 : 
six montjis' imprisonment with hard 

{h) A wine merchant for complicity in a forged 
cheque, £^2 : sentence, 18 months' im- 
prisonment with hard labour. 

(3) A commission agent for forging a £&'X) 
bill of exchange : 12 months' imprison- 
ment with hard labour. 

if) A clerk (with twenty years' good character 
and recommended to mercy), for forging 
;^50 and stealfng employer's cheque: 

Prison Celebrities. 263 

sentence, twenty months' imprisonment 

with hard labour. 
{c) A City man, for a fraudulent mining 

scheme and forgery, whereby he obtained 

£7000 : sentence, two years' imprisonr 

ment with hard labour. 
(d) A shopman, for robbing his employer of 

;^ 50 : sentence, three months' imprisonment 

with hard labour. 
{d) A beggar boy, for stealing is. 6d,: sentence, 

three months' imprisonment with hard 

There are men in Coldbath whose cards show 
upwards of seventy previous convictions, varying 
from a year to seven days ; nor is it to be wondered 
at, considering the starvation that confronts them 
outside and the comfort that is accorded them in 
prison. One of these habitual vagrants on his 
periodical appearance was usually accosted with an 
official joke, " Same address, I suppose 'i " " Yes, 
please," • was the invariable reply ; " no change 
since last time." 

One old man in the convalescent ward, suffering 
from rheumatism and asthma, who was supplied 
with dainties he could never have heard of before, 

264 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

confessed to me that he should have preferred six 
to the three months' imprisonment he was under- 
going. Another old vagrant (a City man) told me 
that he always made it a rule to sleep on a door- 
step a day or so before Chi'istmas Day to insure 
the Christmas meal of a loaf of bread, beef, pudding, 
and a pint of ale, stood by the Lord Mayor to 
every prisoner in Newgate. He was bewailing the 
loss of that charming residence, and telling me 
how, having foolishly omitted to make himself 
acquainted with the change of system, had sub- 
sisted last Christmas Day in " Coldbath " on dry 
bread and stirabout. 

Foreigners of every description find their way 
into Coldbath, though the majority consists of 
Germans, mostly Jews. There is an advantage in 
belonging to this faith, as I was led to understand 
by a gourmand. It consists in receiving meat on 
Mondays in lieu of the usual bacon and beans. 
Circumstances, however, render the temporary 
embracing of this faith more difficult than- they do 
that of Romanism, which is much in vogue ; and 
as certain punishment would follow the certain 
detection, Judaism has not as many followers as 
the Australian meat would otherwise command. 

Prison Celebrities. i(i^ 

Flogging is usually administered for insubordina- 


tion and malingering. For less serious offences 
the punishment cells and short commons usually 
have the desired effect. There are two descrip- 
tions of corporal punishment — the cat and the 
birch, usually reserved for youths. In the former 
case the culprit is lashed to a triangle ; in the 
latter he is hoisted on what is euphoniously called 
a donkey. As a punishment, the cat, as applied 
in prisons, is not to be compared to its defunct 
namesake in the army or navy. It is sufficiently 
severe, however, to necessitate certain after-treat- 
ment — an item in the programme regulated rather 
by the " system " than humanity. A soldier was 
invariably admitted into hospital after undergoing 
corporal punishment ; a prisoner is, however, 
flogged and then conducted to his cell. 

These floggings are usually administered in the 
forenoon in presence of a surgeon, and before 
evening a zinc plaster — perhaps two — is applied to 
the recipient's back. The performance takes place 
in a room off the main passage, and is not un- 
attended with a certain amount of ceremony. The 
traffic is stopped, and no particulars transpire but 
the howls of the victim, which can be heard all 

266 Eighteen Mont hi Imprisonment. 

over the building. Since the abolition of New- 
gate, Coldbath has risen in retributive importance, 
and garrotters sentenced, to the lash here receive 
their punishment. 

A one-legged garrotter was lately flogged ; his 
leg, which had been amputated at the thigh, pre- 
vented his being securely tied, and his abortive 
struggles procured him a flogging infinitely 
severer than ordinarily experienced. Every blow 
fell on a different place, and the twenty lashes 
left twenty wheals, breaking the skin in a dozen 
different places. Sympathy with a garrotter would 
be out of place, and no one can doubt that he 
richly deserved his punishment ; yet one's bowels 
of compassion are instinctively moved by the 
description given to me by an eye-witness, of a 
lump of bleeding humanity alone and sobbing in 
a cell, and receiving at five in the afternoon a zinc 
plaster to apply to the back that had been torn 
and lacerated in the morning. 

This treatment in no way reflects on the prison 
officials, who simply carry out the regulations ; it 
is the system that is to blame, and is capable, like 
the dispensation of justice before described, of con- 
siderable improvement on the score of humanity. 

Prison Celebrities. 267 

Floggings and birchings appear to have no 
effect on these hardened criminals, and though 
they shriek and bellow during the infliction, they 
invariably revert to the same offence, and qualify 
for a second edition. Shamming madness is a 
favourite form of malingering indulged in by 
prisoners. The uneducated mind, however, in- 
variably resorts to the same tactics — a combination 
between the symptoms of idiotcy and hydrophobia 
that generally fails in its objects, and invariably 
yields to treatment by the cat. 

The boys that find their way into Coldbath are 
the most hardened young .scamps I ever saw. 
They are supposed to be isolated, as required by 
recent agitation on the subject of juvenile offenders. 
That the isolation is a farce need hardly be said. 
At chapel they certainly occupy benches to them- 
selves, but so do the various wards and trades ; the 
tasks they are put to are similar to those done by 
adults ; and the pains and penalties they undergo 
are identical in time and circumstance to those of 
the full-blown criminal. I have seen these urchins 
on arrival, with their knuckles in their eyes, blub- 
bering in chapel, and a week later winking and 
making signs as if determined to assert their 

268 Eighteen Months' ImprJ,sonment. 

qualification to be clothed and treated like their 
adult fellow-prisoners. 

Tearing up their clothes is the favourite pastime 
of these promising youths. I have frequently seen 
these children marched along a passage, hand- 
cuffed behind, and preceded by a warder carrying 
a bundle of rags three inches square, that formerly 
represented their linen and clothes. The treat- 
ment they receive puts this crime at a premium. 
Boys are admittedly vain, and desirous of appear- 
ing as men to their older associates, what more 
natural then, that a child (one of the instances I 
refer to could not have been fourteen) should 
aspire to the honour of appearing as a hero ; 
marching through a crowded passage with his 
manly work conspicuously displayed, treated, 
moreover, like a real man, manacled, and even- 
tually birched, and receiving the approbation 
invariably accorded by the criminal classes to the 
perpetrators of wanton mischief. One would 
suppose that in a huge building like Coldbath 
Fields these urchins might be absolutely isolated, 
and if their offences were punished without the 
publicity that at present attends them, they would 
soon be given up as not worth the consequence. 

Prison Celebrities. 269 

That the treatment of this hardened class of boys 
is a difficult problem, cannot be denied, and the 
cunning and ingenuity they display is almost 
incredible. Fully aware that the visiting Justices 
only visit the prison once a fortnight, and that 
without their order a birching is impossible, it 
frequently happens that on the day of their dis- 
charge every article of their clothing is made into 
mincemeat. For this mischief they are absolutely 
free from any consequence, it being an offence 
against the prison, and not against the law. If a 
remedy was applied to this crime, similar to the 
Article of War that provides against the destruc- 
tion of Government property, the delinquent might 
be handed over to a policeman, and this would 
effectually stop the practice. 



By Act of Parliament, all prisoners, till quite 
recently, were photographed after admission to the 
various prisons. This universal system is now abol- 
ished, and since January, 1882, it is only reserved 
for habitual criminals and prisoners sentenced to 
pohce supervision. I had the good fortune to add 
to my experiences and my desire to see everything, 
by coming under the universal system, I having 
become a Government ward exactly eleven days 
before the expiration of the Act. One morning, 
whilst at exercise, my name was called amongst 
some half-a-dozen others. I could not conceive 
what new atrocity I had perpetrated, and what 
could have occurred to disturb the even tenor of 
my ways. A few of my' more experienced com- 
rades, however, enlightened me by remarking I 
was "a-goin' to be tuk," and I found myself on 


P. 271. 

The Tread-Wheel. 271 

the road to the studio. Photography such as this 
can hardly be considered artistic, though I have 
seen worse, but not much. It probably, however, 
answers all the requirements it is intended for. 
These works of art are only produced in duplicate, 
and though I offered a fabulous price to the seedy 
artist for an extra copy, no business was done ; for 
though negatives are kept, they are kept under 
lock and key. Of the copies usually printed one 
was presented to the Governor of Newgate (this 
individual being lately abolished, I do not know 
who is now the recipient), the other finds it way 
into the Coldbath album, and no doubt affords 
pleasure and instruction at such jubilant gatherings 
as prison lawn tennis parties, or warders' bean- 
feasts, which I was informed (though never in- 
vited) are occasionally indulged in. Prisoners are 
taken in their own clothes, and it is a matter of 
regret that the ones I then wore have gone the 
way of all old clothes, for, like their owner, 
they did not improve by their incarceration, 
and their huge proportions made them worth- 
less without alteration. Pose or position is a 
secondary consideration, a good out-and-out re- 
semblance is the thing to be attained ; a deformed 

272 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

ear, or a fly-blown nose, would at once be seized 
upon, and the lens directed point blank at such 
fortunate distinctions. In my case there was 
nothing to merit special reproduction, so with a 
smirk that would have hanged me fifty years ago 
(for even here the "artist" could not resist the 
conventional request) I qualified for the Govern- 
ment album. On one side one's number is pinned 
to one's coat, on the other is a slate with one's 
name in full, thus supplying an index simple but 
complete, and in proportion to the intellects of 
such probable students as the motley crew one 
periodically saw at Newgate. To me the ordeal 
had neither terror nor charms, though to some of 
my companions it was evidently not agreeable. One 
rogue caused considerable trouble by persistently 
protruding his chin or distorting some, feature ; 
these antics were not indulged in in a spirit of 
levity, but resorted to gradually as the cap was 
being taken off. He evidently objected to an 
accurate likeness, and so he might. I never could 
find out particulars, but not long after he disap- 
peared from Coldbath, and whether hanged or a 
" lifer," I never heard. That photograph had ful- 
filled its mission. 

The Tread-Wheel. 273 

Visits to Coldbath cannot under ordinary cir- 
cumstances be undertaken by any but the most 
robust. The accommodation is clearly intended 
for the scum of London, and it is unfair to expect 
any respectable person to come unless smell-proof 
and provided with a box of Keating's insect 
powder. I received one visit under these revolting 
conditions, though my subsequent ones left nothing 
to be desired. Conceive, then, a cell eighteen feet 
by twelve, fitted with four partitions on either side, 
divided by a narrow passage, with a warder walk- 
ing up and down. Into one of these cages the 
visitor is conducted and locked in. Immediately 
opposite, and similarly enclosed, is the object of 
his visit. In appearance they resemble a Cochin 
China hen-coop ; in size they about equal the den 
of the untamable hyaena in a travelling menagerie. 
Conversation of a private nature is out of the 
question, as, indeed, is intended ; topical subjects 
are tabooed, and but for the sake of adding to my 
experiences I should never have subjected myself 
or my friend to such nasty conditions. Within a 
foot of one, and flanked on both sides, was either a 
costermonger talking to 'his missus and her frowsy. 

274 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

unvaccinated-looking offspring, or a pickpocket 
hearing the latest news from the Seven Dials ; the 
Babel consequent being such as to leave no alter- 
native but to say nothing, or shout at the top of 
one's voice. There is a snobbishness about this 
custom that went far to determine me in my course 
of telephoning as the only way to retaliate 
effectually on official inconsideration. No one 
would be foolish enough to expect that a gentle- 
man should be better treated than a costermonger 
under such painful circumstances, although it 
would be an act of consideration, involving neither 
inconvenience nor relaxation of discipline, if some 
little discretion were exercised, as at Newgate, 
regarding the visitors. 

The tread-wheel occupies a prominent position 
in prison life. There was none at Coldbath on 
my arrival, the old one having been burnt down a 
short time previously. There is a delightful inter- 
pretation to the three magic letters, C. B. F. (Cold 
Bath Fields), that long puzzled me, and which 
takes its origin — as I heard — from the ancient 
structure. I had frequently heard this cheerful 
place referred to as " The Farm," and on enquiry 

The Tread-Wheel. 275 

it was explained that it was facetiously known as 
"Charley Bates's Farm." "Charley," it appears, 
was a peculiarly ferocious turnkey that some years 
ago superintended the tread-wheel, but whether 
burnt, like his toy, or still burning, or alive, I have 
not the remotest idea. Its successor was now 
being rapidly built, and all the artisan talent 
procurable was laid on, in order to complete 
without delay this necessary adjunct to hard 

A reference to the " system of progressive 
stages " will obviate my repeating many details 
as to the particular men put to this punish- 
ment, &c. 

I had never seen a tread-wheel except from the 

stalls of the Adelphi Theatre, and was particularly 

anxious to gratify my curiosity. I cudgelled my 

brains as to how it was to be managed, with such 

success that I eventually found myself on the 

" works." As I have the misfortune to be neither a 

mechanic nor an artisan, and incapable of driving 

in a nail without hammering my finger, and being 

a perfect infant in the use of a shovel, I was at a 

loss to conceive how I could possibly be employed ; 

T 2 

276 Eighteen Months Imprisonment, 

but this difficulty was at length surmounted, and 
armed with a brush I was put on a roving job. I 
had the run of the building, with a kind of general 
instruction to brush everything and ev^ybody, up 
stairs and down stairs, and in the warder's chamber. 
The warder in charge of this building in course 
of construction, was a worthy man, incapable 
of being tampered with, though I. never tried him 
(why should I ?), but withal courteous, respectful, 
and considerate — one of those men whose bringing 
up had thrown him amongst gentlemen, and who 
knew how to maintain his own position without 
offending the susceptibilities of others. The ar- 
tisans under him worked with a will, and reports 
and rows were things unknown, except on scrubbing 
days, when some ill-conditioned hound happened 
to be temporarily employed. My duties consisted 
in sitting about in sheltered nooks with the broom 
between my knees, and on the approach of a spy, 
with which the place was infested, to rise and make 
furious lunges at imaginary spiders. These sweeps 
into space were very effective, and, fatal as they 
would have been to any insect had I seen one, were 
equally gratifying to their human prototypes, whose 

The Tread-Wheel. 277 

desire was to see one working hard. During my 
employment in this building it was, I verily believe, 
the object of more inspection than it had ever been 
before. I had been informed by telephone that my 
antipathy had given a hint that I was to be looked 
after, and if he was satisfied with the result I cer- 
tainly was. Not twenty minutes elapsed between 
the various inspections, and occasionally they, 
swarmed like horse-flies in summer round a lump 
of sugar. These frequent visits involved an im- 
mense loss of energy, and the casualties amongst 
the spiders must have been enormous. When all 
had been destroyed I constructed a pile of dirt — 
one pound of dust to four of shavings — which 
I placed in a conspicuous position. This 
was violently propelled from me during a 
visit, and gently restored when the intruder had 

I had the opportunity of inspecting this huge 
instrument of torture, and was considerably disap- 
pointed that I could not try its effect. I had the 
gratification, however, of putting some paint on one 
panel and a piece of putty into a hole, thereby 
having assisted at the making of the wheel. Putting 

278 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

putty into a hole is not so easy as it may sound. 
At the inspection of work next day I had the morti- 
fication of seeing my lump condemned, and cruelly 
removed. The tread-wheel is moved by elaborate 
machinery worked by powerful engines, which, in 
addition to setting the wheel in motion, grinds 
corn in an adjoining building for the use of the 
prison. It is entirely different from the Adelphi 
one, and may be described as four long cylindrical 
wheels extending the length of the building on 
either side and along the gallery. Partitions, of 
sufficient dimensions to enable a man to stand up, 
run the entire length of the various wheels, thereby 
precluding all communication between the several 
occupants. Two hundred and sixty men can bfe 
" on " at once, and the punishment is carried out 
on the principle of ten minutes "off" and twenty 
minutes " on." The victims are marched down at 
7.30 A.M., and beguile the time thus pleasantly till 
1 1.30. They return at 1.30 p.m., and continue the 
enjoyment till 5. 

I am told this is considered an easy wheel, 
and men who have experienced the working 
of others assured me that this one was mere 

The Tread-Wheel. 279 

child's play. A great deal depends on the 
worker, and the experienced jail-bird rises — or, as 
it was termed to me, " waits for " — the step with 
little or no exertion. With the novice, however, it 
is severe labour, and the exertion involved bathes 
him in perspiration. A supply of warm water is 
given them on returning to their cells of an evening, 
to obliterate in a degree the unpleasant conse- 
quences of the wheel. But the discomfort — can one 
estimate it .' A poor wretch bathed in perspira- 
tion, and having to sleep -in the same shirt and 
work in it for a week ! Only prisoners fit for hard 
labour are put to the wheel, and no man is ever so 
employed unless passed by the surgeon. The 
doctor's work is considerably augmented by the re- 
construction of the wheel, and besides having to visit 
the yard frequently during the day, he is perse- 
cuted by strings of schemers trying by every con- 
ceivable subterfuge to evade the punishment. Some 
go the length of tum'bling ofif, and occasionally 
succeed in temporarily disqualifying themselves 
by a sprained ankle or wrist. I was much amused 
during my employment at its construction at the 
interest that the various officials took in every 

28o Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

detail connected with its progress. They revelled 
at the prospect of the treat in store for them, and 
seemed to gloat over the exquisite misery awaiting" 
some of their lambs. Bunches of these warders 
i^ould occasionally meet, and discuss the intricacies 
of the machinery with a gusto only to be acquired 
by prison contagion. It would not have surprised 
me to have heard that the opening ceremony had 
been attended by some kind of fite, to which the 
wai'ders and " their ladies " had been invited, and 
condiments — made on the premises — distributed 

My worst enemies, and those I had to fear most, 
were the prisoners. They were all jealous of me, and 
had got an absurd notion into their heads that I 
cbiild do as T liked, and, though there was no truth 
in such an impression, never lost an opportunity of 
" rounding " on me. A one-eyed scoundrel, who 
was one day checked and eventually punished for 
idleness, complained to the Governor that he 
didn't see why lie should work all day and another 
man (me) sit down and do nothing. This had the 
effect of causing me to be transferred elsewhere, 
and I next added to my experiences by becoming 

The Tread-Wheel. 281 

a gardener. I was not sorry to leave the wheel- 
house, for it had a depressing effect on me, which 
the hum of the traffic just outside did not assist in 
allaying. As a wag said to me one day, " This 
will be a nice place when it's finished." 



I HAD at last indeed tumbled on my legs. My 
new duties offered a combination of advantages — 
such as variety, fresh air, newspapers, tobacco, &c. 
— far in excess of my fondest dreams. There are 
six so-called gardeners, who are constantly em- 
ployed in the grounds. At 7.30 they go out, and 
rarely return before dinner ; and again at 2, remain- 
ing out till 5. In fine weather this is a great 
relief, and I enjoyed many an afternoon basking in 
the sun on a grassy bank. 

The general duties of a so-called gardener are a 
combination of the qualifications necessary for a 
dustman, carpet-beater, and agricultural labourer. 
They are, in fact, the scavengers of the establish- 
ment, and poke about all day under a curiosity of 
the turnkey species, and overhaul everything and 

Gardening. 283 

everybody. Their duties are absolutely legion, 
and carpet-beating, mowing, weeding, and raking 
the walks are only a moiety of their accomplish- 
ments. I was appointed to this favoured team 
through the kindly recommendation of the assistant 
surgeon after my recent temporary discharge from 
hospital ; and the master gardener, not having 
been consulted, as I fancy he usually was, was not 
by any means predisposed in my favour. That, 
however, wore off; and though I found him the 
most crotchety, three-cornered eccentricity I had 
ever met, I soon discovered his weak point, and 
did pretty much as I pleased. I must here repu- 
diate any insinuation that by this I mean to- 
imply he was to be squared. I might as well have 
tried to square the Marble Arch. Besides which, 
I did not require to, my supply being greater than 
my demand. 

Our first duty was to proceed to the tool-house, 
and, armed with shovels, wheelbarrows, baskets, 
&c., to commence grubbing about. As a new- 
comer I was selected for the "barrer," and a 
heavier " barrer " I never felt ; but having knocked 
some paint off a gate, and rolled it over a sacred 

284 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

grass plot, my incapacity was so manifest that I 
was disrated to a shovel. Here, too, I was lament- 
ably ignorant, and out of every spoonful I collected 
a third went into the " barrer " and the remainder 
everywhere else. I was, in fact, trying to emulate 
the scavengers one sees ladling mud on wet days. 
The long shots they make have always inspired 
me with admiration ; their revels in the oceans of 
mud exercised 'a fascination over me, causing me 
till now to overlook the science that is required to 
produce such apparently simple efforts. 

I have often driven up the hill that runs outside 
the front of the prison and fancied it was steep ; 
that fancy has since been confirmed, and I am now 
in a position to assert positively that it is very 
steep, especially between the shafts of a " barrer." 

A duty we were about to undertake one day 
was the weekly overhaul of the head warder's 
quarters. I was spared a share in this revolting 
exercise — I never knew how — but was simply told 
I should not be required. 

I had often sympathized with these gardeners 
long before I joined them, when seeing them 
shaking the frowsy rugs and rags, carpet slippers, 

Gardening. 28; 

and other gimcracks, and dusting Mrs. Head 
Warder's best Sunday wiilow-pattern teapot. My 
general ignorance, too, in the various branches of 
scavengering had become so apparent that I felt 
convinced I should be informed that I "didn't 
suit " ; but, thanks to the consideration of the 
Governor and assistant surgeon, I was retained, 
though otherwise employed. I was henceforth 
entirely detached, and turned out into various 
portions of the grounds, and told to do the best I 
could. My special instructions were to annihilate 
a certain weed, for which purpose I was armed 
with a knife, though I seldom used it for that 
particular purpose. The effect of this weed on the 
funny head gardener was very strange, and he 
would grind his teeth and mutter at the very sight 
of one. I at once took the cue, and feeling it 
would please him, besides showing my zeal, used 
the .strongest language I could lay tongue to 
whenever I detected one. My zeal, I fear, often 
led me into mistakes, and valuable clover and 
priceless dandelions were ruthlessly sacrificed to 
my want of discrimination. • These errors in up- 
rooting the wrong plants generally elicited a gentle 

286 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

rebuke, but the " cussing " at the hated fungus 
condoned my offence. " It was zeal, sir, zeal," and 
he began to "like that chap — he was willing, 
anxious like." But the way I won the old boy's 
heart was my love for old coins (as a fact, I know 
nothing about them, and prefer the more modern 
specimens). It happened one day he picked up a 
rusty coin — whether a button or an obsolete 
farthing I cannot say. I boldly, however, pro- 
nounced it to be a Henry the Seventh, said I would 
gladly pay five shillings for one like it, rattled along 
about Museum Street, my collection, &c., till he 
recognized a brother-collector, and a bond of 
sympathy was established ; and as he dropped the 
Henry the Seventh into his pocket, he led me to 
understand he had many like it at home. Whether 
he undertook a pilgrimage to Museum Street I 
cannot say, but about a month later a coolness 
showed itself in his manner towards me, which 
rather led me to suspect he had. 

I now found myself my own master. No one 
was specially interested in my movements. I was 
on my own hook, and so long as I appeared to be 
occupied when certain individuals were going their 

Gardening. 287 

rounds, I was never interfered with ; and as these 
rounds took place at about the same hours daily, 
I mapped out my occupation accordingly. 

At 7.30 I was turned into a large lawn, with 
sloping banks on three sides and railings on the 
fourth ; between these and the outer wall was a 
gravel walk that circumvented the prison. A 
turnkey patrolled this walk day and night, armed 
with a cutlass. I asked one of them one day what 
he should do if he found anyone scaling the wall. 
" Do t " he said. " If it was you, I should say, 
'Don't be a fool; you'll sprain your ankle dropping 
down t'other side.' " " And suppose it was some 
other chap .' " I inquired. " Ah ! then," he added, 
" I should carve him about a foot below the 

Between 8 and 9 parties of men were constantly 
passing to and fro to their various work. I usually, 
therefore, devoted that hour to contemplation, the 
selection of some half-a-dozen weeds for future 
decapitation, and a general . look round. When 
things had settled down a bit, my knife came into 
requisition, and proceeding to one of my hiding- 
places I Selected one piece of tobacco for immediate 

288 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

use, and sliced enough for my day's consumption. 
I had some of these holes in various parts of the 
grounds, constructed, of a slate floor about three 
inches square, with bricks for the roof and sides. 
I found them admirably adapted to resist rain, and 
many I daresay are still in existence. This enjoy- 
ment lasted till ii, when it became dangerous. 
(I was nearly choked on one occasion by foolishly 
having a lump of tobacco in my mouth when sud- 
denly confronted by an official.) After dinner I 
had a good hour's reading (the papers don't arrive 
before ; indeed, the postal arrangements are capable 
of considerable improvement), and so the afternoon 
passed comparatively pleasantly, between the daily 
paper, 'baccy, and the sloping bank. I often felt 
amused at the thought of how different all this 
was to what some people believed ; and a conversa- 
tion I " overheard " in the previous January, when 
one cad was explaining to his inebriated com- 
panion that imprisonment with hard labour was 
worse than penal servitude, came vividly to my 
recollection. On one of these sunny days I was 
much amused by an outline of the day's telegrams 
as given me by a friendly turnkey. It was the 

Gardening. _ 289 

day on which the news of young Vyse's death 
whilst reconnoitring Arabi's position reached Eng- 
land. " Them Arabians are rum chaps ; ah, and 
can shoot too, I tell yer : that officer as was recog- 
nisizing — look at that !" 

Chewing was an accomplishment I did not 
acquire in a day; indeed, it took me weeks. At first 
it made me absolutely poorly, but I persevered, 
and eventually found it as agreeable as smoking. 
I could not, however, manage the twist, and in- 
variably used the honey-dew or negro-head. This 
daintiness was not unattended with inconvenience, 
as no shop in the neighbourhood kept such a 
thing, and involved journeys to the Strand or 
Oxford Street. I was never so foolish as to keep 
the tobacco about me, and my cell was as free of 
it as any hermit's. In the grounds, however, it 
was perfectly safe ; tobacco under a stone might 
belong to anybody, and though the suspicion 
would probably have cost me my staff appoint- 
ment, absolute conviction would have been im- 
possible. To say that I was free from some sort of 
suspicion would be hardly correct, for although I 
was never searched myself — except on the one 


290 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

occasion before mentioned — my next-door neigh- 
bour was " turned over " about twice a week. The 
reason that led to this was as follows : — I had found 
this man specially useful — he was quite a second 
Mike to me ; anything I required he did, and in 
return I gave him portions of my superfluous food, 
and occasionally a piece of tobacco. This traffic 
had not passed unnoticed, and had been communi- 
cated to a warder by another prisoner, who felt 
himself aggrieved at the preference shown by me 
for his fellow prisoner. These sneakings are uni- 
versally practised, and through my entire ex- 
perience I had to be careful of these wretches ; 
they watched me and hated me, and if they got 
the chance, always rounded on "The Swell." 
Swell indeed ! The swelling had long ago sub- 
sided. I only weighed, thank heavens ! about four- 
teen stone. These sneakings never affected me, 
and one of these individuals was once considerably 
astonished at getting three days bread and water 
for a privileged communication about me. A cir- 
cumstance that occurred one day impressed me 
very much on the matter of destiny, and the acci- 
dents that sometimes combine to form a link 

Gardening. 291 

between two individuals that a month or two pre- 
viously would never have been dreamed of. It 
was the day on which (the late) Dr. Lamson had 
been sentenced to death. I was standing not far 
from the prison van, which had lately returned 
after depositing him at the House of Detention, 
and watching two prisoners cleaning it out. The 
partition that he had occupied contained three 01 
four pillows, and I was informed it was a delicate 
attention on the part of the Government to pre- 
vent condemned men intentionally injuring them- 
selves. "What are those pillows for ?" I asked of 
■ a turnkey. " Oh, they're only Dr. Lamson's," was 
the facetious reply ; " he was sentenced to-day, so 
we just put them in for fear he should chafe him- 
self, poor fellow." When the cleaning was over 
my brother reprobate led me to understand he had 
made a discovery. Beneath the pillows he had 
found three cigars ; he considerately gave me one, 
as indeed prison etiquette demanded, it being an 
axiom that an uncompromised holder of a secret is 
never to be trusted. I certainly should not have 
rounded on my confrhe, but was nevertheless very 
glad to be the recipient of a specimen of this 

TJ 2 

292 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

" Marwood " brand. It was a sin to chew them, 
but there was no alternative^ as smoking was out 
of the question. Half-an-hour later, as I bit off a 
piece, the thought forced itself upon me, " Three 
months ago, he at Bournemouth, and I at Brighton, 
had never heard of one another, and here I am 
chewing the condemned man's tobacco. Funny 
thing, destiny ! 



Religious ceremonial plays an important part 
at Coldbath Fields. The quantity, indeed, is 
lamentably in excess of the quality, and leavened 
with a degree of barbaric hypocrisy incapable of 
engendering any feeling but that of nausea. 
Language fails me in trying to describe it in its 
proper light ; and though reluctant to appear as 
scoffing at religion — which I emphatically repudiate 
— ^what I saw and heard makes it a hopeless task 
to allude to the subject and yet divest it of its 
component parts. This cure of some 1400 (crimi- 
nal) souls was vested in two chaplains, of whom 
one had the misfortune to be a gentleman. I say 
"misfortune" advisedly, for unless incapable of 
contamination the most charitably inclined and 
refined is bound to deteriorate. Their duties, in 

294 Eighteen MontM Imprisonment. 

addition to those usually associated with clergy- 
men, embraced a soiipcon of the schoolmaster with 
a dash of the district visitor, and if they were dis- 
posed (which all were not) to throw in a slice of 
detective work, it was not considered a disqualifi- 
cation for further preferment. The spiritual welfare 
of the Protestant portion of the prisoners was 
divided between them, all fresh arrivals during this 
month being specially assigned to the one, and 
all coming in the next devolving on the other. 
The etiquette and punctilio that regulated this 
division when once made, was as marked as that 
usually found amongst country medical practi- 
tioners. Thus, if Sykes the burglar, who happened 
to be one of the Rev. Smith's lambs, unfortunately 
cracked his skull, and was in immediate want of 
spiritual consolation, he would in all probability be 
requested to defer his departure till the arrival of 
the Rev. Robinson. I mention this in regard to 
the system, and not as referring to anyone in par- 
ticular, although the way I was ignored (very much 
to my delight) some weeks later, when my parti- 
cular pastor was on leave, fortifies me in the 
conviction that my theory is correct. 

The Church Militant in Prison. 295 

A portion of the prisoners are visited daily by 
their respective chaplains, and day after day, 
between teri and twelve, is devoted to this solemn 
pilgrimage. That religion may be administered 
in various forms was apparent from the method 
pursued respectively by the two chaplains. The 
one seemed to think that a kind word and a 
pleasant smile might safely be addressed to the 
vilest criminal without detracting from his spiritual 
dignity ; the other relied implicitly on scowls and 
frowns, and a recitation of the terrors of judgment 
and hell as the proper ministration for miserable 

I have special cause to be grateful for the 
accident that assigned me to whom it did, as, being 
a Presbyterian, and never having benefited to the 
extent of " confirmation,'' I should most assuredly 
have found my spiritual lines cast in harder places 
under an uncompromising bigot of Episcopacy, 
than under one who was willing to admit, that the 
kingdom of Heaven was not specially reserved for 
members of the Church of England. The multi- 
farious calls on his time prevented my chaplain 
from seeing me more frequently than once or 

296 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

sometimes twice in a fortnight; but even these 
occasional visits did not pass unnoticed, and I 
gleaned, from a casual remark he once made, that 
his spiritual superior considered a visit every two 
months ample for the requirements of the most 
depraved outcasts. I can only attribute this con- 
clusion to the potency of his peculiar ministration, 
which, unless taken in homoeopathic doses, might 
possibly have been injurious' to both body and 

I never came much in contact with the chief 
pillar of the chapel, though I was made acquainted 
with his usual routine by many of his flock : — 
" What are you here for } Do you say your 
prayers .? " were the soothing conundrums he rapped 
out on his periodical visits ; and if the answer was 
in the negative, it was followed by " D'you know 
where you're going to .'' " and then the door was 
slammed with a reverence suitable to the occasion. 
The relief that followed his exodus was, however, 
only momentary ; and again the key rattled in the 
door, and a head, with eyes flashing, was once 
more thrust in, and yelled out, " To hell ! " For 
of such is the kingdom of Heaven ! 

The Church Militant in Prison. 297 

Chapel was an infliction one was subjected to 
four times a week. The service in its entirety 
was conducted with a strict regard to official 
etiquette, and the degrees of relative rank were as 
clearly defined by the Bibles and prayer-books as 
by the seats, hassocks, reading desks, &c., allotted 
to the officials. Thus, the Governor's Bibles and 
prayer-books were gilt-bound, with gilt clasps ; 
the deputy Governor's, Scripture-reader's, and 
schoolmaster's, gilt bindings without the clasps ; 
the principal warders', clasps without the gilt 
binding ; and those of the rank-and-file of warders 
destitute of either gilt binding or clasps. Prisoners 
had to content themselves with thumbed, dog- 
eared, leafless specimens, and so the united halle- 
lujahs ascended to Heaven— let us hope equally 
acceptable, whether dog-eared or gilded. The 
interior of this sacred edifice resembled a barn, the 
nave being fitted up with rows of backless benches 
capable of accommodating some 600 knaves, a 
yard apart. 

A bird's-eye view of this congregation was one 
that challenged reflection, comprising as it did 
young men and old, dark and fair, short and stout. 

298 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

tall and thin, lads with fluff, and hoary-headed 
sinners, all stamped with the same mark of Cain — 
hang-dog faces and protruding jowls, conical heads 
with hair extending down the nape, bullet pates 
and cadaverous faces, cripples and blind men, one- 
legged and one-armed, yet all, with few exceptions, 
marked with the same indescribable jail-bird brand 
never to be mistaken, and once seen never to be 

The floor was tesselated (of the alms-house 
period), and one of the hardest floors with which 
I had ever come in contact. I realized this from 
a regulation that necessitated one's grovelling on 
the slightest provocation. The walls of this por- 
tion of the building were of a bilious-official- mud 
colour, the monotony of which was occasionally 
relieved by scrolls and texts of a personal nature. 
Beyond were a few steps leading to the pulpits 
and pews for the higher officials ; here the mural 
decorations assumed a brighter form — indeed, 
paint seemed to have been laid on regardless of 
expense, and with a degree of vulgarity I had 
never seen equalled, except perhaps in Albert 
Grant's lately pulled-down house at South Ken- 

The Church Militant in Prison. 299 

sington. The mania for smearing the walls with 
texts was by no means confined to the chapel, but 
was to be found everywhere that propriety and 
extreme religious fervour seemed to suggest. Thus 
over the surgery, as a reminder to possible 
schemers, " lying lips " were very properly con- 
demned ; near the stores advice as to " picking 
and stealing" was conspicuously displayed, with 
about as much effect as if it had been placed in 
the oakum-picking wards ; and everywhere, con- 
spicuous by its absence, was the wholesome admoni- 
tion, " If any man among you seem to be religious, 
and bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is 

The chapel, moreover, boasted of an organ— a 
serious infliction, involving a temptation for the 
encouragement of singing ; and nobody that has 
not heard 600 malefactors without an " h " in 
their composition bellowing " 'Oly, 'oly, 'oly," can 
sympathize to the extent the occasion merits. I 
was peculiarly unfortunate in my usual seat, which 
happened to be amongst the trades, and was 
flanked by the blacksmiths. I never heard them 
yelling without thinking that Handel's " Har- 

300 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

monious Blacksmith" must have been a different 
sort, which in its turn gave way to the " four-and- 
twenty blackbirds that were baked in a pie," and 
then I was recalled 'to the proximity of the four- 
and-twenty blacksmiths by " 'Oly, 'oly, 'oly." I 
could have wept from sheer sympathy when I heard 
that glorious " Te Deum " so brutally massacred, 
and pitied the organist — an excellent musician — 
for having to play on such an instrument to such 
an accompaniment. 

The entrance of the prisoners was not conducted 
on the principle customary in places of worship 
(though I suppose no one really associated this 
specimen with any attributes of the kind), but was 
accompanied by the blowing of whistles, and shouts 
of " Move higher up ! " " Come on, there ! " " D'you 
know where you are ? " " This ain't a music-hall !" 
and such-like appropriate exclamations. Music- 
hall indeed ! The Middlesex magistrates would 
never licence such an exhibition ; indeed, it only 
required a few handfuls of orange-peel to have 
made it a formidable rival of " The Vic." in its 
palmiest days. 

The chief cause of most of this indecent 

The Church Militant in Prison. 301 

behaviour was one of.the head warders, and when 
this man superintended the chapel parade the scene 
was disgraceful ; and " Take that man's name 
down ! " " I'll send you to your cell, sir ! " and 
bully, bully, bully, was the preparation for the 
service. This is no exaggeration, and hundreds of 
officials and prisoners will recognize the descrip- 
tion. At the same time it is only right to add 
that the Governor and chaplains have no means of 
knowing of these daily outrages, for custom regu- 
lates their entrance after the chapel is full, and 
when a toadying, eye-serving, make-believe rever- 
ence has succeeded the state of things I have 
described. The service was happily not a long 
one, and twenty minutes was the average duration 
from find to finish. It was conducted, I should 
say, with a tendency, to High Church formula on 
the part of the clergy and a portion of the con- 
gregation. Thus, the ministers, the laundrymen, 
and the blacksmiths invariably turned to the east 
during certain portions of the service, whilst the 
Governor (an old man-of-war's man, who could box 
the compass as well as ever), myself (I could see 
the weathercock from my window), the needle- 

302 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

men, who followed me to a man, and here and 
there a tailor, as persistently faced due north. 

The habit of trying to sing "second" was a 
very severe trial to listen to, and I remonstrated 
with one old man that I looked on as a kind of 
ringleader, at the pain his efforts caused me. His 
voice was by way of being a tenor, and his dis- 
regard of all harmony induced me to christen him 
" Wagner." One day poor old Wagner appeared 
with his neck painted with iodine, and the feeble 
croaks that he emitted, however painful to himself, 
were a considerable relief to me. Remembering, 
too, that when the Devil is sick he is supposed to 
be most susceptible of good impressions, and not 
wishing to lose the opportunity of working on his 
feelings, I determined to let him have it. I im- 
pressed on him the brittleness of tenor voices in 
general ; how susceptible their metempsychosis was 
to disorganisation ; how the epidermis of the 
carotid artery was peculiarly sensitive ; and, with 
a casual glance at his neck, implored him for his 
own sake, if not for mine, to give his voice a rest. 
With beads of perspiration and iodine trickling 
down his back, he gasped compliance ; and thus I 

The Church Militant in Prison. 303 

reduced my " crosses '' by one. Another horrid 
old man never failed to irritate me. He was 
undergoing twelve months' imprisonment for in- 
citing little boys to steal, but was now on the 
religious tack. So religious, indeed, had he 
become, that in a portion of " The Creed " he 
.could not say "hell," but invariably substituted 
" the grave." I had never heard this impertinent 
innovation before, and could have kicked him and 
his hypocrisy into Wagner's lap. Instantaneous 
conversions, such as took place years ago during 
the so-called Revivals, were of occasional occur- 
rence, brought about, as I take it, by the thrilling 
discourses we were sometimes treated to, and the 
"awakened one" would stand up and hold forth. 
But very short work was made of these converts, 
and a couple of matter-of-fact warders soon 
trundled them out, to be brought up later on and 
punished for disturbing the service. I made a 
careful study of the two chaplains and their 
respective peculiarities in conducting the service. 
With the one I never had cause for annoyance, and 
though his sermons could not be said to bristle 
with eloquence, he was evidently in earnest, and 

304 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

mindful of the fact that the word Protestant em- 
braced more denominations than one, and seemed 
particularly careful not to outrage the feelings of 
the many Presbyterians, Wesleyans, and other 
Nonconformists that formed a portion of the con- 
gregation. The other reverend individual had a 
partiality for the declamatory style, and whenever 
circumstances, or the calendar, gave him the option 
of selecting a psalm, never failed to declaim how 
" Moab is my washpot, over Edom will I cast out 
my shoe " (Ps. cviii.). I verily believe he used to 
think he was talking of his own household effects, 
and the expressions of admiration on the faces of 
the blacksmiths generally leave little or no doubt 
in my mind that they were thoroughly convinced 
he was appraising the contents of his charming 
little suburban retreat. But what he revelled in 
were the commandments : " Thou shalt " and ' 
" Thou shalt not " were balm to the holy man, and 
I was always pleased to see him enjoying himself 
A favourite dodge amongst prisoners, now pretty 
well played out, is to petition for a remission of sen- 
tence on the plea of conversion and regeneration 
That such a circumstance should be flattering to 

The Church Militant in Prison. 305 

the vanity of a man who is morally convinced of 
his incapacity for converting anything, is not to be 
wondered at, but the marvel is, how men with the 
varied experience of prison chaplains (I speak 
generally) should be gulled by such shallow 
artifices. That they are, however, is beyond dis- 
pute. I have met and conversed with many of 
thes2 brands plucked from the burning, and my 
experience accords with that of many capable of 
forming an opinion, that they are matchless both 
in cunning and rascality. They are invariably 
tale-bearers, or what are known in the compre- 
hensive criminal vocabulary as " creepers," for they 
do creep up the back of any one foolish enough to 
confide in them, and as surely creep down the next 
official's who is mean enough to encourage their 
tattle. These gentlemen are pretty well labelled, 
and I made it a practice to always preface my 
conversation with any of them by letting them 
understand they might tell " Gehazi," or any one 
they pleased, all and everything I might happen to 
say. One glaring instance of the converted type 
that I often led into conversation told me that he 
was very sanguine on the subject of a remission of 

3o6 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

the remainder of his sentence ; that one of the 
chaplains was " working it " for him ; and, indeed, 
that he and many other likely to be well informed 
individuals, such as assistant-turnkeys and fellow- 
prisoners may be presumed to be, had assured him 
that his success was a foregone conclusion. I 
asked him how he succeeded in getting such 
" powerful " advocacy, and although at firsf he 
assumed the fervent style, he very soon relapsed into 
his normal condition on seeing that I looked on 
him as a humbug. He then proceeded to explain 
that he began by expressing a desire to see his 
chaplain in private, in hopes of satiating the thirst 
for peace of mind that gave him no rest ; that this 
led to salutary advice and a fagot of tracts, and 
had ended in his partaking of the Holy Com- 
munion — I almost hesitate to repeat this rank 
blasphemy, and my only justification is its un- 
exaggerated truth ; indeed, I would not dare to 
write such horrors unless fortified by my veracity. 
He went on to add that it was awfully jolly, and 
that he generally received any surplus that might 
remain of the consecrated bread or wine. 

I am indebted to him for the following details of 

The Church Militant in Prison. 307 

the custom that prevailed on these solemn occa- 
sions, which, retailed in a bantering style, may be 
briefly summed up as follows : — That the cere- 
mony was usually attended by one official of each 
grade— such as the deputy governor, one chief 
warder, one warder, and a turnkey — to whom it 
was administered according to seniority ; that the 
prisoners' turn came next, and that by a judicious 
foresight he usually managed to secure the first 
place. He went on to add that he confidently 
expected some cozy billet in the prison suitable to 
his serious tendencies, and that his chaplain had 
promised to interest himself in procuring him some 
situation on discharge. As we became more inti- 
mate, he confided to me that he could never 
undergo poverty and privation again, and was 
determined to attain affluence, honestly if possible, 
but otherwise by one bold dash that should attain 
his end, or qualify him for penal servitude. This 
hopeful convert had been convicted of a till rob- 
bery, and had moreover committed forgery, which 
had not been preferred against him on condition 
that he restored the stolen money. It was this last 
spontaneous (!) honourable act that formed the basis 

X 2 

3o8 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

of his petition, proving his instantaneous remorse 
for the error of a moment — a remorse that had 
since ripened into sincere and heartfelt repentance. 
He concluded by informing me that his chaplain 
had led him to understand he should probably give 
him a few pounds on his discharge, but that he had 
been deceived so often by " converts " he had 
assisted eventually becoming " convicts," that he 
hesitated to help any of whose sincerity he was not 
perfectly satisfied. Let us hope he has not again 
been a victim of misplaced confidence ! I have 
on more than one occasion found it difficult to 
maintain my gravity when hearing this rogue and 
his victim discussing Bible questions, and whining 
at the ridicule he had to submit to on account of 
his convictions, and receiving consolation by the 
quotation of the case of Mary Magdalene. I have 
no scruple in giving this account, as the principal 
actor has long since been discharged (but not on 
his petition, which was naturally refused), and 
because it is an ungarnished, indisputable proof of 
the deceptions practised by criminals, and goes a 
long way to justify the apparently harsh treatment 
frequently accorded them. That the chaplains are 

The Church Militant in Prison. 309 

a conscientiously disposed class may be gleaned 
from the circumstance that on one occasion, when 
a converted sinner after his discharge sent a 
souvenir in the shape of an eighteenpenny papier 
inAchd inkstand, the reverend recipient declined to 
accept it till he had first obtained the sanction of 
the visiting Justices. 

" Tantum religio potuit suadere.'' 



During my career as a gardener I became very 
unwell. I attribute this in a measure to a recur- 
rence of a malady contracted in the tropics, and a 
chill I caught from lying on damp grass in a 
draughty yard. Another cause of my serious and 
probably life-long illness may possibly be traced to 
an insane and spontaneous act — an over-taxation 
of nature — many months previously. I had fined 
down in the ordinary course of events to the 
weight and bulk (according to my theory) that 
na:ture clearly intended ; but not content with this 
satisfactory result, I determined to attain still 
slimmer proportions. Many indications convinced 
me I had found " my bearings," and common sense 
ought to have suggested, enough ; but vanity pre- 
vailed, and perseverance attained the further desired 

The Hospital Dead-House. 3 1 1 

reduction, though at a more serious price than I 
had contemplated. My theory on the reduction of 
fat is based on my own case, and had I stopped as 
I recommend others, when I had found " my bear- 
ings," I should have retained my usual health ; as 
it was I went on and on, and like those enthusiasts 
who sacrifice health and life to the perfecting of a 
principle, so I, regardless of my own convictions, 
acted in direct opposition to my advice to others, 
and may be congratulated on having probed a 
theory to the very bottom at considerable personal 
sacrifice. If any sceptic is disposed to disparage 
my system, I ask him to blame me and not it. 
The latter consists of a dietary in itself harmless, 
and certain to produce diminution. When a cer- 
tain point is attained it says stop ; and if it is asked 
why, I reply because beyond that point it is rash, 
and if persisted in, the theory is clearly not to 
blame. I am aware that many will seize the oppor- 
tunity to disparage the system, and endeavour to 
deter others from following it. Such a course 
would be as logical as to condemn a glass of 
sherry, because someone had died from delirium 
trevtens ; or to abstain from eels because Henry I. 

312 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

had died from a surfeit of lampreys ; or, to carry 
the absurdity a degree further, to avoid (like the 
old woman) apple-tart, because her husband had died 
of apple-plexy. It was in the spring that I com- 
menced my campaign against nature, and though I 
had ample proof that I had arrived at my " natural 
bearings," I determined (never dreaming of the 
danger) to persevere a little more. I was then 
about IS stone in weight, and knowing it was a 
stone in excess of the average for men of my build, 
I thought if I could reduce just one stone more I 
would rest satisfied. I found, however, that my 
ordinary daily diet of mutton broth, a chop, 
potatoes, bread, and cocoa failed to reduce me as it 
had hitherto done, and that, try as I would, I 
recorded the same weight a fortnight hence. The 
remedy that most naturally suggested itself was to 
reduce the quantity, and I proceeded to divest my 
consumption, of the broth, the fat from the chops, 
and a portion of the potatoes and cocoa ; but 
nature still continued to warn me, and I as per- 
sistently ignored her, and, losing all patience, I 
entered on a course little short of starvation. I 
took a solemn oath that I would for one week con- 

TJie Hospital Dead-House. 313 

fine myself to six ounces of bread and six mouth- 
fuls of water a day (six ounces of bread will be 
found to be synonymous to six mouthfuls, and no 
more). During the first 48 hours my appetite 
became ravenous, and on the third and fourth days 
the pains of hell did indeed get hold of me ; and it 
was as much as I could do to resist the temptation 
of taking one mouthful of the savoury broth and 
mutton that was lying untouched on my table. 
The trial now became almost more than I could 
bear, and more than once I approached the table, 
where the food would have to remain for an hour, 
but at the last moment drew back. So acute, 
indeed, did I find this agony that, to avoid tempta- 
tion and to put it out of my power, I used to throw 
the food into the slop-pail. After a few days, the 
cravings of appetite began to cease, and I con- 
gratulated myself that I was getting accustomed to 
it. An accidental circumstance also prevented my 
testing the result at the end of the seven days, and 
I continued in my madness for another week. On 
being. weighed I then found I had lost nine or ten 
pounds. My appetite meanwhile had entirely for- 
saken me ; the smell and even the sight of meat 

314 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

produced nausea, my eyes seemed to be affected, 
my head began to swim, I became giddy without 
cause. I was now really ill, and I endeavoured to 
remedy the evil, but my stomach refused nourish- 
ment, and if I ate I was immediately sick. The 
possibility of having fatally injured myself so 
alarmed me that I saw the surgeon, who prescribed 
tonics and a change of diet ; and, as all failed in 
restoring outraged nature, I was admitted into 
hospital. During this time Dr. Tanner and his 
starvation exhibition were constantly in my mind, 
and the man I had once associated with the 
performance of a wonderful feat of self-denial 
descended in my mind to the level of a poor sick 
man like myself, absolutely incapable of taking 
food. Starvation has an ugly sound, and in its first 
stages is unquestionably painful ; but in a very few 
days (three or four at the most) the sensation 
passes away, and is succeeded by an absolute aver- 
sion to food. When I have seen a half-starved 
man in the streets who has told me he has not 
tasted food for a week and was " so 'ungry," my 
bowels of compassion have always been moved. 
If any mendicant was to tell me so now, I should 

The Hospital Dead-House. 315 

know he was lying and refuse to assist him ; but if 
he said he had not eaten for two days and was in 
agony, I should pity him and give him sixpence if 
I had it. I shall give a detailed account of my life 
in hospital, and the incredible kindness and con- 
sideration I received, later on. Meanwhile I will 
confine myself to the assertion, that to such an 
extent had I injured myself that in six weeks I had 
lost two stone. On one's admission into hospital 
one is at once put to bed, and one's clothes re- 
moved. This latter custom is intended to insure a 
proper compliance with the regulation, until the 
doctor's sanction is obtained to the contrary. 
" Sitting up " has, however, been found to be half 
way to " going down " ; and, as hospital is the goal 
to which all prisoners aspire, it does not require 
much inducement to commend their observance of 
this particular rule. The hospital consists of a 
large airy ward, fitted up with twenty beds. 
Through this, and communicating with a glass 
door, is a smaller room with three large windows, 
which gave a clear view of the outer world from 
Holborn Town Hall to St. Pancras Station. It was 
my good fortune to be located here, detached and 

3i6 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

alone, and yet sufficiently near to see and hear all 
that was going on. The menial duties of the 
hospital are performed by three prisoners selected 
for good behaviour. These billets are specially 
prized, and though associated with the most un- 
pleasant duties, offer facilities for eating and drink- 
ing which, in the estimation of prisoners, cover a 
multitude of drawbacks. These cleaners eat up 
everything ; indeed, so fat do they often become 
that it is a kind of unwritten rule that when they 
have increased a stone in weight they revert to 
prison life. The voracity they display is incredible, 
and until they become too dainty to care for any- 
thing but the best, they may daily be seen finishing 
eggs, tea, mutton, milk, beef tea, pudding, and 
arrowroot promiscuously, as they pass from patient 
to patient. The opportunity for this gluttony is 
unlimited, and a glance at the fare I subsisted on 
for over five months will convince the most sceptical 
that kindness and liberality can exist even in a 
prison^ indeed, I attribute my being alive now to 
the tender care and medical skill I received, and 
can never adequately express my gratitude to the 
surgeons and the entire hospital staff. 

The Hospital Dead-House. 3 1 7 

My dietary consisted of — 

6 A.M. — Half-a-tumbler of rum and new 


7 „ — A pint of tea, bread-and-butter, 

and an egg or two. 

1 1 „ — A pint of new milk. 

12 noon — Beef-tea, rice-pudding, and two 

glasses of sherry. 

. (I was offered, when I wished it, to substitute 
a chop, fish, chicken, rabbit, or anything I might 

5 P.M. —A pint of tea, bread-and-butter, 
and an &g^. 

7 „ —A pint of new milk. (This milk 

was so excellent, that often 
when I left it for the night, I 
skimmed off a thick coating of 
cream that would have shamed 
many dairies.) 

8 „ — A pint of arrowroot. 

Every item was the best that money could pro- 
cure, and unlimited in the supply, nor could I have 

3i8 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

lived better at a West-End hotel at thirty shillings 
a day ; but my health precluded my enjoying it, 
and I could not summon the appetite for one- 
tenth of the dainties. Everything I left was 
devoured by the cleaners, and I have seen these 
cormorants gorging as if determined to burst 
rather than waste a scrap. Mine was by no means 
an isolated case, for every one was equally cared 
for, and it seemed as if a man had only to be 
really ill to be made to forget that he had fallen 
amongst thieves, and was now under the care of 
the good Samaritan. Sick men are proverbially 
impressionable ; but now, months after, in a genial 
climate, surrounded by every comfort that a kind 
mother can think of, and gradually regaining my 
strength, I cannot look back on the past without 
feelings amounting almost to veneration, as I re- 
member the kind friend and skilful hand that 
saved me from the jaws of death. The hospital is 
unquestionably the best managed of the various 
departments in Coldbath. I attribute this to the 
excellent staff of experienced warders, and the 
supervision of the medical officers. Where all 
seem actuated by the same desire, it would be in- 

The Hospital Dead- House. 319 

vidious to draw comparisons ; but the authorities 
little know what hard-working, efficient, and trust- 
worthy men they have in their two night-warders, 
who week by week relieve each other, and perform 
their multifarious duties through the livelong 
night in a quiet, unostentatious way, and all for a 
pittance of an extra shilling a night beyond that 
paid to an ordinary turnkey. The many sleepless 
nights I passed gave me ample time to study their 
habits, which never varied, nor seemed .regulated 
by eye-service ; and from 6 in the evening, when 
they appeared neatly attired in white jacket and 
apron, till 6 in the morning, these living au- 
tomatons neither slumbered nor slept, but were 
engaged, without intermission, in dispensing medi- 
cines, preparing plasters and poultices, and keeping 
up the fires, without fuss or noise, and with the 
regularity of a chronometer. At first my utter 
prostration prevented me leaving my bed, but as 
time wore on, I began to get about and observe 
what was going oij. The day was a long and 
dreary one, though it was optional when one got 
up, nor could it be divested of the many annoy- 
ances that officialism — spiritual and temporal — 

320 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

seemed unable to forego even in a hospital. The 
chief culprit was the Scripture reader (as I under- 
stood was his official designation, though I never 
saw or heard him so engaged), who appeared 
regularly at 2 o'clock, and read a monotonous 
harangue, with a religious tendency evidently in- 
tended to be entertaining. I should be sorry to 
misjudge the worthy man, whom I am disposed 
rather to sympathize with, as the passive instru- 
ment of an irreverent exhibition ; indeed, he con- 
veyed to me the notion of a man actuated by a 
strong desire to fulfil a duty conscientiously which 
he felt was contemptible, and that deceived neither 
himself nor his audience. This farce and its sur- 
roundings were all sprinkled with the same 
reverential ceremony, and as he strutted up the 
passage with his billycock under his arm, a sub- 
dued tone pervaded the room and heads were un- 
covered as became the solemn farce. " The sub- 
ject for our study and meditation," began the un- 
happy man, " is entitled, ' Jonas, or the bilious 
whale,' or, ' Cain, the naughty man,' " as the case 
might be ; and then followed twenty minutes of 
twaddle, senseless and monotonous, and as in- 

The Hospital Dead- House. 321 

capable of removing moral stains as would be 
" Thorley's Food for Cattle," if substituted in things 
temporal (and seedy) for " Benzine Collas." A 
fervent " Amen " always followed these effusions, 
loudly joined in by the cleaners, who felt it might 
be considered a recommendation for continued 
hospital employment, and those patients approach- 
ing convalescence, who hoped it might turn the 
scale in favour of a few more days in hospital. 
By opening the door I could see and hear every- 
thing, and I often caught poor " Bubbling Bill " 
casting sheep's eyes in my direction. Meals 
were always preceded by a grace (.■') said by a 
turnkey : " Bless O lor' th' things touruse for 
crysake, Amen!" a refreshing and commendable 

It seems peculiarly unfair on religion that it 
should so often be preseiited in a hideous or 
ridiculous light, and if the same stipulations were 
enforced as to quality as at present exist as to 
quantity, more things than time might possibly be 

At II, and again at night, the surgeons visited 
the hospital, when every case was carefully gone 

322 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

into. The care that prisoners receive in this 
hospital puts crime almost at a premium, and 
though I may indirectly be accusing those 
eminent and otherwise irreproachable physicians 
of unintentionally aiding and abetting law-break- 
ing, veracity compels me to say what I think. A 
case I met goes far to prove it. In the hospital 
with me was a broken-down old gardener who had 
seen better days, and was in receipt of a pension 
of five shillings a week from a former employer. 
This pittance, however conclusive it might be of 
his comparative honesty, was wholly inadequate to 
procure medical comforts for rheumatic gout, to 
which he was a martyr. He next appears at a 
police court for having a pig in his yard, which he 
had driven in from the street, and then informed 
the police. There can be only one solution of this 
act, for he was a man of sixty, beyond absolute 
want, and had never seen tlie inside of a prison 
before. He had now attained his object, and was 
undergoing three months' imprisonment, during 
all which time he was in hospital. I saw him on 
admission, a cripple, crumpled up and half-starved, 
and I saw him every day swaddled in cotton wool, 

The Hospital Dead-Hotise. 323 

his limbs frequently fomented, and fed on the 
daintiest luxuries. This man was one of the few 
I met who was grateful for the care bestowed on 
him, and honest enough to wish he had had six 
instead of three months' imprisonment. I saw 
him on the day of his discharge, comparatively 
cured, and wondered how long it would be before 
he again caught the right sow by the ear. A dis- 
advantage that patients have to suffer from is the 
architectural construction of the ward : it unites 
the two angles of the prison, and necessitates its 
being traversed in its entire length by every official 
going his rounds. On these occasions great incon- 
sideration is shown, the orange-peel delinquent of 
chapel notoriety being peculiarly offensive in the 
unnecessary noise he made. I heard him on one 
occasion complain to the warder, that a patient, 
who was almost in extremis at the time, was " too 
lazy to look up." 

During my retirement I saw more than one 
painful death-scene ; the one that made the most 
unpleasant impression on me was that of a living 
skeleton, who seemed incapable of dying, although 
too weak to do anything but blaspheme dreadfully, 

Y 2 

324 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

and keep up one incessant groan. He was a man 
of sixty, and had been in his time the best known 
and expertest of swell-mobsmen. He had not a 
relation in the world, and although offered his 
discharge months before, had nowhere or no one 
to whom he could go. I saw this man dying for 
weeks, and eventually stood at his bedside when 
he took his last gasp. This man had been either 
a convict or undergoing imprisonment for the last 
twenty years, and the crime that led to his death 
in Coldbath was the sacrilege of putting a counter- 
feit half-crown into a collection plate, and taking 
out as change a genuine florin. One of the cleaners 
— an unmitigated thief, but sufficiently good to 
have qualified for staff einploy — had told the 
warder the day before his death that he knew him 
to be acquainted with certain persons he named ; 
and with the consideration that characterizes the 
treatment of prisoners in hospital, no pains were 
spared to discover the creatures. I saw them next 
day (two females, known to every policeman in 
London, the one as the keeper of a thieves' lodging- 
house, the other as a "decoy"), actuated by no 
motive but curiosity and the intimation they had 

The Hospital Dead-House. 325 

received, standing at the dying man's bed in their 
tawdry finery, in company with the priest as 
attired in chasuble and stole he pronounced the 
extreme unction for dying sinners. The dying 
man, the kindly priest, the tawdry females, and 
the surroundings, formed a picture truly awful, and 
baffling description. But the end had not yet 
come ; and as the room was again left to its normal 
condition, banter reassumed its sway, and bets 
began to be made as to the probable hour of his 
death. Pots of tea and bread-and-butter were 
freely wagered, and yet through the livelong night 
the dying groans, getting feebler and feebler, told 
how the swell-mobsman was still tussling with 
death. At five in the morning the end was 
evidently at hand, and slipping on my clothes, I 
joined the knot of men attracted to the bedside. 
The man was happily unconscious ; and as the 
excitement of the sweepstake increased, I can only 
compare it to the game .of roulette, when the ball 
almost rolls into one compartment and then 
topples into the next ; and " He's dead now," " No, 
he isn't," " That's his last," followed gasp after gasp, 
till at a few minutes to six a profound silence 

326 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

announced that the swell-mobsman was gone. (It 
is only fair to state that much of this occurred 
unknown to the solitary warder, for what was one 
amongst so many ?) By this time the prison bell 
was ringing, and the place was astir as day and 
night warders relieved one another. To stretch, 
strip, and carry him out of bed were the work 
of a moment ; and what had been a living 
man a few seconds before had been washed, 
laid out, rolled in a blanket, and carried to the 
dead-house in less time than I have taken to 
write it. 

The washing and laying out of a corpse is too 
dreadful to pass unnoticed. This necessary but 
revolting ceremony is performed in the kitchen. I 
saw the corpse divested of all clothing, lying on 
the top of the bath, in the centre of the kitchen, 
with the kettle boiling within a yard of it, and 
surrounded by pots and pans and other parapher- 
nalia in daily use. The stench that pervaded the- 
kitchen after this ceremony was so apparent (nor 
could it be got rid of for days) that I was 
absolutely unable to eat anything that had passed 
through it, and for days subsisted on the insides of 

The Hospital Dead-House. 327 

loaves and eggs, as the only places where the 
flavour of potted pickpocket did not appear to 
have penetrated. This washing of corpses and 
the " itch bath " in a hospital kitchen is as great 
a scandal as ever was perpetrated by any Govern' 

The dead-house is a primitive establishment, 
and cannot even be divested of superfluous 
officialism. Its entire contents consist of a slab 
and a wooden block for the head of the corpse, 
and yet it boasted of an inventory board. This 
latter absurdity is conspicuously displayed, and 
reads ^- 


Another death I saw was even more awful in its 
suddenness. It was during dinner when some five 
or six patients were devouring their chops. One 
man, that was conspicuous for his habitual voracity, 
had left the table whilst waiting for the pudding. 
As he passed his bed he toppled over and was 
dead. The cook, with the characteristic officiousness 
of the criminal class, rushed out of the kitchen 

328 Eighteeh Months Imprisonment. 

with a saucepan full of rice pudding in his hand, 
and began to assist at the ghastly manipulation. 
I was within a foot of him, and saw the wretch 
brush off a tear from the dead man's eye, which 
he then proceeded to close ; he then resumed his 
culinary duties, and gave the saucepan a stir. Rice 
pudding, I understand, is hable to "stick" to the 
pot ; for my part, I made a vow to "stick " to dry 
bread ; indeed, I never see one now without being 
reminded of this disgusting scene. 

I was now beginning to yearn for tbbacco. For 
some days past my illness had indisposed me for 
it ; besides, my arrangements had been upset by 
my sudden admission into hospital. To communi- 
cate with one of my agents, although by no means 
difficult, was a question of opportunity. I was 
particularly anxious, too, not to be suspected of 
breaking a rule, for though it could only have been 
interpreted as a breach of discipline to be dealt 
with. by the Executive, I found it difficult to divest 
myself of the notion it would appear ungracious 
towards my kind physicians if I transgressed any 
rule whilst in hospital. But my craving increased, 
. and as I could not eat, and to smoke I was afraid, 

The Hospital Dead-House. 329 

and consoling myself with the assurance that what 
the eye does not see, the heart does not feel, I 
decided, in the burning words of Bishop Heber, 
to " mind my eye and blaze away." 

My position necessitated my breaking a funda- 
mental rule of my principle, and I confided in a 
rascally cleaner. I had, indeed, no alternative, for, 
though by the confidence I increased the chances 
of detection, I minimized and almost precluded 
the possibility of the ownership being brought 
home to me. My first anxiety vVas to find a place, 
for between my mattresses was out of the question, 
and I at length decided on the flooring ; but select- 
ing a plank and removing the nails are two different 
things, and I should have been defeated at the 
very outset. Chance, however, favoured me ; and 
one day, 'to my great delight, a ram was caught in 
the thicket, in the shape of a carpenter, come to 
repair a window. As opportunity offered, I pointed 
out to him a short plank, and leaving the room, 
said, " I shall be back in ten minutes ; meanwhile, 
if you remove those nails, and replace the plank 
so as not to be observable, I'll give you as much 
grub as you can carry away." These instructions 

2,2,0 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

would have been ample, but fearing his zeal to 
earn the food might outrun his discretion, I popped 
my head in and added, " If you're caught messing 
about, kindly remember I know nothing about it." 
This will hardly be deemed chivalrous, though 
strictly in accordance with etiquette in giddy 
Clerkenwell. Being satisfied with his work, but 
dreading to explore my secret cave, I told a cleaner 
to collect all the spare bread-and-butter he could 
find. So well did he carry out my request that he 
shortly appeared 'with thirty-eight slices, but so 
bulky was the quantity that it was necessary to 
smuggle it in, and the coal-scuttle was pressed 
into the service ; but my carpenter did not "object, 
and, removing the lump that concealed it from the 
vulgar (turnkey) gaze, proceeded to devour it. 
With his mouth full of one slice and shoving in 
another, he occasionally gargled out, " This is a 
treat ! " " This is jam ! " until sixteen slices had 
disappeared. He now began to show signs of 
distress, and secreted the rest inside his shirt ; but 
what between the sixteen slices inside and the 
twenty-two outside, his dimensions had so increased 
that detection was a certainty, I therefore refused 

The Hospital Dead-House. 33 r 

to let him leave unless he swallowed eight more — 
just to make an even two dozen — and the unhappy 
man again began. I can see him now, sitting on 
the window-sill, pretending to hammer, his eyes 
starting out of his head, imploring me to " let it 
be ; " but I was firm, and had not the remotest 
intention of jeopardising my position by any such 
weakness. As the last piece disappeared, he 
was speechless, and I almost feared he was 
choked ; but my mind was considerably relieved 
by his asking me, for mercy's sake, to give him 
a drop of water. But there, was none in the 
room, and, telling him it was all nonsense, and 
that the walk downstairs would make it all 
right, saw him leave the room with considerable 

That evening I explored my cavern, which sur- 
passed my fondest expectations ; the architect 
must have put it there on purpose, so admirably 
was it adapted. Lifting up the eighteen-inch 
plank, I discovered a hollow place about six inches 
deep and two feet square. I now lost no time in 
getting my supplies, and, making a bag, at once 
filled it with paper, envelopes, a knife, pencil, and 

332 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

a cake of tobacco. From 6 to 7 A.M. was my 
favourite hour for writing and other business. I 
then carefully replaced my treasures, and sent off 
my letters, leaving nothing criminating about me ex- 
cept five or six atoms of tobacco, which I would have 
swallowed rather than that they should have been 
discovered. There were several advantages con- 
nected with a choice of this hour. In it one was 
perfectly safe from interference ; so busy, indeed, 
was everybody, that the orange-peel man, who 
was busy counting and inspecting, and the other 
officials sending off night reports, would never have 
dreamt of anyone devoting this particular hour to 
the breach of a dozen rules. 

As time wore on, I began to dread the detection 
of my hiding-place ; so conspicuous, too, did it 
appear to my guilty conscience that I determined 
to abandon it. The light seemed to pour on its 
well-worn crevices, the Governor stood on it twice 
or thrice a week, the surgeons crossed it a dozen 
times a day, warders absolutely hovered over it all 
day long ; so I communicated with the cleaner, and 
entered into an arrangement whereby, for a con- 
sideration of food and a piece of tobacco daily, he 

The Hospital Dead-House. 333 

was to secrete my bag elsewhere. I felt it was 
madness to trust a confirmed thief, but there was 
no alternative ; and within a week I discovered 
the fallacy of there being any honour amongst 
thieves, and the brute I had treated with the 
greatest liberality stole my bag, and came to me 
with a whining tale of how it had been discovered 
and taken away. It never alarmed me, as it would 
had I really believed him ; and shortly after the 
whole conspiracy was revealed to me by about the 
only reliable prisoner amongst them, and I had 
undoubted proof of the complicity of every cleaner 
in the place. 

My weary afternoons I usually beguiled by 
pantomimic love-passages with a frowsy damsel 
in a neighbouring house. Our acquaintance began 
as I watched a portion of her graceful form bulging 
over a window-sill she was cleaning at the time, 
which ripened into such an intimacy, that day by 
day we looked out for each other, and exchanged 
such protestations of devotion as might be conveyed 
by her holding up to me portions of her employer's 
eatables, such as eggs and once a steak, which I 
gracefully reciprocated by exposing Government 

334 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

property, such as a medicine bottle and occasionally 
bread-and-butter. Graceful Selina ! may my suc- 
cessor have been more worthy of your innocent 
virgin heart ! 



The number of admissions into hospital about 
this time necessitated my having a companion 
billeted on me, an unfortunate Frenchman, utterly 
oblivious of any language but his own ; and as it 
turned out that his attainments in English were 
exactly of the same extent as that of the warders 
in French, there seemed to be an impassable gulf 
fixed between all communication of ideas, if either 
pajity had happened to possess any. He- was com-- 
plaining to me one day of the disadvantage he 
laboured under, and described the usual conversa- 
tion that took place daily between himself and the 
hospital warder. 

" Well, are you better ? " 

" No, sare." 

" O, all right." 

'' Voild mon ami. What do you tink 1 " 

2,2,(> Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

My companion, I was gratified to observe, was 
gradually mastering some of the idioms of our 

Not long after, an extraordinary creature was 
admitted as a patient, and I cannot to this day 
say what his nationality was, although I am in- 
clined to believe his language was some kind of 
Russian patois. Nobody could make head or tail of 
him, and a distracted warder, in this dilemma recol- 
lecting my success with the " other foreigner " and 
doubtless giving me credit for a knowledge of every 
language of the earth besides a few of the lunar 
ones, came and asked me to try and understand 
him. My knowledge of outlandish languages is 
not remarkably extensive (it is confined, I may 
state, to the Hottentot word for " rice " and the 
Chinese for " smoke "), and as no one appeared to 
have a Russian dictionary, I addressed him in 
Hindustani, considering that in point of longitude 
it came geographically nearest the Russian. He 
at once replied in a rambling speech, throwing his 
arms about and beating his chest ; and though I 
am convinced he understood no more of my 
speech than I had of his, my reputation was estab- 
lished, the more so as he had no means of betray- 

Btirglars "/ Have Met" 337 

ing my secret. Having then explained to the 
warder that he complained of pains in the chest, 
and would prefer an &%% beaten in his tea instead 
of boiled (a change I considered unlikely to mate- 
rially affect his complaint), I retired to my apart- 

I now for the first time came into personal col- 
lision with the chaplain. For weeks and month.s 
.circumstances, and possibly choice, had kept us 
apart, nor had we exchanged a word since the 
eventful day when he discovered that an " uncon- 
firmed" sinner -stood before him. It was during 
prayers (a movable feast indulged in three morn- 
ings a week at the chaplain's convenience) that I 
was referring to a book on the table in hopes of 
finding the particular extract he was reading. 
Failing in that I replaced the book, and resumed 
my hypocritical solemnity, in blissful ignorance of 
any impropriety. The holy man, however, thought 
otherwise, and hissed out at me — 

"I consider your behaviour impertinent to me, 
and disrespectful to God." 

At first I retained my equanimity, for he was 
incapable of raising my ire ; and I assured him 
what my object had been, and reminded him I was 

338 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

a Presbyterian. At this his rage knew no bounds, 
and sneering in a manner unworthy of a clergyman 
(I won't say a gentleman), he said — 

" A Presbyterian, are you ? Ah, I thought you 
didn't belong to the Church of England ! " 

I soon got the unhappy man's back up. I 
assured him I was indifferent to his opinion, and 
added I was proud to belong to a Church where 
such intolerant views were not expressed by its 
ministers. This undignified scene was heartily 
enjoyed by twenty prisoners and warders, all of 
whom assured me I had had considerably the best 
of it. I intended to have paraded him before the 
visiting Justices, but common sense prevailed, and 
I should have ignored his further existence had it 
not been for a petty spite he indulged in shortly 
after. As I have before stated, the library books 
are under his special care. During my long illness 
I had waded through this " special " catalogue till 
I had reached number 21, and in the course of 
events might naturally hope to receive number 22 
next. In this, however, I had made a miscalcula- 
tion, and his Reverence decided that a school 
edition (the eighth I had read) of the History of 
England was a more wholesome dietary for a 

Bttrglars "/ Have Met." 339 

bumptious Presbyterian. I was convinced the 
mistake was not unintentional, but, anxious to give 
him an opportunity of gracefully retracting a con- 
temptible action, I sent the following day to point 
out his oversight. The reply was, as I expected, 
" If he does not choose to have it let him go with- 
out'." I reported the matter to the Governor, who 
at once offered to place the matter before the 
visiting Justices, as he had no jurisdiction in the 
matter ; but I decided that the man and his book 
were neither worth it. I should now, under 
ordinary circumstances, have been left entirely 
bookless — a contingency in my case that did not 
occur. It also gave me the opportunity of reading 
"The General History of the Church," a well- 
written and exhaustive work by the Abb6 Daras, 
supplied for the use of Roman Catholics. The 
superiority of the literature — religious and profane 
— selected and supplied by the Roman Catholic 
chaplain, together with his personal merit and 
gentlemanly bearing, makes Romanism a formid- 
able rival to the "Established" Religion as dis^ 
pensed at Coldbath. To judge by the jealousy 
that exists in a certain quarter, it is evident this 

superiority is realized elsewhere. But the circum- 

z 2 

340 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

stance was not unnoticed by my lynx-eyed, 
ghostly comforter. On many occasions I have 
seen him watching, as if he would have liked — had 
he dared — to ask me what I was reading ; but he 
confined himself to discussing me with the warders, 
with such remarks as, " I see he's got hold of some- 
thing," or " What's that he's reading ? " all of which 
was duly reported to me. I feel I have given 
undue importance to this contemptible squabble ; 
but I look on it as a tilt between sects, a tussle 
between an Episcopalian divine, armed with autho- 
rity, and a Nonconformist, placed at a considerable 
disadvantage, and where — had I been in a position 
to do so — I should have left the room — as the 
Governor once did the Chapel when unmeasured 
and ill-advised criticism was being lavished on 
Dissenters. The guilt of schism lay heavily on 
this orthodox Churchman's heart. I say schism, 
for I call it such of the most culpable type that 
ignores the insignia of Divine sanction accorded to 
the Ministry and people of Nonconformity. I 
would ask this bigoted Episcopalian what he 
thinks of Richard Baxter, Livingstone, John 
Home, Wesley, Whitfield, Chalmers, Candlish, 
Caird, Guthrie, McLeod, names only to be men- 

Burglars ''I Have Met." 341 

tioned to inspire veneration, and yet these were all 
Nonconformists of one denomination or another. 
Surely, if Divine grace finds and fashions such 
men, they may be considered as entitled to at least 
respect from clergymen and gentlemen, who, if 
they do not agree in their respective tenets, may at 
least abstain from unmeasured abuse of them and 
their followers ! Arrogance anywhere is bad, but 
is doubly so when men who claim to be disciples 
of the meek and lowly Jesus set such an example 
by their narrow-minded remarks about Noncon- 
formity. The Church of England is a venerable 
and illustrious section of the true Church, and 
unlikely to have its fair fame sullied by the ravings 
of a nameless ranter. But it becomes a question, 
is a chaplain with such extreme views, so uncom- 
promising, in his denunciations, so unguarded in 
his language, so ungovernable in his temper, the 
sort of person for a prison chaplain, or one likely 
to convert sinners from the error of their ways ? 
God forbid that my remarks should be mistaken. 
I do not aspire to be considered either a ranter or 
a hypocrite, but I respect and never fail to detect 
religion, and despise its base counterfeit wherever 
and in whomsoever I find it : and if I can hear the 

34- Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

"old story" ungarnished by rhetoric, I care not 
whether it emanates from Episcopalian, Presby- 
terian, or Nonconformist of whatever denomination. 
That this is a very small world was demon- 
strated to me during a conversation I once had 
with a fellow prisoner. He was a decent, educated 
man, and had been in a pawnbroker's establish- 
ment. Our conversation one night turned on 
things theatrical, and he was giving me some 
interesting experiences of the " ladies " he had met 
at various times on business. He asked me if I 

knew Mrs. , and I said I had spoken to the 

old hag. He then proceeded to tell me what a 
constant customer she had been in former days, 
and how her contributions had varied from woollen 
rags one week to valuable jewellery another. It 
was then that a circumstance was brought to my 
mind — told me some three years ago by a lovely 
and accomplished actress, since retired from the 
stage — of how a popular burlesque artiste in the 
same theatre had once lost a valuable jewel, and 
how suspicion pointed at this identical old woman, 
who had a girl at the theatre. I asked him if he 
recollected anything about it, and he at once pro- 
ceeded to give me details that convinced me that 

Burglars "/ Have Met." 343 

the pendant he referred to was one and the same as 
that which had mysteriously disappeared, and that 
the suspicions formed a few years ago might have 
been very fully confirmed had a visit been paid to 
an establishment not a hundred miles from Totten- 
ham Court Road. 

During my illness I had at different times the 
services of the various cleaners in making my bed, 
brushing the floor, and bringing in my meals, and 
I invariably extracted anything of interest about 
their previous careers. My first was an un- 
mitigated young "till thief." This is a special 
branch of the profession, requiring assurance 
rather than dexterity, and consists in watching 
your opportunity when the shop is empty, and 
then making a dash for the till or cash-box. My 
valet had apparently "been eminently fortunate, and 
although he had undergone a previous twelve 
months, had escaped detection a score of times. 
He was then undergoing a lengthened seclusion for 
an unforeseen occurrence, which he in no way con- 
sidered as a reflection on his prowess. He had, it 
appears, entered a confiding lamp-dealer's, and 
finding the shop conveniently empty, and the cash- 
box conspicuously displayed, had done his busi- 

344 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

ness, and proceeded to leave the premises. A 
swinging glass door, however, unfortunately inter- 
vened between the shop and the street, which in 
the excitement he pushed the wrong way, and in 
some way jammed. This little delay made a dif- 
ference in his and the shopman's respective 
accounts of about £/^^. On another occasion he 
found himself in a corn-chandler's — a class that is 
proverbially considerate in avoiding superfluous 
obstacles to a hurried exit, — and whilst helping 
himself to the till, a customer came in, who, seeing 
him engaged, asked for a pennyworth of barley ; 
to this he obligingly served her, added the cum- 
brous coin to his other findings, and then com- 
placently left the shop. This individual was a 
special pet with the turnkeys, and as such — com- 
bined with his trustworthy reputation — was in- 
variably selected for expeditions to the various 
stores. His special talent here stood him in good 
-stead, and he never returned without having stolen 
three or four eggs, a handful of flour, or a lump of 
soap. Indeed, so inherent was the spirit for thiev- 
ing, that if all else failed, he would annex physic, 
and I have often seen him with bottles of quinine 
and iron mixture. This latter forms a considerable 

Bttrglars "I Have Met!' 345 

article of commerce, and is much sought after and 
bartered (never mind how or where) for advantages 
of a more palatable type. A short time before 
his discharge I advised him to drop the cash-box 
game, and he assured me he had quite determined 
to " turn it up." Within a week he had been re- 
convicted, and is at present undergoing seven 
years' penal servitude. In my next valet I was 
considerably disappointed. Although an unmiti- 
gated thief, I fancied I detected some redeeming 
features. I talked to him frequently, and treated 
him with as much kindness as a man with my 
circumscribed means hp.d probably ever been able 
to. In return he assisted to rob me of contraband 
things, of which he always had a liberal share. 
He had been a lieutenant (in burglary) of the late 
Mr. Peace, and often discussed that eminent man 
with evident regret. He had been with him in 
various minor affairs, and through his entire career 
had never been " nabbed." His present incarcera- 
tion was the result of treachery, where a less for- 
tunate associate had rounded on him, and he was 
arrested a week after. He often hoped to meet 
him outside, though an incident that occurred will 
necessitate a postponement of the pleasure. A 

34^ Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

batch of convicts, en route to penal servitude, were 
one day being medically examined by the surgeon 
(a new regulation lately come into force), amongst 
whom my valet recognised his quasi friend, the 
informer. The interview took place near the 
kitchen, where my man was cooking a chop, the 
surgery being next door, at which the convicts 
were ranged. "And what did you say.''" I en- 
quired, "Say!" he replied, "I slapped my 
stomach to show 'im I was all right, and then I 

says, ' You looks 'orrid ill, you ; you'll never 

do it ; thank God, 'twill kill yen' " 

A pleasant prelude to ten years' penal servitude. 

I am indebted to this noble-minded creature for 
many hints as to how burglaries are concocted and 
how best guarded against, and I am of opinion 
that attention to them will do more to obviate 
their frequency than all the absurd warnings as to 
window shutters and area gates, that periodically 
emanate from Scotland Yard. No burglary is ever 
attempted on chance ; in fact, no house is ever 
entered except on exact and reliable information. 
This is usually obtained through a frivolous maid- 
servant (in which case a delay of weeks may be 
necessary for love-making), a rascally butler, or the 

Burglars " / Have Met." 347 

local chimney-sweep. The information chiefly 
sought after is the strength of the garrison (whether 
males or females), the class of valuables (whether 
plate or jewellery), their usual locality, and the 
habits of the occupants. With this as a basis, the 
house is watched for days and weeks, in order that 
a confirmation of the information may be obtained. 
The time preferred is when the night police are in 
the act of relieving the day men, and if that should 
be inconvenient (to the burglar), between the night 
patrols. All this may appear ridiculous, but I give 
it as the testimony of a notorious burglar, iniparted 
to me in good faith, under exceptionally favourable 
circumstances for hearing the truth, and if acted on 
will materially increase the security of householders. 
I asked my mentor his opinion about window- 
shutters and door bolts, at which he absolutely 
laughed. No burglary is ever attempted through 
a window unless considerately left open. The 
front door is the invariable point of attack, as most 
favourable for ingress and a precipitate retreat, 
and under occasional circumstances the area. The 
operation never takes more than twenty minutes, 
as is erroneously supposed, the object being to be 
in and out again between the periodical promenade 

348 Eighteen Months^ Imprisonment. 

of the policeman. These nocturnal strolls are 
accurately calculated, and the precision with which 
they are performed, however admirable from a 
disciplinary point of view, are totally inappropriate 
as deterrents to burglaries. 

" But suppose," I asked, " a person said to you, 
'I've only got so-and-so in the house — you can 
have that ' : would you be satisfied } " 

" Satisfied .' " he replied. " No, we knows jolly 
well- what there is afore we comes ; and, for the 
matter of that, there's no time for talk. We goes 
straight for the swag, and if anyone tries to 'inder 
us, we're bound to let 'im 'ave the jemmy right 
across the face. That's 'ow poor Peace got 'imself 
into trouble fust," He then went on to tell me 
that he had a lovely (!) little jemmy about eighteen 
inches long and tipped with the finest tempered 
steel, capable of being carried up the sleeve, and 
so fine that it could be inserted into the smallest 
crack or hinge ; " And," he added, " once let me 
get 'is nose in, and make no mistake, I walks in 
very soon arter." 

This gentleman's testimony is worthy of consi- 
deration. He was associated, as he informed me, 
with the butler in a well-known burglary of plate 

Burglars "I Have Met." 349 

somewhere in Kensington, and where the butler, 
being knave enough to rob his master, was fool 
enough to entrust a large portion of the proceeds 
to his confederate to melt down and divide. As I 
understood him, half only of this bargain was carried 
out in its integrity. 

The secrecy with which foolish women fancy 
they put away their jewels in secure safes let into 
the wall is a labour lost in vain. Their hiding- 
place is thoroughly well known, and probably its 
value, and other useful particulars. That they 
have hitherto escaped is merely an accident of time 
and opportunity ; that they will ultimately be vic- 
timized is a foregone conclusion. The moral to be 
gleaned from this is, to be. sure of your servants, a 
fool being almost as dangerous as a knave, and to 
abstain from flashing your jewellery before eager 
eyes, only too ready for a clue to its where- 

If after this disinterested advice unprotected 
women are fools enough to barricade themselves 
and their treasures in defenceless houses, they have 
only themselves to thank. They should be care- 
ful, however, not to waste their visitor's time when 
confronted by his "bull's-eye," as burglars are 

350 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

proverbially children of impulse. Houses contain- 
ing little or nothing of value are never burglariously 
entered. Men won't risk penal servitude on a 
chance ;' the prize and its price have been carefully 



I HAD now been many months in hospital, 
though all the care and kindness I received seemed 
incapable of improving my condition. Strengthen- 
ing medicines, stimulants, tonics, all failed to rouse 
me, and the tempting food, that I had only to 
suggest to have provided, could not induce me to 
eat. I was subjected to a minute medical examina- 
tion, and my lung was found to be affected. Later 
on a further examination proved that the malady 
was slowly progressing. To remain in prison was 
certain death, so my case was submitted to 
the Home Secretary, who, with the humanity that 
has characterised his tenure of office, ordered my 
immediate discharge. I shall never forget the 
morning when an impulsive turnkey rushed into 
my room, and saying, " It's come ! " hurriedly dis- 
appeared, and I understood that her Majesty's 
gracious pardon had arrived, and I was free. 

352 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

The preliminaries for departure were somewhat 
long iri my case, and it was nearly eleven o'clock 
before I bade adieu to gloomy Clerkenwell. I 
had, however, been by no means idle. The 
resumption of my clothing was a matter of time 
and difficulty ; and though they had, by the kind- 
ness of the Governor, been considerably taken in 
to suit my diminished proportions (eighteen inches 
in the girth and seven stone in weight), retained a 
hang-down appearance in the vicinity of the neck 
and shoulders, that involved an immense expendi- 
ture of pins and ingenuity. The clothes of prisoners 
after admission into prison are, as a rule, subjected 
to a very necessary process. I do not know 
whether any discretionary power exists as to 
dispensing with the rule in certain cases, but it 
seemed incredible that mine should have undergone 
the usual formula without retaining a vestige of 
the fact. Clothes are, however, subjected to a 
process of modified cremation, and placed in air- 
tight lockers, and smoked in a phosphoric prepara- 
tion supposed to be antagonistic to the respiratory 
organs of creeping things. But the smell of fire 
had not passed over mine, and I can only suppose 
that the ceremony had been dispensed with as a 

"Justice Tempered with Mercy" 353 

graceful compliment to the executors of my deceased 
tailor, whose representative I last met at the 
" House of Detention." My hat, too, had either 
considerably expanded, or my head had con- 
siderably contracted, for it necessitated at least 
a yard of brown paper between the brim and 
my cranium, before being padded to wearable 

As I passed through the office, I caught the 
first glimpse of myself in a respectably-sized look- 
ing-glass, and could hardly believe that the scare- 
crow I saw was really myself. But what mattered 
it if I had half a lung more or less than of yore i" — 
I was free ! I was not going to die in prison, and 
contribute in my person an additional item to the 
dead-house inventory board. 

With what diiiferent sensations did I again find 
my.'self in the office which I had not entered since 
my arrival some months before. It seemed as if all 
the formula would never be completed, and I 
would almost have foregone the handsome dona- 
tion of ten shillings I had earned for laming male- 
factors to have got out a moment earlier. But 
business is business, and the labourer is worthy of 

354 Eighteen, Months' Imprisonment. 

his hire, and in a few moments I had received a 
rare gold coin (at least so it appeared to me at the 
time), known as half-a-sbvereign. The warder 
that had accompanied me from the hospital now 
sent for a cab, and as I drove through the ponder- 
ous gate a load appeared to fall off my mind, and 
though shattered in health, as I breathed the free 
air of a London fog, my lungs began to expand as 
they had not done for months. 

The usual hour for the jail delivery is 9 A.M.," 
when gangs, varying from ten to a hundred, are 
daily discharged. As they pass the wicket one by 
one, each man is presented with a breakfast order, 
entitling him to an unlimited supply of coffee and 
bread-and-butter at an adjoining tavern. This 
kindly act takes its origin from a private source 
that cannot be too highly commended, and though 
I failed in discovering its identity, understEtnd it is 
in no way connected with the *' Prisoners' Aid 
Society." Every detail connected with a prisoner 
on discharge reflects credit on the Government. 
A vagrant enters prison hungry, filthy, and penni- 
less. He again emerges with his linen washed, his 
clothes fumigated, money in his pocket, and pro- 

"Justice Tempered with Mefcy." 355 

vided with an ample breakfast. Such treatment 
has not its parallel in any other country in Europe, 
and I cannot refrain from offering my testimony in 
opposition to the usually accepted and erroneous 
impression, and confidently assert that the British 
criminal is, if anything, far too generously treated 
in every respect. 

On my way I stopped at a tobacconist's and 
bought thfe biggest cigar I could find. It was, I 
believe, a good one, though for aught I knew it 
might have been brown paper. My sense of taste 
had apparently forsaken me, and it was days 
before I lost the sensation of having sucked a 
halfpenny. A friend I met soon after did not at 
first recognise me. "Good gracious !" he said, as 
he looked at my diminished circumference, " you're 
not half the size you were." " My dear fellow," I 
replied, " you forget I've been lately C07ifined." 

The sense oj" taste that had apparently forsaken 
me was for a time accompanied by a loss of voice ; 
at least it seemed so, for acting on the force of 
habit, I could not bring myself to speaking above 

a whisper ; and a waiter at the Hotel seemed 

to think he was servin^^ a lunatic as I asked him 

35^ Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

in a mysterious whisper for a pint of champagne. 
But the events of the day were too much for my 
strength, and before 7 that evening I had fainted, 
and was again in bed, under the care of an 
eminent physician. A careful examination next 
day confirmed the opinion of the prison surgeons, 
and I was ordered forthwith to the South of 
France, or anywhere from cruel London. Door 
handles caused me considerable surprise for days : 
they appeared, indeed, as superfluous additions 
that I was totally unaccustomed to. A morbid 
craving for old newspapers now seized me, and 
I again discovered the importance that seemed 
to attach itself to my late escapades. I am 
happily not a vain or unreasonable being : had 
I been so I might have found ample grounds for 
either when called upon to pay sixpence for a 
Daily Telegraph, and one shilling for a Truth at 
their respective offices, for copies containing refer- 
ences to my case. As it was, I merely concluded 
that the bump of avarice was equally developed in 
the Jew and the Gentile newsvendor. 

And now the time has come to close my remi- 
niscences. To continue them would be apt to lead 

"Justice Tempered with Mercy." 357 

me into drivel, an adjunct I have tried to avoid. I 
make no attempt at justifying my work — though 
as a literary production it is beneath criticism — 
being quite aware that many will consider my 
resuscitating the past an act of bravado. In this 
I cannot agree with them, for though guilty of a 
portion of the offence with which I was charged, 
and which I unhesitatingly admitted, I am happy 
to know that cruel circumstances prevented my 
refuting at the time a fraction of the thousand and 
one lies that were laid to my charge. Not the most 
trivial incident appears to have -passed unnoticed, 
and the omission to pay for a pennyworth of 
bloaters has been since transformed into a crime, 
and carried, as only cowards can, to quarters most 
likely to injure me. And one scurrilous society 
journal, notorious for its " enterprise " rather than 
its " truth," had the impudence to hint that I had 
made money at cards by foul play (I who have lost 
a fortune by gambling) ; but this I attribute to 
personal malice, and in return for my once pub- 
lishing a scheme of a shady nature projected by 
its owner. This precious prospectus is in my 
possession, and at the service of any one with a taste 

358 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment 

for the perusal of rascally documents. I had indeed 
intended publishing it, but ultimately decided not 
to add to this volume of horrors,^ on the principle 
that " two blacks don't make a white." Whether it 
sees the daylight at the next general election is 
another affair. The marvel is I have not been 
associated with the " Clapham Junction Mystery," 
or discovered to be the chief of the Russian Nihilists, 
These remarks are not incapable of corroboration. 
The link then missing has since been found ; and 
more than one lawyer, and a certain high official, 
know the truth ; and the only deterrent to a very 
thorough rhum^ of the case is the pain it would 
cause to others. For my own part, I should not 
object, and if any shadow of the " possibility " 
of the truth lurking in my assertion is to be 
extracted, it may commend itself by the publicity 
I have given to my experiences — a frankness not 
usually associated with unmitigated guilt. But 
after all, is it worth it .' For my part, I value the 
world's patronage as much as I do its odium. I've 
tested and accurately appraised both ! 

My motive, too, has been to present prison 
life in a truer light than I have hitherto seen 

"Justice Tempered with Mercy." 359 

described, and, with a few trifling exceptions, and 
a necessary transposition of names and places, to 
give the outer world an insight into that mys- 
terious community that lives and moves and has 
its being in their very midst. The erroneous im- 
pression that exists as to the harsh treatment of 
prisoners has, I trust, in a measure been removed. 
To represent a prison as an elysium would be 
absurd. It is intended as a deterrent, though con- 
sidering the wild beasts it has to deal with, it may 
be questioned whether it is not far too considerate 
in the matter of food. Nor can it be denied that 
the rules are framed, and their execution carried 
out by oiificials actuated as a body by humane and 
honourable principles. That there are black sheep 
in every grade must also be conceded, and if their 
responsibilities were curtailed, and in some cases 
transferred, considerable advantage would, I think, 
ensue. A man of education and worldly ex- 
perience, circumstanced as I was, is probably 
capable of forming a juster estimate of things as 
they really exist than a Governor or any otherwise 
well-informed individual : and as my remarks 
have been suggested in no spirit of acrimony, but, 

360 Eighteen Months Imprisonment. 

on the contrary, under a sense of obligation, it is 
to be hoped that the seed sown in Clerkenwell 
may bring forth fruit in Whitehall. That my re- 
marks are disinterested nobody will be foolish 
enough to deny, and whether acted on or not is a 
matter of perfect indifference to me. At the same 
time, a probe here and an inquiry there will mani- 
fest the weak points of the " system," and convince 
the highest in authority that there are more things 
in a prison than are dreamt of in their philosophy. 
My conclusions have been drawn in a great mea- 
sure from the treatment of others. For my own 
part, I often fancy my past experiences are a 
dream, so difficult is it to believe that the treat- 
ment I received, and immunity from degrading 
employment except in name, are compatible with 
"imprisonment with hard labour." And if even 
one of the many objects I have aspired to is at- 
tained, the blank that divides the past from the 
future will not have been endured in vain. 



I CANNOT conclude my story without asking, 
What constitutes honesty ? and if anybody can 
give a really logical and satisfactory reply, I would 
ask him, Has he ever met a really honest man ? 

In the conviction of being credited with a repro- 
bate mind, I freely admit my inability to answer 
either question satisfactorily. It is my experience, 
indeed, that no such thing as honesty — as at present 
understood — exists, and that it is simply a question 
of time, circumstance, or opportunity, although I 
have met many rich men who are credited with 
this undefinable attribute. That men of means are 
proverbially the best of fellows (I was once a 
" best fellow " myself) need not be repeated, nor 
will I insult your common sense, virtuous reader 
who never did a shady thing in your life, by tellinj 
you what everybody knows — that their goodness 

362 Eighteen Months' Imprisonment. 

increases in proportion to their wealth. Whether 
they are really honest is another question, and 
though no one would credit them with theft, would 
they be equally exemplary in regard to filthier and 
more nameless crimes ? Why should a rich man 
steal ? As a class they are proverbially mean and 
selfish. Why, then, should they worry themselves 
with such unnecessary consequences .' That the 
highest of 'the so-called aristocracy are not above 
suspicion may be remembered, when some well- 
known names were once associated with a nasty 
scandal not entirely composed of strawberry leaves ; 
and if their better halves were like Caesar's wife,' 
the immunity did not extend to themselves. And 
a comparison of the men undergoing penal servi- 
tude for huge commercial swindles, bogus "cab 
companies," and rascally prospectuses, with others at 
large, less fortunate in finding dupes, only proves 
that detection and want of opportunity have been 
left out of the calculation ; that " not proven " and 
' guilty " are synonymous terms ; and that at 
heart prince and peasant, duke and dustman, are 
alike desperately wicked. It was said, with a 
great deal of truth, that when a certain projector 
contemplated another gigantic fraud on the public 

A Retrospect. 36; 

it was his invariable custom to preface the robbery 
by building a church — a hint that was not Ibst on 
the observant speculator. In the same way, when 
a person thrusts himself into prominence as the 
self-constituted scourge of erring humanity, and is 
offensively blatant in his denunciations of fraud, it 
may be reasonably assumed in nine cases out of 
ten that the man is an undiscovered rogue, and 
fairly qualified for " Eighteen months' imprison- 




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Uniform wicll tiia >' Knebwortb " Edition of Lord Lytton-a worm 

%lt " f amj f orrequer " (Sbitioii 



P)-ice y. 6d. esKh Volume, with lUustratitm. 






TOM BURKE. 2 vols, 




THE DALTONS. 2 vols. 




















An entirely New Edition of the Works of Captain Marryat, u 
Monthly Volumes, crown 8vo, bound in blue cloth, price 3^. 6d. each j 
printed from handsome Hew Type, with Six Original Illustrations by tht 
best Artists. 

Petek Simple. . 
The King's Own. 
Frank Mildmay. 
Midshipman Easy. 
-Jacob Faithful. 
The Dog Fiend. 
Rattlin the Reefes. 
Pbrcivai- Keenx. 

Japhet in Search of a Fathki 

Newton Forster. 

Olla Podrida. 

The Poacher. 

Pacha of Many Talss. 


The Phantom Ship. 

Monsieur Violet. 

The Set Complete, l6 Voli., half roan, £i y. 


A New Edition of the Novels of these Standard Authors in 3j. 6d. 
Volumes, printed in crown 8vo size, bound in brown cloth, each Volutnt 
averaging about 4C0 pages, and containing Eight Illustrations by Phiz. 

By henry FlELDINa 
Tom Jones. 
Joseph Andrbw&, 

Humphry Clinker. 
Peregrine Pickle. 
Roderick Random. 



Printed in crown 8vo, uniform with the Knebworth Edition of Lord 
Lytton's Novels, containing the Author's Notes, and Illustrated with 
Steel Plates from designs by George Cruikshank, Turner, Maclisb, 
■nd other celebrated Artists. ■'• 

Price is. 6d. each Volume; or complete in 25 Voln., doth. £^ js.Sd, 


2s. each, fancy boards.