Saturday, 15 September 1888
THE Whitechapel tragedies have an aspect which should not be disregarded, though only of the nature of a side sight. The veil has been drawn aside that covered the hideous condition in which thousands, tens of thousands of our fellow creatures live in this boasted nineteenth century. In the heart of the wealthiest, healthiest and most civilised city in the world we have all known for years that terrible misery, cruel crime and unspeakable vice - mixed and matted together - lie just off the main thoroughfares that lead through the industrial quarters of the metropolis. The daily sin, the nightly agonies, and hourly sorrows that haunt and poison and corrupt the ill-fated sojourners in these dens of shocking degradation and vice have again and again been described by our popular writers. But it is when crime of this terrible nature, or accident more than usually painful has given vividness and reality to the previously unrealised picture that we are brought to face - what our keenest powers failed adequately to perceive before - how parts of our great capital are honeycombed with cells hidden from the sight of day, where men are brutalised, women are demonised, and children are brought into the world only to become full of corruption, reared in terror, and trained in sin, till punishment and shame overtakes them too and thrusts them down to the black depth where their parents lie already lost or dead to all hope of moral recovery and social rescue. It is a terrible thing for us to know how such as these live, sin, suffer and die. The clergy, painfully familiar with all of it, appeal for sympathy and help, doctors know the black scenes and sore sorrows of these squalid quarters, and are united in their testimony to the shortcomings of society which makes such conditions in life possible. Here and there some well born lady forsakes for a few hours her well ordered home to do angel's work in these degraded regions of pestering filth, crouching crime and moral plight. Let us take one of many such cases. A wretched, narrow street, with houses of the most miserable class, nearly all of whom are let off in single rooms or part of a room. The house where the last murder was committed had no less than six families, all toilers for daily bread, some of questionable honesty or sobriety. There is a continual going out and returning; some work at the markets, some at the docks; one is a cooper, another a carman, some of no occupation. Loose women have as free a run in these abodes as rabbits in a warren, poverty in its direst form haunts these dwellings, ghastly profligacy defiles others, and this in street after street, alley after alley, cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac, garret after garret, and cellar after cellar. Amidst these gross surroundings who can be good? We take it as a fixed problem that whatever is done requires time; but the pressing question is, how forces may be best combined and set in motion to accomplish something to alleviate this terrible existence, and render life a brighter, happier, and purer manhood, and a womanhood who shall know the blessings of honourable wedlock, peaceful lifetime, and the prospect of a safe and contented old age.