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WHAT THE POOR WANT.
Whatever the value of socialism as a the poor, and in what the articulate theory or an ideal or a political sys- classes feel ought to be their grievtem, there stands this much to its ances, whether they are or not. The credit; it has had by far the greatest country so swarms with organizations share in awakening our present-day for improving the lot of the poor, or consciousness that a nation is an indi- the poor themselves, that big organizavisible body, every part of which must tions to organize little organizations ultimately suffer if any one part be- have been found necessary, and so on comes or remains diseased. In that ad infinitum. Free and compulsory awakening it was but natural that the education is always going to do great fully articulate classes, among whom things. Unemployment has ceased to discussion is fast and fairly free, should be regarded as a misfortune that canconcentrate their attention chiefly upon not be helped, a call to charity and the very apparent diseases of the less nothing more. By both the great poarticulate classes, which can only litical parties it is treated as an evil speak up for themselves, at best that must be ended, or at any rate through the comparatively clumsy ma- mended, if possible. No Royal Comchinery of elections and trade unions. mission has ever excited so much inSocial reform has come very largely to terest as the one which recently issued mean reform of those inarticulate Majority and Minority Reports upon classes. They are different in their the Poor Laws and relief of distress. habits and customs; therefore it seems Books dealing with the poor increase. they are probably wrong. Materially They need not now be lurid to find they are unsuccessful, else they would readers, though it is still an advantage have risen in life; and therefore they if they are humorous. It is significant must be wrong; or at least, in an age that in "The Condition of England”which judges success in living by mate a peculiarly sensitive impression which rial prosperity, they are fit objects of its author, one of our youngest and sinpity. On that basis, the public inter- cerest politicians in high office, will use est in them has grown apace. In times presumably as a starting-point for his past the poor, oppressed beyond endur- future legislative work-Mr. C. F. G. ance, have forced their grievances with Masterman treats the poor, not as the violence upon those in authority; and débris of our civilization, but as an inin general their action has been rati. tegral part of it, as the most hopeful fied by history. To-day the country is part indeed. exceedingly well policed.
But it is England, for the nation or foreign obsafe to say that never before has so
seryer, is the tone and temper which much voluntary interest been taken in the ideals and determinations of the the welfare and the shortcomings of middle class have stamped upon the • 1. “The Condition of England." By C. F. G.
borer: a Record of the Last Days of FrederMasterman. London: Methuen, 1909.
iok Bettesworth." By the same author. (First 2. “The Queen's Poor: Life as they find it in published, 1907.) London: Duckworth, 1909. Town and Country." "The Next Street But 5. "The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp." Ono." "From Their Point of View." "An Eng- By W. H. Davies. With a Preface by Bernard lishman's Castle.” Four vols. By M. Loane. Shaw. London: Fifield, 1908. London: Arnold, 1905-9.
6. “Reminiscences of a Stonemason." By a 3. "At the Works: a Study of a Manufactur- Working Man. London: Murray, 1908. ing Town." By Lady Bell (Mrs. Hugh Bell). 7. "Speaking rather seriously." By W. Pett London: Arnold, 1907.
Ridge. London: Hodder and stoughton, 1008. 4. “The Bettesworth Book: Talks with a 8. "First and Last Things: a Confession of Surrey Peasant." By George Bourne. Lon- Faith and Rule of Life." By H. G. Wells. don: Lamley, 1900. "Memoirs of a Surrey La- London: Constable, 1908.
vision of an astonished Europe. It is
how many baths each person has a the middle class which stands for Eng. week; for the skin is an important orland in most modern analyses.. gan. Also I wish to know, for com
But below this large kingdom, which pleteness' sake, how many thousands a for more than half a century has stood for “England,” stretches a huge and un- year the head of the household earns,
and what the daughters have for pinexplored region which seems destined in the next half-century to progress
money. By-the-by, burn your Turkey towards articulate voice, and to de carpets and plush curtains; they harmand an increasing power. It is the bor microbes. It is nothing to medical class of which Matthew Arnold, with science that those dust-collecting ornathe agreeable insolence of his habitual inents were gifts. Efficiency has no attitude, declared himself to be the
room for sentiment. I shall continue discoverer, and to which he gave the
coming until each person satisfies me name of the “Populace.” ...
The Multitude is the People of Eng- on all those points, and for my visits land.
you will have to pay, if not directly in
fees, then indirectly, through the rates Mr. Masterman quotes with approval and taxes." Is not the income-taxa saying of Renan's, to the effect that the most frequently evaded of all taxes "the heart of the common people is the still denounced as inquisitorial by great reservoir of the self-devotion and those fortunate enough to have taxable resignation by which alone the world incomes? To read the books whose can be saved.” And there precisely, in names head this article is to see how that question of heart, lies one of the intensely the poor hate being quesgreatest obstacles to an understanding tioned. To have much to do with them between the classes and the masses. is to know it. "I can't bear for peoInvestigate the common people's out- ple to be inquisitive,” says Bettesward conditions of life, but how inves- worth, the Surrey laborer. "What's tigate that heart of theirs, which they the use of talking to they question-askdo not wear upon their sleeve for those ing fellers?" I often hear. “They asks whom they consider daws to peck at? 'ee questions wi'out end, an' so long as Appeal to their heart and head, but you wags your tail an' tells 'em what how be sure that they will not reject they wants to hear, they goes on wastthe appeal with scorn because its pro- ing their time, an' yours too. But so portion of heart to head is not the pro- soon as you begins to tell 'em the truth, portion they hold good? For among what you thinks, an' they don't like it, the poor the heart takes a very decided an' p'raps you can't explain yourself precedence of the head. The most proper, then 'Good day! they says, an' open-minded interest in them is called walks away. An' all o' it don't make exploration by those interested. By things no better. You'm down; they'm the poor themselves it is more often up. They got you down, an' down they called curiosity, an impertinence-such means to keep 'ee. An' all you tells an impertinence as would be con. 'em only gives 'em the advantage to do demned by everybody if a doctor, with- 'Tisn't no use their talking. What out being called, went to a well-to-do they gives 'ee one way, they makes 'ee household and said oracularly: "Con. pay for another, aye! an' pay dear. sumption is a curse. I wish to know They don't mean no harm, p'raps, but how many inches each member of this they does it. They can't help o it, household keeps his or her window 'Tis their way. Some things they open at night, and what you each have makes better, others worse. "Tis all for meals, and how it is cooked, and the same in the long run. If you
want help, help yourself, always was ever they thought there was to be an' always will be; an' that sort o' learnt; but those who descend thither help don't make 'ee feel dubious 'bout as impartial investigators, or with a it nuther.” Such an outburst may merely idealistic sympathy and affecseem unreasonable, suspicious, and ill- tion for the mass, will gain next to natured. At all events, it is typical, nothing. It is the spirit that quickthe outcome of hard experience, and it eneth, as much in social reform as in has to be reckoned with like any other religion, as much among the poor as set of class opinions. And whether un. among their so-called betters. reasonable or not, one needs only imagi- Aloof interest, however acute, sciennative sympathy, or, better still, a sim- tific and statistical investigation, howilar experience to feel much the same, ever thorough, cannot lay hold of spirit. whatever opinion one may form about A simply idealistic love for the poor it afterwards. "Put yourself in his can do no more than see darkly its place," Miss Loane and Lady Bell re- trend and force. Only a personal love peat. Furthermore, Miss Loane com- and friendship, a genuine intimacy, can plains that is is exceedingly difficult to hope to follow the workings of their get from the poor any truthful infor- spirit and to fathom the complex momation about themselves. But why tives for their actions. A change of should they give it-speaking always method is needed in approaching them. from their point of view? One of their Miss Loane's vigorous paragraph on nicknames for an inspector is “the short cuts to sociological knowledge bogey-man.” After three or four years cannot be taken too deeply to heart: of life in a working-man's home as one of the family-not from necessity ex
It is exceeding difficult for the upper actly, nor yet as an investigator, but classes to gain any fair idea of the or
dinary domestic relations among the from choice I confess frankly that I
poor, and when they seek for informashould not hesitate to hoodwink an in- tion they too often forget to make alspector, not simply for the sheer joy lowance for the fact that the chosen of balking him, but as revenge for his teachers are all more or less blinded by intrusion into our home. Certainly in their profession. Is it reasonable to vestigation must precede effective aid ask the club doctor and the district (though it is still doubtful whether sim- nurse if the lower classes are healthy, ple generosity does not oftener bit the know how to feed their children, the
to ask the coroner if they are sober and mark), and for understanding knowl- police magistrate if they are honest and edge is needful. But that form of in- truthful, the relieving officer if they are terest in the poor which relies over- thrifty, the labor master if they are inmuch upon inspection and investigation dustrious, the highly orthodox clergymay so easily take wrong lines, may so
man if they are religious, and then call easily defeat itself.
the replies received, Knowledge of the
Poor. "The history of a few working-class families observed for a long period." Yet that, of course, has been the usual declares Miss Loane, whose experience procedure! as a Queen's Nurse is unrivalled, "af- That a more reasonable, a more hufords more valuable data than any man interest in the poor is at last comnumber of isolated facts." Those who ing into being, is evidenced by the go to a few of the poor with sympathy above-mentioned books; by the bare and affection for them as individuals, fact that publishers, readers, and a as fellow men and women, are likely measure of success, have been found to learn more of good, chiefly-than for this dozen volumes, all of them,
with the partial exception of Mr. Mas- and very naughty. If he could, and if terman's and Mr. Wells's, intimate he would, express his own private opinstudies at first hand of life among the ion with a frankness which he has poor, and all of them controverting a found to be inexpedient, and with a host of too easily accepted notions particularity for which elections afabout this subject. Mr. Masterman's is ford no scope, his well-wishers would mainly a study at second hand, in the be more than surprised. “Why,” they same sense that history is a study at would ask, “should he still be so unsecond hand, of first hand material. It grateful and resentful? See what we is a survey of results attained. Its ti- have done for him. See what we have tle, “The Condition of England,” will given him.” Miss Loane provides a bear two meanings. It refers to the partial explanation: “After all, givcondition of England during the first ing is an exercise of power, and we decade of the twentieth century, and must not expect that the persons who also to the many new standpoints from suffer our kindness will find it a wholly which that condition is now being in- pleasurable experience." The difficult vestigated.
art of giving, it seems, lies very much The extremely rapid growth of inter- in giving people what they really deest in the poor has carried with its sire, what they are ready and waiting definite advantages certain equally for. In other words, it requires definite disadvantages. It has over- boundless tolerance and patience. Regrown its age, so to speak; is some- forms are needed badly enough in many what hectic, very startled, and in a directions, but it should always be desperate hurry. It would be amus- borne in mind that what seems reform ing, were it not so depressing, to watch to the giver may not be reformatory to the Labor members, for instance, try the recipient. That which dissatisfies ing to drag laboring men (for their own the poor man in his own life is not, as a good) into agreement with views which rule, what horrifies the legislating onthey are supposed to hold, but which as looker. And it cannot be denied that a matter of fact, they do not hold when the poor man knows his own life betit comes to acting upon them. (Hence ter than any one else can know it for Mr. Masterman's paradox, that “social- him. ism gathers strength in good times but The rapid growth of interest in the wanes in bad.") "What on earth be poor--) am, of course, very far from 'em kicking up such a buzz about?” denying that it is a good and a most asks the poor man in wonderment necessary thing--has had another rewhen the newspapers devote headlines sult of doubtful advantage.
The to his affairs, and new Acts, with new quicker a forced march, the greater penalties attached, come tumbling upon the number who fall out at different his head from on high. After being stages and march no more. Similarly, left to fend for himself—with a suc- there is at the present time nothing ap. cess much greater in reality than in proaching any uniformity of attitude appearance--he suddenly finds himself towards the poor on the part of the regarded as incapable of taking care not-poor. “The rich despise the workof himself in any respect whatever. ing people; the middle classes fear He sees, dimly perhaps, that his dem- them.” remarks Mr. Masterman. But ocratic leaders flatter him and hold him indeed the diversity of attitudes is by in contempt at the same time. He is no means as simple as that. I shall treated like a child badly brought up not forget the look of a lady at a literby its parents, a child very wronged ary luncheon, who asked me if I did
not find the habit of “week-ending" He asks what goodness is, because greatly interfere with Society, and to goodness is not in him, and he is devoid
of virtue. whom I replied that I hardly knew,
I answer him, "The knowlbecause in working for a fisherman it edge of goodness resides in virtuous
men; and good citizens carry within was my duty most of the summer to
them a proper respect for the law. take people out in boats for two shil
. For the duty of the poor is to lings an hour, and sometimes tips. defend the good things belonging to the Working for a fisherman? Yes; most rich; and this is how the union betwixt interesting and healthy. Work with citizens is maintained. This is goodthe hands is no longer shameful. But ness and good order. Again, the rich tips! Tips! (Let me add, however, that man has his serving-man bring out a
basket full of bread, which he distribthe lady made a good recovery from utes to the poor; and this is goodness the shock.) The well-to-do man may again.” These are the lessons this fully believe that the poor man is his rough ignorant fellow requires to be equal in the sight of God, and perhaps taught. even in the sight of man, but he does Industrially, the same attitude is apt to not feel the poor man sufficiently his express itself somewhat thus: "So equal to hobnob with him and intro- long as the beggars do their work propduce him to his women-folk, however erly and I pay them what I ought (acperfect in propriety the poor man may cording to me), why not let well alone? be. A lawyer, say, may go so far as What they do and how they live, outto admit that a fisherman is a special- side their work, is no concern of mine. ist, fully as learned in his own branch They're getting too damn'd lazy and of knowledge as a K.C., but he will cheeky with their talk about rights. I not have for him the same fellow-feel- believe my wife takes them things ing that he has for a doctor or for the when they're ill, but I tell her she's most hated professional opponent. The sure to catch something or other in latter, the involuntary, is the kind of their wretched hovels. She'd far betattitude I mean. It comes uppermost ter pay for another district nurse, if in times of stress, and almost always she wants to, or send an inspector." prevails in the end. To name only a The fine democratic ideals of liberty, few of such attitudes towards the poor: equality, and fraternity, and vox populi, there is that general attitude, spoken vox dei, degenerate pitifully, amid acof "rather seriously" by Mr. Pett Ridge, tuality's rough and tumble, to the cyniwhich makes mischief and damage by cism and moral unscrupulousness of rich men's sons a case of "boys will be election managers. In the intellectual boys," but by poor men's sons a case field we admire with a shiver the for the police court. There is what, boundless self-confidence of a Fabian for the sake of distinction, may be Society in the direction of knowing called the Old Tory ideal of “the rich what is good for people and managing man in his castle, the poor man at his them to their own advantage. At the gate," and its modern equivalent, "the opposite pole we have that charitable poor man in his East-end and the rich attitude which, basing itself upon such man in his West." It is, among the axioms as "The poor always ye have various attitudes, not that which the with you," is apt to take the diseases poor themselves understand and sym- of the body politic and social as inevipathize with least. At its best, it has table and a matter of course, as forroom for many kindly relationships. tunate opportunities for the exercise of At its worst, it more than merits the virtuous charity. "If there were no irony of Anatole France:
poor,” I have heard such people argue.