London, Volume 3

Knight, Charles


LXXII.-The Foundling Hospital.

LXXII.-The Foundling Hospital.




Though the local position of this institution is too well known to render it necessary for us to adopt the method of many worthy topographers, and describe it by its boundaries and parochial relations, may easily imagine the difficulty those who should know it best--the founders of the hospital-would experience in finding it were they now alive. In that extensive wilderness of houses, how should they expect to discover the building they left almost surrounded by fields? Who would think of coming here to seek for a place enjoying at once the advantages of a country residence, and that of being near to all the metropolitan conveniences, as was the case with the much less than a century ago? And in looking on street after street of lofty and noble houses, which have forever banished the daisies and buttercups and the sweet-smelling hay of the summer time from the place, still more astonished would they be to learn how great a number of them belonged to the Hospital itself; a striking evidence of the prosperity of their beloved charity.

The gates are flung wide open, and on foot and in luxuriant vehicles a quiet, but brilliant-looking stream of persons are passing through them into the very spacious area in front of the edifice. The hum of industry in the solitary shop


of the Hospital to the right, where some of the boys are instructed in the mysteries of the tailor, is mute; the play-grounds on either side, with their arcades and alcoves and gymnastic implements, are all deserted; nothing is to be seen or heard but the continued passage across the centre of the area of the visitors to the famous chapel, which occupies the central of the sides of a square of large but plain brick buildings constituting the Hospital. In the corner to the right we find a small vestibule or hall, leading by a passage from its farther end into the chapel, and directly into the kitchen-garden of the establishment. At its entrance stands a governor, receiving the slight donation which is expected from visitors. This hall, to many, has a kind of melancholy interest. The walls are decorated with funereal memorials of different persons who have been buried in the chapel vaults. Among the rest we read the names of Sir Stephen Gaselee, and beneath a handsome marble bust placed between pillars, and over a sarcophagus, an inscription to the late Lord Tenterden. The privilege of burial here is now confined to governors of the Hospital and its officers, with their families, who generally pay a handsome fee. Children who die in the Hospital are buried in the churchyard of . Passing on into the chapel, we enter upon a noticeable scene. The building in-itself is large, light, and generally elegant in its appearance; the stained glass here and there sheds its rich glories; the altar-piece, with its most touching and beautiful of subjects, Christ blessing children, and treated in the artist's (West) best manner, is at once appropriate and impressive; but it is not on these features the eye of the spectator rests, much less on the mingled crowd of the pious, the wealthy, and the fashionable, which occupies the gallery over the altar-piece at this end, as well as the side galleries and the body of the chapel: it is that long slope of youthful and interesting faces descending from the ceiling to the front of the gallery at the other extremity of the building, the boys in their dark costume on the right, the girls in snowiest vesture on the left, with the noble organ rising between them; it is they who are the

cynosure of neighbouring eyes

--it is in that gallery centre the attractions which make the Chapel of the most popular of London places of worship. As the service proceeds, and the hymns and choruses are sung by the children and the professional choir-as the anthem, of Handel's most glorious works, is raised in solemn chorus or touching melody, we no longer wonder at the popularity to which we have alluded; such singing and such music would draw audiences-and not necessarily undevout ones-anywhere, much more to an institution which has so many other interesting features to attract curiosity. That organ, so magnificent in tone and power, was the gift of Handel, not in its form as we now see it, for the original instrument has been greatly enlarged and altered, but there are the actual materials possessing the peculiar quality which we attach to the humblest article that has been touched by a man of lofty genius; and so the present organ is essentially the very instrument before which the wonderful musician himself sat, and from which he drew forth the notes in which the sublime strains of the Messiah here found voice: year after year in this chapel did Handel fill the coffers of the Hospital by the gratuitous performance of that, his greatest work. All the other benefactors of the Hospital sink into comparative insignificance in regard to the amount of actual pecuniary benefit


they were the means of conferring: above were in all added by the


to the funds. A curious misunderstanding occurred between Handel and the governors. He

presented the charity with a fair copy of the original score of the


This act of bounty was so ill understood by some of the governors, that, imagining this deed gave them an exclusive right to its performance, they formed the singular resolution of applying to Parliament to legalise their claim. But,


of all, it was deemed necessary to obtain Handel's concurrence; and accordingly a deputation of these gentlemen waited upon him with their strange, though well-meant, requisition. But the musician, bursting into a rage which the music he has put in the mouth of Polypheme would but faintly express, exclaimed,

Te deivel! For vat sal de Foundling put mein oratorio in de Parlement? Te deivel! Mein music sal not go to de Parlement.

[n.339.1]  The advantages conferred on the Hospital by the musical performances thus commenced by Handel were, in a measure, made permanent through an accidental circumstance highly honourable to the thoughtful humanity of the governors. In the minutes of the institution we read that in a general committee, held on the , it was

resolved that Tom Grenville, a boy of this Hospital, born blind, be taught music by the assistant to the organist of the chapel,


at the price of


guineas per quarter.

or other blind children were similarly treated, who, it is pleasant to relate, lived to

contribute very abundantly

to the Hospital funds through that circumstance. Attention was now attracted to the subject of teaching music to the children generally, and the result was the admirable chorus, which, in conjunction with some half-dozen professional voices, has, down to the present day, contributed greatly to the prosperity of the institution. About a a-year is now collected at the chapel-doors, and at the annual sermon, over and above the expense of the professional assistance alluded to.

As we leave the chapel on the conclusion of the service, we perceive that the musical performances, though the chief, are by no means the only attraction of the visitors to the Foundling. Mingling with the throng which at the outer extremity of the hall passes through a door on the left along a passage, we find ourselves in the girls' dining-room, an apartment of great length, hung round with pictures of no ordinary merit. Here is Hogarth's well-known and capital portrait of Captain Coram, the founder of the institution, of whom we, shall presently have to speak. This is the picture to which Hogarth refers in the following passage of his autobiographical sketch, where he is alluding to his dispute with Ramsay, the eminent painter, as to the qualifications required for portrait-painting. He says,

The portrait which I painted with most pleasure, and in which I particularly wished to excel, was that of Captain Coram, for the

Foundling Hospital

; and if I am so wretched an artist as my enemies assert, it is somewhat strange that this, which was


of the


and painted the size of life, should stand the test of


years' competition, and be generally thought the best portrait in the place, notwithstanding the


painters in the kingdom exerted all their talents to vie with it.

This may not sound very modest, but it is quite true; although at the same time among the other portraits


in this very room, and which are among the works Hogarth refers to, are Dr. Mead's by Ramsay, the Earl of Dartmouth's by Sir Joshua Reynolds, besides others by Hudson (Reynolds's master) and Shackleton. Sir Joshua's picture, we may observe by the way, is a melancholy example of those experiments--in colouring to which the great painter was addicted. The face is of a cadaverous hue, and the drapery sadly blistered. But the general attention is now withdrawn from the walls. The girls enter, and take their stand each in her proper place against the long row of tables that extends from end to end of the room, the crowd forming a lane on either side. A moment's pause, and a sweet voice is heard saying grace; the utterer is that modest-looking girl in the centre of the table, who from her superior height and appearance seems chosen as of the oldest among her companions. Scarcely has she finished before another girl, at the end of the table, dispenses, with the ease and rapidity of habit, from the large dishes of baked meat and vegetables before her, the dinners of the expectant children, plate following plate with marvellous rapidity till all are satisfied. This room occupies a great portion of the easternmost wing or side of the edifice: the boys' dining-room is in a similar situation, though more contracted in its dimensions, in the opposite wing. Following in the wake of the busy gazers across the court-yard, towards the apartment in question, through the school-room, we are arrested in the latter by the sight of the performance of a kind of preliminary to the act of dining, which, though somewhat tantalizing, no doubt adds fresh zest to the sharp appetite when it does get to work. Arranged in a double row,

Fine by degrees and beautifully less,

till the little fellows at the end near which we are standing seem so young and short (though fat enough) that we could fancy them but just taken from the nurse's arms, and breeched, waistcoated, and coated for the occasion, are the whole of the male portion of the youthful community, going through their drill exercises at the word of command of their master. They change at once, and without blunder, or hesitation, or want of concert, from a -deep to a -deep line, they beat time, they march, turn and turn again, until the welcome word is given for the final march to dinner-table in the adjoining room, where the sound of the regular, even tramp of their footsteps soon ceases. We need not follow them, as there is nothing materially different in the economy of their table from that of the girls previously noticed. The public promenade through the Hospital is not yet exhausted. There are the long wards with their rows of clean and comfortable little beds, and baskets at the foot of each, and there is the pleasure-ground into which the windows of some of the chief apartments open.

The most interesting apartments of the Hospital. are those devoted re. spectively to the use of the secretary and to the meetings of the committee or executive of the institution, and which very properly are not shown on the sabbath. The object of the governors in throwing open/the other portions of the edifice described is, we presume, to enable the public constantly to judge of the treatment and condition of the children; an excellent reason, but which, of course, does not apply to the apartments above mentioned. These are in the western wing. In the secretary's room are

Elisha raising the Child,

an immense sea-piece by Brooking, painted within the walls, landscapes and portraits;


but the gem of the place, and indeed of the entire collection, is Hogarth's

March to Finchley.

The history of this work is curious. Among his other benefactions to the Hospital, Hogarth gave a number of unsold tickets connected with the disposal of the

March to Finchley

by lottery; of these tickets obtained the prize.

In a recent paper on the Royal Academy we had occasion to observe that the idea of a public exhibition of works of art was borrowed from the . So many and such eminent artists contributed to adorn the home of the newly-founded charity, that the place became of the most fashionable of morning lounges. The committee-room, into which we now enter, was of course a chief point of attraction; and its walls show very strikingly the generous strife which had prevailed in its decoration. The beautiful stucco ceiling, the marble chimney-piece, the verd antique table, with its magnificently carved support, and the glass above it, are respectively the gifts of different artists. Rysbrack gave the beautiful piece of sculpture over the mantel-piece; Hogarth, Hayman, Wills, and Highmore, contributed the great pictures which occupy so large a portion of the walls; whilst Wilson, Gainsborough, and others of humbler name, filled the small round compartments scattered between the more pretending works, representing different metropolitan hospitals. Of the large pictures, Highmore's represents the

Angel of the Lord and Ishmael;


Christ showing a Child as the emblem of Heaven;

Hayman's, the

Finding of Moses;

and Hogarth's, the

Adoption of Moses by Pharaoh's Daughter.

Mr. Cunningham speaks of the

serene and simple dignity

of this fine work by Hogarth; and another critic (Ireland) justly observes,

There is not perhaps in Holy Writ another story so exactly suitable to the avowed purpose of the foundation.

The scene, with its distant pyramids, is splendid, the composition harmonious, and the principal figure (Pharaoh's daughter) exquisitely beautiful. It seems to us that, on looking at such pictures as this and the portrait of Coram, Hogarth has done much, after all, to defend his claim to be a painter, in the painter's own lofty sense of the term. What he wanted was chiefly that which arduous study could have given him. Fortunately there is little room for regret: his admirable picture-morals are worth a of the works of many of those who, whilst denying his right to call himself an artist, hid, under showy conventionalities and high-sounding names, the intrinsic hollowness of their own productions. It will be seen from what we have stated that the Hospital may pride itself upon the possession of some fine works of art. To these have been recently added a most valuable acquisition--a Cartoon by Raphael which is now in the possession of the Royal Academy, having been lent to that institution, and which we have not therefore enjoyed the pleasure of seeing.

In the room thus decorated by the hand of genius the committee sits every Wednesday that determines all applications for admission--a most delicate and important duty, and that is so bound up with the peculiar history of the institution that we can have no better opportunity of relating its rise and progress than the present.

Addison, in of his periodical essays in the


(No. ), says,

I will mention a piece of charity which has not yet been exerted among us, and which deserves our attention the more because it is practised by most of the

nations about us. I mean a provision for foundlings, or for those children who, through want of such a provision, are exposed to the barbarity of cruel and unnatural parents.


does not know how to speak on such a subject without horror;--but what multitudes of infants have been made away with by those who brought them into the world, and were afterwards ashamed or unable to provide for them! There is scarce an assizes where some unhappy wretch is not executed for the murder of a child; and how many more of these monsters of inhumanity may we suppose to be wholly undiscovered, or cleared for want of legal evidence!

In consequence of this, and probably similar appeals, the matter at that time proceeded so far that various persons left by their wills sums for the support of the projected charity; but it was not until Captain Thomas Coram came upon the scene, about years later, that the scheme assumed a tangible shape. This gentleman, who had been bred to the sea, and was then the master of a vessel trading to the colonies, became, it is said, interested in the work to which he was about to devote the greater part of his life and energies, from the circumstance that, in passing to and fro between and London in pursuance of his avocations, he frequently saw infants exposed in the streets, deserted by their parents, and left to perish through the inclemency of the seasons. Coram accordingly took the matter in hand; and, unappalled by years of difficulties, held it firmly to the last, and until he saw the complete establishment of his darling institution. Every kind of appeal had he to urge, many personal humiliations to undergo, before arriving at this result. The example of the chief countries of the continent, viewed in connexion with the child-murders and exposures which they had been said to remedy-evils which there was no denying existed also in England-furnished his strongest and most forcible argument, and which he pressed upon the attention of all persons of rank, power, or wealth, who he thought would assist him. Never was philanthropist more indefatigable than Coram; and, like other good men of his class, his perseverance did not always meet with the most courteous acknowledgment. A copy of Coram's memorial and petition to Her Royal Highness Princess Amelia is deposited among the records of the Hospital, at the bottom of which Coram has written the following note:--

N.B.--On Innocents' Day, the 28th of December, 1737, I went to St. James's Palace to present this petition, having been advised first to address the lady of the bedchamber in waiting to introduce it; but the Lady Isabella Finch, who was the lady in waiting, gave me very rough words, and bade me begone with my petition, which I did, without opportunity of presenting it.

Thomas Coram

It was as well perhaps the Princess and her waiting-woman did not hear the Captain's opinion of their conduct at the moment he found himself thus dismissed. History recordeth not his words, but no doubt they were sufficiently ; for neither Coraim's habits nor ambition were of the courtier's nature. He evidently thought the rough seaman no discredit to the honest man or the warm-hearted philanthropist, and there were others enlightened enough to think the same. When he presented at last, his petition for a charter, he presented with it memorials: the signed by

ladies of quality and distinctions

duchesses, &c.; the by the husbands of the said ladies,


and other noblemen and gentlemen; the by justices of the peace residing near London,

and other persons of distinction.

The answer was the grant of the charter by George II., on the , which recited that

Thomas Coram, in behalf of great numbers of helpless infants daily exposed to destruction, had, by his petition, represented that many persons of quality and distinction, as well as others of both sexes, being sensible of the frequent murders committed on poor miserable infants by their parents to hide their shame, and the inhuman custom of exposing new-born children to perish in the streets, or training them up in idleness, beggary, and theft, had, by instruments in writing, declared their intentions to contribute liberally towards the erecting an Hospital, after the example of other Christian countries, and for supporting the same.

The charter then appoints a body corporate of governors and guardians, including John Duke of Bedford, and other persons, among whom were several peers, the Master of the Rolls, the Chief Justices and Chief Baron, the Speaker, the Attorney and Solicitor General, and Coram-certainly a goodly assemblage to conduct the affairs of the infant charity. The preliminary measures having been taken, on the , there appeared on the door of the house in (distinguished by the shield above it, painted by Hogarth, and the of his numerous gifts to the charity) the following notice:--

To-morrow, at


o'clock in the evening, this house will be opened for the reception of


children, under the following regulations:--No child exceeding the age of


months will be taken in, nor such as have the evil, leprosy, or disease of the like nature, whereby the health of the other children may be endangered; for the discovery whereof every child is to be inspected as soon as it is brought, and the person who brings it is to come in at the outward door and ring a bell at the inward door, and not to go away until the child is returned or notice given of its reception; but no questions' whatever will be asked of any person who brings a child, nor shall any servant of the house presume to endeavour to discover who-such person is, on pain of being discharged. All persons who bring children are requested to affix on each child some particular writing, or other distinguishing mark or token, so that the children may be known if hereafter necessary.

The children accordingly were taken in, and a notice affixed over the door,

The house is full


We may imagine the scene presented at that moment, with probably times as many mothers with their infants rejected as had been chosen, and gazing upon that notice with all the heartburnings and rage of the unsuccessful, in a competition where the choice seems necessarily to have lain among the strongest, or those who could best elbow their way through the clamorous and excited crowd. These melancholy and disgraceful scenes were subsequently got rid of by an ingenious balloting process; all the women being admitted into the court-room to draw balls from bags, those who drew black ones were summarily dismissed, those who drew white were entitled to an admission for their children if eligible, whilst those who drew red might remain to draw once more among themselves for any vacancies left open by the ineligibility of any of the former class.

In tre western wing of the present Hospital was opened and the house at given up; the other portions of the edifice soon followed, and in the chapel was begun. And here, full of years and honours, was


buried Coram, in , the person interred in the place. His had been a busy as well as a benevolent nature. He did not confine his exertions to the foundation of this Hospital, but embarked in various other useful and patriotic objects-chiefly in connexion with the colonies. His colonial experience and views indeed were so much esteemed by Horace Walpole--the Lord Walpole and uncle to Horace--that in writing, on some subject of the kind, to his brother Sir Robert from the Hague, where he was then ambassador, he says,

Lose no time in talking with Sir Charles Wager, Mr. Bladen, and


Coram, the honestest, the most disinterested, and the most knowing person about the plantation I ever talked with.

[n.344.1]  How


he was we may judge from the fact that at the age of he found himself destitute. This state of things was of course not long left unremedied. Arrangements were made to raise an annuity by subscription, but, in order to be sure that they were not offending Coram by the scheme, Dr. Brocklesby waited upon him, and put the question plainly to him. The old man's reply was truly dignified.

I have not wasted,

said he,

the little wealth of which I was formerly possessed in self-indulgence or vain expenses, and am not ashamed to confess that in my old age I am poor.

A deed, yet carefully preserved among the Hospital records, shows the result of the subscription: it is dated , and binds the parties whose names are subscribed to it to pay the different sums annexed, amounting in all to a guineas yearly. Coram lived only years to enjoy this evidence of the respect of his fellow-men. He died on the , and in the evening of the following was buried in the chapel. The body was met at the gate by the Governors and the children, who then preceded it and together towards its last earthly home. Immediately before the coffin the charter was borne by a person on a crimson velvet cushion. The pall was supported by numerous distinguished persons. On entering the chapel. already filled to the uttermost corner by the assembled spectators, a part of the choir of raised the solemn and affecting strains of the burial-service composed by Dr. Boyce, who himself officiated at the organ. An anthem, by the same eminent musician, was also sung during the ceremony. The body was finally deposited under the communion-table.

During the period from the establishment of the Hospital to about years aft; the death of Coram the applications for admission were so constantly beyond the number that the funds would admit, that the Governors ultimately determined to petition Parliament for assistance, The Hospital had evidently grown popular, and the general wish, concurring with that of the Governors, was, that it should be able to accommodate all the children offered who were eligible by its constitution. Among the modes proposed for the attainment of this object, prior to the request of regular grants from Parliament, were some of an amusing character: taxes on coals, exported from Great Britain, an additional Sunday turnpike-tax, parish registers of all births, deaths, and marriages, with a fee for every registration, to be thus expended; and, above all, a poll-tax on bachelors, on the ground that so many of them would doubtless have a personal interest in the welfare of the-Hospital ;--these were some of the modes proposed for its support by kind friends or satirical enemies. Parliament received the


application of the Governors favourably, and on the , granted the sum of on the condition that all children under a certain age ( months, then , and lastly, as at present, ) should be received. The Hospital was at the same time empowered to form provincial establishments: in consequence of which houses were erected at Ackworth, Shrewsbury, Westerham in Kent, Aylesbury, Barnet, and in Cheshire; the chief of these, at Ackworth, cost above And now commenced the state of things that had well-nigh utterly destroyed the institution, and which for a time caused it to be looked on, and not unjustly, as the greatest curse in the shape of a blessing that well-meant charity had ever inflicted. The Governors set to work with renewed energy to meet the new demands made upon them, and to fulfil what they esteemed their high vocation. To make the act of application as agreeable as possible, a basket was hung at the gate, and all the trouble imposed on parents was the ringing of a bell, as they deposited their little burdens, to inform the officers of the act. Prostitution was never before, in England at least, made so easy. The new system began on the , on which day children were received, and before the close of the year the vast number of were adopted by the institution. Far from being frightened at this army of infants so suddenly put under their care, the Governors appear to have been apprehensive of being neglectful of the uses and capacities of the institution; for in the following June appeared advertisements in the chief public papers, and notices at the end of every street, informing all who were concerned how very widely open were the Hospital gates. Such attention was not ill bestowed; children were admitted that year, and in all, during the years and months this precious system lasted, nearly infants were received into the ! And now for some of the consequences. The and greatest, the injury to the national morality, is so glaring, that wonders how a public body of well-intentioned and respectable men, such as the Governors, could have ever overlooked it; but what then shall we think of the Parliament? It would have, however, taken some time to prove with tolerable precision the extent of this evil, and the system might not have been brought to such a summary conclusion as it was, but for others more directly palpable to the popular sense, and some of which outraged the very feelings on which the institution itself had been based.

There is setup in our corporation (writes a correspondent from a town

three hundred

miles distant, in


of the chronicles of the day) a new and uncommon trade, namely, the conveying children to the

Foundling Hospital

. The person employed in this trade is a woman of a notoriously bad character. She undertakes the carrying of these children at so much per head. She has, I am told, made


trip already, and is now set upon her journey with


of her daughters, each with a child on her back.

[n.345.1]  From another quarter we learn that the charge for bringing up children from Yorkshire, in panniers slung across a horse's back, was for some time guineas a trip, but competition had in that, as in other pursuits, lowered the price. It was perhaps to make up for the reduction in the profits that certain carriers, before leaving the children, actually stripped the little creatures naked


for the sake of the value of their clothing, and thus left them in the basket! The same authority gives us a glimpse of the effect of such modes of conveyance upon the poor little, creatures subjected to them that is too painful to contemplate. He says, referring we presume to the ,

Has it not in the same great Assembly been moreover publicly averred that, of


babes brought up out of the country for the

Foundling Hospital



time in a waggon,


died before it reached London--the only


that lived owing its life to this circumstance, viz. that it had a mother so maternally loth to part with it, and commit it alone to the carrier, that she went up on foot along with him, purely that every now and then she might give it the breast; and watch and supply its other needs occasionally, &c.; keeping pace with the waggon all the way for that purpose?


As the liberality of the system became more and more apparent, various country overseers and other parochial authorities began to show how greatly they were charmed with it, by occasionally dropping into the basket a child or that they feared would become chargeable to their parishes, and in some instances by frightening the unhappy mothers themselves into the act, when they had no desire to part with their children. Other parents, again, residing in or near London, whose children were dying and who had no means of decently burying them or thought the Hospital had much more, brought them hither at the last stage of illness, to die not unfrequently between the act of taking them out of the basket and their delivery to the nurses in the ward. We may here add that among the incidental consequences of the system was the charge frequently made against the parents who had deposited their infants in the famous basket of having improperly disposed of them, the suspicions sometimes extending even unto murder. Such cases came before the magistrates; and the parties accused were detained in custody till certificates of the safe receipt of the child at the Foundling were obtained from the governors. To obviate this inconvenience a billet was delivered, when required, on the arrival of a child at the Hospital. Such were ) me of the evils let loose upon society by the parliament of the nation and the governors of the Hospital, through the adoption of the principle of indiscriminate admission. And the fate of the children admitted seems to show that the principle--was as carelessly carried out in practice as it was vicious in theory. As the infant inundation poured in, the governors began to ask what was the lest mode of preserving the lives and health of the foundlings committed to their care. The advice of the was asked and given; but unfortunately measures had been so precipitated that the essentials were impracticable. Where, for instance, would wet-nurses be obtained for such multitudes? How could the extraordinary watchfulness required under the circumstances--the deprivation of the proper maternal care and the mingling of diseased and healthy children--be given when there were so many requiring care? Seeing these things, we may be prepared for the result. Of the whole children received under the new system, only lived to be apprenticed! Of course parliament did not wait for this consummation before it interfered and stopped the ruinous course it had advised and supported. On the , a resolution was passed declaring

That the indiscriminate

admission of all children under a certain age into the Hospital had been attended with many evil consequences, and that it be discontinued.

At this period there were above children in the establishment, and Parliament was bound to continue its grant for their support till nearly the whole of them were apprenticed out. From to , the years of the Parliamentary connexion, the national funds contributed it appears no less a sum than to the expenses of this ill-judged experiment, which inflicted a shock on the Hospital that had, as we have before observed, well-nigh destroyed it. A striking evidence of the state of public feeling at the period is afforded by the fact that many of the Governors thought it actually necessary to give the Hospital a new name, and a resolution was passed, though afterwards rescinded, to denominate it

The Orphan Hospital.

We conclude this part of our subject by observing that, till very lately, some of the children introduced under the basket system were, as aged and imbecile adults, still living in the Hospital, it being a noticeable peculiarity of the latter, that it supports through life any of the children who may be unfitted personally or mentally for apprenticeship.

The Governors of the charity, after the severe warning they had received, proceeded with more caution; they restricted their exertions to the scope of their own funds, sold their country hospitals (the quoteuakers bought Ackworth and established their famous school); and indeed from that time to the present their administration has grown more and more strict, or, in other words, they have endeavoured to reduce the original evils which must belong to all such institutions to aminimum, and to raise the good they can accomplish to a maximum, Yet it was not till that the most objectionable practice of taking children without inquiry, on a payment of , was formally abolished. We now proceed to explain the present system and management of the charity in its more essential and interesting points.

A notice on the wall by the Hospital gates informs all concerned that children can only be received into the Hospital upon the personal application of the mothers, and that the requisite printed forms of admission to be filled up may be obtained at the Secretary's Office. A copy of this form is before us, and attached to it we perceive


which state among other matters that

no person need apply unless she shall have previously borne a good character for virtue, sobriety, and honesty.

To prevent improper influence,

persons who present petitions to the Committee must not previously apply to any Governor, or to any officer or servant belonging to the Hospital, on the subject, on any pretence whatever.

The form shows the age. of the child, and states that it is wholly dependent on the petitioner, &c.; and this, properly filled up, is presented personally by the mother to the sitting members of the Committee, varying generally from or Governors to double that number. The preliminary inquiries--s, the poverty and good character of the applicant, the illegitimacy of her infant, the abandonment by the father, and the non-cognizance of the case by any parish authorities-being satisfactorily disposed of, the chief points to which the attention of the Chairman is directed in his questions are to learn what probability there may be of the petitioner's return to the paths of virtue, in the Sent of the acceptation of her child, and which includes the question of the number of persons to whom her shame may be known; a matter considered to affect greatly


the possibility of her maintaining herself honestly, and preserving her station in society. Mr. Wrottesley, in his account of the ,[n.348.1]  shows very happily, by an imaginary case, the views by which the Governors are actuated in their selection of cases, and the consequent character of the examinations before the Commi ttee.

The most meritorious case, therefore, would be


in which a young woman, having no means of subsistence except those derived from her own labour, and having no opulent relations, previously to committing the offence bore an irreproachable character, but yielded to artful and long-continued seduction, and an express promise of marriage; whose delivery took place in secret, and whose shame was known only to




persons, as, for example, the medical attendant and a single relation; and, lastly, whose employers or other persons were able and desirous to take her into their service, if enabled again to earn her livelihood by the reception of her child. This is considered the most eligible case, and others are deemed by the Governors as more or less so in proportion as they approach nearer to or recede further from it.

The Committee, being satisfied of the eligibility of any particular case, as stated by the mother, cause inquiries to be made into its truth. These inquiries are of an unpleasant character, for the Treasurer's Clerk, on whom the duty devolves, is expressly instructed to avoid, during its performance, divulging any of the facts with which he may be acquainted; and it is easy to perceive this must be a difficult and onerous task. And this very secrecy, though indispensable, leads sometimes to an act of great immorality--the marriage of the parties in question to persons who are kept in entire ignorance of the most important event of their previous history. The result of the inquiry being also satisfactory, the child is at once admitted if there be a vacancy, or is placed on the books till is made. The day of admission is Saturday. On leaving her child the mother receives a certificate in return, to which is attached a private mark, by which the Hospital authorities may, if requisite, subsequently recognise the child, a corresponding mark being carefully attached to the child's clothing; but as for the unhappy mother, in all probability from that day forward never again will she be able to recognise it; the connexion between them is utterly severed, except in the event ( of rare occurrence) of her claiming the restoration of the child, and giving the Governors the most satisfactory proofs of her ability properly to maintain it. It is painfully interesting to read Mr. Wrottesley's description of the various modes adopted by many of the mothers to avoid this dreadful severance, which the Hospital is strict in enforcing. He says,

All kinds of devices are resorted to by the mothers to identify their children; and extraordinary instances of ingenuity exercised by them with that view are recorded: sometimes notes are found attached to the infant's clothing, beseeching the nurse to convey information to the mother of her name and residence, that the latter may identify her child during its stay in the country: sometimes mothers have been known to watch for and follow the van on foot, which conveys their children to the country stations (where they are nursed till


years old); sometimes to attend the baptism [in the chapel, on the


Sunday after admission], in the hope of hearing its name. If they succeed in identifying the child during its stay at nurse, they can

always preserve the identification during its subsequent abode in the Hospital, for the children appear at chapel twice on Sunday, and dine in public on the same day; and this gives them opportunities of seeing them from time to time, and preserving the recollection of their features. In these attempts at discovery mistakes are, however, sometimes committed, and attentions are lavished on the offspring of others; instances even have occurred of mothers coming in mourning attire to the Hospital to return thanks for the kindness bestowed on their deceased children, who were informed on their arrival that they were alive and well.

When recognition does take place, the officers of the institution have found that the children generally were injured by the indulgences lavished upon them. It is proper to observe that mothers can always obtain intelligence of the health and welfare of their children. The number of children is , and it is stated that about mothers weekly avail themselves of the privilege in question : some come regularly once a fortnight. We may here say a word on the classes of society to which such parents generally belong. A large proportion are domestic servants; of cases eighteen belonged to this class. The remainder are chiefly daughters of small tradesmen, mechanics, or farmers, or milliners in humble circumstances.

The children, as we have incidentally seen, are baptized the day after their admission, and named. Formerly it was the custom to name the children after the chief benefactors and Governors of the institution, but a ludicrous inconvenience was experienced from the custom: some of the children, it was found, as they grew up, got a notion into their heads that they had a greater right to the appellation they had received than the mere custom of the Hospital had bestowed: we need hardly add that no sooner was this discovered than the practice at once ceased. Names of a very general character are now chosen. Immediately after their reception and baptism the infants are sent to of the stations in the country, East Peckham in Kent and Chertsey in Surrey, with their respective neighborhoods. The nurses who receive the Hospital children receive per week for each, and a gratuity of at the end of the year if the child appears to have been successfully reared. The nurses in each district are under the supervision of paid inspectors. A curious and in many senses gratifying result attends this novel connexion. The nurses and their husbands, generally poor cottagers, not only are called father and mother by the poor orphans, who have practically no other parents, but they almost invariably fulfil their duties in a manner that not only leaves nothing to be desired, but that goes beyond all reasonable expectation. Nature, as if unwilling to have of her holiest instincts lost under any circumstances, raises up in the breast of strangers the love for these poor castaways that they fail to receive from their parents. Accordingly the parting between the nurses and the children, when the age is attained at which they are removed to London, is generally of a distressing character. In many cases the nurses would evidently, if they could, be but too happy to be allowed to keep the children as their own, and at their own expense, rather than lose them. This is a feature of the management of the Hospital that it would be highly desirable to see altered, if alteration be practicable. The children are by the present mode , and the last deprivation is by far the worst, for their affections have then grown strong, and piteous


must be the suffering when they are rudely torn away from the objects around which they have so long clung. There is even a more serious evil, we should fear: the human heart in children is a dangerous thing to tamper with; is it not likely that, in finding its love thus (cruelly to all appearance) thrown as it were back upon itself, the very instinct of self-preservation inay keep it from any such dangerous advances for the future, and so allow it to remain safe at the expense of all those better feelings which are the most worthy of care? In short, if this part of the system does not exactly generate selfishness, it must at least, we should consider, blunt all the finer sensibilities, and lower the standard of humanity, among children so trained. On the return of the children to the Hospital their education commences, which is scarcely of so high a character as we should expect from the generally excellent management of the institution. There are, for instance, now in the boys' school, boys, who are taught by a single master; whose duties moreover are not even confined to school-hours, but extend to the care of the children at meal-times, their clothes, &c. Under these circumstances it would be absurd to expect that any high degree of efficiency can be obtained for the imparting a good education even of the plainest kind. It is probable (indeed we have heard something to that effect) that the Governors are deterred from working any effectual improvement by the fear that public opinion would not sanction them in making the condition of the children more eligible than it is : they fear perhaps that the feeling begot by the unfortunate Parliamentary experiment has not yet entirely vanished, and that the old charge of fostering vice by taking such care of its innocent consequences maybe again aroused. If so, we think it is, in the words of the poet,

a lost fear.

The children innocent: that is enough--to arouse and support the public sympathy in their favour; and if, as we hope, the excellence of the education here given shall day attract as much attention as the order, the neatness, cleanliness, and general arrangements of the Hospital do now, we are sure there will be few murmurers. The general interest exhibited in the measures of Dr. Kay for the pauper population of the country, as partially exhibited in the Norwood Schools, may prove at once an example, and the safety of its imitation on the part of all charitable educational institutions. Some of the elder boys, as we have before had occasion to observe, are taught tailoring, now the only trade or occupation pursued in the--Hospital; whilst the girls generally are taught to make their own clothes, and, as they grow old enough, to assist the ward-mistress in making up fine linen for the public at certain settled prices, and then to share in the duties of the Hospital household, and learn the mysteries of cleaning, cooking, washing, and ironing. Lastly comes the period of apprenticeship, when the Foundlings finally quit the Hospital that has so long and kindly supported them, and prepare for the arduous struggles of active life. The boys are apprenticed to persons of different trades, and, if required, premiums are given varying from to ; but in that case the inquiry into the character of the party becomes doubly strict. The girls are never intrusted to the care of unmarried men, nor to married men except with the consent of their wives, nor to persons who keep only a single servant. Personal inspection and inquiry as to their conduct and treatment is kept up through the whole period of their apprenticeship, and more particularly with regard to the females. A pleasant


custom has been instituted of late years of giving to the gradually dissolving connexion the right tone of feeling preparatory to its final dissolution. Once in every year takes place a meeting of the apprentices at the Hospital, to mingle once more among their youthful associates and elder friends and guardians; on which occasion a gratuity is given to all who can present a certificate of good conduct from their masters.

The principles that shall guide the future conduct of this important charity are of such moment that we shall make no apology for saying a few words on the subject, although our space forbids any elaborate or lengthened disquisition. From the cash account[n.351.1]  of the Hospital for the year we perceive the annual receipts exceed ; and as all those large and valuable houses belonging to the charity which surround it are held on leases, the actual income in the course of a few years will be at least ! As a natural consequence, the number of the children may be very greatly increased.[n.351.2]  As at present constituted, will the Hospital thus confer additional benefits on society? Mr. Wrottesley's opinion seems to be in the negative. He says,

Now it would seem that not only does general indiscriminate admission encourage licentiousness, but that, for a like reason, any facilities afforded for disposing of the offspring of illicit connexions without compromising the reputation of the parents have also a direct tendency to produce a similar result, and a tendency proportionable to the degree in which such facilities are afforded; and that the amount of mischief produced by any system under which illegitimate children are provided for on such terms can be always accurately estimated by observation of the number and class of the objects obtaining relief therefrom; and the circumstances under which relief is given.



referred to cannot be denied i neither can the fact that the existing arrangements do most decidedly keep it down and render it comparatively innoxious. That this is a fact, and that, although Mr. Wrottesley does not notice it, must answer all theories on the question, is evident from the following statements :--Sir Thomas Bernard, a former Treasurer, and the author of a carefully written and, to his credit be it said, impartial account of the Hospital, expressly says,

It is worthy of observation that

no instance

has come to the knowledge of the Committee of any woman so relieved who has not been thereby saved from what she would in all probability have been involved in--a course of vice and prostitution.

Again, the gentleman we have before referred to, the treasurer's clerk, referring to an experience of many years, and extending up to the present time, informs us that he remembers but where the reception of the child has been followed by subsequent misconduct on the part of the parent. We do not know how it is possible to desire a much stronger answer to the charge of encouraging


There are evils in the system unquestionably; the separation of the child from the mother, and the deceit practised in subsequent marriages, are serious ones, and, but for the rigid character of the regulations, licentiousness undoubtedly would be produced; but do those acknowledgments settle the question? Is it nothing to arrest error in its onward course, and, if you cannot change it into virtue, to keep it certainly from sinking into vice? Above


all, is it nothing to take care of the children who would become the most pitiable victims of such vice? Let any consider for a moment the probable fate of the great majority of the sinning but unhappy mothers who have here found relief, and then further consider what must have been the condition of their children; would the result have been anything like that shown in the following statement, where the history of girls after leaving the hospital is briefly but sufficiently shown? Of this number at the expiration of their apprenticeship received gratuities varying from to guineas for their good conduct, (gratuities only awarded on the presentation of a certificate by their employers,) died, became insane or imbecile or invalid, forfeited the gratuity for obstinacy without vice, committed offences during their apprenticeship, but reformed afterwards and became respectable characters, never applied for the gratuity, and of the whole number only turned out bad characters. The remaining were discovered by their mothers during their apprenticeship, and quietly taken away. It is true that in a literal sense the exact object of Coram has not been obtained or found practicable--the taking care of

exposed and deserted

infants; but it would be difficult to say the Hospital has not done what Coram must have much more desired, that is, prevented such infants from being so exposed or deserted; and certainly, in the present management and influences of the Hospital, there is nothing that would make him less proud of his title as its Founder.


[n.339.1] Burney's History of Music.

[n.344.1] Coxe's Life of Walpole.

[n.345.1] Transcribed from Hans Sloane; a Tale illustrating the History of the Foundling Hospital in London: by John? Brownlow : a little work by one of the officers of the hospital, containing many interesting facts relative to the latter.

[n.346.1] The Tendencies of the Foundling Hospital in its present extent considered : 1760 .

[n.348.1] Report of theCommissioners for inquiring concerning Charities, p. 781.

[n.351.1] Among the items is one of a gratifying kind- Legacy of the late Edward Harris, a foundling, £ 2.5.

[n.351.2] The funds already, it appears, admit of an extension in the number from 360 to 400 children, and we under. stand a proposition to that effect will shortly be made.