The million-peopled city
Narrative of a Visit to this School, from " Chambers's Edinburgh Journal."
About the same time the following narrative of a visit to this school appeared in " drawn up by a gentleman connected with the journal, who was led to explore the place:-
"' A ,' quoth the reader, 'pray, what kind of school is that ?' A few words will suffice to answer this inquiry. A is a Sunday-school established by private benevolence in a City district of the meanest kind, where every house is worn-out and crazy, and almost every tenant a beggar, or, perhaps, something worse. A school, moreover, in which no children are to be found who would be admitted into any other school; for, ragged, diseased, and crime-worn, their very appearance would scare away the children of well-conducted parents; and hence, if they were not educated there, they would receive no education at all.
"In London there exist several one situated in the very heart of , another-the one we propose to sketch-established nigh that worse than , , -the head-quarters of thieves, coiners, burglars, and the other outcasts of society. This Sunday-school was founded in , and originated in the benevolent efforts of a hero in humble life. After much exertion, especially in overcoming the objections of the parents, who considered the reformation of their off- spring as the loss of so much capital, 45 young persons, varying in age from 6 to 18, were induced to attend the school. At present the average attendance on Sundays exceeds 100. The school is also opened 3 times a week, when instruction of an ordinary kind is imparted gratuitously
|by a lady. Most-we might say all-of the fathers of the schulars belong to what may be called the predacious class, and the mothers fallen characters, who bear deep traces of guilt and disease in their countenances. Many of the chil- dren have been incarcerated for felony-educated thereto by their parents, as the trade whereby they are to live; and the destiny of all, unless better principles shall be implanted at school than can be acquired at home, is the hulks or Norfolk Island. All honour, then, to the brave men and women who have consecrated the day of rest to the godlike task of rescuing their fellow-creatures from a life of shame and misery-to change the ruffian into an honest man!
"' is situate at 65, West- street, a locality where vice and fever hold fearful sway. To open it in any other neighbourhood, would be to defeat the object of the projectors. The very habiliments of the boys, so patched, that the character of the original texture could scarcely be gleaned, would almost be sufficient to preclude their ingress to a more respectable neighbourhood, and make them slink back abashed into their loathsome dens. It follows, that the object of the promoters of the ''-the in-gathering of the outcasts-requires that it should be held amidst the homes of these outcasts. The house has that battered, worn aspect, which speaks of dissolute idleness, the windows are dark and dingy, and the street too narrow to admit a current of fresh air; and it needed, on the rainy day in March in which it was visited, but a slightly active imagination to call up visions of the robberies and murders which have been planned in it, and of which it has been the scene.
"The entrance to the school was dark; and there being no windows to illuminate the rickety staircase, we stumbled into the school-room on the first-floor before we were aware. On entering, the eye was greeted by a spectacle to which,
|from its mingled humour and pathos, the pencil of Hogarth could have alone done justice. We found a group of from 40 to 50 girls in one room, and about 60 boys in another; the girls, although the offspring of thieves, quiet, winning, and maidenly; but the boys full of grimace and antics, and, by jest and cunning glances, evincing that they thought the idea of attending school fine fun. Foremost amongst them was a boy apparently aged 17, but as self-collected as a man of forty, of enormous head, and with a physiognomy in which cunning and wit were equally blended, whose mastery over the other boys was attested by their all addressing him as 'captain.' The boys had their wan, vice-worn faces as clean as could be expected, and their rags seemed furbished up for the occasion; whilst their ready repartee, and striking original remarks, and the electric light of the eye, when some peculiar practical joke was perpetrated, evinced that intellect was there, however uncultivated or misused. Unless we are greatly self-deceived, we beheld in this unpromising assemblage as good a show of heads as we have ever seen in any other Sunday-school, and the remark is justified by what we learned with respect to the shrewdness generally evinced by these children. The predominant temperament was the sanguine, a constitution which usually indicates great love for animal exercise; and, during the time we were present, they appeared as if they could not sit quiet one moment-hands, feet, head, nay, the very trunk itself, seemed perpetually struggling to do something, and that something generally being found in sheer mischief.
"Hymns were occasionally sung to lively measures, the girls singing with a sweetness and pathos that sunk deep into the heart; but the boys were continually grimacing and joking, yet all the time attempting to look grave and sober, as if they were paying the most respectful attention. When the superintendent told the boys that he was about to pitch
|the tune, and that they must follow him, the boy before mentioned as the captain cried out in a stage-whisper, ' Mr. says we are to follow him; I wonder where he's going to?' a jest hailed with a general laugh by his confederates. During teaching, questions of an unanswerable character were submitted by the boys to their master; for example, 'If you were starving and hungry, wouldn't you steal?' 'What is the use of hanging ; will that convert him?' Various other attempts were made by the captain to puzzle the teacher, and failing, he was heard to say, 'That's no go-he is too deep for us.'
" Amongst these boys, however, were some to whom the word of kindness was evidently a ' word in season,' and who drank in the tender accents with which they were addressed -perchance for the first time-as if it were music to their souls. Then, again, was to be seen some poor puny lad, as gentle in mind as in body, who was obviously dying from unfitness to cope with the requirements of his circumstances -poor tender saplings, growing in an atmosphere which was too bleak for any but the forest oak to brave. Untrained, except to crime, as most of the children are, much good has already been effected. Most of the scholars can read, and books have been supplied suited to their circumstances; and that the books are read with the understanding, is proved by the questions submitted to their teachers. Due honour to their parents has been taught. Many have thus become a comfort to homes to which they had hitherto been an addi- tional curse; and many a mother, herself regenerated through the prattle of her child, has declared, with streaming eyes, 'I thank God my girl ever went to school !' Some of the scholars have been partially clad by the con- nected with the school; and the stress which has been laid
|upon personal cleanliness has served to educe proper feelings of self-esteem; no slight ingredient in civilization. Not- withstanding their many eccentricities, the children are really attached to their teachers; the girls coming forward from natural impulse, and with true politeness giving an affectionate ' Good-bye, Teacher,' even to the visitor; and the boys, ever striving to please, in spite of their prevailing love of fun. One outre, but characteristic instance, of this affec- tion for their teachers may be noticed. A teacher, in passing through , was attracted by a pugilistic contest; when, on remonstrating with them on their folly, one of the most brutal came up to him in a fighting attitude. Suddenly a boy rushed through the crowd, and cried, in stentorian tones, ' You leave him alone, Bill, or I'll knock you down; don't you know that's my teacher?' If, then, to win the affections be the best prelude to the reformation of the debased, again we say, honour to those brave men and women who, despite the contempt and the slander of the Pharisee and the worldling, have not shrunk from trying to rescue from ruin the neglected youthful soul!
"Our sketch ends here; but the '' was not visited for the mere gratification of curiosity, nor is that the motive which has induced us to describe the scene. A question entered our minds as we pondered over this visit, and a practical answer to which by our readers is the chief aim of the writer-' Why is there not a "Ragged School" in every large town in Great Britain ?" 
 Mr. Provan was the missionary of the London City Mission in Field-lane.
 On the day of the visit Tapping was to be executed on the morrow.
 " Chambers's Edinburgh Journal," of June 17, 1845.