London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. 4 by Henry Mayhew


A Cyclopædia of the Condition and Earnings



With an Introductory Essay on the Agencies at Present in Operation in the Metropolis for the Suppression of Vice and Crime




First edition 1851
(Volume One only and parts of Volumes Two and Three)
Enlarged edition (Four volumes) 1861-62
New impression 1865



It would be a work of supererogation to extol the utility of such a publication as “London Labour and the London Poor,” so apparent must be its value to all classes of society. It stands alone as a photograph of life as actually spent by the lower classes of the Metropolis. That one half of the world does not know how the other half lives is an axiom of antiquity, but the truthful revelations and descriptions of the London street folk, workers and non-workers, and the means by which they exist, will go a great way to enlighten the educated classes respecting matters which have hitherto been involved in mystery and uncertainty.

The class of individuals treated of in this volume are the Non-Workers, or in other words, the Dangerous Classes of the Metropolis; and every endeavour has been made to obtain correct information, not only through the assistance of the police authorities, but by an expenditure of much time and research among the unfortunates themselves. Their favourite haunts, and the localities in London wherein they chiefly congregate, as well as their modes of existence, are accurately described; in addition to which have been inserted very many deeply interesting autobiographies, faithfully transcribed from their own lips, which go far to unveil the intricate schemes of villany and crime that abound in the Metropolis, and prove how much more rational and effective are preventive measures than such as are merely correctional.

Every phase of vice has been investigated and treated of, in order that all possible information that can prove interesting to the moralist, the philanthropist, and the statist, as well as to the general public, might be afforded. In a word the veil has been raised, and the skeleton exposed to the view of the public.

In order to inspire hope and confidence in those who would shudder and lose heart in the perusal of such a record of crime and misery, the volume is prefaced by a comprehensive account of the agencies in operation within the Metropolis for the suppression of crime and vice, in which is detailed the aim and scope of the numerous religious and philanthropic associations now actively following the footsteps of that Divine Saviour, Whose chief mission was to the poor and guilty.

These brave workers now abound in all the dark places of the Metropolis, and the fruits of their labours, particularly in the case of youthful criminals, are becoming, through the blessing of Providence, abundantly apparent.

A vast amount of statistical information, compiled from authentic records, is contained in the body of the work, and in the Appendix, and a few illustrations are introduced, graphically showing the extremes of vice and crime.

The publishers have to thank Sir Richard Mayne and the authorities at Scotland Yard, as well as the Secretaries of the various charitable societies, for much valuable information and assistance.

Stationers’ Hall Court;
December, 1861.



By the Rev. William Tuckniss, B.A.
Universal Desire for Investigation xi
Mere Palliatives insufficient to Check the Growth of Crime xi
Decrease of Crime doubtful xii
General Desire to Alleviate Misery xiii
Guthrie on Great Cities xiv
Social Position of London xv
Agencies at Work in London xvii
Their Number and Income xvii
Curative Agencies xviii
British and Foreign Bible Society xix
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge xix
Institution for Reading the Word of God in the Open Air xix
Theatre Services xix
London City Mission, xx
Church of England Scripture Readers’ Society xxii
Religious Tract Society xxiii
Pure Literature Society xxiii
Preventive Agencies xxiv
National Temperance Society xxiv
United Kingdom Alliance xxiv
Free Drinking Fountain Association xxv
Ragged School Union xxv
Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes xxv
Female Servants’ Home Society xxvi
Female Aid Society xxvii
Training Institutions for Servants xxvii
Field Lane Night Refuges xxvii
Dudley Stuart Night Refuge xxvii
Houseless Poor Asylum xxviii
House of Charity xxviii
Foundling Hospital xxviii
Society for the Suppression of Mendicity xxviii
Association for Promoting the Relief of Destitution xxviii
Association for the Aid and Benefit of Dressmakers and Milliners xxix
Young Women’s Christian Association and West-end Home xxix
Society for Promoting the Employment of Women xxx
Metropolitan Early Closing Association, &c. xxx
Repressive and Punitive Agencies xxx
Society for the Suppression of Vice xxxi
The Associate Institution xxxi
Society for Promoting the Observance of the Lord’s Day xxxiv
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals xxxiv
Reformative Agencies xxxiv
Reformatory and Refuge Union xxxiv
Reformative Agencies for Fallen Women xxxv
Magdalen Hospital xxxvi
London by Moonlight Mission xxxvii
Society for the Rescue of Young Women and Children xxxvii
London Female Preventive and Reformatory Institution xxxvii
Concluding Remarks xxxviii
Workers and Non-workers 2
Classification of ditto 11
Those who will Work 12
Enrichers 13
Auxiliaries 16
Benefactors 19
Servitors 20
Those who cannot Work 22
Those who are provided for 22
Those who are unprovided for 22
Those who will not Work 23
Vagrants or Tramps 23
Professional Beggars 23
Cheats and their Dependants 24
Thieves and their Dependants 25
Prostitutes and their Dependants 27
Those that need not Work 27
Those who derive their Income from Rent 27
Those who derive their Income from Dividends 27
Those who derive their Income from Yearly Stipends 27
Those who derive their Income from obsolete or nominal Offices 27
Those who derive their Income from Trades in which they do not appear 27
Those who derive their Income by favour from others 27
Those who derive their support from the head of the family 27
THE NON-WORKERS. By Henry Mayhew 28
THE PROSTITUTE CLASS GENERALLY. By Henry Mayhew and Bracebridge Hemyng 35
Prostitution in Ancient States 37
The Jews, &c. 39
Ancient Egypt 43
Ancient Greece 45
Ancient Rome 49
The Anglo-Saxons 34
Prostitution among the Barbarous Nations 58
African Nations 58
Australia 67
New Zealand 71
Islands of the Pacific 76
North American Indians 84
South American Indians 90
Cities of South America 93
West Indies 94
Java 96
Sumatra 99
Borneo 103
Prostitution among the Semi-civilized Nations 104
Celebes 107
Persia 108
The Affghans 111
Kashmir 115
India 117
Ceylon 125
China 129
Japan 136
The ultra-Gangetic Nations 139
Egypt 141
Northern Africa 149
Arabia, Syria, and Asia Minor 151
Turkey 155
Circassia 158
The Tartar Races 160
Prostitution among the Mixed Northern Nations 163
Russia 165
Siberia 167
Iceland and Greenland 172
Lapland and Sweden 174
Norway 177
Denmark 179
Prostitution in Civilized States 181
Spain 191
Amsterdam 195
Belgium 195
Hamburg 196
Prussia—Germany 198
Berlin 198
Austria 200
Modern Rome 201
Turin 203
Berne 204
Paris 205
PROSTITUTION IN LONDON. By Bracebridge Hemyng 210
General Remarks 210
Seclusives, or those that Live in Private Houses and Apartments 215
The Haymarket 217
Degree of Education among Prostitutes 218
Board Lodgers 220
Autobiographies 220
Those who Live in low Lodging Houses 223
Swindling Sall 223
Lushing Loo 224
Sailors’ Women 226
Visit to Ratcliff Highway 228
Visit to Bluegate Fields, &c. 231
Soldiers’ Women 233
Visit to Knightsbridge 235
Thieves’ Women 236
Visit to Drury Lane, &c. 236
Park Women 242
Examples 242
The Dependants of Prostitutes 246
Bawds 246
Followers of Dress Lodgers 247
Keepers of Accommodation Houses 249
Procuresses, Pimps, and Panders 250
Fancy Men 252
Bullies 253
Clandestine Prostitutes
Female Operatives 255
Maid Servants 257
Ladies of Intrigue and Houses of Assignation 258
Cohabitant Prostitutes 259
Narrative of a Gay Woman 260
Criminal Returns 263
Traffic in Foreign Women 269
Introduction 273
Sneaks, or Common Thieves 277
Juvenile Thieves 277
Stealing from Street Stalls 277
Stealing from the Till 278
Stealing from the Doors and Windows of Shops 279
Stealing from Children 281
Child Stripping 281
[ix]Stealing from Drunken Persons 282
Stealing Linen, &c. 283
Robberies from Carts 284
Stealing Lead from House-tops, Copper from Kitchens, &c. 285
Robberies by false Keys 286
Robberies by Lodgers 288
Robberies by Servants 289
Area and Lobby Sneaks 290
Stealing by Lifting Windows, &c. 292
Attic or Garret Thieves 293
A Visit to the Rookery of St. Giles 294
Narrative of a London Sneak 301
Pickpockets and Shoplifters 303
Common Pickpockets 306
Omnibus Pickpockets 309
Railway Pickpockets 310
A Visit to the Thieves’ Dens in Spitalfields 311
Narrative of a Pickpocket 316
Horse and Dog Stealers 325
Horse Stealing 325
Dog Stealing 325
Highway Robbers 326
A Ramble among the Thieves’ Dens in the Borough 330
Housebreakers and Burglars 334
Narrative of a Burglar 345
Narrative of another Burglar 349
Prostitute Thieves 355
Prostitutes of the Haymarket 356
Common Street Walkers 360
Hired Prostitutes 361
Park Women 362
Soldiers’ Women 363
Sailors’ Women 365
Felonies on the River Thames 366
Mudlarks 366
Sweeping Boys 367
Sellers of Small Wares 367
Labourers on board Ship 367
Dredgermen or Fishermen 368
Smuggling 368
Felonies by Lightermen 368
The River Pirates 369
Narrative of a Mudlark 370
Receivers of Stolen Property 373
Dolly Shops 373
Pawnbrokers, &c. 374
Narrative of a Returned Convict 376
Coining 377
Coiners 378
Forgers 380
Cheats 383
Embezzlers 383
Magsmen or Sharpers 385
Swindlers 388
BEGGARS.—By Andrew Halliday.
Introduction 393
Origin and History of the Poor Laws 394
Statistics of the Poor Laws 397
Report of the Poor Law Board 397
Street Beggars in 1816 398
Mendicant Pensioners 399
Mendicity Society 399
Examples of Applications 401
Begging Letter Writers 403
Decayed Gentlemen 404
Broken-down Tradesmen 405
Distressed Scholar 405
The Kaggs’ Family 406
Advertising Begging Letter Writers 410
Ashamed Beggars 412
The Swell Beggar 413
Clean Family Beggars 413
Naval and Military Beggars 415
Turnpike Sailor 415
Street Campaigners 417
Foreign Beggars 419
The French Beggar 419
Destitute Poles 420
Hindoo Beggars 423
Negro Beggars 425
Disaster Beggars 427
A Shipwrecked Mariner 428
Blown-up Miners 429
Burnt-out Tradesmen 429
Lucifer Droppers 431
Bodily Afflicted Beggars 431
Seventy years a Beggar 432
Having swollen Legs 433
Cripples 433
A Blind Beggar 433
Beggars subject to Fits 434
Being in a Decline 435
Shallow Coves 435
Famished Beggars 436
The Choking Dodge 437
The Offal Eater 437
Petty Trading Beggars 438
An Author’s Wife 440
Dependants of Beggars 441
Referees 445
Distressed Operative Beggars 446
Starved-out Manufacturers 446
Unemployed Agriculturists 446
Frozen-out Gardeners 446
Hand-loom Weavers, &c. 447



Maps and Tables
Illustrating the Criminal Statistics of each of the Counties of England and Wales in 1851.
Map showing the Density of the Population 451
Table of ditto 452
Map showing the Intensity of Criminality 455
Table of ditto 456
Map showing the Intensity of Ignorance 459
Table of ditto 460
Table of Ignorance among Criminals 462
Table of Degrees of Criminality 464
Comparative Educational Tables 465
Map showing the Number of Illegitimate Children 467
Table of ditto 468
Map showing the Number of Early Marriages 471
Table of ditto 472
Map showing the Number of Females 475
Table of ditto 476
Map showing Commitals for Rape 477
Table of ditto 479
Map showing Committals for Assault with Intent to Ravish and Carnally Abuse 481
Table of ditto 482
Map showing Commitals for Disorderly Houses 485
Table of ditto 486
Map showing Concealment of Births 489
Table of ditto 490
Map showing attempts at Miscarriage 493
Table of ditto 494
Map showing Assaults with Intent 497
Table of ditto 498
Map showing Committals for Bigamy 499
Table of ditto 500
Map showing Committals for Abduction 501
Table of ditto 502
Map showing the Criminality of Females 503
Table of ditto 504


A Midnight Meeting—Rev. Baptist Noel speaking Frontispiece
Greek Dancing Girl—Hetaira—Age of Socrates Page 45
Roman Brothel—Imperial Era 47
Women of the Bosjes Race 59
Girls of Nubia—Making Pottery 65
Woman of the Sacs, or “Sau-kies,” Tribe of American Indians 85
Dyak Women—Borneo 103
Chinese Woman—Prostitute 129
Scene in the Gardens of ‘Closerie des Lilas’—Paris 213
A Night House—Kate Hamilton’s 217
The New Cut—Evening 223
The Haymarket—Midnight 261
Boys Exercising at Tothill Fields’ Prison 301
Cell, with Prisoner at Crank Labour in the Surrey House of Correction 345
Friends Visiting Prisoners 377
Liberation of Prisoners from Coldbath Fields’ House of Correction 387

One of the most remarkable and distinctive features of the present age is the universal desire for analytical investigations. Almost every branch of social economy is treated with a precision, and pursued with an accuracy, that pertains to an exact science. Demonstration has been reduced to a mathematical certainty; figures and statistics everywhere abound, and supply data for further research.

Too often, however, it happens that the solution of the social problem, or the collation of facts tending to throw light upon the moral and religious condition of our country, forms the goal, and not the starting point of our labours.

Having accomplished a diligent, and often a laborious, search, and succeeded in eliminating truth from a mass of contradictory evidence, men are generally satisfied with the mere pleasure derived from success. Their knowledge, the hard pursuit of which has called forth immense energy and perseverance, and entrenched largely on their time and capital, is no longer the means to an end, but the end itself. Having gathered a few pebbles from the exhaustless arcana of social philosophy, they complacently enjoy their newly-found treasures, without a thought of the practical uses to which they may be applied.

Other men are found who enter into their labours, and use the materials thus collected as the basis of further philanthropic investigations.

While thus perpetually rising higher in the scale of intelligence, and arriving at closer approximations to truth, men too often neglect to turn their discoveries to any utilitarian or practical purpose, and rest content with merely theoretical results.

Thus it is that while an inductive philosophy is built up from a series of statistics and particulars, very little is being done to reduce this knowledge to practice. The science of investigation is admirable as far as it goes, and the pursuit of truth is at all times an object worthy of human ambition; but it must become the pioneer to tangible results, or its utility will by no means be apparent; and indeed it becomes a question, in an active state of existence, how far knowledge, which is final in its character and valuable merely for its own sake, is calculated to reward the efforts expended on its acquisition. It is true that the old philosophers held a contemplative life to be the highest development of human happiness, but their dreamy and fluctuating views are hardly likely to carry weight in an age of bustling activity; and it is equally certain that the bare, quiescent contemplation of evil in all its endless ramifications and hideous consequences, apart from all remedial efforts, is not likely to prove satisfactory to the philanthropist, nor consolatory to the Christian.

It is only so far as knowledge opens up to us the path of usefulness, and directs us how and where to plant our energies for the benefit of the human race, that it becomes really valuable. If, however, knowledge be power, and if the discovery of an evil be half-way towards its cure, then have we a right to expect that our humanitarian and other appliances for the alleviation of misery and the prevention of crime, should at least keep pace with modern developments of social science.[xii] Hitherto men have been content to declaim against these evils, wherever they existed, without suggesting any feasible remedies.

For a length of time our philanthropic schemes have partaken too much of the character of mere surface appliances, directed to the amelioration of existing evils, but in no way likely to effect their extirpation. We have been dealing with effects rather than with first causes, and in our zeal to absorb, divert, or diminish the former, the latter have generally escaped detection. When too late, we have discovered that mere palliatives will not suffice, and that they are powerless to resist the steady growth of crime in all its subtle developments. For, as well might we attempt to exhaust the perennial flow of a spring by the application of sponges, as prescribe external alleviations for our social disorders.

Our homes, penitentiaries, and industrial reformatories will continue to do their work of mercy upon an infinitesimal scale, and will snatch solitary individuals from impending destruction; but in the meantime the reproductive process goes on, and fresh victims are hurried upon the stage of suffering and of guilt, from numberless unforeseen and unsuspected channels, thus causing a continuous succession of want, profligacy, and wretchedness.

We have affected surprise, that, notwithstanding all our benevolent exertions, and the completeness and efficiency of our reclaiming systems, the great tide of our social impurities continues to roll on with increasing velocity. Happily, however, for future generations, there is a manifest tendency in the present age to correct these fatal mistakes, and to return to first principles.

The science of anatomy is not confined to hospitals and dissecting-rooms, nor restricted in its application to the human frame. Social science conferences, and other associations are laying bare the deeply-imbedded roots of our national evils, and are preparing the way for their extirpation. Men are getting tired of planting flowers and training creepers to hide their social upases, and are beginning to discover that it is both sounder policy and truer economy to uproot a noxious weed than to pluck off its poisonous berries.

We have flattered ourselves that education and civilization, with all their humanizing and elevating influences, would gradually permeate all ranks of society; and that the leaven of Christianity would ultimately subdue the power of evil, and convert our outer world into an Elysium of purity and unselfishness. The results, however, of past years have hardly answered these sanguine expectations; and our present experience goes far to prove, that while there has undoubtedly been progress for good, there has been a corresponding progress for evil; for although the criminal statistics of some localities exhibit a sensible diminution in certain forms of vice, we must not forget that an increase of education and a growing intelligence bring with them superior facilities for the successful perpetration and concealment of crime.

All the latest developments of science and skill being pressed into the service of the modern criminal, his evasion of justice must often be regarded less as the result of caution, or of a fortuitous combination of favourable circumstances, than of his knowledge of chemical properties and physical laws. So far indeed from our being able to augur favourably from the infrequency of convictions, the fearful tragedies which are occasionally brought to the surface of society, coupled in many instances with a surprising fertility of resource and ingenuity of method, are indicative of an under current of crime—the depth and foulness of which defy all computation. We may add further, that the immense difficulty of obtaining direct evidence in cases of criminal prosecution, and the onus probandi that the law, not unfairly, throws upon the accusers, are sufficient to hush up any cases of mere suspicion; so that at present we possess no adequate data by which to gauge the real dimensions of crime, or to judge respecting its insidious growth and power. It is not, however, so much with crime in the abstract, as with the most prolific sources of[xiii] vice that the philanthropist has to deal; and it is a highly suggestive and encouraging fact that, in these days, men are concerned in investigating the various causes of crime, and in exposing its reflex influence upon society. Just in proportion as they adhere to this course, which is distinguished alike by prudence and sagacity, will they become instrumental in effecting a radical reformation of existing evils, and in restoring society to a more healthy and vigorous condition. “What we want in all such cases is no false rhetoric and no violent outbursts of passion, but clear statements of that vivid truth which contains the intrinsic elements of reformation amongst mankind. The true philanthropist is the man whose judgment is on a par with his feelings, and who recognizes the fact that there is some particle of meaning in every particle of suffering around us.

“Some of this wretchedness is remediable, the result of actual causes which may be altered, though much is beyond human control. In an age like this, however we may toil to overtake the urgent need of our own time, the difficulty is, at the same time, calmly and deliberately to satisfy the fresh wants which may daily arise—keeping pace with them. With the heavy defalcations from past years weighing upon them, our statesmen and economists are often bewildered at the magnitude of their engagements; while the best and wisest amongst us are crushed and appalled by the new and giant evils which are continually being brought to light. Earnest thought, however, is the true incentive to action,”[1] and we would thankfully recognize as one visible result of the increasing attention given to matters of public interest, a growing disposition on the part of all who are qualified by position and authority, to grapple manfully with the various phases of wretchedness and crime now contributing their influence upon our social condition.

Nowhere are these hopeful indications more manifest than in this giant metropolis, where the various conditions of ordinary life seem to be intensified by their direct contact with good and evil; and where Christianity appears to be struggling to maintain its independent and aggressive character, amid much that is calculated to retard its progress and check its influence.

It is here, within the crowded areas and noisome purlieus of this greatest of great cities, that we may gather lessons of life to be gained nowhere else—and of which those can form a very inadequate conception, who dwell only in an atmosphere of honied flowers and rural pleasures.

It is here especially that the sorrows and sufferings of humanity have evoked an active and pervasive spirit of benevolence, which has infected all ranks and penetrated every class of society; so that the high born and the educated, the gentle and the refined, vie with each other in a restless energy to alleviate human misery and to assuage some of the groans of creation. This disposition to relieve distress in every shape, and to mitigate the ills of a common brotherhood, proclaims at once its divine origin, and is, in fact, the nearest assimilation to the character of Him who “went about doing good.”

The germ of this heaven-born principle has survived the fall; and though its highest development is one of the distinguishing marks of the true Christian, its existence is discernible in all who have not sinned away the last faint outlines of the Divine image.

Some philosophers, indeed, would persuade us that there is no such thing in existence as a principle of pure, unmixed benevolence; that every exercise of charity is simply another mode of self-gratification, and every generous impulse a mere exhibition of selfishness.

Undoubtedly there is a “luxury in doing good,” and the ability to contribute to the happiness of others is one of the purest sources of human gratification; but we question whether an act, resulting from mere self-love, is capable of yielding any solid satisfaction to the agent; and we therefore hold the existence of[xiv] genuine benevolence, believing that it is a principle innate in the human breast, and requiring only to be developed and consecrated by religious influence to become one of the most powerful levers for the evangelization of the world.

Unhappily there are too many who have schooled themselves to the practice of inhumanity, and closed up the springs of spontaneous sympathy, thus depriving the heart of its rightful heritage, and restricting the sphere of its operations to self. Those who thus sever themselves from all external influences are left at length in undisturbed possession of a little world of their own creation. No longer linked to their fellow-men in the bonds of true fellowship, their orbit of activity becomes narrower, until at length every avenue to the heart is hermetically sealed, except such as minister to self-gratification and indulgence. The man who has thus estranged himself from the rest of creation, and become isolated from all the ties of a common humanity, is indeed an object of unqualified pity, because he has destroyed one of the purest springs of happiness.

He who, on the other hand, is most fully alive to the claims of universal brotherhood, and whose heart is most

“At leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize,”
is the highest type of man, and the best representative of his race. This spirit of brotherhood if recognised by the world, would “hush the thunder of battle, and wipe away the tears of nations. It would sweep earth’s wildernesses of moral blight, causing them to blossom as the rose.”

Those persons who accustom themselves to speak of London as a mere seething caldron of crime, or as a very charnel-house of impurity, without any redeeming character or hopeful element, are surely as wide of the mark as they who under-rate its vast resources for crime, or take a superficial view of its predominant vices.

It would, perhaps, be a curious and not unprofitable subject of inquiry how far the metropolis contributes its influence for good or evil upon the provinces, and to what extent the country is capable of reciprocating this influence. Probably, allowance being made for the difference of population, the law of giving and receiving is pretty evenly adjusted. Those forms of vice which seem to be more indigenous to our great cities are steadily imported into the country, while on the other hand, the hamlet and the village transmit to the town those particular vices in which they appear to be constitutionally most prolific.

It is in the crowded city, however, that the seeds of good or evil are brought to the highest state of maturity, and virtue and vice most rapidly developed, under the forcing influences that everywhere abound.

“Great cities,” says Dr. Guthrie, “many have found to be great curses. It had been well for many an honest lad and unsuspecting country girl, that hopes of higher wages and opportunities of fortune—that the gay attire and polished tongue, and gilded story of some old acquaintance—had never turned their steps cityward, nor turned them from the rude simplicity, but safety of their rustic home. Many a foot that once lightly pressed the heather or brushed the dewy grass, has wearily trodden in darkness, and guilt, and remorse, on these city pavements. Happy had it been for many that they had never exchanged the starry skies for the lamps of the town, nor had left their lonely glens, or quiet hamlets, or solitary shores, for the throng and roar of our streets. Well for them that they had heard no roar but the rivers, whose winter flood it had been safer to breast; no roar but oceans, whose stormiest waves it had been safer to ride, than encounter the flood of city temptations, which has wrecked their virtue and swept them into ruin.

“Yet I bless God for cities. The world had not been what it is without them.[xv] The disciples were commanded to ‘begin at Jerusalem,’ and Paul threw himself into the cities of the ancient world, as offering the most commanding positions of influence. Cities have been as lamps of light along the pathway of humanity and religion. Within them science has given birth to her noblest discoveries. Behind their walls freedom has fought her noblest battles. They have stood on the surface of the earth like great breakwaters, rolling back or turning aside the swelling tide of oppression. Cities, indeed, have been the cradles of human liberty. They have been the radiating, active centres of almost all church and state reformation. The highest humanity has been developed in cities. Somehow or other, amid their crowding and confinement, the human mind finds its fullest freest expansion. Unlike the dwarfed and dusty plants which stand in our city gardens, languishing like exiles for the purer air and freer sunshine, that kiss their fellows far away in flowery fields and green woodland, on sunny banks and breezy hills, man reaches his highest condition amid the social influences of the crowded city. His intellect receives its brightest polish, where gold and silver lose theirs, tarnished by the scorching smoke and foul vapours of city air. The mental powers acquire their full robustness, where the cheek loses its ruddy hue, and the limbs their elastic step, and pale thought sits on manly brows, and as aërolites—those shooting stars which, like a good man on his path in life, leave a train of glory behind them on the dusky sky—are supposed to catch fire by the rapidity of their motion, as they rush through the higher regions of our atmosphere, so the mind of man fires, burns, shines, acquires its most dazzling brilliancy, by the very rapidity of action into which it is thrown amid the bustle and excitements of city life. And if, just as in those countries where tropical suns, and the same skies, ripen the sweetest fruit and the deadliest poisons—you find in the city the most daring and active wickedness, you find there also, boldly confronting it, the most active, diligent, warm-hearted, self-denying and devoted Christians.”[2]

London then may be considered as the grand central focus of operations, at once the emporium of crime and the palladium of Christianity. It is, in fact the great arena of conflict between the powers of darkness and the ministry of heaven. Here, within the area of our metropolis, the real struggle is maintained between the two antagonistic principles of good and evil. It is here that they join issue in the most deadly proximity, and struggle for the vantage-ground.

Here legions of crime and legions of vices unite and form an almost impenetrable phalanx, while the strong man armed enjoys his goods in peace—no, not in peace, for here too the banner of the cross is most firmly planted, and Christianity wins its freshest laurels. Here is the stronghold, the occupation of which by the everlasting gospel, has given vigour, support, and consistency to the religion of the world. Here is concentrated that fervent and apostolic piety that has made itself felt to the remotest corner of the earth; and here is the nucleus of missionary enterprise, and the radiating centre of active benevolence.

“The Christian power that has moved a sluggish world on, the Christian benevolence and energy that have changed the face of society, the Christian zeal that has gone forth, burning to win nations and kingdoms for Jesus,” have received their birth or development in London.

Since, then, this busy mart of the world, in which the most opposite and dissimilar wares are exhibited, is made up of such composite materials and conflicting elements, it is only fair that while estimating its capabilities for crime, and endeavouring to plumb its depths of depravity, ignorance, and suffering, we should, when possible, faithfully depict their opposites, and take cognizance of such instrumentalities as present the best antidotes and alleviations.

It is questionable, indeed, how far the cause of religion and morality would be[xvi] promoted by a ghastly array of facts, representing the dimensions of crime in all its naked deformity, or by any exhibition, however truthful, of vice and wretchedness under their most repulsive aspects, and without any cheering reference to corrective and remedial agencies. The effect produced upon the mind, in such a case, would be, in the generality of instances, blank despair; and the only influence thus excited would partake strongly of that morbid sympathy and unhealthy excitement, awakened by delineations of fictitious distress.

To unravel the dark catalogue of London profligacy, and present to the eye of the reader the wearisome expanse of guilt and suffering, unrelieved by any indications of improvement, would be like exhibiting the convulsive death-agony of a drowning man without the friendly succour of a rope, or like conjuring up the horrors of a shipwreck without the mental relief afforded by a life-boat.

We need the day star of hope to guide us through the impenetrable gloom of moral darkness. The olive branch of mercy and the rainbow of promise are as needful tokens of social and religious improvement, as of abated judgments and returning favour.

After being required to give attention to figures and statistics representing crime in the aggregate, the mental eye requires alleviation from the gross darkness it has encountered, and looks impatiently for some streak of light in the moral horizon, indicative of approaching day. To view London crime and misery, without their encouraging counterparts, would be like groping our way through the blackness of midnight, unrelieved by the faintest glimmer of light.

Just, however, as stars shine brightest in the darkest nights, so may we discover some element of hope under the most appalling exhibitions of human depravity, which thus serve as a background to portray in bolder relief, and by force of contrast, the redeeming qualities of Christianity.

As a work of absorbing interest and utility to the British philanthropist, Mr. Mayhew’s wonderful book, “London Labour and London Poor,” stands probably unrivalled. The mass of evidence and detail, accumulated after the most careful and indefatigable research, and the personal interest which is sustained throughout, by the relation of facts and occurrences, gleaned from the author’s own private observation, or in which he took an active share, render his work both invaluable to the legislator and acceptable to the general reader.

While, however, the former will refer to it as a book of reference, the latter would probably rise from its perusal, with a sickening apprehension of London depravity, and unless fortified by a previous knowledge of counteracting agencies would probably form a too lugubrious and desponding view of its social aspects. As any such impression, derived from ex-parte statements, would be highly detrimental to the cause of truth and religious progress, and might contribute to the relaxation of individual effort, the publishers have naturally hesitated to allow one of the most startling and vivid records of crime to go forth to the world, without directing attention to the most approved and popular agencies, for the correction of such abuses, as have been faithfully delineated in the course of the work.

The following brief summary of charitable and religious organizations, having for their object the repression of crime and the diffusion of vital Christianity, is intended therefore to form a supplement, or prefatory essay, to the fourth and concluding volume of London Labour and London Poor.

It would be impossible, within the narrow limits that have been assigned to this essay, to do more than touch in a cursory and incidental manner upon some of the principal agencies now at work within the metropolis, for the suppression of vice and crime; the object being not so much to exhibit the results which have rewarded such instrumentalities, great and incalculable as they are, as to indicate the best channels of usefulness, towards which public attention should be constantly directed; not to foster pride and self-complacency by tracing the progress we have[xvii] already made, in the race of Christian philanthropy, but rather to show how we may, by rendering efficient support to existing organizations, advance still further towards the goal, and rise to higher degrees of service in that ministry of love, which aims at nothing less than the regeneration of society, and the restoration of its unhappy prodigals to a condition of present and eternal peace.

What we want is not so much the elaboration of new schemes and the introduction of untried agencies, as a more unanimous and hearty co-operation in sustaining such as are at present in existence, many of which though fully deserving of a large measure of confidence and support, are grown effete solely from want of funds to maintain them in efficiency.

It has been truthfully remarked that there is hardly a woe or a misery to which men are liable, whether resulting from accidental causes or from personal culpability, which has not been assuaged or mitigated by benevolent exertions. Experience indeed would go far to prove that there are everywhere around us two mighty conflicting elements at work, each having no other object than to pull down and destroy the other. Every vice has its corresponding virtue, every form of evil its counteracting influence for good, every Mount Ebal, its Gerizim; the one being designed to act as an antidote or corrective to the other, and to restore the type of heaven which the other has defaced. The highest glory of our land—a glory far removed from territorial acquisitions and national aggrandisement, and that which makes it pre-eminently the admiration and envy of all other countries—are its benevolent and charitable endowments. There is not another nation in the world, where eleemosynary institutions have obtained such a permanent hold upon the sympathies of all classes of society, nor where such vast sums are realized by voluntary and private contributions.

“Palatial buildings, hospitals, reformatories, asylums, penitentiaries, homes and refuges, there are, for the sick, the maimed, the blind, the crippled, the aged, the infirm, the deaf, the dumb, the hungry, the naked, the fallen and the destitute; and it is to the support of such institutions, and the works which they carry on, that the nobles of the land, and our prosperous merchants devote a large proportion of their wealth.” No less than 530 charitable societies exist in London alone, and nearly £2,000,000 of money is annually spent by them, while probably the amount of alms bestowed altogether is not less than £3,500,000.[3]

How far these resources, vast and extended as they really are, are capable of satisfying present demands, may be best inferred from the state of our criminal population, which is still to be counted by tens of thousands, even while our prisons, refuges, and reformatories are filled to overflowing.

“In spite,” says the author just quoted, “of our prison discipline, our classification system, our silent system, and our separate system, all these efforts that we make, and perhaps boast that we make, to turn back the law-breaker to honest paths, nearly 30,000 criminals are each year sent to prison, who only know the higher classes as objects of plunder, and the maintenances of law and order as things; if possible to be destroyed, and if not avoided.” £170,000 are annually expended in London for the reformation of such offenders, and every modern appliance that mercy or ingenuity can devise is brought to bear upon our prison system, with what results may be clearly ascertained by the large and increasing number of re-commitments—which form a proportion of something like 30 per cent. on such as have been previously incarcerated; while these, be it remembered, represent only the number of those who render themselves amenable to justice by detection; there being no means of ascertaining how many continue their avocations with impunity.

Results like these are sufficiently disheartening to the philanthropist, and em[xviii]barrassing to the statesman, and serve to show that however necessary it may be to devise methods for criminal reformation, it is even more incumbent upon us, and far more remunerative in the end, to carry out the principles of prevention.

The various agencies, at work in London, for the suppression of vice and crime, may be treated under the following heads, which will serve to indicate their relative value and proportionate influence; and though, in their popular sense, many of the words used, may appear to be only convertible terms, it is intended, for the sake of perspicuity and arrangement, to assign to each a distinctive and separate meaning.

Thus the word curative is used, not in its loose, remedial sense, as applying to expedients calculated to produce a diminution of crime, but must be understood as tending to the entire and absolute change of the human will, and the renovation of a corrupt nature—such a thorough change, in fact, as is implied in the word cure.

Agencies for the suppression of vice and crime. 1. Curative (radical).
2. Preventive (obstructive).
3. Repressive and punitive (compulsory).
4. Reformative (remedial).
1. Curative Agencies.
Under this head religion naturally occupies the foremost place; since, by its restraining influence and converting power, it presents the only true antidote, and the only safe barrier to the existence or progress of crime; all other specifics, however valuable, being liable to the imputation of failure, and their influence being either more or less efficacious, according to the various phases of moral disease exhibited by different mental and physical constitutions.

While applying political expedients for the cure of such disorders, it must ever be borne in mind, that the origin of all evil is to be found in the corruption of the human heart, and in its entire alienation from God; and it is only so far as these intrinsic defects can be remedied, that any permanent influence will be produced. That power, therefore, which seizes upon the citadel of the heart, controlling its affections, regulating its principles of action, and subduing its vicious propensities or illicit motions, is the only sovereign remedy for crime. In its natural state the heart may be compared to a fountain discharging only turbid and bitter waters; but while various agencies are employed to sweeten, disguise, or check this poisoned current, religion is the only influence which purifies the fountain head, and dries up the noxious springs, by placing a wholesome check upon the first motive principles of action—the thoughts.

The truth of these remarks is even more strikingly exemplified in the sudden and complete transformations of character, effected by the all-mighty influence of religion. The moral demoniac finds no difficulty in bursting the chains and fetters, in which society has attempted to bind him. He is never changed, only curbed, pacified, or restrained by such artificial modes of treatment. The wound may be cauterised, cicatrised, or mollified, but the poison, if left in the system, is sure to rankle and exhibit itself afresh. Religion, however, casts out the unclean spirit, restores human nature to its right mind, and asserts the supremacy of reason over that of passion and caprice.

Next in value and importance to religion itself, are those subordinate instrumentalities calculated to exhibit or extend its influence, and which bear the same relation to it as the means do to the end. Such are the various agencies, in that divinely-appointed machinery for the regeneration of mankind, the universal spread of “truth and justice, religion and piety” throughout the world, and for the formation and support of the spiritual Church of Christ.

The most powerful and efficacious of all levers for the social, moral, and spiritual[xix] elevation of mankind is the Word of God. Into whatever quarters of the habitable globe the sacred volume is diffused, there is a corresponding spread of civilisation, and a sensible improvement in the scale of humanity; and those countries are most socially, morally, and politically debased, in which its circulation is debarred or restricted.

Here it is only right to mention those societies which are directly concerned in diffusing the Scriptures.

The British and Foreign Bible Society is one of the most honoured and influential channels for promoting the circulation of the Word of God, “without note or comment.” It dates its origin from 1804, and since this period it has, either directly or indirectly, been instrumental in translating the Scriptures into 160 different languages or dialects, including 190 separate versions. Connected with this Society, there are in the United Kingdom 3728 auxiliary branches or associations.

The number of issues from London alone, during the last financial year, amount to 594,651 copies of the Old Testament, and 544,901 copies of the New Testament. The grants made during the same time amounted to £58,551 17s. 7d. The total receipts of the Society derived from subscriptions, and from the sale of publications, amounted last year to £206,778 12s. 6d.

Next to the Bible Society, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge is most directly concerned in the propagation of the Scriptures. It was founded in 1698. During the past year 157,358 Bibles, and 78,234 New Testaments have been issued, besides prayer-books, tracts, and other publications. In addition to the dissemination of religious works, its objects include the extension of the Episcopate in the colonies, by contributing to the erection of new sees, and the support of colleges and educational institutions. The receipts for the past year amounted to £31,697 19s. 7d. besides £81,516 6s. 8d. received for the sale of publications.

In addition to these larger instrumentalities for the circulation of the Scriptures, it has been reserved for modern zeal and piety to discover a “missing link” in the operations hitherto in use, and this void has been admirably supplied by the “Bible women” of the nineteenth century. The appointment of these female colporteurs has been attended with the most beneficial and encouraging results, for not only has the sale of Bibles been facilitated among classes almost inaccessible to such influences, but opportunities have been afforded of permanently benefiting some of the most wretched and morally debased of our population. The introductions, gained by means of this traffic, have been turned to the best account, and a kindly influence has been established over the families thus visited, which has been often attended with the most favourable results.

“The lowest strata of society are thus reached by an agency which takes the Bible as the starting point of its labours, and makes it the basis of all the social and religious improvements which are subsequently attempted. Small in its beginnings, the work, by its proved adaptation and results, has greatly enlarged its dimensions, enlisting the sympathy and liberality of the Christian public; and in almost all the metropolitan districts affording scope for the agency, the Bible women are to be found prosecuting their arduous labours, with immense advantage to the poor. At the present time there are 152 of these agents employed. During the past year the Bible women in London disposed of many thousand copies of the Scriptures amongst classes, which, to a very great extent, were beyond the reach of the ordinary means used to effect this work; and this circulation was attained not by the easy method of gift, but by sale, the very poorest of the population being willing, when brought under kind and persuasive influence, to pay for the Bible or Testament by small weekly instalments.”

Another kindred agency of recent appointment is the “Institution for reading aloud the Word of God in the open air,” in connection with which are the “Bible[xx] Carriages,” or locomotive depôts, now employed for extending the sale of the Scriptures in various parts of London, and which have succeeded in drawing a large number of purchasers, attracted, no doubt, by the novelty and singularity of the means adopted.

While enumerating the religious agencies concerned in the repression of crime in London, allusion need only be made incidentally to such as necessarily spring out of an organized, ecclesiastical, or parochial machinery consisting of clergy, churches, chapels, schools, &c., and to the various societies and associations designed to extend and give support to this machinery; the object of this essay being rather to draw public attention to such auxiliary and supplemental organisations, as are less generally known, or are of more recent origin.

One of the most remarkable movements of modern times in connection with preaching, has been the establishment of Theatre services, which owe their existence to the present Earl of Shaftesbury. So irregular and unconstitutional a proceeding provoked, as might naturally have been expected, a large amount of censure and unfriendly criticism. Ecclesiastical dignities were at first somewhat scandalized by such an innovation of church discipline, and evidently regarded the movement as one calling rather for reluctant toleration, than as being entitled to episcopal sanction—a feeling which was probably largely shared by the more sober and orthodox portion of the community.

There appeared to be, at first sight, it must be confessed, a singular incongruity, if not an absolute impropriety, in converting the stage of a playhouse into a temple for the provisional celebration of divine worship, and using an edifice habitually consecrated to amusement, for the alternate promulgation of sacred verities and pantomimic representations. Apart, however, from the repulsive features of the proceeding arising from local associations, and from the periodical juxtaposition of objects the most hostile and dissimilar, there appeared to be no graver objection to the arrangement. The end was here, at least, supposed not only to justify, but even to sanctify the means, and the defence of this mal-appropriation was not unfairly said to consist in the inadequacy of church accommodation, and in the cheap facilities thus afforded, for bringing under the occasional ministry of the word of life, classes, who from long habits of neglect, prejudice, and an utter disrelish of religious ordinances, had become isolated from the ordinary channels of instruction and improvement. The movement having now had a fair trial, and the results being found to answer the expectations of the originators, it may be regarded as no longer a hazardous experiment, but as a part of the recognised machinery employed for the evangelisation of the masses.

These special services for the working classes are now regularly conducted in the various theatres and buildings temporarily appropriated to divine worship. The attendance has been uniformly good, and that of a class who habitually absent themselves from religious ordinances, and could not therefore be reached by any of the usual instrumentalities. Considering the unpromising materials of which these singular congregations are composed, and the unfavourable antecedents of most of the audience, it is something to be able to state that on such occasions they are, for the most part, orderly and well conducted, while the continued good attendance at these services marks the appreciation in which they are held. During the Sabbath, then, at least, a wonderful outward transformation is effected in the pursuits and general demeanor of the frequenters, who meet together, week after week, to hear the Gospel message expounded in the very edifice, which during the previous six days has resounded with their oaths, ribaldries, and licentious language. Is there not room for at least a charitable hope, that when the heralds of salvation carry their proclamations into the very heart of the enemy’s territory, and aggressively plant the banner of the cross, where only the cloven foot is wont to be seen, some victories will be achieved over the world, the flesh, and the devil,[xxi] and that some who usually meet to scoff and jeer, will return home savingly impressed with what they have heard?

In strict conformity with the objects contemplated by this arrangement, and arising out of the same temporary necessity, is The Open-Air Mission, which was established in 1853 “for the purpose of stirring up the Church of Christ, especially the lay elements, to go out into the streets and lanes of the city, the towns and villages of the provinces, the great gatherings that periodically occur at races, fairs, executions, &c.; to go into lodging-houses, workhouses, and hospitals, and in fact wherever persons are to be met with and spoken to about sin and salvation.” Since the formation of the Society, open-air preaching has become as it were a standing institution, and is recognized as an indispensable agency in working densely-populated districts. Ministers and laymen are to be found on every hand using this divinely-appointed and apostolic agency to “bring in the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind,” and God has eminently blessed their labours.

From May 1st, 1860, to March 31st, 1861, the London City Missionaries conducted 4,489 outdoor meetings, at which the average attendance was 103, and the gross attendance 465,070. Numerous associations have been formed in connection with this Society for Open-Air Preaching, in various parts of London, and during the summer, eighteen stations are occupied for this purpose by the students at the Church Missionary College, under the direction of the Islington Church Home Mission. A course of Sunday afternoon services is also regularly held by the appointment of the rector in Covent Garden Market, which are generally well attended and appear admirably calculated to benefit the classes whose welfare is designed. The Bishop of London and other dignities of the Church have been the preachers on such occasions, and have thus lent their countenance to the proceeding.

In reference to all such agencies as open-air services, prayer meetings, tract distributions, Bible readings, &c., it may be safely asserted, that never in the entire history of the Church was there a period, when such extraordinary efforts have been made to evangelise the poor and the criminal population of London; or when a similar activity has been displayed in ministering to the social and spiritual wants of the community.

One of the oldest and most privileged institutions within the metropolis, for bringing the influences of religion to bear upon the dense masses of our population is the London City Mission. It was founded in 1835, and its growth has steadily progressed up to the present date. The object of the mission is to “extend the knowledge of the Gospel, among the inhabitants of London and its vicinity (especially the poor), without any reference to denominational distinctions, or the peculiarities of Church government. To effect this object, missionaries of approved character and qualifications are employed, whose duty it is to visit from house to house in the respective districts assigned to them, to read the Scriptures, engage in religious conversation, and urge those who are living in the neglect of religion to observe the Sabbath and attend public worship. They are also required to see that all persons possess the Scriptures, to distribute approved religious tracts, and to aid in obtaining Scriptural education for the children of the poor. By the approval of the committee they also hold meetings for reading and expounding the Scriptures and prayer, and adopt such other means as are deemed necessary for the accomplishment of the mission.”

The London City Mission maintains a staff of 389 missionaries, who are employed in the various London and suburban districts; and thus the entire city is more or less compassed by this effective machinery, and brought under the saving influences of the Gospel. The very silent and unobtrusive character of the work thus effected, precludes anything like an accurate estimate of results, or a showy parade of success.


It works secretly, quietly, and savingly, in districts too vast to admit of pastoral supervision, and in neighbourhoods too outwardly unattractive and unpropitious, to win the attention of any who are not animated with a devoted love of souls. The influence which is thus exerted in a social and religious point of view is inestimable, and the benefits conferred by this mission, are of an order that would be best understood and appreciated by the community, if they were for a time to be suddenly withdrawn.

In addition to the regular visitation of the poor, the missionaries are employed in conducting religious services in some of the “worst spots that can be found in the metropolis, and the audiences have been, in such cases, ordinarily the most vicious and debased classes of the population.”

Six missionaries are appointed, whose exclusive duty it is to visit the various public-houses and coffee-shops in London, and to converse with the habitués on subjects of vital importance. There are also three missionaries to the London cabmen, a class greatly needing their religious offices, and by their occupation almost excluded from any social or elevating influences.

The following summary of missionary work, and its results for 1861, is sufficiently encouraging, as pointing in some instances, at least, to a sensible diminution of crime, and as being suggestive of a vast amount of good effected by this pervasive evangelistic machinery.

Number of Missionaries employed 381
Visits paid 1,815,332
Of which to the sick and dying 237,599
Scriptures distributed 11,458
Religious Tracts given away 2,721,73
Books lent 54,00
In-door Meetings and Bible Classes held 41,777
Gross attendance at ditto 1,467,006
Out-door Services held 4,489
Gross attendance at ditto 465,070
Readings of Scripture in visitation 584,166
Communicants 1,535
Families induced to commence family prayer 681
Drunkards reclaimed 1,230
Unmarried couples induced to marry 361
Fallen females rescued or reclaimed 681
Shops closed on the Sabbath 212
Children sent to school 10,158
Adults who died having been visited by the Missionary only 1,796
The income of the London City Mission, during the past year, amounted to 35,018l. 6s. 10d.; 5,763l. 15s. 7d. having been contributed by country associations.

Next to the London City Mission, the Church of England Scripture Readers’ Society is one of the most extensive and important channels for disseminating a religious influence among the masses by means of a parochial lay agency.

It is the special duty of the Scripture readers to visit from house to house; to read the Scriptures to all with whom they come in contact; to grapple with vice and crime where they abound; and to shrink from no effort to arrest their career.

“To overtake and overlook the growing multitudes which crowd our large and densely-peopled parishes,” was a work universally admitted to be beyond the present limits of clerical effort; and this desideratum has been supplied, at least to some extent, by the appointment of a lay agency, acting under the direction and control of the parochial clergy. By this means “cases are brought to light and doors opened to the pastoral visit, which were either closed against it or not discovered before; and an amount of information concerning the religious condition of the parish is obtained, such as the minister, single-handed, or with the aid[xxiii] of a curate, never had before.” The following results, which are reported as having attended the labours of a single Scripture reader, during a period of fourteen years, will serve as an illustration of the nature of those services rendered by this instrumentality:—

Visits paid to the poor 23,986
Infants and adults baptized on his recommendation 3,510
Children and adults persuaded to attend school 2,411
Persons led to attend church for the first time 307
Persons confirmed during visitation 429
Communicants obtained by ditto 269
Persons living in sin induced to marry 48
One hundred and twenty-five grants are now made by the Society for the maintenance of Scripture readers in eighty-seven parishes and districts in the metropolis, embracing a population of upwards of a million.

The Society’s income for the past year amounted to 9,850l. 2s. 10d.

Second only in importance to personal evangelistic effort is the influence of a Religious Press. Public opinion being often fluctuating, and its general estimates of morality being, to a considerable extent, formed by the current literature of the age, it is essential that this mighty and controlling power should be exerted on the side of religion and virtue.

Works of a high moral tone, inculcating correct principles and instilling lessons of practical piety, conduce, therefore, in the highest degree, to a wholesome state of society, and to the preservation of public morals.

The two great emporiums of religious literature, most directly concerned in producing these results, are the Religious Tract Society and the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. The latter has already been referred to, as one of the main channels for the diffusion of the Scriptures.

None of the works issued by the Religious Tract Society can compete in point of interest or usefulness with those widely-circulated and deservedly-popular serials the Leisure Hour, the Sunday at Home, and the Cottager, a periodical lately published, and admirably adapted for the homes of the working classes.

The publications issued by the Society during the past year amounted to 41,883,921; half of which number were English tracts and handbills; 537,729 were foreign tracts; and 13,194,155 fall under the head of periodicals.

The entire number of both English and foreign publications issued by the Society, since its foundation in 1799, amount to 912,000,000.

Grants of books and tracts are annually made by the Society for schools and village libraries, prisons, workhouses, and hospitals, for the use of soldiers, sailors, emigrants, and for circulation at fairs and races, by city missionaries and colporteurs.

The total number of such grants during the past year amounted to 5,762,241; and were of the value of £6,116 14s. 4d.

The entire receipts of the Society from all sources for the past year amounted to £103,127 16s. 11d.; the benevolent contributions being £9,642 9s. 2d.

Other channels for the supply and extension of religious literature are the Weekly Tract Society, the English Monthly Tract Society, and the Book Society, which latter aims especially at promoting religious knowledge among the poor.

As a supplemental agency for the collection and dissemination of a wholesome literature, the Pure Literature Society, established 1854, is deserving of especial commendatory notice.

The following is a list of the periodicals recommended by the Society; and the circulation of which it seeks to facilitate:—

For Adults:—Leisure Hour, British Workman, Good Words, Old Jonathan, Youth’s Magazine, Appeal, Bible-Class Magazine, Christian Treasury, Church[xxiv]man’s Penny Magazine, Evening Hour, Family Treasury, Family Paper, Friendly Visitor, Mother’s Friend, Servant’s Magazine, Sunday at Home, The Cottager, Tract Magazine.

For Children:—Young England, Band of Hope Review, Child’s Own Magazine, Child’s Companion, Child’s Paper, Children’s Friend, Children’s Paper, Our Children’s Magazine, Sabbath School Messenger, Sunday Scholar’s Companion.

Upwards of 140,000 periodicals are sent out annually by the Society in monthly parcels.

The Society’s income during the past year amounted to £2,783 12s. 2d.

2. Preventive Agencies.
Under this division are not included those measures which have for their object the forcible suppression of crime, which will be considered under a separate head, nor yet such as are calculated to extinguish those criminal propensities, which are ever lying dormant in the human heart, for these, as has been already shown, can only be effectually subdued, or eradicated by the influences of religion. By preventive agencies are rather to be understood, those instrumentalities best adapted to effect the removal of peculiar forms of temptation, or to abridge the power of special producing causes of vice; whatever means, in fact, are efficacious in removing hindrances to the development of virtue, and in fostering principles of morality. Human nature, owing to the force of adverse circumstances, being often placed at a disadvantage, it is the peculiar province of preventive agencies to give it a fair chance of escape, by extricating it from its perilous position, and surrounding it with virtuous influences and humanizing appliances. Under this head, moreover, are included all such measures as conduce to the social and moral improvement of the community, either by presenting an indirect barrier to the progress of crime, or by the employment of counteracting agencies.

In this connexion the Temperance Associations are deserving of especial prominence. Drunkenness being the most fruitful source of all crime, and the primary cause of want and wretchedness, it follows that whatever instrumentalities are capable of arresting its progress, or curtailing its influence, are in every way worthy the consideration of the philanthropist and the statesman. The utility of temperance societies has often been called in question; but it must be admitted, that as an instrumental agency for the suppression of drunkenness, and consequently for the diminution of crime, the influence of such associations is unlimited. Whether or not the entire-abstinence system is based on philosophical arguments, or is deducible from Scripture teaching, is little to the point, provided the fruits it has yielded are unquestionably salutary in their effects upon society, and conducive to the present and eternal happiness of millions of individuals, who, but for this timely interference would have continued in their mad career of dissipation, without the power to break off the thraldom, or to dispel the infatuation in which they were held.

The National Temperance Society, formed in 1842, is now in active operation, and seeks by means of meetings, lectures, and publications, to disseminate its principles, and to draw attention to the objects it is endeavouring to promote.

The United Kingdom Alliance, for the legislative suppression of the liquor traffic, is a step in advance of the ordinary temperance movement, and aims at nothing short of the entire extinction of a commerce in intoxicating drinks. This body has already secured a large number of influential adherents, and appears to be rapidly gaining ground. A monster meeting has lately been held in Manchester in furtherance of the Society’s proximate aims, which are to introduce a permissive Bill into Parliament, to delegate to local authorities the power to prohibit such traffic within their respective neighbourhoods.


The passing of this Act will in effect resolve the question of abolition or toleration into one of public opinion; and districts, if so inclined, will possess the power of deciding whether or no the sale of intoxicating drinks shall be carried on within their own parochial boundaries.

As a counteracting agency to the beer-shop and the gin-palace, The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association, formed two years ago, is deserving of special notice. It has for its objects the erection and maintenance of drinking fountains in the various crowded thoroughfares of the metropolis, thus humanely furnishing the means of alleviating that feverish thirst, which during the hot season impels so many to an excessive use of intoxicating drinks.

The Ragged Schools hold a prominent place among the indirectly preventive agencies for the suppression of crime in the metropolis; for since ignorance is generally the parent of vice, any means of securing the benefits of education to those who are hopelessly deprived of it, must operate in favour of the well-being of society.

The Ragged School Union has been formed with a view to develope and give consistency to this movement, which it does by collecting and diffusing information respecting schools now in existence, and by pecuniary grants towards their foundation and support.

The number of buildings now in existence in London, appropriated to these educational purposes, is 176. The day-schools are 151 in number, and are attended by 17,230 scholars. The evening-schools number 215, and the scholars 9,840; Sunday-schools 207, and scholars 25,260. The number of scholars placed in situations last year amounted to 1,800.

Penny Banks, Clothing Clubs, Reading Rooms, Mother’s Meetings, and Shoe-Black Brigades have been established in connexion with this movement, and contribute their influence to the general well-being of those attending the schools, as well as to that of society at large.

In connexion with the Union are 16 refuges for the homeless and destitute, accommodating 700 inmates.

The receipts of the Union amounted last year to £5,739 7s. 8d.; and probably no money was ever laid out at better interest, than that contributed by the benevolent public towards the rescue and moral training of these embryo criminals. Difficult as the principle of Government intervention no doubt is, that would be a wise, politic, humane, and economical course which should sever this Gordian knot, by constituting the State the lawful guardian of such as are deprived of all that is understood by the terms home influence, and moral training.

Another agency contributing largely to the prevention of crime is the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes, not so much, however, in the transformations and improvement of buildings effected under its own immediate control, which are rather designed to serve as models to those desirous of carrying out these principles of reform, as by drawing public attention to one of the most interesting and painful subjects that can occupy the mind of the philanthropist, viz., the inadequate provision of decent, and proper house accommodation for the industrial classes, which is now universally admitted to be productive of the worst social disorders.

The important provisions of the Common Lodging-Houses Act, passed in 1851, under the auspices of Lord Shaftesbury, and the system of registration thus enforced, have also been attended with great benefits, and have conduced not a little to the promotion of social and sanatory reform, by bringing legal enactments to bear upon the disorders, indecencies, and impurities of low and crowded lodging-houses.

There is no class of preventive agencies in the metropolis, which on every principle of justice and humanity have stronger claims on the sympathy of the[xxvi] benevolent than such as interpose their friendly shelter and kind offices, to rescue those who are suddenly reduced to positions of great extremity and temptation. It is doubtless an act of mercy to rescue a drowning man, and such charitable deeds are performed by those who labour for the reformation of the criminal; but it is a higher act of charity, and a wiser and more Christian course to prevent his falling into the stream; experience, however, proves that it is easier to enlist sympathy on behalf of one who is already being swept away by the current of crime, than to rescue one who is bordering on destruction, and perhaps bravely battling with temptation. This is perhaps only natural; our perception of danger in the one case is far greater than in the other, and our commiseration is awakened at sight of the death agony of the drowning wretch, but is hardly stirred on behalf of him who walks on the slippery brink.[4]

It is unhappily a fact too well authenticated to need further demonstration, that owing perhaps to sudden reverses of fortune, to the removal of natural protectors, or to the force of some overwhelming temptation, many persons are unwillingly, and almost unavoidably, pressed into the ranks of crime, who but for the extremity in which they were placed, would have continued to walk erect in the path of honour and virtue. Let none then who move in the calm sunlight of prosperity, presume to judge those who stumble in the dark night of trial.

“The path of a man, even of a man on the highway to heaven, is never one of perfect safety. There are many dangerous passes in the journey of life. The very next turn, for anything we know, may bring us on one. Turn that projecting point, which hides the path before you, and you are suddenly in circumstances which demand that reason be strong, and conscience be tender, and hope be bright, and faith be vigorous.”

Happily there are persons whose qualities of head and heart have enabled them by precautionary measures to provide against the weakness of human nature, and to offer assistance to those who are placed in such critical positions.

There is no class more essential to the well-being and comfort of society, and none, it is to be feared, more exposed to dangers and temptations, than domestic servants. It is calculated that in London alone there are upwards of one hundred thousand females engaged in domestic service, and that ten thousand of these are continually in a transition state, and therefore out of employment. When it is borne in mind that vast numbers of these young women have migrated, at an early age, from various parts of the country in search of a livelihood, that many of them are orphans and friendless, or at least wholly destitute of friends and resources in London, that they are moreover inexperienced, unsuspecting, and ignorant of the snares and temptations that surround them, it cannot be a matter of surprise that the reports of all the London penitentiaries should bear witness to the fact, that a large majority of the fallen women who are received into these institutions came originally from the ranks of domestic service. It would be superfluous to attempt to prove the value of associations formed to counteract these evils, by offering advice, shelter, and protection to servants who are out of situations or seeking employment. One of the oldest and best organizations of this kind is the Female Servants’ Home Society,[5] which has now been in active operation four-and-twenty years. Its objects are to provide a safe home for respectable female servants when[xxvii] out of place, or for those seeking situations. The Homes, four in number, are under the control of experienced and pious matrons, who establish a kind and motherly influence over the inmates, and are indefatigable in endeavouring to promote their welfare. The Homes are regularly visited by Christian ladies, and a service is conducted every week by the chaplain. A registry, free to the servants, is attached to each Home, where for a trifling fee of half-a-crown, or by an annual subscription of one guinea, every facility is afforded to employers of procuring efficient and trustworthy servants.

Since the formation of the Society, upwards of 7,000 servants have been received into the Homes, and 37,000 have availed themselves of the registry provided, while in numberless instances young and friendless girls have been rescued from positions of extreme and imminent danger.

A kindred institution to the above is The Female Aid Society, established in 1836. Its objects, which are threefold, are thus defined:—

1st. “It provides a home for female servants, where they may reside with comfort, respectability, and economy, while seeking for situations;” and in connexion with which is a register for the convenience of servants and employers.

2nd. “It receives into a home, for purposes of protection and instruction, young girls to be trained for service and other employments, who, from circumstances of poverty, orphanage, or sinful conduct in those who should preserve them from evil, are exposed to great temptations, and are in want of a home where there is proper guardianship and example.”

3rd. “A home and rescue is offered to women who, weary of sin, are desirous of leaving a life of awful depravity and misery;” and no depth of past degradation, provided there is any sign of amendment, presents a barrier to their reception, shelter being freely offered to the very outcast among the outcasts, to inmates of refractory wards, of workhouses, and to women freshly discharged from prison. Since the formation of the Society 4,116 servants have been admitted into the Home, and 7,622 placed in service; 2,008 young women have enjoyed the protection of the Friendless’ Home, and 2,205 have been received as penitents. Want of funds, however, has obliged the Society to curtail its operations.

The Girls’ Laundry and Training Institution for Young Servants is an industrial home, affording shelter, protection, and instruction in household duties to forty young girls, who are thus carefully trained and prepared for domestic service.

Other institutions for the accommodation, temporary relief, and permanent benefit of servants are, The National Guardian Institution, The Marylebone Philanthropic Servants’ Institution and Pension Society, The Provisional Protection Society, The General Domestic Servants’ Benevolent Institution, and The Servants’ Provident and Benevolent Society.

Among the London preventive agencies must be classed the various homes, refuges, and asylums for the relief of the utterly destitute and friendless of good character, and which severally offer food, shelter, and protection to those needing their assistance.

The Field Lane Night Refuges provide accommodation nightly for 200 men and women; and by this instrumentality many are rescued from death and crime, and are enabled to regain their positions in life, or to maintain themselves in respectability. During the past year 31,747 lodgings were afforded to persons of both sexes. Many of those thus assisted were poor needlewomen, who, during an inclement winter, had been, together with their families, turned into the street, having been stript of everything for rent.

The Dudley Stuart Night Refuge, founded by Lord Dudley Stuart in 1852, provides for the reception of the utterly destitute during the winter months. Accommodation is offered to 95 persons in two warm, spacious, and well-ventilated apartments. The relief afforded consists of a night’s lodging, bread night and[xxviii] morning, and medical attendance, if required. This charity has, since its foundation, alleviated a vast amount of suffering. It admits those against whom every other door is closed, and requires no recommendation beyond the utter destitution of the applicants. Upwards of 8,000 men, women, and children were admitted and relieved during last winter.

The Houseless Poor Asylum is the oldest night-refuge in London, and was opened to “afford nightly shelter and sustenance to the absolutely destitute working classes, who are suddenly thrown out of employment during the inclement winter months.” Accommodation is provided for 700; and since the opening of the Asylum 1,449,047 nights’ lodgings and 3,515,951 rations of bread have been supplied.

The House of Charity provides for the reception of distressed persons of good character, who, from various accidental causes, require a temporary home, protection, and food. Nearly 3000 persons of both sexes have been thus accommodated for an average period of a month or five weeks.

The Foundling Hospital, first opened in 1741, for the reception of illegitimate children, has undergone considerable changes and improvements, and now shelters, maintains, and educates 460 children, who, at the age of fifteen, are apprenticed or otherwise provided for, and are thus humanely rescued from the early and contaminating influence of vicious associations. No child is eligible for this charity unless there is satisfactory proof of the mother’s previous good character and present necessity, of desertion by the father, and that the reception of the child will, in all probability, be the means of replacing the mother in the course of virtue, and the way of an honest livelihood.

The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity was instituted in 1818, “for the purpose of checking the practice of public mendicity, with all its baneful and demoralizing consequences; by putting the laws in force against imposters who adopt it as a trade, and by affording prompt and effectual assistance to those whom sudden calamity or unaffected distress may cast in want and misery upon the public attention.”

A just discrimination between cases of real and fictitious distress, and a judicious adaptation of relief to deserving cases, is a necessary, but very difficult, part of true benevolence. The frauds which are successfully practised by systematic sharpers upon a charitable, but over-credulous public, and the existence of an immense amount of genuine and unrelieved suffering, are sufficient proofs of the value and importance of any agency designed to counteract these abuses, and to accord a just measure of benevolence.

By means of printed tickets supplied to subscribers, beggars can be directed to the Society’s offices, where their cases are fully investigated, and treated according to desert, a sure provision being thus made against imposture.

Since the formation of the Society 51,016 registered cases have been disposed of, and food, money, and clothing dispensed to deserving applicants, while employment has been provided for such as were found able to work.

The Association for Promoting the Relief of Destitution in the Metropolis is likewise a safe channel for the exercise of public benevolence. It is carried on under the direction of the bishop and clergy, and the efforts of the Association are directed to the origination and support of local undertakings, thus forming a connection and a centre of union between the various parochial visiting societies.

The present condition of that large class of female workers in London, comprehended under the terms milliners and dressmakers, is one of the saddest reproaches upon a country whose benevolent objects are so numerous, and so extensive, and one of the severest comments upon the heartlessness and artificialism of that society, which takes no cognizance of those who are most largely concerned in[xxix] administering to its necessities. The miseries of this shamefully under-paid and cruelly over-worked class of white slaves have been too often eloquently animadverted upon, to need any further denunciations of the system, under which they are hopelessly and unfeelingly condemned to labour.

The impossibility of supporting life on the wretched pittance accorded to their labours, is the oft-heard, and the unanswerably extenuating plea for their recourse to criminal avocations.

While, however, the State shrinks from the task of ameliorating their condition by any legislative interference, it is satisfactory to know that public benevolence in this wide field is not wholly unrepresented.

The Association for the Aid and Benefit of Dressmakers and Milliners is a noble breakwater against the inroads of oppression, and a valuable counteracting agency to the force of temptation.

Its objects, briefly stated, are to obtain some remission of labour and other concessions from employers, and to afford pecuniary and medical assistance in cases of temporary distress or illness. A registry and provident fund are provided in connexion with the association.

Actuated by the same humane intention, although different in object, is the Needlewomen’s Institution, established in 1850, “with the twofold view of affording those who had suffered under the oppression of middle men and slop-sellers, the opportunity of maintaining themselves, by supplying them with regular employment at remunerative prices, in airy work-rooms, and if desired, lodging at a moderate charge.”

Another institution of very recent origin directed to the religious and social improvement of the same unhappy class, is the Young Women’s Christian Association and West London Home, for young women engaged in houses of business. Its objects are twofold, 1st, “to supply a place where young women so employed, can profitably spend their Sundays and week-day evenings,” thus counteracting the evil influence of badly conducted houses of business; and 2nd, “the home is intended to provide a residence for young people coming from the country to seek employment, and for those who are changing their situations, or who from over-work and failing health require rest for a time.” The rooms of the Association are open every evening from seven until ten o’clock, when educational and religious classes are held for the benefit of those attending.

Thus, “where occasional spasms of sympathy, the well-merited castigations of the press, and the voice of popular opinion had unitedly failed to shake the throne of the god of Mammon, erected on skeletons, and cemented with the blood of women and children, it was reserved for a Christian lady to strike out a plan which has already been productive of an immensity of good, and has commended itself to the approval of all who are labouring to promote the welfare of this oppressed and neglected class. The better to appreciate the importance of this noble and truly womanly enterprise, only let the solemn and fearful fact be borne in mind, that in London alone 1,000 poor girls are yearly crushed out of life from over-toil and grinding oppression, while 15,000 are living in a state of semi-starvation. Ah! who can wonder that our streets swarm with the fallen and the lost, when sin or starve is the dire alternative! Who cannot track the via doloroso between the 15,000 starving and the thrice that number living by sin as a trade!

“Here, then, is an Institution that meets the wants of the case. It not only catches them before they go over the precipice, and lovingly shelters them from the fierce blasts of temptation, beating remorselessly on many a young and shrinking heart, but ensures them a ‘Home,’ where soul and body alike may find rest and peace.”[6]


The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women has lately been called into existence, by the emergencies of the present age, the object of which is to develop and extend the hitherto restricted field of female labour, by the establishment of industrial schools and workshops, where girls may be taught those trades and occupations which are at present exclusively monopolised by men. Those “educated in this school will be capable of becoming clerks, cashiers, railway-ticket sellers, printers,” &c.

These and similar measures which tend to open up resources to women in search of a livelihood, will have the happiest effect in diverting numbers into paths of honest industry, who now labour under strong temptations to abandon themselves to a life of criminal ease and self-indulgence.

The remaining agencies indirectly tending to the prevention of crime, are the Metropolitan Early Closing Association, for abridging the hours of business, so as to afford to assistants time for recreation, and for physical, intellectual, and moral improvement; the Metropolitan Evening Classes for Young Men, for furnishing the means of instruction and self-improvement; and the Young Men’s Christian Association, for promoting the spiritual and mental improvement of young men, “by means of devotional meetings, classes for Biblical instruction, and for literary improvement, the delivery of lectures, the diffusion of Christian literature, and a library for reference and circulation.” This last instrumentality has been widely blessed, and its beneficial influence is now extended, by means of branch associations, to most of the provincial towns.

3. Repressive and Punitive Agencies.
The various instrumentalities falling under this head appear deserving of separate consideration, and cannot therefore be appropriately included under either of the previous divisions, being neither curative in their character, nor preventive to any appreciable extent. They evidently presuppose the existence of crime, and merely seek to diminish its influence, or curtail its power by the application of legal provisions and compulsory measures, intended on the one hand to indemnify society against the infraction of its rights, and on the other to intimidate or restrain the criminal offender. The absolute reformation of the viciously disposed can hardly be expected to result from the use of such means, and belongs properly to another class of agencies. It may indeed be achieved by punitive measures, but in this case reformation of character is rather a startling accident than an essential property of the system pursued. Experience has abundantly established the utility of legal provisions as a “terror to evil doers;” but the statistics of our police-courts will by no means warrant the assumption that penal measures have per se been successful in reclaiming the offender. It is not intended, however, while speaking of repressive and punitive agencies, to include in this category the strictly legal efforts employed by the State to deter and correct the criminal who renders himself amenable to justice. This subject will be found fully and distinctly treated by Mr. Mayhew, in a work now in the press, entitled “Prisons of London, and Scenes of Prison Life.”

The inquiry pursued in the course of this Essay is not designed to comprehend such constitutional measures as are employed by either Church or State, for the suppression of vice and crime; but rather to draw from their obscurity, and to give prominence to those resources and expedients which society itself adopts, for the defence and preservation of its own interests.


The Society for the Suppression of Vice, which was established in 1802, has for its objects the repression of attempts “to spread infidelity and blasphemy by means of public lectures, and printed publications.” The operations of the Society have also been directed to the suppression of disorderly houses, the punishment of fortune-tellers, and other important objects. “It is represented that by means of this Society many convictions have taken place, and persons have been sentenced to imprisonment for selling obscene publications and prints,” while their works have been either seized or destroyed. With such admirable intentions and useful objects, to commend it to benevolent support, and with the entire voice of public opinion in its favour, the only wonder is that this Society does not carry on its operations with greater publicity, vigilance, and efficiency. Unhappily the loathsome traffic in Holywell Street literature is still carried on with bold and unblushing effrontery, and its existence, although greatly diminished in the country, is too notorious and too patent, in certain portions of the metropolis, to need any extraordinary efforts to promote exposure and punishment.

The demoralizing influence of low theatres, and the licentious corruptions of the Coal Hole, and Posés Plastiques, might surely afford scope for vigorous prosecutions under the Society’s auspices; and yet these dens, in which the vilest passions of mankind are stimulated, and every sentiment of religion, virtue, and decency grossly outraged, or publicly caricatured, are allowed to emit their virulent poison upon all ranks of society without the slightest let or hindrance! Only let a man smitten by the plague or with any other infectious disease, obtrude himself by unnecessary contact upon the public, and his right to free agency would be summarily disposed of, by speedy incarceration within the walls of a hospital; but provided only the disorder be a moral one—and therefore far more to be dreaded, in its pestiferous influence and baneful effects upon society—it is forsooth to be tolerated as a necessary evil! Proh tempora et mores!

The Associate Institution, formed in 1844, has been in active operation fifteen years, and has been instrumental in effecting a large amount of good, by improving and enforcing the laws for the protection of women. It has maintained a strenuous crusade against houses of ill-fame, and has since its establishment conducted upwards of 300 prosecutions, in most of which it has been successful in bringing condign punishment upon the heads of those, who have committed criminal assaults upon women and children, or who have decoyed them away for immoral purposes.

Important as these results have been, a larger amount of good has probably been achieved by means of lectures and meetings held in various parts of the country by Mr. J. Harding, the Society’s travelling secretary, whose faithful and stirring appeals and bold denunciations of vice have contributed not a little to the spread of sounder and more wholesome views on social questions, and to the removal of that ignorance of profligate wiles and artifices, which, in so many cases, proves fatal to the unsuspecting and unwary.

Two Bills prepared by this Association, one for the protection of female children between 12 and 13 years of age, and the other to simplify and facilitate the prosecution of persons charged with keeping houses of ill fame, were this year submitted to parliament, but unhappily without success, having been lost either on technical grounds, or for want of support. It is refreshing to turn from the supineness of statesmen to the energy and decision manifested by private associations in resisting the encroachments of vice. The East London Association, composed of a committee partly clerical and partly lay, and including most of the influential parochial clergy in the district, was instituted four years ago for the purpose of checking “that class of public offences, which consists in acts of indecency, profaneness, drunkenness, and prostitution.”

Its modes of action are as follows:—


1. To create and foster public opinion in reprobation of the above-named acts.

2. To bring such public opinion to bear upon all exercising social influence, with a view to discountenance the perpetrators and abettors thereof.

3. To secure the efficient application by the Police of the laws and regulations for the suppression of the class of public offences above named; and to obtain, if necessary, the institution of legal proceedings.

4. To procure the alteration of the law, wheresoever needful to the object contemplated, and especially to the obtaining further restrictions in granting Licenses for Music and Dancing to houses where intoxicating liquors are sold.

5. To find Houses of Refuge and means of restoration for the victims of seduction by honest employment, emigration, &c.

It is satisfactory to state that already, and with the very limited funds placed at the disposal of this Association, no fewer than “seventy-five houses in some of the worst streets in the east of London, hitherto devoted to the vilest purposes, have been cleared of their inmates; one of these houses having had thirty rooms, which were occupied by prostitutes; that more than one house ostensibly open for public accommodation, but really for ensnaring females for prostitution, has been closed; and that in one instance of peculiar atrocity, the owner of the house has been convicted and punished. Handbills have also been issued, containing extracts from the Police Acts, to show the power of remedy for offences against public decency, such as swearing, the use of improper language, and the exhibition of improper conduct in the streets.”

Such are the objects and results of this Association, and such the praiseworthy example set to other London districts, which if vigorously followed would result, at least, in the repression of vice, and in a marked diminution of crime.

“It is chiefly from the reserve which, rather by implication than by compact, has so long been preserved in those influential quarters where the power to correct and guide public opinion is maintained, that the crying social evil of our day has attained such dimensions, and exhibited itself in such dangerous and revolting forms as we have referred to. Preachers, moralists, and public writers have been deterred by the difficulty and delicacy of the subject from their obvious duty of protecting the social interests, and a sluggish legislature, ever inert in introducing such measures as are calculated to foster and conserve the public virtue, has thus lacked the external pressure which might have aroused it to vigilance and forethought in the discharge of its duties. Recently, however, there have been clear indications that a distrust of the old plan is spreading. With manifest reluctance, but not without interest, has public attention fastened itself on a subject in which not merely the happiness of individuals, and the peace of families, but the national prosperity and the concerns of social life, are felt to be bound up. Inquiries as to the best mode of doing something to stem the tide of immorality which is coursing onwards are made in quarters where indifference, if not acquiescence, was formerly manifested. Public opinion is ever slowly formed, but is seldom wrong at the last in detecting the true source of generic evils, and in applying to them the best remedies. Example, also, is as contagious on the side of virtue as of vice; and where an initiative step, taken by another, appeals to our intuitive sense of right and duty, it is seldom that the courageous right-doer has to wait long for the expression of sympathy and the proffer of aid.

“It is only recently that the great sin of our land has received a measure of the attention it has long and loudly called for.

“First in one quarter, and then in another, has the subject been discussed with tolerable delicacy, and with an approximate fidelity.

“The discussion has done good. Men have thought about the subject, have been led to measure the fearful dimensions of this evil, to observe its progress and influence within their own neighbourhoods, and have come at last to deplore the existence of that which they have too long tolerated or connived at. Where[xxxiii] remedial measures have been attempted, they have not lacked for countenance and support; and, in some quarters, at least, there have been indications of a desire to pass from the feebler stage of alleviation to the more potential remedy of prevention. Whilst it seems to be admitted on all hands, that to aim at the forcible extinction of immorality would be Utopian and disappointing, the repression and diminution of crime is felt to be an imperious obligation upon all who are vested with any power and influence for that end.

“We cannot help regarding the measures which have been recently adopted by certain parochial authorities in the metropolis as at once a proof of the benefit which has arisen from the partial discussion of this subject in the various public channels into which it has gained admittance; and we regard it, further, as a cheering sign that a deepening conviction is spreading on all sides respecting the absolute necessity of a well-organised antagonism to evil, in place of our former supine indifference, or more culpable acquiescence. Some of the most influential metropolitan vestries have commenced a crusade against the keepers of bad houses in their respective parishes, and, by the vigour and promptitude characterizing their prosecutions, seem determined to hunt down the hosts of abandoned householders who are mainly concerned in extending and facilitating immorality.

“Aristocratic St. James’s, and more plebeian Lambeth, have alike joined in these laudable measures; and it is to be noticed, with extreme satisfaction, that the steps thus taken have been almost invariably successful, and that severe punishments have been inflicted upon the wretches who were the objects of these prosecutions. Such a movement cannot be sufficiently applauded, and fervently is it to be trusted that the example thus shown in these influential centres may not only reach to every other parish in the metropolis, but may also stir up the parochial authorities in every city and town in the land to a like course of procedure. This is to strike at the main root of the evil. In vain are all our Reformatories and Refuges, in vain the endeavours of Christian people to repress the evil by exertions for the rescue even of a large number of its victims, if the floodgates of vice be allowed, by public neglect, to remain open, ever to pour out into our streets fresh streams of wickedness and pollution. There are, no doubt, persons who think that measures, such as those now under consideration, will not materially check the traffic in vice, but will only lead to its being more subtly and secretly practised. Even that result, if brought about, would be something gained, something as a protest on the side of public purity and virtue, and something in the amount of warning and terror brought home to guilty breasts, leading them to dread retribution in future, whenever offended justice could detect them in their malpractices. But in truth there is no limit to the amount of good which would result from these repressive measures becoming universal and well-sustained.

“Many persons would be saved from future ruin, a manifest check would be given to the further development of iniquity, and the example of authority thus generally exercised in aid of the cause of virtue, would greatly tend to the spread of sounder views of social duty in regard to this matter.”[7]

One of the greatest scandals on a country professedly Christian, is the extent to which Sabbath desecration pervades the metropolis. Although the traffic now openly pursued in the streets, or carried on with impunity in shops, is strictly illegal, yet the technicalities which are too often allowed to obstruct the ends of justice, and the smallness of the fines inflicted, even where summary conviction follows, concur to render the law, in this particular, a mere dead letter.

The permission to sell on Sunday, originally extended only to vendors of perishable articles, is now claimed by whole troops of costermongers, who, pre[xxxiv]suming upon the license they have so long enjoyed, no longer hesitate to ply their usual calling in the most public and offensive manner, frequently pursuing their traffic in the open streets during the hours of divine service, and disturbing whole congregations by their noisy vociferations around the very doors of our churches.

These evils call loudly for more stringent legal measures, and it is to be hoped the time is not far distant when some improvement will take place.

As one means of directing public attention to this subject, by the circulation of appeals and tracts, and of promoting the introduction of salutary legal provisions for the repression of such acts of desecration, the Society for Promoting the Due Observance of the Lord’s Day is entitled to a large measure of support. The efforts made by the Society to awaken public opposition to the obnoxious provisions of Lord Chelmsford’s Sunday Trading Bill, were probably mainly instrumental in securing its rejection.

One of the noblest repressive agencies within the metropolis is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, established in 1824, which employs a number of agents to frequent the markets and public thoroughfares, for the purpose of bringing to punishment persons detected in the commission of acts of cruelty to animals. It seeks, moreover, by means of suitable tracts, to diffuse among the public a just sense of the duty of humanity and forbearance towards the lower orders of creation. Allusion was made during the present year to the objects embraced by this Society from upwards of two thousand London pulpits, which will doubtless have the effect of directing the attention of the benevolent public to an instrumentality which has already achieved a large amount of good; and only requires to be better known to enjoy a corresponding measure of support.

4. Reformative Agencies.
Must be understood as referring solely to individuals, and include all such measures as are employed to effect an external change of character, and render those, who are vicious and depraved, honest and respectable members of society.

While, however, agencies of this kind are reformative in their relation to persons, they have also a preventive aspect, when viewed in their bearings upon the entire community; for the reformation of every vicious man is a social boon, inasmuch as it removes one individual from a course of vice, and thus diminishes the aggregate of crime.

As a nucleus of reformatory operations, and a “centre of information and encouragement,” the Reformatory and Refuge Union was established in 1856. It seeks to diffuse information respecting the various agencies at present in existence, and to encourage and facilitate the establishment of new institutions. In connection with the Union is a “Female Mission” for the rescue of the fallen. The Mission maintains a staff of female missionaries, whose business it is to distribute tracts among the fallen women of the metropolis, to converse with them in the streets, and visit them in their houses, in the hospitals, or in the workhouses. These missionaries, “as a rule, leave their homes between eight and nine o’clock at night, remaining out till nearly twelve, and occasionally till one in the morning. They are located in different parts of London, near to the nightly walks and haunts of those they desire to benefit. They have the means of rescuing a large number who have been placed in the Homes or restored to their friends.”

There are upwards of fifty metropolitan institutions for the reception of the destitute and the reformation of the criminal, or those who are exposed to temptation, capable of accommodating collectively about 4,000 persons of both sexes.

Nine of these institutions are designed especially for the reception and training of juvenile criminals, sentenced under the “Youthful Offenders’ Act,” and two for vagrants sentenced to detention under the “Industrial School Act.” Three are[xxxv] exclusively appropriated to the benefit of discharged prisoners, and the rest are chiefly employed in the rescue and reformation of destitute or criminal children.[8]

Most of these institutions, with the exception of such as are certified by Act of Parliament, and aided by Government subsidies, are supported entirely by voluntary contributions and by the earnings of the inmates, who are either admitted free on application, or by payment of a small sum towards the expense of maintenance.

Such is the benevolent machinery now at work within the metropolis for the reformation of our criminal population, and for the preservation of those who are in a fair way of becoming the moral pests and aliens of society.

The results, both in a religious, social, and sanatory point of view, achieved by these different agencies, are beyond all human calculation; and it is mainly to their beneficial and restraining influence that the peace, safety, and well-being of society may be attributed.

The other Reformative Agencies are those adapted to the rescue and reformation of fallen women, or such as have been led astray from the paths of virtue.

There are twenty-one institutions in London devoted to these objects, and unitedly providing accommodation for about 1,200 inmates. Ten of these are in connexion with the Church of England, and in the remaining eleven the religious instruction is unsectarian and evangelical. Three, viz., The Female Temporary Home, The Trinity Home, and The Home of Hope, are designed for the reception of the better educated and higher class of fallen women. One, viz., The London Society for the Protection of Young Females, is limited to girls under fifteen years of age; and another, The Marylebone Female Protection Society, affords shelter exclusively to those who have recently been led astray, and whose previous good character will bear the strictest investigation.

It may be fairly assumed that the objects of all these institutions are substantially the same, viz., the reformation of character, and the restoration of the individual to religious and social privileges. While, however, the end is in most cases one and the same, the methods and subordinate means adopted to insure its attainment, are often strikingly dissimilar, and present distinctive and almost opposite features. Thus one class of institutions, in imitation of our Lord’s merciful forbearance towards the sinner, make their treatment pre-eminently one of love, and seek by means the most gentle and attractive to win back the stubborn wills and depraved natures of those entrusted to their care. Kindness is the only instrument used in laying siege to the hard heart, and in mollifying the seared conscience. Stern discipline, irritating restraints, and rigorous exactions, form no part of a system which is built up on the model prescribed by Him, who “spake as never man spake.”

That a mode of treatment which affords such a remarkable coincidence, and such a striking parallel to the divine method of dealing with the sinner, so eloquently taught under the parable of the Prodigal Son, should be found by experience to be the only really efficacious one, can hardly be a matter of surprise. The fact is too notorious to require any proof that in numberless instances

‘Law and terrors do but harden’
the heart which can be easily subdued by the exhibition of Christian kindness. Here is the omnipotent weapon which has achieved such moral victories, when[xxxvi] wielded by gentle and loving women, like Miss Marsh, Mrs. Wightman, and Mrs. Sheppard.

The opposite mode of treatment, however successful it may be in the restoration of external character, or in the subjugation of turbulent passions, is defective, inasmuch as it fails to influence the heart, and therefore at best contributes only to an incomplete and partial cure. The almost penal character of the system pursued in many of the older penitentiaries is founded on the misconception, that the injury sustained by society in the departure from virtue of her female members, can only be atoned for by some personal mulct inflicted on the offender. While, therefore, the ultimate object is the reformation of lost character, this is too often overlooked or rendered subsidiary to the proximate one of propitiating society; and the austere regimen by which the latter point is secured, is generally found to be subversive of the other. When, however, as is too frequently the case, society is the tempter, the offence may surely be condoned by a less rigorous process! Society may indeed well waive the right to compensation for supposed damages, when it can be proved that she is at least particeps criminis, and when, moreover, she has a personal interest in the speedy restoration of her unhappy prodigals. The retributive suffering, which, in the majority of cases, so surely overtakes the female delinquent, may be urged as another reason for dealing leniently with the erring; but the strongest justification of such a method is undoubtedly derived from the success attending it, and from the Divine sanction which it has received.

The impediments which the old penitentiary system of close confinement, criminal fare, and hard labour, have unfortunately presented to the rescue of fallen women is too well known to those who are accustomed to deal with this class. Frequently are the urgent entreaties of the missionary to forsake an abandoned course of life, and seek shelter in some institution, met with either rancorous denunciations against the penal system, or by polite but firm refusals to submit to the discipline, which is supposed to extend to all reformatory asylums.

Gradually, however, this prevailing opinion is being cleared away, and the fallen women themselves are not slow to distinguish between the two opposite methods of treatment, a fact which is rendered clearly apparent by the overwhelming number of applications for admission into those Homes which are characterized by a more humane and gentle regimen.

The oldest reformatory institution in the metropolis for the reception of fallen women is The Magdalen Hospital, founded in 1758. During the last 100 years of its existence nearly 9,000 women have been admitted, about two-thirds of whom have been restored to friends or relations. At the time when this charity was first instituted “the notion of providing a house for the reception and maintenance of ‘Penitent Prostitutes’ seems not to have suggested itself to the public mind. Even good and actively benevolent men appear to have been startled at the novelty of the proposition, while they doubted the wisdom, and still more the success of such an attempt. The newspapers of that period contained both arguments against, and ridicule of the plan and its promoters. God, however, blessed the undertaking, and raised up friends and supporters in every direction.”

So that eighteen years after its incorporation its friends were able to use the following cheering language.

“We see many fellow-creatures, by means of this happy asylum, rescued from sorrow in which they had been involved by all the iniquitous stratagems of seduction; in which condition they had been detained by a species of horrid necessity; from which they had no probable or possible retreat; and in which they must, therefore, according to all human appearance, have perished. We see them restored to their God, to their parents, to their friends, their country, and themselves. What charitable heart, what truly Christian hand can withhold its best endeavours to promote an undertaking so laudable, so beneficent? Who would[xxxvii] not desire to add to the number of souls preserved from the deepest guilt—of bodies rescued from shame, misery, and death? Who would not wish to wipe the tear from a parent’s eyes—to save the hoary head from being brought down with sorrow to the grave?”

An interval of half a century elapsed after the foundation of the Magdalen Asylum before the establishment of any similar institution. Within the last ten years, however, public attention has been directed with increasing interest to this subject, and numerous efforts have been made to provide more ample accommodation for those who are desirous of escaping from their wretched mode of life.

The London by Moonlight Mission, inaugurated some years ago by Lieutenant Blackmore, has been followed in our own day by the Midnight Meeting Movement, which has excited a world-wide sympathy and interest, and has been very generally approved even in quarters where encouragement could be least expected. The commencement of these meetings in London was the signal for similar experiments in Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Dublin, and other large towns.

Twenty-two of these meetings have now been held, and attended by upwards of 4,000 women, more than 600 of whom have been rescued, and either restored to friends, or placed in situations, where they are giving satisfactory evidence of outward reformation, and many of them of a thorough change of character.

The largest association in London for the reformation of fallen women, is the Society for the Rescue of Young Women and Children. The Society has at present eleven homes in various parts of London, and one at Dover. Four of these are “Family Homes” for the reception of preventive cases, or young girls who have not strayed from the path of virtue, but are addicted to crime, or are in circumstances of danger. One is a Home for orphan children, from nine to thirteen years of age; and the remaining seven are for fallen cases.

Upwards of 2,700 women and children have been admitted into these Homes since the Society’s formation in 1853, the greater part of whom have given satisfactory proof of having been reclaimed and permanently benefitted. The Society’s income for the past year amounted to £6,789 17s. 2d. The Homes are under the care of pious and experienced matrons, who labour incessantly to promote the spiritual and social welfare of their charges.

Another institution of recent origin, but of rapidly increasing growth, is the London Female Preventive and Reformatory Institution, which already numbers four Homes, and has admitted, during the past year, upwards of 250 inmates.

The following are the objects embraced by the Institution:—

“I. To seek the destitute and fallen by voluntary missionary effort.

“II. To afford temporary protection to friendless young women, whose circumstances expose them to danger; also to effect the rescue of fallen females, especially those decoyed from the country, by admitting them to the benefits of this Institution.

“III. To restore, when practicable, the wanderer to her family and friends, whether in town or country.

“IV. To qualify those admitted into the Institution for various departments of domestic service, to obtain suitable situations for them, and provide them with clothing.

“V. To aid such as for approved reasons wish to emigrate.

“VI. Above all, to seek the spiritual welfare of the inmates.”

The two last-named Societies and the Home of Hope, which is another Refuge identical in character and spirit with that last named, have received most of the cases rescued by the midnight meetings.

Great and encouraging as are the results effected by these institutions, and wide[xxxviii] as the sympathy is which they have awakened, it is clear that the means of rescue are as yet wholly disproportioned to the numbers claiming assistance.

Calculating the number of fallen women in London at eighty thousand, which is probably not far wide of the truth, and computing the number at present in the different institutions to be 1,000, the chance of rescue through the only recognized medium for female reformation is offered to one woman in every eighty!

This is the high-water mark of public charity, and the utmost provision made by Society for the rescue of these 80,000 outcasts! And yet there are special reasons which seem to give them a strong claim upon the sympathy and compassion of the benevolent public. The brief term of their existence, the average length of which is at best but a few years, and the fact that large numbers of them are driven upon the streets by a stern necessity, and compelled to live by sin as a trade, while everything contributes to prevent their escape from the mode of life into which they have been involuntarily forced, are surely considerations calculated to stimulate Christian effort on their behalf. But more than this,—it is well known that they are hanging as it were over the mouth of the bottomless pit.

“Their life-blood is ebbing at a fearful rate, and their souls are drifting madly to eternity. Their fate is certain; their doom impends: and, for their death-bed, there is not even the faintest glimmer of hope which charity can bequeath to the dying sinner. All others may find peace at last; but these, suddenly overtaken by death, and perishing in and by their sins, must be irrevocably lost. And who are they on whose warm vitals the ‘worm feeds sweetly,’ even on this side the grave, and around whose heads the unquenchable fire prematurely burns? Who are those whose souls, in countless numbers, are now glutting the chambers of hell? Not swarthy Indians nor sable Africans, whose deeds of violence and superstition have spread horror and astonishment among civilized nations, but delicately-nurtured Saxon women, who in infancy were lovingly fondled in the arms of Christian mothers, and received ‘into the ark of Christ’s Church’ in baptism, before a praying congregation; young girls, for whom pious sponsors promised that they should be ‘virtuously brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life,’ and who, in the faithful discharge of this promise, were trained in our Sabbath-schools, and ‘taken to the Bishop to be confirmed by him.’ They have sung the same hymns which we now sing; our congregational melodies are still familiar to them. They have read the same Scriptures which we now read, worshipped in the same temple in which we assemble, offered up the same prayers, listened to the same exhortations, and looked forward to the same glorious fruition of future blessedness. But where are they now? What are their hopes and expectations, and what the probable end of their existence? Let those answer these questions who sneeringly ask why such prodigious efforts are made to rescue the fallen.

“It not unfrequently happens, however, that the benevolent promoters of such schemes are perplexed and disheartened by those who assume a tone of expediency and argue thus: ‘Yes, it is all very true; and we can sympathise with your efforts, and pity the poor unhappy objects of your solicitude; but, then, this is a necessary evil, and any attempts to remove it are altogether mistaken, and are sure to end in failure, or to produce greater mischief. Besides, the demand will always create the supply, and for every fallen woman you snatch from the streets, an innocent, and hitherto virtuous girl, must be sacrificed. No, we are sorry for them, but better let them perish than save them at the sacrifice of other victims.’

“First then, this is a ‘necessary evil.’ Falsehood is sufficiently patent upon the face of this foolish and monstrous assertion. Could the Creator have pronounced his work ‘very good’ with such an inseparable appendage to social life? Again, how comes it that a ‘necessary evil’ only exhibits itself in certain localities,[xxxix] and under particular circumstances, disappearing altogether in uncivilized countries, and gathering strength and virulence in the most refined states of society? Will any modern philosopher favour us with a solution of this difficulty?

“But ‘the demand will always create the supply.’ Inexorable logic apparently, and incontrovertible if the supply were limited to the demand. This, however, we deny. Thousands are driven to prostitution as the only alternative from starvation. Necessity, and not the demand, here creates the supply, and it is well known that the supply suggests the demand. Is, then, the balance of vice so exact and undeviating, that the gap occasioned by the removal of one victim must be speedily filled by another? Is the equilibrium of profligacy so nicely adjusted, that it would be dangerous to assert the prerogative of virtue; and shall we desire its unhappy votaries to continue in sin that virtue may abound? Shall we drive back anxious souls, striving to ‘flee from the wrath to come,’ with the cold-blooded assurance that, ‘for the good of society, they had better remain where they are?’ Will it satisfy an immortal spirit, to be told that she helps to maintain the proper equilibrium of vice; or that, by standing in the gap, she is a benefactor to the innocent of her own sex, who would otherwise be sacrificed? Shall we assign as our reason for not preaching the Gospel to ‘every creature,’ that the state of society would be unhinged by curtailing a necessary evil, or that greater injuries would result from any attempt to rescue perishing souls? Shall we mock Him who has said ‘All souls are mine,’ by elevating a doctrine of human expediency above the authority of a distinct command? Let us be sure that, in a case so intimately affecting the honour and glory of God, to ‘obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.’ In vain may we plead political necessity as a plausible pretext for disobedience.

“We are not afraid, however, to meet this argument on philosophical grounds; and we affirm, confidently, that the rescue of every fallen woman is a social boon. Admitting the possibility that, eventually, her place will be supplied by another—for we can approach no nearer to the truth—is it not better to remove a present evil than to provide for a remote contingency? Supposing that in the long vista of future years, the immolation of a fresh victim is the price of every individual rescue, do we overlook the fact, that in the mean time a powerful temptation is removed, and that not merely units, but probably hundreds, of the young of the opposite sex are delivered from the toils of the strange woman? Is nothing achieved by the temporary removal of one tempter from the streets, and is society a loser in the end, by the reformation of one whose sole occupation is to waylay and ruin the youth of the opposite sex? Let our moral economists escape from this dilemma if they can; the philanthropist and the Christian need no further arguments to convince them that they have not only the law of God, but the inexorable logic of common sense on their side.

“Who can tell the pestiferous influence exercised on society by one single fallen woman? Who can calculate the evils of such a system? Woman, waylaid, tempted, deceived, becomes in turn the terrible avenger of her sex. Armed with a power which is all but irresistible, and stript of that which can alone restrain and purify her influence, she steps upon the arena of life qualified to act her part in the reorganization of society. The lex talionis—the law of retaliation—is hers. Society has made her what she is, and must be now governed by her potent influence. The weight of this influence is untold: view it in the dissolution of domestic ties, in the sacrifice of family peace, in the cold desolation of promising homes; but, above all, in the growth of practical Atheism, and in the downward tendency of all that is pure and holy in life! One and another who has been educated in an atmosphere redolent of virtue and principle, and has given promise of high and noble qualities, falls a victim to the prevalence of meretricious allurements, and carries back to his hitherto untainted home the noxious influence he[xl] has imbibed. Another and another, within the range of that influence, is made to suffer for his sacrifice of moral rectitude, and they, in their turn, become the agents, and the originators of fresh evils. Who, in contemplating this pedigree of profligacy resulting from a solitary temptation, will venture to affirm that the temporary withdrawal of a single prostitute is not a social blessing? Surely for such immediate results we are justified in dispensing with considerations of future expediency; and, acting upon the first principles of Christian ethics, may help to reform the vicious and profligate, leaving it in the hands of a merciful God to avert the contingency of ruin overtaking the as yet unfallen woman.”[9]

In reference to all such Christian efforts to reclaim the fallen, it has been truly said that “You may ransack the world for objects of compassion. You may scour the earth in search of suffering humanity, on which to exercise your philanthropy; you may roam the countless hospitals and asylums of this vast city; you may penetrate the dens and caves of all other profligacy; you may lavish your bounty upon a transatlantic famine, or dive into Neapolitan dungeons, or scatter the Bible broadcast throughout the great moral wildernesses of heathendom: but in all the million claims upon your faith, upon your feeling as a man, upon your benevolence as a Christian, you will never fulfil a mission dearer to Christ, you will never promote a charity more congenial to the spirit of this gospel; you will never more surely wake up joy in heaven, and force tears into the eyes of sympathising angels, than when you can bring a Magdalene face to face with her Redeemer, and thrill her poor heart, even to breaking, with the plaintive music of that divine voice, calling her by name—Mary.”




I enter upon this part of my subject with a deep sense of the misery, the vice, the ignorance, and the want that encompass us on every side—I enter upon it after much grave attention to the subject, observing closely, reflecting patiently, and generalizing cautiously upon the phenomena and causes of the vice and crime of this city—I enter upon it after a thoughtful study of the habits and character of the “outcast” class generally—I enter upon it, moreover, not only as forming an integral and most important part of the task I have imposed upon myself, but from a wish to divest the public mind of certain “idols” of the platform and conventicle—“idols” peculiar to our own time, and unknown to the great Father of the inductive philosophy—and “idols,” too, that appear to me greatly to obstruct a proper understanding of the subject. Further, I am led to believe that I can contribute some new facts concerning the physics and economy of vice and crime generally, that will not only make the solution of the social problem more easy to us, but, setting more plainly before us some of its latent causes, make us look with more pity and less anger on those who want the fortitude to resist their influence; and induce us, or at least the more earnest among us, to apply ourselves steadfastly to the removal or alleviation of those social evils that appear to create so large a proportion of the vice and crime that we seek by punishment to prevent.

Such are the ultimate objects of my present labours: the result of them is given to the world with an earnest desire to better the condition of the wretched social outcasts of whom I have now to treat, and to contribute, if possible, my mite of good towards the common weal.

But though such be my ultimate object, let me here confess that my immediate aim is the elimination of the truth; without this, of course, all other principles must be sheer sentimentality—sentiments being, to my mind, opinions engendered by the feelings rather than the judgment. The attainment of the truth, then, will be my primary aim; but by the truth, I wish it to be understood, I mean something more than the bare facts. Facts, according to my ideas, are merely the elements of truths, and not the truths themselves; of all matters there are none so utterly useless by themselves as your mere matters of fact. A fact, so long as it remains an isolated fact, is a dull, dead, uninformed thing; no object nor event by itself can possibly give us any knowledge, we must compare it with some other, even to distinguish it; and it is the distinctive quality thus developed that constitutes the essence of a thing—that is to say, the point by which we cognize and recognise it when again presented to us. A fact must be assimilated with, or discriminated from, some other fact or facts, in order to be raised to the dignity of a truth, and made to convey the least knowledge to the mind. To say, for instance, that in the year 1850 there were 26,813 criminal offenders in England and Wales, is merely to oppress the brain with the record of a fact that, per se, is so much mental lumber. This is the very mummery of statistics; of what rational good can such information by itself be to any person? who can tell whether the number of offenders in that year be large or[2] small, unless they compare it with the number of some other year, or in some other country? but to do this will require another fact, and even then this second fact can give us but little real knowledge. It may teach us, perhaps, that the past year was more or less criminal than some other year, or that the people of this country, in that year, were more or less disposed to the infraction of the laws than some other people abroad; still, what will all this avail us? If the year which we select to contrast criminally with that of 1850 be not itself compared with other years, how are we to know whether the number of criminals appertaining to it be above or below the average? or, in other words, how can the one be made a measure of the other?

To give the least mental value to facts, therefore, we must generalize them, that is to say, we must contemplate them in connection with other facts, and so discover their agreements and differences, their antecedents, concomitants, and consequences. It is true we may frame erroneous and defective theories in so doing; we may believe things which are similar in appearance to be similar in their powers and properties also; we may distinguish between things having no real difference; we may mistake concomitant events for consequences; we may generalize with too few particulars, and hastily infer that to be common to all which is but the special attribute of a limited number; nevertheless, if theory may occasionally teach us wrongly, facts without theory or generalization cannot possibly teach us at all. What the process of digestion is to food, that of generalizing is to fact; for as it is by the assimilation of the substances we eat with the elements of our bodies that our limbs are enlarged and our whole frames strengthened, so is it by associating perception with perception in our brains that our intellect becomes at once expanded and invigorated. Contrary to the vulgar notion, theory, that is to say, theory in its true Baconian sense, is not opposed to fact, but consists rather of a large collection of facts; it is not true of this or that thing alone, but of all things belonging to the same class—in a word, it consists not of one fact but an infinity. The theory of gravitation, for instance, expresses not only what occurs when a stone falls to the earth, but when every other body does the same thing; it expresses, moreover, what takes place in the revolution of the moon round our planet, and in the revolution of our planet and of all the other planets round our sun, and of all other suns round the centre of the universe; in fine, it is true not of one thing merely, but of every material object in the entire range of creation.

There are, of course, two methods of dealing philosophically with every subject—deductively and inductively. We may either proceed from principles to facts, or recede from facts to principles. The one explains, the other investigates; the former applies known general rules to the comprehension of particular phenomena, and the latter classifies the particular phenomena, so that we may ultimately come to comprehend their unknown general rules. The deductive method is the mode of using knowledge, and the inductive method the mode of acquiring it.

In a subject like the crime and vice of the metropolis, and the country in general, of which so little is known—of which there are so many facts, but so little comprehension—it is evident that we must seek by induction, that is to say, by a careful classification of the known phenomena, to render the matter more intelligible; in fine, we must, in order to arrive at a comprehensive knowledge of its antecedents, consequences, and concomitants, contemplate as large a number of facts as possible in as many different relations as the statistical records of the country will admit of our doing.

With this brief preamble I will proceed to treat generally of the class that will not work, and then particularly of that portion of them termed prostitutes. But, first, who are those that will work, and who those that will not work? This is the primary point to be evolved.

Of the Workers and Non-Workers.
The essential quality of an animal is that it seeks its own living, whereas a vegetable has its living brought to it. An animal cannot stick its feet in the ground and suck up the inorganic elements of its body from the soil, nor drink in the organic elements from the atmosphere. The leaves of plants are not only their lungs but their stomachs. As they breathe they acquire food and strength, but as animals breathe they gradually waste away. The carbon which is secreted by the process of respiration in the vegetable is excreted by the very same process in the animal. Hence a fresh supply of carbonaceous matter must be sought after and obtained at frequent intervals, in order to repair the continual waste of animal life.


But in the act of seeking for substances fitted to replace that which is lost in respiration, nerves must be excited and muscles moved; and recent discoveries have shown that such excitation and motion are attended with decomposition of the organs in which they occur. Muscular action gives rise to the destruction of muscular tissue, nervous action to a change in the nervous matter; and this destruction and decomposition necessarily involve a fresh supply of nitrogenous matter, in order that the loss may be repaired.

Now a tree, being inactive, has little or no waste. All the food that it obtains goes to the invigoration of its frame; not one atom is destroyed in seeking more: but the essential condition of animal life is muscular action; the essential condition of muscular action is the destruction of muscular tissue; and the essential condition of the destruction of muscular tissue is a supply of food fitted for the reformation of it, or—death. It is impossible for an animal—like a vegetable—to stand still and not destroy. If the limbs are not moving, the heart is beating, the lungs playing, the bosom heaving. Hence an animal, in order to continue its existence, must obtain its subsistence either by its own exertions or by those of others—in a word, it must be autobious or allobious.

The procuration of sustenance, then, is the necessary condition of animal life, and constitutes the sole apparent reason for the addition of the locomotive apparatus to the vegetative functions of sentient nature; but the faculties of comparison and volition have been further added to the animal nature of Man, in order to enable him, among other things, the better to gratify his wants—to give him such a mastery over the elements of material nature, that he may force the external world the more readily to contribute to his support. Hence the derangement of either one of those functions must degrade the human being—as regards his means of sustenance—to the level of the brute. If his intellect be impaired, and the faculty of perceiving “the fitness of things” be consequently lost to him—or, this being sound, if the power of moving his muscles in compliance with his will be deficient—then the individual becomes no longer capable, like his fellows, of continuing his existence by his own exertions.

Hence, in every state, we have two extensive causes of allobiism, or living by the labour of others; the one intellectual, as in the case of lunatics and idiots, and the other physical, as in the case of the infirm, the crippled, and the maimed—the old and the young.

But a third, and a more extensive class, still remains to be particularized. The members of every community may be divided into the energetic and the an-ergetic; that is to say, into the hardworking and the non-working, the industrious and the indolent classes; the distinguishing characteristic of the anergetic being the extreme irksomeness of all labour to them, and their consequent indisposition to work for their subsistence. Now, in the circumstances above enumerated, we have three capital causes why, in every State, a certain portion of the community must derive their subsistence from the exertions of the rest; the first proceeds from some physical defect, as in the case of the old and the young, the super-annuated and the sub-annuated, the crippled and the maimed; the second from some intellectual defect, as in the case of lunatics and idiots; and the third from some moral defect, as in the case of the indolent, the vagrant, the professional mendicant, and the criminal. In all civilized countries, there will necessarily be a greater or less number of human parasites living on the sustenance of their fellows. The industrious must labour to support the lazy, and the sane to keep the insane, and the able-bodied to maintain the infirm.

Still, to complete the social fabric, another class requires to be specified. As yet, regard has been paid only to those who must needs labour for their living, or who, in default of so doing, must prey on the proceeds of the industry of their more active or more stalwart brethren. There is, however, in all civilized society, a farther portion of the people distinct from either of those above mentioned, who, being already provided—no matter how—with a sufficient stock of sustenance, or what will exchange for such, have no occasion to toil for an additional supply.

Hence all society would appear to arrange itself into four different classes:—

I. Those that Will Work.
II. Those that Cannot Work.
III. Those that Will Not Work.
IV. Those that Need Not Work.
Under one or other section of this quadruple division, every member, not only of our community, but of every other civilized State, must necessarily be included; the rich, the poor, the industrious, the idle, the honest, the dishonest, the virtuous, and the vicious—each and all must be comprised therein.


Let me now proceed specially to treat of each of these classes—to distribute under one or other of these four categories the diverse modes of living peculiar to the members of our own community, and so to enunciate, for the first time, the natural history, as it were, of the industry and idleness of Great Britain in the nineteenth century.

It is no easy matter, however, to classify the different kinds of labour scientifically. To arrange the several varieties of work into “orders,” and to group the manifold species of arts under a few comprehensive genera—so that the mind may grasp the whole at one effort—is a task of a most perplexing character. Moreover, the first attempt to bring any number of diverse phenomena within the rules of logical division is not only a matter of considerable difficulty, but one, unfortunately, that is generally unsuccessful. It is impossible, however, to proceed with the present inquiry without making some attempt at systematic arrangement; for of all scientific processes, the classification of the various phenomena, in connection with a given subject, is perhaps the most important; indeed, if we consider that the function of cognition is essentially discriminative, it is evident, that without distinguishing between one object and another, there can be no knowledge, nor, indeed, any perception. Even as the seizing of a particular difference causes the mind to apprehend the special character of an object, so does the discovery of the agreements and differences among the several phenomena of a subject enable the understanding to comprehend it. What the generalization of events is to the ascertainment of natural laws, the generalization of things is to the discovery of natural systems. But classification is no less dangerous than it is important to science; for in precisely the same proportion as a correct grouping of objects into genera and species, orders and varieties, expands and assists our understanding, so does any erroneous arrangement cripple and retard all true knowledge. The reduction of all external substances into four elements by the ancients—earth, air, fire, and water—perhaps did more to obstruct the progress of chemical science than even a prohibition of the study could have effected.

But the branches of industry are so multifarious, the divisions of labour so minute and manifold, that it seems at first almost impossible to reduce them to any system. Moreover, the crude generalizations expressed in the names of the several arts, render the subject still more perplexing.

Some kinds of workmen, for example, are called after the articles they make—as saddlers, hatters, boot-makers, dress-makers, breeches-makers, stay-makers, lace-makers, button-makers, glovers, cabinet-makers, artificial-flower-makers, ship-builders, organ-builders, boat-builders, nailers, pin-makers, basket-makers, pump-makers, clock and watch makers, wheel-wrights, ship-wrights, and so forth.

Some operatives, on the other hand, take their names not from what they make, but from the kind of work they perform. Hence we have carvers, joiners, bricklayers, weavers, knitters, engravers, embroiderers, tanners, curriers, bleachers, thatchers, lime-burners, glass-blowers, seamstresses, assayers, refiners, embossers, chasers, painters, paper-hangers, printers, book-binders, cab-drivers, fishermen, graziers, and so on.

Other artizans, again, are styled after the materials upon which they work, such as tinmen, jewellers, lapidaries, goldsmiths, braziers, plumbers, pewterers, glaziers, &c. &c.

And lastly, a few operatives are named after the tools they use; thus we have ploughmen, sawyers, and needlewomen.

But these divisions, it is evident, are as unscientific as they are arbitrary; nor would it be possible, by adopting such a classification, to arrive at any practical result.

Now, I had hoped to have derived some little assistance in my attempt to reduce the several varieties of work to system from the arrangement of the products of industry and art at “the Great Exhibition.” I knew, however, that the point of classification had proved the great stumbling block to the French Industrial Exhibitions. In the Exposition of the Arts and Manufactures of France in 1806, for instance, M. Costaz adopted a topographical arrangement, according to the departments of the kingdom whence the specimens were sent. In 1819, again, finding the previous arrangement conveyed little or no knowledge, depending, as it did, on the mere local association of the places of manufacture, the same philosopher attempted to classify all arts into a sort of natural system, but the separate divisions amounted to thirty-nine, and were found to be confused and inconvenient. In 1827 M. Payon adopted a classification into five great divisions, arranging the arts according as they are chemical, mechanical, physical, economical, or “miscellaneous” in their nature. It was found, however, in practice, that two, or even three, of these characteristics often belonged to the same manufacture. In[5] 1834 M. Dupin proposed a classification that was found to work better than any which preceded it. He viewed man as a locomotive animal, a clothed animal, a domiciled animal, &c., and thus tracing him through his various daily wants and employments, he arrived at a classification in which all arts are placed under nine headings, according as they contribute to the alimentary, sanitary, vestiary, domiciliary, locomotive, sensitive, intellectual, preparative, or social tendencies of man. In 1844 and 1849 attempts were made towards an eclectic combination of two or three of the above-mentioned systems, but it does not appear that the latter arrangements presented any marked advantages.

Now, with all the experience of the French nation to guide us, I naturally expected that especial attention would be directed towards the point of classification with us, and that a technological system would be propounded, which would be found at least an improvement on the bungling systems of the French. It must be confessed, however, that no nation could possibly have stultified itself so egregiously as we have done in this respect. Never was there anything half so puerile as the classification of the works of industry in our own Exhibition!

But this comes of the patronage of Princes; for we are told that at one of the earliest meetings at Buckingham Palace his Royal Highness propounded the system of classification according to which the works of industry were to be arranged. The published minutes of the meeting on the 30th of June, 1849, inform us—

“His Royal Highness communicated his views regarding the formation of a Great Collection of Works of Industry and Art in London in 1851, for the purposes of exhibition, and of competition and encouragement. His Royal Highness considered that such a collection and exhibition should consist of the following divisions:—

Raw Materials.
Machinery and Mechanical Inventions.
Sculpture and Plastic Art generally.”
Now, were it possible for monarchs to do with natural laws as with social ones, namely, to blow a trumpet and declaring “le roi le veut,” to have their will pass into one of the statutes of creation, it might be advantageous to science that Princes should seek to lay down orders of arrangement and propound systems of classification. But seeing that Science is as pure a republic as Letters, and that there are no “Highnesses” in philosophy—for if there be any aristocracy at all in such matters, it is at least an aristocracy of intellect—it is rather an injury than a benefit that those who are high in authority should interfere in these affairs at all; since, from the very circumstances of their position it is utterly impossible for them to arrive at anything more than the merest surface knowledge on such subjects. The influence, too, that their mere “authority” has over men’s minds is directly opposed to the perception of truth, preventing that free and independent exercise of the intellect from which alone all discovery and knowledge can proceed.

Judging the quadruple arrangement of the Great Exhibition by the laws of logical division, we find that the three classes—Raw Materials, Machinery, and Manufactures—which refer more particularly to the Works of Industry, are neither distinct nor do they include the whole. What is a raw material, and what a manufacture? It is from the difficulty of distinguishing between these two conditions that leather is placed under Manufactures, and steel under Raw Materials—though surely steel is iron plus carbon, and leather skin plus tannin; so that, technologically considered, there is no difference between them. If by the term raw material is meant some natural product in its crude state, then it is evident that “Geological maps, plans, and sections; prussiate of potash, and other mixed chemical manufactures; sulphuric, muriatic, nitric, and other acids; medicinal tinctures, cod liver oil, dried fruits, fermented liquors and spirits, preserved meats, portable soups, glue, and the alloys” cannot possibly rank as raw materials, though one and all of these articles are to be found so “classified” at the Great Exhibition; but if the meaning of a “raw material” be extended to any product which constitutes the substance to be operated upon in an industrial art, then the answer is that leather, which is the material of shoes and harness, is no more a manufacture than steel, which is placed among the raw materials, because forming the constituent substance of cutlery and tools. So interlinked are the various arts and manufactures, that what is the product of one process of industry is the material of another—thus, yarn is the product of spinning, and the material of weaving, and in the same manner the cloth, which is the product of weaving, becomes the material of tailoring.

But a still greater blunder than the non-distinction between products and materials lies in the confounding of processes with products. In an Industrial Exhibition to[6] reserve no special place for the processes of industry is very much like the play of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet omitted; and yet it is evident that, in the quadruple arrangement before mentioned, those most important industrial operations which consist merely in arriving at the same result by simpler means—as, for instance, the hot blast in metallurgical operations—can find no distinct expression. The consequence is that methods of work are arranged under the same head as the work itself; and the “Executive” have been obliged to group under the first subdivision of Raw Materials the following inconsistent jumble:—Salt deposits; ventilation; safety lamps and other methods of lighting; methods of lowering and raising miners, and draining; methods of roasting, smelting, or otherwise reducing ores; while under the second subdivision of Raw Materials chemical and pharmaceutical processes and products are indiscriminately confounded.

Another most important defect is the omission of all mention of those industrial processes which have no special or distinct products of their own, but which are rather engaged in adding to the beauty or durability of others; as, for instance, the bleaching of some textile fabrics, the embroidering of others, the dyeing and printing of others; the binding of books; the cutting of glass; the painting of china, &c. From the want of an express division for this large portion of our industrial arts, there is a jumbling and a bungling throughout the whole arrangement. Under the head of manufactures are grouped printing and bookbinding, the “dyeing of woollen, cotton, and linen goods,” “embroidery, fancy, and industrial work,” the cutting and engraving of glass; and, lastly, the art of “decoration generally,” including “ornamental, coloured decoration,” and the “imitations of woods, marbles, &c.,”—though surely these are one and all additions to manufactures rather than manufactures themselves. Indeed, a more extraordinary and unscientific hotch-potch than the entire arrangement has never been submitted to public criticism and public ridicule.

Amid all this confusion and perplexity, then, how are we to proceed? Why, we must direct our attention to some more judicious and more experienced guide. In such matters, at least, as the Exposition of the Science of Labour, it is clear that we must “put not our trust in princes.”

That Prince Albert has conferred a great boon on the country in the establishment of the Great Exhibition (for it is due not only to his patronage but to his own personal exertions), no unprejudiced mind can for a moment doubt; and that he has, ever since his first coming among us, filled a most delicate office in the State in a highly decorous and commendable manner, avoiding all political partizanship, and being ever ready to give the influence of his patronage, and, indeed, co-operation, to anything that appeared to promise an amelioration of the condition of the working classes of this country, I am most glad to have it in my power to bear witness; but that, because of this, we should pin our faith to a “hasty generalization” propounded by him, would be to render ourselves at once silly and servile.

If, with the view of obtaining some more precise information concerning the several branches of industry, we turn our attention to the Government analysis of the different modes of employment among the people, we shall find that for all purposes of a scientific or definite character the Occupation Abstract of the Census of this country is comparatively useless. Previous to 1841, the sole attempt made at generalization was the division of the entire industrial community into three orders, viz.:—

I. Those employed in Agriculture.

1. Agricultural Occupiers.

a. Employing Labourers.

b. Not employing Labourers.

2. Agricultural Labourers.

II. Those employed in Manufactures.

1. Employed in Manufactures.

2. Employed in making Manufacturing Machinery.

III. All other Classes.

1. Employed in Retail Trade or in Handicraft, as Masters or Workmen.

2. Capitalists, Bankers, Professional, and other educated men.

3. Labourers employed in labour not Agricultural—as Miners, Quarriers, Fishermen, Porters, &c.

4. Male Servants.

5. Other Males, 20 years of age.

The defects of this arrangement must be self-evident to all who have paid the least attention to economical science. It offends against both the laws of logical division, the parts being neither distinct nor equal to the whole. In the first place, what is a manufacturer? and how is such an one to be distinguished from one employed in handicraft? How do the workers in metal, as the “tin manufacturers,” “lead manufacturers,” “iron manufacturers,”—who are one and all classed under the head of manufacturers—differ, in an economical[7] point of view, from the workers in wood, as the carpenters and joiners, the cabinet-makers, ship-builders, &c., who are all classed under the head of handicraftsmen? Again, according to the census of 1831, a brewer is placed among those employed in retail trade or in handicrafts, while a vinegar maker is ranked with the manufacturers. According to Mr. Babbage, manufacturing differs from mere making simply in the quantity produced—he being a manufacturer who makes a greater number of the same articles; manufacturing is thus simply production in a large way, in connection with the several handicrafts. Dr. Ure, however, appears to consider such articles manufactures as are produced by means of machinery, citing the word which originally signified production by hand (being the Latin equivalent for the Saxon handicraft) as an instance of those singular verbal corruptions by which terms come to stand for the very opposite to their literal meaning. But with all deference to the Doctor, for whose judgment I have the highest respect, Mr. Babbage’s definition of a manufacturer, viz., as a producer on a large scale, appears to me the more correct; for it is in this sense that we speak of manufacturing chemists, boot and shoe manufacturers, ginger-beer manufacturers, and the like.

The Occupation Abstract of the Census of 1841, though far more comprehensive than the one preceding it, is equally unsatisfactory and unphilosophical. In this document the several members of Society are thus classified:—

I. Persons engaged in Commerce, Trade, and Manufacture.
II. Agriculture.
III. Labour, not Agricultural.
IV. Army and Navy Merchant Seamen, Fishermen, and Watermen.
V. Professions and other pursuits requiring education.
VI. Government, Civil Service, and Municipal and Parochial Officers.
VII. Domestic Servants.
VIII. Persons of Independent Means.
IX. Almspeople, Pensioners, Paupers, Lunatics, and Prisoners.
X. Remainder of Population, including Women and Children.
Here it will be seen that the defects arising from drawing distinctions where no real differences exist, are avoided, those engaged in handicrafts being included under the same head as those engaged in manufacture; but the equally grave error of confounding or grouping together occupations which are essentially diverse, is allowed to continue. Accordingly, the first division is made to include those who are engaged in trade and commerce as well as manufacture, though surely—the one belongs strictly to the distributing, and the other to the producing class—occupations which are not only essentially distinct, but of which it is absolutely necessary for a right understanding of the state of the country that we know the proportion that the one bears to the other. Again, the employers in both cases are confounded with the employed, so that, though the capitalists who supply the materials, and pay the wages for the several kinds of work are a distinct body of people from those who do the work, and a body, moreover, that it is of the highest possible importance, in an economical point of view, that we should be able to estimate numerically,—no attempt is made to discriminate the one from the other. Now these three classes, distributors, employers, and operatives, which in the Government returns of the people are jumbled together in one heterogeneous crowd, as if the distinctions between Capital, Labour, and Distribution had never been propounded, are precisely those concerning which the social inquirer desires the most minute information.

The Irish census is differently arranged from that of Great Britain. There the several classes are grouped under the following heads:—

I. Ministering to Food.

1. As Producers.
2. As Preparers.
3. As Distributors.
II. Ministering to Clothing.

1. As Manufacturers of Materials.
2. As Handicraftsmen and Dealers.
III. Ministering to Lodging, Furniture, Machinery, &c.

IV. Ministering to Health.

V. Ministering to Charity.

VI. Ministering to Justice.

VII. Ministering to Education.

VIII. Ministering to Religion.

IX. Various Arts and Employments, not included in the foregoing.

X. Residue of Population, not having specified occupations, and including unemployed persons and women.

This, however, is no improvement upon the English classification. There is the same want of discrimination, and the same dis[8]regard of the great “economical” divisions of society.

Moreover, to show the extreme fallacy of such a classification, it is only necessary to make the following extract from the Report of the Commissioners for Great Britain:—

“We would willingly have given a classification of the occupations of the inhabitants of Great Britain into the various wants to which they respectively minister, but, in attempting this, we were stopped by the various anomalies and uncertainties to which such a classification seemed necessarily to lead, from the fact that many persons supply more than one want, though they can only be classed under one head. Thus to give but a single instance—the farmer and grazier may be deemed to minister quite as much to clothing by the fleece and hides as he does to food by the flesh of his sheep and cattle.”

He, therefore, who would seek to elaborate the natural history of the industry of the people of England, must direct his attention to some social philosopher, who has given the subject more consideration than either princes or Government officials can possibly be expected to devote to it. Among the whole body of economists, Mr. Stuart Mill appears to be the only man who has taken a comprehensive and enlightened view of the several functions of society. Following in the footsteps of M. Say, the French social philosopher, he first points out concerning the products of industry, that labour is not creative of objects but of utilities, and then proceeds to say:—

“Now the utilities produced by labour are of three kinds; they are—

“First, utilities fixed and embodied in outward objects; by labour employed in investing external material things with properties which render them serviceable to human beings. This is the common case, and requires no illustration.

“Secondly, utilities fixed and embodied in human beings; the labour being in this case employed in conferring on human beings qualities which render them serviceable to themselves and others. To this class belongs the labour of all concerned in education; not only schoolmasters, tutors, and professors, but governments, so far as they aim successfully at the improvement of the people; moralists and clergymen, as far as productive of benefit; the labour of physicians, as far as instrumental in preserving life and physical or mental efficiency; of the teachers of bodily exercises, and of the various trades, sciences, and arts, together with the labour of the learners in acquiring them, and all labour bestowed by any persons, throughout life, in improving the knowledge or cultivating the bodily and mental faculties of themselves or others.

“Thirdly, and lastly, utilities not fixed or embodied in any object, but consisting in a mere service rendered, a pleasure given, an inconvenience or pain averted, during a longer or a shorter time, but without leaving a permanent acquisition in the improved qualities of any person or thing; the labour here being employed in producing an utility directly, not (as in the two former cases) in fitting some other thing to afford an utility. Such, for example, is the labour of the musical performer, the actor, the public declaimer or reciter, and the showman.

“Some good may, no doubt, be produced beyond the moment, upon the feeling and disposition, or general state of enjoyment of the spectators; or instead of good there may be harm, but neither the one nor the other is the effect intended, is the result for which the exhibitor works and the spectator pays, but the immediate pleasure. Such, again, is the labour of the army and navy; they, at the best, prevent a country from being conquered, or from being injured or insulted, which is a service, but in all other respects leave the country neither improved nor deteriorated. Such, too, is the labour of the legislator, the judge, the officer of justice, and all other agents of Government, in their ordinary functions, apart from any influence they may exert on the improvement of the national mind. The service which they render is to maintain peace and security; these compose the utility which they produce. It may appear to some that carriers, and merchants or dealers, should be placed in this same class, since their labour does not add any properties to objects, but I reply that it does, it adds the property of being in the place where they are wanted, instead of being in some other place, which is a very useful property, and the utility it confers is embodied in the things themselves, which now actually are in the place where they are required for use, and in consequence of that increased utility could be sold at an increased price proportioned to the labour expended in conferring it. This labour, therefore, does not belong to the third class, but to the first.”

To the latter part of the above classification, I regret to say I cannot assent. Surely the property of being in the place where they are wanted, which carriers and distributors are said to confer on external objects, cannot be said to be fixed—if, in[9]deed, it be strictly embodied in the objects, since the very act of distribution consists in the alteration of this local relation, and transferring such objects to the possession of another. Is not the utility which the weaver fixes and embodies in a yard of cotton, a very different utility from that effected by the linendraper in handing the same yard of cotton over the counter in exchange for so much money? and in this particular act, it would be difficult to perceive what is fixed and embodied, seeing that it consists essentially in an exchange of commodities.

Mr. Mill’s mistake appears to consist in not discerning that there is another class of labour besides that employed in producing utilities directly, and that occupied in fitting other things to afford utilities: viz., that which is engaged in assisting those who are so occupied in fitting things to be useful. This class consists of such as are engaged in aiding the producers of permanent material utilities either before or during production, and such as are engaged in aiding them after production. Under the first division are comprised capitalists, or those who supply the materials and tools for the work, superintendents and managers, or those who direct the work, and labourers, or those who perform some minor office connected with the work, as in turning the large wheel for a turner, in carrying the bricks to a bricklayer, and the like; while in the second division, or those who are engaged in assisting producers after production, are included carriers, or those who remove the produce to the market, and dealers and shopmen, or those who obtain purchasers for it. Now it is evident that the function of all these classes is merely auxiliary to the labour of the producers, consisting principally of so many modes of economizing their time and labour. Whether the gains of some of these auxiliary classes are as disproportionately large, as the others are disproportionately small, this is not the place to inquire. My present duty is merely to record the fact of the existence of such classes, and to assign them their proper place in the social fabric, as at present constituted.

Now, from the above it will appear, that there are four distinct classes of workers:—

I. Enrichers, or those who are employed in producing utilities fixed and embodied in material things, that is to say, in producing exchangeable commodities or riches.

II. Auxiliaries, or those who are employed in aiding the production of exchangeable commodities.

III. Benefactors, or those who are employed in producing utilities fixed and embodied in human beings, that is to say, in conferring upon them some permanent good.

IV. Servitors, or those who are employed in rendering some service, that is to say, in conferring some temporary good upon another.

Class 1 is engaged in investing material objects with qualities which render them serviceable to others.

Class 2 is engaged in aiding the operations of Class 1.

Class 3 is engaged in conferring on human beings qualities which render them serviceable to themselves or others.

Class 4 is engaged in giving a pleasure, averting a pain (during a longer or shorter period), or preventing an inconvenience, by performing some office for others that they would find irksome to do for themselves.

Hence it appears that the operations of the first and third of the above classes, or the Enrichers and Benefactors of Society, tend to leave some permanent acquisition in the improved qualities of either persons or things,—whereas the operations of the second and fourth classes, or the Auxiliaries and Servitors, are limited merely to promoting either the labours or the pleasures of the other members of the community.

Such, then, are the several classes of Workers; and here it should be stated that, I apply the title Worker to all those who do anything for their living, who perform any act whatsoever that is considered worthy of being paid for by others, without regard to the question whether such labourers tend to add to or decrease the aggregate wealth of the community. I consider all persons doing or giving something for the comforts they obtain, as self-supporting individuals. Whether that something be really an equivalent for the emoluments they receive, it is not my vocation here to inquire. Suffice it some real or imaginary benefit is conferred upon society, or a particular individual, and what is thought a fair and proper reward is given in return for it. Hence I look upon soldiers, sailors, Government and parochial officers, capitalists, clergymen, lawyers, wives, &c., &c., as self-supporting—a certain amount of labour, or a certain desirable commodity, being given by each and all in exchange for other commodities,[10] which are considered less desirable to the individuals parting with them, and more desirable to those receiving them.

Nevertheless, it must be confessed that, economically speaking, the most important and directly valuable of all classes are those whom I have here denominated Enrichers. These consist not only of Producers, but of the Collectors and Extractors of Wealth, concerning whom a few words are necessary.

There are three modes of obtaining the materials of our wealth—(1) by collecting, (2) by extracting, and (3) by producing them. The industrial processes concerned in the collection of the materials of wealth are of the rudest and most primitive kind—being pursued principally by such tribes as depend for their food, and raiment, and shelter, on the spontaneous productions of nature. The usual modes by which the collection is made is by gathering the vegetable produce (which is the simplest and most direct form of all industry), and when the produce is of an animal nature, by hunting, shooting, or fishing, according as the animal sought after inhabits the land, the air, or the water. In a more advanced state of society, where the erection of places of shelter has come to constitute one of the acts of life, the felling of trees will also form one of the modes by which the materials making up the wealth of the nation are collected. In Great Britain there appears to be fewer people connected with the mere collection of wealth than with any other general industrial process. The fishermen are not above 25,000, and the wood-cutters and woodmen not 5000; so that even with gamekeepers, and others engaged in the taking of game, we may safely say that there are about 30,000 out of 18,000,000, or only one-six hundredth of the entire population, engaged in this mode of industry—a fact which strongly indicates the artificial character of our society.

The production of the materials of wealth, which indicates a far higher state of civilization and which consists in the several agricultural and farming processes for increasing the natural stock of animal and vegetable food, employs upwards of one million; while those who are engaged in the extraction of our treasures from the earth, either by mining or quarrying, both of which processes—depending, as they do, upon a knowledge of some of the subtler natural powers—could only have been brought into operation in a highly advanced stage of the human intellect, number about a quarter of a million. Altogether, there appear to be about one million and a half of individuals engaged in the industrial processes connected with the collection, extraction, and production of the materials of wealth; those who are employed in operating upon these materials, in the fashioning of them into manufactures, making them up into commodities, as well as those engaged in the distribution of them—that is to say, the transport and sale of them when so fashioned or made up—appear to amount to another two millions and a half, so that the industrial classes of Great Britain, taken altogether, may be said to amount to four millions. For the more perfect comprehension, however, of the several classes of society, let me subjoin a table in round numbers, calculated from the census of 1841, and including among the first items both the employers as well as employed:—

Engaged in Trade and Manufacture 3,000,000
„ Agriculture 1,500,000
„ Mining, Quarrying, and Transit 750,000
Total Employers and Employed 5,250,000
Domestic Servants 1,000,000
Independent persons 500,000
Educated pursuits (including Professions and Fine Arts) 200,000
Government Officers (including Army, Navy, Civil Service, and Parish Officers) 200,000
Alms-people (including Paupers, Prisoners, and Lunatics) 200,000
Residue of Population (including 3,500,000 wives and 7,500,000 children) 11,000,000
Now, of the 5,250,000 individuals engaged in Agriculture, Mining, Transit, Manufacture and Trade, it would appear that about one million and a quarter may be considered as employers; and, consequently, that the remaining four millions may be said to represent the numerical strength of the operatives of England and Scotland. Of these about one million, or a quarter of the whole, may be said to be engaged in producing the materials of wealth; and about a quarter of a million, or one-sixteenth of the entire number, in extracting from the soil the substances upon which many of the manufacturers have to operate.

The artizans, or those who are engaged in the several handicrafts or manufactures operating upon the various materials of wealth thus obtained, are distinct from the workmen above-mentioned, belonging to what are called skilled labourers, whereas those who are employed in the collection, extraction, or growing of wealth, belong to the unskilled class.

An artisan is an educated handicrafts[11]man, following a calling that requires an apprenticeship of greater or less duration in order to arrive at perfection in it; whereas a labourer’s occupation needs no education whatever. Many years must be spent in practising before a man can acquire sufficient manual dexterity to make a pair of boots or a coat; dock labour or porter’s work, however, needs neither teaching nor learning, for any man can carry a load or turn a wheel. The artisan, therefore, is literally a handicraftsman—one who by practice has acquired manual dexterity enough to perform a particular class of work, which is consequently called “skilled.” The natural classification of artisans, or skilled labourers, appears to be according to the materials upon which they work, for this circumstance seems to constitute the peculiar quality of the art more than the tool used—indeed, it appears to be the principal cause of the modification of the implements in different handicrafts. The tools used to fashion, as well as the instruments and substances used to join the several materials operated upon in the manufactures and handicrafts, differ according as those materials are of different kinds. We do not, for instance, attempt to saw cloth into shape nor to cut bricks with shears; neither do we solder the soles to the upper leathers of our boots, nor nail together the seams of our shirts. And even in those crafts where the means of uniting the materials are similar, the artisan working upon one kind of substance is generally incapable of operating upon another. The tailor who stitches woollen materials together would make but a poor hand at sewing leather. The two substances are joined by the same means, but in a different manner, and with different instruments. So the turner, who has been accustomed to turn wood, is unable to fashion metals by the same method.

The most natural mode of grouping the artisans into classes would appear to be according as they pursue some mechanical or chemical occupation. The former are literally mechanics or handicraftsmen—the latter chemical manufacturers. The handicraftsmen consist of (1) The workers in silk, wool, cotton, flax, and hemp—as weavers, spinners, knitters, carpet-makers, lace-makers, rope-makers, canvas-weavers, &c. (2) The workers in skin, gut, and feathers—as tanners, curriers, furriers, feather dressers, &c. (3) The makers up of silken, woollen, cotton, linen, hempen, and leathern materials—as tailors, milliners, shirt-makers, sail-makers, hatters, glove-makers, saddlers, and the like. (4) The workers in wood, as the carpenters, the cabinet-makers, &c. (5) The workers in cane, osier, reed, rush, and straw—as basket-makers, straw-plait manufacturers, thatchers, and the like. (6) The workers in brick and stones—as bricklayers, masons, &c. (7) The workers in glass and earthenware—as potters, glass-blowers, glass-cutters, bottle-makers, glaziers, &c. (8) The workers in metals—as braziers, tinmen, plumbers, goldsmiths, pewterers, coppersmiths, iron-founders, blacksmiths, whitesmiths, anchor-smiths, locksmiths, &c. (9) The workers in paper—as the paper-makers, cardboard-makers. (10) The chemical manufacturers—as powder-makers, white-lead-makers, alkali and acid manufacturers, lucifer-match-makers, blacking-makers, ink-makers, soap-boilers, tallow-chandlers, &c. (11) The workers at the superlative or extrinsic arts—that is to say, those which have no manufactures of their own, but which are engaged in adding to the utility or beauty of others—as printing, bookbinding, painting, and decorating, gilding, burnishing, &c.

The circumstances which govern the classification of trades are totally different from those regulating the division of work. In trade the convenience of the purchaser is mainly studied, the sale of such articles being associated as are usually required together. Hence the master coachmaker is frequently a harness manufacturer as well, for the purchaser of the one commodity generally stands in need of the other. The painter and house-decorator not only follows the trade of the glazier, but of the plumber, too; because these arts are one and all connected with the “doing up” of houses. For the same reason the builder combines the business of the plasterer with that of the bricklayer, and not unfrequently that of the carpenter and joiner in addition. In all of these businesses, however, a distinct set of workmen are required, according as the materials operated upon are different.

We are now in a position to proceed with the arrangement of the several members of society into different classes, according to the principles of classification which have been here laid down. The difficulties of the task, however, should be continually borne in mind; for where so many have failed it cannot be expected that perfection can be arrived at by any one individual; and, slight as the labour of such a task may at the first glance appear to some, still the system here propounded has been the work and study of many months.



I. Enrichers, as the Collectors, Extractors, or Producers of Exchangeable Commodities.

II. Auxiliaries, as the Promoters of Production, or the Distributors of the Produce.

III. Benefactors, or those who confer some permanent benefit, as Educators and Curators engaged in promoting the physical, intellectual, or spiritual well-being of the people.

IV. Servitors, or those who render some temporary service, or pleasure, as Amusers, Protectors, and Servants.


V. Those who are provided for by some public Institution, as the Inmates of workhouses, prisons, hospitals, asylums, almshouses, dormitories, and refuges.

VI. Those who are unprovided for, and incapacitated for labour, either from want of power, from want of means, or from want of employment.


VII. Vagrants.

VIII. Professional Beggars.

IX. Cheats.

X. Thieves.

XI. Prostitutes.


XII. Those who derive their income from rent.

XIII. Those who derive their income from dividends.

XIV. Those who derive their income from yearly stipends.

XV. Those who derive their income from obsolete or nominal offices.

XVI. Those who derive their income from trades in which they do not appear.

XVII. Those who derive their income by favour from others.

XVIII. Those who derive their support from the head of the family.



I. Enrichers, or those engaged in the collection, extraction, or production of exchangeable commodities.

A. Collectors.

1. Fishermen.

2. Woodmen.

3. Sand and Clay-collectors.

4. Copperas, Cement-stones, and other finders.

B. Extractors.

1. Miners.

a. Coal.

b. Salt.

c. Iron, Lead, Tin, Copper, Zinc, Manganese.

2. Quarryers.

a. Slate.

b. Stone.

C. Growers.

1. Farmers.

a. Capitalist Farmers.

i. Yeomen, or Proprietary Farmers.

ii. Tenant Farmers.

b. Peasant Farmers.

i. Peasant Proprietors; as the Cumberland “Statesmen.”

ii. “Metayers,” or labourers paying the landlord a certain portion of the produce as rent for the use of the land.

iii. “Cottiers,” or labouring Tenant Farmers.

2. Graziers.

3. Gardeners, Nurserymen, Florists.

D. Makers or Artificers.

1. Mechanics.

a. Workers in Silk, Wool, Worsted, Hair, Cotton, Flax, Hemp, Coir.

b. Workers in Skin, Gut, and Feathers.

c. Workers in Woollen, Silken, Cotton, Linen, and Leathern Materials.

d. Workers in Wood, Ivory, Bone, Horn, and Shell.

e. Workers in Osier, Cane, Reed, Rush, and Straw.

f. Workers in Stone and Brick.

g. Workers in Glass and Earthenware.

h. Workers in Metal.

i. Workers in Paper.

2. Chemical Manufacturers.

a. Acid, Alkali, Alum, Copperas, Prussian-Blue, and other Manufacturers.

b. Gunpowder Manufacturers, Percussion-Cap, Cartridge, and Firework Makers.

c. Brimstone and Lucifer-match Manufacturers.

d. White-lead, Colour, Black-lead, Whiting, and Blue Manufacturers.

e. Oil and Turpentine Distillers, and Varnish Manufacturers.

f. Ink Manufacturers, Sealing-wax and Wafer Makers.

g. Blacking Manufacturers.

h. Soap Boilers and Grease Makers.

i. Starch Manufacturers.

j. Tallow and Wax Chandlers.

k. Artificial Manure Manufacturers.

l. Artificial Stone and Cement Manufacturers.

m. Asphalte and Tar Manufacturers.

n. Glue and Size Makers.

o. Polishing Paste, and Glass and Emery Paper Makers.

p. Lime, Coke, and Charcoal Burners.

q. Manufacturing Chemists and Drug Manufacturers.

r. Workers connected with Provisions, Luxuries, and Medicines.

i. Bakers, and Biscuit Makers.

ii. Brewers.

iii. Soda-water and Ginger-beer Manufacturers.

iv. Distillers and Rectifiers.

v. British Wine Manufacturers.

vi. Vinegar Manufacturers.

vii. Fish and Provision Curers.

viii. Preserved Meats and Preserved Fruit Preparers.

ix. Sauce and Pickle Manufacturers.

x. Mustard Makers.

xi. Isinglass Manufacturers.

xii. Sugar Bakers, Boilers, and Refiners.

xiii. Confectioners and Pastry-cooks.

xiv. Rice and Farinaceous Food Manufacturers.

xv. Chocolate, Cocoa, and other Manufacturers of Substitutes for Tea.

xvi. Cigar, Tobacco, and Snuff Manufacturers.

xvii. Quack, and other Medicine Manufacturers, as Pills, Powders, Syrups, Cordials, Embrocations, Ointments, Plaisters, &c.

3. Workers connected with the Superlative Arts, that is to say, with those arts which have no products of their own, and are engaged either in adding to the beauty or usefulness of the products of other arts, or in inventing or designing the work appertaining to them.

a. Printers.

b. Bookbinders.

c. Painters, Decorators, and Gilders.

d. Writers and Stencillers.

e. Dyers, Bleachers, Scourers, Calenderers, and Fullers.

f. Print Colourers.

g. Designers of Patterns.

h. Embroiderers (of Muslin, Silk, &c.), and Fancy Workers.

i. Desiccators, Anti-dry-rot Preservers, Waterproofers.

j. Burnishers, Polishers, Grinders, Japanners, and French Polishers.

k. Engravers, Chasers, Die-Sinkers, Embossers, Engine-Turners, and Glass-Cutters.

l. Artists, Sculptors, and Carvers of Wood, Coral, Jet, &c.

m. Modellers and Moulders.

n. Architects, Surveyors, and Civil Engineers.

o. Composers.

p. Authors, Editors, and Reporters.

⁂ Operatives are divisible, according to the mode in which they are paid, into—

1. Day-workers.

2. Piece-workers.

3. “Lump” or Contract-workers; as at the docks.

4. Perquisite-workers; as waiters, &c.

5. “Kind” or Truck-workers; as the farm servants in the North of England, Domestic Servants and Milliners, Ballast-heavers, and men paid at “Tommy-shops.”

6. Tenant-workers; or those who lodge with or reside in houses belonging to their employers. The Slop-working Tailors generally lodge with the “Sweaters,” and the “Hinds” of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland have houses found them by their employers. These “Hinds” have to keep a[15] “Bondager,” that is, a female in the house ready to answer the master’s call, and to work at stipulated wages.

7. Improvement-workers; or those who are considered to be remunerated for their work by the instruction they receive in doing it; as “improvers” and apprentices.

8. Tribute-workers, as the Cornish Miners, Whalers, and Weavers in some parts of Ireland, where a certain proportion of the proceeds of the work done belongs to the workmen.

The wages of “society-men” among operatives are settled by custom, the wages of “non-society-men” are settled by competition.

Operatives are also divisible, according to the places at which they work, into—

1. Domestic workers, or those who work at home.

2. Shop or Factory workers, or those who work on the employer’s premises.

3. Out-door workers, or those who work in the open air; as bricklayers, agricultural labourers, &c.

4. Jobbing-workers, or those who go out to work at private houses.

5. Rent-men, or those who pay rent for

a. A “seat” at some domestic worker’s rooms.

b. “Power,” as turners, and others, when requiring the use of a steam-engine. Some operatives have to pay rent for tools or “frames,” as the sawyers and “stockingers,” and some for gas when working on their employer’s premises.

Operatives are further divisible, according to those whom they employ to assist them, into—

1. Family workers, or those who avail themselves of the assistance of their wives and children, as the Spitalfields Weavers.

2. “Sweaters” and Piece-master workers, or those who employ other members of their trade at less wages than they themselves receive.

3. “Garret-master” workers, or those who avail themselves of the labour (chiefly) of apprentices.

Operatives are moreover divisible, according to those by whom they are employed, into—

1. “Flints” and “Dungs;” “Whites” and “Blacks,” according as they work for employers who pay or do not pay “society prices.”

2. Jobbing piece-workers, or those who work single-handed for the public (without the intervention of an “employer”) and are paid by the piece. These mostly do the work at their own homes, as cobblers, repairers, &c.

3. Jobbing day-workers, or those who work single-handed for the public (without the intervention of an “employer”) and are paid by the day. These mostly go out to work at persons’ houses and frequently have their food found them. Among the tailors and carpenters this practice is called “whipping the cat.”

4. “Co-operative men,” or those who work in “association” for their own profit, obtaining their work directly from the public, without the intervention of an “employer.”

Lastly, Operatives admit of being arranged into two distinct classes, viz., the superior, or higher-priced, and the inferior, or lower-priced.

The superior, or higher-priced, operatives consist of—

1. The skilful.
2. The trustworthy.
3. The well-conditioned.
The inferior, or lower-priced operatives, on the other hand, are composed of—

1. The unskilful; as the old or superannuated, the young (including apprentices and “improvers”), the slow, and the awkward.


2. The untrustworthy; as the drunken, the idle, and the dishonest. Some of the cheap workers, whose wages are minimized almost to starvation point, so that honesty becomes morally impossible, have to deposit a certain sum of money, or to procure two householders to act as security for the faithful return of the work given out to them.

3. The inexpensive, consisting of—

a. Those who can live upon less; as single men, foreigners, Irishmen, women, &c.

b. Those who derive their subsistence from other sources; as Wives, Children, Paupers, Prisoners, Inmates of Asylums, Prostitutes, and Amateurs (or those who work at a business merely for pocket-money).

c. Those who are in receipt of some pecuniary or other aid; as Pensioners, Allottees of land, and such as have out-door relief from the workhouse.

II. Auxiliaries, or those engaged in promoting the enrichment and distributing the riches of the community.

A. Promoters of Production.

1. Employers, or those who find the materials, implements, and appurtenances for the work, and pay the wages of the workmen.

a. Administrative Employers, or those who supply wholesale or retail dealers. These are subdivisible into—

i. Standard Employers, or those who work at the regular standard prices of the trade.

ii. “Cutting” Employers, or those who work at less than the regular prices of the trade; as Contractors, &c.

b. Executive Employers, or those who work directly for the public without the intervention of a wholesale or retail dealer; as Builders, &c.

c. Distributive Employers, or those who are both producers and retail traders.

i. Those who retail what they produce; as Tailors, Shoemakers, Bakers, Eating-house Keepers, Street Mechanics, &c.

ii. Those who retail other things (generally provisions), and compel or expect the men in their employ to deal with them for those articles, as the Truck-Masters and others.

iii. Those who retail the appurtenances of the trade to which they belong, and compel or expect the men in their employ to purchase such appurtenances of them; as trimmings in the tailors’ trade, thread among the seamstresses, and the like.

d. Middlemen Employers, or those who act between the employer and the employed, obtaining work from employers, and employing others to do it; as Sub-contractors, Sweaters, &c. These consist of—

i. Trade-working Employers, or those who make up goods for other employers in the trade.

ii. Garret-masters, or those who make up goods for the trade on the smallest amount of capital, and generally on speculation.

iii. Trading Operative Employers, or those who obtain work in considerable quantities, and employ others at reduced wages to assist them in it; as “Sweaters,” “Seconders,” &c. These are either—

α. Piece Masters; as those who take out a certain piece of work and employ others to help them at reduced wages.

β. “Lumper” Employers, or those who contract to do the work by the lump, which is usually paid for by the piece, and employ others at reduced wages in order to complete it.

⁂ Employers are known among operatives as “honourable” or “dishonourable,” according as the wages they pay are those, or less than those, of the Trade Society.

2. Superintendents, or those who look after the workmen on behalf of employers.


a. Managers.

b. Clerks of the Works.

c. Foremen.

d. Overlookers.

e. Tellers and Meters, or those who take note of the number and quantity of the articles delivered.

f. Provers, or those whose duty it is to examine the quality or weight of the articles delivered.

g. Timekeepers, or those who note the time of the operatives coming to and quitting labour.

h. Gatekeepers, or those who see that no goods are taken out.

i. Clerks, or those who keep accounts of all sales and purchases, incomings, and outgoings of the business.

j. Pay Clerks, or those who pay the workmen their wages.

3. Labourers.

a. Acting as motive powers.

i. Turning wheels, working pumps, blowing bellows.

ii. Wheeling, dragging, pulling, or hoisting loads.

iii. Shifting (scenes), or turning (corn).

iv. Carrying (bricks, as hodmen).

v. Driving (piles), ramming down (stones, as paviours).

vi. Pressing (as fruit, for juice; seeds, for oil).

b. Uniting or putting one thing to another.

i. Feeding (furnace), laying-on (as for printing machines).

ii. Filling (as “fillers-in” of sieves at dust-yards).

iii. Oiling (engines), greasing (railway wheels), pitching or tarring (vessels), pasting paper (for bags).

iv. Mixing (mortar), kneading (clay).

v. Tying up (plants and bunches of vegetables).

vi. Folding (printed sheets).

vii. Corking (bottles), or caulking (ships).

c. Separating one thing from another.

i. Sifting (cinders), screening (coals).

ii. Picking (fruit, hops, &c.), shelling (peas), peeling, barking, and threshing.

iii. Winnowing.

iv. Weeding and stoning.

v. Reaping and mowing.

vi. Felling, lopping, hewing, chopping (as fire-wood), cutting (as chaff), shearing (sheep).

vii. Sawing.

viii. Blasting.

ix. Breaking (stones), crushing (bones and ores), pounding (drugs).

x. Scouring (as sand from castings), scraping (ships).

d. Excavating, sinking, and embanking.

i. Tunnelling.

ii. Sinking foundations.

iii. Boring.

iv. Draining, trenching, ditching, and hedging.

v. Embanking.

vi. Road-making, cutting.

B. Distributors of Production.

1. Dealers, or those who are engaged in the buying and selling of commodities on their own account.

a. Merchants or Importers, and Exporters.

b. Wholesale Traders.

c. Retail Traders.

d. Contracting Purveyors, or those who supply goods by agreement.

e. Contractors for work or repairs; as Road Contractors, and others.


f. Contractors for privileges, as the right of Printing the Catalogue of the Great Exhibition, or selling refreshments at Railway Stations, &c.

g. Farmers of revenues from dues, tolls, &c.

h. Itinerants, or those who seek out the Customers, instead of the Customers seeking out them.

i. Hawkers, or those who cry their goods.

ii. Pedlars, or those who carry their goods round.

2. Agents, or those who are engaged in the buying or selling of commodities for others, as Land Agents, House and Estate Agents, Colonial and East India Agents, &c., &c.

a. Supercargoes.

b. Factors, or Consignees.

c. Brokers, Bill, Stock, Share, Ship, Sugar, Cotton, &c.

d. Commission Salesmen, or Unlicensed Brokers.

e. Buyers, or those who purchase materials or goods for Manufacturers, or Dealers.

f. Auctioneers, or those who sell goods on Commission to the highest bidder.

3. Lenders and Lettors-out, or those who receive a certain sum for the loan or use of a thing.

a. Lenders or Lettors-out of commodities, as—

i. Job-horses, carriages, chairs and seats in parks, gardens, &c.

ii. Plate, linen, furniture, piano-fortes, flowers, fancy dresses, Court suits, &c.

iii. Books, newspapers, prints, and music.

b. Lettors-out of tenements and storage room, as—

i. Houses.

ii. Lodgings.

iii. Warehouse-room for imports, &c., as at wharfs.

iv. Warehouse-room for furniture and other goods.

c. Lenders of money, as—

i. Mortgagees.

ii. Bankers.

iii. Bill-discounters.

iv. Loan offices with and without policies of assurance.

v. Building and investment societies.

vi. Pawnbrokers.

vii. Dolly shopmen.

⁂ The several modes of distributing goods or money are—

1. By private contract or agreement.

2. By a fixed or ticketed price.

3. By competition, as at Auctions.

4. By games of chance, as Lotteries (with the “Art Union”), Raffles (at Fancy Fairs), Tossing (with piemen and others), Prizes for skill (with throwing sticks, &c.), Betting, Racing, &c.

The places at which goods are distributed are—

1. Fairs, or annual gatherings of buyers and sellers.

2. Markets, or weekly gatherings of buyers and sellers.

3. Exchanges, or daily gatherings of merchants and agents.

4. Counting-houses, or the places of business of wholesale traders.

5. Shops, or the places of business of retail traders.

6. Bazaars, or congregations of shops.

4. Trade Assistants.

a. Shopmen and Warehousemen.

b. Shopwalkers.

c. Cashiers or Receivers.

d. Clerks.

e. Accountants.

f. Rent-Collectors.

g. Debt-collectors.


h. Travellers, Town as well as Commercial.

i. Touters.

j. Barkers (outside shops).

k. Bill deliverers.

l. Bill-stickers.

m. Boardmen.

n. Advertizing-van Men.

5. Carriers.

a. Those engaged in the external transit of the Kingdom.

i. Mercantile Sailing Vessels.

ii. Mercantile Steam Vessels.

b. Those engaged in the internal Transit of the Kingdom.

i. Those engaged in the coasting trade from port to port.

ii. Those engaged in carrying inland from town to town, as—

α. Those connected with land carriage; as railroad men, stage coachmen, mail coachmen, and mail cartmen, post boys, flymen, waggoners, country carriers, and drovers.

β. Those connected with water carriage; as navigable river and canal men, bargemen, towing men.

iii. Those engaged in carrying to and from different parts of the same town by land and water.

α. Passengers; as Omnibus-men, Cabmen, Glass and Job Coachmen, Fly Men, Excursion-van Men, Donkey-boys, Goat-carriage boys, Sedan and Bath Chair Men, Guides.

β. Goods; as Waggoners, Draymen, Carters, Spring-Van Men, Truckmen, Porters (ticketed and unticketed, and public and private men).

γ. Letters and Messages; as Messengers, Errand Boys, Telegraph Men, and Postmen.

δ. Goods and Passengers by water; as Bargemen, Lightermen, Hoymen, Watermen, River Steamboat Men.

c. Those engaged in the lading and unlading and the fitting of vessels, as well the packing of goods.

i. Dock and wharf labourers.

ii. Coal whippers.

iii. Lumpers, or dischargers of timber ships.

iv. Timber porters and rafters.

v. Corn porters.

vi. Ballast heavers.

vii. Stevedores, or stowers.

viii. Riggers.

ix. Packers and pressers.

III. Benefactors, or those who confer some permanent benefit by promoting the physical, intellectual, or spiritual well-being of others.

A. Educators.

1. Professors.

2. Tutors.

3. Governesses.

4. Schoolmasters.

5. Ushers.

6. Teachers of Languages.

7. Teachers of Sciences.

8. Lecturers.

9. Teachers of “Accomplishments”; as Music, Singing, Dancing, Drawing, Wax-Flower Modelling, &c.

10. Teachers of Exercises; as Gymnastics.

11. Teachers of Arts of Self-Defence; as Fencing, Boxing, &c.

12. Teachers of Trades and Professions.


B. Curators.

1. Corporeal.

a. Physicians.

b. Surgeons.

c. General Practitioners.

d. Homœopathists.

e. Hydropathists.

2. Spiritual.

a. Ministers of the Church of England.

b. Dissenting Ministers.

c. Catholic Ministers.

d. Missionaries.

e. Scripture Readers.

f. Sisters of Charity.

g. Visitants.

IV. Servitors, or those who render some temporary service or pleasure to others.

A. Amusers, or those who contribute to our entertainment.

1. Actors.

2. Reciters.

3. Improvisers.

4. Singers.

5. Musicians.

6. Dancers.

7. Riders, or Equestrian Performers.

8. Fencers and Pugilists.

9. Conjurers.

10. Posturers.

11. Equilibrists.

12. Tumblers.

13. Exhibitors or Showmen.

a. Of Curiosities.

b. Of Monstrosities.

B. Protectors, or those who contribute to our security against injury.

1. Legislative.

a. The Sovereign.

b. The Members of the House of Lords.

c. The Members of the House of Commons.

2. Judicial.

a. The Judges in Chancery, Queen’s Bench, Common Pleas, Exchequer, Ecclesiastical, Admiralty, and Criminal Courts.

b. Masters in Chancery, Commissioners of the Bankruptcy, Insolvent Debtors, Sheriffs, and County Courts, Magistrates, Justices of the Peace, Recorders, Coroners, Revising Barristers.

c. Barristers, Pleaders, Conveyancers, Attorneys, Proctors.

3. Administrative or Executive.

a. The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury; the Secretaries of State for Home, Foreign, and Colonial Affairs; the Chancellor and Comptroller of the Exchequer; the Privy Council, and the Privy Seal; the Board of Trade, the Board of Control, and the Board of Health; the Board of Inland Revenue, the Poor-Law Board, and the Board of Audit; the Commissioners of Woods and Forests; the Ministers and Officials in connection with the Army and Navy, the Post Office, and the Mint; the Inspectors of Prisons, Factories, Railways, Workhouses, Schools, and Lunatic Asylums; the Officers in connection with the Registration and Statistical Departments; and the other Functionaries appertaining to the Government at home.

b. The Ambassadors, Envoys Extraordinary, Ministers Plenipotentiary, Secretaries of Legation, Chargés d’Affaires, Consuls, and other Ministers and Functionaries appertaining to the Government abroad.

c. The Governors and Commanders of British Colonies and Settlements.

d. The Lord Lieutenants, Custodes Rotulorum, High and Deputy Sheriffs, High Bailiffs, High and Petty Constables, and other Functionaries of the Counties.

e. The Mayors, Aldermen, Common Councilmen, Chamberlains, Common Sergeants, Treasurers, Auditors, Assessors, Inspectors of Weights and Measures, and other Functionaries of the Cities or incorporated Towns.

f. The Churchwardens, the Commissioners of Sewers and Paving, the Select and Special Vestrymen, the Vestry Clerks, the Overseers or Guardians of the Poor, the Relieving Officers, the Masters of the Workhouses, the Beadles, and other Parochial Functionaries.

g. The Masters and Brethren of the Trinity Corporation, the Pier and Harbour Masters, Conservators of Rivers, and other Functionaries connected with Navigation, and the Trustees and Commissioners in connection with the Public Roads.

h. The Naval and Military Powers; as the Army, Navy, Marines, Militia, and Yeomanry.

i. The Civil Forces; as Policemen, Patrole, and Private Watchmen.

j. Sheriffs’ Officers, Bailiffs’ Followers, Sponging-house Keepers.

k. Governors of Prisons, Jailers, Turnkeys, Officers on board the Hulks and Transport Ships, Hangmen.

l. The Fiscal Forces; as the Coast Guard, Custom-house Officers, Excise Officers.

m. Collectors of Imposts; as Tax and Rate Collectors, Turnpike Men, Toll Collectors of Bridges and Markets, Collectors of Pier and Harbour dues, and Light, Buoy, and Beacon dues.

n. Guardians of special localities; as Rangers, and Park-keepers, Arcade-keepers, Street-keepers, Square-keepers, Bazaar-keepers, Gate and Lodge-keepers, Empty-house-keepers.

o. Conservators; as Curators of Museums, Librarians, Storekeepers, and others.

p. Protective Associations; as Insurance Companies against Loss by fire, shipwreck, storms, railway accidents, death of cattle, Life Assurance Societies, Provident or Benefit Clubs, Guarantee Societies, Trade Protection Societies, Fire Brigade and Fire-escape Men, Humane Society Men, and Officers of the Societies for the Suppression of Mendicity, Vice, and cruelty to Animals.

Servants, or those who contribute to our comfort or convenience by the performance of certain offices for us.

1. Private Servants, regularly engaged.

a. Stewards.

b. Farm Bailiffs.

c. Secretaries.

d. Amanuenses.

e. Companions.

f. Butlers.

g. Valets.

h. Footmen, Pages, and Hall Porters.

i. Coachmen, Grooms, “Tigers,” and Helpers at Stables.

j. Huntsmen and Whippers-in.

k. Kennelmen.

l. Gamekeepers.

m. Gardeners.

n. Housekeepers.

o. Ladies’ Maids.

p. Nursery Maids and Wet Nurses.

q. House Maids and Parlour Maids.

r. Cooks and Scullery Maids.

s. Dairy Maids.

t. Maids of all work.


2. Private Servants temporarily engaged.

a. Couriers.

b. Interpreters.

c. Monthly Nurses and Invalid Nurses.

d. Waiters at Parties.

e. Charwomen.

f. Knife, boot, window, and paint Cleaners, Pot scourers, Carpet beaters.

3. Public Servants.

a. Waiters at hotels and public gardens.

b. Masters of the Ceremonies.

c. Chamber-Maids.

d. Boots.

e. Ostlers.

f. Job Coachmen.

g. Post-boys.

h. Washerwomen.

i. Dustmen.

j. Sweeps.

k. Scavengers.

l. Nightmen.

m. Flushermen.

n. Turncocks.

o. Lamplighters.

p. Horse Holders.

q. Crossing Sweepers.


V. Those that are provided for by some Public Institution.

A. The Inmates of Workhouses.

B. The Inmates of Prisons.

1. Debtors.

2. Criminals (Some of these, however, are made to work by the authorities).

C. The Inmates of Hospitals.

1. The Sick.

2. The Insane; as Lunatics and Idiots.

3. Veterans; as Greenwich and Chelsea Hospital men.

4. The Deserted Young; as the Foundling Hospital children.

D. The Inmates of Asylums and Almshouses.

1. The Afflicted; as the Deaf, and Dumb, and Blind.

2. The Destitute Young; as Orphans.

3. The Decayed Members of the several Trades or Sects.

a. Trade and Provident Asylums and Almshouses.

b. Sectarian Asylums and Almshouses—as for aged Jews, Widows of Clergymen, &c.

E. The Inmates of the several Refuges and Dormitories for the Houseless and Destitute.

VI. Those who are Unprovided for.

A. Those who are incapacitated from Want of Power.

1. Owing to their Age.

a. The Old.

b. The Young.

2. Owing to some Bodily Ailment.

a. The Sick.

b. The Crippled.

c. The Maimed.


d. The Paralyzed.

e. The Blind.

3. Owing to some Mental Infirmity.

a. The Insane.

b. The Idiotic.

c. The Untaught, or those who have never been brought up to any industrial occupation; as Widows and those who have “seen better days.”

B. Those who are incapacitated from Want of Means.

1. Having no tools; as is often the case with distressed carpenters.

2. Having no clothes; as servants when long out of a situation.

3. Having no stock-money; as impoverished street-sellers.

4. Having no materials; as the “used-up” garret or chamber masters in the boot and shoe or cabinet-making trade.

5. Having no place wherein to work; as when those who pursue their calling at home are forced to become the inmates of a nightly lodging-house.

C. Those who are incapacitated from Want of Employment.

1. Owing to a glut or stagnation in business; as among the cotton-spinners, the iron-workers, the railway-navigators, and the like.

2. Owing to a change in fashion; as in the button-making trade.

3. Owing to the introduction of machinery; as among the sawyers, hand-loom weavers, pillow-lace makers, threshers, and others.

4. Owing to the advent of the slack season; as among the tailors and mantua-makers, and drawn-bonnet-makers.

5. Owing to the continuance of unfavourable weather.

a. From the prevalence of rain; as street-sellers, and others.

b. From the prevalence of easterly winds; as dock-labourers.

6. Owing to the approach of winter; as among the builders, brickmakers, market-gardeners, harvest-men.

7. Owing to the loss of character.

a. Culpably; from intemperate habits, or misconduct of some kind.

b. Accidentally; as when a servant’s late master goes abroad, and a written testimonial is objected to.


VII. Vagrants or Tramps.

Under this head is included all that multifarious tribe of “sturdy rogues,” who ramble across the country during the summer, sleeping at the “casual wards” of the workhouses, and who return to London in the winter to avail themselves of the gratuitous lodgings and food attainable at the several metropolitan refuges.

VIII. Professional Beggars and their Dependents.

A. Naval and Military Beggars.

1. Turnpike Sailors.

2. Spanish Legion Men, &c.

3. Veterans.

B. “Distressed-Operative” Beggars.

1. Pretended Starved-out Manufacturers, as the Nottingham “Driz” or Lace-Men.

2. Pretended Unemployed Agriculturists.

3. Pretended Frozen-out Gardeners.

4. Pretended Hand-loom Weavers, and others deprived of their living by Machinery.

C. “Respectable” Beggars.

1. Pretended Broken-down Tradesmen, or Decayed Gentlemen.

2. Pretended Distressed Ushers, unable to take situation for want of clothes.


3. “Clean-Family Beggars” with children in very white pinafores, their faces newly washed, and their hair carefully brushed.

4. Ashamed Beggars, or those who “stand pad with a fakement” (remain stationary, holding a written placard), and pretend to hide their faces.

D. “Disaster” Beggars.

1. Shipwrecked Mariners.

2. Blown-up Miners.

3. Burnt-out Tradesmen.

4. Lucifer Droppers.

E. Bodily Afflicted Beggars.

1. Having real or pretended sores, vulgarly known as the “scaldrum dodge.”

2. Having swollen legs.

3. Being crippled, deformed, maimed, or paralyzed.

4. Being blind.

5. Being subject to fits.

6. Being in a decline, and appearing with bandages round the head.

7. “Shallow coves,” or those who exhibit themselves in the streets half clad, especially in cold weather.

F. Famished Beggars.

1. Those who chalk on the pavement, “I am starving.”

2. Those who “stand pad” with a small piece of paper similarly inscribed.

G. Foreign Beggars.

1. Frenchmen who stop passengers in the street and request to know if they can speak French, previous to presenting a written statement of their distress.

2. Pretended Destitute Poles.

3. Hindoos and Negroes, who stand shivering by the kerb.

H. Petty Trading Beggars.

1. Tract sellers.

2. Sellers of lucifers, boot-laces, cabbage-nets, tapes, and cottons.

⁂ The several varieties of beggars admit of being sub-divided into—

a. Patterers, or those who beg on the “blob,” that is, by word of mouth.

b. Screevers, or those who beg by screeving, that is, by written documents, setting forth imaginary cases of distress, such documents being either—

i. “Slums” (letters).

ii. “Fakements” (petitions).

I. The Dependents of Beggars.

1. Screevers Proper, or the writers of slums and fakements for those who beg by screeving.

2. Referees, or those who give characters to professional beggars when a reference is required.

IX. Cheats and their Dependents.

A. Those who Cheat the Government.

1. Smugglers defrauding the Customs.

2. “Jiggers” defrauding the Excise by working illicit stills, and the like.

B. Those who Cheat the Public.

1. Swindlers, defrauding those of whom they buy.

2. “Duffers” and “horse-chaunters,” defrauding those to whom they sell.

3. “Charley-pitchers” and other low gamblers, defrauding those with whom they play.

4. “Bouncers and Besters” defrauding, by laying wagers, swaggering, or using threats.

5. “Flatcatchers,” defrauding by pretending to find some valuable article—as Fawney or Ring-Droppers.


6. Bubble-Men, defrauding by instituting pretended companies—as Sham Next-of-Kin-Societies, Assurance and Annuity Offices, Benefit Clubs, and the like.

7. Douceur-Men, defrauding by offering for a certain sum to confer some boon upon a person as—

a. To procure Government Situations for laymen, or benefices for clergymen.

b. To provide Servants with Places.

c. To teach some lucrative occupation.

d. To put persons in possession of some information “to their advantage.”

8. Deposit-Men, defrauding by obtaining a certain sum as security for future work or some promised place of trust.

C. The Dependents of Cheats are—

1. “Jollies,” and “Magsmen,” or accomplices of the “Bouncers and Besters.”

2. “Bonnets,” or accomplices of Gamblers.

3. Referees, or those who give false characters to swindlers and others.

X. Thieves and their Dependents.

A. Those who Plunder with Violence.

1. “Cracksmen”—as Housebreakers and Burglars.

2. “Rampsmen,” or Footpads.

3. “Bludgers,” or Stick-slingers, plundering in company with prostitutes.

B. Those who “Hocus,” or Plunder their Victims when Stupified.

1. “Drummers,” or those who render people insensible.

a. By handkerchiefs steeped in chloroform.

b. By drugs poured into liquor.

2. “Bug-hunters,” or those who go round to the public-houses and plunder drunken men.

C. Those who Plunder by Manual Dexterity, by Stealth, or by Breach of Trust.

1. “Mobsmen,” or those who plunder by manual dexterity—as the “light-fingered gentry.”

a. “Buzzers,” or those who abstract handkerchiefs and other articles from gentlemen’s pockets.

i. “Stook-buzzers,” those who steal handkerchiefs.

ii. “Tail-Buzzers,” those who dive into coat-pockets for sneezers (snuff-boxes,) skins and dummies (purses and pocket-books).

b. “Wires,” or those who pick ladies’ pockets.

c. “Prop-nailers,” those who steal pins and brooches.

d. “Thimble-screwers,” those who wrench watches from their guards.

e. “Shop-lifters,” or those who purloin goods from shops while examining articles.

2. “Sneaksmen,” or those who plunder by means of stealth.

a. Those who purloin goods, provisions, money, clothes, old metal, &c.

i. “Drag Sneaks,” or those who steal goods or luggage from carts and coaches.

ii. “Snoozers,” or those who sleep at railway hotels, and decamp with some passenger’s luggage or property in the morning.

iii. “Star-glazers,” or those who cut the panes out of shop-windows.

iv. “Till Friskers,” or those who empty tills of their contents during the absence of the shopmen.

v. “Sawney-Hunters,” or those who go purloining bacon from cheesemongers’ shop-doors.

vi. “Noisy-racket Men,” or those who steal china and glass from outside of china-shops.

vii. “Area Sneaks,” or those who steal from houses by going down the area steps.

viii. “Dead Lurkers,” or those who steal coats and umbrellas from passages at dusk, or on Sunday afternoons.

ix. “Snow Gatherers,” or those who steal clean clothes off the hedges.

x. “Skinners,” or those women who entice children and sailors to go with them and then strip them of their clothes.

xi. “Bluey-Hunters,” or those who purloin lead from the tops of houses.

xii. “Cat and Kitten Hunters,” or those who purloin pewter quart and pint pots from the top of area railings.

xiii. “Toshers,” or those who purloin copper from the ships along shore.

xiv. Mudlarks, or those who steal pieces of rope and lumps of coal from among the vessels at the river-side.

b. Those who steal animals.

i. Horse Stealers.

ii. Sheep, or “Woolly-bird,” Stealers.

iii. Deer Stealers.

iv. Dog Stealers.

v. Poachers, or Game Stealers.

vi. “Lady and Gentlemen Racket Men,” or those who steal cocks and hens.

vii. Cat Stealers, or those who make away with cats for the sake of their skins and bones.

c. Those who steal dead bodies—as the “Resurrectionists.”

3. Those who plunder by breach of trust.

a. Embezzlers, or those who rob their employers.

i. By receiving what is due to them, and never accounting for it.

ii. By obtaining goods in their employer’s name.

iii. By purloining money from the till, or goods from the premises.

b. Illegal Pawners.

i. Those who pledge work given out to them by employers.

ii. Those who pledge blankets, sheets, &c., from lodgings.

c. Dishonest servants, those who make away with the property of their masters.

d. Bill Stealers, or those who purloin bills of exchange entrusted to them, to get discounted.

e. Letter Stealers.

D. “Shoful Men,” or those who Plunder by Means of Counterfeits.

1. Coiners or fabricators of counterfeit money.

2. Forgers of bank notes.

3. Forgers of checks and acceptances.

4. Forgers of wills.

E. Dependents of Thieves.

1. “Fences,” or receivers of stolen goods.

2. “Smashers,” or utterers of base coin or forged notes.

XI. Prostitutes and their Dependents.

A. Professional Prostitutes.

1. Seclusives, or those who live in private houses or apartments.

a. Kept Mistresses.

b. “Prima Donnas,” or those who belong to the “first class,” and live in a superior style.

2. Convives, or those who live in the same house with a number of others.

a. Those who are independent of the mistress of the house.

b. Those who are subject to the mistress of a brothel.

i. “Board Lodgers,” or those who give a portion of what they receive to the mistress of the brothel, in return for their board and lodging.

ii. “Dress Lodgers,” or those who give either a portion or the whole of what they get to the mistress of the brothel in return for their board, lodging, and clothes.

3. Those who live in low lodging-houses.

4. Sailors’ and soldiers’ women.

5. Park women, or those who frequent the parks at night, and other retired places.


6. Thieves’ women, or those who entrap men into bye streets for the purpose of robbery.

7. The Dependents of Prostitutes:

a. “Bawds,” or Keepers of Brothels.

b. Followers of Dress Lodgers.

c. Keepers of Accommodation Houses.

d. Procuresses, Pimps, and Panders.

e. Fancy-Men.

f. Magsmen and Bullies.

B. Clandestine Prostitutes.

1. Female Operatives.

2. Maid Servants.

3. Ladies of Intrigue.

4. Keepers of Houses of Assignation.

C. Cohabitant Prostitutes.

1. Those whose paramours cannot afford to pay the marriage fees.

2. Those whose paramours do not believe in the sanctity of the ceremony.

3. Those who have married a relative forbidden by law.

4. Those whose paramours object to marry them for pecuniary or family reasons.

5. Those who would forfeit their income by marrying, as officers’ widows in receipt of pensions, and those who hold property only while unmarried.


XII. Those who derive their income from rent.

A. Landlords of Estates.

B. Landlords of Houses.

XIII. Those who derive their income from dividends.

A. Fundholders.

B. Shareholders.

1. In Mines.

2. In Canals.

3. In Railways.

4. In Public Companies.

XIV. Those who derive their income from yearly stipends.

A. Annuitants.

B. Pensioners.

XV. Those who hold obsolete or nominal offices.


XVI. Those who derive their incomes from trades in which they never appear.

A. Sleeping Partners.

B. Royalty Men.

XVII. Those who derive their incomes by favour from some other.

A. Protegés.

B. Dependents.

XVIII. Those who derive their support from the head of the family.

A. Wives.

B. Children.


The exposition of the several members of society being finished, I now come to treat of that inoperative moiety of it, which more especially concerns us here. The non-workers, we have seen, consist of three broadly marked and distinct orders, viz:—

The incapacitated, or compulsory non-workers.

The indisposed, or voluntary non-workers.

The independent, or privileged non-workers.

It would be of the highest possible importance, could we ascertain with any precision the number of people existing in this country, who do no manner of work for their support; and I was anxious to have concluded the preceding account of the several divisions of society, with an estimate of the numbers appertaining to each of the four great classes, as well as the incomes accruing to them. I found, however, on consulting the official documents with this view, that the government returns were in such an economical tangle—distributor being confounded with employer, and employer again jumbled up with the employed—that any attempt to unravel the twisted yarn would have cost an infinity of trouble, and have been almost worthless after all; and it was from a long experience as to the incompetency of the official returns to aid the social inquirer in solving the great economical problems concerning the production and distribution of wealth, that I was induced to suggest to Sir George Grey (to whom I had been indebted for much courtesy and valuable information, and who, from the commencement of my investigations, had shown a readiness to afford me every assistance), that, in the ensuing census, an attempt should be made to obtain some definite account of the numbers of employers and employed, and I am happy to say that, in conformity with my suggestion, the next “Abstract of the Occupations of the People,” will at least teach us the proportion between these two main elements of our social state; so that if the Distributors are but kept distinct from the Promoters and Producers of the wealth of the country, one important step towards a right understanding of the subject will assuredly have been made[10].

It should, however, be borne in mind, that, though the distribution, the promotion, and the production of the riches or exchangeable commodities of a country are usually distinct offices in every civilized nation, they are not invariably separate functions, even in our own. The exceptions to the economical rule with us appear to be as follows:—

1. Sometimes the producers themselves supply the materials, tools, shelter, and subsistence, that they require for their work, though this is usually done by some capitalist; and having finished the work, proceed themselves to find purchasers for it likewise (though this is generally the office of the distributor or dealer). Street artizans, or those who make the goods they sell in the streets, may be cited as instances of a class uniting in itself the three functions of producer, capitalist (supplying the materials, &c.), and distributor.

2. Sometimes the capitalist employer is also the distributor of the commodities, such being the case with bakers, tailors,[29] and the like, who themselves “purvey” what they employ others to produce.

3. Sometimes the craft does not admit of a distributor being attached to it; the employer himself undertaking to supply the wants of the public; this is the case with the building and decoration of houses.

4. Sometimes the work is done directly for the public, without the intervention of either a distributor or trading-employer; such is the case with the jobbing, day, or piece workers—among the seamstresses and journeymen tailors, for instance—who “make up ladies’ and gentlemen’s own materials,” either at home or at the houses of those for whom the work is done.

5. Sometimes the artificers or working men are their own capitalists; providing the materials, tools, shelter, and subsistence requisite for the work, as is the case with the garret and chamber-masters in the slop cabinet and shoe trades, and among the members of co-operative associations.

6. Sometimes the artificers are both employers and employed; being supplied with their materials and subsistence from a capitalist, and supplying them again to other artificers working under them; this is the case with sweaters, piece-working masters, first hands, and the like.

7. Sometimes the capitalist employer, on the other hand, is, or rather assumes to be, the proprietor of both the capital and labour; as is the case with the slave-owners, masters of serfs, bondmen, villeins, and the like; though this state of things, thank God, no longer exists in this country.

8. Sometimes the capitalist supplies all the requisites of production, excepting the subsistence of the artificer, who is remunerated by a certain share of the profits (if any); this is often the case with publishers and authors.

9. Sometimes the capitalist supplies only the materials and subsistence, but not the tools, of the artificers, and sometimes he compels them to pay him a rent for them out of their wages; as is the case with the employers of the sawyers and stockingers.

10. Sometimes the capitalist supplies the materials, tools, and subsistence of the artificers, but not the appliances of their work; and sometimes he compels them to purchase such appliances of him at an exorbitant profit; as the trimmings in the tailors’ trade, thread with the seamstresses, and the like.

11. Sometimes the capitalist supplies the materials, tools, subsistence, and shelter of the artificers, but not their gas-light, and compels them to pay a rent for the same out of their wages.

12. Sometimes the capitalist supplies the materials, tools, appliances, and subsistence, but not the shelter, necessary for the due performance of the work, the artificers, in such cases, doing the work at their own homes.

But all this concerns the workers more directly than the non-workers of society, and it is mentioned here merely with the view of completing the classification before given. Our more immediate business in this place lies with the inoperative, rather than the operative, members of the community. Nor is it with the entire body of these that we have to deal, but rather with that third order of the non-working class who are unwilling, though able, to work, as contradistinguished from those who are willing, but unable, to do so. The non-workers are a peculiar class, including orders diametrically opposed to each other: the very rich and the very poor, in the first place, and the honest and dishonest in the second. The dishonest members of society constitute those who are known more particularly as the criminal class. Hence to inquire into their means of living and mode of life, involves an investigation into the nature and the extent of crime in this country. Crime, sin, and vice are three terms used for the infraction of three different kinds of laws—social, religious, and moral. Crime is the transgression of some social law, even as sin is the transgression of some religious law, and vice the breach of some moral one. These laws, however, often differ only in emanating from different authorities; while infractions of them are merely offences against different powers. To thieve is to offend at once socially, religiously, and morally; for not only does the social, but the religious and moral law, each and all, enjoin that we should respect the property of others.

But there are other crimes or offences against the social powers, besides such as are committed by those who will not work. The crimes perpetrated by those who object to labour for their living, are habitual crimes; whereas those perpetrated by the other classes of society are accidental crimes, arising from the pressure of a variety of circumstances. Here, then, we have a most important fundamental distinction: all crimes, and consequently all criminals, are divisible into two different classes, the professional and the casual; that is to say, there are two distinct orders of people continually offending against the laws of society, viz., those who do so as a regular means of living, and those who do so from some[30] accidental cause. It is impossible to arrive at any accurate knowledge on the subject of crime generally, without making this first analysis of the several species of offences according to their causes; that is to say, arranging them into opposite groups or classes, according as they arise from an habitual indisposition to labour on the part of some of the offenders, or from the temporary pressure of circumstances upon others. The official returns, however, on this subject are as unphilosophic as the generality of such documents, and consist of a crude mass of undigested facts, being a statistical illustration of the “rudis indigestaque moles,” in connection with a criminal chaos.

At present the several crimes of the country are officially divided into four classes:—

I. Offences against persons; including murder, rape, bigamy, assaults, &c.

II. Offences against property.

A. With violence; including burglary, robbery, piracy, &c.

B. Without violence; including embezzlement, cattle-stealing, larceny, and fraud.

C. Malicious offences against property; including arson, incendiarism, maiming cattle, &c.

III. Forgery and offences against the currency; including the forging of wills, bank-notes, and coining, &c.

IV. Other offences; including high-treason, sedition, poaching, smuggling, working illicit stills, perjury, &c.

M. Guerry, the eminent French statist, adopts a far more philosophic arrangement, and divides the several crimes into—

I. Crimes against the State; as high treason, &c.

II. Crimes against personal safety; as murder, assault, &c.

III. Crimes against morals (with and without violence); as rape, bigamy, &c.

IV. Crimes against property (proceeding from cupidity or malice); as larceny, embezzlement, incendiarism, and the like.

The same fundamental error which renders the government classification comparatively worthless, deprives that of the French philosopher of all practical value. It gives us no knowledge of the character of the people committing the crimes; being merely a system of criminal mnemonics, as it were, or easy method of remembering the several varieties of offences. The classes in both systems are but so many mental pigeon-holes for the orderly arrangement and partitioning of the various infractions of the law; further than this they cannot help us.

Whatever other information the inquirer may want, he must obtain for himself; if he wish to learn from the crimes something as to their causes, as well as the nature of the criminals, he must begin de novo, and, using the official facts, but rejecting the official system of classification, proceed to arrange all the several offences into two classes, according as they are of a professional and casual character, committed by habitual or occasional offenders. Adopting this principle, it will be found that the non-professional crimes consist mainly of murder, assaults, incendiarism, ravishment, bigamy, embezzlement, high treason, and the like; for it is evident that none can make a trade or profession of the commission of these crimes, or resort to them as a regular means of living[11].

The professional crimes, on the other hand, will be generally found to include burglary, robbery, poaching, coining, smuggling, working of illicit stills, larceny from the person, simple larceny, &c., because each and every of these are regular crafts, requiring almost the same apprenticeship as any other mode of life. Burglary, coining, working illicit stills, and picking pockets, are all arts to which no man, without some previous training, can take. Hence to know whether the number of these dishonest handicrafts—for such they really are—be annually on the increase or not, is to solve a most important portion of the criminal problem; it is to ascertain whether crime pursued as a profession or business, is being augmented among us—to discover whether the criminal class, as a distinct portion of our people is, or is not, on the advance. The non-professional crimes will furnish us with equally curious results, showing a yearly impress of the character of the times; for being only occasional offences, of course the number of such offenders at different years will give us a knowledge of the intensity of the several occasions inducing the crimes in such years.

The accidental crimes, classified according to their causes, may be said to consist of—

I. Crimes of malice, exercised either against the person or the property of the object.


II. Crimes of lust and perverted appetites; as rape, &c.

III. Crimes of shame; as concealing the births of infants, attempts to procure miscarriage, and the like.

IV. Crimes of temptation, with, or without breach of trust.
V. Crimes of cupidity,
VI. Crimes of want,
VII. Crimes of political prejudices.

With the class of casual or accidental criminals, however, we are not at present concerned. Those who resort to crime as a means of support, when in a state of extreme want, for instance, cannot be said to belong to the voluntary non-workers, for many of these would willingly work to increase their sustenance, if that end were attainable by such means, but the poor shirt-workers, slop-tailors, and the like, have not the power of earning more than the barest subsistence by their labour, so that the pawning of the work entrusted to them by their employers, becomes an act to which they are immediately impelled for “dear life,” on the occurrence of the least illness or mishap among them. Such offenders, therefore, belong more properly to those who cannot work for their living, or rather, who cannot live by their working, and though they offend against the laws in the same manner as those that will not work, they cannot certainly be said to be of the same class.

The voluntary non-workers are a distinct body of people. In the introductory chapter to the first volume of the “Street-folk,” they have been shown to appertain to even the rudest nations, being as it were the human parasites of every civilized and barbarous community. The Hottentots have their “Sonquas,” and the Kafirs their “Fingoes,” as we have our “Prigs” and “Cadgers.” Those who will not work for the food they consume, appear to be part and parcel of a State—an essential element of the social fabric as much as those who cannot, or need not work for their living. Go where you will, to what corner of the earth you please, search out or propound what new-fangled or obsolete form of society you may, there will be some members of it more apathetic than the rest, who object to work—some more infirm than the rest, who are denied the power to work—and some more thrifty than the rest, who from their past savings have no necessity to work for the future. These several forms are but the necessary consequences of specific differences in the constitution of different beings. Circumstances may tend to give an unnatural development to either one or other of the classes; the criminal class, the pauper class, or the wealthy class, may be in excess in one form of society, as compared with another, or they may be repressed by certain social arrangements; nevertheless, to a greater or less degree, there they will and must ever be.

Since, then, there is an essentially distinct class of people who will not work for their living, and since work is a necessary condition of the human organism, the question becomes, How do such people live? There is but one answer:—If they do not labour to procure their own food, of course they must live on the food procured by the labour of others. But how do they obtain possession of the food belonging to others? There are but two means: it must either be given to them by, or be taken from, the industrious portion of the community. Consequently, the next point to be settled is, what are the means by which those who object to work get their food given to them, and what the means by which they are enabled to take it from others. Let us begin with the last mentioned.

The means by which the criminal classes obtain their living constitute the essential points of difference among them, and form indeed the methods of distinction among themselves. The “Rampsmen,” the “Drummers,” the “Mobsmen,” the “Sneaksmen,” and the “Shofulmen,”[12] which are the terms by which they themselves designate the several branches of the “profession,” are but so many expressions indicating the several modes of obtaining the property of which they become possessed.

The “Rampsman” or “Cracksman” plunders by force; as the burglar, footpad, &c.

The “Drummer” plunders by stupefaction; as the “hocusser.”

The “Mobsman” plunders by manual dexterity; as the pickpocket.

The “Sneaksman” plunders by stealth; as the petty-larceny men and boys.

The “Shofulman” plunders by counterfeits; as the coiner.

Now each and all of these are distinct species of the genus, having often little or no connection with the others. The “Cracksman,” or housebreaker, would no more think of associating with the “Sneaksman” than a barrister would dream of sitting down to dinner with an attorney; the perils braved by the housebreaker or the footpad make the cowardice of the sneaksman contemptible to him; and the one is distinguished by a[32] kind of bulldog insensibility to danger, while the other is marked by a low cat-like cunning. The “Mobsman,” on the other hand, is more of a handicraftsman than either, and is comparatively refined by the society he is obliged to keep. He usually dresses in the same elaborate style of fashion as a Jew on a Saturday (in which case he is more particularly described by the prefix “swell”), and “mixes” generally in the “best of company,” frequenting—for the purposes of his business—all the places of public entertainment, and often being a regular attendant at church and the more elegant chapels, especially during charity sermons. The Mobsman takes his name from the gregarious habits of the class to which he belongs, it being necessary, for the successful picking of pockets, that the work be done in small gangs or mobs, so as to “cover” the operator. Among the Sneaksmen, again, the purloiners of animals, such as the horse stealers, the sheep stealers, the deer stealers, and the poachers, all belong to a particular tribe (with the exception of the dog stealers)—they are agricultural thieves; whereas the others are generally of a more civic character. The Shofulmen, or coiners, moreover constitute a distinct species, and upon them, like the others, is impressed the stamp of the peculiar line of roguery they may chance to follow as a means of subsistence.

Such are the more salient features of that portion of the voluntary non-workers who live by taking what they want from others. The other moiety of the same class who live by getting what they want given to them, is equally peculiar. These consist of the “Flatcatchers,” the “Hunter” and “Charley[13] Pitchers,” the “Bouncers” and “Besters,” the “Cadgers,” the Vagrants, and the Prostitutes.

The “Flatcatchers” obtain what they want by false pretences; as swindlers, duffers, ring droppers, and cheats of all kinds.

The “Hunter” and “Charley Pitchers” obtain what they want by gaming; as thimblerig men, &c.

The “Bouncers” and “Besters” obtain what they want by betting, intimidating, or talking people out of their property.

The “Cadgers” obtain what they want by begging, and exciting false sympathy.

The Vagrants obtain what they want by declaring on the casual ward of the parish workhouse.

The Prostitutes obtain what they want by the performance of an immoral act.

Each of these, again, are unmistakeably distinguished from the rest. The “Flatcatchers” are generally remarkable for great shrewdness, especially in the knowledge of human character and ingenuity in designing and carrying out their several schemes. The “Charley Pitchers” appertain more to the conjuring or sleight-of-hand and blackleg class. The “Cadgers,” again, are to the class of cheats what the “Sneaksmen” are to the thieves, the lowest of all, being the least distinguished for those characteristics which mark the other members of the same body. As the “Sneaksmen” are the least daring and expert of all the thieves, so are the “Cadgers” the least intellectual and cunning of all the cheats. A “shallow cove,” that is to say, one who exhibits himself half naked in the streets as a means of obtaining his living, is looked upon as the most despicable of all, since the act requires neither courage, intellect, nor dexterity for the execution of it. The Vagrants, on the other hand, are the wanderers—the English Bedouins—those who, in their own words, “love to shake a free leg”—the thoughtless and the careless vagabonds of our race; while the Prostitutes, as a body, are the shameless among our women.

Such, then, are the characters of the voluntary non-workers, or professionally criminal class, the vagrants, beggars, cheats, thieves, and prostitutes—each order expressing some different mode of existence adopted by those who object to labour for their living. The vagrants, who love a roving life, exist principally by declaring on the parish funds for the time being; the beggars, as deficient in courage and intellect as in pride, prefer to live by soliciting alms of the public; the cheats, possessed of considerable cunning and ingenuity, choose rather to subsist by continual fraud and deception; the thieves, distinguished generally by a hardihood and comparative disregard of danger, find greater delight in risking their liberty by taking what they want, instead of waiting to have it given them; while the prostitutes, as deficient in shame as the beggars are in pride, prefer to live by using their charms for the vilest of purposes.

The exposition of the causes why the several species of voluntary non-workers object to labour for their living, I shall reserve for a future occasion; that they do object to work is patent in the fact that they might sustain themselves by their industry if they chose (for those who are unable to do so,[33] and are consequently driven to dishonesty, have been purposely removed from the class).

The number of individuals belonging to the professional criminal class, we are not yet in a position to ascertain; but few dependable facts have been collected on the subject, and even these have been obtained so many years back that, with the increase of population, they have become almost worthless, except in a historic point of view. Such as they are, however, it will be as well to add them to this introduction to the class of voluntary non-workers, as the best information at present existing upon the subject.

1. Persons who have no visible means of subsistence, and who are believed to live wholly by violation of the law, as by habitual depredation, by fraud, by prostitution, &c.

2. Persons following some ostensible and legal occupation, but who are known to have committed an offence, and are believed to augment their gains by habitual or occasional violation of the law.

3. Persons not known to have committed any offences, but known as associates of the above classes, and otherwise deemed to be suspicious characters.

Character and description of Offenders. Metropolitan Police District.
1st Class. 2nd Class. 3rd Class. Total all Classes.
Rampsmen[14] Burglars 77 22 8 107
Housebreakers 59 17 34 110
Highway robbers 19 8 11 38
—— 155 —— 47 —— 53 —— 255
Mobsmen Pickpockets 544 75 154 773
Sneaksmen Common thieves 1667 1338 652 3657
Animal stealers Horse stealers 7 4 11
Cattle stealers
Dog stealers 45 48 48 141
—— 52 —— 52 —— 152
Shofulmen [15]Forgers 3 3
[15]Coiners 25 1 2 28
Utterers of base coin 202 54 61 317
—— 227 —— 58 —— 63 —— 348
Flatcatchers [15]Obtainers of goods by false pretences 33 108 141
[15]Persons committing frauds of any other description 23 118 41 182
—— 56 —— 226 —— 323
Receivers of stolen goods 51 158 134 343
[15]Habitual disturbers of the public peace 723 1866 179 2768
Vagrants 1089 186 20 1295
Cadgers [15]Begging-letter writers 12 17 21 50
Bearers of begging-letters 22 40 24 86
—— 34 —— 57 —— 45 —— 136
Prostitutes [15]Prostitutes, well-dressed, living in brothels 813 62 20 895
[15]Prostitutes, well-dressed, walking the streets 1460 79 73 1612
Prostitutes, low, infesting low neighbourhoods 3533 147 184 3864
—— 5806 —— 288 —— 277 —— 6371
[15]Classes not before enumerated 40 2 438 470
Total 10,444 4353 2104 16,901

The estimate made for five of the principal provincial towns in the same year was as follows:—

District or Place. Number of Depredators, Offenders, and Suspected Persons. Average Length of Career. Proportion of known bad Characters to the Population.
1st Class. 2nd Class. 3rd Class. Total.
Metropolitan Police District 10,444 4353 2104 16,901 4 yrs. 1 in 89
Borough of Liverpool 3,580 916 215 4,711 …… 1 in 45
City and County of Bristol 1,935 1190 356 3,481 …… 1 in 31
City of Bath 284 470 847 1,601 …… 1 in 37
Town and County of Newcastle-on-Tyne 1,730 222 62 2,014 2¼ yrs. 1 in 27
Total 17,973 7151 3584 28,708
By the above table it will be seen that, in 1837, there were 28,708 persons of known bad character, infesting five of the principal towns in England: nearly 18,000 of the entire number had no visible means of subsistence, and were believed to live wholly by depredation; 7000 were believed to augment their gains by habitual or occasional violation of the law; and 3500 were known to be associates of the others, and otherwise deemed suspicious characters. According to the average proportion of these persons to the population, there would have been in the other large towns nearly 32,000 persons of a similar class, and upwards of 69,000 of such persons dispersed throughout the rest of the country. Adding these together, we have as many as 130,000 individuals of known bad character in England and Wales, without the walls of the prisons.

To form an accurate notion of the total number of the criminal population at the above period, we must add to the preceding amount the number of persons resident within the walls of the prisons. These, at the time of taking the last census, amounted to 19,888, which, added to the 130,000 above enumerated, gives within a fraction of 150,000 individuals for the entire criminal population of the country, as known to the police in 1837.

Let us now, for a moment, turn our attention to the number and cost of the honest and dishonest poor throughout England and Wales. Mr. Porter, usually no mean authority upon all matters of a statistical nature, tells us, in his “Progress of the Nation,” p. 530, that “the proportion of persons in the United Kingdom who pass their time without applying to any gainful occupation is quite inconsiderable! Of 5,800,000 males of 20 years and upwards living at the time of the census of 1831, there were said to be engaged in some calling or profession 5,450,000, thus leaving unemployed only 350,000, or rather less than six per cent.” “The number of unemployed adult males in Great Britain in 1841,” he afterwards informs us, “was only 274,000 and odd.”

But this statement gives us no accurate idea of the number of persons subsisting by charity or crime, for the author of the “Progress of the Nation,” strange to say, wholly excludes from his calculation the mass of individuals maintained by the several parishes, as well as the criminals, almspeople, and lunatics throughout the country! Now, according to the Report of the Poor-law Commissioners, the number of paupers receiving in and out-door relief, in 1848, was no less than 1,870,000 and odd. The number of criminals and suspicious characters throughout the country, in 1837, we have seen, was 150,000. In 1844 the number of lunatics in county asylums was 4000 and odd; while, according to the occupation abstract of the population returns there were in 1841 upwards of 5000 almspeople, 1000 beggars, and 21,000 pensioners. These, formed into one sum, give us no less than 2,000,000 of individuals living upon the income of the remainder of the population. By the above computation, therefore, we see that, out of a total of 16,000,000 souls, in England and Wales, one-eighth, or twelve per cent. of the whole, continue their existence either by pauperism, mendicancy, or crime.

Now, the cost of this immense mass of vice and want is even more appalling than the number of individuals subsisting in such utter degradation. The total amount[35] of money levied in 1848 for the relief of the poor throughout England and Wales, was 7,400,000l. But, exclusive of this amount, the magnitude of the sum that we give voluntarily towards the support and education of the poorer classes, is unparalleled in the history of any other nation, or of any other time. According to the summary of the returns annexed to the voluminous reports of the Charity Commissioners, the rent of the land and other fixed property, together with the interest of the money left for charitable purposes in England and Wales, amounts to 1,200,000l. a year; and it is believed that, by proper management, this return might be increased to an annual income of at least two millions of money. “And yet,” says Mr. MʻCulloch, “there can be no doubt that even this large sum falls far below the amount expended every year in voluntary donations to charitable establishments. Nor can any estimate be formed,” he adds, “of the money given in charity to individuals, but in the aggregate it cannot fail to amount to an immense sum.” All things considered, therefore, we cannot be very far from the truth, if we assume the sums voluntarily subscribed towards the relief of the poor to equal, in the aggregate, the total amount raised by assessment for the same purpose (the income from voluntary subscriptions to the metropolitan charities alone equals 1,000,000l. and odd); so that it would appear that the well-to-do amongst us expend the vast sum of 15,000,000l. per annum in mitigating the miseries of their less fortunate brethren.

But though it may be said that we give altogether 15,000,000l. a year to alleviate the distress of those who want or suffer, we must remember that this vast sum expresses not only the liberal extent of our sympathy, but likewise the fearful amount of want and suffering, on the one hand, and of excess and luxury on the other, that there must be in the land. If the poorer classes require fifteen millions to be added in charity every year to their aggregate income in order to relieve their pains and privations, and the richer can afford to have the same immense sum taken from theirs, and yet scarcely feel the loss, it shows at once how much the one class must have in excess and the other in deficiency. Whether such a state of things is a necessary evil connected with the distribution of wealth, this is not the place for me to argue. All I have to do here is to draw attention to the fact. It is for others to lay bare the cause, and, if possible, discover the remedy.

There still remains, however, to be added to the sum expended in voluntary or compulsory relief of the poor, the cost of our criminal and convict establishments at home and abroad. This, according to the Government estimates, amounts to very nearly 1,000,000l.; then there is the value of the property appropriated by the 150,000 habitual criminals, and this, at 10s. a week per head, amounts to very nearly 4,000,000l.; so that, adding these items to the sum before-mentioned, we have, in round numbers, the enormous amount of 20,000,000l. per annum as the cost of the paupers and criminals of this country; and, reckoning the national income, with Mr. MʻCulloch and others, at 350,000,000l., it follows that the country has to give upwards of five per cent. out of its gross earnings every year to support those who are either incapable or unwilling to obtain a living for themselves.

We have now seen that the two modes of obtaining a living other than by working for it are, by forcibly or stealthily appropriating the proceeds of another’s labour, or else by seducing the more industrious or thrifty to part with a portion of their gains. Prostitution, professionally resorted to, belongs to the latter class, and consists, when adopted as a means of subsistence without labour, in inducing others, by the performance of some immoral act, to render up a portion of their possessions. Literally construed, prostitution is the putting of anything to a vile use; in this sense perjury is a species of prostitution, being an unworthy use of the faculty of speech; so, again, bribery is a prostitution of the right of voting; while prostitution, specially so called, is the using of her charms by a woman for immoral purposes. This, of course, may be done either from mercenary or voluptuous motives; be the cause, however, what it may, the act remains the same, and consists in the base perversion of a woman’s charms—the surrendering of her virtue to criminal indulgence. Prostitution has been defined to be the illicit intercourse of the sexes; but illicit is unlicensed, and the mere sanctioning of an immoral act could not dignify it into a[36] moral one. Such a definition would make the criminality of the act to consist solely in the absence of the priest’s licence.

In Persia there are no professional prostitutes permitted; but though the priest’s sanction there precedes the surrendering of the woman’s virtue in every instance, still the same immoral perversion takes place—it being customary for couples to be wedded for a small sum by the priest in the evening, and divorced by him, for an equally small sum, in the morning. Here, then, we find the licensed intercourse assuming the same immoral cast as the unlicensed; for surely none will maintain that these nuptial ephemeræ are sanctified, because accompanied with a priestly licence. Nor can we, on the other hand, assert that the mere fact of continence in the association of the sexes, the persistence of the female to one male, or the continued endurance of an unsanctioned attachment, can ever be raised into anything purer than cohabitation, or the chastity of unchastity.

Prostitution, then, does not consist solely in promiscuous intercourse, for she who confines her favours to one may still be a prostitute; nor does it consist in illicit or unsanctioned intercourse, for, as we have seen, the intercourse may be sanctioned and still be prostitution to all intents and purposes. Nor can it be said to consist solely in the mercenary motives so often prompting to the commission of the act; for fornication is expressly that form of prostitution which is the result of illicit attachment.

In what, then, it may be asked, does prostitution consist? It consists, I answer, in what the word literally expresses—putting a woman’s charms to vile uses. The term whore has, strictly, the same signification as that of prostitute; though usually supposed to be from the Saxon verb hyrian, to hire, and, consequently, to mean a woman whose favours can be procured for a reward. But the Saxon substantive hure, is the same word as the first syllable of hor-cwen, which signifies literally a filthy quean, a har-lot. Now the term hor, in hor-cwen, is but another form of the Saxon adjective horig, filthy, dirty, the Latin equivalent of which is sor-didus; hence the substantive horines means filthiness, and horingas, adulterers (or filthy people), and hornung, adultery, fornication, whoredom (or filthy acts). Prostitution and whoredom, then, have both the same meaning, viz., perversion to vile or filthy uses; and consist in the surrendering of a woman’s virtue in a manner that excites our moral disgust. The offensiveness of the act of unchastity to the moral taste or sense constitutes the very essence of prostitution; and it is this moral offensiveness which often makes the licensed intercourse of the sexes, as in the marriage of a young girl to an old man, for the sake of his money, as much an act of prostitution as even the grossest libertinism.

The next question consequently becomes, what are the invariable antecedents which excite the moral disgust in every act of prostitution? or are there any such invariable antecedents characterizing each offensive perversion of a woman’s charms? Is the offensiveness a mere matter of taste, differing according as the moral palates of the individuals or races may differ one from the other, and ultimately referable to some peculiar form of organization, convention, fashion, or geography? or is it a part of the inherent constitution of things?—in a word, is there an abstract chastity and unchastity; an erotic τὸ καλὸν and τὸ κακὸν; an universal standard of moral beauty and ugliness in woman—that, go where you will, is the same to all natures and in all countries? or is the vice of one set of people the virtue of another, as this race admires white teeth and that black?

This is a matter lying, as it were, across the very threshold of the subject, and which must necessarily, according as one or other view be taken, give a wholly different cast, not only to all our thoughts in connection with the evil, but to all our plans for the remedy of it. If prostitution be loathsome to us, merely because it is the moral fashion of our people that it should be so, then by popularizing new forms of thought and feeling among us may we remove all opprobrium from the act, and so put an end to all the moral evil in connection with it; but if it be naturally and innately offensive to every healthy mind, then can it be remedied solely by improving the tone of the thoughts and feelings of the depraved, and restoring the lost moral sense, as well as directing the perverted taste to more wholesome and beautiful objects.

To solve this part of the problem, then, it will be necessary that we should take as comprehensive a view of the subject as possible, collecting a large and multifarious body of facts, and examining the matter from almost every conceivable point of view. It will be necessary that we should regard it by the light of the early ages of society—that we should contemplate it[37] amid all the primitive rudeness of barbaric life—and ultimately that we should study it under the many varied phases that it assumes in civilized communities.

For the better performance of this task I have availed myself of the services and assistance of my friend, Mr. Horace St. John, whom I shall now leave to lay before the reader the many curious and interesting facts which he has collected at my request in connection with the ancient and foreign part of the subject, after which I shall return to the consideration of that branch of the general inquiry connected more immediately with the prostitution of this country.

Of Prostitution in Ancient States: General View.
In the following inquiry, though the chief object will be to ascertain the extent and character of the prostitute class of women, it will be necessary to indicate generally the condition of the sex in various ages, and among different nations. This will afford a comparative view of the subject. It is impossible to form a judgment on the condition of this class, and its influence on society, without learning in what degree of estimation morality is viewed by a people; what position in the social scale is occupied by their women; at what price chastity is held; and what are the relative stations of the sexes. To afford a correct idea of this, in plain, popular language, is the task to which we now apply ourselves; and we commence with the ancient states whose institutions have, in a greater or less degree, influenced those of all others, in every later age. It is necessary to maintain a distinction between those countries where marriage was an institution, and those—if they are not quite fabulous—at least savage communities where the intercourse of men with women is looser than that of beasts.

Far as we can trace the history of society we discover no state without the blemish of prostitution. In some it was more, in others less prevalent; but in all it existed in one form or another. In examining the manners of the ancient nations, Hebrews, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Anglo Saxons, we find women who degraded themselves from vanity, lust, or for gain; and, among the old communities of the East, less known to us, public immorality was a characteristic. We shall show this to have been the case, and, basing our statements on the most creditable authority, indicate the principal features of each system. The information, it is true, which has been bequeathed to us, and elucidated by the learning and diligence of numerous scholars, is far from complete; but enough may be collected among the antiquities of Israel, Greece, Rome, and Egypt, to establish a fair opinion. The general design of this inquiry will be to draw a view of the position occupied by the female sex in different ages and countries, to measure the estimation in which it was held, to fix the accepted standard of morality, to ascertain the recognised significance of the marriage contract, the laws relating to polygamy and concubinage, the value at which feminine virtue and modesty were held, and thus to consider the prostitute in relation to the system of which she formed a part. She will be the particular object of investigation; but the others are by no means unimportant. They are, indeed, necessary to a just and comprehensive view of the question before us. In a society where men lived in brutal promiscuousness with the women, prostitution could scarcely exist; where chastity was lightly esteemed, and marriage held to be a loose contract for social purposes, adultery could hardly be very full of shame. In this, therefore, as in all other inquiries, it is necessary to view the actual object in relation to others which are invariably connected with it. There is no universal, unvarying standard, by which even prostitution can be measured. Circumstances, not belonging, yet not entirely foreign to it, are to be considered. Consequently, while we hold that in view as the main ground of research, we shall, where materials allow, draw a sketch of the situation occupied by the female sex, and of the other traits of civilization to which we have referred.

In a general view, Greece and Rome, with the great city of Babylon, stand most prominently forward with their system of prostitution. Closer inquiry, however, induces us to hesitate before assigning them that distinction. Of the two classical states especially, it is because our information is more immediate and complete, that their public immorality is more remarkable. The poets of the earlier, and the historians of the later, period, have transmitted to us numerous accounts of the manners and customs of Greece and Rome; their painters have left us views,—their architects and sculptors, monuments of their civilization. Their moralists and satirists have enlarged on the prevalent vices, and from all these sources we are enabled to derive clearer ideas of their women, and especially their prostitution. Besides, in a polished state, with pure manners the prostitute class will[38] always be more distinct, and therefore more conspicuous.

Babylon, far more than a thousand years ago, was a proverb of immorality. Her name and the name of Whore have been associated ideas, not on account only of the idolatry practised by her people, but on account of their licentious manners. Concerning Egypt, though Diodorus and Herodotus wrote of it, little is known; of the marriage ceremony absolutely nothing. The prostitutes are not described; but, from every trace and record of their civilization which has been preserved, it is evident that a large class addicted itself to this calling. Who were the public musicians, disreputable in the eyes of all other persons?—who were the dancers who performed their wanton feats at the entertainments of the rich, and stripped themselves half, or entirely, naked before their couches?—who were the drunken women, who bared their bodies, and capered in that state on the Nile boats, during the festival of Bubastis?—who were they who assisted at the sacerdotal orgies, which defiled the temples of ancient Egypt?—who could they have been, but women of abandoned character, who prostituted themselves for vile purposes, for gain or pleasure?

Among the Jews, again, the continually reiterated allusions to harlots, in the Scriptures, the abominations perpetually charged to their account, the threats pronounced upon their wickedness, the frequent allusions to their licentious manners, indicate a wide prevalence of this system. Among a people so commonly guilty of nameless crimes, we cannot expect to find chastity a peculiar virtue. Indeed, it is seldom such vices are practised until all the inferior offences against decency have become insipid through satiety. The writers, therefore, who parade before us the civilization of the Jews, as an example of public morality, base their conclusions on a strange interpretation of facts. To contrast them with the manners of Attic Greece, is a pure satire on common sense. Sparta was licentious, but not in the low and gross manner of the Jews. Athens harboured a licentious class; but none like those bestial voluptuaries among the Hebrews, in whom lust became a loathsome passion. Although, therefore, the actual manners of ancient Israel have been less vividly described than those of Greece, it is evident from the tenour of Scripture history, that morality there was less pure than in the Attic state.

Rome, under the republic, was, perhaps, still farther removed from the charge of corruption. Prostitutes it had, and brothels; but its women were generally virtuous. The chastity of the Roman matron has passed into a proverb. It was, however, if we may credit the historian Tacitus, exceeded by the modesty of the women in ancient Germany. Among them morals appear purged of licentiousness. Polygamy was forbidden, and practised only by the petty kings who set themselves above the law. The manners of the people, rather than the enactments of their code, prohibited divorce. Adultery, rare as it was, ranked as an inexpiable crime; while seduction was condemned, and prostitution unknown. It was not, however, the severity of the law which enforced the virtue; it was the virtue that imparted its spirit to the law. From the morals of ancient Germany, the lawgivers of society might learn many useful lessons. Bars and bolts, multiplied walls, troops of eunuchs, jealous lattices, and the dread of punishment, failed to guard the harems of the East; while the hut of the German barbarian, open on all sides, was impregnable against the seducer. The poor toy of the Persian’s seraglio, protected by a hundred devices, often eluded them all; but the German women were the guardians of their own honour. They may be described as possessing all the virtues, without the vices, of the stern Spartan stock; and, living on terms of equality with the men, held their virtue at too dear a price to prostitute it for admiration, or lust, or money. Civilization, in this respect, has done the Germans a very ill office.

Allied to these fierce wanderers in the Hyrcynian wood were the Saxons, from whom our ancestors descended. We shall find among them, on their native soil, similar manners, especially in the circumstance of the adulteress being whipped without mercy through the village. Among them prevailed, however, an enlightened reverence for the female sex, which contrasted strongly with the ideas of many surrounding nations, who looked on a woman as a creature merely dedicated to the service and gratification of man. They brought over to England institutions susceptible of being moulded to a different form. They became more refined and less moral. Whenever, indeed, rude men, who have not given themselves up to the indulgence of their low physical appetites, turn from the chase, from war, and similar rough occupations, to the framing of laws, to the formation of society, to any intellectual exercise, it appears natural that other propensities should be awakened in them, and of these the sensual always form a part. It is, consequently, interesting to[39] study the progress of manners from stage to stage of civilization, from the rudest tribe to the most refined community.

We shall occupy ourselves first with the Hebrew republic, and then with the monarchy which succeeded it. From Israel we proceed to Egypt, related to it in various ways. Thence our attention will be directed to Greece, which offered models to the statesmen and public economists of all time. The contrast between the Ionic and the Doric states will be presented. Then we shall proceed to Rome, which will lead us to the Anglo-Saxons, others being incidentally noticed by the way.

In all, as far as our limits and our materials will allow, a sketch of the condition of women, the national ideas of feminine virtue, the laws of marriage, and the extent of prostitution, will be given; and thus the reader will be prepared to enter on the wider field of modern society abroad. This will be divided into the barbarous and the civilized; and of the barbarous, the hunters, fishers, shepherds, and tillers of the soil, may be separately noticed.

The account of every ancient people will not be equally complete, because the sources of information are not so. Thus of Egypt, its marriage-customs are wholly unknown; of the Anglo-Saxons, although the learning and industry of Sharon Turner have been employed upon them, our knowledge is extremely imperfect. Even Rome and Greece, though they present us with the general features of their social systems, disappoint us when we search into details. Nevertheless, the reader may be enabled, as we have before said, to form a just idea of the condition of women in antiquity; for the researches of modern scholars have succeeded, at least, in laying bare the principal roots of the ancient system, upon which all the institutions of existing society are, in one form or another, established.

Of Prostitution among the Jews and other Ancient Nations.
A slight and rapid view of the subject in connection with the Jews, and more obscure nations of antiquity, is all that can here be attempted. With reference to the republic of the Hebrew race, though the ingenuity of modern writers has built up very pleasing theories, described as the manners and customs of the Jews, we can look nowhere for information except to the Bible, and, in a later age, to Josephus.

The position of woman among the Jews was by no means exalted. She was seldom consulted by her friends, when an union with her was desired by a wealthy suitor. Indeed, in the patriarchal times she was regarded more as her husband’s property than as his companion. Such must invariably be the case where polygamy and concubinage are institutions of society. At a still earlier period the customs of society were even more at variance with our ideas. Of course the sons of Adam must have married their sisters, and the practice continued after the necessity for it had ceased. Abraham formed such an union without exciting surprise. The patriarchs permitted men to wed two sisters at once, but the law of Moses brought a reform of marriage customs among the Jews[16]. They discontinued the intercourse between blood-relatives long before it was abandoned by the surrounding nations. Marriages with sisters not by the same mother were forbidden in the Mosaic code. Previously, however, none were unlawful except those of a man with his mother, or mother-in-law, or full sister. In the new dispensation the widow of a deceased brother was placed within the prohibited degree of consanguinity.

The laws against adultery were severe; death was ordained for both the guilty persons, and the punishment appears always to have been by stoning. Many victims, doubtless, perished under this cruel code; but the example of Jesus Christ gave a new lesson to mankind. The woman was brought before him, and the Jews claimed her condemnation. They asked him “should she be stoned.” Had he said no, they might have charged him with favouring adultery, and denying the Mosaic law; had he said yes, the Romans might have impeached him, for they had assumed the distribution of justice, and abolished the punishment of death for adultery. But he evaded their malice, and gave the law of mercy. “Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone.” They all went out, and when he was alone with her he said, “Hath no man condemned thee?” She answered, “No man, Lord.” And he again said, “Neither do I condemn thee—go, and sin no more.”

That sentence should ever be in remembrance when we frame our moral code.


Adultery, however, was a crime only to be committed with a married woman, or one who was betrothed. The man’s marriage placed him under no obligation to abstain from intercourse with other than his wife. Wives to the number of four were allowed, while concubinage was unlimited. The first wife, however, was superior to the others. Jealousy, therefore, among the Jewish women could not have been a powerful feeling. Indeed we find strong proofs to the contrary. When Sarah found herself barren, she gave Hagar, her Egyptian maid, to Abraham, as a concubine or inferior wife. Other women, frequently, on discovering themselves to be sterile, begged their husbands to procure another companion of the bed, that they might not die childless. Similar instances are common in the social history of the East.

Marriage with an idolater was forbidden; but a man might marry a proselyte captive. When he saw a beautiful woman among his prisoners of war, he was to take her home, shave her head, pare her nails, change her raiment into that of a free person, and as he had humbled her, was forbidden to make merchandise of her again. The possession, nevertheless, of two wives by a private individual was a rare thing. Popular feeling was generally averse to it. The personages who most commonly practised it were the great men and kings, who were most expressly prohibited. In the Book of Deuteronomy, when the degraded Israelites had clamoured for a king, the law was given, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, so that his heart turn not away.” No command was more frequently broken in the palaces of Israel. David had an immense harem; it seemed to be reckoned among the regalia. Solomon, who married Pharaoh’s daughter, had seven hundred wives—princesses—and three hundred concubines; but we find that he “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and that “his heart was turned away.”

Respecting the children born to these parents there was a change in the law. In Genesis a man was allowed to transfer the inheritance to a favourite child; but, probably from the many flagitious actions committed, it was in Deuteronomy ordained, that if a man had two wives, of whom he hated one and loved the other—each bearing a child, the first-born, whether of the loved or the hated woman, should enjoy the right of inheritance.

From all the passages in Scripture referring to this subject, it appears that women among the Jews held but an indifferent position, being made the subject of barter, and that marriage was not a sacred but a civil institution,—a legal bond, which might be broken by a legal act. Matches were usually made by the woman’s kindred, she herself being a secondary actor in the transaction.

Throughout the Bible, notwithstanding, we find women held by the inspired writers in great respect, their treatment by the rebellious Jews, as they sank through various degrees of corruption, being continually set forth among the abominations practised by that flagitious people.

In the Scriptures we discover innumerable references to women, and to prostitutes in particular; but, collecting and comparing them all, we find for our present purpose materials by no means abundant: there is no exact information. Prostitutes, we know, existed, and we are told in what estimation they were held; that they stood at the corners of streets, that they practised many seductive arts, and sold themselves at a very cheap rate: but how many they were, how they lived, what was the nature of their places of resort, we are left uninformed, or guided only by obscure allusions. Nevertheless, sufficient is known upon which to base a view of the condition of women, and the extent of morality among the most ancient nation recognised in history.

In the book of Genesis, whence we obtain our first glimpses of the social history of mankind, we find interesting, though imperfect, sketches of a curious state of society. We meet, even so early as this, with a woman wearing a veil, not taking her meals in company with men, living in separate apartments, and presenting a model of the system still prevalent in the East. Simplicity and luxury in strange combination characterized the manners of that remote age. Their morals appear to have been at all times gross; and one of the principal tasks of legislation was to restrain the licentiousness to which the people were so prone to abandon themselves. Many barbarous races present at this day social institutions similar to those of the Jews, whence many writers have traced them to that stock. It is more probable, however, that similar manners grow out of a similar condition.

Several writers, we know, contend for the purity of manners among the Jews, and point to the rigid laws which ruled them. The social history of mankind, however, if it proves anything, proves this, that it is not by any means the nation with the severest code which is the most[41] virtuous. Examples of the contrary might be multiplied. No state, savage or civilized, could ever have more rigorous laws than Achin and Japan, and nowhere have the people been more flagitious. While the Draconic code was in force, morals in Greece went to rot. Consequently, if we are to consider the Jews to have been a moral people, it must certainly not be on the ground of their severe laws. Arguing from that, a contrary inference should be drawn. The direct evidence, however, tends the other way. Chastity appears to have been by no means a favourite virtue. Not to allude to the unnatural abominations mentioned in the Bible, it is certain that there existed a considerable class of public women, who prostituted themselves to any one for a certain reward.

The story of Tamar is a curious illustration of this subject. To impose on Judah, and bear a child by him, and in spite of him, she assumes the habit and appearance of a regular prostitute. She then goes out, and sitting down by the highway covers her face. Judah thought her to be a harlot, “because she covered her face,” which, as the commentators tell us, it was the custom for such women to do, as among the same class of females in Persia, in mimicry of a shame they did not feel. Judah speaks to her, and says, “Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee.” She answers, “What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me!” He promises to give her a kid from his flock, but she demands a pledge; this he gave, and went with her.

The circumstance is related in a manner which seems to show that the practice was common with men, nor does any particular disgrace appear to attach to it. When, however, Judah learns that his daughter-in-law Tamar is “with child by whoredom,” he condemns her to the punishment of death by burning, on the secret being at length revealed to him[17]. We have here a singular illustration of manners among the primitive tribes of that great family of mankind. The corruption of manners reached, it is probable, a high degree before the laws were given.

Where concubinage was practised, feminine virtue could not be held as a precious possession. The intercourse accordingly of a married man with an unmarried woman was esteemed simply as a proof of deficient chastity. At the same time, the encouragement of prostitution, or “the feeding of whores,” is denounced as the conduct of foolish and profligate men, who unwisely waste their substance. The[42] class of prostitutes was held in very low esteem; they were, in general, foreigners and heathens, and are spoken of usually as “strange women.” Delilah, who beguiled Sampson, was probably a Philistine, though it is not certain that she was not an Israelite. At any rate, there appear to have been many Jewish women, of the lowest order, who followed this degrading occupation. To render them as few as possible, a law was passed forbidding men, under severe penalties, from bringing up their daughters to prostitution for gain. Legislation, however, could not entirely restrain the vicious from such a course of life.

Apparently the prostitutes, among the Jews, sometimes obtained husbands. Priests, however, were forbidden on any account to marry a harlot, or indeed any woman with even a breath of imputation on her fame. For the daughter of a priest, who took to the calling of a prostitute, the punishment was death by burning. For any woman it was infamous, but in spite of what was laid down in the law, or by the public opinion of the Jews, cities never wanted prostitutes, and women walked the streets, or stood in groups at the corners, ready to entrap the young men who came forth in quest of pleasure. Among the exhortations of parents to their sons, and of patriarchs to youth, we always find an injunction to beware of strange women, which implies a considerable prevalence of the system. The readers of the Bible will at once remember the many passages of this kind contained in that volume[18].

With respect to prostitution among the Jews, an illustration is afforded by the story of the two mothers who came before Solomon for judgment. They were harlots, though bearing children, and they said they dwelt in one house, and “there was no stranger with us in the house.” Another is afforded by the account of the two men whom Joshua sent out as spies. They came into a harlot’s house at Rabbah—a brothel, in fact, where, as at Rome in the Imperial age, the woman sat impudently, without a veil, at the door, and solicited the passers by. They wore peculiar clothing. In addition to the vile customs of the East, we find, “Thou shalt not bring into the temple the price of a whore.” This was to guard against the introduction of a practice not uncommon among some ancient and modern nations, of the priests enriching themselves and their temple by hiring out prostitutes[19].

Another state, known to us from Scripture, is Babylon, surnamed the Whore, as well from its profligacy as its idolatry. The one, indeed, was accompanied by the other. Luxury and debauch were carried to the highest excess. The Temple of Venus,—a goddess known there as Mylitta,—was sacred to prostitution. The priests had, in immemorial time, invented a law that every woman should once in her life present herself at the temple, and prostitute her body to any stranger who might desire it. Consecrated by religion, this act appeared odious to few of the Babylonian citizens. The woman came, dressed brilliantly, and crowned with a garland of flowers; she sat down with her companions in a place where the strangers who filled the galleries might observe and make choice of their victims. Numbers were found always ready enough to enjoy the privilege procured for them by the priests. When a man had selected one of the women who pleased him most, he came down, and making her a present of money, which she was compelled to take, took her hand and said, “I implore in thy favour the goddess Mylitta!” He then led her to a retired spot and consummated the transaction. Having once entered the temple it was impossible for any ordinary woman to return home without having prostituted herself. Nevertheless, the priests allowed some ladies of rank and wealth to make a bargain for their chastity, which they probably desired to dispose of more agreeably to their own caprice. These few privileged persons went through the ceremonies without performing the usual act of prostitution. At the taking of Babylon by Cyrus, men were found ready to hire out their daughters and prostitute them for profit, while in the Alexandrian age men sent their wives to strangers for a sum of money[20].

Throughout the countries of the East, upon the history of which at that early period any light has been thrown, we discover the prevalence of similar customs. The most celebrated appear the most licentious, but probably only because they have[43] been the most strictly investigated. The wealthy and luxurious capitals, in which the spoils of great conquests were piled up, never failed to supply a sufficient number of abandoned women, supported by the looser sort of men, in various degrees of position, from penury to splendour. Though circumstances of time and place, of religion and civilization, imparted peculiar characteristics to the prostitute class of each age and country, the general features of the system were invariably the same, and the prostitutes of Babylon resembled very much the prostitutes of New Orleans and London. We turn next to ancient Egypt, a country of whose laws and manners we have had interesting, if not complete, accounts bequeathed us.

Of Prostitution in Ancient Egypt.
Turning to ancient Egypt, we find, in the records of that singular people, little directly bearing on the question before us. Herodotus, and Diodorus the Sicilian, are almost the sole lights which guide us in our researches among them. Recently, the labours of a learned antiquarian have tended to increase our acquaintance with the people of old Egypt, by translating into language the volumes of information engraved or painted on the walls of tombs, temples, palaces, and monuments, so numerous in the cities on the banks of the Nile. We have thus had broad glimpses of the ancient history, the geography, population, government, the arts, the industry, and the manners of that country at that period; but the extent of the prostitute system has not been touched upon. Nevertheless, as one of the most ancient civilizations known to history, Egyptian society deserves some attention, and it is worth while to glance at the general condition of its women, especially as a few facts throw light on the especial point of our inquiry.

The position of a woman in ancient Egypt was in some respects remarkable. Entire mistress of the household, she exercised considerable influence over her husband, and was not subjected to any intolerable tyranny. In all countries, however, where concubinage is allowed, the condition of the sex must be in a degree degraded. Herodotus tells us that the Egyptians married only one wife, Diodorus that they married as many as they pleased, the restriction applying only to the sacerdotal order. The contradiction may be reconciled by supposing that the former writer described the general practice, and the latter the permission granted by the law; or, which is more probable, that he confounded concubinage with polygamy. From frequent allusions to this system we know it was tolerated. Wise laws, however, held a check upon the practice. Every child, the fruit of whatever union, was to be reared by its parents, infanticide being severely punished. Illegitimacy was a term not recognised. The son of the free, and the son of the bondwoman, had an equal right to inheritance, the father alone being referred to, since the mother was viewed as little more than a nurse to her own offspring. Women in Egypt bore numerous children, which rendered many concubines a burden too heavy for any but the wealthy to bear; nevertheless, some did indulge themselves in this manner, procuring young girls from the slave-merchants who came from abroad, or captives taken in the field.

In a country where the marriage of brother and sister was allowed, we might expect to find curious laws relating to the subject before us. But they were not curious, in any particular degree. Adultery was punished in the woman by the amputation of her nose, in the man by a thousand blows with a stick. The wealthier men were extremely jealous, forcing their wives to go barefooted, that they might not wander in the streets. Eunuchs, also, were maintained by some. Among classes of a lower grade, the women enjoyed peculiar freedom, being allowed to take part in certain public festivals, on which occasions they wore a transparent veil. Among all sorts and conditions of the sex, the drinking of wine was permitted, as it was by the Greeks, though not by the Romans; and ladies are occasionally represented on the monuments, exhibiting all the evidences of excess.

These observations apply to the respectable female society of ancient Egypt. There existed, however, another class, nowhere indeed indicated under the term harlot, or prostitute, but evidently such from the accounts we have received. If the descriptions transmitted to us of the ordinary female society be correct, the women to whom we allude could have been no other than public prostitutes. Such were, in all probability, those who enlivened the festival of Bubastis, and danced at the private entertainments. What ideas of decency prevailed among them, may be imagined from the brief though curious account afforded by Herodotus. When the time of the festival arrived, men and women embarked promiscuously, and in great numbers, on board the vessels which conveyed them up or down the river. During the[44] voyage, they played on various instruments, and whenever they arrived at a city moored the boats. Then some of the women, who could have been no other than the Almé of those days[21], played furiously all kinds of music, flung off their garments, challenged the women of the town with gross insulting language, and outraged decency by their gestures and postures. An immense concourse of people assembled on the occasion, and a large proportion of them belonged to the female sex. “Some of them” only, according to our author, took part in the exhibitions of profligacy we have noticed.

The public dancers and musicians of the female sex were also, in all probability, members of the sisterhood we allude to. They were, it is well known, held in extremely low estimation: they were clothed, like the prostitutes of ancient Greece, in a single light garment; indeed, from the monuments, it is questionable whether they did not, like those in the Roman saturnalia of Flora, dance entirely naked at some of the more dissolute private festivals of the wealthy. At any rate, their forms are represented so completely undraped, that any garment they wore must have been a light veil which clung to the skin, and was transparent. But from what we are told of the festival of Bubastis, it is by no means improbable that they were actually nude.

In that remote period, fancifully called the age of Sesostris, chastity does not appear to have been the capital virtue of society among the Egyptians. At least, we must draw this inference if we are to attach any significance to traditions or fables, which generally reflect some phase of truth. Sesostris, it is said, having offended the gods, was struck blind, and ordered to find a woman who had been strictly faithful to her husband. He was very long in performing the task, being furnished with an unerring rule of judgment. Of course the account is an idle fable, yet it is not altogether unworthy of notice, for it indicates an opinion as to the chastity of that period[22].

Of Prostitution in ancient Greece.
In the heroic ages of Greece, we find women—on the authority, indeed, of poets, the sole historians of those times—enjoying a considerable share of liberty, held in much respect, accustomed to self-reliance, and allowed freely to mingle with others of their own sex and with men. A modest simplicity of manners is ascribed to them, which is wholly foreign to modern ideas of refinement. What education they received is not well known, though they appear to have been trained to practise many of the useful as well as the elegant arts of life; but with respect to the morality prevalent among them little exact information can be gained. As in the Bible, however, frequent allusion is made to harlots and strange women, waiting at the corners of the streets, so in the poets of antiquity, passages occur which point to the existence of a class, dedicating itself to serve, for gain, the passions of men who could not afford marriage, or would not be bound by its restrictions. The science of statistics, however, does not seem to have been cultivated in those days. We are not told with certainty of the population of cities, or even whole countries, and men were not then found to calculate how many in a hundred were immoral, or to compare the prostitute with the honourable classes of women.

With the commencement of the strictly historical age, though statistics are still wanting, there have been collected materials from which we may gather fair ideas of the status of women, and the position and extent of the prostitute class among them. Beginning with Sparta, a very peculiar system displays itself. Among the citizens of that celebrated Doric state, women were regarded as little more than agencies for the production of other citizens. The handsome bull-stranglers of Lacedæmon held exceedingly lax notions of morality, and would have considered a delicately chaste woman as one characterized by a singular natural weakness. Taught to consider themselves more in their capacity of citizens than of women, their duty to their husbands, or to their own virtue, occupied always the second place. Their education inculcated the practice of immorality. All ideas of modesty were by a deliberate public training obliterated from their minds. Scourged with the whip when young, taught to wrestle, box, and race naked before assemblages of men, their wantonness and licentiousness passed every bound. Marriage, indeed, was an institution of the state; but no man could call his wife his own. On occasions when the male population was away in the field, the women complained that there was no chance of children being born, and young men were sent back from the camp, to become the husbands of the[45] whole female population, married and single.

GREEK DANCING-GIRL—Hetaira: Age of Socrates.

[From “Costume Antico e Moderno.”—Milan, 1616.]

In times of peace, also, the public laws gave every woman a chance of becoming what we should in these days term a public prostitute. A man without a wife might insist on borrowing for a certain time the wife of another. Should her husband resist, the law was called in to enforce the demand. It is asserted, indeed, by some, that adultery was unknown in Sparta. There was no such offence, in truth, recognised in the code. It was common, legal, and occurred every day. At the same time, however, it is to be remembered, that the severe laws of Sparta, recognising no concessions to the weaker passions of men, allowed these things only for state purposes, that citizens might be brought forth. There appears to have been no class of prostitutes gaining a livelihood by selling their persons to the pleasures of men: the rigorous code of the state forbade such sensual indulgences. Women were not allowed, apparently, to walk the streets. The young were strictly watched by the elders, the elders jealously observed by the young; and any proneness to a practice subversive of that vigorous health in the population, considered essential to preserve the manhood of Sparta, would have been denounced as an attempt to introduce luxury and effeminacy—the vices, in their eyes, of slaves. To assert that in the whole state no virtuous women, and no public prostitutes, in our sense of the word, could be found, would be rash; but it is certain that no authority which has come down to us represents chastity as a Spartan virtue, or prostitution for money, or from predilection, one of their social institutions.

In Athens a wholly different picture is presented. There, and generally among the Ionians, the duty of the wife was to preserve a chastity as delicate and pure as any which is required in our strictest social circle. There, at the same time, the courtezan class existed, and men of all descriptions and all ages encouraged prostitution, to which a considerable class of women devoted themselves. This is a complete contrast with Sparta.

The young girls of Attica were early trained to all the offices of religion; they acquired considerable knowledge; their intellectual qualities were to some degree developed: they were educated to become housekeepers, wives, and mothers, such as we describe under those heads. Exercising considerable influence over their male relatives, they possessed consequently considerable weight in the community, and altogether held a higher position than the women of Sparta. They led secluded lives, yet they enjoyed many opportunities of intercourse with the other sex; and though, in their theatres, and in their temples, indecency of the grossest description was frequently displayed to their sight, they seem otherwise to have been somewhat refined in this respect. In Sparta, the virgins never hesitated to expose themselves naked before any circle of spectators: in Athens they observed at least the public forms of decorum, and, with the exception of the Hetairæ or prostitute class, were sufficiently modest in their conversation and in their behaviour.

Accustomed to be present at public spectacles, to converse with men, to share in the performance of ceremonies at religious or civic festivals, the women of Athens occupied a position somewhat approaching that which we believe is proper to their sex. Marriages, as among us, were contracted, some from sentiment, others from interest. We are led to form a high idea of the general morality prevailing in the Attic states of Greece at an early period, from the exalted view of love, of chastity, of matronly duties, urged in the writers of the time. This seems a fair measure to employ, since, in a later age, when morals were more corrupt, and the regular class of prostitutes might be confounded with the general society, the style and sentiment of poets and others formed an exact reflex of the prevailing state of morality.

Traditions point to a period in the social history of Greece, when men and women dispensed altogether with the ceremony of marriage, living not only out of wedlock, but promiscuously, without an idea of any permanent compact between two individuals of opposite sexes. If such a state of things ever existed, it must have been before any regular society was formed, and it is therefore vain to dwell upon it. Polygamy, we know, long continued in practice among the Greeks, though it was a privilege and a propensity chiefly followed by the powerful and rich. In Athens marriage was held sacred. The character of a bachelor was disreputable. So, indeed, was it in Sparta, where young men remaining single after a certain period might be punished for the neglect of a duty exacted from them by the severe laws of the state. In both states, but in different degrees, the prohibition of marriage within certain limits of consanguinity extended; but when once the union took place, it was, in Athens, a crime of great enormity to defile its sanctity. The influence of the[46] wife was, in the household, powerful; and commanding, as she did, the respect of men, the advantages of her position were so great, that to risk their loss by a transgression of the moral law, was not a common occurrence. We may therefore assign to the women of Athens a high average of morality, and consider them as having been held in remarkable estimation.

An important point in the manners of every people is the institution of marriage. From an inquiry into its estimation, whether it be held a religious rite, or a civil contract, or both, with various other circumstances in connection with these, we are aided in forming a just idea of the prevalent civilization. In the Doric states of Greece, it was esteemed as little more than a prudent ceremony, binding man and woman together for purposes of state. As among the savages of Australasia, it was the custom for a man to bear a woman forcibly from among her companions, when he took her to the bridesmaid’s house, and, her hair being cut short and her clothes changed, she was delivered to him as wife. His intercourse with her however, was, for some time clandestine, and he shunned being seen in her society. This was the case with the wealthier maidens. The portionless girls were, from time to time, shut up in a dark edifice, and the youths, being introduced, accepted each the woman he happened to seize upon. A penalty was imposed on any one refusing to abide by the decision of chance.

Occasionally public ceremonies were enacted at the marriages of the rich; but from all testimony it appears certain that the union of man with woman at Sparta was entirely of a civil, and by no means of a sacred character. Private interest, sentiment, and happiness were indeed, in this, as in all other matters, subordinate to the public exigencies. When a woman had no children by her own husband, she was not only allowed, but required by the law to cohabit with another man. Anaxandrides, to procure an heir, had, contrary to all custom, two wives. The state excused no licentiousness for its own sake, but any amount for a public object[23].

In Attic Greece, the ceremony of marriage was viewed in a more poetical light, and divinity was supposed to preside over it. We have already alluded to the notion of the promiscuous intercourse among them at a remote period; but, passing from this fable, we find traces of polygamy long discernible. Heracles maintained a regular seraglio. Egeus, Pallas, Priam, Agamemnon, and nearly all the chiefs, possessed harems, but these were irregularities, contrary to law and custom, and only in fashion among royal personages. The story of the two wives of Socrates seems a pure invention.

In the Athenian Republic, marriage, being held in reverence, was protected by the law. In the later and better known ages, consanguinity within certain limits was a bar to such union. Men, however, might marry half-sisters by the fathers’ side, though few availed themselves of the permission. Betrothed long before marriage by their parents, the young man and woman were nevertheless allowed on most occasions to consult their own inclinations. Numerous religious rites preceded the actual ceremony, and heavenly favour was invoked upon it. The marriage was performed at the altar in the temple, where sacrifice was made, and a mutual oath of fidelity strengthened by every sacred pledge. Adultery was held a debasing crime, and divorce discreditable to man and wife[24].

In connection with the subject of marriage is that of infanticide. It prevailed among the Greeks, under the sanction of philosophy. Among the Thebans and the Tyrrhenians it was, however, unknown. Why? Because they were more humane, or moral? Not by any means. They were among the most profligate societies of antiquity. It is generally shame which induces to child-murder women bearing offspring from illicit intercourse with men. Where no disgrace attaches to illegitimate offspring, the principal incentive to destroy them is taken away; and in Tyre, where female slaves served naked at the table of the rich, and even ladies joined the orgies in that condition, modesty was by no means a common grace of their sex.

The Thebans, a very gross people, made infanticide a capital crime; but allowed the poor to impose on the state, under certain circumstances, the burden of their children. In Thrace, the infant, placed in an earthen pot, was left to be devoured by wild beasts, or to perish of cold and hunger[25].

In Sparta, clandestine infanticide was a crime; but the state often performed what it declared a duty, by condemning weakly and delicate infants to be flung into a pit. In Athens, on the contrary, it was left for desperate women, and cold-blooded men,[47] privately to accomplish the act, exposing their children in public places to perish, or to claim charity from some wayfarer. Frequently the rich had recourse to this, for concealing an intrigue, and left a costly dowry of gold and jewels in the earthen jar where they deposited the victim. The temple steps sometimes received the foundling; but occasionally they were left to die in desert places.

In the flourishing period of the Republic, however, poverty was so rare, indeed so unknown, that it seldom exacted these sacrifices from the humbler people. Infanticide was then left to the wholly unnatural who refused the burden, or the guilty who dreaded the shame, of a child.

But in the female society of that state, there was, as we have said, a sisterhood which exercised no inconsiderable influence on public manners. These were the Hetairæ, or prostitutes, who occupied much the same position which the same class does in most civilized communities of modern times. The youthful, beautiful, elegant, polished, and graceful, commanded, while their attractions lasted, the favours and the deference of wealthy and profligate young men, and, when their persons had faded, sank by degrees, until they dragged themselves in misery through the streets, glad to procure a meal by indiscriminate prostitution, with all who accepted their company. When children were born to them, infanticide usually—especially in the case of girls—relieved them of the burden.

The position the prostitute class of Athens occupied in relation to the other women in the community was peculiar. They entered the temples during the period of one particular festival—and in modern countries the church is never closed against them; but they were not, as among us, allowed to occupy the same place at the theatre with the Athenian female citizen. Yet this was not altogether to protect the virtue of the woman; it was to satisfy the pride of the citizen, since every stranger suffered an equal exclusion from these “reserved seats.” Notwithstanding this, however, the courtezans occasionally visited the ladies in their own houses, to instruct them in those accomplishments in which, from the peculiar tenor of their lives, they were most practised, while it appears that both classes mingled at the public baths.

The Hetairæ, or prostitute class, exercised undoubtedly an evil influence on the society of Athens. They indulged the sensual tastes and the vanity of the young, encouraged among them a dissolute manner of life, and, while the power of their attractions lasted, led them into expensive luxury, which could not fail of an injurious effect on the community. The career of the prostitute was, as it is in all countries, short, and miserable at its close. While their beauty remained unfaded they were puffed up with vanity, carried along by perpetual excitement, flattered by the compliments of young men, and by the conversation of even the greatest philosophers, and maintained in opulence by the gifts of their admirers. Premature age, however, always, except in a few celebrated cases, assailed them. They became old, ugly, wrinkled, deformed, and full of disease, and might be seen crawling through the market places, haggling for morsels of provision, amid the jeers and insults of the populace.

In some instances, indeed, there occurred in Athens what occasionally happens in all countries. Men took as wives the prostitutes with whom they had associated. Even the wise Plato became enamoured of Archæanassa, an Hetaira of Ctesiphon. For many of these women were no less renowned for the brilliancy of their intellectual qualities than for their personal charms. Of Phryne, whose bosom was bared before the judges by her advocate, and who sat as a model to the greatest of ancient sculptors, all the world has heard. Her statue, of pure gold, was placed on a pillar of white marble at Delphi. Aspasia exercised at Athens influence equal to that of a queen, attracting round her all the characters of the day, as Madame Roland was wont to do in Paris. Socrates confessed to have learned from her much in the art of rhetoric. Yet these women, harsh as the judgment may appear, were common whores, though outwardly refined, and mentally cultivated. Instances, indeed, of high public virtue displayed by members of that sisterhood, distinguished among the Hetairæ of ancient Greece, are on record, and sufficient accounts of them have been transmitted to us to show that they were among the male society a recognised and respected class, while by the women they were neither abhorred nor considered as a pollution to the community. Still, prostitutes they were, to all intents and purposes.

The mean, the poor, and faded, were chiefly despised for their ugliness and indigence, not for their incontinence. It was, in the Homeric ages, as we learn from the Odyssey, held disgraceful for “a noble maiden” to lose her chastity. But in Athens, at a later time, chastity in an unmarried woman was not held a virtue,[48] the loss of which degraded her utterly below the consideration of all other classes, or debarred her for ever from any intercourse with the honourable of her own sex. The Hetaira was not, it is true, admitted to mingle freely in the society of young women; but she was not shut out from all communication with them; while among men, if her natural attractions or accomplishments were great, she exercised peculiar influence. Consequently, it appears that in Athens the superior public prostitute had a status higher than that of any woman of similar character in our own day. If we look for a comparison to illustrate our meaning, we may find it in many of the ladies who at various periods have frequented our court—known but not acknowledged prostitutes[26].

In the public judgments of Athens we find, it is true, a penalty or fine imposed on “whoredom,”[27] from which, however, the people escaped by a variation of terms, calling a whore a mistress, as Plutarch tells us. Solon, however, recognised prostitution as a necessary, or at least an inevitable evil, for he first built a temple to Aphrodite Pandemos, which, truly rendered, means Venus the Prostitute; and his view was justified by the declaration that the existence of a prostitute class was necessary, in order, as Cato also thought, that the wives and daughters of citizens might be safe from the passion which young men would, in one way or the other, satiate upon the other sex. Though procurers, therefore, were punishable by law, and the Hetairæ were obliged to wear coloured or flowered garments, it was enacted in the civil code of Athens, that “persons keeping company with common strumpets shall not be deemed adulterers, for such shall be common for the satiating of lust.”

Brothels, consequently, existed in moderate numbers at Athens, and the young men were not discouraged from attending them occasionally. There were also particular places in the city where the prostitutes congregated, and a Temple of Venus, which was their peculiar resort. We find in the poets passages, indeed, advocating the support of whores[28].

Still, respected and beloved as the Hetairæ were among their friends and lovers, recognised by the law, and protected by it, general public respect was denied them, for the Athenians estimated above their brilliant charms the modest virtues of inferior women[29].

One of the most remarkable features in the public economy of Athens was the tax upon prostitutes, introduced also in Rome by Caligula. It was annually farmed out by the Senate to individuals who knew accurately the names of all who followed this calling. It is to be regretted that their statistics have not been furnished to us. Every woman, it appears, had a fixed price, which she might charge to the men to whom she prostituted her person, and the amount of the tax varied according to their profits. Apparently, they were principally “strangers” who filled the ranks of the Hetairæ, for we find that if persons enjoying the rank and privilege of citizens took to the occupation, a tax was imposed on them as on the ordinary prostitutes, and they were punished by exclusion from the public sacrifices, and from the honourable offices of state. The same writer informs us, on the authority of Demosthenes, that a citizen who cohabited with an alien paid a penalty, in case he was convicted, of a thousand drachmas, but the penalty could not often have been enforced, as the laws of Solon recognised prostitution; it was a feature in the manners of the city, and brothels were fearlessly kept, and entered without shame. Numerous evidences of this have been supplied us[30]. To preserve a respect for chastity, however, and to inculcate a horror for the prostitute’s occupation, the same code allowed men to sell their sisters or daughters when convicted of an act of fornication, which, in Athens, as elsewhere, frequently was the first step in the regular career of these women[31].

The dishonour thus accruing to the general body of prostitutes, though a small class of them enjoyed many superior advantages from their wealth, and the polish of their manners, served at Athens, in some degree, to preserve public morality. The system never seems to have reached the height which it has gained in many of our modern cities, where married women often follow the occupation, and live upon its gains[32].

In Corinth, however, prostitutes abounded, and the Temple of Venus in that city was sometimes thronged by a thousand of them. They were usually[49] the most beautiful women of the state, presented or sold to the temple, who prostituted themselves for hire. They were of a superior kind, admitting to their embraces none but men who would pay munificently, and in this manner many of them are said to have accumulated large fortunes[33].

Tabular statements, and numerical estimates, have been wanting to complete this glance at the system in ancient Greece; but it may, nevertheless, afford a just idea of the extent and character of the prostitute class there.

Of Prostitution in ancient Rome.
If our knowledge of ancient Greece, with reference to its moral economy, is slight, ancient Rome is still less understood. Nothing, indeed, like a detailed account of its social institutions has been preserved; its scheme of manners is incompletely comprehended; and only an outline picture of its private life can be formed from passages supplied by hundreds of authors, from allusions in the poets and in the satirical writers. German scholars have laboured industriously in the field of classical politics; but the social economy of Rome has been neglected, or, which is worse, obscured by them. We are, therefore, enabled only to afford a general sketch of the subject in connection with the great Republic, and the imperial system which grew out of its decay.

Examining the condition of the female sex, especially with reference to prostitutes, we must in Rome, as in all other states, distribute our observations over several distinct periods—for such there were in the social history of the nation.

In the more honourable days of the Republic, women occupied a high status. While the state was extremely young we find them, indeed, in perpetual tutelage; but gradually, as institutions were improved and manners refined, they rose to independence, and formed an influential element in society. The matron, in particular, stood in her due position. Respected, accomplished, allowed to converse with men, she was, in the most flourishing era of Roman history, a model for her sex. She presided over the whole household, superintended the education of the children, while they remained in tender years, and shared the honours of her husband. Instead of confined apartments being allotted to her as a domestic prison, the best chambers in the house were assigned, while the whole of it was free to her. Other circumstances in her condition combined to invest her with dignity; and the consequence was, that the Roman matron seldom or never transgressed against the moral or social law. No divorce is recorded before the year 234 b.c.; and that instance was on account of the woman’s barrenness—a plea allowed by the law, but universally reprobated by the people. Yet the obstacles to this dissolution of the marriage compact were by no means formidable. Under the imperial régime, when there was less facility, divorces were more frequent.

The Roman law of marriage was strict. Degrees of consanguinity were marked, though within narrower limits than among us, within which marriage was not only illegal, but wholly void, and any intercourse, by virtue of it, denounced as incest by the law. Public infamy attached to it—not only the odium of opinion, but a formal decree by the prætor. Adultery was held as a base, inexpiable crime. It was interdicted under every penalty short of death, and even this was allowed under certain circumstances to be inflicted by the husband. Wedded life, indeed, was held sacred by every class from the knights to the slaves, though among these social aliens actual marriage could not take place. Celibacy was not only disreputable, but, in a particular degree, criminal; while barrenness brought shame upon the woman who was cursed with it. In an equal, or a greater ratio, was parentage honourable. Polygamy was illegal; but the social code allowed one wife and several concubines, occupying a medium position, finely described by Gibbon, as below the honours of a wife, and above the infamy of a prostitute. Such institutions were licensed that common whoredom might be checked; though the children born of such intercourse were refused the rank of citizens. Often, indeed, they were a burden to the guilty as well as to the poor; and infanticide, which was declared in 374 b.c. a capital crime, was resorted to as a means of relief.

If we examine our question in connection with marriage among the ancient Romans we find a curious system. First, there were certain conditions to constitute connubium, without which no legal union could be formed. There was only connubium between Roman citizens[34]; there[50] was none where either of the parties possessed it already with another; none between parent and child, natural or by adoption; none between grandparents and grandchildren; none between brothers and sisters, of whole or half blood; none between uncle and niece, or aunt and nephew: though Claudius legalized it by his marriage with Agrippina, the practice never went beyond the example. Unions of this kind taking place were void, and the father could claim no authority over his children. Mutual consent was essential—of the persons themselves, and of their friends. One wife only was allowed, though marriage after full divorce was permitted.

There were two kinds of marriage,—that cum, and that sine conventione. In the former the wife passed into her husband’s family, and became subject to him; in the latter she abdicated none of her old relations, and was equal to her husband. There was no ceremony absolutely essential to constitute a marriage. Cohabitation during a whole year made a legal and lasting union; but the woman’s absence during three nights annually released her from the submission entailed by the marriage cum conventione. Certain words, also, with religious rites, performed in presence of ten witnesses, completed a marriage; but certain priestly offices, such as those of the flamen dialis, could only be performed for those whose parents had been wedded in a similar way[35]. The sponsalia, or contracts between the man and his wife’s friends, were usual, but not essential, and could be dissolved by mutual consent. The Roman idea of marriage was, in a word, the union of male and female for life, bringing a community of fortune, by a civil, not a sacred contract. Yet from the ceremonies generally observed, it is evident that an idea, though unrecognised, of a religious union, existed among the Romans in their more pious age.

With respect to property, its arrangement depended on settlements made before hand. Divorce was at one time procured by mutual consent, though afterwards it became more difficult, but never impossible.

There was in Rome a legal concubinage between unmarried persons, resembling the morganatic or “left-handed” marriage, giving neither the woman nor her children any rights acquired from the husband. Widowers often took a concubine, without infamy[36].

The law of Romulus, enacting that no male child should be exposed, and that the first daughter should always be preserved, while every other should be brought up, or live on trial, as it were, for three years, has misled some writers into giving the Romans credit for a loftier humanity. No parent, it is argued, would destroy a three years’ old child. Nevertheless, it is certain that, in the imperial age, at least, infanticide and child-dropping were frequent occurrences. Deformed or mutilated infants, having been shown to five witnesses, might be destroyed at once. The Milky Column, in the Herb-market, was a place where public nurses sat to suckle or otherwise tend the foundlings picked up in various parts of the city. In the early Christian age it was a reproach to the Romans that they cast forth their sons, as Tertullian expresses it, to be picked up and nourished by the fisherwomen who passed. Mothers would deny their children when brought home to their houses. Some strangled them at once. Various devices were adopted among them, as among other nations of antiquity, to check the overflow of population, as well as to hide the crimes of the guilty. Thus the Phœnicians passed children through fire, as a sacrifice; the Carthaginians offered them up at the altar; the Syrians flung them from the lofty propylæa of a temple[37]. One observation, however, applies to the Romans, and, we believe, to every other nation, savage or civilized, in every age of the world—exceptions being invariably allowed. Cruel as may have been the laws sanctioning infanticide, when once the child was received into the bosom of the family it was cared for with tenderness, and, generally, with discretion. It is not sentiment, but justice, which induces us to say that the mother, having once accepted her charge, has seldom been guilty of wilful neglect. The abandoned and dissolute, especially in those societies where fashion has made the performance of maternal duty ridiculous, if not disreputable, have consigned their offspring to others; but women in their natural state usually fulfil this obligation.

In Rome, from various causes, public decency was, at least during the republican period, more rigidly observed, and licen[51]tiousness less common and less tolerated than in Sparta or even the later age of Athens. None of its institutions rivalled the dissolute manners of Crete or Corinth. One cause of prostitution being less common was the licence of concubinage, which was to the rich a preferable and a safer plan of self-indulgence. It existed, however, in the State, and employed a considerable class of women, though we are told the accomplished prostitute was known as a Grecian import. Nevertheless, the frequent allusions of the laws to these women prove that they formed no insignificant element in the society of the capital.


Lenocinium, or the keeping of female slaves to hire them out as prostitutes for profit, was an offence rather against the moral than the written law of Rome. The lenones, in many instances, kept brothels or houses open for the trade of prostitution. They purchased in the market handsome girls, for each of whom a sum equal to about 250l. of English currency was given—from which we infer that the rates charged in the superior establishments of this kind were somewhat high. Free women were also kept for the same purpose, upon a mutual agreement. The practice was not actually interdicted, but branded as infamous by the prætor’s declaration. No woman, however, whose father, grandfather, or husband had been a Roman knight was allowed to prostitute herself for gain. The independent prostitutes, or those who occupied houses of their own, were compelled to affix on the door a notice of their calling, and the price they demanded. They were also required, when they signified to the prætor, as they were bound to do, their intention of following this disgraceful occupation, to drop their real names, which they resumed whenever they abandoned that mode of life. Cato, the censor, recognised prostitution as Solon did, and Cicero declared no State ever existed without it. Notwithstanding this, the occupation of the prostitute was, in the republican age, so infamous that a comparatively small class practised it; but under the emperors it grew so prevalent, that during the reign of the few of them who even pretended to morality, the severest edicts appeared called for against it. Caligula, however, made a profit from the system. The lenones were subject to a tax, which fell, of course, as in Athens, upon the prostitutes themselves. No check, therefore, was offered by him to prostitution. But Theodosius and Valentinian sought, by formidable penalties, to prevent parents from prostituting their children, and masters their slaves, for gain. Lenocinium was interdicted under pain of the scourge, banishment, and other punishments. In one age public opinion, in the other the whip, held guardianship over the morals of the State.

The owners of houses who allowed lenocinium to be carried on on their premises were liable to forfeit the property, besides paying a price of ten pounds weight of gold. Such edicts, however, only drove immorality into the dark. When the prostitutes could not find enough brothels to harbour them—and, indeed, at all times the poorer sort were excluded from these large establishments—places of refuge were still open. The fornices of Rome were long galleries, divided into a double row of cells—some broad and airy, others only small dark arches, situated on a level with the street, and forming the substructure of the houses above. Some of them, as those of the Formian villa of Cicero, were tastefully stuccoed, and painted in streaks of pink, yellow, and blue. In these long lines of cells the prostitutes of the poorer class were accustomed to assemble, and thence was derived the ecclesiastical term fornication, with its ordinary English meaning. Allusions to this practice occur in the works of Horace and Juvenal, as well as other writers. Some of the arches appear to have been below the surface of the ground, as we find a decree of Theodosius against the subterranean brothels of Rome.

The great satirist who has left us his vivid, though exaggerated picture of manners in the imperial age, supplies some allusions in elucidation of our subject. He speaks of the “transparent garments” worn by prostitutes, as by the dancers of ancient Egypt; of the “foreign women” who swarmed in its “foul brothels;” of the “gay harlots’ chariots” dashing through the streets; and of the porticos and covered walks forming for these women places of promenade. We learn that some of them were forced, as a punishment for disorderly behaviour, to wear the male toga, while most were distinguished by a yellow headdress. The fornices were publicly opened and closed at certain hours. The women stood at the doors of their cells, in loose, light attire, their bosoms exposed, and the nipples gilt. Thus Messelana stood at the door of the lupanaria, with her breast adorned with this singular ornament[38].

At various periods efforts were made to suppress the prostitutes’ calling, but never with success. The lawmakers of the imperial age gave no example of the morality[52] which their edicts pretended to uphold. Thus, the bawds who inveigled or ravished girls from their homes, to obtain a livelihood by their prostitution, became liable to “extreme penalties,” though what these were we know not. The law of lenocinium was more widely interpreted, as manners became more corrupt. If a husband permitted his wife to prostitute herself that he might share the gains, it was lenocinium. Justinian allowed a woman the privilege of divorce, if her husband endeavoured to tempt her into such adultery: he was forced also to restore her dowry. On the other hand, if a woman committed the crime, it was lenocinium for the husband to receive her again, to spare the adulterer if caught in the act, or to refrain from prosecuting him if otherwise detected. If a man married a woman convicted of adultery, discovered a crime of this kind and was bribed to hold his peace, commenced a prosecution for adultery and withdrew it, or lent his house for rape or prostitution, the Julian law made him guilty of lenocinium, and penalties of various kinds were attached to the offence in its different modifications.

Lupanaria, or common brothels, were at all times considered infamous. Young men seem to have been more careful to visit them in secret than at Athens, where they visited and left them in the light of open day, and were encouraged to do so by the poets. There was, however, another class of disreputable places of assembly, to which a similar exists in most modern cities. These were the lower order of popinæ, or houses of entertainment, not absolutely recognised as “stews,” but generally known to be the resorts of prostitutes and their companions. In Pompeii there appears to have existed a class of the same description, for in one of the wine-houses discovered there, an inner room is situated behind the shop, the walls of which are covered with lewd and filthy pictures. Pornography, or obscene painting, was much practised at Rome, and doubtless afforded much pleasure to the company who nightly assembled in the Ganeæ, or regular brothels.

As among the Greeks, instances of men willing to marry prostitutes occurred among the Romans. It was found necessary to check the practice by rendering it disreputable. The penalty of public infamy was denounced against all freemen contracting such an union; while a senator, and the son of a senator, were especially forbidden.

The prostitutes of Rome, like those of many other countries, varied their principal calling by others which rendered them more attractive to the dissolute youth of the city. They cultivated the arts of dancing, singing, and playing on musical instruments. They performed lascivious dances at their places of assembly, playing on the flute, and practising all those tricks of seduction employed so successfully by the Almé of Egypt.

Difficulties have arisen before many inquirers into the social condition of the ancient Romans, as to whence the prostitutes came, seeing that they were chiefly strangers. Some light, we think, is thrown on the subject by the fact that the Ambubaiæ were Syrian musicians, who performed dances in Rome, and, like the Bayaderes of India, the Almé of Egypt, and the dancers of Java, led a life of prostitution. They continued long to be imported; for, in the History of Gibbon, we find particular notice of the lascivious dances performed by the Syrian damsels round the altars on the Palatine Hill, to please the bestial senses of Elagabalus. During the public pantomimes, the prostitutes danced naked before the people; and, at the Floralian festival, the actresses at the theatre, who are known to have been common prostitutes, were compelled to strip, and perform indecent evolutions for the delight of the audience. This refers, however, to the imperial age. It was at no time a task of much inconvenience to divest themselves of clothing, for the harlots never encumbered themselves with much. In this they resembled the Hetairæ of Greece, whose thin slight garment was so insufficient for the purposes of decency, that it was designated as “naked.” This was not, however, from hardiness or simplicity, but merely to promote the profit of their calling. In other respects the luxury of the wealthy prostitutes was boundless, and they were borne through the streets on the rich and elegant lactræ or portable couches, softly pillowed on which they reposed their limbs in voluptuous indolence. In the reign of Domitian a decree was passed that no whore should in future make use of these couches, which were reserved as an especial luxury to the privileged classes of Rome.

The edicts against prostitution increased in severity under various emperors. The severity of Constantine enacted that a man guilty of rape should die, whether he accomplished his purpose by violence, or by gentle and gradual seduction. The virgin who confessed her consent, instead of procuring a mitigation of this sentence, exposed herself to share the penalty. Slaves[53] who were accomplices in the crime of procuring young women for prostitution, were punished by being burnt, or having boiling metal poured down their throats. The consequence of such a savage law was, that it could not be generally applied; nor was it enforced by the example of the emperor, who, once rigidly strict, turned dissolute and luxurious towards the close of his reign.

It will be seen, from the information here collected, that no actual knowledge exists of the precise extent of the prostitute system in Rome. Facts, and some of these extremely curious, have been preserved in connection with it; but the statistics of the question are wholly lost, if, indeed, they ever existed. On this account, it appeared possible to do no more than bring those facts together, and, throwing them into a general sketch of the morality prevailing at different periods in the social history of that state, to draw thence an idea of the truth. Under the comparatively virtuous Republic, a line could certainly be drawn between the profligate and the moral classes of the community. Under some of the emperors such a distinction was wholly impossible. The vulgar prostitute was commonly met at the tables of the rich, and the palace itself was no more than an imperial brothel. A few notes on the history of the empire will justify these remarks.

In the early period of the decline, the licentious amours of Faustina were excused, even encouraged, by her husband, and the nobles paid homage in the temples before the image of an adultress. In the eyes of Commodus virtue was criminal, since it implied a reflection upon his profligacy. Dissolving his frame in lust amid 300 concubines and boys, he violated by force the few modest women remaining near his court. Julia, the wife of Severus, though flattered in life and death by public writers, was no better than a harlot. We have already noticed the pleasures of Elagabalus, who committed rape upon a vestal virgin, and condescended to the most bestial vice. The nobles readily followed his example, and the people were easily led into the fashion. Maximin drowned every coy maiden who refused his embraces. In process of time, the most degrading features of Asiatic profligacy were introduced into Rome, and eunuchs crowded the palaces of the emperor and his nobles. History alludes to no more vulgar prostitute than the Empress Theodora, who played comedies before the people of Constantinople, and prostituted her person—of unparalleled beauty as it was—night after night to a promiscuous crowd of citizens and strangers, of every rank and description. She exhibited herself naked in the theatre. Her sympathy for the prostitute class may be indicated by almost the only virtuous action recorded of her;—inducing her husband Justinian to found a monastery on the shores of the Bosphorus, where 500 miserable women, collected from the streets and brothels, were offered a refuge. When we remember the usual relative proportion of objects relieved by charity, to the numbers from which they are selected, this indicates a considerable trade in prostitution then carried on in Constantinople. When, however, such a social system prevailed, no inquiry could fix the professional class of harlots, since moral women, if any existed, were certainly exceptions.

It is always necessary, while inquiring into the morality of any people, to inquire into the extent to which the practice of procuring abortion was carried, and how it was viewed. Montesquieu justly observes, that it is by no means unnatural, though it may be criminal, for a prostitute, should she by chance conceive a child, to seek to be relieved from the burden. She has no means of support except one which she cannot possibly follow and at the same time fulfil the duties of a mother. These considerations, perhaps, had some weight with the legislators of Rome, as well as those reasons of political prudence which in various ancient states recognised infanticide. That it was practised to some extent there, is shown by frequent allusions in various works. It has been asserted, indeed, that the custom of procuring abortion prevailed to such an extent, that, combined with celibacy, it materially affected the population of the state, but this appears a false view. There are no accounts to support such an idea. It is not known at what particular time a law was introduced against it. Certainly it was held in a different light than it is by our religion, and our civilization. Plato’s republic permits it. Aristotle also allows it to be practised under certain circumstances, but only before the child is quick in the womb. So, also, among the Romans, it seems long to have been unrestrained by law, though it is impossible to believe that the natural instincts of women would not deter them, except in desperate situations, from such unnatural offences.

Such is the view of the prostitute system, with a sketch of general morality, which the facts preserved by history enable us to offer. It appears from these facts, that, during the more flourishing period of[54] the Roman state, the prostitutes formed a class, to which the principal immorality of the female society was confined, while in the later or imperial age profligacy ran loose among the people, so that the distinction between the regular harlot and the unrecognised prostitute was all but lost. Chastity, under the Republic, was a peculiar Roman virtue, and the prostitutes were usually foreigners, while we do not find that they ever mixed with reputable women who had characters to lose[39].

Of Prostitution among the Anglo-Saxons.
We leave the countries of classical antiquity and arrive at the Anglo-Saxons of our own history, in whom the reader will feel a peculiar interest. Unfortunately, our usual observations with reference to ancient times, apply to them also. Extremely imperfect records exist of their manners, laws, and institutions. The learned and industrious Sharon Turner has collected most of the facts known, yet neither the word prostitution, nor any term analogous to it, is to be found in his work. In the Leges Anglo-Saxonicæ, we find laws and regulations in reference to the chastity of the women, but nothing which indicates the existence of a class professionally addicted to prostitution. Nevertheless, it is improbable that such a class was utterly unknown, for the modern historians, as well as the old chroniclers, who have described the era, allude repeatedly to the licentious manners of the period. Gluttoning and deep drinking may, however, have excused the epithet, without supposing any prevalence of immorality.

Sharon Turner refers us to the Maories of New Zealand, for a parallel to the manners and condition of Great Britain, when first invaded by the Romans. As far as profligacy goes, the comparison appears correct.

Among the Britons, however, prevailed the extraordinary and pernicious institution of small societies of ten or twelve men, with a community of women among them. Ceremonies of marriage, indeed, took place, but for no other purpose than to provide that each woman’s husband should maintain all her children, whoever their fathers might be. In some of their religious ceremonies women officiated naked, and in all their modes of life a coarse licentiousness obtained.

The Romans introduced a more refined luxury, and manners became less coarse, though no less profligate. The Saxons, however, then transported themselves to these islands from the Cymbric Peninsula, and the civilization of the country passed through a complete revolution. In their original country they had displayed a system of manners peculiar to themselves, and the other wild races inhabiting the mighty woods of Germany. Their laws against adultery were of the most savage character. When a woman was guilty of it, she was compelled to hang herself, her body was burned, and the execution of the adulterer took place over the pile of her ashes. Among some communities the punishment was still more severe, and infinitely more barbarous. The guilty creature was whipped from village to village by a number of women, who tore off her garments to the waist, and pierced her with their knives. Company after company of them pursued her until she sank under the shame, torture, and loss of blood. Chastity, indeed, was very generally regarded among these rude people, but their ideas were very foreign from ours. The degrees of consanguinity within which marriage was prohibited were extremely narrow, a son being permitted to marry his father’s widow, provided she was not his own mother.

In their marriage customs the Anglo-Saxons displayed considerable regard for the female sex, although the wife was taken rather as the property than as the companion of the husband. The original laws of Ethelbert, indeed, as we have said, made the transaction wholly one of purchase; but in the reign of Edmund a more refined code was established. The betrothal usually took place some time before the actual ceremony. This was held as a sacred tie, the high-priest being at the marriage to consecrate it, and pray for a blessing on the wedded pair[40].


The manners of the Anglo-Saxons, after their settlement in England, underwent considerable improvement. They became, indeed, to a degree civilized. Their women were no longer the savages of Germany. They occupied a position wholly different from that of their sex among the more polished and luxurious nations of the East. It was, we may say, similar to that which they at present fill among us. They were recognised as members of the body politic, could bequeath and inherit property, could appeal to the law against any man; they possessed, in a word, the rights, the duties, and the public relations of citizens. Of course, in all these particulars, their position was modified by the natural restraints imposed on their sex. This refers to the more improved period of their civilization. In the laws of Ethelbert a man was permitted to buy a wife, provided he did it openly. By Edmund’s time, however, the practice was changed, and the woman’s consent, as well as that of her friends, was necessary. The man was also pledged before the law to support and respect her. She carried public protection into her new home. Considerable honour, consequence, and independence were there pre-enjoyed by the female sex. Nevertheless there continued long to be in the transaction much of a business character, and the consent of the woman was frequently no more than submission to the terms of a bargain struck between her lover and her parents. By some husbands, indeed, a wife seems to have been considered as little more than a property. We find adultery, for instance, allowed to be compounded. “If a freeman cohabit with the wife of a freeman he must pay the fine, and obtain another woman with his own money, and lead her to the other.” In other words, when he has destroyed the value of one wife, he must buy a fresh one for the injured husband.

This would seem to indicate that women were to be had for money. Adultery, indeed, was at all times an affair of payments. It was punished only by various fines, varying according to the rank of the woman. The chastity of the high noble’s wife was valued at six pounds, that of a churl’s attendant at six shillings.

In the Leges Anglo-Saxonicæ we find many regulations laid down respecting rape and fornication, which imply the occasional practice of those crimes. From the tone of the enactments on the subject, it seems impossible reasonably to doubt that a class of women existed who prostituted themselves for gain or pleasure to the other sex. None such, it is true, is directly indicated. We find, however, a rule of the venerable Bede, that any “slave woman” or “servile” turning her eyes immodestly on men, is to be severely chided. Blount also, quoted in Brand’s “Popular Antiquities,” with the historian Henry, describes the punishment of the cucking stool, as inflicted by the Anglo-Saxons, both in Germany and in England, upon scolds, disorderly women, and strumpets, who in the more barbarous society on the Continent were suffocated in marshes. In Cornwall harlots were long punished in the ludicrous and degrading manner described by Brand.

In the absence of any ground upon which to stand, we cannot describe a particular class among the Anglo-Saxons as addicted to prostitution, but from the whole colour of their civilization, from the rudest to the most refined period, it is evident the practice was followed, in a greater or less degree[41].

In surveying the social aspects of the barbarian world, we discover many striking phenomena. The relations of the sexes, among uneducated races, appear modified by every circumstance of their position; but everywhere the natural ascendancy of the strong over the weak is displayed. A few savage communities allow women a position nearly level with that of the men; but wherever this is the case, a degree of civilization has been attained.

If we divide mankind into two classes—the civilized and the savage—forming an ideal of both extremes, we shall not find one tribe or community to occupy either pole of our supposed sphere. No one requires to be told that every part of the human race is still below the perfect development of its good attributes; but the observation is equally true, though less generally accepted, that every family of creatures showing our nature has advanced beyond the utterly savage state. When we find men wandering not only unclothed, but unhoused, over the earth, and following only their animal propensities, we may[56] regard them as wholly untaught. At present no such tribe is known. Every human being that has come under our notice has progressed beyond the simple gratification of his appetites. The love of ornament and the practice of exchange have raised him one step in the scale.

The Africans, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the ruder tribes of the Pacific Isles, the Dyaks of Borneo, and the natives of Sumatra and Celebes, with the Indians of North and South America, may be included under the appellation barbarous. They vary, however, in the characteristics of their barbarism, as the nations of Europe vary in the characteristics of their civilization. They are even divided into classes. (1) The hunters, with little property in the soil, precarious means of existence, and migratory habits; the fishers, who are only the hunters of the sea; (2) the pastoral tribes, with property in herds and flocks, nomade, and therefore little property in the soil; (3) the agricultural tribes, permanently or temporarily fixed to localities, whose means of life are less precarious, and whose habits are more regular than those of the two former. The third is the most educated, the second the most innocent, the first the most simple state. It is among the shepherds that women enjoy most consideration, and that morality is highest. The hunters are more savage, and the tillers of the earth more sensual.

In judging the condition of the female sex, it is always necessary to hold in view the general state of manners. When we inquire how husbands behave to their wives, and how parents treat their daughters, we must ask also how they live themselves. Where the male sex is degraded the female will be so. On the other hand, the refinement of any people may be estimated by the condition of its women. The islanders of Celebes are among the most elevated of barbarian races, and the sexes are nearly on an equality. The hordes of Western Africa are the most gross and ferocious of savages, and their women are treated as reptiles. The Indians of North America offer, apparently, an exception to this rule, for their lofty, proud, and polished warriors behave contemptuously to the squaws in their wigwam, who crouch to the earth while their lords stand haughtily before the most powerful conquerors. But the Choctaws and the Cherokees are in reality as far removed from true civilization as the dwellers in New Zealand. The amenities and not the arts of life civilize men. Wherever in the Indian village the gentler influences of humanity prevail, the feebler sex is treated with respect and affection.

The points of contrast between barbarian and civilized races display themselves strongly in relation to the condition of the female sex. Throughout the savage portions of Africa one system of manners prevails. The men occupy the lowest stage of the social scale. They are neither hunters, fishers, shepherds, nor tillers of the soil; but mix up several occupations, though none of an elevating character. Some raise a few materials of food; others collect ivory in the woods; others live on the profits of the slave-trade; but the greater number subsist on the refuse of what they gain in the service of their petty kings. They have been sophisticated from the simplicity of savages without acquiring one grace from civilization. Subject to the gross caprice of princes more miserable than themselves, they have remained beyond the reach of every humanizing influence, and, as a natural consequence, their women are debased. Polygamy produces its worst results. The wife is an object of barter; a slave, whose labour assists to support her owner. In some parts diligence is more valued than chastity. In others the husband makes a profit from his wife’s prostitution. The slave trade has assisted largely towards this melancholy state of manners. The finer sentiments of humanity are altogether lost, and the contempt for life, as well as for all that is amiable or pure, has reduced men far below the level of the brute creation. We speak literally in saying that a nobler, happier spectacle is presented among the antelope and elephant herds than among the swarms of men and women corrupting in Africa. In the few parts where the male sex has risen from this debasement, the female has been equally improved. The barbarous Edeeyahs offer an example.

The savages of Australia differ in many respects from those of Western Africa. They are even less educated, but they are also less ferocious; their women are their abject servitors, but there is more humanity in their treatment. They have scarcely approached so near to the forms of regular society, as to systematize the intercourse of the sexes. Nevertheless, among some tribes we not only find the institution of marriage respected, but wives guarded with Turkish jealousy. Among a people which does not dwell in regular habitations, or even lodge in roomy tents, it is scarcely possible to imagine the sanctity of a man’s harem; but it is true, notwithstanding, that a similar seclusion is[57] enforced. The Australian woman, in the desert and under the open sky, is hedged round by her husband’s jealousy as securely as the ancient German was in her unwalled shelter of thatch.

It is seldom, however, that among barbarous races we find the sentiment of chastity in its abstract sense. Women are generally treated as though their inclinations were licentious, and in this consists one great line of distinction between civilization and barbarism. With the one, moral influence—with the other, material force, is employed as the guardian of female honour. The result is important to be noticed. Women are depraved by the rude and gross means devised to keep them virtuous. Where the moral sentiment is feebly developed, guilt is created by the efforts made to prevent it. The wife perpetually watched, as though her heart were full of adultery, becomes an adulteress. The young girl continually guarded, with the avowed object of compelling her to be chaste, loses insensibly any natural feeling she may have possessed, and covets the opportunity to sin.

In the South Sea Islands this truth is illustrated; in New Zealand it is still more strongly proved. It is taken for granted that a woman will prostitute herself if she can. The state of morality is consequently so low that it is difficult for parents to preserve a daughter’s virtue until she is given in marriage. To prevent her holding vicious intercourse she is forbidden to hold any intercourse with the opposite sex.

Another characteristic of civilized races is the separation of the vicious from the moral classes; they systematize the offences against society. Every class of vile persons becomes, as it were, an isolated community; the prostitute is segregated from the rest of her sex. In some barbarian states, as in Dahomey, the same division is effected; but the kings of that country have sought to mimic the forms of educated communities. The professional is distinguished from the habitual prostitute only by her open assumption of the title; but the immorality of the female sex in Dahomey is far from being represented by the order of confessed harlots.

The inhabitants of some islands, and the shores of bays and roadsteads, have discovered that in prostituting their women to the crews of trading ships they have a readier means of subsistence than was offered by their former industry. This has produced a frightful system of vicious commerce, which still prevails to a great extent in the Pacific, as well as in New Zealand and the ports of Africa. It is for Europeans to repair the evil created by the incontinence of their predecessors. Many captains of vessels have already effected much good by forbidding women to come on board.

In proportion as nations approach the higher stages of civilization does the respect for human life increase. Infanticide is practised with the least remorse by the most savage tribes. Among those communities with whom the means of existence are precarious this crime is most common. Wherever barbarians have been induced to labour, and secured in the enjoyment of their earnings, the natural feelings of the breast have revived; and mothers who have slain six infants cherish the seventh as a sacred possession. Missionary enterprise has produced much good in this respect; while the beneficent rule of our Indian government has bestowed incalculable blessings on the people of the East, among whom the system of infanticide is daily becoming rarer, and the condition of women more elevated.

The same may be remarked of that unnatural practice upon which, as indeed on all kindred subjects, writers are reluctant to touch—that, we mean, of destroying the unborn fruits of union. The savage regards it as an act rather meritorious for its ingenuity than abominable for its unnatural character. The cause that encourages infanticide encourages this, which, indeed, is the less horrible crime. The woman is less reluctant to extinguish the vitality of a being which has become to her dear only in anticipation, than to quench a life which has once been embodied before her eyes, and warmed in her bosom. The operation, so dangerous to females in civilized communities, is, like childbirth, far easier among savages. The native of the Bornean woods, without any of the delicacy engendered by luxury, may one moment be without a pang giving birth to an infant, and the next be washing it in a neighbouring brook. The Malayan lady, bred in a city in indolence and comfort, suffers agony under which she sometimes perishes before her offspring has breathed. So it is with the practice of destroying the unborn child. Civilization lessens in all creatures their means of independent life, and their powers of endurance; but it also enables them to discover or compound the elements by which these artificial ills may be remedied.

In proportion as the intercourse of the sexes is loose is the difficulty of learning the actual extent of immoral practices. The prostitute class, as we proceed from[58] the pure savage to the highest point of civilization, becomes more and more distinct—being more conspicuous because more isolated. This is accompanied by another process, which is a superior standard by which to measure the social elevation of a people. Women respect themselves in proportion as men respect them. Where locks and bolts, scourges and cudgels, are the guardians of female chastity, it is only preserved when there is no opportunity to lose it. When the protecting influence springs from within, the woman moves a virtuous being, defended even from a licentious glance by the impenetrable cloud which her native modesty and virtue diffuse around her.

Of Prostitution among African Nations.
In the wide field of inquiry presented by the barbarian races of our own time, Africa occupies a prominent place. Some of the most wild and savage tribes of the human family are to be found on that immense peninsula. Many degrees in the inferior scale of civilization are represented, from the uncouth Hottentots of the south to the wandering Arabs of the desert, in whose blameless lives we have a picture of original simplicity—not far removed from the real refinement, though very far from the vices, of the most polished among the communities of Europe. The inquiry we have made into the condition of women and the state of manners in Africa, has confirmed us in our opinion, which is supported also by many circumstances observed among other races of men. The medium of refinement is accompanied by the least immorality. As in our own, among other civilized states, the ratio of profligacy is greatest at the opposite poles of society—the wealthiest and the most indigent—so in Africa it is among the basest savages and among the most highly polished communities that immorality prevails to the greatest extent. The brutal hordes on the western coast, with the populations of the half-civilized cities of the north, abound in vices, while the barbarian though innocent communities, with the wandering dwellers in the desert, are characterised by manners far more pure.

In ranging over Africa in search of facts to complete the present inquiry, we meet with numerous tribes belonging to seven separate races of mankind: the Hottentot, the Kaffir, the Negro, the Moor, the Abyssinian, the Arab, and the Copts or descendants of the true Egyptian stock. Among each of these we perceive some varieties of manners; but everywhere in Africa one circumstance is prominent—the degraded condition of the female sex. The women of Cairo and Algiers are in comparison treated with little more refinement than those of some purely savage states; but we shall not include such communities among the barbarian races, reserving Egypt and some of the other countries characterised by a mongrel civilization for separate notices. We may, as far as our present inquiry goes, present the subject clearly and without confusion by making a geographical arrangement, and, commencing from the south, pass over the continent, until we encounter a form of civilization in the valley of the Lower Nile.

The condition of women generally in heathen countries is degraded. As we proceed through Africa this truth will be strongly illustrated. Commencing with the Hottentots of the south, we find them a dissolute profligate race, who have been so from the earliest period. It was remarked in 1655 by Van Riebeck, when the chiefs, departing on a distant expedition, were urged to leave their women behind, they replied “that their wives must be with them everywhere so as to be kept from the other men.” It was remarked also in 1840 by Colonel Napier, who describes them as proverbially unchaste. Polygamy, at the early period referred to, was prevalent. Men bought their wives—sometimes from their wealthier, sometimes from their poorer, neighbours; but all alliances between persons of near kindred were held in utter abhorrence. Indecency and lewdness are their characteristics, for though now accustomed to clothing, it is no uncommon thing for them, when drunk at their festivals, to strip naked and perform lascivious dances, to music of the rudest harmony. Many among them appear to prostitute themselves readily to strangers, some from inclination, others for money, many for a gift of finery; but in what numbers this disreputable class exists we have no means of knowing[42]. A superior order, however, is scattered among these degraded creatures, and many lively, intelligent, and well-conducted women have attracted the notice of travellers.


[From a Daguerreotype by Beard.]

The pastoral Kaffirs are perhaps a more moral though a more ferocious people than the Hottentots. They are, indeed, superior in mental and physical characteristics, being more addicted to arms, and less to debauch. They also, however, practise polygamy, and buy their wives for so many[59] head of cattle. Among them, as well as among the Bechuanas, the girls undergo a probation before marriage, during which they live apart, and hold no intercourse with their tribe except through an old woman. Sichele, king of the Bechuanas, had numerous wives, of whom one was a favourite; but he granted each a separate hut, so that his palace was a kind of village surrounded by a fence. They punish theft in a woman by twisting dry grass round her fingers and burning them to the bone. Wandering from place to place in tent-shaped temporary huts, they carry their women with them, and condemn them to domestic labour. Even the chief’s wives assist in grinding the corn, and tending their husband’s nomade household. Divorce is easy, on very slight grounds. We occasionally hear of women committing what is termed fornication, but no professed class of prostitutes has been described. As among all nations practising polygamy, marriage is not held as a sacred tie; but adultery on the wife’s part is severely punished as an infraction of the social law. The bonds of natural affection appear extremely weak among the Kaffir tribes. Men are inspired by an inclination, not an attachment, to their wives, and mothers possess less affection for their children than is observed even in the Australian savage. The weak and sickly are sometimes abandoned, to save the expense or trouble of their support. Mrs. Ward knew of a woman who, having a little daughter in a decline, buried it alive, to be rid of the burden. The little creature, imperfectly interred, burst from its grave and ran home. Again it was forced into the hole, again it escaped, and a third time it was removed to the earth; once more, however, it struggled till free, and, flying to its mother’s hut, was at last received, and ultimately recovered. Such instances of inhumanity are not rare among the Kaffir tribes, whose passion for blood and war seems to have blunted some of their natural sentiments. Husbands, when their wives are sick, frequently drag them into a neighbouring thicket, where they are left to die, and women continually do the same with their poor offspring. It is important, however, to mention, that in the instances of Kaffirs converted to Christianity their manners undergo a most favourable modification. One of them was known to Mrs. Ward who had refused to take a second wife, in deference to the moral law laid down by the interpreters of his adopted religion; and, where the conversion is sincere, they always manifest an inclination to practise the manners of the white men[43].

In the rude maritime region extending from the countries on the border of the Cape territory as far as the Senegal, a set of characteristic features is universally marked on the people, varied though their nationality be. Differences, of course, prevail among the numerous tribes in the several states; but the impress of African civilization is there all but uniform.

Those between the tropics, especially, are absorbed in licentiousness. Morality is a strange idea to them. Polygamy is universally practised, and in most places without limitation; while nowhere is a man restrained by the social law from intercourse with any number of females he chooses. The result is that women are, for the most part, looked upon as a marketable commodity; that the pure and exalted sentiment of love is utterly unknown; and that even the commonest feelings of humanity appear absent from among them. Husbands, for instance, on the Gold Coast, are known to prostitute their wives to others for a sum of money. This is an open transaction. In other places, however, where the adulterer pays a fine to the husband he has injured, we find men allowing their wives an opportunity to be unfaithful, in order to obtain the price of the crime. Throughout, indeed, the gloomy and savage states, sheltered by the woods bordering the Niger, and over the whole western coast, mankind appears in its uncouthest form. Human nature, degraded by perpetual war against itself, rots at the feet of a gross superstition. As we have said, the result is developed in various modifications of barbarian manners.

When Laird, in 1832, visited the Niger, he found the condition of the female sex upon its borders most humiliating. In the dominions of King Boy polygamy was unlimited, and the wives reduced to slavery in their own homes. The people dwelling on the banks of the Lower Niger may be described, in fact, as among the most idle, ignorant, and profligate in Africa. The prince himself set the example to his subjects. He possessed 140 wives and concubines, of whom one was no more than thirteen years of age, whom he had purchased for a few muskets and a piece of cloth. Half a dozen enjoyed the distinction of favourites; one of them was more than 25 stones in weight. The mo[60]ther of this pluralist was maintained in her son’s palace, where she amused the court by dances of the most revolting and obscene description. No care was, in any respect, taken to preserve a sense of virtue in the king’s harem; but adultery was, nevertheless, punished with death. This appears the case in most countries where shame holds no check on immorality; it may, indeed, be taken in some measure as an index to the state of manners where crimes against chastity are visited with public infamy alone, or with legal penalties. In the dominions of Boy, one wife, at least, was expected to attend her husband, even when dead. The chosen victim was bound and thrown into the river; a mode of death preferable to that practised at Calabar, on the coast, where the miserable woman is buried alive. In the kingdom of Fundals, when a chief died leaving fifteen women in his harem, the king selected one to be hung over the tomb, and transferred the rest to his own palace; nevertheless, a few of these enjoyed an independent existence. One lively intelligent woman possessed an estate of land and 200 slaves, whom she employed in trade. Industry flourished, there being small competition, as a more idle demoralized people than the dwellers on the Niger as far as Ebo cannot be imagined.

Above that place, where the land is less marshy and more favourable to cultivation, the natives are more intelligent, more addicted to agriculture, more manly in their habits, and in proportion more kind and respectful to their women. Polygamy, it is true, prevails, as it does all over Western Africa, but the sex is somewhat raised above a mere instrument of sensual gratification. In other directions the old features are resumed. The Bambarras, a Pagan people, marry as many wives as they can support; and the Mandingoes, who are only allowed four, treat them as slaves, though they love their children.

The native of Western Africa, in most cases, looks upon his wife, in one respect as a source of pleasure, in another as a source of gain, reckoning her as property to the amount she can earn by labour. In the institution of marriage, therefore, it may easily be conceived that no sacred tie is acknowledged. It is merely a civil contract, to be dissolved at will. The man sends a present to the woman’s father; if a virgin, she exchanges her leathern girdle for a cloth wrapped about the loins, and a little merry-making consummates the transaction. This account applies especially to the Tilatates. In Yarriba and Bughor, when a woman finds herself enceinte, she is obliged to inform her husband, or suffer a public whipping when the discovery is made. This custom refers, there is no doubt, to a feature in the morals of the people. Mothers, also, are forced to suckle their children until three years old, and punished if, during that period, they cohabit with a man.

Strange inconsistencies occasionally display themselves in the manners of these unintellectual barbarians. They have introduced a feature of Asiatic luxury, by having eunuchs to guard their seraglios, while instances occur in which the uncouth savage professes a sentiment of attachment. The King of Attah told Lander that he loved him as he loved the wife who shared his bed. Yet he was a polygamist, and a sensualist. In Abookir the prince was continually multiplying the inmates of his harem, and having many daughters, had numbers of wives younger than they. Girls of eleven years old are there considered marriageable.

Regarded as a mere social contract, temporary or otherwise, marriage, in this region, is held among the most ordinary occurrences of life. A man arriving at the age of 20 takes one wife, and then another, increasing the number from four to 100, as his circumstances allow. Many women, even under this system, cannot procure husbands. This, however, we must not ascribe so much to a vast preponderance of the female sex over the male, as to the fact that thousands of men take no permanent partners at all. It may, perhaps, be safe to assert that, of the single men, none remain without intercourse with women, and of the unmarried women, that not one preserves her chastity. The idea of that virtue appears foreign to those races. Adultery, indeed, is held a crime, but not so much against morals as against the husband. A wife suspected of it is compelled to drink a decoction called Sassy water, which poisons her, unless she bribes the priest to render it harmless by dilution, in which case she is pronounced innocent. The widow, even, who has been known to live on bad terms with her husband is forced, among the tribes on the banks of the Lower Niger, to undergo this ordeal. An illicit connection with the king’s wife, however, is punished with death to both parties, while among the chiefs the fine of a slave is exacted. Every woman, except the consort of royalty, has thus her market value, which is greatly increased if her friends fatten her up to a colossal size. Men frequently buy slender girls at a cheap rate, and feed them to a proper[61] obesity before taking them as companions. Marriage, or concubinage, may be entered on at the age of thirteen, and so universal is the system in this part of Africa, that the sex seems absolutely wedded to its degradation.

Among the people of Ibu a singular custom exists. When twins are born they are immediately exposed to wild beasts. The mother, compelled to go through a long course of purification and penance, is thenceforward an outlaw, disgraced among the women, who hold up two fingers as she passes, to remind her of the misfortune:—she is at once divorced from her husband.

Though thus reduced to slavery by the other sex, women, among these tribes, enjoy a certain degree of freedom, which is a mitigation of their miserable state. Married without their own consent, they are sold to a husband for from 26s. and upwards, and thenceforward become his servants. Yet the favourite wives of the rich, exempt from toil, are allowed to amuse themselves in various ways, and even to walk about unveiled, under the guard of an eunuch. Men never eat with their wives, and often treat them brutally, bewailing the loss of a slave far more than the death of a wife, unless she happens to please the caprice of the hour. It is among the poorest that most freedom is allowed, and among those tribes who have intercourse with Europeans that most ferocity prevails. Some dig the soil, some attend to the household, some support their husbands by the profits of a petty retail trade, while others, kept for his gratification, are allowed to idle. These favoured ones are often slaves. A handsome young one often sells for from 60,000 to 120,000 cowries (from 3l. 15s. to 7l. 10s.[44]), while the price of a common wife is only 20,000 cowries (25s.). Frequently, the man’s inclination changes its direction, and he sells one girl to purchase another. With many of the kings and chiefs a continual trade in women is common. King Bell, of the Cameroons, for instance, had more than 100 wives, and his wealth was increased by their numbers. In his dominions the young maidens had considerable liberty, sporting in the fields, and enjoying, for a few years, comparative independence of the men[45].

In the kingdom of Dahomey, on the Guinea Coast, we find some of the most remarkable institutions with respect to women which exist in the world. It has been the centre of the slave trade. Few of the comparatively fair aboriginal race exist, but in their place has been gathered a mixed population, incontestably one of the most profligate in Africa. Entering its seaport town the traveller is at once struck by the remarkable immodesty of the female population. Throughout the country the same characteristic is observable, though in a modified degree. Sir John Malcolm observed of the subjects of the Imaum of Muscat—manners they have none, and their habits are disgusting. The same description has been judiciously applied to the people of Dahomey. They are profligates, from the highest to the lowest—a bloody-minded savage race, delighting in human suffering, and finding their national pleasure in customs the most revolting and cruel that ever obtained in the world.

The king practises all these, and is superior in brutality and filthiness to any of his subjects. This has been a characteristic of the throne in Dahomey. He has thousands of wives, while his chiefs have hundreds, and the common people tens. The royal favourites are considered too sacred to be looked upon by vulgar eyes. Whenever they proceed along the public road, a bell is rung to warn all passengers of their approach, and every one must then turn aside or hide his face. If one of them commits adultery, she is, with her paramour, put to death. The harem is sacred against strangers, but the privileged nobility attend the royal feasts, where the king’s wives sit, attired in showy costumes of the reign of Charles II., drinking rum and leading the debauch. Those of an inferior class, or the concubines, are employed in trade, the profits of which accrue to their master. Every unmarried woman in Dahomey is virtually the property of the sovereign, who makes his choice among them. No one dares to dispute his will, or to claim a maiden towards whom he has signified his inclination.

When the king desires to confer honour on any favourite, he chooses a wife for him, and presents her publicly. In this case she performs the ceremony of handing to her husband a cup of rum, which is a sign of union. Otherwise no rite or ceremony whatever is essential. However, the man must finally take his wife or concubine, in the usual business manner, for if he seduces a maiden he must marry her, or pay to her parent or master 160,000 cowries (equal to 7l. 10s. of our money). Failing in this, he may be sold as a slave. This punishment also is inflicted on those who[62] commit adultery with a common person’s wife. The rich often buy a number of concubines, live with them for a short time, and then sell them at a profit. It is in Dahomey, too, that the practice prevails of throwing a wife in the way of committing adultery for the sake of the penalty which her husband may exact from the criminal. It is commonly known that the king of Dahomey supports an army of several thousand Amazonian soldiers. These women dress in male attire, and are not allowed to marry, or supposed to hold intercourse with the other sex. They declare themselves, indeed, to have changed their nature. “We are men,” they say, “and no women.” In all things—courage and ferocity among the rest—they seek to preserve the character. They dwell in barracks, under the care of eunuchs; they practise wild war-dances, and, officered by their own sex, scorn the allurements of any weaker passion; they are, therefore, for the most part chaste. Vanity and superstition combine to guard their virtue. They boast of never encountering a man except in the field of battle. Thus their pride is enlisted in the service of their chastity. A charm is placed under the threshold of their common dwelling, as it is under that of the palace harem, which is supposed to strike with disease the bowels of any guilty woman who may cross it. So strong is this belief, that many incontinent Amazons have voluntarily revealed their crime, though well aware that the punishment of death will be, without mercy, dealt upon them as well as their lovers[46].

Most men have a favourite wife, and her privilege is valuable so long as her husband lives; but on his decease it entails a terrible obligation. The dying chief invites one or more of his principal wives to die with him, and these, with a number of slaves, varying according to his rank, are sacrificed at his tomb.

In consequence of the immense number of wives and concubines kept by the king and his wealthier subjects, numbers of the common people are forced to be content with the company of prostitutes, who are licensed in Dahomey, and subject to a particular tax. There is a band of them, according to Dalzel, who appears worthy of belief, in every village, though confined to a certain quarter, and they prostitute themselves to any who desire it, at a moderate fixed price. The profits thus obtained are often insufficient for their support, and they eke out their gains by breeding fowls, and other industrial occupations. Women also hire themselves out to carry heavy burdens, and they no doubt belong to the prostitute class. Norris saw 250 of these unfortunate women collected in a troop on a public occasion. The object of this institution, according to the king, was to save the respectable people from seduction. There were many men who could not get wives, and, unless prostitutes existed, they would seduce the wives or daughters of others. At Whyddah, on the coast, Mr. John Duncan was assailed by numbers of women who offered to “become his wives,” or, in other words, to prostitute themselves to him, for a drop of rum. Many of the poorer class strolled about naked, ready to accept any one for a miserable gratuity. In that city it was the custom when a man committed adultery, to press him into the king’s army. Formerly he was sacrificed, but the practice was abolished—prisoners of war furnishing “the annual customs” with victims. Whatever the punishment was, however, it was ineffectual to suppress the crime, as depravity was the general characteristic of the people. At Zapoorah, beyond Dahomey, a chief offered one of his wives for sale, and parents asked a price for their children; while at Gaffa, still further, the men are more jealous, and the women more modest. Adultery with the king’s wife was punished by impalement on a red-hot stake.

The dirty, lazy, and dull people of the Fantee coast, near Dahomey, wear the same moral aspect as the subjects of that kingdom. Women support the men. Parents would sell their children, husbands their wives, and women themselves, for a trifling sum. One woman was so desirous of changing her companion, that she took possession of a recent traveller’s bed, and could only be expelled by force. Marriage is a mere purchase—of from six to twenty wives and concubines. The rich support their harems at a great cost. The common price is sixteen dollars. Maidens are seldom bought when beyond fifteen or sixteen years of age, so that many men have wives younger than their daughters. The indivi[63]dual committing adultery is forced to buy his paramour at her original price. Contrary to the custom of Ibu and Bony, the mother of twins is, among the Fantees, held in great respect.

Along the coast of Benin manners, in most respects similar to these, prevail—public dancers acting as prostitutes in most of the native towns, and offering themselves for a wretched price. Every woman holds it an honour to be the king’s companion even for one night[47].

In Ashantee, where polygamy, as elsewhere in Africa, prevails, adultery is common, especially among the king’s wives, who, when discovered, are hewn to pieces. The manners of the people are profligate beyond anything of which in England we can realize an idea. In the country of the Kroomen, eastward on the Guinea Coast, where nearly all the labour devolves on women, men become independent by the possession of from twenty to forty wives. One practice prevailing there is characterized by an unusual depravity. The son, inheriting his father’s property, inherits also his wives, his own mother then becoming his slave. In the interior, on the banks of the Asinnee, we find a people among whom the men are industrious, and the women treated with respect. The consequence is a far higher standard of morality[48].

It is remarkable to find among the Edeeyahs of Fernando Po a strong contrast to these general characteristics of manners and morality in Western Africa. Generous, hospitable, humane, practising no murder, possessing no slaves, with only innocent rites, they treat their women with comparative consideration, and assign them far less than the usual amount of hard labour. To cook food, bear palm oil to market, and press the nuts, are their principal occupations. Polygamy is allowed, and when a man undertakes a journey, he is accompanied by one or more of his wives, who are much attached to their husbands and children.

The first wife taken by a man must be betrothed to him at least two years before marriage. During that period the lover must perform all the duties which otherwise would have been performed by her. He must go, indeed, through a probation resembling the servitude of Jacob for Rachel. Meanwhile the maiden is kept in a hut, concealed from the sight of the people. These courtships often begin while the girl is no more than thirteen or fourteen, and her lover only a youth; but if he seduces her before the two years are elapsed, he is severely punished. That time having expired the young wife is still kept in the hut, where she receives her husband’s visits until it is evident she is about to become a mother—or if not, for eighteen months. When she first appears publicly as a married woman, all the virgins of her tribe salute her and dance about her. These customs indicate far more purity and elevation of manners among the Edeeyahs than among any other people in Western Africa. They are only observed, however, with regard to the first wife, all the others being virtually no more than concubines governed by her. Some chiefs have upwards of a hundred, and the king more than twice that number.

Adultery is severely punished, but, nevertheless, not very rare. For the first offence both parties lose one hand. For the second the man, with his relatives, is heavily fined, and otherwise chastised, while the woman, losing the other hand, is driven as an outlaw into the woods. This exile is more terrible to the Edeeyahs than the mutilation[49].

In examining the condition of Africa, in the light we have chosen, it would entail a tiresome repetition to pass in review all the various groups of states sunk in barbarism. The natives are generally barbarian. Elevated slightly above the hunting or pure savage state, they have subdued some animals to their use, and practise some ingenious arts; but their manners are baser than those of any race below them in point of art and luxury. We have seen that in the West, with a few rare exceptions, profligacy is the universal feature of society. In the East it is almost equally so. Our knowledge of that coast, it is true, is less full than of the West; but travellers afford sufficient information to justify an opinion on the general state of manners. In Zulu, as an example of the rest, the king has a seraglio of fifteen hundred women, who are slaves to his caprice. His mother was in that condition when Isaacs visited the country. She endured corporal chastisement from her son. A number of women and boys, belonging to the royal harem, and suspected of illicit[64] intercourse, were massacred by the prince’s orders. Adultery, indeed, was a thing of continual occurrence in the palace. Marriage is held among the people not as a sacred tie but as a state of friendship. All the people, however, are polygamists, and the laws of morality refer only to wives. With others the intercourse of the sexes is unrestrained. Men do not cohabit with their wives on the first night after their wedding. This ceremony among the rich is accompanied by a grand feast, though, as in other parts of Africa, the wife is bought—at the most for ten cows. A man cannot sell but may dismiss his wife, over whom also he has the power of life and death. Adultery is always capitally punished, that is, when discovered; for with eighty or ninety women in his possession, it is not always possible for the husband to watch their conduct—especially as they labour for his support. Girls are not allowed to marry or become concubines until the age of fourteen, until which period they go without clothing. The degrees of consanguinity, within which marriage is strictly prohibited, are very wide—an union being permitted only between the most distant relations.

It is necessary to observe that in the Zulu kingdom profligacy is more general among the men than among the women, for wives hold the marriage tie in great estimation. It is the unlimited power of the male sex over the other which forces it to become the prey of sensuality. Throughout the Eastern region, indeed, women are the mere instruments of pleasure, being bought and sold like cattle—forced to toil and live in drudgery for the benefit of their masters and husbands[50].

Among the nomade and stationary tribes of the Sahara, who are not aboriginal to that region, we have a different system of manners. In the Arabian communities you may find women ready to perform indecent actions, and even to prostitute themselves for money; but these are of the low classes. Cases of adultery are rare.

The Mohammedans believe that a man cannot have too many wives, or, at least, too many concubines. They declare it assists their devotion; but the feeling is one merely sensual. Pure sentiment is a thing in which they can scarcely believe. Rich men who are accustomed to travel in pursuit of trade, have one family at Ghadames, another, perhaps, at Ghat, and another at Soudan, and live with each of them by turns. These women stand in great fear of their husbands. The rich are veiled, and live in retirement; the poor do not; but all will unveil their faces to a stranger, if it can be done with safety. The white, or respectable women of Ghadames, never descend into the streets, or even into the gardens of their houses. The flat roof of their dwelling is their perpetual promenade, and a suite of two or three rooms their abode. It is said that in these retreats many of the women privately rule their husbands, though no men will confess the fact. Among the Marabouts it is held disgraceful to be unmarried, but shameful also to be under the wife’s control.

The negresses and half-castes who may be seen in the streets of the cities of the Sahara, are generally slaves. The women of the Touarik tribes, however, are by no means so. They belong to a fierce and warlike tribe, half vagrant, half stationary, and are bound by few restrictions. Their morals are described as superior to those of the lower class of women in Europe; though exceptions, of course, are found. One Touarik woman offered to prostitute herself to Richardson for a sum of money; or, as it was expressed, to become his wife.

Polygamy, though universally allowed in the Sahara, is not carried to an extent at all equal to that prevailing in the savage regions on the east and west. Three wives usually occupy the harem of a rich man. Marriage is, as usual with people of that religion, a civil contract with a shade of sanctity upon it, but celebrated with great feasts and rejoicings. The bridegroom is expected to live in retirement during two or three weeks. He occasionally walks about the town at evening alone, dressed in gay clothes of blue and scarlet, and bearing a fine long stave of brass or polished iron. He never speaks or is spoken to, and vanishes on meeting any one.


[From St. John’s “Oriental Album.”]

The manners of the communities in the Sahara are imperfectly known; but from the accounts we have received they appear to be of a far more elevated order than those of any other part of Africa. It is true that customs prevail which shock our ideas of decency. A chief, for instance, offered Richardson his two daughters as wives. It is also true that many women exist who follow the profession of prostitutes, though we have no distinct account of them. But immorality is usually among them a secret crime. Their general customs with regard to sexual intercourse are at least as pure as those of Europe. Among the wandering tribes of the desert the hardship of their lives, continual occu[65]pation, varied scenes of excitement, and contempt for sensual enjoyments, contribute to preserve chastity among their virtues; while the Marabouts of the cities are of a generally moral character. Intoxication never happens among the women. Still, the condition of the sex is degraded; for they are, with exceptions, regarded only as the materials of a man’s household, and ministers to the sensual enjoyments of his life[51]. The Mohammedans of Central Africa, bigoted as to dogmas, are nevertheless more liberal to women, who enjoy more consideration among them than in the more important strongholds of that religion[52].

The wandering Arabs of Algeria hold marriage as a business transaction, though the estimation of the sex is not low. The lover brings to the woman’s home ten head of cattle, with other presents, which usually form her dowry. The father asks, “How much does she whom you are going to have for wife cost you?” He replies, “A prudent and industrious woman can never be too dear.” She is dressed, placed on a horse, and borne to her new home amid rejoicing. She then drinks the cup of welcome, and thrusting a stick into the ground, declares, “As this stick will remain here until some one forces it away, so will I.” She then performs some little office to show she is ready for the duty of a wife, and the ceremony is ended[53].

Transferring our observations to Abyssinia, we find in its several divisions different characteristics of manners. In Tajura, on the Red Sea, profligacy is a conspicuous feature of society. Men live with their wives for a short period, and then sell them, maintaining thus a succession of favourites in their harems. Parents, also, are known not only to sell their daughters as wives, but to hire them out as prostitutes. One chief offered a traveller his daughter either as a temporary or a permanent companion; he showed another whom he would have sold for 100 dollars. One woman presented herself, stating, as a recommendation, that she had already lived with five men. These are nothing but prostitutes, whatever the delicacy of travellers induces them to term them. Unfortunately the inquiries made into this system are very slight, affording us no statistics or results of any kind. We are thus left to judge of morality in Tajura by the fact that syphilis afflicts nearly the whole population, man and woman, sultan and beggar, priests and their wives included.

In the Christian kingdom of Shoa, the Christian king has one wife, and 500 concubines; seven in the palace, thirteen at different places in the outskirts, and the rest in various parts of his dominions. He makes a present to the parents of any women he may desire, and is usually well paid in return for the honour. The governors of cities and provinces follow this example, keeping establishments of concubines at different places. Scores of the royal slaves are cast aside, and their place supplied by others.

In Shoa there are two kinds of marriage; one a mere agreement to cohabitation, another a holy ceremony; the former is almost universally practised. The men and women declare before witnesses that they intend to live happily together. The connection thus easily contracted is easily broken; mutual consent only is necessary to a divorce. In Shoa a wife is valued according to the amount of her property. The heiress to a house, a field and a bedstead, is sure to have a husband. When they quarrel and part, a division of goods takes place. Holy ceremonies are very rare, and not much relished. A wedded couple, in one sense of the term, is a phenomenon. Instances of incontinence are frequent; while the caprice of the men leads them often to increase the number of their concubines. These are procured as well from the Christians as from the Mohammedans and Pagans; but the poor girls professing these religions are forced to a blind profession of Christianity. Favourite slaves and concubines hold the same position with married women; while illegitimate and legitimate children are treated by the law with no distinction. Three hundred of the king’s concubines are slaves, taken in war or purchased from dealers. They are guarded by fifty eunuchs, and live in seclusion; though this by no means prevents the court from overflowing with licentiousness. Numerous adulteries take place, and this example is followed by the people; among whom a chaste married couple is not common.

Women in Abyssinia, which is an agricultural country, mix freely with the men, and dance in their company; though a few jealous husbands or cautious parents seclude them. Morality is at an extremely low ebb. At the Christmas saturnalia, gross and disgusting scenes occur, as well as at other feasts. What else can be ex[66]pected in a country where 12,000 priests live devoted, in theory at least, to celibacy; and where, at the annual baptisms, these priests, with men, women, and children strip naked, and rush in promiscuous crowds into a stream, where they are baptised according to the Christian religion! The sacerdotal class of Shoa is notoriously drunken and profligate. Another cause of corruption is the caprice which induces men to abandon their concubines after short cohabitation with them. These women, discarded and neglected, devote themselves to an infamous profession, and thus immorality is perpetuated through every grade of their society: in a word, the morals of Shoa are of the lowest description. In the Mohammedan states in its neighbourhood the condition of the sex is no better. If there is less general prostitution, it is because every woman is the slave of some man’s lust, and is imprisoned under his eye. He is jealous only of her person; scarcely attributing to her a single quality which is not perceptible to his senses[54].

In the southern provinces of Kordofan, under the government of Egypt, south of the Nubian Mountains, immense labour is imposed on the unmarried girls; yet the sentiment of love is not altogether unknown to them, and men fight duels with whips of hippopotamus hide on account of a disputed mistress. The wife is nevertheless a virtual slave, and still more degraded should she prove barren; the husband, in that case, solaces himself with a concubine, who, if she bears a child, is elevated to the rank of wife. It is common among the rich for a man to make his wife a separate allowance after the birth of her second child, when she goes to live in a separate hut. All their bloom is gone by the time they are twenty-four years old, and thenceforward they enjoy no estimation from the men. Yet, improvident in their hearts, the young girls of Kordofan are merry; and, whether at work or idle, spend the day in songs and laughter; while in the evening they assemble and dance to the music of the Tarabuka drum. Their demeanour, in general, is modest, and their lives are chaste. Married women, on the contrary, especially those who are neglected by their husbands, occupy themselves in gossip, and find solace in criminal intrigues. In some parts of the country, indeed, men consider it an honour for their wives to have intercourse with others; and the women are often forwarded in their advances. Female slaves often have liberty when they bear children to their proprietors.

Women eat when the men have done, and pretty dancers attend at the feasts to amuse their employers. These girls, like the Ghawazee of Lower Egypt, are usually prostitutes, and very skilful in the arts of seduction. Numbers of this class fled from Egypt into Kordofan, on one occasion, when Mohammed Ali, in one of his affected fits of morality, endeavoured to suppress their calling altogether.

Marriage, it may be scarcely necessary to say, is concluded without the woman’s consent. The man bargains for her, pays her price, takes her home, strips off her virginal girdle, which is the only garment of unmarried girls, and covers her with a cloth about her loins; a feast and a dance occasionally celebrate the event. When a wife is ill-treated beyond endurance, she demands a divorce; and, taking her female offspring, with her dowry, returns home. Trifles often produce these separations. That her husband has not allowed her sufficient pomatum to anoint her person with, is not unfrequently the ground of complaint. Few men in Kordofan have more than two wives; but most have concubines besides, whom the more opulent protect by a guard of eunuchs.

These remarks apply to the agricultural or fixed population. The Baghaira, or wandering pastoral tribes of Kordofan, are a modest, moral race—naked, but not on that account indecent[55].

A chief of the Berbers offered a late traveller the choice of his two daughters for a bedfellow. They were already both married. Women there, however, as well as in Dongola, are, many of them, ready to prostitute themselves for a present. A virgin, whether as wife or concubine, may be purchased for a horse. “Why do you not marry?” said a traveller to a young Berber. He pointed to a colt and answered “When that is a horse I shall marry.”[56]

The condition of women and state of manners on the upper borders of the Nile, we find described in Ferdinand Werne’s account of his recent voyage to discover the sources of the White Stream. The system in Khartum may be indicated by one sentence in the traveller’s own language. He speaks of desiring that the pay[67] might be advanced to prevent starvation from visiting the soldiers’ families, “which, from the low price of female slaves, were numerous.” It may, without resort to hyperbole, be said, that the female monkeys peopling the neighbouring woods occupy a far nobler and more natural position. Among the barbarians on the banks of the river further up, the state of manners is in a great degree more pure. The Keks, for example, are described as leading a blameless life. The travellers saw no marriageable maidens or children, married women alone appearing. The most singular social economy prevails among them. The women live, during a considerable part of the year, in villages apart from the men, who possess only temporary huts. Their wives have regular substantial habitations, which are common to both sexes during the rainy season. A man dare not approach the “harem village,” except at the proper period, though some of the women occasionally creep into their husbands’ village. Polygamy is allowed, but only practised by the chiefs, since all the wives are bought, which renders the indulgence costly.

Among some of the tribes on the banks of the White Nile women will sell their children if they can do so with profit. Everywhere in that region the maidens mingle naked with the men, but appear by no means immodest. When married they wear an apron. All exhibit a sense of shame at exhibiting themselves unclothed before strangers. Beyond the Mountains of the Moon, however, Werne found people, among whom the unmarried men and women were separated. They were completely naked, but chaste and decent nevertheless. A heavy price was always asked for a girl, which prevented common polygamy, though their social code permitted it[57].

It must be evident that, in an inquiry like the present, a view of the manners and morals of Africa with regard to the female sex must be incomplete. In the first place, our information is very limited; in the second, we are confined for space—for otherwise these sketches could be extended to an indefinite extent. We have, however, taken observations in Southern, in Western, in Eastern, in Northern, and Central Africa. Kingdoms and communities, indeed, there are which we have not included in our description. Of these some wear features so similar to others we have noticed, that to particularise them is unnecessary in a general view. Of others, such as Egypt, Nubia, Barca, Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, we shall treat in a future division of the subject, because they are not included, by the character of their civilization, among the communities of which we have hitherto spoken. The reader will, we trust, have been enabled to form a fair idea of the average of morals among the savages and semi-savages of Africa. With modern barbarians, as with ancient states, tabular statistics are impossible: but from a description in general terms, we cannot always refuse to ground a confident opinion.

Women in Australia.
In Australia we have a family of the human race still more uneducated, though not more barbarous, than that which inhabits the woods of the African continent. There is among them less approach to the arts of civilization, less ingenuity, less intelligence, but there is more simplicity. Their customs are not so brutal as those prevailing on the banks of the Joliba or the Senegal. Nevertheless they are true savages, and the condition of their women is consistent with all the other features of their irreclaimed state. Of the Australians, however, as of all races imperfectly known, there obtains in this country a vulgar idea drawn from the old accounts, which are little better than caricatures. They have been represented as a hideous race, scarcely elevated above the brute, blood-thirsty, destitute of human feeling, without any redeeming characteristics, and, moreover, incapable of civilization. Such a description is calculated only to mislead. The aborigines of Australia are certainly a low, barbarous, and even a brutal race, but the true picture of their manners, which form the expression of their character, is not without encouraging traits.

Considering the great extent of New Holland, it is surprising to find such an uniformity of character and customs, as we actually discover among its nations. The language, varied by dialects, the habits, social laws, and ideas of the people, are extremely similar, whether we visit them in that province called the Happy or in the districts around Port Essington. Consequently, though it occupy a large space on the map, this region will not require any very extended notice. An idea of the condition and morality of its women may be afforded by one general view, with reference to the various local peculiarities noticed by travellers.

The native inhabitants of Australia are generally nomadic. They dwell in tempo[68]rary villages scattered over vast surfaces of country, and move from place to place, as the supply of provisions, spontaneously provided by the earth, is more or less abundant. Separated as they are into small isolated communities—rarely numbering more than eighty members—they resort to the borders of lakes and streams, which dry up at certain seasons, and force them to seek elsewhere a home. A rude copy of the patriarchal form of government prevails among them—old men being the rulers of the tribe.

The condition of women among these primitive savages is extremely low. They are servants of the stronger sex. In some of their dialects wife and slave are synonymous. All the labour devolves on her, and, as no form of agriculture is practised, this consists principally in the search for the means of life. She collects the daily food, she prepares the camp or the hut at night, she piles fire-wood, draws water, weaves baskets, carries all burdens, and bears the children on her back, and the return for all this willing devotion is frequently the grossest ill-usage.

There is no form of marriage ceremony observed. A man gets a wife in various ways. Sometimes she is betrothed to him while an infant—even before her birth, and sometimes she devolves to him with other property. The eldest surviving brother, or next male relative, inherits the women of a whole family. Thus many households are supplied. Others steal their wives from hostile tribes, and frequent wars arise from such proceedings. Polygamy is universally allowed, but not by any means generally practised; for there are few parts of Australia where the female sex is not outnumbered by the male. Plurality of wives consequently implies wealth and distinction—each additional one being regarded as a new slave, an increase of property. Nor are the women jealous of polygamy. When a man has many wives, they subdivide the labour, which otherwise would devolve on one, thus lightening each others’ burdens, and procuring companionship. There can indeed be little jealous feeling where affection on the part of the husband to the wife is almost a thing unknown.

The Australian wife when past the prime of life is usually a wretched object. She is often deformed and crippled by excessive toil—her body bent, her legs crooked, her ankles swollen, her face wearing an aspect of sullen apathy, produced by long hardship. When young, however, they are frequently lively and happy, not being cursed with keen feelings, and caring for little beyond the present hour. Should a young woman, nevertheless, be distinguished by peculiar beauty, she leads, while her attractions last, a miserable course of existence. Betrothed at an early age, she is perpetually watched by the future husband, and upon the least suspicion of infidelity is subjected to the most brutal treatment. To thrust a spear through her thigh or the calf of her leg is the common mode of punishment. She may, in spite of all precautions, be snatched away: whether consenting or not, she must endure the same penalty. If she be chaste, the man who has attempted to seduce her may strike her with a club, stun her, and bear her to a wood, where she is violated by force. Still she is punished, and it is, says Sir George Grey, no common sight to see a woman of superior elegance or beauty who has not some scars disfiguring various parts of her person. This period, however, is soon over, for the bloom of an Australian woman is very short-lived. When the seducer is found, he is punished in a similar manner, and if he have committed adultery with a married woman, suffers death.

The jealousy of the married men is excessive, and would be ridiculous were it not that their vigilance is absolutely called for. A careless husband would speedily suffer for his neglect. Accordingly we find the Australian savages practising in their woods or open plains restrictions not dissimilar to those adopted in the seraglios of the East. When an encampment is formed for the night every man overlooks his wives while they build one or more temporary huts, over which he then places himself as a guard. The young children and the unmarried girls occupy this portion of the village. Boys above ten years of age and all single men are forced to sleep in a separate encampment, constructed for them by their mothers, and are not allowed to visit the bivouacs of the married men. Under no circumstances is a strange native allowed to approach one of the family huts. Each of these little dwellings is placed far from the rest, so that when their inmates desire to hold converse they sing to each other from a distance. When the young men collect to dance, the maidens and wives are allowed to be spectators, but only on a few occasions to join. They have dances of their own, at which the youth of the other sex are not permitted to be present.

In spite of this excessive jealousy the idea of a husband’s affection for his wife[69] appears strange to them. Men return from journeys without exchanging a greeting with the mothers of their children, but those children they salute with many endearing terms, falling on their necks and shedding tears with every demonstration of love. A man has been known, when his wife was grievously sick, to leave her to die in the wilderness, rather than be troubled with her on his journey.

Yet the influence of women is not by any means small. In some of the tribes they obtain a position of moderate equality with the husband, are well-fed, clothed, and treated as rational beings. Everywhere the men, young and old, strive to deserve their praise; and exhibitions of vanity take place, perfectly ludicrous to those European travellers who forget that the silly dandyism of the Australian savage, with his paint and opossum skin, is only peculiar in its form of expression. Women are often present on the field of battle, to inspire their husbands by exhortations, to rouse them by clamours of revenge or appeals to their valour; and among the chief punishments of cowardice is their contempt. The man failing in any great duty of a warrior is so disgraced. Thus, if he neglect to avenge the death of his nearest relation, his wives may quit him; the unmarried girls shun him with scorn, and he is driven by their reproaches to perform his bloody and dangerous task.

Where polygamy exists it is seldom the woman’s consent is required before her union with a suitor. In Australia it is never required or expected. The transaction is entirely between her father and the man who desires her for a wife, or, rather, for a concubine. She is ordered, perhaps, to take up her household bag, and go to a certain man’s hut, and this may be the first notice she has of the marriage. There she is in the position of a slave to her master. If she be obedient, toil without torture is her mitigated lot; but if she rebel, the club is employed to enforce submission. She is her husband’s absolute property. He may give her away, exchange her, or lend her as he pleases. Indeed, old men will sometimes offer their wives to friends, or as a mark of respect to strangers; and the offer is not uncommonly accepted.

Though we have mentioned three ways of obtaining a wife, the system of betrothal is the most general. Almost every female child is so disposed of a few days after its birth. From that moment the parents have no control whatever over her future settlement; she is in fact a bought slave. Should her betrothed die she becomes the property of his heir. Whatever her age she may be taken into the hut; cohabitation often commencing while the girl is not twelve years old, and her husband only a boy. Three days after her first husband’s death the widow goes to the hut of the second.

Some restrictions, however, are imposed on the intercourse of the sexes. Thus all children take the family name of their mother, and a man may not marry a woman of his own family name. Relations nearer than cousins are not allowed to marry, and an alliance even within this degree is very rare. The Australians have, indeed, a horror of all connections with the least stigma of incest upon them, and adjudge the punishment of death to such an offence. Their laws, which are matters not of enactment but of custom, are extremely severe upon this and all other points connected with their women.

Chastity, nevertheless, is neither highly appreciated nor often practised. It is far from being prized by the women as a jewel of value; on the contrary, they plot for opportunities to yield it illicitly, and can scarcely be said to know the idea. Profligacy is all but universal among them; it is a characteristic even of the children. When some schools were formed at Perth, for the education of the natives, it was found absolutely necessary to separate children of tender years, in order to prevent scenes of vile debauch from being enacted. It should be said, however, that though indiscriminate prostitution among the women, and depraved sensuality among the men, exist in the most savage communities, disease and vice are far less characteristic of them than of those tribes which have come in contact with Europeans. In all the colonial towns there is a class of native women following the calling of prostitutes, and there the venereal disease and syphilis are most deadly and widely prevalent. The former appears to have been brought from Europe, and makes terrible havoc among them. The latter, ascribed by their traditions to the East, has been found among tribes which had apparently never held intercourse with the whites; in such cases, however, it is in a milder form.

Several causes contribute to the corruption of manners among these savage tribes. One of the principal is, the monopoly of women claimed by the old men. The patriarchs of the tribe, contrive to secure all the young girls, leaving to their more youthful brethren only common prosti[70]tutes, prisoners of war, and such women as they can ravish from a neighbouring community, or seduce from their husbands’ dwellings. They also abandon to them their own wives when 30 or 40 years old, obtaining in exchange the little girls belonging to the young man’s family. The youthful warrior, therefore, with a number of sisters, can usually succeed in obtaining a few wives by barter. That their personal attractions are faded is not of any high importance; since they are needed chiefly to render him independent of labour. His sensual appetites he is content to gratify, until he becomes a patriarch, by illicit intrigues with other women of the tribe. Of these there are generally some ready to sell or give away their favours. The wives, especially of the very old chiefs, look anxiously forward to the death of their husbands, when they hope, in the usual course of inheritance, to be transferred to the hut of a younger man; for, among nations in this debased state, it is not the woman that is prized, but a woman. Personal attachment is rare. The husband whose wife has been ravished away by a warrior from a neighbouring tribe may be pacified by being presented with another companion. Even in Australia Felix, which is peopled by the most intelligent, industrious, and manly of the Australian race, the young man disappointed of a wife in his own tribe sets off to another, waylays some woman, asks her to elope with him, and, on her refusal, stuns her with his club, and drags her away in triumph. Marriage, indeed, appears too dignified a term to apply to this system of concubinage and servitude which in Australia goes under that name. Travellers have found in the far interior happy families of man and wife, roaming together, with common interests, and united by affection; but such instances are rare.

A large proportion of the young men in Australia can by no means obtain wives. This arises from the numerical disparity between the sexes, which is almost universal in that region, and is chiefly attributable to the practice of infanticide. Child-killing is indeed among the social institutions of that poor and barbarous race. Women have been known to kill and eat their offspring, and men to swing them by the legs and dash out their brains against a tree. The custom is becoming rare among those tribes in constant intercourse with Europeans, but that intercourse itself has caused much of the evil. Half-castes, or the offspring of native women by European fathers, are almost invariably sacrificed. They are held in dread by the people, who fear the growth of a mixed race which may one day conquer or destroy them. Females, also, are killed in great numbers. This class of infanticide is regulated by various circumstances in different communities. Among some tribes all the girls are destroyed until a boy is born; in others, the firstborn is exposed; in others, all above a certain number perish; but everywhere the custom prevails. One of two twins—a rare birth—is almost always killed. It may be ascribed to the miserably poor condition of the people, and the degraded state of the female sex; for in a region where the aborigines have not yet learned to till the soil, and where the means of life are scanty, there will always be an inducement to check the growth of numbers by infanticide; and where women have to perform all the labour, and follow their husbands in long marches or campaigns, ministering to every want they may experience, the trouble of nursing an infant is often saved at the cost of the infant’s life. Neglect also effects the same purpose.

The population, under these circumstances, has always been thin, and is apparently decreasing. Among 421 persons belonging to various tribes in Australia Felix, Eyre remarked that there were in the course of two years and a half only ten children reared. In other places one child to every six women was not an unusual average. This, however, is not all to be ascribed to infanticide. Many of the females abandon themselves so recklessly to vice that they lose all their natural powers, and become incapable of bearing offspring. Eyre found in other parts of Australia that the average of births was four to every woman. In New South Wales the proportion of women to men appears to be as two to three; while in the interior, Sturt calculated that female children outnumbered the male, while with adults the reverse was true. This indicates an awful spread of the practice of infanticide, which we cannot refuse to believe when we remember the facts which travellers of undeniable integrity have made known to us.

To suppose from this that in Australia the natural sentiments of humanity are unknown, would be extremely rash. On the contrary, we find very much that is beautiful in the character of its wild people, and are led to believe that civilization may go far towards elevating them from all their barbarous customs. Women are known to bear about their necks, as relics sacred to affection, the bones of their[71] children, whom they have mourned for years with a pure and deep sorrow. Men have loved and respected their wives; maidens have prized and guarded their virtue; but it is too true that these are exceptions, and that the character and the condition of the female sex in Australia is that of debasement and immorality.

With respect to the prostitute class of the colonial towns, to which allusion has been made, it will be noticed in another part of this inquiry, when we examine into the manners of English and other settlers abroad.

Of prostitutes as a class among the natives themselves, it is impossible to speak separately; for prostitution of that kind implies some advance towards the forms of regular society, and little of this appears yet to be made in that region. From the sketch we have given, however, a general idea may be gained of the state of women and the estimation of virtue among a race second only to the lowest tribes of Africa in barbarity and degradation[58].

Of Prostitution in New Zealand.
In the New Zealand group we find a race considerably elevated above the other inhabitants of Australasia, with a species of native civilization—a system of art, industry, and manners. Perhaps the savage of New Holland is one of the most miserable, and the New Zealander one of the most elevated, barbarians in the world. By this we do not mean that he has made any progress in refinement, or been subdued by the amiable amenities of life; but he is quick, intelligent, apt to learn, swift to imitate, and docile in the school of civilization. The Maories, in their original state, are low and brutal; but they are easily raised from that condition. They have exhibited a capacity for the reception of knowledge, and a desire to adopt what they are taught to admire—which encourage strong hopes of their reclamation. Among them, however, vice was, until recently, almost universal, and at the present day it is so, with the exception of a few tribes brought directly under the influence of educated and moral European communities. The only class which has discarded the most systematic immorality is that which has reconciled itself to the Christian religion, or been persuaded to follow the manners of the white men. The unreclaimed tribes present a spectacle of licentiousness which distinguishes them even among barbarous nations.

They show, indeed, an advance in profligacy. Their immorality is upon a plan, and recognised in that unwritten social law which among barbarians remedies the want of a written code. It is not the beastly lust of the savage, who appears merely obedient to an animal instinct, against which there is no principle of morals or sentiment of decency to contend;—it is the appetite of the sensualist, deliberately gratified, and by means similar, in many respects, to those adopted among the lowest classes in Europe. We may, indeed, compare the Maori village, unsubjected to missionary influence, with some of the hamlets in our rural provinces, where moral education of every kind is equally an exile.

The New Zealanders have been divided into the descendants of two races, the one inferior to the other; and the Malay has been taken as the superior. Ethnologists may prove a difference between them, and trace it through their manners; but these distinctions of race are not sufficiently marked to require separate investigations. The social institutions of the islanders are very generally the same, with some unimportant variations among the several tribes. We are placed in this peculiar difficulty when inquiring into the manners of New Zealand—that they appear to have undergone considerable modification since, and in consequence of, the arrival of Europeans. The natives refer to this change themselves, and in some cases charge the whites with introducing various evils into their country. Undoubtedly this is as true of New Zealand as of every other portion of the globe whither men have carried from Christendom the vices as well as the advantages of civilization. But in speaking of European settlers, a broad distinction must be borne in mind. White is not more contrasted with black, than are the regular orderly colonies established under the authority of Great Britain with the irregular scattered settlements planted by whalers, runaway or released convicts, land speculators, and other adventurers before the formal hoisting of our flag. The[72] influence of the one has been to enlighten and to elevate, of the other to debase and demoralize, the native population. Gambling, drinking, and prostitution were encouraged or introduced by the one, Christianity, order, and morality are spreading through the exertions of the other; and it is, therefore, unjust to confound them in one general panegyric or condemnation. Nor shall we include all the unrecognised settlements in this description. Many of the hardy whalers and others have taken to themselves Maori wives, who, sober, thrifty, and industrious, submit without complaining to rough usage and hard work, and are animated by a deep affection for their husbands. Contented with a calico gown and blanket, an occasional pipe of tobacco, and a very frugal life, they cost little to support, and appear for the most part not only willing but cheerful.

The female sex throughout New Zealand is not in such complete subjection to the male as in New Holland. With the right they have acquired the power to resist any unnatural encroachment upon their liberties, though still in a state of comparative bondage. They are influential in society, and whenever this is the case they enjoy, more or less, remission of oppression. We find them declaiming at public meetings of the people, and fiercely denouncing the warriors who may be dishonourably averse to war, or have behaved ignominiously in the field. By influencing their friends and relatives they often secure to themselves revenge for an injury, and thus security against the same in future. In various other ways their position is defended against utter abasement. They are not regarded merely as subservient to the lust and indolence of the male sex. When dead they are buried with ceremony according to the husband’s rank, and formal rites of mourning are observed for them. In public and in domestic affairs their opinions are consulted, and often their hands are obtained in marriage by the most humble supplication, or the most difficult course of persuasion, by the lover. All this is evidence of a higher state than that which is occupied by females either in Africa or New Holland.

Polygamy is permitted and practised by those who can afford it. In reality, however, the man has but one wife and a number of concubines, for though the second and third may be ceremoniously wedded to him, they are in subjection to the first, and his intercourse with them is frequently checked by her. She is paramount and all but supreme, though a man of determination will sometimes divorce his first wife to punish her contumelious behaviour to his second.

It is customary for a man to marry two or more sisters, the eldest being recognised as the chief or head of the family. They all eat with the men, accompanying them, as well as their lovers and relations, before marriage, on their war expeditions or to their feasts. Betrothal takes place at a very early age—often conditionally before birth. Thus two brothers or two friends will agree that if their first children prove respectively a boy and a girl, they shall be married. When it is not settled so early, it is arranged during infancy, or at least childhood—for a girl of sixteen without an accepted lover is regarded as having outlived her attractions and all chance of an alliance. The betrothal is usually the occasion of a great feast, where wishes for the good success and welfare of the young couple are proclaimed by a company of friends. Three varieties of marriage formality are observed—differing as the girl is wanted to fill the place of first, second, third, or fourth wife. The first is a regular ceremony, the second less formal, and the last, which is merely conventional, is when a slave is raised from servitude to the marital embrace. The highest is that in which the priest pronounces a benediction, and a hope, not a prayer, for the prosperity of the married couple. The rest, which is the most approved and common, is for the man to conduct his betrothed to his hut, and she is thenceforward mistress of the place. Unless she be divorced, no one can take away her power, and no inferior wife can divide it. When they have entered the dwelling a party of friends surround it, make an attack, force their way, strip the newly-married pair nearly naked, plunder all they can find, and retire. By taking a woman to his house a man makes her his wife, or virtually, except in the case of the first, his concubine. When he merely desires to cohabit with one, without being formally united to her, he visits her habitation.

Though polygamy or concubinage has been practised in New Zealand from immemorial time, jealousy still burns among the wives as fiercely as in any Christian country where the institution is forbidden by the social law. It is the cause of bitter domestic feuds. The household, with a plurality of women, is rarely at peace. It is universally known to what an extent the jealousy of the Dutch women in Batavia carried them when their husbands indulged in the practice—common in Dutch[73] settlements—of keeping female slaves. They watched their opportunity, and when it occurred would carry a poor girl into the woods, strip her entirely naked, smear her person all over with honey, and leave her to be tortured by the attacks of insects and vermin. A similar spirit of ferocious jealousy is characteristic of the women in New Zealand. The inferior wives consequently lead a miserable life, subjected to the severest tyranny from the chief, who makes them her handmaids, and sometimes terrifies her husband from marital intercourse with them. She exposes them to perpetual danger by endeavouring to insinuate into his mind suspicions of their fidelity, and thus the household is rendered miserable. When a man takes a journey he is usually accompanied by one of his wives, or, if he goes alone, will bring one back with him. Hence arise bitter heart-burnings and quarrels. Occasionally they lead to the death of one among the disputants, and frequently to infanticide.

So furious are the passions of the women when their jealousy is excited against their younger rivals, that many of the chiefs in New Zealand fear to enjoy the privilege allowed them by their social law. When they resolve upon it, they often proceed with a caution very amusing to contemplate. More than one anecdote in illustration of this is related in the works of recent travellers. A man having a first wife of bad temper and faded beauty, whom he fears, nevertheless, to offend altogether, is attracted by some young girl of superior charms, and offers to take her home; she accepts, and the husband prepares to execute his design. It is often long before he acquires courage to inform his wife, and only by the most skilful mixture of persuasion, management, and threats, that she is ever brought to consent. Women captured in battle, however, may be made slaves, or taken at once to their captor’s bed. Thus raised from actual slavery, their condition is little improved. The tyranny of the chief wife is exercised to oppress, insult, and irritate them. Should one of them prove pregnant, her mistress—especially if herself barren—will often exert the most abominable arts to ensure her miscarriage, that the husband may be disappointed of his child, and the concubine of his favour which would thence accrue to her.

Divorces, according to the testimony of most writers, are not unfrequent in New Zealand. Among the ordinary causes are, mere decline of conjugal affection, barrenness in the wife, and a multiplication of concubines. A stepmother ill-treating the children, or a mother wantonly killing one of them, is liable to divorce. The latter is not an useless precaution, for jealous wives have been known in cold blood to murder an infant, merely to revenge themselves upon their husbands, or irritate them into divorce. A woman extravagantly squandering the common property, idling her time, playing the coquette, becoming suspected of infidelity, or refusing to admit a new wife into the house, is sometimes put away. This is effected by expelling her from the house. When it is she who seeks it, she flies to her relatives or friends. Should the husband be content with his loss, both are at liberty to marry; but if he desire to regain her, he seeks to coax her back, and, failing in that, employs force. She is compelled to submit unless her parents are powerful enough to defend her—for in New Zealand arms are the arbiters of law. When the desire to separate is mutual, it is effected by agreement, which is a complete release to both. If the husband insist on taking away the children, he may, but he is forbidden, on pain of severe punishment, from annoying his former wife any further.

There is among the New Zealanders a rite known as Tapu, and the person performing it is sacred against the touch of another. While in this condition no contact is allowed with any person or thing. There are, however, comparative forms of Tapu. Thus a woman, in the matter of sexual intercourse, is tapu to all but her husband, and adultery is severely punished. Formerly the irrevocable remedy was death, and this may still be inflicted; but jealousy is seldom strong in the New Zealand husband, who often contents himself with receiving a heavy fine from his enemy. The crime is always infamous, but not inexpiable. The husband occasionally, when his wife has been guilty, takes her out of the house, strips her, and exposes her entirely naked, then receiving her back with forgiveness. The paramour usually attempts to fly. If he be not put to death, he also is sometimes subjected to a similar disgrace. When a wife discovers any girl carrying on a secret and illicit connection with her husband, a favourite mode of revenge is, to strip and expose her in this manner. For, in New Zealand, libidinous as the conduct of the people may be, their outward behaviour is, on the whole, decorous. They indulge in few indecencies before a third person. The exposure of the person is one of the most terrible punishments which can be inflicted. A woman[74] has hanged herself on its being said that she has been seen naked. One girl at Karawanga, on the river Thames, charged with this offence, was hung up by the heels and ignominiously flogged before all the tribe. Shame drove her mad, and she shot herself. They are otherwise obscene, and the children are adepts in indecency and immorality. One strong characteristic of their rude attempts at art is the obscenity in their paintings and carvings. In those singular specimens which crowd the rocks of Depuch Island, on the coast of New Holland, not a trace of this grossness is visible.

One of the most melancholy features in the manners of this barbarous race, is the prevalence of infanticide. The Christian converts, as well as some of the natives who hold frequent intercourse with the more respectable Europeans, have abandoned it, as well as polygamy; but, with these exceptions, it is general throughout the thinly-scattered population of New Zealand. It almost always takes place immediately after birth, before the sentiment of maternal affection grows strong in the mother’s breast. After keeping a child a little while they seldom, except under the influence of frenzy, destroy it. As they have said to travellers, they do not look on them, lest they should love them. The weakly or deformed are always slain. The victim is sometimes buried alive, sometimes killed by violent compression of its head. This practice has contributed greatly to keep the population down. It is openly and unblushingly pursued, the principal victims being the females. The chief reasons for it are usually—revenge in the woman against her husband’s neglect, poverty, dread of shame, and superstition. One of the most common causes is the wife’s belief that her husband cares no longer for his offspring. The priests, whose low cunning is as characteristic of the class in those islands as elsewhere, frequently demand a victim for an oblation of blood to the spirit of evil, and never fail to extort the sacrifice from some poor ignorant mother. Another injurious and unnatural practice is, that of checking or neutralizing the operations of nature by procuring abortion.

Tyrone Power, in his observations on the immorality prevalent in New Zealand, remarks that some of the young girls, betrothed from an early age, are tapu, and thus preserved chaste. He regrets that this superstition is not more influential, since it would check the system of almost universal and indiscriminate prostitution, which prevails among those not subject to this rite. Except when the woman is tapu, her profligacy is neither punished nor censured. Fathers, mothers, and brothers will, without a blush, give, sell, or lend on hire, the persons of their female relatives. The women themselves willingly acknowledge the bargain, and Mr. Power declares the most modest of them will succumb to a liberal offer of money. Nor is anything else to be expected, in any general degree. The children are educated to obscenity and vice. Their intercourse is scarcely restrained, and the early age at which it takes place has proved physically injurious to the race. Even those who are betrothed in infancy and rendered tapu to each other, commence cohabitation before they have emerged, according to English ideas, from childhood. Except in the case of those couples thus pledged before they can make a choice of their own, the laws which in New Zealand regulate the intercourse of the sexes with regard to preparations for marriage, approach in spirit to our own. A man desiring to take as wife a woman who is bound by no betrothment has to court her, and sometimes does so with supplication. The girls exhibit great coyness of manner, and are particular in hiding their faces from the stranger’s eye. When they bathe it is in a secluded spot; but they exercise all the arts which attract the opposite sex. When one or two suitors woo an independent woman, the choice is naturally given to the wealthiest; but should she decline to fix her preference on either, a desperate feud occurs, and she is won by force of arms. Sometimes a young girl is seized by two rivals, who pull on either side until her arms are loosened in the sockets, and one gives way.

Perhaps, under these circumstances, the system of betrothal is productive of useful results, since it prevents the feuds and conflicts which might otherwise spring from the rivalry of suitors. The girl thus bound must submit to marriage with the man, whatever may be her indifference or aversion to him. Occasionally, indeed, some more youthful, or otherwise attractive, lover gains her consent to an elopement. If caught, however, both of the culprits are severely whipped. Should the young suitor be of poor and mean condition, he runs the chance of being robbed and murdered for his audacity. When, on the contrary, a powerful chief is desirous of obtaining a maiden who is betrothed, he has little difficulty in effecting his object, for in New Zealand the liberty of the individual is proportionate to his strength. It[75] is a feudal system, where the strong may evade the regulations of the social law, and the weak must submit. Justice, however, to the missionaries in those islands requires us to add, that in the districts where their influence is strong, a beneficial change in this, as in other respects, has been produced upon the people. They acknowledge more readily the supremacy of law; they prefer a judicial tribunal to the trial of arms; they restrain their animal passions in obedience to the moral code which has been exhibited to them; and many old polygamists have put away all their wives but one, contented to live faithfully with her.

Among the heathen population chastity is not viewed in the same light as with us. It not so much required from the woman as from the wife, from the young girl as from the betrothed maiden. In fact, it signifies little more than faithful conduct in marriage, not for the sake of honour or virtue, but for that of the husband. With such a social theory, we can expect no general refinement in morality. Indeed, the term is not translatable into the language of New Zealand. Modesty is a fashion, not a sentiment, with them. The woman who would retire from the stranger’s gaze may, previous to marriage or betrothal, intrigue with any man without incurring an infamous reputation. Prostitution is not only a common but a recognised thing. Men care little to receive virgins into their huts as wives. Husbands have boasted that their wives had been the concubines of Europeans; and one declared to Polack that he was married to a woman who had regularly followed the calling of a prostitute among the crews of ships in the harbour. This he mentioned with no inconsiderable pride, as a proof of the beauty of the prize he had carried away.

Formerly many of the chiefs dwelling on the coast were known to derive a part of their revenue from the prostitution of young females. It was, indeed, converted into a regular trade, and to a great extent with the European ships visiting the group. The handsomest and plumpest women in the villages were chosen, and bartered for certain sums of money or articles of merchandise, some for a longer, some for a shorter period. The practice is now, if not abolished, at least held in great reprobation, as the following anecdote will show. It exhibits the depraved manners of the people in a striking light, and is an illustration of that want of affection between married people which has been remarked as a characteristic of the New Zealanders. A chief from Wallatani, in the Bay of Plenty, went on an excursion to the Bay of Islands, and was accompanied by his wife and her sister. There he met a chief of the neighbourhood, who possessed some merchandise which he coveted. He at once offered to barter the chastity of his wife for the goods, and the proposal was accepted. The woman told her sister of the transaction, and she divulged the secret. So much reproach was brought upon the chief among his people, that he shot his wife’s sister to punish her incontinent tongue.

Jerningham Wakefield describes the arrival of the whalers in port. He mentions as one of the most important transactions following this event, the providing of the company with “wives for the season.” Some had their regular helpmates, but others were forced to hire women. Bargains were formally struck, and when a woman failed to give satisfaction, she was exchanged for another. She was at once the slave and the companion of her master. This is neither more nor less than a regular system of prostitution; but it is gradually going out of fashion, and is only carried on in a clandestine manner in the colonies properly so called. Indeed this is, unfortunately, one of the chief products of imperfect civilization—that vice, which before was open, is driven into the dark; it is not extirpated, but is concealed. A man offered his wife to the traveller Earl, and the woman was by no means loth to prostitute herself for a donation. Barbarians readily acquire the modes of vice practised by Europeans. In the criminal calendar of Wellington for 1846, we find one native convicted and punished for keeping a house of ill-fame.

Extraordinary as it may appear, prostitution in New Zealand has tended to cure one great evil. It has largely checked the practice of infanticide. For, as the female children were usually destroyed, it was on the supposition that, instead of being valuable, they would be burdensome to their parents. This continued to be the case until the discovery was made that by prostituting the young girls considerable profits might be made. It is to Europeans that the introduction of this idea is chiefly owing. The females were then, in many cases, carefully reared, and brought up to this dishonourable calling without reluctance. No difficulty was ever experienced from their resistance, as they would probably have become prostitutes of their own free will, had they not been directed to the occupation. Slavery, which has from the earliest time existed in New Zealand,[76] has supplied the materials of prostitution, female servants being consigned to it. When possessed of any attractions they are almost invariably debauched by their masters, and frequently suffer nameless punishments from the jealous head wife. Concubinage does not, as in some other countries, release a woman from servitude, but she enjoys a privilege which is denied to the chief wife—she may marry again after her master’s death.

Formerly the general custom, however, was for a wife to hang, drown, strangle, or starve herself on the death of her husband. Her relatives often gave her a rope of flax, with which she retired to a neighbouring thicket and died. It was not a peremptory obligation, but custom viewed it as almost a sacred duty. Sometimes three of the wives destroyed themselves, but generally one victim sufficed. Self-immolation is now, indeed, becoming very rare; but it is still the practice for the widow, whether she loved her husband or not, to lament him with loud cries, and lacerate her flesh upon his tomb. Whenever she marries again a priest is consulted to predict whether she will survive the second husband or not. Occasionally we find instances of real attachment between man and wife, such as would sanctify any family hearth; while examples have occurred of women hanging themselves for sorrow, on the death of a betrothed lover.

These, however, are only indications that humanity is not in New Zealand universally debased below the brute condition. The general colour of the picture is dark. Women are degraded; men are profligate; virtue is unknown in its abstract sense; chastity is rare; and prostitution a characteristic of female society. Fathers, mothers, and brothers—usually the guardians of a young woman—prostitute her for gain, and the women themselves delight in this vice. There is, nevertheless, some amelioration observable in the manners of the people, produced by the influence of the English colonies. Those colonies themselves, however, are not free from the stain, as will be shown when we treat of communities of that description in general[59].

Of Prostitution in the Islands of the Pacific.
Among the innumerable islands which are scattered over the surface of the Pacific, we discover various phases of manners developed under different influences. In some of the lonely groups lying out of the usual course of trade or travel, communities exist whose social habits remain entirely pure—that is, unchanged by intercourse with foreigners. In others continual communication through a long period, with white men, has wholly changed the characteristic aspects of the people—given them a new religion, a new moral code, new ideas of decency and virtue, new pleasures, and new modes of life. The same process appears likely, at a future day, to obliterate the ancient system of things. In all the islands of this class, indeed, the reform of manners is not so thorough as the florid accounts of the missionaries would induce us to believe; but those pioneers of civilization have done enough, without assuming more than their due, to deserve the praise of all Christendom. To have restrained the fiercest passions of human nature among ignorant and wilful savages; to have converted base libidinous heathens into decent Christians; to have checked the practice of polygamy; and in many places to have extinguished the crime of infanticide;—these are achievements which entitle the missionaries to the applause and respect of Europe; but it is no disparagement of their labours to show, where it is true, that immense things yet remain to be performed before the islanders of the Pacific are raised to the ordinary level of civilized humanity.

The main family of the Pacific—the Society, the Friendly, the Sandwich, the Navigators’, and the Marquesas Islands—present a state of society interesting and curious. Inhabiting one of the most beautiful regions on the face of the earth, with every natural advantage, the inhabitants of those groups were originally among the most degraded of mankind. Superior to the savage hordes of Africa and the wandering tribes of Australia, they are in physical and intellectual qualities inferior to the natives of New Zealand, though excelling them in simplicity and willingness to learn.

Tahiti may be considered the capital of Polynesia, as it is the head of its politics, trade, and general civilization. Before the settlement of the missionaries and the introduction of a new social scheme, its manners were barbarous and disgusting. The condition of the female sex corresponded to this order of things. It was humiliated to the last degree. Most of the men, by a sacred rite, were rendered too holy for any intercourse with the women[77] except such as was pleasant to their own lusts. It was similar to the tapu of the New Zealanders, but was not, as among them, common to all. It was an exclusive privilege of the males. In consequence of this, women lived in a condition of exile from all the pleasures of life. They never sat at meals with their husbands, dared not eat the flesh of pigs, of fowls, of certain fish, or touch the utensils used by the men. They never entered the houses of their “tabooed” lords, dwelling in separate habitations, which these might enter when they chose. Those of the royal blood, however, were excepted from the action of this law. They might mingle with the other sex, might inherit the throne, and enjoy the advantages of society. With almost all others, beggary, toil, and degradation was the universal lot.

Marriage under such circumstances could not be looked upon as a sacred tie, or even a dignified state. It was held to serve only the purposes of nature and the pleasures of the men. With all, indeed, except the rich, it was a mere unceremonious bargain, in which the woman was purchased, though the parents usually made a present to their son-in-law. Among the nobler orders of society there was a little more parade, though an equal absence of sanctity. A person with a beautiful daughter brought her to some chief, saying, “Here is a wife for you.” If she pleased him he took her from her father’s hands, placed her under the care of a confidential servant, and had her fattened, until old and plump enough for marriage. All her friends assembled with his at the temple, and proceeded to the altar. The bride, with a rope hanging about her neck, was accompanied by a man bearing a bunch of the fragrant fern. Prayers were muttered, and blessing invoked upon the union. Then the names of their ancestors were whispered, and at each one of the leaves was torn. The nearest kinsman of the woman next loosened the rope from about her neck, and delivered her over to the bridegroom, bidding him take her home. Presents of various kinds were made to the newly-married pair, but, with all this ceremony, the tie was merely one of convenience. Within a month the man might tire of his partner and wish to be rid of her. All he had to do was to desire her departure, saying, “It is enough—go away.” She immediately left him, and almost invariably became a prostitute. This process might be repeated as often as he pleased. The caprice of the male sex thus threw numbers of the females into a necessity of supporting themselves by the public hire of their persons. For, although polygamy existed, it was practised only by the rich, since the facility of divorce rendered it more convenient to take one wife, dwell with her a short time, and abandon her for another, than to be troubled or burdened with several at the same time. The wealthy, however, took numerous concubines—indulging in this luxury more than any of the other islanders. In all their customs and national characteristics, if we desire to view them in their original form, we must contemplate the people of those islands as they were twenty years ago. A great change is now apparent among them. The accounts, therefore, published at that period, though improved by later inquiries, afford us the information we are in search of. We are not surprised to find an indolent licentious people, as they were, when under no restraint, addicted to the most odious forms of vice. One natural result of their manner of life was infanticide. It was practised to a frightful extent, and was encouraged by a variety of causes. In the first place, poverty and idleness often induced parents to destroy their children—choosing to suffer that short pang of natural sorrow than the long struggles with starvation which awaited the indigent—even in those prolific islands. Next the common licentiousness produced innumerable bastards, which were generally killed. Thirdly, the social institutions of the country, with the division of classes, contributed to increase the prevalence of the custom—for the fruit of all unequal matches was cast aside. Superstition also aided it, for the priests demanded for their gods frequent oblations of infant blood. The missionary Williams was informed that, from the constant occurrence of wars, women, being abandoned by their husbands, slew their children, whom they knew not how to support. When a man married a girl of inferior rank, two, four, or six of her children were sacrificed before she could claim equality with him, and should she bear any more they were spared. Vanity, too, exercised its influence, for, as nursing impaired the beauty of the women, they sought to preserve their attractions by sparing themselves the labour. Perhaps, however, we should not lay it to the charge of vanity. The miserable women of these islands found in the flower of their persons the only chance of attachment or respect from their husbands. When this had faded, nothing could save them from neglect.

Whatever the cause, the extent of the practice was fearful. Three-fourths of the[78] children were destroyed, and sometimes in the most atrocious manner. A wet cloth placed on the infant’s mouth, the hands clenched round its throat, or the earth heaped over it while alive in a grave, were among the most humane. Others broke the infant’s joints, one by one, until it expired. This was usually the plan of the professional child-killers, of whom there was a class—male and female—though the parents often performed the office themselves. Before the establishment of Christianity, Williams declares he never conversed with a woman who had not destroyed one or two of her offspring. Many confessed to him, as well as to Wilmer, that they had killed, some three, some five, some nine, and one seventeen.

Connected with infanticide was one of the most extraordinary institutions ever established in a savage or a civilized country. This was the Areoi Society. It was at once the source of their greatest amusements and their greatest sorrow, and was strictly confined to the Society group, though indications of a similar thing have been discovered in the Ladrones. The delicacy of the missionary writers—in many instances extremely absurd—has induced them to neglect informing us in detail of the practices and regulations adopted by this society; but enough is known from them, and from less timid narrators, to allow of a tolerably full sketch.

From the traditions of the people it appears that the society was of very ancient date: they said there had been Areois as long as there had been men. Its origin is traced to two heroes—brothers, who, in consequence of some adventures with the gods, were deified, and made kings of the Areoi, which included all who would adhere to them as their lords in heaven. Living in celibacy themselves, they did not enjoin the same on their followers; but required that they should leave no descendants. Thus the great law of the Areois was that all their children should be slain. What the real origin of the institution was it is impossible to discover. This legend, however, indicates a part of its nature.

The Areois formed a body of privileged libertines, who spent their days travelling from province to province, from island to island, exhibiting a kind of licentious dramatic spectacle to the people, and everywhere indulging the grossest of their passions. The company located itself in a particular spot as its head-quarters, and at certain seasons departed on an excursion through the group. Great parade was made on the occasion of their setting out. They bore with them portable temples for the worship of their tutelar gods, and, wherever they halted, performed their pantomimes for the amusement of the people. The priests and others—all classes and things—were ridiculed by them in their speeches, with entire impunity, and they were entertained by the chiefs with sumptuous feasts. There were, however, seven classes of the Areois, of which the first was select and small, while the seventh performed the lower and more laborious parts in their entertainments. Numbers of servants followed them to prepare their food and their dresses, and were distinguished by the name of Fanannan; these were not obliged to destroy their children.

Every Areoi had his own wife, who was sacred from attack. Improper conduct towards her was severely punished, sometimes by death. Towards the wives of other persons, however, no respect was shown; for after one of their vile and obscene spectacles, the members of the fraternity would rush abroad, and commit every kind of excess among the humble people. At their grand feasts, to which the privileged orders only were admitted, numbers of handsome girls were introduced, who prostituted themselves for small gifts to any member of the association.

The practice of destroying all their children, which was compulsory among the Areois, licensed them to every kind of excess. The moment a child was born its life was extinguished—either strangled, stabbed with a sharp bamboo, or crushed under the foot. The professional executioner waited by the woman’s couch, and, immediately the infant came into the world, seized it, hurried it away, and in an instant flung it dead into some neighbouring thicket, or a pit prepared beforehand.

Infanticide was by no means confined to the Areois; it was an universal practice. Generally the sacrifice took place immediately after the birth; for, with the exception of those children demanded by the priests to offer in the temple, it was seldom that an infant allowed to live half an hour was destroyed. Whenever the execution was performed, it was previously resolved upon. The females were killed oftener than the males, and thus sprang up a great disproportion between the sexes, which was evidently owing to this and their often unnatural customs, as, since their abolition, the sexes are nearly equal.

Adultery was sometimes punished with death, but not under the public law. It[79] was optional with the husband to pursue the criminal, or content himself with procuring another wife. A strange state of manners is exhibited by the account we have of the early missionaries arriving in Tahiti. The King Pomare came down to meet them with his wife Idia. This woman, though married to the prince, remaining on friendly terms with him, offering him advice, and influencing his actions by her counsel, was then cohabiting with one of her own servants, who had for some time been her paramour. The King, meanwhile, had taken his wife’s youngest sister as a concubine; but she had deserted him for a more youthful lover, whereupon he contented himself with a girl belonging to the poorer class. Women, indeed, and men of the royal blood, were above the law.

Abandoned wives, and girls who could find no husbands, usually became prostitutes, as distinguished from those who pursued a profligate life from sheer sensuality. They hired themselves out to the young men whom the monopoly of women by the rich constrained to be contented with such companions. We have no information whether they were subject to any especial regulations; what the terms of contract were between them and their temporary cohabitants; how they supported themselves in old age; or, indeed, of anything concerning them, except the general nature of their calling. A large class of these prostitutes dwelt near the ports and anchoring grounds, deriving their means of subsistence from open or clandestine intercourse with the sailors, who willingly paid them with little articles of ornament or utility from Europe.

One of the missionaries of the first company desired to marry a Tahiti woman. His brethren, however, strongly objected to the act; first, because she was a heathen, second, because she was a prostitute. There could not be then found on the island, as they declared themselves on belief, a single undebauched girl above twelve years of age; therefore, in accordance with the Scripture prohibition against marrying a “heathen harlot,” they forbade him forming the connection. Nevertheless he persisted, took the prostitute as wife, and is supposed to have been murdered with her connivance.

Inconstancy among wives, and profligacy among unmarried women, was then a characteristic almost universal in Tahiti. The wide-spread practice of procuring abortion concealed many of the intrigues which took place, and the last crime which began visibly to decrease was that of adultery. Nor could this be a matter of wonder. The education of the people was in a school of licentiousness. The most effective lessons in obscenity were afforded by the priests in the temples, and children of tender years indulged in acts of indescribable depravity. Thus in few parts of the world could be discovered a more corrupt system of manners, a more complete absence of morals, than in Tahiti.

Under the influence of the missionaries a great and beneficial change was produced. French priests have now in a measure superseded them; but even their exertions have not been able to neutralize the good effects of the new code of morals introduced by the English friends of civilization.

As to the actual amount, however, of the good which has been effected, the accounts are contradictory. From the missionaries themselves we learn that Christianity has been firmly established; that the female sex has been elevated to an honourable position; that the Christian rite of marriage is now generally observed; that infanticide is wholly abolished; and that the manners of the people have become comparatively pure. The picture, indeed, drawn by these artists, is vivid and full of charms. We cannot, however, accept it without reserve; for such writers have in many parts of the world been too eager to ring their peals of triumph over the appearance of reform, without inquiring into its substantial and durable nature.

Other accounts insist on the truth of a totally different view. A recent author, a merchant, many years resident in Tahiti, describes the result of missionary labour as a mere skinning over of the corruption which exists. “Even now,” he says, speaking of that island, “a people more ready to abandon themselves to sensuality cannot be found under the canopy of heaven.” And further, in noticing the state of the youthful population, he asserts, “It is a rare thing for a woman to preserve her chastity until the age of puberty.” Delicacy, he proceeds to tell us, is a thing unknown. There is hardly a man who would not wink at his wife’s prostitution, or even abet it, to support himself. The same system of corrupt manners is general throughout the islands. The missionaries, by making adultery and fornication offences punishable by fines—so many dollars each—have set up a species of licence for immorality. The penalty is either eluded or laughed at. Sometimes the woman’s paramour pays the penalty, and continues[80] with her. The morals of the people, therefore, have not been radically reformed. Public decency is observed, but private manners are disgusting. The Tahitians have thus learned hypocrisy, for they now practise secretly what was formerly a recognised custom. The men are jealous of their own race, but will bargain for their wives with Europeans. One was asked the reason of this distinction. He instantly made answer, that when a white man took one of their wives he made her a present, passed on his way, and thought no more of her; but it was very different with their own people, for they would be continually hovering about the woman. The legal penalty for adultery by a single man is a fine of ten hogs to the husband. If it is committed by a married man he pays the ten hogs, while his paramour pays his wife another ten to compensate her for the injury she has suffered; thus the bargain is equal. Divorce is optional on either hand. For prostitution, or fornication of any kind, the missionaries enacted a fine. In a climate, however, where the girl ripens into puberty at the age of eight or nine, this becomes a licence, and immorality is very slightly checked. The depopulation of the group, which is still going on, is mainly owing, says the same author, to physical privations acting on moral depravity; for indigence is the lot of the people, and licentiousness now, as formerly, their besetting sin.

We believe this to be an unfair account of the state of things now existing in Tahiti. The writer[60] is possessed of a strong prejudice against the missionaries, and we are inclined to apply to him, with some modification, the observations of Commodore Wilkes, commander of the recent American exploring expedition in reference to that island. He tells us there is a class of traders who defame the missionaries, as well as a profligate class who hate them, because they forbid intoxicating liquors, have abolished lascivious dances, and prevent women going on board ship to prostitute themselves. One charge against the missionaries is, however, proved: they are guilty of a misjudging zeal amounting to fanaticism, forbidding the women to wear chaplets of flowers, because it is a sinful vanity; such a restriction is worse than ridiculous. The Commodore, however, whom we accept as a judicious and a trustworthy authority, already shows that much good has been effected. The population is now almost stationary—the births and deaths among all ages and both sexes were in 1839 naturally proportionate; Christian marriage is established as the national custom, and polygamy abolished; if infanticide be ever practised, it is as a secret crime; and as for immorality, though by no means extirpated, it has been considerably reduced. “Licentiousness,” says Wilkes, “does still exist among them, but the foreign residents and visitors are in a great degree the cause of its continuance, and an unbridled intercourse with them serves to perpetuate it. Severe laws have been enacted, but they cannot be put in force in cases where one of the parties is a foreigner.” He proceeds to deny that the island is conspicuous in this respect, and believes it would show advantageously in contrast with many countries usually styled civilized.

In the distant Sandwich group a similar system of manners existed before the abolition of idolatry in 1819. There was, however, one singular custom: children bore the rank of their mother, not their father, probably from the reason assigned by other savage races for different laws, that the parentage was never certain. Polygamy was practised, but if the king had a daughter by a noble wife she succeeded to the throne, though he should have numerous sons by the others; in fact, they were no more than concubines, though their offspring were not invariably destroyed, unless the mothers belonged to the humbler class of people; all the king’s illegitimate children, however, were immediately killed. Adultery was punished with death; but intrigues were frequent, and infanticide was practised to a terrible extent. Since the enactment of the laws restraining sexual intercourse, the crime has become comparatively rare, and the progress of depopulation has been arrested.

We must, however, first view the people as they were before these reforms occurred: there was little check upon the intercourse of the sexes, except with regard to married women; the young girls being abandoned almost entirely to a dissolute mode of life, the marriage contract was a loose tie, easily broken, without anything of a sacred or even honourable character. Husbands continually abandoned their wives, who invariably destroyed the children thus left to them in their virtual widowhood, and took to prostitution as a means of life. The practice of procuring abortion was also resorted to, even more than infanticide, and women were sometimes killed by the operation; nevertheless, bastard children are sometimes reared, and the language of[81] the islanders supplies a delicate designation for one of this brood: it is called “one that comes.”

Although the condition of the female sex was degraded, and although the women were for the most part subjected to the will of the chiefs, a few remained to be wedded among the poor, and to follow their own inclinations in the choice of partners. The word “courting” is used among them, or at least a synonymous term, signifying, literally, “we must be crept to.” This indicates some elevation in their social intercourse, but appears to have been a recent introduction. When a man wished to marry a girl, some previous intimacy was supposed. According to their former customs he goes to her, and offers her a present. If she was willing to receive him, the gift was accepted; if not, he went his way. The parents were then consulted. When they consented he at once took home his bride, and all was consummated. When they refused he either abandoned his suit or persuaded his lover to elope with him; or, if possessed of sufficient property and power, forces her away. When once settled in union the wives were usually faithful, though previously they indulged in the utmost profligacy without any check.

The infanticide of the Sandwich Islands presented details still more horrible than the worst of those described in connection with Tahiti. Children six or seven years old, who so far had been carefully nursed, were sometimes sacrificed when their parents became desperate or indolent. An American traveller relates an affecting incident of a man who desired to be rid of his child, while the mother endeavoured to save it. Long altercations took place between them, until the father one day, to put an end to the debate, seized his little son, threw him over his knees, and with a single blow broke his back. The circumstance was related to the king, with a demand for punishment upon the offender. “Whose child was it?” he asked. They answered, “His own.” “Then that is nothing,” he said, “to you or to me.” Usually the office was performed by female child-stranglers, who made it their profession. In a country where marriage, especially among the rich, was simply a compact for temporary or permanent cohabitation, abundance of employment was naturally afforded to those people. The chiefs, it is true, married in the temple, but the addition of ceremonies added not a whit of sanctity or durability to the bond. The first Christian wedding took place in Oalm in 1822, and the rite has since that period been established by law. The edict of 1819, indeed, proclaimed a revolution in the social system of the group. But it is not easy to reform the manners of a whole people. It is a slight task to publish laws, but difficult to enforce them, especially when they assail the most deeply-rooted prejudices, the sentiments, the passions, the religions, and the pleasures, of a numerous community. Idolatry, infanticide, polygamy, concubinage, and prostitution were all prohibited by the declaration of 1819, but are still practised, though in secret, but by no means so extensively as in former times. The financial laws check infanticide. If a man has four children, he is exempt from labour taxes to the king and to his landlord; if five, from the poll-tax also; if six, from all taxes whatsoever. Indeed, the condition of the females has been considerably raised, so that, instead of being the slaves, they are now, at least in some degree, the companions of the men.

Of the actual state of the sex, and the characteristic of manners in the Sandwich group, a fair sketch may be gathered from the facts scattered through the large work of Commodore Wilkes; he went through many districts, and examined minutely the progress of the people under the new code. In one district of Dahu, a small island in the group, no instance of infanticide had occurred (1840) during ten years; the law against the illicit intercourse of the sexes had not tended to increase the practice, and the population, which had been almost swept away, was recovering. In the valley of Halalea the population had been decreasing at the rate of one per cent. for nine years. In 1837, it was 3024—1609 males, 1415 females; and in 1840, 2935—1563 males, 1372 females. The general licentiousness of manners, causing barrenness in the women, with the practice of infanticide and abortion, prevented any increase. In Waiaulea the population of 2640 decreased by 225 in four years; and instances were known of women having six, seven, or even ten children, in as many years, without rearing one of them; the bastards were almost always destroyed, but the new law operated very beneficially to check the intercourse of the sexes; and only one case was known of a woman destroying her child, through fear of the penalty attaching to fornication. It appears probable, however, that the regulation compelling all unmarried women, found pregnant, to work on the public roads, must encourage many unnatural practices; in Hawaii itself, the principal island, where large numbers of men and women formerly lived in promis[82]cuous intercourse—as one woman common to several men—great improvement is visible, and public manners have undergone much change; licentiousness, notwithstanding, is still a prominent characteristic of the people. These observations may be applied generally to the whole of the Sandwich group.

Of the Tonga or Friendly Islands no description equals in completeness, and none exceeds in general accuracy, that by Mariner, compiled by John Martin. According to him, the female sex was not degraded there, old persons of both sexes being entitled to equal reverence; women in particular were respected as such, considered to form part of the world’s means of happiness, and protected by that law of manly honour which prohibits the strong from maltreating the weak. There were many regulations respecting rank which do not belong to this inquiry; but others of the same kind must be alluded to. The young girl, betrothed or set apart to be the wife or concubine of a noble, acquired on that account a certain position in the community. The rich women occupied themselves with various forms of elegant industry, not as professions, but accomplishments; while others made a trade of it.

The chastity of the Tonga people should be measured, in Mr. Martin’s opinion, rather by their own than by others’ ideas of that virtue. Among them it was held the positive duty of a married woman to be faithful to her husband. By married woman was meant one who cohabited with a man, lived under his roof and protection, and ruled an establishment of his. Her marriage was frequently independent of her own will, she being betrothed by her parents, while very young, to some chief or other person. About a third were thus disposed of, the rest marrying by their own consent. She must remain with her husband whether she pleased or not, until he chose to divorce her.

About two-thirds of the females were married, and of these about half continued with their husbands until death; that is, about a third remained married till either they or their partners died. Of the others two-thirds were married, and were soon divorced, marrying again two, three, or four times; a few never contracted any marriage at all; and a third were generally unmarried. Girls below puberty were not taken into this account.

During Mariner’s residence of four years in the islands, where he enjoyed privileges of social intercourse which no native was allowed, he made numerous inquiries, and was led to believe that infidelity among the married women was very rare. He remembered only three successful instances of planned intrigue, with one other which he suspected. Great chiefs might kill their wives taken in adultery, while inferior men beat them. They were under the surveillance of female servants, who continually watched their proceedings. Independently of this also, he considered them inclined to conjugal virtue.

A man desiring to divorce his wife, had to do no more than bid her go, when she became perfect mistress of herself, and often married again in a few days. Others remained single, admitting a man into their houses occasionally, or lived as the mistress of various men from time to time—that is to say, became wandering libertines or prostitutes. Unmarried women might have intercourse with whom they pleased without opprobrium, but they were not easily won. Gross prostitution was unknown among them. The conduct of the men was very different. It was thought no reproach, as a married man, to hold intercourse with other females; but the practice was not general. It was checked by the jealousy of the wife. Single men were extremely free in their conduct; but seldom made attempts on married women. Rape occasionally happened. Captives taken in war had, as a thing of course, to submit, and incurred no dishonour through it. Few of the young men would refuse to seduce an unmarried girl of their own nation, had they the opportunity. Nevertheless, in comparison with the islanders in the surrounding sea, they were rather a chaste than a libertine people.

Commodore Wilkes declares himself glad to confirm the account in “Mariner’s Tonga Islands” as an “admirable and accurate description.” The women are said to be virtuous, and the general state of morals superior far to that of Tahiti. The venereal disease is much less extensively prevalent.

In the Marquesas the curious social phenomenon of polyandrism exists—several men cohabiting with one woman. This is in consequence of the preponderance of the male over the female sex. A young girl may become attached to a youth, and live with him for a short time. A man may then become attached to her, and transfer her, with her lover, to his house, where he supports them both. Infanticide is unknown, but procuring abortion not uncommon. The marriage tie, though a mere private compact signified by an exchange of presents, is, in spite of[83] polyandrism, distinct, binding, and enduring—the parties abiding by the agreement they have made, until another formal agreement to dissolve it. In other parts of the Pacific the contrary system is carried out to an extravagant extent. In the Isle of Rotumah the land is divided into various estates, the property of certain chiefs. Each of these lords of the soil has absolute control over all the women in his district, and not one can marry without his consent. Should he not desire her for himself he allows her to contract the engagement, on receiving a present from the bridegroom. Gifts are exchanged on either side, bowls of cava are drunk, and the ceremony is over. The wife, in this island, has singular power. She may, a few days after the marriage, desire her husband to leave her. He does so for three or four months, and then returns to spend two or three days in her society. She may then request him again to quit the house; and this is repeated until she consents to live with him permanently. Occasionally, when all the preliminaries of the match are arranged, the girl will suddenly revoke her resolution, and refuse to leave her parents’ house. The man may be equally desirous of leaving her at home, and in this case she is henceforward a privileged libertine, and usually lives well upon the gains of prostitution. But if, previously to the contract, she lose her virginity, the punishment is death, which is also inflicted for adultery.

A similar system with respect to the chief’s authority prevails in the Feejee group. All the young girls in his district are at his mercy; he may take them all as concubines if he pleases. When they are allowed to marry they become slaves, living in complete subjection to their husbands, who flog them at will. They are denied the privilege of entering a temple, and are bought, sold, and exchanged, like cattle. Inclined as they are to licentiousness, they have certain ideas of modesty, and wear a girdle round the loins; any girl seen without this covering is put to death.

In the wild isles of the Kingsmill group in the Western Pacific, polygamy prevails; but more consideration is paid to the female sex than in any other part of that great insular region. All the hard labour is performed by the men; the women pursuing only those occupations which are truly domestic and feminine. Men, indeed, beat their wives, but in a similar manner to the lower classes here. If she be vigorous or bold enough, she returns blow for blow, and there is no appeal for him against her retaliation. Chastity is scarcely esteemed a virtue, nor is it considered essential by a man requiring a wife. After marriage, however, continence is strictly required. The adulteress is either put to death or expelled; but, in spite of these punishments, offences of this class are not uncommon. They are encouraged by the laws which forbid the younger brothers of a chief, who are not holders of land, from marriage; for it may be laid down as an axiom that all restrictions upon lawful intercourse with women multiply illicit connections. The adulteress and the prostitute in the Kingsmill Isles, as elsewhere, form the resources of those to whom celibacy is enjoined.

A wife is not bought, but the parents of both contribute to the household stock of the newly-married pair. It would be indecent in the young man to inquire of the girl’s father what is the amount of her dowry. The marriage ceremony is only a feast, which is continued during three days. Children are sometimes betrothed during infancy, and in this case no marriage ceremony is required: as soon as they are sufficiently old they are sent to live together. When this is not the case, the young man makes an offer first to the girl, and, if accepted, next to her parents; but usually carries her off if they do not consent.

On the neighbouring isle of Maluni all the women who are married have been betrothed during childhood; the rest, without exception, being prostitutes, living with the single men, and receiving payment from them.

This is, as usual, in consequence of the rich men having so many wives that only a few women are left to live in common with the poorer sort. Infanticide is not practised, but abortion is continually procured. A woman has seldom more than two, and never more than three children. After the third is born she invariably calls in the aid of a woman to prevent another birth. This is not attended with any shame, but is, on the contrary, considered prudent; with the unmarried females it is invariable.

In the Samoan or Navigators’ group women now enjoy equal privileges with the men, and no indiscriminate intercourse of the sexes is permitted. Polygamy has been very much checked, but is generally regretted. The people say, with a simplicity which takes away its profanity from the expression, “Why should God be so unreasonable as to require them to give up all their wives for his convenience?” Among the unconverted tribes it still[84] prevails as formerly. Girls are betrothed early, and tabooed until marriage, which preserves the general chastity. Infanticide never occurs. Adultery is severely punished, and seldom committed; the marriage ceremony is only a trifling form of exchanging presents. The power of divorce may be exercised by the husband under certain circumstances, but not by the wife. Altogether their morals are of a superior order; and their libertine disposition exercises itself chiefly in the performance of lascivious dances. Everywhere, however, in these seas, except where the power of the missionaries is supreme, the whaling ships, on arriving at a port, attract numbers of prostitutes, who offer themselves to the sailors at various prices. When Coulter made his voyage, not many years ago, the vessel was assailed at the Kingsmill Islands by dozens of these women, who came, some attended by their fathers, mothers, or brothers, to entice the sailors. Some of them were very beautiful, and nearly naked. When he was in bed, in a house on shore, several young girls came in with scarcely any clothing, and asked him to choose a companion, or “wife.” In other places hundreds of prostitutes swarmed down to the beach, performing the most obscene antics. It was so when La Perouse visited the region; it is so now. It was remarked by Cook, and it was remarked by the most recent voyager.

To pass up and down through that prodigious wilderness of sea, visiting each group in succession, and noticing the peculiar manners of all the various insular communities which there exist, would exceed the limits of an ordinary work. Nor would it continue to interest the reader; for there is an unavoidable monotony in the subject, when extended too greatly in reference to one region. What we have described will show that, among the innumerable islands of the Pacific, the original condition of women, before the partial establishment of Christianity, was pitifully degraded, and that the labours of the missionaries have been fruitful in good results. Wherever Christianity has been received, much outward improvement, at least, is visible. And there is something in this. When crime is perpetrated in secret, it is so because it is dangerous or disgraceful; and in proportion as it is either the one or the other the inducement to it will diminish. There is an immense field open in the Pacific; but the exertions of future missionaries may be encouraged by contemplating the good results which have sprung from the labours of those who have gone before them[61].

Of Prostitution among the North-American Indians.
Various as are the phases of civilization in different parts of the earth, no race is more peculiar than the North American Indian. It is alone. It stands apart from the rest of the human family. It resembles no other. In manners, customs, laws, ideas, and religion, the nation occupies its own ground, related by no tie with any of the innumerable tribes of the human family inhabiting the remaining divisions of the world. It has, indeed, exercised the ingenuity of ethnographical philosophers to trace among the North American Indians an identity of social institutions with the people of ancient Israel; but the comparison appears forced except in a few particulars, which seem rather matters of accident, and by no means the prominent characteristics of the Red or the Jewish race.

Until the complete establishment of a civilized society in North America, and before the settlement of peace, our knowledge of the Indian race was most imperfect. We depended on the relations of certain imaginative travellers, who wrote not so much to inform as to startle the reader—a practice not altogether abandoned at the present day. Carver, indeed, with a few others, brought home honest accounts of what he saw, but was not always careful to separate that from what he heard; and thus, even his picture is strangely coloured in some of its details. Later and more scrupulous travellers, however, have investigated the manners of the Indian race, and our acquaintance with it is gradually becoming familiar. Catlin and the various historians have added to our knowledge; so that a clear outline, at least of their social institutions, may be drawn. There are three classes of[85] writers on the subject:—those who paint the red man as poetry incarnate; those who describe him as a vile and drunken barbarian; and those who have the sense to discriminate between the Indian of the seaport town corrupted in the dram-shop, and the Indian of the woods, displaying the original characteristics of his race. It is from such authorities we shall draw our view of the condition of women and the state of morals among them.


[Copied, by permission, from a Portrait taken by Mr. Catlin, during his residence among the Red Indians.]

A race divided into several nations, and subdivided into innumerable tribes, might be supposed to present a similar diversity of manners. Not so, however. The social institutions of the North-American Indian are generally uniform, though of course there are many varieties of detail in their habits and customs. Yet these are neither so numerous nor so striking as to render it impossible to sketch the whole in a general view.

The Indian loves society. He is never found wandering alone. He is attached also to the company of women. Priding himself, however, on his stoicism, he never, at any period of his history, condescended to voluptuousness. His sense of manly pride prevented him from becoming immodest or indecent. This feeling at the same time inspired him with the idea that everything except the hunt and the war-path was below the dignity of man. The sentiments, therefore, which saved the female sex from becoming the mere food of lust, consigned it to an inferior position. The Indian women formed the labouring class. Such a result was inevitable. The warrior would only follow the chase or fight. There was labour to be performed. No men were to be employed for hire. Whatever, therefore, was to be done must be done by the females. The wife is, consequently, her husband’s slave. She plants the maize, tobacco, beans, and running vines; she drives the blackbird from the corn, prepares the store of wild fruits for winter, tears up the weeds, gathers the harvest, pounds the grain, dries the buffalo meat, brings home the game, carries wood, draws water, spreads the repast, attends on her husband, aids in canoe building, and bears the poles of the wigwam from place to place. Among the trading communities she is especially valuable,—joining in the hunt, preparing the skins and fur, and filling the wigwam with the riches of the prairie, which the men exchange for the means of a luxurious life. When the hunter kills game he leaves it under a tree, perhaps many miles from the “smokes” of his tribe, returns home, and sends his wife to fetch it. Making garments of skins, sewing them with sinews and thorns; weaving mats and baskets; embroidering with shells, feathers, and grass; preparing drugs and administering medicine; and building huts—are among the other offices of the sex. To educate them for this life of industry, the girls are trained by the severe discipline of toils; taught to undergo fatigue, to be obedient, and to suffer without complaining.

Considered as the slaves of the men, it is natural to find a plurality of wives allowed by the Indian social law; accordingly from Florida to the St. Lawrence polygamy is permitted, though some tribes further north have not adopted the practice. Elsewhere also, in other directions, more than one woman is taken into the chief’s wigwam. They are his servants, and he counts them as we count our horses and cattle; some of the great Mandan warriors have seven or eight; indeed, among all the communities which Catlin had an opportunity of visiting, polygamy was allowed, and it was no uncommon thing for him to find six, eight, ten, twelve, or even fourteen wives in the same lodge. The practice is of an antiquity too remote to fix, and is considered not only as necessary, but as honourable and just; they are servants, and a man’s wealth is partly measured by this standard. This is one of the man’s inducements to follow the custom, though it cannot be denied that some of these stoic warriors delight in a harem from the same motives as the Turk or the Hindu. It is allowed, we say, to all, but is principally confined to the great chiefs and medicine men, the others being too humble or too poor to obtain girls from their fathers: there are, indeed, few instances in which an ordinary man has more than one squaw, and it might be supposed that his wigwam was most peaceful; but it is not so. The jealousy of the Indian women is not of the same kind as with Europeans; it is watchful of strangers, not of regular wives, and six or seven of these dwell in great harmony under the same roof. So well established is this usage among them, that civilization meets more resistance in attempting to break it down, than in any other of its efforts; indeed, in overthrowing polygamy among the North-American Indians, or the remnant which is left of them, we shall overthrow their whole social economy and change their national character, and this it will be long before we are able to do. Probably the custom will continue as long as the race exists, and be only extinguished with it. Instances, indeed, have occurred, in[86] which an Indian has sworn obedience to our social law, but many examples also are known of a return to the old habit. Sir George Simpson relates an anecdote of one who came into the settled parts, learned to read and write, adopted the principle of monogamy, and, returning among his countrymen, sought to persuade them to follow the same practice, and acquire the same accomplishments. They held long arguments with him upon the subject, debated gravely, and, in the end, instead of being converted by him, won him back to their ancient institution. He took a great number of wives, forswore books, and alluded no more to his designs of social reform. Some shame, however, possessed his mind, so that, when some Europeans were in the village, he kept in his wigwam and would not see them.

A chief named Five Crows, of the Cayux tribe, offered also to renounce polygamy, but it was from impulse only, and not from the discovery of any social principle. He had five wives, and great wealth in horses, cattle, and slaves. Falling in love, however, with a young Christian girl, the daughter of a gentleman in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company, he dismissed his old companions, and with great parade and confidence presented himself, made the proposal, but, to his infinite astonishment as well as mortification, was rejected; in a transport of spite, he immediately married one of his own slave girls. Generally, however, the American Indians are far less susceptible of the sentiment of love, still less of sensuality, than natives of Asiatic blood, and women among them are usually viewed with indifference; instances of the contrary occur and will be alluded to.

Whether polygamists or otherwise, the American Indians universally recognise the marriage contract. There is no such thing among them as a tribe practising promiscuous intercourse; the reports of such are idle tales. Such a community would become extinct, in the inevitable course of nature. The circumstances of the contract vary, however, in different parts, and among different societies. In fertile districts polygamy is more common; in barren tracts most of the men of all classes have only one wife. In some communities the man takes his squaw for life, and only divorces her for a recognised cause; in others, no more than a temporary union is expected. Everywhere, however, the condition of the sex is humiliating, if not miserable, and marriage is no more than the conjunction of a master with his servant. Thus the noblest institution of society is perverted into a form of slavery. That polygamy is practised cannot, nevertheless, be lamented in a social view. The frequency of wars among the American Indians, in their original state, caused a disproportion of the sexes, which allowed many of the men to take several wives, without preventing all from having one. Had this custom not been prevalent, one alternative only would have remained to the superfluous women—they would have become common prostitutes.

The conditions and forms of the marriage contract are various only in the inferior details—the general tenour of them being that a man procures a woman from her father as a purchase, and acquires in her a property over which he has the control of a master. Some restrictions, however, are laid upon the intercourse of the sexes. Marriage cannot be contracted among any of the tribes which originally dwelt east of the Mississippi, or indeed anywhere between kindred of a certain degree. The Iroquois warrior may choose a partner from the same tribe, but not the same cabin, or group of wigwams. For it is to be recollected that, among the tribes, especially of the Algonquin race, the whole family, or clan of several families, dwell together, bearing a common designation. One of that nation must look for a wife beyond those who bear the same token or family symbol. The Cherokee would marry at once a mother and her daughter, but never a woman of his own immediate kindred. The Indians of the Red River frequently take two or more sisters to wife at once.

The manners of the Algonquin race are generally similar. The young man desiring a wife offers a gift—or, if he be poor, his friends do it for him—to the girl’s father. If this be accepted, the marriage is complete. He goes to dwell in the woman’s house for a year, surrendering the gains of one hunting season to her family, and then taking her away to a wigwam of his own.

The contract is, with all the other tribes, usually made with the girl’s father; she is virtually bought and sold. In many cases she is never consulted at all, and the whole is a mere mercenary transaction. Instances do occur, also, where the parties approach each other, express mutual affection, make arrangements, and swear vows, sacred and inviolable as vows can be; but the marriage is never consummated without payment to the bride’s father. In the interior of Oregon the permission of the chief is[87] first asked, then the approval of the parents, then the assent of the girl; but if she object, her decision is conclusive. If she consent, the man gives from one to five horses to her father; they have a feast, and the ceremony is complete. Espousals often take place during infancy, but neither is absolutely bound by this engagement. The influence of the parents is, however, so powerful, that their will is seldom or never resisted; so that a bargain is often concluded, and a price paid; while the girl is a child. Occasionally the female courts the male—that is, proposes to become his squaw, and promises to be faithful, good-tempered, and obedient, if he will take her to his hut. He seldom refuses, for polygamy is permitted, and a husband may in this region put away his wife when he pleases. He usually allows each to have a separate fire.

The missionaries in Oregon have had some success, and have displayed more prudence than some of their brethren of the same profession in the island of Tahiti. Men who had a plurality of wives were required, on their conversion, to maintain them; while those who had only one were forbidden to take more.

On the Red River, when a young man desires a girl as wife, he addresses her father, and, if accepted by him, dwells in his wigwam for a year—as among the Algonquins—and then takes her home. This is only observed with the first; he adds to the number, if he is wealthy, as fast as he can. Few of the women are thus left single, and scarcely any common prostitutes are found. Some will occasionally bear children before marriage; and the zeal of the missionary West was displayed in somewhat of a fanatical spirit by his refusing to baptize a child not born in formal wedlock. We may, however, forgive this eccentric spirit for the motive which created it; and must admit that, as Sir George Simpson bears witness, the Indians of Oregon are vastly reformed, and chiefly by missionary influence.

Among the curious customs preceding marriage in other parts of North America, is that of the lover going at midnight into the tent of the woman he desires, and, lighting a splinter of wood, holding it to her face. If she wake and leave the torch burning, it is a sign for him to be gone; if she blow it, he is accepted, and we are told that this frequently leads to immoral intercourse. Catlin knew a young chief of the Mandans on the Upper Missouri, who took four wives in one day, paying for each a horse or two. They were from twelve to fifteen years old, and sat happily in his wigwam, perfectly contented to dwell under his commands. He was applauded for the act. This extreme youth in the bride is common among the tribes; children pass from infancy to womanhood by a single bound—we are assured, on good testimony, that mothers twelve years of age are not unfrequent. The youths are led by precept and example to adopt marriage; celibacy beyond the age of puberty being very rare, especially in those communities which have come into familiar contact with Europeans. It appears indeed that this plan is resorted to by the men to secure virgins as their wives, for among few barbarous nations is the chastity of unmarried woman safe very long after she has reached a marriageable age. To have no husband is esteemed by the females a misfortune and a disgrace, while to have no wife entails great discomfort on a man.

It has already been shown that, when married, the woman becomes her husband’s servitor; that she is, in many cases, the humiliated drudge, in all, the humble attendant on her master; that she waits on him in submissive silence while he eats, and approaches him with the deference due from an inferior to a superior being. Those who infer, however, from these circumstances that the sentiments of conjugal, filial, and parental affection are unknown to the Indian race, think erroneously of them. Strong and tender attachments continually spring up between the sexes. The lover sings of the girl he has chosen, and takes her home with the delight of gratified affection. The husband, too, when he devolves upon his wife all the labours of the wigwam, is no more conscious that he is using her harshly than she is that she occupies an unnatural position. Ideas and sentiments are often no more than things of habit, and with the Indian chief strong love is not inconsistent with his walking in lordly indolence along the forest path while she is bearing the heavy wigwam poles behind. Heckewelder relates a singular instance of indulgence, which, it must be confessed, is rare among the barbarians of North America. There was a scarcity in the district inhabited by a certain tribe, and an Indian woman, being sick, expressed a strong desire for a mess of Indian corn. Her husband having been told that a trader at Lower Sandarsky had a little, set off on horseback for that place, a hundred miles distant, gave his steed in exchange for a hatful of grain, returned home on foot, and gratified his wife by the treat he had thus procured. It is seldom that the most po[88]lished society presents a similar instance of kindliness. Many pictures of domestic happiness are exhibited among the Indians. The Blackfeet, Sanee, and Blood Indians, reckon it among their chief desires that their wives may live long and look young. Smoke sometimes rises for forty years from the same hearth, with one couple presiding over it. On the other hand, the husband’s infidelity or harshness sometimes drives his wife to suicide, for the woman has no protector. The life of hardship they lead soon strips them of all their personal beauty, when they are entirely consigned to toil. In spite of this, they are well fed, healthy, and robust, unlike the women of Australia who are stinted in food, and often deformed or crippled by the severity of their labour. Nature has been very indulgent to them. Scarcely any have more than five, and few more than three children. Easy travail takes away one affliction from their lot. The pains of delivery are seldom prolonged for more than a quarter of an hour, and she who groans under the acutest pang is prophesied, with a taunt, to be the mother of cowards. Death, however, occasionally ensues. The Indian mother loves her children dearly, never trusting it to a hireling nurse—which indeed could not be found; for no woman would put away her own infant to suckle another’s. Bearing the cradle on her back she performs her daily task, and if she die the nursling is laid in her grave. One curious and beautiful custom is that of carrying the cradle of a dead nursling child for a whole year, and all are familiar with the story of the Canadian mother bedewing the grave of her child with milk from her bosom. Infanticide is a rare and secret crime, not by any means to be enumerated among the characteristics of their manners.

Marriage among the North-American Indians is contracted for the happiness and comfort of the man. He is bound to live with his wife only so long as these are enjoyed. Adultery, indolence, intemperance, and sterility are among the causes of divorce. It takes place without formality by simple separation or desertion; and where there are no children is very easy. Their offspring forms their most powerful bond; for, where the mother is discarded, the unwritten law of the red man allows her to keep the children whom she has borne or nursed. The husband detecting his wife in adultery may cut off her nose, or take off part of her scalp. He sometimes kills her with her paramour at once; and the only blame attached to him on the occasion is, descending from his dignity to feel so strongly the loss of one woman, when another may easily be procured to supply her place.

The idea of chastity as a positive virtue is but feebly developed among them. With the men, indeed, it is a Spartan quality, as opposed to effeminacy; otherwise, the promiscuous sleeping of whole families in the same chamber, with various other circumstances, would tend much to immorality. Nevertheless, among some tribes, as that of the Mandans, the women are delicate and modest; and in the wigwams of the respectable families virtue is as cherished, and as unapproachable, as anywhere in the world. Generally the Indians are decent, and, with the exception of those customs which form the basis of their manners, and result directly from their national character, might be won over without difficulty to the amenities of civilized life. Many of the squaws, of course, in North America, as elsewhere, are immodest, and seek occasion to engage in an intrigue. With the unmarried girls the same is the case. A bastard child may be born without entailing great shame upon its mother, though the seducer is greatly despised; but such an occurrence is rare, not altogether, however, because the females are too chaste, but because they are too cautious, and employ means to procure abortion. This practice is sometimes resorted to by the squaws, though discountenanced by the men, except when they are on the march, or hotly pressed by an enemy.

From a notice of their punishments in Hunter’s narrative of his captivity, it would appear that the last act of depravity is not unknown among the Indians. Adultery, he tells us, where not perpetrated by the husband’s consent, is punishable with divorce. We might doubt the testimony of this writer, but that Wilkes found Indians in the far north, within the range of the Hudson’s Bay territories, who would gamble away their wives, and prostitute them for money. These men he believed to be degraded from their original condition, but various authors speak of a similar practice. Carver relates that, among the Manedowessis, it was a custom when a young woman could not get a husband, for her to assemble all the chief warriors of the tribe in a spacious wigwam, to give them a feast, and then, retiring behind a screen, to prostitute herself to each in succession. This gained her great applause, and always insured her a husband. It was, however, nearly obsolete[89] when he wrote, and appears now to be altogether extinct.

Many of the Europeans dwelling on the Red River were accustomed to take concubines during the period of their residence there. The Indians, who are civilized, as it is called, in the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada, have thus learned also the worst vices of Europe. Maclean, a very recent writer, declares that the Christianized tribes in the Hudson’s Bay territories have been deteriorated by intercourse with the whites, become drunken, sensual, and depraved. The venereal disease commits frightful ravages among them. Most of their diseases arise from excess of one kind or another. He says that the men employed by the Company are chiefly reconciled to their hard employment and poor remuneration by the immorality of the women, of whom large numbers follow the occupation of prostitutes, and sell themselves for the vilest price. On the north-west coast, chastity is scarcely even a name; indeed, there is no word in the language of the people to express that idea. The sea tribes are, indeed, in all cases, the most licentious; which appears to justify the remark, that intercourse with a strange unsettled population has demoralized them.

At some parts of the coast where the trading ships touch for supplies, hundreds of women come down, and, by an indecent display of their persons, endeavour to obtain permission to go on board. When Sir George Simpson arrived at one of these ports a man asked for the captain’s wife, and offered his own in exchange. In that part of the country the tyranny over the female sex is even more severe than in the interior. When a man takes a wife, he purchases her as his perpetual property; and if they separate, whether from an offence of hers or his, she must never marry again. She usually takes to clandestine prostitution as a means of living. But such instances as the foregoing are not confined to the coast. In the interior the traveller may observe, wherever a large concourse of Indians is assembled, a number of beautiful and voluptuous-looking women continually mixing in the throng, and throwing their glances upon strangers, or the single young men of the tribe. The Indians have now been removed to a territory beyond the Mississippi; and it is probable their corruption will rapidly increase in proportion to their congregation.

One peculiar feature of the system, introduced of course since Europeans visited the country, remains to be noticed. Many of the white traders, among the tribes of the Upper Missouri, find it good policy to connect themselves by marriage with powerful families, and they procure then the most beautiful girls of the noblest tribes, who aspire with delight to such a station, which usually elevates them above their servile occupations to a life of indolence, ease, and pleasure. These engagements, however, are scarcely marriages—at least in the European sense of the term—ceremonies of any kind being seldom performed. A large price in Indian estimation is paid for the girl, and she is transferred at once to the trader’s house; with equal facility he may annul the contract, leaving his companion to be candidate for another mate, for which her father is not sorry, as he may procure an additional horse again in exchange for her: this is no more than a system of virtual prostitution, in which the woman is hired out as a temporary companion, merely for the pecuniary gain. The trader may procure the handsomest girl in the tribe for two horses; for a gun with a supply of powder and ball; for five or six pounds of beads; for a couple of gallons of whiskey; or a handful of awls. Such is the price at which the Indian chief will prostitute his daughter. Occasionally, it must be added, the couple thus united live together permanently as man and wife, the possibility of which is, indeed, almost always supposed.

The Indians of New Caledonia, though not belonging to the same stock with the red race of North America, may be noticed here: they are extremely profligate; the venereal disease is common among them; and the blessing of a healthy climate is rendered nugatory by the intemperance of the people. Among them, nevertheless, women are held in more estimation than among the red tribes, for the men are not possessed by that sense of lordly dignity which disdains at once to become sensual, and to share the labours of the inferior sex. Women assist in the councils, and those of high rank are even admitted to the feasts. During the fishing season each sex is equally employed, and so in all their other tasks. Lewdness could not be carried to greater excess than it is among them: both men and women are addicted to the vilest crimes; they abandon themselves in youth to the indulgence of their most unbridled lust, and the country owes its rapid decrease of population to the universal depravity of the people. No man marries until his animal appetite is satiated upon the voluntary prostitutes who abound, and then his wife,[90] if dissatisfied with the restraints of matrimony, may refuse to dwell with him; the union is consequently broken by mutual consent, for a certain time or for ever. Meanwhile they addict themselves to their former pleasures, but the woman is nominally prohibited, by law, under pain of death, from cohabiting with any man during this period of separation from her husband; he seldom cares, however, to enforce his right, and she seldom fails to break the law. Polygamy is allowed, but only one woman is actually a wife—the rest are mere concubines; the chief one may be supplanted by a new favourite, when the old one yields without a murmur, though occasionally a woman of violent passions will destroy herself.

To illustrate the general subject of the condition of women among the North-American Indians, we may notice an incident described by the observant traveller Catlin. When, among the Sioux, he proposed to paint the portrait of a woman, his condescension was regarded by the warriors of the community first as incredible and then as ridiculous. It appeared marvellous that he should think of conferring on the females the same honour he had conferred on the medicine men and braves; those whom he selected were laughed at by hundreds of others who were, nevertheless, jealous of the distinction. The men who had been painted said that if the artist was going to paint women and children the sooner he destroyed their portraits the better; the women had never taken scalps, never done anything but make fires and dress, with other occupations equally servile: at length, he explained that the portraits of the men were wanted to show the chiefs of the white nation who were great and worthy among the Sioux nation, while the women were only wanted to show how they looked and how they dressed: by this means he attained his object. Mr. Catlin considers that, on the whole, the Old World has no superior morality or virtue to hold up as an example to the American Indian races. The degradation of the women, however, is denied by none, though a woman of superior courage or contrivance sometimes places herself above the degrading laws which depress the rest of her sex. Thus one whom Catlin saw joined boldly in a dance—though females are only allowed to join in a few of these—played off great feats before the warriors, and for her audacity no less than for her skill was greeted with thundering peals of applause, besides a pile of gifts[62].

Of Prostitution among the Indians of South America.
The plan and purpose of this inquiry will by this time have become obvious to every reader. It is to afford a comparative view of the state of manners throughout the world, with reference to public morals, the condition and the character of the female sex. We have chosen to treat of the barbarians in a separate division of the inquiry, and for this reason have left a large portion of Africa, and by far the greatest portion of North America, for future pages. With respect to South America, its various states will be classed among those half-barbarous communities, which we shall take as the link between the savage and the civilized portions of the globe; for, in spite of the dreams in which some romantic travellers have indulged, Lima is only fit to be compared with Algiers, and Brazil with Morocco. Leaving, therefore, these half-caste societies, as we shall next turn to them in a separate notice, we may briefly treat of the Indian race which still, though in numbers awfully reduced, clings to its native soil in South America.

A very brief description will suffice. Remembering the difference of character between the Indian of the North and the Indian of the South, we may, in most respects, apply our last notices to the present subject. The barbarians with whom we have now to deal are not possessed by that rigid masculine vanity which inspires them with a contempt not only of the female sex, but of the pleasures they furnish to men of more sensual temperaments and more effeminate mould. They have less pride, but not more manliness than the Indians of the Red Race. There is no comparison, in point of mental and moral character, between the savage of the Brazilian forest and the stately Huron or Iroquois, or the warrior of the Algonquin race.

Two classes of Indians exist in South[91] America—the pure native, and the breed corrupted by intercourse with Europeans, half-castes, and the rest of that variety of colours which have been produced between the white and the original tenant of the soil. The first is now an exceedingly small family, and some accounts have represented it as eminent for virtue and simplicity. We know that romantic pictures have been drawn of the golden days when Montezuma reigned in the Valley of Mexico, and gave laws to the free population of the country; but sober research has dissipated the idea that he was the governor of a civilized and polished nation. Superior, indeed, the Mexicans were to the savages who occupied so large a portion of the New World, but they were deficient in many of the arts, and gross in many of the manners which assist in comparing the standard of a people’s progress. This much has been ascertained, though it is little. At the present day, the great characteristics of the barbarian state are strongly exhibited in this as in other parts of South America. The miserable remnant of the Indian race grows yearly more debased, learning little from its European preceptors except profligacy and the coarsest arts of vice. Throughout the region women are degraded. The men generally sleep and lounge, or occupy themselves with easy tasks, but more from indolence than pride, while the women perform the labours of the house and of the field. Such is almost the universal practice of Indian manners in South America. Instances of the contrary, indeed, there are. King found among the Chedirrione tribes of the Argentine Republic, a primitive state of society, no less innocent than simple. The women were modest, the men kind to them, and labour was justly shared. All property was in common, and the members of the community lived in perfect brotherhood. This, however, is only one cheerful spot upon the surface of South-American manners. In the Central Region the females are degraded, and chastity a rare virtue. Women may bear children before marriage without shame, and the intercourse of the sexes is unrestrained.

Among the Indians of Brazil a curious system of manners existed before the establishment of European power, and many traces of it still exist. No man might marry until he had killed an enemy. When a girl reached the age of puberty her hair was cut off, her back tattooed, and she wore a necklace of the teeth of wild beasts until her hair grew again. Bands of cotton were fastened about her waist and the fleshy parts of her arms, to signify her maidenhood. It was said that if any but a pure virgin wore these emblems, the evil spirit would bear her away; but the national belief was not sufficiently strong to render this a defence of chastity, for it was lost without reproach or fear, and incontinence was regarded as no offence. Sleeping in crowds, in large common dormitories produced a pernicious effect on the people, destroyed all ideas of decency, and caused universal lewdness. When a man tired of his wife, he put her away and took another; indeed, as many as he pleased. Although unrestrained polygamy was allowed, the first wife, however, continued to enjoy some privileges, as having a separate berth to sleep in, and a separate plot of ground to cultivate for her own use. Nevertheless she was bitterly jealous of those who supplanted her, and frequently, when altogether neglected by her husband, abandoned herself altogether to vice, and became a clandestine prostitute to any of the young men who would flatter or pay her for the favour.

Being regarded, more or less, as property, a man’s wives formed part of his estate, and were bequeathed on his death to his brother or nearest kinsman. The women thus procured were seldom treated with any delicacy or consideration, yet they found sources of happiness, and were often lively and gay to the last degree. When utterly miserable the female sex does not delight to clothe itself in gaudy attire, or adorn itself with sparkling trinkets, as in Brazil, where masculine vanity ran so high that it declared certain ornaments to be the exclusive privilege of men.

In the neighbouring regions there was some variety among the different tribes. The Tyrinambas used their women fairly, though they somewhat overloaded them with employment. They were, however, generally happy, and were principally employed in spinning and weaving—for the industrial arts had reached that stage among them. They also cultivated the ground. On this subject a curious and not unpoetical idea prevailed among some of the Indians of South America. It was, that as females only bore children, so the grain planted by their hands would fructify in a more plentiful increase than that sown by men. Female porters, also, formed a considerable class.

In Paraguay the wars that spread havoc among the miserable people gave rise to a flagitious custom, which destroyed the population more rapidly than pestilence or[92] the sword. No woman ever reared more than one child. The difficulty of subsistence was one cause which induced this custom. The practice of producing abortion was adopted in preference to infanticide, since it inflicted a less violent shock on the natural feelings of the woman. Remonstrated with upon the horror of the crime, one mother replied that an infant was a great incumbrance, that parturition took away from the grace of the figure, rendering her less attractive to the men, and moreover that abortion was easier than delivery. The manner of procuring it was singular. The woman lay down on her back, and was beaten by two aged crones till the result was certain. Many died in consequence of this barbarous process, while others contracted a disease which afflicted them through life. Men and women were equally debauched. Their gregarious habits afforded unlimited opportunities for intrigue, and husbands cared little to whom their wives prostituted themselves, though they regarded them as absolute property, branding them on the thigh or bosom with a hot iron as they did their horses. One peculiar custom obtained among them—the married spoke in a dialect different from that employed by the unmarried people.

Contrasted with this community was the Abifrone, a tribe inhabiting the same region, more long-lived, healthy, and numerous, because they were temperate and chaste. Morality was characteristic of them, and prudence also. The men seldom or never married before the age of thirty, or the women before that of twenty, and were usually continent before contracting that engagement. A wife was purchased from her parents, and was entirely at their disposal, unless bold enough to run away. There was some poetry in the rite of marriage. If the suit was accepted, eight maidens carried a canopy of fine tissue over the bride, who walked in silence, and with downcast eyes, to her husband’s tent. There he received her with signs of love; she then returned, bearing the few domestic articles necessary to their simple mode of life, and her new master dwelt in her father’s house with her until she had borne a child, or he had sufficiently proved his affection towards her. Women were obliged to suckle their children for three years, and forbidden to hold connubial intercourse during that period. This induced the practice of procuring abortion, for the wife feared her husband would forget and abandon her after the long interval. Depopulation was thus caused. Infanticide, also, was practised, but the boys were selected as victims rather than the girls, who were valuable to their parents. The intercourse of the sexes before marriage was rigidly watched; the maidens were educated in habits of industry, and taught to prize their virtue. When the missionaries came among them preaching against polygamy and divorce, the women of this tribe were eager listeners.

Transferring our attention to another part of the South-American Continent, we find among the Sambos of the Mosquito Shore some curious customs. They are not of the Indian race, but closely allied with them in their social habits: when a man commits adultery the injured husband shoots a beeve, takes a horse, or carries off something of value, no matter to whom it may belong, and the proprietor must obtain restitution from the adulterer. Polygamy is practised among them, but one wife is superior to the rest; they marry very young; the Indians of the same country have a plurality of wives, but each must have a separate hut; if the husband makes a present to one, he must make one of equal value to each of the others, and he must spend his time with them equally, week by week.

In Venezuela, among the native tribes, marriage is frequently dispensed with altogether, and cohabitation takes place for a temporary period, or permanently, as the sentiments of the man may incline. This is the case even among the Christianized people, but no blame can be attached to them, poor as they are; for the priests, grasping everywhere, charge such high fees, that marriage is a privilege of the rich.

The same characteristics prevail all over South America, in Chili, Peru, Mexico, and among the Araucanian tribes: the men idle, the women labour; and the national idea is, that one sex is born to command, the other to obey. The Araucanians carry this principle to excess, and do not allow their wives to eat until they are satisfied. When a man desires to have a girl as his wife, he proposes for her to the father; if the father consent, the girl, without being informed of the bargain, is sent out on some pretended errand, when she is seized by her purchaser and carried home to his tent or hut. There a feast is prepared; their friends assemble; her price is paid in horses, cattle, or money, and the ceremony is concluded by a debauch. Immorality among them is rather secret than recognised; in Peru it is affirmed that, among the native Indians, instances of[93] infidelity between man and wife are very rare, for where polygamy is sanctioned and regulated by law, it is by no means inconsistent with chastity.

In New Andalusia the men and women go all but naked, wearing only slight girdles, and appearing strangers to the sentiment of decency. The condition of the female sex is that of privation and labour; yet, though overwhelmed with toil, they appear happier, because naturally more buoyant of heart than the squaws of North America. Even among the Indians on the banks of the Xingu, where the lordly husband lies all day in a hammock, and requires literally to be fed by his faithful wife, the women sing, dance, and seem to enjoy their lives most heartily. So, throughout the whole region, humiliation and slavery form their lot, but their spirit yields willingly to the yoke, which consequently does not pain them.

The regular prostitute class of South America belongs to the half-civilized communities, and will be noticed in our reference to them[63].

Of Prostitution in the Cities of South America.
When we visit the semi-civilized communities of South America, instead of the barbarian tribes still running wild in its deserts of forest, the state of morals we discover presents a contrast by no means favourable to the half-educated States, where a hybrid compromise seems to have been made between refinement and barbarism. The general characteristic of South-American society is profligacy. Almost every city on that continent is demoralized and debauched; Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Chili, all present features very similar, and differing only in the inferior details. Professional prostitutes, indiscriminate in their companionship, form only a small part of the system. Immorality takes many other forms. This, however, we learn only from the general terms in which traveller after traveller has described those regions, especially the cities. Absolute information we have none, except with respect to the station occupied by women, and their moral demeanour in society. Statistics are entirely wanting. All writers seem by mutual consent to have avoided our subject, and left us to conjecture the extent and character of prostitution in Mexico, Rio Janeiro, Lima, and the various other cities of South America.

In Mexico, the women of the upper or idle classes are described as elegant, polished, and fascinating, perfectly easy in society, and attached above all things to the gaieties of life. Their morals appear to be similar to those of the female sex in the older cities of Spain—that is, there are many profligates among them; but a large number are well-conducted, virtuous women, not very timid in society, but not immodest. Among the lower classes the average of Spain may also be adopted—if we may ground an opinion on the vague accounts we receive from travellers.

In Lima, society is far more profligate. The women are superior to the men in little more than affection for their children; in other respects their general conduct is loose. They are devoured with that passion for intrigue—not amounting in many cases to actual adultery—which has been a famous trait in the manners of that country in Europe whence South America has derived all its impress of civilization. One remark which is true of Lima, applies also to the other cities. The veil, which in some countries is worn as the guard of virtue, is here the screen of vice. It is inviolable. The woman so draped may pass her own husband unrecognised, so that she can play truant as she pleases. Two or three females of good station often pay visits at the houses of strange men, without being known. Men sometimes take up with their own wives in the streets, or at some place of public entertainment, or on the alameda, or city promenade, without being aware who their companions are.

The state of manners indicated by frequent allusions to these facts is far from pure. We have also a few other glimpses into the society of Mexico and Lima. In the former there were, in 1842, 491 persons—312 men, and 179 women—committed to prison for “prostitution, adultery, bigamy, sodomy, and incest;” besides 65 men, and 21 women, for “rape and incontinence.” So far for the capital of Mexico.


In Lima, the chief city of Peru, the number of illegitimate children annually born is about 860; and of new-born infants exposed and found dead, 460. Two-thirds of the former, and four-fifths of the latter, belong to the coloured population—which is, indeed, in a proportionate majority. A dead child is picked up without any sensation being excited among the inhabitants of the locality in which it is found. Frequently it is cast away unburied. Ischudi has seen these little carcasses dragged about by vultures, in the public streets.

The white creoles are noted for sensuality, as well as a brutal want of sentiment towards their offspring. The dances in which they indulge are some of them of indescribable obscenity, and the whole population is addicted to demoralizing pleasures. In Lima, however, though delicate modest women are rare, actual adultery is not often committed by that sex. The men seem to obey the exhortation of Cato, who encouraged prostitutes, while he abhorred unfaithful wives—“Courage, my friends; go and see the girls, but do not corrupt the married women.” Concubinage is more common, or rather, perhaps, more public than in Europe, and the father is usually very fond and careful of his natural children. Where marriage is contracted, it is, all over the Continent, fulfilled at an early age. In Brazil the neglect of this institution and the profligate intercourse of the sexes have diminished the population to an immense extent. In Rio Janeiro, however, we are told that the manners of the people have much improved since they have become more republican in their manners and ideas. The women there are shy and retired, but ignorance and awkwardness more than modesty may be assigned as the cause. While slavery was a public institution, which the government desired to abolish, the only restriction in the intercourse of the sexes was among the slaves. Procreation among them was as far as possible prevented; the women and the men in Janeiro were locked up at night in separate apartments, and carefully watched during the day.

In Chili, also, a reform of manners has commenced since the reduction of the military power, which is proverbially demoralizing. The higher classes of females have a character for modesty and virtue, but the men generally indulge themselves in vicious pleasures to a very considerable extent. It is, perhaps, in Brazil that society is most corrupt, for there the common decencies of life are, among the inferior orders, grossly disregarded. Matheson, the traveller, slept in the same room with a young married couple; girls are sold as concubines, and children are hired out by their mothers to prostitution. The youth of that sex bathe, while very young, entirely naked, and afterwards with scarcely any clothing, before the public eye, so that altogether the manners of the people are wanting in decency.

Travellers agree in assigning as one chief cause of this general demoralization, the profligate conduct of the Roman Catholic clergy; their lives are, in many cases—and of course there are many exceptions also—exceedingly scandalous. Numbers of them, bound by their vows to celibacy, live with concubines, and are not even faithful or constant to them. Where the priests have such influence, and indulge in such practices, we may expect to find a low state of morals. That this is the case in the cities of the South America most travellers agree in declaring; but unfortunately their notices are only vague generalities, and we have no positive information as to the extent and character of prostitution in those cities[64].

Of Prostitution in the West Indies.
A very slight notice of the West Indies will suffice, until we arrive at that division of our inquiry which includes the half-civilized communities, and the colonial societies related to Great Britain. Of the barbarous race scarcely a vestige remains, and of the negro population a general view is all that is required, except with reference to the prostitution carried on under the encouragement of the European settlers, which we shall hereafter describe. When Columbus first visited the beautiful islands of the West Indian group, he found two classes of people inhabiting them—the savage and cannibal Caribs, who delighted in war, and preyed upon the weaker and more effeminate tribes; and the comparatively innocent and simple communities, whose unwarlike habits rendered them victims to their more powerful neighbours. The characteristics of these distinct populations were strongly illustrated in their[95] treatment of women. The mild and peaceful islanders admitted the female sex to a participation in the delights and enjoyments of life, allowed their women to mingle with them in the dance, to inherit power, to wear what ornaments they fancied; and shared, indeed, with them all the opportunities of happiness which belonged to their savage condition. Among the cannibal Caribs, on the other hand, a different fashion prevailed. The handsomest and youngest of female captives taken in war were preserved as slaves and companions, while their other prisoners were devoured. The lot of these exiles, however, was little superior to that of the Carib women themselves. The nation was low and barbarous, and accordingly treated its women with harshness and indignity. Proud of their superior power and courage, the men looked down on the females as on an inferior sex, whose degradation was natural and just. Although a wife was awarded as the prize of valour, she was regarded as property acquired. She was her husband’s slave. All the drudgery of his habitation fell on her. She bore his implements for war or for the chase. She carried home the game he had killed; and never sat down to a meal with him, or even dared to eat in his presence. She approached him with abject humility, and if she ever complained of ill usage, it was at the peril of her life. Nevertheless, the child born of this slave was loved and tended with wonderful care. This description, however, must apply to the weaker race of women, not to those Amazons described by Columbus, who, well-trained to war, rivalled in power of muscle and vigour of limb the bull-stranglers of Sparta.

These, however—the original inhabitants of the West-Indian Islands—have disappeared, and been succeeded by another race or compound of races, among which the Negroes only claim our notice at present. Among the blacks of Antigua, as an example of the rest, immorality is a characteristic which may be traced to the institution of slavery. Infanticide is frequently practised by them, especially since the Emancipation Act was passed. The reason of this circumstance, which at first seems strange, is very clear. Under the institution of slavery, negroes were not allowed to marry, or, at least, their marriages were never held as binding before the law. They therefore cohabited, and their unions lasted usually only so long as the caprice of affection, or the heat of a criminal appetite existed. Women, therefore, continually had five, six, seven, eight, or nine children by various fathers, and no disgrace was attached to the fact. A new system was introduced by the abolition of the slave system. The sentiments of shame and modesty have been cultivated in their minds; and the idea of female virtue has at least been awakened, so that they often seek to escape the consequences of an illicit amour by destroying the offspring.

One of the demoralizing effects of slavery was the encouragement of a species of concubinage. Rewards, indeed, were held out by some masters to such of the negroes as lived faithfully with a single partner; but the prevalence of vice was all but universal. A permanent engagement between a man and a woman was seldom formed. Two females frequently lived with one man, and of these one was considered his wife and the other his mistress.

When the negroes were emancipated, in 1834, many of them were anxious to be legally married. Numbers had been already united in wedlock by the missionary preachers; yet, though complete in its character, and regarded as a sacred tie, this act was not held as binding by the law, and many of the emancipated negroes, putting away the partners of their compulsory servitude, took new companions to their homes.

The offence of bigamy was not uncommon among them, and still continues to be so. It is prohibited under a severe enactment, but many devices are adopted to elude the law. Concubinage is less openly practised than formerly, but the tie of marriage is by no means generally respected. Chastity is indifferently regarded; and where the men do not prize it in women, women will be at little pains to preserve it for the men. Women are sometimes married who have been living in concubinage with several persons, and become the mothers of numerous children.

The condition of the free female negroes is by no means so degraded as in the original country of the blacks. Women enjoy an independent existence, and live as they please, though many of them labour. Their character is not distinguished by morality. Decency was entirely obliterated from their ideas, and they are only beginning to recover it. Women who were daily stripped and exposed to receive a whipping from the hands of men, could not be expected long to retain the sense of feminine shame; and this process, acting upon one generation after another, has left its impress on the[96] character of the negro population. Human nature, also, was outraged by the gross tyranny of the planters. The intercourse of the sexes was regulated, not with a view to the morals of the negroes, but to the propagation of the species. They were coupled like beasts, to increase the number of slaves on the estate. In consequence of this the degradation of the negro population was so complete that, after it was emancipated, a woman considered it more honourable to become the mistress of a white, than the wife of a black man. In all the islands, indeed, this vile system was carried on. In St. Lucia, however, the intercourse was almost unrestrained, and consequently became in a degree promiscuous; for moral law there was none. The St. Lucia negro, in fact, is, even at this day, averse to matrimony, and inclined to support concubines, to none of whom is he faithful, even for an interval of time. Yet he is thoroughly attached to his children. It has been observed, that if any improvement in the morality of the island has taken place, it is more in the tone than in the temper, in the appearance than in the reality. Infanticide is never practised, or only as a rare and secret crime. It is prevented, however, not by moral restraint, but by the motherly feelings of the women—by the absence of reproach on bastardy, and the facility for rearing children.

In Santa Cruz the same low condition of manners is observable in the negro population; though in Jamaica the negroes are generally married, and are, on the whole, faithful to the engagement. This, however, is the result of the Emancipation Act. Previously to that mighty social reform, marriage, or a connubial contract of any kind, was rare; and the intercourse of the sexes was loose, profligate, and lewd. The men lived either with several concubines at once, or replaced one by another, as their inclination prompted. When the missionaries endeavoured to change this state of things, any couples which submitted to their teaching were sure to be ridiculed and jeered by the servile and demoralized populace. When slavery was abolished, so far had the corruption of manners proceeded, that numbers of the women, in the delirium of their new liberty, abandoned themselves to their vicious appetites, and became common prostitutes.

The example of Europeans has not by any means displayed to the negroes any instruction in morality; on the contrary, it has, to a great extent, encouraged their vices. This we shall show in a future division of the subject. We therefore leave at present the other islands which form the plantation colonies of England and Spain: we shall hereafter visit the native community which has recently made itself ridiculous by enacting the forms of an empire—we allude to Hayti, or St. Domingo. The brief notice we have given is intended to apply to the rude black population, but not in respect of its relation to the white communities[65].

Of Prostitution in Java.
In the island of Java, which is perhaps the most fertile and beautiful country in the world, a curious system of manners now prevails. Hindoos have been succeeded by Mohammedans, and these by Dutch: each of the conquering races has impressed some characteristic trait on the population, and, unfortunately, the stamp of vice is more easily set than any other. The character and condition of the female sex in Java indicate the whole state of manners there. The men are somewhat cold towards the women, a fact which some learned Theban has ascribed to their feeding more on vegetable than on animal substances, but they are neither cruel nor negligent towards them. The institution of marriage is universally known, if not universally practised or generally respected. The lot of women may be described as peculiarly fortunate; in general they are not ill-used at all, and when, as among some of the more opulent, they are secluded, they are rather withdrawn from the indiscriminate gaze of the people, than shut up in lonely secrecy, for they are by no means watched with that exaggerated jealousy which in some parts of the East renders the husband a continual spy on the actions of his wife. Though the man pays a price for his bride, he does not therefore disdain or abuse her.

The condition of the sex in Java is, indeed, an exception to the habitual custom of Asiatics. The women eat with the men, associate with them in all the offices and pleasures of life, and live on terms of mutual equality.


Many queens have, in different States, occupied the throne. The sex is nowhere in the island, as a rule, treated with coarseness, violence, or neglect. They are industrious, and hard-working, but they labour more through desire of praise than through fear of chastisement, and are admitted to the performance of many honourable tasks. Among the wealthier classes men sometimes act tyrannically in their households; but this must be taken as the characteristic not of the race, but of individuals. Those who seclude their wives do so only from the common eye; English gentlemen have often been introduced into the most private chambers of the harem, while the wives and daughters of the greatest chiefs have appeared at the entertainments given by the European residents in Batavia, Sumarang, and other cities, where they conduct themselves usually with modesty and good grace.

Polygamy and concubinage are tolerated, that is, they are practised among the nobility of Java, who do not allow public opinion to interfere with the gratification of their desires; both of these customs are looked upon, however, rather as vicious luxuries, than as established social institutions; yet, however limited their extent, they never fail to degrade the position and to vitiate the character of the female sex. Some circumstances in the feelings of the people prevent either practice from being generally adopted, and the evil is thus, in its moral influence, mitigated. The first wife is always mistress of the household, and the others are little more than her handmaids, who contribute to her husband’s gratification, but never share his rank or his wealth. No man of station will give his daughter as a second or third wife, unless to a chief of far higher nobility than himself; the inferior wives or concubines are therefore of an inferior class. Thus the artificial distinctions of classes vitiate the public morals, for a woman considers it dishonourable, not to prostitute herself, but to prostitute herself to a poor man of humble birth.

When we say that polygamy and concubinage are not general in Java, the reader must by no means infer a high state of manners to exist there. On the contrary, Java is the most immoral country in insular Asia. The woman who would be ashamed to become the second wife of a chief might not be ashamed to commit adultery with him; in general terms, both sexes are extremely profligate and depraved, though the poets and historians of the island boast of chastity as the distinguishing ornament of their women; because a married female shrieks when a strange man attempts to kiss her before her attendants and a large mixed company, they hold up their sex in Java as the standard of feminine purity and virtue.

In most islands of the Indian Archipelago, divorces are not easy to be obtained; but in Java the total separation of married people may be procured with the utmost freedom and facility. It is a privilege in which the women indulge themselves to a most wanton degree, and often so much as to fall little short of prostitution. A wife may turn away her husband by paying him a certain sum of money; he is not, indeed, absolutely bound to accept this, but usually does so, in conformity with the established opinion of society, that it is disreputable to live with a woman on such terms. Women often change their partners three or four times before they are thirty years of age; some have been seen boasting of a twelfth husband. In Java the means of subsistence abound, and are easy to be procured as well by females as by men; one sex is, therefore, in a great measure, independent of the other; women find no difficulty in living without husbands. They are not, consequently, forced to remain in a state of bondage through fear of being drifted destitute upon the world; but, unfortunately for the theories of our new female reformers, the sex in Java, though thus enfranchised, is proverbially dissolute and libertine.

This, nevertheless, in reality is no argument for those who attempt to show that the female sex, enjoying perfect liberty, makes use of its freedom to indulge in vicious pleasures. The women of Java are dissolute, not because they are free of control, but because the whole society of the island is profligate. Among the wealthier classes, especially, the utmost immorality prevails with respect to the intercourse of the sexes. In the great native towns the population is debauched to the last degree. Intrigues among the married women continually occur; and females of high rank have intercourse with paramours, to the knowledge, and almost before the faces, of their husbands. The men are tame and servile, often not daring to revenge their honour or assert the conjugal right, and they are by no means inspired with that fiery spirit of jealousy which among many Asiatics renders a wife sacred from all but her husband’s eye. Females of respectable rank are often the subject of conversation. An inquiry after a man’s family is held by no means in[98]sulting, but rather as a conventional act of courtesy.

Flagrant instances of the loose character of Javan manners have come to the notice of travellers. Before the island was absolutely conquered by the Dutch, one of its great princes, being desirous of purchasing the favour of the people, gave many public feasts and entertainments, at which the wives and daughters of the chiefs attended. He seduced one of his guests, a married woman, and was in the habit of passing the night with her, while her husband was engaged with his duty on the public guard. One morning, by chance, the chief returned home earlier than usual, and detected them together. He had, however, discovered the rank of the paramour, and discreetly coughed, that the prince might have an opportunity to escape. He then went into the chamber, and severely flogged his guilty wife. She fled, and complained to the king of the treatment she had received. He being in the critical position of making good his claim to a crown, dared not exercise the usual prerogative of a throne; but called for the man he had injured, made him many rich gifts, and offered him, as compensation, the handsomest woman in his own household. The husband accepted the peace-offerings, and was content to take back his adulterous wife. The relation of a subject to his prince must, at least when developed in this manner, be most unnatural.

Women in Java are usually married very young, though not before the age of puberty, which is speedily reached. The reason assigned by writers for this haste is, that their chastity is no longer safe after they have reached womanhood. Men wait for two or three years after that period, during which they may indulge in unbounded profligacy. At eighteen or twenty a girl is looked upon as verging towards the wane of life, and becomes a suspected character. No age, however, excludes a woman from the chance of a match; but scarcely any are unmarried after 22. Widows at 50 often procure husbands; for men at that period of life usually choose wives equal in years to themselves, and sometimes older.

The preliminary arrangements are made by the parents on both sides; for no intercourse could previously take place between the young people themselves without being, and often justly, the occasion of scandal. They are looked upon, as the natives themselves express it, as mere puppets in the performance. There are three kinds of connection. The first is when the rank of the parties is equal, or when the man is superior to the woman. The second is when the bride is above her husband, who is taken into the house, and adopted into the family, by his father-in-law. The third is a species of concubinage, without any rites whatever, and confirmed by the simple fact of recognised cohabitation. In such cases, as no formality is required to conclude, so none is necessary to dissolve the contract, which is, therefore, no more than a species of prostitution, for the changes of companions are extremely frequent.

In the other two, the ceremonies are similar. The young people are, in all cases, betrothed for a longer or a shorter period before their union—from one month to several years. The father of the youth, having made for his son what he considers a suitable choice, proceeds to the parents of the girl, and proposes for an alliance. If they accept the suit, a betrothal is ratified by some trifling present to the bride. Visits are made, that the intended nuptials may be publicly known. At the third stage in the progress of the transaction the price is arranged, and varies according to the rank and circumstances of the families. Sometimes it is plainly called the purchase-money; sometimes the act of sale is covered by a more delicate term—the deposit. It is usually considered, however, as a settlement or provision for the bride.

The only Mohammedan feature in the whole ceremony is the exchange of vows in a mosque. This is followed by many ritual observances, more of etiquette than religion, and great parade is affected. At length the married people eat rice from one vessel, to typify their common fortune; but in some places the bride washes her husband’s feet, as an acknowledgment of her subjection to him, or else he treads upon a raw egg, and she wipes his foot.

Though, as we have said, polygamy and concubinage are not generally practised, partly because too expensive, partly from a feeling against them—some of the rich chiefs indulge in them to an extravagant degree, and glory in a train of 60 children. The wives, however, as already noticed, can easily release themselves when their married state is deteriorated into real or fancied bondage. The fact of their early marriage, without knowing their future husband, or consenting to the union, causes a great number of divorces. A widow may marry again after three months and ten days have elapsed since her husband’s death.


Though the intercourse of the sexes is so free that vicious inclinations may be indulged without difficulty or peril, the Javans support a large class of women—prostitutes by profession. Adultery is not considered a very heinous crime, but rather an offence against the husband’s property and honour, yet it is attended sometimes with danger, and often with disagreeable results. The vocation of the trading prostitute is not, therefore, taken away. She unites in Java, as in India, the profession of a dancer with her infamous calling.

There is a large class of these dancers in the island. The people are passionately fond of this amusement, but no respectable woman will join in it. The sultans, indeed, used to have some of their most beautiful concubines trained to dance, and they were privileged in the performance of certain figures; but, otherwise, all its professors are prostitutes. Nevertheless, a Javan chief of high rank is not ashamed to be seen before a large mixed assembly tripping with one of these women.

The dancers may be found in all parts of Java, but chiefly in the north-west, towards the capital. They figure at most of the public and private entertainments. Their conduct is so dissolute that the words dancer and prostitute are, in the Javan language, synonymous; yet, on account of the wealth they often amass, petty chiefs occasionally marry them. In such cases they usually, after a few years, become tired of their quiet secluded life, divorce their husbands, and resume their old calling. The dress in which they appear to dance is very immodest, exposing almost the whole bosom, and the attitudes they assume are licentious in a high degree. Nevertheless, they seldom descend to the obscene and degrading postures practised by some of the Bayaderes in India.

The Europeans in Java have not certainly, up to a late period, at least, set to their native subjects an example of pure manners. The Dutch merchant had usually a Javan female at the head of his household, who served him as a mistress as well. Indeed, the marriage ceremony is seldom insisted on by the women; while, among the lower classes, simple cohabitation is the usual method in which the sexes are related. Yet they are by no means so gross and sensual as the wealthier sort of people. Altogether, however, the island is remarkable for the profligacy of its inhabitants. In every city prostitutes abound; and about the roads in their vicinity women may be seen straying, ready for hire. They mostly, as we have said, assume also the profession of dancers, and this, in a manner, covers the profligacy of those who employ them at their houses[66].

Of Prostitution in Sumatra.
The population of this extensive island is divided into several tribes, slightly differing in their manners and modes of life. The Rejangs, who may be supposed to represent its original habits, are still rude barbarians. With them, as with many people of the East, the scrupulous attention to external show is by no means accompanied by a similar spirit within. They drape their women from chin to foot, and dread lest a virgin should expose any part of her person; yet modesty is not at all a characteristic of the dwellers in villages and towns, to whom this description refers. Those who live in the rural communities, and are more easy in their costume, distinguish themselves by their decency and decorum. In this is exhibited a curious fact, which may be discovered in many parts of the world.

The civilization, if such it may be called, of Sumatra, is of a peculiar character. Its people are in that stage of their progress when great importance is ascribed to the multiplied formulas of etiquette. Ritual is with them more essential than principle—of which, indeed, they know little. It is wonderful to examine the intricate details of the Sumatran marriage contract. Nearly all the litigation in the country springs from that perplexing cause. Men in a barbarous state appear to be under the influence of some law which forces them into extremes. They must be at one pole or another. Either they dispense altogether with ceremonial usages, and satisfy themselves with obeying the simple dictates of nature, under plain rules for their own convenience, or they divide the sexes by a maze of convention, which prescribes a form for the most trivial occasions of life. True refinement appears to be in the medium; but this is a question still to be resolved. In some districts of Sumatra, Europeans, wearied with the endless legal quarrels arising from these complicated transactions, have prevailed on the people to simplify their code of marriage, and the result has proved beneficial.


Some have supposed that the system of procuring wives by purchase, which renders marriage difficult to the poor, has retarded the growth of population. Others, however, assert, and with much appearance of reason, that in Sumatra at least the contrary is true. Children being considered as property, and daughters being especially valuable for the price they command, powerful incentives to matrimony exist. The purchase-money obtained for the girls supplies wives for the sons, and in few islands are instances of celibacy more rare. It is certain, however, that the fostering, or rendering obligatory, thrifty habits on the young, has a tendency to check population, though it may be only so far as to keep it on a level with the means of subsistence. Various European countries illustrate that truth. In Sumatra, also, we have a wealthy region thinly and badly peopled; but misgovernment, war, and barbarism may be assigned as the chief causes. Besides, it is said the women are naturally unprolific; that they cease to bear children at an early age; that ignorance of the medical art causes thousands to perish of endemic complaints.

There are three modes of forming a marriage contract. The first is that, when one man pays to another a certain sum of money in exchange for his daughter, who becomes a virtual slave. There is usually, however, a certain amount—about five dollars—held back, and, so long as this remains unpaid, friendship is supposed to exist between the families, and the girl’s parents have a right to complain if she be ill-treated. If the husband wound her he is liable to a fine, and in other ways his absolute command is curtailed. When, however, on the occasion of a violent quarrel, the sum is paid, the bond of relationship is broken, and the woman is entirely in her master’s power. The regulations in regard to money are numerous and intricate; but need not be explained in detail. They give occasion, however, as we have said, to endless law-suits, which are bequeathed by one generation to another.

In other cases the marriage contract is an affair of barter. One virgin is given for another, and a man who has not one of his own sometimes borrows a girl, engaging to replace or pay for her when required. A man having a son and a daughter, may give the latter in exchange for a wife to the former. A brother may barter his sister for a wife, or procure a cousin instead. If, however, she be under age, a certain allowance is made until she becomes marriageable.

Another method is practised when a parent desires to get rid of a daughter suffering from some infirmity or defect. He sells her altogether without any reserve, and she has fewer privileges than other classes of wives.

Sometimes a girl evades these laws by an elopement, and a match is formed upon mutual affection. If the fugitive couple are overtaken on the road, they may be separated; but when once they have taken sanctuary, and the man declares his willingness to comply with all the necessary forms, his wife is safely secured to him.

Many persons have assigned to whole nations, in various parts of the world, a Jewish origin, partly because the custom prevails with them of a man marrying his brother’s widow. The Sumatrans, in this case, belong to them also, for the same rule is enforced by them; but if there be no brother surviving, the woman is taken by her husband’s nearest male relation—the father excepted. If any of her purchase-money remains unpaid, her new master is answerable for it.

When, under this system, adultery is committed—which is not frequently the case—the husband usually passes it over, or inflicts revenge with his own hand. It is seldom such an offence is brought before the law. When a man desires to divorce his wife thus married to him, he may claim back her purchase-money, with the exception of twenty-five dollars, as she is supposed, by cohabitation with him, to have diminished in value to that amount. If, having taken a woman, he be unable to pay the whole price, though repeatedly dunned for it, the girl’s parents may sue for a divorce, but they must restore all they have received. The old ceremony consisted merely in cutting a rattan cane in two, in the presence of the disunited couple, their friends, and the chiefs of the province. The woman is expected to take to her husband’s house effects to the value of ten dollars. If she take more, he is chargeable to the amount. Thus the whole transaction is carried on upon mercenary grounds.

The second kind of marriage is, when a virgin’s father chooses for her husband some young man whom he adopts into his family, making a feast on the occasion and receiving what we may term a premium of twenty dollars. The young man is thenceforward a property in his father-in-law’s family. They are answerable for the debts he may incur; but all he has and all he earns belong to them; he is liable to be divorced when they please, and to be[101] turned away destitute. Under certain circumstances he may redeem himself from this bondage, but pecuniary considerations are so entangled with the whole agreement that infinite confusion is the result. Several generations are sometimes bound in this manner before the contract can be legally broken by the fulfilment of all the required conditions.

The Malays of Sumalda have generally adopted the third kind of marriage, which is called the free. It is a more honourable compact, in which the families approach each other on the natural level of equality. A small sum is paid to the girl’s parents, usually about twelve dollars, and an agreement is drawn up, that all property shall be common between husband and wife, and that, when divorce takes place by mutual consent, all shall be fairly divided. If the man only presses a separation, he gives half his effects, and loses the twelve dollars; if the woman, she then loses her right to any but her female paraphernalia. This description of contract, which is productive of most just dealing and felicity, has been adopted in many parts of the island.

The actual ceremony of marriage, though fenced about with so many ceremonial observances, is extremely simple. An entertainment is given, the couple join their hands, and some one pronounces them man and wife.

Where the female sex is a material for sale, little of what we term courtship can be expected. The manners of the country are opposed to it; strict separation is enforced between the youth of different sexes; and when a man pays the full price for a bride, he considers himself entitled to her without any manner of persuasion or solicitation to herself. Nevertheless, traces of gallantry—using that word in its proper, not its ridiculous sense—may be observed in the manners of the people. A degree of respect is shown to women, which may be favourably contrasted with the conduct of some polished nations. On the few occasions on which the young people meet, such as festivals and public gatherings in the village hall, they dance and sing, and behave with much delicacy; mutual attachments often spring out of such association, and the parents frequently promote the desire of union thus arising. In most countries, indeed, the barbarism of the law is mitigated in its influence by the universal operation of the natural human sentiments; it is no less true than strange, that mankind are usually better, not only than their rulers, but than their laws. The festivals are enlivened by dances and songs; the dances have been described as licentious and grotesque, but Marsden, the philosophical historian of Sumalda, only remarks that the figures displayed at English balls are often more immodest and absurd. The songs are usually extempore, and always turn on the subject of love.

The existence or flourishing of any sentiment among a people with whom marriage is a commercial transaction, and who allow a plurality of wives, may be considered incredible; but as, in the first instance, Nature often asserts herself and the law is accommodated to her will, so, in the second, the nature of things prevents any general extension of the practice. Polygamy is permitted; but only a few chiefs have more than one companion. The general indigence of the people is one cause of this, for the perpetual weight of necessity is more powerful than the irregular impulse of animal passion. To be a second wife is also considered by many below the dignity of a reputable person. A man sometimes prefers a divorce for his daughter when he hears that her husband is about to take another wife. In the contract which stipulates for a division of property, polygamy is impossible, for this obvious reason, that the wife must have half the husband’s effects, which more than one, of course, could not do. The origin of polygamy in Sumalda and other parts of Asia has been traced by various ingenious writers to different causes; but being, as it is, the indulgence which is a privilege of wealth, it appears to have grown up with the whole system of manners; no natural reason seems to exist for it. The proportion of the sexes is nearly equal, and all the theories grounded on a different assumption fall to pieces. Wherever polygamy exists, women are purchased, and where they are thus viewed as property, wealthy men will surely distinguish themselves from their neighbours by a plurality of wives; and this happens in Rajpooratan, where the women are far less numerous than the men, as well as in other countries where they out-number them to an equal extent.

In the country parts of Sumatra, chastity, says Marsden, exists more than among any other people with which he was acquainted. The same characteristic appears to distinguish them at the present day. Interest, as well as decency, renders the parents anxious to preserve the virtue of their daughters. The price of a virgin is so far above that of a woman who has been defiled, that the girls are jealously watched, lest their value deteriorate in this respect. But the truth of the Oriental[102] idea is sometimes illustrated—that girls should marry as soon as they are marriageable, or they soon cease to be chaste. In Sumatra they remain single for some time after that period, and occasionally lose their chastity in consequence. In such cases the seducer, if discovered, may be forced to marry the girl, and pay her price, or make good the diminution he has occasioned in her value.

Regular prostitution is little known, except in the towns. There, especially in the bazaars, women following that calling may be found mixed up with the concourse of sailors and others who support them. In the seaports especially, where the population is not only floating, but mixed from various nations, there is a great deal of profligacy, and troops of professional prostitutes ply the streets for hire. Europeans, however, who represent the general manners of the island from the experience of short visits to the maritime cities, convey a false impression of the people. The Sumatran is, as a rule, contented to marry and be faithful to his wife. This proceeds, however, it would seem, rather from some peculiar tone of temperament, than from any principles of morality; for their ideas on this subject are, at any rate, widely different from ours. Incest they hold as an offence; but except it occurs within the first degree it is regarded rather as an infraction of the conventional, than the natural law. It is sometimes punished by a fine; but sometimes also the marriage is confirmed, and the parties remain together.

The chiefs of the cannibal nations of Batta have sometimes several concubines. A man once stole a woman of this kind—the favourite of her master—and was punished by being cut to pieces, roasted, and devoured. Among the people of Bulu China, on the east coast, a man may have four wives, and as many concubines as possible. Some of the chiefs possess one of these companions in each town or village of their country. Adultery is punished by death to both criminals.

The general treatment of the sex in Sumatra is of an average character. They are not absolutely degraded, nor do they enjoy an elevated position. The poorer classes labour, and all are subject to the men; but on the whole they are far superior to Java, and, in a considerable degree, to many other Eastern countries[67].

Of Borneo.
The splendid achievements in the cause of civilization which Sir James Brooke has performed, have directed an extraordinary attention to the immense island of Borneo. Like the rest of the Indian Archipelago, it is, nevertheless, little known to the English reader—no complete accounts having been yet published. Sir James Brooke, however, with Captain Keppel, Captain Mundy, Mr. Hugh Low, and others, have thrown a new light on the country, and enabled us to discern many striking features in the social system of the races which inhabit it. The uniformity of manners observable in Celebes does not exist in Borneo. The inhabitants of Borneo, for the most part, remain in an inferior stage of the barbarian state. There are, however, among them many varieties of the social law. Some are the purest savages, wandering unclothed in the depths of the forests, and subsisting alone on the spontaneous gifts of nature. Others cultivate the soil, dwell in comfortable villages, and traffic with their neighbours. The river communities are far more advanced than those who live far from the means of water-carriage; and the inhabitants of the maritime towns are more educated, and also more profligate, than any. They have been depraved by that bloody and destructive system of piracy, which was, until recently, the curse of the Archipelago; but when Sir James Brooke’s policy has been maturely developed, we may expect to see vast ameliorations in their manners.

The state of morals among the Sea Dyaks, or dwellers on the coast, is low, even in comparison with the average of other Asiatic races. There is no social law to govern the intercourse of the youths of both sexes before marriage. Even the authority of parents is not recognised to any extent. The Dyak girl is supposed capable of selecting a husband for herself; and before she is betrothed to a man she may cohabit, without disgrace, with any other with whom she may please to associate. The women appear to make liberal use of this privilege. Loose as their conduct is, however, before marriage, they are subject afterwards to a more stringent code. As a man is only allowed one wife, he requires strict fidelity in her, and if she break faith with him, she is punished by a severe beating and a heavy fine. On his part, moreover, he must be continent, for the penalty is the same for either sex. Cases of adultery are not frequent in times of peace, though during war more licence[103] is allowed. The Dyak women seldom engage in intrigues with Malays or other foreigners.


[From Marryat’s “Indian Archipelago.”]

From their long intercourse with the Malays, who are all Mohammedans, the Dyaks might have been expected to borrow such of their customs as encourage the savage in the gratification of his animal appetites, and would enable him to live in lordly indolence on the labour of his wives. Monogamy, however, still prevails with all the tribes.

The ceremony of marriage—if such it can be called—is simple to the last degree with all except a few communities, who practise some particular rites. The consent of the woman is necessary to the match, which is made without the intervention of the parents, who, after the mutual willingness of the young people has been expressed, cannot refuse their sanction. The bride and bridegroom meet, a feast is given, and the transaction is concluded.

There are certain restrictions on the immoral intercourse of the young people, to which we have alluded. If a girl becomes pregnant, the father of her child must marry her. Such an occurrence often precedes a match. Men and women live with each other on trial, and if no signs of offspring appear, the acquaintance is discontinued. Constancy during such an intercourse is not rigidly required. Mr. Hugh Low was assured that, in some communities, the laxity of manners was carried so far, that when a chief was travelling from place to place, hospitality required that at every village he should be furnished with a girl as his companion while he rested. Such a practice is general among the Kyans who inhabit a large part of the interior of Borneo. The fear of not becoming the father of a family—a misfortune greatly dreaded by the Dyaks—is supposed to encourage the loose intercourse of the unmarried people, since, as we have said, a man always marries the woman by whom he has a child.

Among the Dyaks who dwell on the hills in the interior, a higher morality prevails. The licentious intercourse of the unmarried people is not permitted. The young and single men are obliged to sleep apart in a separate building, and the girls are carefully kept from them. Marriage is contracted at a very early age, and adultery is almost unknown. Polygamy is not allowed; but some of the chiefs indulge in a second wife or concubine—an infringement of the law which is held in great reprobation, though it cannot be prevented. The degrees of consanguinity within which marriage is prohibited extend beyond cousins. One man shocked the public feeling of his tribe by marrying his granddaughter—his wife and the girl’s mother, his own child, being still alive. The people affirmed that ruin and darkness had covered the face of the sun ever since the day when that incestuous union took place. Nevertheless, as they adhere almost constantly to the practice of marrying within their own tribe, the whole commonwealth comes, in the course of time, to be united by distant ties of blood, which has been assigned as a cause for the cases of insanity not uncommon among them. This may be true, since it is a fact that many royal families, constrained to perpetual intermarriage, have dwindled into a race of imbeciles in consequence. The women put faith in medicines to render them fruitful; but they never resort to the custom of procuring abortion adopted by the Malay prostitutes on the coast. These women eat large quantities of honey, largely mixed with hot spices, which produces the desired result. It is said that among the people of the south numerous public prostitutes are to be found, though this is on the equivocal authority of a German missionary, whose testimony is much to be suspected. No word for prostitution appears to exist in the Dyak language. Among the Malays such women are numerous.

The Sibnouan females present a fair average of the manners prevailing with the various divisions of that singular race. Their women are not concealed, nor are they shy before strangers. They will bathe naked in the presence of men; yet many of the decencies of life are observed. Though the unmarried people sleep promiscuously in a common room, married couples have separate chambers. The labour of the household, with all the drudgery, is allotted to the females; they grind rice, carry burdens, fetch water, catch fish, and till the fields, but are far from occupying the degraded condition of the wives of the North-American Indians; their situation may, indeed, be compared to that of women in the humblest classes in England. They eat with the men, and take part in their concerns as well as their festivals. This is an agricultural and fishing tribe.

Among the Kayans a naked woman cannot under any circumstances be killed, or a woman with child.

Among the Mohammedan Malays, as we have said, there is more civilization and corruption of manners in another form. They are polygamists, indulge in concubines, encourage prostitutes, and some[104]times treat their wives with great tyranny. An English physician lately received a message from one of the wives of a chief—celebrated for fostering privacy—desiring a secret interview with him at a secluded spot in the jungle. He went with the high belief that the woman was enamoured of his good looks. He met her, found her young and pretty, but with an air of firmness and dignity which showed that it was no frivolous purpose which had led her to take so dangerous a step. She complained of her miserable life, of the despotism under which she suffered, declared she would endure it no longer, and requested the doctor to furnish her with a small dose of arsenic to poison, not herself, but her husband. Of course he refused, and the poor creature went away sorely disappointed.

The rich Malays allow their wives to keep female slaves for their service. The position of these captives is, under any circumstances, unenviable; should, however, one of them, by her personal qualities, excite the jealousy of her mistress; her case is miserable, until she can procure another owner. Sometimes the slaves are used as concubines, when by law they become free, though they seldom avail themselves of their liberty, preferring to be supported by their old masters, while prostituting themselves to others. The wealthy chiefs spend large sums in the purchase of concubines. The marriage ceremony is performed according to the ritual of the Koran, but is often neglected.

The prostitutes who congregate in the seaport towns have not been particularly described. They appear to be divided into classes: those who cohabit temporarily with the Malays, are paid a certain price, and exchange their residence; those who prostitute themselves indiscriminately to all comers; and those who are supported by the sailors, and profligate Chinese, who invariably create such a class wherever they settle. Of their numbers we have no account, nor of their modes of life; but it is certain they exist in considerable numbers[68].

Surveying the social aspects of the globe, we discover an immense range occupied by races partially civilized, which connect the barbarian with the polished communities. Some of these, perhaps, are placed below European nations rather because they differ from, than because they are inferior to them.

The influence of every great religion is powerful in various divisions of the vast range. Buddha and Bramah have their millions of worshippers in China, India, and the intervening regions. The prophet is followed by whole nations in eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Christianity has numerous adherents on the plains of Syria, Palestine, and the countries of Asia Minor. An equal variety of institutions prevails among these half-educated races. British policy in India; paternal despotism in China; republican simplicity in Arabia, Celebes, and Afghanistan; religious tyranny in the empire of the Porte; and patriarchal freedom among the nomades of Asia Minor, exercise different influences on this mighty and mixed population. In some we find a singular purity of manners, as among the Bedouins of Arabia; with others, morals are more gross than among the worst savages; but in all there is a perceptible contrast between the civilized states of Europe on the one hand, and the barbarian countries of Africa, Australasia, and the Pacific, on the other.

The position of the female sex among half-civilized races, as among all others, may be taken as a standard to measure their progress. It differs, in some remarkable particulars, from that occupied by women in purely savage or highly-civilized communities. In the one, where any regulations exist they are rude and coarse, and only obeyed where their action is constant, which it seldom is. In the other, men fear blame more than the law, and manners perform what legislation is unable to accomplish. In most of the countries of which we are now treating, government endeavours to rule with parental discipline the minutest concerns of life, to affix a penalty to every fault, to adjust with nicety the slightest relations of individuals with individuals, to guard morals by police and suppress profligacy by imperative decrees. So it is in China, so in Japan, and so in a less degree in the dominions of every Asiatic prince. In Egypt Mohammed Ali attempted, by one stroke of his pen, to blot out the stain of[105] prostitution. He banished the old professors of that class, and new ones were created from the remainder of the population. In Persia a royal decree forbade prostitution, and men immediately prostituted the right of marriage to evade the law. In China the Emperors have, from time to time, fulminated proclamations against all profligate persons; but they have flung their invectives into the void, and no impression has been produced. The coarse and awkward efforts of a barbarian despot’s will never produce any better result. The Draconic decree is promulgated and the offences it is intended to suppress continue to be perpetrated as before. A distinction must be drawn, however, between those communities in which severe laws are enacted to produce, and those in which they are inspired by, public morality. In the one case they are worthless, because they are in hostility to the prevailing system; in the other they are the signification, because they are the embodiment, of the national feeling. They may be symptoms, but they can never be causes, of virtuous manners.

The view of the half-civilized nations, which is here presented, includes sketches of India, of Afghanistan, Kashmir, the Hindu-Chinese races, China, Japan, Celebes, Ceylon, Persia, Egypt, the Barbary States, Syria, Palestine, Asia Minor, Arabia, and Turkey. In all of them polygamy exists, though to a very small extent in Ceylon. It will be seen that the popular ideas on this subject are somewhat exaggerated. Most persons unaccustomed to read, or reflect, imagine that throughout the East all men have their harems filled with wives, who are beautiful prisoners, immured in perpetual seclusion, slaves to the will of their lord, and never allowed to move unless guarded by a fierce black eunuch, or a duenna still more dark and angry. It is left for those who are accustomed to peruse the accounts of veracious travellers, to know that polygamy, though allowed to almost all, is practically a privilege only of the rich, and not indulged in even by the majority of these. The general notions, also, of female seclusion are extravagant. Women in Turkey enjoy far more liberty than is usually imagined. So do they even in China, though very wealthy husbands, especially among the Hindus, shut up their wives and never allow a stranger’s glance to fall upon their countenances. This excessive jealousy is not always disagreeable to the objects of it; indeed, in the harem where three or four wives are congregated, the youngest and most beautiful sometimes makes it her chief triumph over her mortified rivals, that she is watched, guarded, shaded even from the light, and immured beyond the sound of a man’s voice, while they are far less religiously secluded. Thus the sex, influenced during ages by a peculiar system of manners, accommodates itself to them, invariably sinking or rising to the level assigned it by the civilization of the period.

Throughout the world the numerical disparity of the sexes is nowhere such as to induce the belief that polygamy is natural to certain countries. It is practised in many where the females are less numerous than the males, in consequence of infanticide. Everywhere, when extensively prevalent, it produces injurious results, diminishing the fecundity of women, and by no means preventing men from encouraging a class of professional prostitutes. There is, indeed, in this idea, something debasing to the female sex. That men should multiply their wives that they may not be induced to visit harlots, appears to degrade the institution of marriage, which was not intended for the satisfaction of sensual appetites, but for the continuation of the human species. Polygamy is opposed to increase, and thus appears unnatural; still more revolting to our ideas of civilization is the custom of polyandrism, or one wife with many husbands. It obtains in some regions of the Himalaya, among the Nairs of Malabar, and in the Cingalese kingdom of Kandy. Nowhere else do we find more than a trace of it, and it is singular to find a practice so utterly repugnant to the general sense of Orientals, prevailing close to the region in which men are most jealous and women most carefully guarded. In Hindustan some men will not divorce a wife whom they thoroughly dislike, because they will not allow her to be unveiled by a stranger; yet among the neighbouring Hindu-Chinese nations, a man will frequently prostitute his wife for gain. On the southern coast, and in Ceylon, eight men will live with one wife. This proves that institutions have no geographical distribution. Both kinds of polygamy are equally opposed to the natural increase of population.

Where nobler qualities distinguish the men of any race, we still find, as we ascend the scale of civilization, that women rise with them. In Afghanistan, in Celebes, and among the Bedouins of Arabia, the male sex is distinguished for its upright, dignified, and manly character. Chastity in women is prized, and because it is prized it is preserved. Where, on the contrary, the husband desires his wife may be faithful to him, not that she may be virtuous, but that he may[106] not be robbed or wronged, it frequently occurs that she only keeps her vow until she has an opportunity to break it. On the whole, however, female chastity among the Hindus and Mohammedans is more general than from some popular accounts might be inferred. With the mixed races—hybrid in blood, manners, and religion—an inferior state of morality prevails.

With respect to actual prostitution, the region which is most free from it is the desert country of Arabia. It flourishes most, perhaps, in India and China. The flower boats of the Pearl River, the temples of the Deccan, the kiosks of Barbary, the Ghawazee villages of Egypt, the dancing houses of Java, and the tea-gardens of Japan, were all originally consecrated to vice, which nowhere flourishes more rankly than in those countries where despotism has paralyzed the virtuous energies of men.

Almost everywhere the prostitute class, among Eastern nations, has addicted itself to other pursuits—to music and the dance—to inflame the lust which it designs itself to satisfy. In many countries also the prostitutes have been allied to the priesthood. Thus in India they have formed a sacred class; in the cities of Arabia they are encouraged by the Moolahs to frequent places of worship; elsewhere they have flourished under the auspices of government, which has placed them under the charge of inspectors and derived profit from their degradation. In such countries they carry on their profession more openly, and are more openly encouraged, than in others where their occupation is clandestine.

Some of the nations included in this division of the subject appear to have reached the last stage of their native civilization. Among these is China: her further progress will not be influenced by internal causes, but will be regulated by contact with a superior race. In India the process has already begun, and in the condition of women, and consequently, also, in their national character, the change is becoming apparent. Widow-burning is already a thing of the past; the blot of infanticide will soon be obliterated from the face of society; the prejudice which prevented the second marriage of women, and drove thousands to suicide or prostitution, is gradually yielding before reason; the barriers of caste are being broken down, and more natural relations restored to society. Women in India are the chief degradation to the sacred class of Brahmins, in whom were combined the fanaticism of idolatrous priests and the pride of nobles. Thus the contact of English with Oriental civilization, gentle as it has been, is leading to the subjugation of the latter before the more humane and liberal principles of the former. But it is singular to find that much more difficulty is experienced in modifying the social institutions of half-educated, than in changing those of barbarous races. With the one they are based on habit, with the other on prejudice; and the pride of a little learning induces the one to cling to them, while the simplicity of the savage allows him easily to yield.

The sentiment of chastity is nowhere discovered pure except among very simple and unsophisticated, or very refined and polished nations. It is found in the Bedouin encampments of Arabia, it is found in the pastoral communities of Afghanistan, and it is found among the wandering shepherds of Asia Minor; but amid the barbaric millions of China, with their innumerable maxims of virtue, the true sentiment is very rare. So also is that of love, which belongs also to the infancy and to the maturity of nations, for in the intervening stages it becomes mingled with an alloy of interest, sensuality, or superstition.

Prostitution, however, belongs to all ages and to every nation. But it assumes various forms in the different classes of mankind: it is loose and scattered among the barbarous tribes not yet settled under the forms of regular society; it is systematized and acknowledged among the half-barbarous races; it is adopted as a sacred institution, in regions where the object of the priesthood is, to enslave the souls of men through their senses; it is encouraged in States where the desire of government is to absorb the people in the pursuit of animal gratification, and thus distract their attention from public affairs; it is submitted to a strict, though awkward discipline in countries where the rulers desire to mimic the social code of civilized commonwealths; and as society progresses, though it becomes distinct and conspicuous, it exchanges the highway for the bye-street, the day for the night, withdraws from other classes of the people, and becomes a despised sisterhood, cut off from intercourse with the moral classes of women.

Various stages of this process may have been remarked in the view of the condition and character of women, and the extent and state of the prostitute system in barbarous countries. We now enter on the half-educated communities which occupy the greater part of the world’s surface, and these will lead in the communities of Europe, to which they are linked, on the one hand[107] by Turkey, and on the other by the inhospitable deserts of Siberia.

Of Celebes.
In a region so vast as the Indian Archipelago it would be useless to dwell separately upon every island, especially as many characteristics are common to most of them. We have taken Java and Sumatra as representing the Sunda group, and we shall take Celebes as the head of a family of isles, with Borneo as another. Incidental notices of any peculiarities in the lesser isles will suffice.

Celebes, in its political and social state, is far in advance of the other countries in insular Asia. It enjoys in many of its States a considerable degree of civilization. The idea of freedom, so rare among barbarous races, is recognised in its political system, and representative institutions have actually developed themselves into a republican form of government. Where such progress has been made in the art of civil polity, we may look with confidence for a superior social scheme, and this we actually find. It should be premised that the Indian Archipelago is peopled by two races—the brown, or Malay; and the black, or Ethiopian. The former is the more powerful, intelligent, and polished, and has therefore become the conquering race. It has subdued the Negro hordes of the various islands, and is now paramount in all the great native States. In Java, Sumatra, and Celebes, it has entirely displaced the original possessors of the soil, who dwell only in scattered communities, defended from annihilation by forests and hills, which serve in some degree to balance that native valour which has made the Malays an imperial nation, subdued in their turn by the more powerful race from Europe.

In the States of Celebes women are not excluded from their share in the public business of the commonwealth, though their influence is usually indirect. They rule their own households, give counsel to the men on all important occasions, and even, when the monarchy is elective, are frequently raised to the throne. They eat with their husbands, and from the same dish, only using the left side. They appear mixed with the other sex at public festivals, and, when intrusted with authority, preside over the councils, and are vigorous in the exercise of their prerogative. Nor is peace the only era of their reign. They have sometimes presented themselves in the field, and animated the warriors to battle by applauding the courageous and upbraiding the timid.

In the State of Wajo, which is, perhaps, the most advanced in the island, one check upon civilization exists, and that is the extravagant pride of birth. The spirit, if not the actual institution of caste, exists, and is productive of the usual evils attending an artificial division of classes. A woman of pure descent dare not mingle her blood with that of an inferior, though a man may ally himself with a girl of humbler station. The offspring of such a connection, however, carry with them an appellation denoting their imperfect parentage.

Polygamy is universally permitted among the Bugis of Celebes; but certain restrictions, unknown in other Mohammedan countries, attach to the privilege. Two wives seldom inhabit the same house, and for three or four to do so is an extremely rare circumstance. Usually each has a separate dwelling, and in this private establishment she generally supports herself, with occasional assistance from her husband. The men can easily procure a divorce, and when the consent is mutual nothing remains but to separate as quickly as possible. If the woman only, however, desire to be set free, she must produce some reasonable ground of complaint, for the mere neglect of conjugal duties is not considered a sufficient cause. Many years pass sometimes without any intercourse taking place between man and wife. Nevertheless, though many of them indulge in polygamy, concubinage, or the keeping of female slaves for sensual purposes, is rarely practised. Many of the rajahs, however, take women of inferior rank to be their companions until they marry a woman of equal birth, when their old partners are divorced.

In Wajo, the marriage state, though characterised by these extraordinary customs, is decently preserved, and more honourable than with any other Eastern nation. So equal, indeed, is the proportion of the sexes, that not only is the throne, or rather president’s chair, given to them, but also the great offices of state. Four out of six of the great councillors are sometimes women. They ride about, transact business, and visit even foreigners as they please, and enjoy every advantage. Their manners are easy and self-possessed, though too listless and slow to be fascinating to an European. Their morals, as well as those of the men, are far superior to that of any other race in Eastern or Western Asia, and prostitution is all but unknown.[108] Far from modest, in the English sense of the term, they are yet very chaste; and, though they maintain little reserve in their conduct towards strangers, never exhibit the inclination to be indecent or licentious. Even the dancing girls, though of loose virtue, dress with the utmost modesty, but their performances are occasionally lascivious.

Throughout the beautiful and interesting island of Celebes the same state of things prevails, and wherever the women are most free, they are least licentious. The intercourse of the sexes is unrestrained; the youth meet without hindrance; and chastity is guarded more by the sense of honour and by the pride of virtue, than by the jealousy of husbands or the rigid surveillance of parents. On the whole, therefore, the condition of the sex in Celebes is elevated. That women are there perverted in some of their manners, and that they do not approach that exalted state which was accorded to them in the Attic states of Greece, is true, because the people are barbarians. It is necessary always, in considering the state and character of women in any country, to hold in view the state and character of the men also. We are to apply no unvarying standard to measure the condition of one sex, for it is only by viewing it relatively to the other that we can arrive at a sound conclusion. The Bugis of Celebes are among the most manly, enterprising, and virtuous nations of Asia; and their women are proportionably free, chaste, and happy[69].

Of Prostitution in Persia.
In Persia the Oriental idea of the female sex is completely developed. Women are there the property of men and their enjoyment of life is circumscribed to suit the pleasure of their masters; among the wandering tribes, indeed, they go unveiled, and breathe the air of partial freedom; but among the fixed inhabitants of cities and villages, their lot is one of seclusion and servitude. Subservient as they are to the will and caprice of the supreme sex, the estimation in which they are held is extremely low. The lower classes consider them, indeed, valuable in proportion to the amount of household labour they perform; the higher classes look on them as the means of sensual gratification. We find, it is true, in Persian romance and poetry, eulogiums on the beauty of their women, and songs of devotion to them; but they are the objects of barter, and are consequently in a despised condition.

There is actually no station assigned to women in Persia; they are recognised only as ministers to the wants or pleasures of the male sex. They are what their husbands choose to make them. Instances occur where a favourite wife or concubine is ruler of the house, or a mother exercises strong influence over her son, but these are rare examples; women, in total seclusion, are submissive slaves. The wives of the Shah, especially, vegetate within the walls of a splendid prison; occasionally one of them is permitted to walk abroad, but then all must fly from the route she takes, and no one dare look upon her on pain of death. She is paraded in stately procession, and eunuchs run in front to clear the way, firing guns loaded with ball to frighten any bold adventurer who may be reckless enough to remain on the line of the cortege. This isolation of the sex pervades all the wealthier orders of Persian society; even brothers are not allowed to see their sisters after a certain age.

Polygamy is practised in Persia. The palace especially has a crowded harem; numbers of female officers and attendants wait on the Shah. The wives and concubines are arranged with the most rigid regard to the rules of precedence; none but those of the highest rank and most distinguished favour dare sit down in the presence of their royal lord; over all the rest the strictest discipline is preserved. The king is said sometimes to have a thousand women in his palace, and much skill is required to preserve decorum among them; some he has given away to his principal officers. The chief of them lives in splendour, wearing garments so thickly embroidered with pearls that they impede her movements; but the others are subject to much rigour, especially under the savage eunuchs whose favourite mode of chastising the female slaves is to strike them on the mouth with the heel of a slipper. However, large numbers of them lead a pleasant, while all enjoy an indolent life, lounging for hours in the warm bath, whence they emerge, with enervated frames, to spend an equal time in the coquetry of the toilette. All the arts which vanity can devise are exhausted to render their persons attractive to the Shah, whose favours are courted as much as his displeasure is feared. In the one case, the fortunate woman is elevated, for a brief period at least, to the very ideal of her hopes, while, in the other, she may be fastened in a sack and hurled from the top of a lofty tower.


The Persians generally believe themselves entitled to unlimited indulgence in the delights of the harem. Their religious law confines them to four wives, but they may have as many concubines or other female companions as they can support. The priests are expected to be the most chaste, but are usually the most licentious; it is remarked as an extraordinary circumstance of one celebrated spiritual leader, that it was affirmed that he never had connection with any other woman than his four legitimate wives.

A Persian is permitted, as well by the enactments of the law as by common usage, to take a female, not within the prohibited degrees of affinity, in three different ways: he may marry, he may purchase, or he may hire her. Persons are frequently betrothed during infancy; but the engagement is not considered binding unless contracted by both the actual parents. The girl, indeed, may, even under these circumstances, refuse her consent, but this privilege is rather nominal than real. If she resolutely refuse, she may be taken back to the recesses of her parent’s harem, and there chastened until she chooses to submit; and it is not long before she is whipped into compliance. The nuptial ceremony must be witnessed by at least two men, or one man and two women. An officer of the law attends to attest the contract. The written document is delivered to the wife, who carefully preserves it, for it is the deed that entitles her to the amount of her dower, which is part of her provision in case of being left a widow, and her sole dependence in case of being divorced. Her right in this respect is strictly guarded by law, and by her male friends, and it is one of which the women of Persia are extremely jealous. The marriage festival is usually very expensive, for the reputation of the husband is supposed to be measured by the splendour of his nuptials.

Though a man may, when he pleases, put away his wife, the expense and scandal attending such a proceeding make it rare. It seldom occurs, indeed, except among the poorer classes, who do not so rigidly seclude their females; among the wealthier and prouder, a man would be ashamed to expose a woman, with whom he had once associated, to be seen by others, unless in the case, of course, of a common woman. Divorce never takes place on account of adultery, which is punished with death. Bad temper and extravagance on the woman’s side, and neglect or cruel usage on the husband’s, may be urged by either as reasons for separation. If the husband sues for a divorce, he pays back the dowry he received with his bride; if the wife commences the proceeding, she loses her claim. In this, as in all other respects, the male sex has the advantage. A man who desires to be relieved of a disagreeable partner, sometimes uses her so cruelly that she is compelled to open the suit, by which means he gets rid of her, but keeps her money.

The Persian may have as many female slaves as he desires or is able to maintain. They earn no advantage of position by becoming his concubines instead of the sweepers of his house. They are still in slavery, and may at any time be sold again if they displease their masters. A woman so cast off is in a bad position, for she must then sink into worse degradation than before. Mohammedan jealousy, however, serves, in some respects, as a kind of protection for the woman; for a man, having once cohabited with her, will seldom allow her to fall into the hands of any other.

One very extraordinary custom prevails in Persia, and seems now peculiar to that country, though it is said to have existed in Arabia at the time of the prophet’s appearance there. Mohammed tolerated it; but his successor, Omar, abolished it, as a species of legal prostitution injurious to the morals of the people. All the Turks and others, therefore, who hold his precepts in veneration, abhor and condemn the practice, but it still obtains. It is that of hiring a companion. A man and a woman agree to cohabit for a certain period—some for a few days, others for 99 years. In the one case it is simply an act of prostitution; in the other it is morally equivalent to marriage, though the woman acquires no right to property of any kind, except the price of her hire. This sum is agreed upon at the first compact; and though the man may discard his companion when he pleases, he must pay her the whole amount promised. If both are willing, the arrangement may be renewed at the expiration of the term, which is generally short. This kind of intercourse usually takes place among persons of very unequal stations. The women are generally of a low class, and are, for the most part, a peculiar sort of prostitutes, if prostitution mean the hiring out of a woman’s person for money. The children springing from such a union are supported by the father. In one circumstance the custom differs from the ordinary prostitution of other countries. When a man has parted from a woman of this class, she is forbidden to form any new connection until a suffi[110]cient time has elapsed to prove whether or not she is pregnant from the last. This precaution is to hinder the chance of a man’s being burdened with the support of a child of which he is not actually the father.

The characteristics of women in Persia agree with this picture of their treatment. They are degraded down to the level of their condition. Leaving a few exceptions out of sight, we find the rich and idle vain, sensual, and absorbed by animal desires; the poorer classes, licentious and intriguing.

The peculiar customs of the country cause strange occurrences to take place. A man is sometimes deceived into marrying the wrong woman, under cover of the inviolable drapery which veils her face. He is usually content to stow her away in his harem, and solace himself with a concubine, or the company of prostitutes; for though he may hold that his own wife and daughter would be polluted by the eye of a strange man, and though he may be able to fill his harem with beautiful slaves, the Persian voluptuary is not content. He must associate with the more brilliant and lively beauties, who are ready to receive him in various retired houses of the city. These houses are generally in obscure places, dull and uninviting on the outside, but fitted up in the interior with much elegance and luxury.

Formerly there was a numerous class of public dancing girls in Persia, and the beauty of their persons, and the melody of their voices, were celebrated by the most famous poets of the country. They were wealthy and popular, continuing to figure prominently at the entertainments of the people until the family of Futteh Ali Khan rose to the throne; they were then discouraged by a monarch who crowded his harem with a thousand women, and, in the midst of this multitude of concubines, issued edicts for the suppression of immorality. The dancing girls were prohibited from approaching the court, and compelled to seek a livelihood in the distant provinces of the empire. It is not to be denied that considerable reform has taken place in the manners of the people; but profligacy is still a marked characteristic of the cities in Persia.

Under the Sefi dynasty morals reached the last stage of depravity. The royal treasury was filled with the proceeds of immorality. Public brothels were licensed and became extremely numerous. A large revenue was drawn from them. In Ispahan alone no less than 30,000 prostitutes paid an annual sum to government. The governors of provinces and cities also granted the same privileges for sums of money, and there was scarcely a town of any size in Persia which had not at least one large brothel, crowded with inmates. The prostitutes were all licensed, and known by the appellation of cahbeha, or the worthless. An old traveller, whose authority is accepted by the best writers, describes the system then prevailing; it displays the corruption of manners in the open and systematic character of profligacy. As soon as the merchants’ shops were closed in the cities the brothels were opened; the prostitutes then issued into the streets, dispersed themselves, and repaired to particular localities. There they sat down in rows, closely veiled; behind each company stood an old woman holding an extinguished candle in her hand. When any man approached with a sign that he desired to make a bargain, this harridan lit her taper, and led him down the line of women, removing the veil of each in her turn until he made his choice. The girl was then dispatched with him, under the guidance of a slave, to the house, which usually stood close by the way-side. All payments were made to the old woman or “mother” of the company.

Under the reigning family this open system has been checked, and prostitution, not being licensed, is a more secret system. Nevertheless, there abound in the cities of Persia numerous brothels, to which the men proceed after dark, and where they are entertained as they desire; numbers of women are always ready to hire themselves out to any who desire to associate with them.

The females of the wandering tribes are far more virtuous than those of the cities; they are also more happy and free, for if they share the labours of the men, they share also their pleasures and hopes; far from being secluded, they are allowed to converse even with strangers, and grace the hospitality of the tents with modest but polite attention. The men seldom have more than one wife, and abhor the practice of hiring women, though their priests have made attempts to introduce it among them. Still, even the women of these tribes are below their proper condition, and the men as they become wealthier become more corrupt; when, also, they sojourn for a while in the cities, they speedily contribute to the general profligacy, and often exceed the regular inhabitants in vice. Among those, however, in the nomade state, rape and adultery are rare, and when committed the woman suffers a cruel death at the hands of[111] her nearest kindred. In the cities females are seldom publicly executed, but are put to death in private, or given as slaves to men of infamous occupation[70].

Of Prostitution among the Afghans.
Women in Afghanistan are sold to the men. A marriage is a commercial transaction. The practice is recognised by the Moslem law, and is here, as in most parts of Asia, universally adopted. The price varies, of course, according to the condition of the bridegroom or his friends. Females, consequently, are in some measure regarded as property. They are in absolute subjection to the other sex. A husband may at any time, from mere caprice, and without assigning any reason, divorce his wife; but a woman cannot, unless she have good grounds, and sue for the separation before a magistrate. Even this is seldom done. When a widow marries, the friends of her first husband may claim the price that was originally paid for her; but usually the brother of the deceased inherits this property, and any one else usurping his privilege becomes a mortal enemy. However, the widow is not forced to take a new partner against her will. Indeed, if she have children with claims upon her care, it is considered more respectable to lead a single life.

In the lower regions of India, on the warm plains, we find marriage contracts fulfilled at a very early age. In the colder climate of Kabul they are left to a later period in life—men being wedded at twenty, women at about fifteen years of age. The time varies, however, with different classes. Among the poor, with whom the price of a wife is not easily to be amassed, the men often remain unmarried until forty, and the women till twenty-five. On the other hand, the rich frequently take brides of twelve to bridegrooms of fifteen, or even earlier, before either of them has attained puberty. Those living in towns and in Western Afghanistan marry earlier than those dwelling in the pastoral districts and in the eastern parts. These often wait until twenty-five, until the chin is thoroughly covered with beard, and the man is in all respects mature. The Ghiljies are still more prudent in this respect. In most parts of the country, nevertheless, the date of marriage is determined by the individual’s ability to purchase a wife, provide a home, and support a family. Usually men form alliances within the blood of their own tribe; but many Afghans take also Tavjik and Persian women. It is not considered disreputable to take a wife from those nations; but it is held below the dignity of the Durani race to bestow a wife on a stranger, and this, consequently, is seldom or never done.

The intercourse of the sexes is regulated by various circumstances, many of them accidental. In the crowded towns, where the men have little opportunity of converse with the women, matches are generally made with views of family policy, and contracted through the agency of a go-between. When a man has fixed on any particular girl to be his wife, he sends some female relation or neighbour to see her and report to him upon her qualifications. If the account be satisfactory, the same agent ascertains from the girl’s mother whether her family are favourable to the match; should all this prove well, arrangements are made for a public proposal. On an appointed day the suitor’s father goes with a party of male relations to the young woman’s father, while a similar deputation of females waits on her mother, and the offer is made in customary form. Various presents are also sent, the dowry is settled, a feast is prepared, and the betrothal takes place. Some time after, when both man and woman have mutually, by free consent, signed the articles of agreement—which stipulate for a provision for the wife in case of divorce—the union is completed at a festival, and the bride is delivered, on payment of her price, at the dwelling of her future master.

In the country, formalities very similar take place; but, as women there go unveiled, and the intercourse of the sexes is less restricted, the marriage generally originates in a personal attachment between the wedded pair, and the negotiations are only matters of etiquette. An enterprising lover may also obtain his mistress, without gaining the consent of her parents, by tearing away her veil, cutting off a lock of her hair, or throwing a large white cloth over her, and declaring her to be his lawful and affianced wife. After this no other suitor would propose for her, and she is usually bestowed on the bold lover, though he cannot escape paying some price for his wife. Such expedients are, therefore, seldom resorted to. When a man desires a girl for whom he cannot pay, and who reciprocates his affection, the common plan is to elope. This is,[112] indeed, considered by her family as an outrage equivalent to the murder of one of its members, and pursued with equally rancorous revenge, but the possession of the wife is at least secured. The fugitive couple take refuge in the territories of some other tribe, and find the hospitable protection which is accorded by the Afghans to every guest, and still more to every suppliant.

Among the Eusufzies different customs prevail. A man never sees his bride until the marriage rites are completed. The Beduranis, also, maintain great reserve between the youth and the girl betrothed one to another. Sometimes a man goes to the house of his future father-in-law, and labours, as Jacob laboured for Rachael, without being allowed to see his destined wife until the day for the ceremony has arrived. With many of the Afghan tribes a similar rule is nominally laid down, but a secret intercourse is countenanced between the bridegroom and future bride. It is called Naumzud bauzee, or the sport of the betrothed. The young man steals by night to the house of his affianced, pretending to conceal his presence altogether from the knowledge of the men, who would affect to consider it a great scandal. He is favoured by the girl’s mother, who privately conducts him to an interior apartment, where he is left alone with his beloved until the approach of morning. He is allowed the freest intercourse with her, he may converse with her as he pleases, he may kiss her, and indulge in all other innocent freedoms; but the young people are under the strongest cautions and prohibitions to refrain from anticipating the nuptial night. “Nature, however,” says Mountstuart Elphinstone, “is too strong for such injunctions, and the marriage begins with all the difficulty and interest of an illicit amour.” Cases have not unfrequently occurred in which the bride has been delivered of two or three children before being formally received into her husband’s house. This, however, is regarded as extremely scandalous, and seldom happens among the more respectable Afghans. However, the custom of Naumzud bauzee prevails with men of the highest rank, and the king himself sometimes enjoys its midnight pleasures.

Though polygamy is allowed by the Mohammedan laws, it is too expensive to be practised by the bulk of the people. The legal number of wives is four; but many of the rich exceed this, and maintain a crowd of concubines besides. Two wives and two female slaves form a liberal establishment for a man of the middle class; while the poor are obliged to be content with one companion.

The social condition of the female sex in Afghanistan is low, as it must be in all countries where women are bought and sold. The wives of the rich, indeed, secluded in the recesses of the harem, are allowed to enjoy all the comforts and luxuries within reach of their husband’s wealth. This, however, is more to please the man, than indulge the women, though many husbands really love their wives, and are influenced to a considerable degree by their desires. In general, however, it is to enjoy the pride of having a beautiful wife in his zenana, with all the appliances of opulence to render her gracious and dainty.

Among the poorer classes the women perform the drudgery of the house and carry water. Those of the most barbarous tribes share the labours of the field; but nowhere are they employed as in India, where there is scarcely any difference between the toils of the sexes. A man by the Mohammedan law is allowed to chastise his wife by beating. Custom, however, is more chivalrous and merciful than the written code, and lays it down as disgraceful for a man to avail himself of this privilege of his sex.

Though many women of the higher ranks learn to read, and exhibit considerable talents for literature, it is reckoned immodest for a female to write, as that accomplishment might be made use of to intrigue by correspondence with a lover.

Many families have all their household affairs, and many even their general customs, controlled by women. These sometimes correspond for their sons. It is usually the mother who enjoys this influence, but the wives also frequently rise to ascendancy; and all the advantages conferred on him by the Mohammedan law frequently fail to save a man from sinking to a secondary position in his own house. All domestic amusements indulged in by men are, among the lower and more estimable orders, shared by the women.

In towns, these envelope themselves in an ample white wrapper, like the Arab burnouse, which covers them to the feet, and altogether conceals their figure. A network in the hood, spread over the face, enables them to see, while their features are invisible to others. When on horseback, those of the upper classes wear large white cotton wrappers on their legs, which completely hides the shape of the limb. Frequently, also, they travel in hampers, large enough to allow of their reclining,[113] which are strung like paniers over a camel’s back, and covered with a case of broad cloth. They are hot almost to suffocation during the sultry season. Females are allowed to go about seated in this manner, and form a large proportion in the crowds which throng the public ways. Scrupulously concealed as their features are, they are thus subject to little restraint; and, compared with their sex in the neighbouring regions, though they do not occupy an honourable, they are by no means in an unhappy position.

In the rural districts they are still more free, and go without a veil. Walking through the village or the camp, they are subject to no other restraint than the universal opinion that it is indecent to associate with the other sex. Should a strange man approach, they immediately cover their faces. At home, they seldom enter the public room of their house if an Afghan with whom they are not intimate is there. With Armenians, Persians, and Hindoos, indeed, they do not hold this reserve; for they consider them as of no importance; and the pride of her race is, in these cases, a sufficient guardian to the woman’s virtue. When their husbands are from home, also, they receive guests, and entertain them with all the liberal courtesy required by the sacred laws of hospitality.

But the modesty and chastity of the country women, especially of those belonging to the simple shepherd tribes, has been remarked and admired by almost every traveller. “There are no common prostitutes,” says Mountstuart Elphinstone, “except in the towns, and very few even there, especially in the west, which is the colder region; it is considered very disreputable to frequent their company.” In Afghanistan, however, as in all other parts of the East, and in many states of antiquity, the imperfect education of the women is a cause of profligacy among the men. The wives and concubines who fill a rich man’s harem are usually ignorant, insipid, and unacquainted even with the forms of conversation. The prostitutes, on the other hand, are generally well versed in the science of the world, polished in their manners, practised in the arts of seduction, and afford amusement of such interest and variety that men, with four wives and numerous female slaves at their command, frequently seek the society of these accomplished women.

An able and judicious writer has observed that, as far as he recollected, he saw among no people in the East, except the Afghans, any traces of the sentiment which we call love, that is, according to European ideas. There, however, it not only exists, but is extremely prevalent. One sign of this is exhibited in the numerous elopements, which are always attended with peril, and are risked through love. It is common also for a man in humble circumstances to pledge his faith to a particular girl, and then start off to some remote town, or even to Lower India, where, by industry or trade, he might acquire wealth enough to purchase her from her friends. One traveller met at Poonah a young man who had contracted one of these engagements. He had formed an attachment with the daughter of a Mullah, who reciprocated his affection. Her father gave his consent willingly to the marriage; but said that his daughter’s honour would suffer if she did not bring as large a price as the other women of her family. The young people were much afflicted, for the man owned only one horse. However, his mistress gave him a needle used for applying antimony to the eye, and with this pledge of her affection he was confidently working to accumulate the fortune which was required to purchase her. These romantic amours are most common among the country people, especially where the women are partially secluded—accessible enough to be admired, but withdrawn enough to excite the lover’s attachment by some difficulty. Among the higher orders such unions are less frequent, though with them also they occasionally occur. It was an affair of love between a chief of the Turkolaunis and a Khan of the Euzufzies that gave rise to a bloody war which lasted many years. Many of the songs and tales sung and told among the Afghans have love for their plot and spirit, and that passion is expressed in the most glowing and flowery language. Such a trait in a nation’s manners is highly favourable, and, joined with many others, renders the Afghan one of the most admirable races of the East.

An exceptional feature in the manners of that region is exhibited by the Moolah Zukkee, a sect of infidel pedants, who are more unprincipled, dissolute, and profligate than any other class in the country. They resemble in their conduct the Areois of the South Sea Islands, doubt the truth of a future state, are sceptical as to the existence of a God, and have released themselves from every fear of hell. They have taken full advantage of this, and indulge in the vilest lusts without check or shame. This is the more extraordinary as the Afghans[114] are represented, on the whole, as a devout and pious people.

The inhabitants of Afghanistan are divided into the stationary and wandering population—the dwellers in tents, and the dwellers in houses. It is a curious fact that the dwellers in tents, who live chiefly to the West, are the more chaste and moral. It is among these, however, that the intercourse of the sexes is confined less by law than by public opinion. Men and women dance together, but in modest measures.

The slaves we have alluded to are divided into the home-born and the foreign. The beautiful girls are purchased for the harems of the rich; the others are sold as menials, or attendants on the rich women. The habit of buying concubines is unfortunately becoming more common. Intercourse with the voluptuaries of Persia has seduced them into many Persian vices. Naturally they are, perhaps, one of the least voluptuous nations in Asia; but their manners are becoming visibly corrupted, and this decay of their ancient simplicity is felt and regretted by themselves. Corps of prostitutes and harems full of concubines will do the work of the sword among them, and their spirit of independence, which never yielded even before English bayonets, will evaporate, if they long continue to decline in their morals and manners. Luxury has subdued more great nations than the sword.

In the Vizeeree country, to the north of the Sherauni district, one very extraordinary custom prevails; it is quite peculiar to that tribe; the women have the right of choosing their husbands. When a woman has fixed on any man whom she desires to marry, she sends the drummer of the camp to pin a handkerchief on his cap, with a pin which she has previously used to fasten up her hair. The drummer goes on his mission, cautiously watches his opportunity, and executes the feat in public, naming the woman. The man is obliged immediately to take her as his wife, if he can pay her price to her father[71].

Of Prostitution in Kashmir.
In Kashmir we find the Hindu system of manners considerably modified by various circumstances. The people are not oppressed by that rigid code of etiquette, which in India isolates every caste and almost every family. Naturally addicted to pleasure, they find much of their enjoyment in the society of the female sex, and from the earliest times have been celebrated for their love of singers and dancers. Formerly, when the valley was more populous and flourishing than at present, its capital city was the scene of eternal revel, in which morals stood little in the way of those gratifications to which the sensual ideas of the richer orders inclined them. Now, under a vile and monstrous despotism, the inhabitants relieve themselves from a continual struggle with misfortune by indulging in gross vices. Formerly they were corrupted by luxury; now they decay through misery, and drown the sense of hopeless poverty in the gratification of their animal passions.

The situation of the female sex in Kashmir differs from that occupied by them among the Hindus of Bengal. They are far more free, and appear more licentious. The women of this delightful and romantic valley have long been celebrated for their grace and beauty. Their renown extended on the one side as far as the plains of Central Asia, and on the other beyond the borders of the Ganges. They were formerly much sought after by the Mogul nobility of Delhi, to whom they bore strong and handsome sons; and even after that monarchy had declined from its original opulence and power, its luxurious kings solaced themselves in their humiliation by concubines and dancing girls from Kashmir. Nor has the beauty which in those early ages attracted to the women of this country the admiration of all the East, faded in any degree. They are still described as the flowers of Oriental grace—not so slender as the Hindus of Bengal, but more full, round, voluptuous, and fascinating. Since few except those belonging to the very highest classes wear a veil, travellers have enjoyed abundant opportunities of observing the characteristics of the sex. The face is of a dark complexion, richly flushed with pink; the eyes are large, almond-shaped, and overflowing with a peculiar liquid brilliance; the features are regular, harmonious, and fine; while the person, as we have said, is plump and round, though the limbs are often models of grace. Such is the portrait we are led to draw by the accounts of the best writers. They agree, however, in adding, that among all, except the dancers, singers, and prostitutes, with probably those few women who are shut up in harems, art has done nothing to aid nature. The eyes, unsurpassed for brightness, with full orbs, and long black lashes, shine often from a dirty face, expressing a mind flooded with sensual desires, and utterly unadorned by[115] education or accomplishments. Among the poorer classes, especially, filth, poverty, and degradation render many of the women repulsive, in spite of their natural beauty. It is remarkable that the inhabitants of the boats on the lakes possess among them the handsomest women in the valley.

The customs of marriage, courtship, and the general habits of the women, resemble so closely what have already been described in treating of India, that we need not enter into any particular account of them. The life of the woman belonging to a chief of high rank is a monotonous seclusion. She sits, enveloped in full wrappings of shawls and robes, amid all the luxury and brilliance of an Oriental harem, with every appliance of ease and comfort, but not the liberty which the humbler orders enjoy. Wives of all classes, indeed, are subject to their husbands, but those of the nobles are most under control. They often experience in its full bitterness the curse of slavery under a capricious despot. The authority of the man is absolute.

Mikran Singh, a chief of the valley, was a few years ago, during the reign of the Maharaja Runjit Singh, guilty of a horrible act, which illustrates in a striking manner the condition of women in that country. His wife happened to be in the Punjab, and, while there, was accused by some enemies of a criminal intrigue. She was sent to her husband in Kashmir. Her son flung his dagger at the feet of Mikran Singh, and threw himself at his knees, begging mercy for his mother. The man promised to forgive her; but, as soon as occasion offered, ordered her to be forced into a bath the temperature of which was rapidly increased with the purpose of suffocating her. She was tenacious of life, and struggled long with her tortures, filling the palace with shrill and piercing shrieks. Many people fled from the neighbourhood that they might not listen to these fearful cries. At length, to put an end to this horrid scene, the husband sent his wife a bowl of poison, which she drank and immediately died.

Women of the middle and lower classes affect no concealment, and never wear a veil. They experience less caprice from their husbands, and are perhaps more free than females in Hindustan formerly were. Widows have long been released from the disgusting obligation of burning at the funeral pyre of their husbands. The custom, indeed, was at no time very prevalent in the valley, and since the decree of abolition, published by Aurungzebe in 1669, it has never been revived. Women in Kashmir bear a fair proportion to the men, and are proverbially fruitful. The depopulation of the country is owing to no natural causes, but to the rapacious despotism under which it suffers. British government would soon, without a doubt, restore it to its ancient flourishing condition, as well as reform its manners.

Travellers in Kashmir always remark the dancing girls, for which it was formerly renowned. The village of Changus, near the ancient city of Achibul, was at one time celebrated for a colony of them. They excelled, in singing, dancing, and other accomplishments, all the other girls of the valley. When Vigne visited it some years ago, the village had fallen to decay, and its famous beauties had disappeared. Old men, however, remembered and spoke of them with regret. One, whose name was Lyli, still lived in the recollection of many. A few dancers of another class remained, but were inferior in their natural charms and arts to those of the city, and were obliged to be content with engagements in the humbler or country districts.

These women may be divided into classes. Among the highest we might find some that are virtuous and even modest, as we may among singers and actresses in Europe. Others frequent entertainments at the houses of rich men and public festivals, receiving large sums for their attendance, and occasionally consent to prostitute their persons for a valuable gift. Others are regular professional harlots, indiscriminately prostituting themselves to any who desire their society. Many of these are widows, who are forbidden to marry again, and are devoted to the service of some god, whose temple and priests they enrich by the gains of their disreputable calling.

The Watul or Gipsy tribe of Kashmir is remarkable for the loveliness of its females. Living in tents or temporary huts, these Gipsies pass from spot to spot; and many of their handsomest girls are sold as slaves to furnish the harems of the rich, or enter the train of some company of dancing girls. These are bred and taught to please the taste of the voluptuary, to sing licentious songs in an amorous tone, to dance in voluptuous measures, to dress in a peculiar style, and to seduce by the very expression of their countenances. Formerly many of these women amassed large sums in their various callings; but now that the prosperity of the valley has decreased, the youngest and most beautiful seek their fortunes in the cities of Agra and Delhi; which, though decaying, still retain traces of the imperial luxury and profligacy which[116] once rendered them the splendid capitals of the East.

The bands of dancing girls are usually attended by divers hideous duennas and men, whose conspicuous ugliness makes the loveliness of the women appear more complete through contrast. Baron Hugel, whose ideas are purely German, did not find his sense of the beautiful satisfied by the women, and especially the public women, of Kashmir; but every other traveller, from Bernier to Vigne, expatiates upon the subject. The Baron does not, in other respects, inspire us with the idea that he is an authority on such a question.

The Nach girls are under the surveillance of the Government—which licenses their prostitution—and lead in general a miserable life. They are actual slaves, cannot sing or dance without permission from their overseer, and must yield up to him the most considerable part of their profits. Some of them still ask large sums, especially from strangers. One troop demanded from our German author a hundred rupees for an evening’s performance.

The education of a superior Nach girl should commence when she is no more than five years old. Nine years, it is said, are required to perfect them in song and dance. They dress usually in trowsers of rich-coloured silk, loosely furled round the limb, fitting tight at the ancle, and confined round the waist by a girdle and tassels, which hang down to the knee. Over these is draped a tunic of white muslin, reaching half-way down the leg; but when dancing they wear a full flowing garment of soft light tissue of various colours, intermixed with gold. Some have been seen with ornaments on their persons to the value of 10,000 or 12,000 rupees. Some, also, with all these adornments, neglect to be clean, and omit perfume from among the graces of their toilette. Their songs are often full of sentiment and fancy, finely expressed, and accompanied by pleasing music. Their dances are not chaste or modest; but neither are they obscene or gross.

Among the poorer orders exist a swarm of prostitutes, frequenting low houses in the cities or boats on the lakes; but of their modes of life we have no account. Probably the manners of prostitutes differ little throughout the world. It is certain that they are largely patronised by the more demoralised part of the population. The traveller Moorcroft, who gave gratuitous advice to the poor of Serinaghur, had at one time nearly 7000 patients on his list. Of these a very large number were suffering from loathsome diseases, induced by the grossest and most persevering profligacy. Altogether the manners of Kashmir appear very corrupt[72].

Of Prostitution in India.
We shall have to view the Hindus under two aspects—as they were under their former oppressors, and as they are under the administration of the Company. The change of rule has wrought, and is working, a change in the manners and institutions of the people perfectly wonderful to contemplate. Climate and position have much to do with national characteristics, but government has more. India under the English no more resembles India under the Mogul, than the England of the nineteenth century resembles the England of the Heptarchy. A beneficent revolution in her fortune has occurred, which is developing an extraordinary reform in the customs and ideas of her native race. Consequently a distinction must be observed between the old and the new state of things. It will be necessary, also, to distinguish those provinces which are absolutely under our sway from those which are independent, or only related to us by subsidiary alliances. A strong contrast is exhibited by these different communities, which, as far as the welfare of the people is concerned, differ as much from each other as the slave states of western Africa differ from the population of Cape Colony. In the one a wise and beneficent government is administered for the happiness of the people; in the other, an imbecile yet savage tyranny makes them look with jealousy on their more fortunate neighbours. This is an important consideration, and by no means irrelevant to our subject, for it illustrates the influence of laws and institutions upon the manners and morals of a nation.

The state of women among the Hindus is not elevated, and as long as their ancient teachers of religion are revered, such must be the case. The female sex is held absolutely dependent on the male, and, as among the Chinese, the father before marriage, the husband afterwards, and the son in widowhood, are the natural protectors assigned by the sacred law. Nothing is to be done by a woman of her purely independent will. She must reverence her lord, and approach him with humble re[117]spect. She is bound to him while he desires it, whatever his conduct may be, and, if she rebel, is to be chastised with a rope or cane on the back part of her person, “and not on a noble part, by any means.”

Writers with a particular theory to support frequently quote the institutes of Menu, to show that a contempt of women is inculcated, and hard usage of them encouraged by the precepts of that singular code.

Indolence, vanity, irascible humours, evil dispositions, and lasciviousness, are enumerated as the vices which are declared natural to them. “A woman is chaste, when there is neither place, time, nor person, to afford her an opportunity to be immoral,” says the “Hetopadera,” which is quoted in application to the whole sex, though it applies only as Professor Wilson—the great authority on this subject—observes, to that class of idle, intemperate, profligate females, to be found in every society. Passages undoubtedly occur in the laws and in satirical compositions levelled at the whole sex; but the Hindus themselves usually describe them as amiable, modest, gentle, chaste, full of wit, and excelling in every grace. They are allowed to inherit property; they are permitted under certain circumstances to exercise power, though by indirect means; and they certainly exert great influence over the men. In no state of ancient times, except the polished republics of Greece and Rome, were women held in so much esteem as among the Hindus.

Debarred as they are from the advantages of education, not allowed to eat with their husbands, and forbidden from mixing in society, the Hindu women, of course, are degraded below their just position; but it is not true that they are abject slaves, or are generally treated with barbarity. Among the more wild and barbarous tribes, as well as the more ignorant classes in all parts of India, men frequently beat their wives; but, from the few revelations of the Zenana which have been made, it would appear that its inmates are generally treated with considerable deference and attention. The contact of Mohammedan with Hindu manners has certainly, however, had an effect on the latter, which has depreciated the rank and estimation of the female sex.

Nowhere, indeed, where polygamy is allowed, can women hold their true position. In India, however, though permitted, it was not encouraged by the religious law, and sanctioned in particular cases only, as barrenness, inconstancy, aversion, or some other similar cause. The wife, also, must be consulted, and her consent obtained to the second match. She still held the principal rank in the family, for the new comer could not take her place while she remained in the household.

In various parts of India, different customs of marriage prevail. There are, indeed, four prescribed forms—all honourable, and various only in detail. A fifth is, when the bridegroom, contrary to the sacred law, traffics for a girl. Another is, when a captive, left helpless in a man’s power, is forced to become the companion of his bed. And a last is, when a girl is ravished, when surprised asleep, and taken off or deluded to the house of a new master.

Marriage is viewed as a religious duty by the Hindus. A few are exempted, under special circumstances, from the fulfilment of this sacred obligation. The rules of law enacted with respect to it apply chiefly to affairs of caste, with which we have here little to do. It is forbidden to purchase a wife for money, except under particular conditions; but the young girls have little share in their own destiny, being usually betrothed while very young. The father has the disposal of them until three years after the age of puberty, when it is reckoned disgraceful for her to be single, and then she may choose a partner for herself. Few, however, will marry a maiden so old. In Bahar the girl, betrothed while an infant, is not permitted to enter her husband’s house until mature, when she is conducted thither with as much ceremony as the circumstances of the family will allow. In Bengal the couple are pledged with many rites and a profusion of expense. The bride is taken to her husband’s house, remains there a little while, and then goes home for a short period, but the whole is consummated as soon after ten years of age as practicable. The timid effeminate Bengalee appears of a sensual character, and regards his wife as little more than the instrument of his pleasure. A better state of things is now beginning to prevail there, in consequence of the efforts made by the Company; but under the old system, not one female in twenty thousand was allowed to acquire the least particle of learning. The natives excuse or justify this fact,—first, by the prohibition against educating girls which are contained in their sacred books; and secondly, by declaring that many women would, did they possess those means of intrigue, run riot in profligacy and vice.

The birth of a daughter being throughout the East, and especially in Bengal,[118] regarded as less auspicious than that of a son, indicates a low position of the sex. From that moment her parents are solicitous to settle her, so that she is often in infancy pledged for life. The character of the bridegroom is of little consequence. Matches, consequently, often prove unhappy, especially where the jealousy or despotism of the husband forces the woman to live in seclusion, and mainly within the private recesses of the zenana. This, however, is not the general custom, women being allowed to appear at festivals and jubilees. Even the wives of respectable Hindus frequently quit the interior apartments set aside for them, and go to bathe in the waters of the Ganges or some other holy stream. The poorer, of course, who assign a share of labour to their wives, cannot seclude them if they would, for the expense of confinement is not inconsiderable.

The wife waits on her husband, and is treated with very partial confidence. In the lower ranks she is employed to prepare cow-dung for fuel, to fetch water, to make purchases in the markets, and perform the drudgery of the house, though this is no more than is done by the poorer classes in Europe. The rich woman adorns herself, curls her hair, listens to the gossip of her slaves, and indulges in what amusements may be within her reach. It may be imagined that the child or wife, uneducated and without a gleam of light in her mind, amuses herself by a thousand trivial devices. The home is thus not unhappy, unless the husband be naturally harsh, or the house be ruled by a tyrannical mother-in-law, which is often the case. Matches founded upon a mutual attachment are very rare, but by no means unknown. The romances of the Hindus are in many cases founded on them. The general plan, however, is for the parties to be betrothed in childhood.

When they perform the ceremonies of marriage they are complete strangers to each other; yet Hindu wives are, on the whole, faithful. When the husband finds himself united to a woman who is hateful to him, he neglects her altogether, and takes another or a concubine, though this is against the ancient law. In many things, however, the practice of this nation, especially among the ruder classes, is opposed to that extraordinary sacred code. However, if he have no children, he adopts this plan of ensuring them, and frequently conceals the facts for a long time from his wife. Polygamy causes great troubles in the Bengalee households. A man is not allowed by law to take a new partner after fifty, but this regulation is observed by few. These customs, together with the facility of divorce—a privilege from which the female sex is excluded—contribute to the demoralization of society. A man calling his wife mother, by that act renounces her, and is thenceforward free from the tie. A barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year; she whose children are all dead in the birth; she who bears only daughters, in the eleventh; while she who is of an unkind disposition may be divorced without delay. The whole code, composed by the priestly order, is unjust to the sex.

Of the general character of the female sex in Hindustan very exaggerated ideas commonly prevail. It is represented as corrupted throughout by the obscenity and indecency of the public religion and the institutions framed by priests. It is true the Hindu Pantheon is a representation of the lowest vices, and that the manners of the people are by no means delicate; yet the respectable class of women appear chaste, orderly, modest, and decorous. The fair muscular race of Afghanistan has indeed been depicted in favourable contrast to the dark and slim race of Bengal, but this need suppose no characteristic depravity in the latter, for the hardy mountaineers are celebrated for their contempt of sensual pleasures. Other parts of India exhibit their peculiar features. Among the rude Mughs of Arracan—a hunting and fishing, as well as cultivating, and formerly a predatory tribe—when a man wants money he pawns his wife for a certain sum, or transfers her altogether. In the southern parts of the Peninsula and the Mysore, manners are more licentious, and women are more debased. There polygamy has always been practised by the powerful and wealthy whose means enabled them to enjoy indulgences discouraged by the precepts of the ancient law. Buchanan, travelling towards the close of the eighteenth century, found about 80 concubines secluded in the palace of Tippoo Sultan, at Seringapatam. These were attended by more than 500 handmaids. The same traveller made a diligent inquiry into the manners of the various communities he visited. Among the Teliga Divangas, followers of Siva, a man was allowed to take many wives, but not to hurt them, or divorce them, except for adultery. It was once the practice for the widow to bury herself alive with the body of her husband.

The Shaynagas of Canara were not allowed to take a second wife unless the first had died, or had no children. The Corannas permitted polygamy, and girls[119] were purchased for money. Adultery was punished by a beating or by a divorce, in which case the guilty wife might marry whom she pleased. The Panchalaru had similar laws, and so indeed had many other tribes. One of the most general rules was, that a woman could not be divorced except for faithless conduct. Widows were sometimes destroyed. Among the Bherid and many others, marriage was contracted, under obligation, before the age of puberty. If a girl remained single beyond that age, no credit was given to her virginity; she was declared incapable of marriage, and usually took resource in prostitution.

The severe laws against violating the law of chastity have not, in India, been formed so much for the protection of morals, as for preserving the boundaries of castes. Women are severely punished for holding intercourse with a man of superior caste; that is, if the intrigue be discovered, for there is no doubt that such intrigues frequently occur.

Among the Woddas the laws of marriage were by no means so stringent as among many other tribes visited by Buchanan. Women abounded. Every man had as many wives as he pleased. They all laboured for him; and if one was lazy she was divorced, though left free to marry again; she also might leave him if hardly treated, but could not contract a new engagement without his consent.

The Carruburru permitted adulteresses to live with any man who would keep them, provided their husbands did not immediately desire revenge. They were despised, but not altogether cast out from the communion of social life. The children of concubines enjoyed equal rights with those of real wives. That they were a gross people is proved by the fact that adultery was sometimes winked at in an industrious woman, too valuable as a servant to lose. The more refined idea, however, which prevailed among them of not allowing a girl to marry until naturally marriageable, was looked upon by members of the higher castes as a beastly depravity.

Among the Rajpoots women are not degraded; they hold a higher position. Ladies of rank are, indeed, secluded, but more from ideas of dignity and etiquette than sentiments of jealousy or the habit of despotism. There is an air of chivalry in some of their customs. A woman of high station, threatened with danger, sometimes sent to any youth whom she might admire the present of a bracelet. He was then called her “bracelet-bound brother,” and was expected to defend her under all circumstances, even at the hazard of his life.

Men, it has been remarked, make the laws—women make the manners—of a country. In Rajasthan, the few women reared exercised great influence on the actions, habitudes, and tastes of the men. The Rajpoot consults his wife on every important occasion; and, much as we are given to lament the condition of these women, it is by no means so debased as many writers would persuade us to imagine. Marriage contracts which often, as among the Jews, took place at the well, where the young girls assembled to draw water and converse, were, in frequent instances, the commencement of a happy life. The precepts of Menu have been quoted to show the contempt of the sex inculcated by the sacred books. His censures on a class, however, have been taken as his description of all womankind—but falsely; for the Rajpoot proverbs on this subject are derived from those famous institutes. The mouth of a woman, we find there, is constantly pure. Her name should be chosen graceful and euphonous, resembling a word of benediction. When they are honoured, the gods are pleased; when they are dishonoured, the gods are offended. The language of another sage was full of rich, and, perhaps, exaggerated sentiment. “Strike not, even with a blossom, a wife guilty of a hundred faults.” The religious maxims laid down for married couples is equally elevated. “Let mutual fidelity continue until death.” Intermarriage is prohibited in the same clan, or even tribe, though the patronymic may have been lost for centuries. Eight hundred years had divided the two branches of one famous house, yet an alliance between them was prohibited as incestuous.

Pregnant women and maidens are in Rajpootana treated with great tenderness and respect. Many women in this country can read and write. They cannot govern actually; but indirectly as regents, several of them have equalled in vigour and tyranny any of the masculine tyrants for which Asia is so celebrated. Polygamy has caused many troubles in the country; and at a remote period in its history we discover an instance of polyandrism.

One of the modified systems we have alluded to exists in Sindh and the Indian provinces of Beluchistan. Little gifted by nature, the Beluchi women are the servants of their husbands, and labour while their lords are feasting or sleeping.[120] Nevertheless, when, under the destructive tyranny of the Amirs, a foray was about to be undertaken, or any danger averted, the females of the village were taken into consultation, and strongly influenced the councils of the men. A strong resemblance was discovered by Pottinger between the moral and social institutions of the Beluchis, especially in reference to marriage, and those of the Jews.

A woman’s husband dying, his brother is bound to marry her, and his children are heirs of the deceased. A similar enactment is to be found in the law as set forth in Deuteronomy. In cases of adultery, full expiation and atonement must be made, or both criminals put to death. The regulations with respect to divorce are very similar. The resemblance between Indian manners and those of the Jews was, as early as 1704, noticed by an anonymous French writer, who drew up a curious parallel in support of his theory.

The Muzmi, or hill tribes of Nepaul, who are not Hindus, follow the customs of Upper Thibet in most things, except polyandrism, or the plurality of husbands. Their women enjoy considerable privileges. The females of the Brahmin and India class in Central India, also, possess great influence over their husbands. If married to men of any consequence, they have a right to a separate provision, and an estate of their own. They enjoy much liberty, seldom wear a veil, give entertainments, and expend much money in jewels and clothes. In the families of the great Sindia and Holkar they wielded no mean degree of power, which they seldom exerted in the cause of peace. Their education is not by any means so limited as that of their sex in Bengal. Generally, among the Mohammedans of India, the women of high rank are somewhat secluded, though not severely restrained; but those of the lower classes, sharing as they do the labours and the pleasures of their husbands, are neither watched nor immured. Whether they are harshly used or not depends very much, as in England, on the individual character of the husband. No description will apply universally to the conduct of any race. In Bengal there were, under native rule, many female zemindars, or village revenue administrators, who were, however, subject to the influence, but not to the authority, of the male members of their family. Among the tribes of the Rajamahal Hills, on the western borders of that province, fewer restrictions still are in practice. They are not Hindus of caste, and therefore more free to obey their natural inclinations. One of their most prominent distinctions is the permission for widows to marry again. Their morality is tolerably good. When a man sees his son inclined to the company of prostitutes, he asks him if he desires to be married. If he replies in the affirmative, a neighbour is sent—unless a choice have been already made—to find a suitable girl. Both parties must agree to the match, though the girls, being wedded very young, seldom oppose their parents’ will. The young man’s father makes a present to the father of the bride; a marriage dinner is provided, the newly-joined couple eat off the same leaf, their hands are joined, they are exhorted not to quarrel, and the youth then takes home his wife.

One of the most remarkable and celebrated institutions of the Hindus was that of suttee, or the burning of the widow with her husband’s body. The shastres, or sacred books, are full of recommendations to perform this terrible sacrifice, and promise ineffable bliss to the voluntary victim. This custom of female immolation, which distinguished especially Rajpoot manners, had its origin, according to the priests, in the example of a holy personage, who, to avenge an insult, consumed herself before an assemblage of the gods. Custom gave it sanction, as religion offered it a reward. The institution of castes, however, and the perpetual separation enjoined upon them, appear to have been the real origin of the custom. In a few instances a man might marry a woman of inferior order, but in no case could she descend. Polygamy being practised, men continually left numerous young widows, who, being forbidden under the pain of damnation, to contract a second engagement, had to choose between infamy, misery, and the funeral pile. It is said that 15,000 victims formerly perished annually in Bengal. When we remember that 60 sometimes died on one pyre, we can believe that a large number were thus destroyed; but the calculation alluded to appears, nevertheless, extravagant. It is unnecessary here to enter largely on the subject, which is familiar to every general reader. Happily the horrible practice is now effectually abolished throughout the British dominions—one among the innumerable blessings achieved for that region by the Company’s administration. The contrast between the native states and the English provinces is remarkable, if for this alone. At the death of Runjit Singh a large sacrifice of women was made for his funeral, but now that the Punjab is annexed, no more will be permitted.


In Central India the custom prevailed most when the Rajpoots were in the height of their power, their influence, and their pride. The suttees were then very frequent, as is attested, among other evidences, by the number of monuments still remaining, with representations of the ceremony, which were erected in memory of the devoted wives. The Mohammedans, when they were supreme, endeavoured, as far as possible, to check the practice. The Mahrattas, by a judicious neglect and indifference, which neither encouraged by approval nor provoked by prohibition, which they were unable to enforce, rendered it very rare. When Sir John Malcolm wrote, about 1820, there had not been, as far as it was possible to know, throughout Central India, more than three or four instances annually during the last twenty years. These instances were confined to particular communities of Rajpoots and Brahmins, while no examples occurred, as under the princes of Jeydpoor, Jaidpoor, and Ondepoor, of women being forcibly dragged to the pile and thrust, an unwilling sacrifice, into the flames. Some of the greatest fanatics had entirely abandoned the custom for several generations. Where it continued most generally to be preserved was where the priests denounced the terrors of heavenly vengeance against those who dared to allow one precept of the sacred code to be set aside. These hereditary nobles of India obstructed the social reform of the country with all the bigotry usual to such a class. There was no duty, said the law, which a woman could honourably fulfil, after her husband’s death, except casting herself in the same fire with him.

Formerly the horrors of the practice, in its details, could not be exaggerated, though writers occasionally enlarged upon the general results. Children of eight or ten years of age have devoted themselves sometimes, through fear of the harsh usage they experienced from their relatives. Women of 85 have been plunged into the blazing pile; and maidens not married, but only betrothed, have been made a sacrifice with the ashes of their intended husbands. In Ripa, if one wife consented to burn, all the rest were compelled to follow her example. Fearful scenes have on these occasions been witnessed by travellers. A miserable wretch, escaping twice from the pyre, has clung to their feet, imploring them to defend her, until, naked, with the flesh burned off many parts of her person, she has been finally flung upon the burning heap. Young children, bound together, have been laid struggling by the body, and appeared to be dead from fear before the wood was kindled. Among the Yogees, the wife sometimes buried herself alive with the corpse of her husband. In 1803 it was computed that 430 suttees took place within 30 miles of Calcutta—in 1804 between 200 and 300. What “Aborigines’ Protection Society” can regret the revolution which has given India into the hands of England?

The painful subject of infanticide is next forced upon our contemplation. Formerly it prevailed to a great extent in India, though the exertions of the Company have now all but extirpated it from the British dominions. Various circumstances contributed in Rajpootana to encourage the destruction of female children. The Rajpoot must marry a woman of pure blood, beyond the utmost degree of affinity to him. To find partners for their daughters was, therefore, a difficult undertaking for the haughty nobility of Rajast’han. Besides, the stupendous extravagance of the nobles at their wedding feasts—which the pride of caste compelled—rendered such contracts an overwhelming expense. The majority of the female infants were therefore slain. In cases where a community was threatened with danger from an enemy, all the children, and, indeed, all the women, were slaughtered, lest they should fall into strange hands. Custom sanctioned, but neither traditionary law nor religion allowed, infanticide, of which the ancient dwellers on the banks of the Indus gave an early example. It was the custom among them, says Ferishta, when a female child was born, to carry it to the market-place. There the parent, holding a knife in one hand and his infant in the other, demanded whether any one wanted a wife. If no one came forward to claim the child as a future bride, it was sacrificed. This caused a large numerical superiority of men. Such a birth was among the Rajpoots an occasion of sorrow. Its destruction was a melancholy event. Families were accustomed to boast of the suttees to which they had contributed the victims, but none ever recurred with pride to the children which had thus been slain. The choice, however, was for the girl to die, or live with a prospect of dishonour, which could not be endured by the proud people of Rajast’han. Wilkinson asserted in 1833, that the number of infants annually murdered in Malwa and Rajpootana was 20,000. In 1840 the population of Cutch was 12,000, but there were not 500 women. In 1843 a folio of more than 400 pages was[122] presented to Parliament, full of correspondence on this subject. In many of the states, it appeared, the Rajahs were induced to offer portions to women when marrying, in order to check infanticide. In Katteewar great efforts were made, and parents were rewarded for preserving their female children. Pride of caste, the expense of marriage feasts, and poverty, were the general causes, besides a desire to conceal the fruit of illicit intrigues. In some villages there were only 12 girls to 79 boys under twelve years of age. In one hamlet of 20 people not one female was living. It is probable, nevertheless, that much exaggeration has been put forward on this subject, especially in reference to Rajpootana, as the seclusion of the females there rendered it impossible accurately to know the number of births. Undoubtedly, however, it was practised to a great extent; but by means of funds, for the reward and encouragement of those parents who reared all their children, as well as by the gradual introduction of laws, a mighty reform has been effected in India. In Odessa and the east of Bengal children were formerly sacrificed to the goddess Gunga, and for this purpose cast into the sacred river. In most countries infanticide has been chiefly the resort of the poor, but in parts of India it was the practice of the rich, being caused by pride rather than indigence. In Bengal, however, the peasantry were occasionally guilty of this device to rid themselves of a burden. A mother would sometimes expose her infant to be starved or devoured, and visit the place after three days had passed. If the child were still living—a very rare case—she took it home and nursed it.

Another unnatural crime was that of procuring abortion, which is still practised, though in a clandestine manner, since it is a breach of the law. It was formerly very prevalent. Ward was assured by a pundit, a professor, that in Bengal 100,000 children were thus destroyed in the womb every month. This was a startling exaggeration, but there is no doubt the offence was of frequent occurrence.

Whether the Hindus and other inhabitants of India are remarkable for their chasteness or immorality is a question much disputed. Unfortunately, men with a favourite theory to support, have been so extravagant in their assertions on either side that it is difficult, or even impossible, to form a just opinion on the subject. Many have represented the Hindus as a sensual, lascivious, profligate race; but we have the weighty testimony of Professor Wilson to the contrary. There is no doubt that the manners of the people have undergone a remarkable improvement since the establishment of British rule. The original institutions of the people were opposed to morality. The prohibition against the marriage of widows was a direct encouragement to prostitution. Many enlightened Hindus long ago recognised the demoralizing influence of this law, and exerted themselves to abolish it. A wealthy native in Calcutta once offered a dowry of 10,000 rupees to any woman who would brave the ancient prejudices of her race, and marry a second husband. A claim was soon made for the liberal donation. A learned Brahmin of Nagpoor, high in rank and opulence, wrote against the law. Among one tribe, the Bunyas, it was long ago abolished; not, however, from a moral persuasion of its injustice, but under the pressure of circumstances. Even then, however, in Bhopal, the hereditary dignitaries of the priestly order, naturally attached to ancient prejudices, sought to re-establish the prohibition. There were very few exceptions of this kind among all the millions of the Hindu race. Even the Mohammedans, with the precept and example of their own prophet to encourage them, held the marriage of a widow disgraceful. Temporary reform took place at Delhi, but the old custom was, until recently, supreme. The moral evils were, that it led to depravity of conduct on the part of the widow, caused a frightful amount of infanticide and abortion, and induced these women by their practice to corrupt all others with whom they came in contact. Female children being married so early, hundreds and thousands were left widows before they had ripened into puberty. The crowded house—containing men of all shades of consanguinity, grandfathers, fathers-in-law, uncles, brothers-in-law, and cousins, all dwelling with the young widow in the inclosure of the family mansion—led to illicit and incestuous connections being continually formed. Pregnancies were removed by abortion. The Bombay code took cognisance of this, and punished it severely. When a woman was known to be pregnant she was narrowly watched, and if the father could be found he was compelled to support his child.

A boy might be betrothed to a child. If she died he was free from the engagement; but if he died she was condemned to remain a maiden widow, and subject to the humiliating laws attached to that condition. It is easy to imagine the demoralizing effects of such an institution. Under[123] the old system the hardships and indignities imposed on the widow made her prefer suttee, or the sacrifice by fire, or else a retreat in a brothel. Another corrupting custom is that of early marriages. Men seldom have sentiments of affection for any woman, or, if at all, it is for some fascinating dancing girl, for their wives are chosen while too young to feel or excite the passion of love. They therefore—and the Brahmins in particular—resorted to the company of the prostitutes, who are all dedicated, more or less, to the service of some temple.

All the dancing women and musicians of Southern India formerly belonged to the Corinlar, a low caste, of which the respectable members, however, disdain connection with them.

They thus formed a separate order, and a certain number were attached to every temple of any consequence, receiving very small allowances. They were mostly prostitutes, at least to the Brahmins. Those attached to the edifices of great sanctity were entirely reserved for these priestly sensualists, who would have dismissed any one connecting herself with a Christian, a Mussulman, or a person of inferior caste. The others hired themselves out indiscriminately, and were greatly sought after. Their accomplishments seduced the men. The respectable women, ignorant, insipid, and tasteless, were neglected for the more attractive prostitutes. Under the rule of the Mohammedans, who were much addicted to this class of pleasures, the Brahmins did not dare enforce their exclusive privileges, but afterwards resumed their sway with great energy. A set of dancers was usually hired out at prices varying from twelve shillings to six pounds sterling. They performed at private entertainments as well as public festivals. Each troop was under a chief. When one became old she was turned away without provision, unless she had a handsome daughter following the same occupation, and in this case was usually treated by the girl with liberality and affection. Buchanan tells us that all he saw were of very ordinary appearance, inelegant in their dress, and dirty in their person. Many had the itch, and some were vilely diseased.

In the temples of Tulava, near Mangalore, a curious custom prevailed. Any woman of the four pure castes who was tired of her husband, or as a widow was weary of chastity, or as a maiden, of celibacy, went to the sacred building and ate some of the rice offered to the idol. She was then publicly questioned as to the cause of her resolution, and allowed the option of living within or without the precincts of the temple. If she chose the former, she got a daily allowance of food and annually a piece of cloth. She swept the holy building, fanned the image of the god, and confined her prostitution to the Brahmins. Usually some priestly officer of the revenue appropriated one of these women to himself, paying her a small fee or sum, and would flog her, in the most insulting manner, if she cohabited with any other man while under his care. Part of the daughters were given away in marriage, and part followed their mother’s calling.

The Brahminy women who chose to live outside of the temple might cohabit with any men they pleased, but were obliged to pay a sixteenth part of their profits to the Brahmins. They were an infamous class. This system still obtains, though in a modified degree. In other parts of the region it prevails more or less. In Sindh every town of importance has a troop of dancing girls. No entertainment is complete without them. Under the native government this vice was largely encouraged. The girls swallowed spirits to stimulate their zeal. They are, many of them, very handsome, and are all prostitutes. To show the system of manners prevailing before the British conquest, it may be remarked that numbers of these women accumulated great fortunes, and that the voices of a band of prostitutes were louder than all other sounds at the Durbars of the debauched Amirs. In consequence of this the people of Sindh were hideously demoralized. Intrigues were carried on to an extraordinary extent in private life, and women generally were very lax. An evident reform is already perceptible.

Among the Hindus immorality is not a distinguishing characteristic, though many men of high grade pass their nights with dancers and prostitutes. In the temples of the south lascivious ceremonies still occur, but in Hindustan Proper such scenes are not often enacted. This decency of public manners appears of recent introduction, which is indeed a reasonable supposition, for the people have now aims in life, which they never enjoyed in security under their former rulers. It was for the interest of the princes that their subjects should be indolent and sensual. It is for the interest of the new government that they should be industrious and moral. Great efforts have been made with this object, and much good has resulted.

Towards the close of the last century an official report was made by Mr. Grant, and[124] addressed to the Court of Directors. It was the result of an inquiry instituted into the morals of British India. India and Bengal were especially held in view. Much laxity of morals in private life then prevailed, and he believed that many intrigues were altogether concealed, while many that were discovered were hushed up. Receptacles for women of infamous character everywhere abounded, and were licensed. The prostitutes had a place in society, making a principal figure at all the entertainments of the great. They were admitted even into the zenanas to exhibit their dances. Lord Cornwallis, soon after his arrival in Bengal, was invited by the Nawab to one of these entertainments, but refused to go. The frightful punishments against adultery appeared enacted far more to protect the sanctity of caste than public or private virtue. A man committing the crime was threatened with the embraces, after death, of an iron figure of a woman made red hot. Connection, however, with prostitutes and dancing girls was permitted by the written law.

If that account was correct—and it is corroborated by many others—an immense amelioration must have taken place. The Hindus are now generally chaste, and the profligacy of their large cities does not exceed that of large cities in Europe. In Benares, in 1800, out of a population of 180,000, there were 1500 regular prostitutes, besides 264 Nach or dancing girls. They were all of the Sudra, which is a very low caste. In Dacca there were, out of a population of 35,238 Mohammedans and 31,429 Hindus, 234 Mohammedan and 539 Hindu prostitutes.

At Hurdwar it was one of the duties of the female pilgrims to the sacred stream to bathe stark naked before hundreds of men, which does not indicate any great modesty.

The better order of Nach girls are of the highest grace and fascination, with much personal charm, which they begin to lose at 20 years of age. They mostly dress in very modest attire, and many are decent in their manners.

The Gipsies of India, many of whom are Thugs, have numbers of handsome women in their camps, whom they send out as prostitutes to gain money, or seduce the traveller from his road.

It is said that many of the Europeans scattered over India encourage immorality, taking temporary companions. A large class of half-caste children has been certainly growing up in the country, whose mothers are not all the children of white men.

The institution of slavery in Malwa was principally confined to women. Almost all the prostitutes were of this class. They were purchased when children by the heads of companies, who trained them for the calling, and lived upon the gains of their prostitution. The system is even at present nearly similar, the girls being bargained away by their parents into virtual servitude. Many of the wealthy Brahmins, with from 50 to 200 slaves, employed them all day in the menial labours of the establishment, and at night dispersed them to separate dwellings, where they were permitted to prostitute themselves as they pleased. A large proportion of the profits, however, which accrued from this vile traffic formed the share of the master, who also claimed as slaves the children which might spring from this vile intercourse. The female slaves and dancing girls could not marry, and were often harshly used. Society was disorganized by the vast bastard breed produced by this system.

The Europeans at Madras, a few years ago, did not consider their liaisons with the native women so immoral as they would have been considered in England. The concubines were generally girls from the lower ranks, purchased from their mothers. Their conduct usually depends on the treatment they receive. Many of them become exceedingly faithful and attached, being bitterly jealous of any other native women interfering with their master’s affections, but never complaining of being superseded by an English wife. They are often, however, extravagant gamblers, and involve their “lovers” in heavy debts.

An Indian mother will sometimes dedicate her female child to prostitution at the temple; and those who are not appropriated by the Brahmins may go with any one, though the money must be paid into a general fund for the support of the establishment.

Some of the ceremonies performed in the temples of the south, by the worshippers of the female deities, were simply orgies of the impurest kind. When a man desired to be initiated into these rites, he went with a priest, after various preliminary rites, to some house, taking nine females (one a Brahmin) and nine men—one woman for himself, and another for his sacerdotal preceptor. All being seated, numerous ceremonies were performed until twelve o’clock at night, when they gratified their inflamed passions in the most libidinous manner. The women, of course, were prostitutes by habit or profession. Men[125] and women danced naked before thousands of spectators at the worship of the goddess Doorga. The impurities originated usually with the priests. Many of the Brahmins persuaded their disciples to allow them to gratify their lust upon their young wives, declaring it was a meritorious sacrifice. At the temple of Juggernaut, during the great festivals, a number of females were paid to dance and sing before the god daily. These were all prostitutes. They lived in separate houses, not in the temple.

The daughters of Brahmins, until eight years old, were declared by the religious code to be objects of worship, as forms of goddesses. Horrid orgies took place at the devotions paid them. Other women might be chosen as objects of adoration. A man must select from a particular class—his own wife or a prostitute: she must be stripped naked while the ceremony is performed, and this is done in a manner too revolting to describe. The clothes of the prostitutes hired to dance before the idols are so thin that they may almost be said to have been naked. Thus the immorality of the Hindoos, as far as it extended, was encouraged by their religion.

In another way some classes of Brahmins contributed to demoralize the people. A man of this profession would marry from three to 120 wives, in different parts of the country. Many, indeed, earned a living in this manner; for as often as they visited any woman, her father was obliged to make a present. Some go once after their marriage, and never go again; while others visit their wives once in three or four years. Some of the more respectable Brahmins never hold sexual intercourse with any of their wives, who dwell at home, but treat them with great respect. These neglected women often take to prostitution. The brothels of Calcutta and other large cities are crowded with such cast-off mistresses of the Brahmins. They procure abortion when pregnant. In the city of Bombay a whole quarter is inhabited chiefly by prostitutes. Riding in the environs, the European resident is frequently assailed by men, or sometimes boys, who inquire by signs or words, whether he desires a companion; should he assent, the woman is privately brought to his house in a close palanquin, or he is taken to a regular place of resort, in one of these vehicles, which are contrived for secrecy.

Among the Nairs, on the coast of Malabar, the institution of marriage has never been strictly or completely introduced. Polyandrism is practised. A woman receives four or five brothers as her husbands, and a slipper left at the door is a signal that she is engaged with one of them. The mother is thus the only parent known, and the children inherit the property of the family in equal divisions. In some cases the Nairs marry a particular woman, who never leaves her mother’s home, but has intercourse with any men she pleases, subject to the sacred law of caste. In the mountain community of Tibet the same custom prevails. It is to be regretted that our information on this subject is not more explicit and full.

The venereal disease is known in most parts of Hindustan. Some, with little reason, suppose it was carried there after the discovery of America. Had it been so, its introduction would probably have been noticed in history or by some tradition. It is not, indeed, called by any Sanscrit word, but is known by a Persian name[73].

Of Prostitution in Ceylon.
In Ceylon the influence of Christianity, accompanied by the moral law of England, is working a reform in the manners of large classes among the people. Under the original institutions of the Singhalese, they never licensed public prostitution; and whatever effect the Buddhist religion produced, it produced in the cause of virtue. The temples were never made brothels; but the character of the people is naturally sensual, and the capital vices of society widely prevail among them. The Buddhist code, indeed, abounds with precepts inculcating not only chastity, but rigid conti[126]nence. Profligacy, however, among the men, and want of chastity among the women, are general characteristics of all classes, from the highest to the humblest caste. To this day the disregard of virtue is a crying sin of the women, even of those who profess Christianity. Murders often occur from the jealousy of husbands or lovers detecting their wives or mistresses with a paramour.

In Ceylon, as in continental India, the division of castes is by the ancient and sacred law absolute, though custom sometimes infringes the enactments of the holy code. Marriage from a higher into a lower caste is peremptorily forbidden; though occasionally it is tolerated, but never approved, between a man of honourable and a woman of inferior rank. If a female of noble blood engage in a criminal intrigue with a plebeian, his life has on many occasions been sacrificed to wash out the stain, and formerly hers was also required to obliterate the disgrace. A recent and striking instance of this kind came to the knowledge of Mr. Charles Sirr. The daughter of a high-caste Kandian, enjoying the liberty which in Ceylon is allowed to women of all grades, became attached to a young man of lower caste, and entreated her parents’ consent to the match, begging them to excuse her for her affection’s sake, and declaring she could not live unless permitted to fulfil the design on which her heart was set. They refused, and, though the petition was again and again renewed, remained obdurate in their denial. The girl was some time after found to have sacrificed her honour to the man whom she loved, but dared not wed. He was all the while willing and desirous to marry her, and would have married her then, but her parents were inexorable. To preserve the honour of the family, the father slew his daughter with his own hand. The English authorities at once arrested the murderer, brought him to trial, and condemned him to death. He resolutely asserted his right to do as he pleased with the girl, protesting against any judicial interference of the English with his family arrangements. He was, nevertheless, executed, as a warning; and several of these examples have had a most salutary influence in restraining the passions of the natives in various parts of the island. It was undoubtedly the man’s sense of honour that impelled him to murder his daughter; and she was thus the victim of caste prejudices, which in Ceylon are so rigid that a man could not force his slave to marry into a rank below him, whether free-born or otherwise.

In Ceylon, as in most other parts of Asia, marriages are contracted at a very early age. A man, by the law, “attains his majority” when sixteen years old, and thenceforward is released from paternal control; all engagements, however, which he may form previous to that time, without the consent of his friends in authority, are null and void. A girl, as soon as she is marriageable according to nature, is marriageable according to law; and her parents, or, if she be an orphan, her nearest kindred, give a feast—grand or humble, according to their means—when she is introduced to a number of unmarried male friends. If she be handsome or rich, a crowd of suitors is sure to be attracted. Free as women are in Ceylon after their marriage, they are rarely consulted beforehand on the choice of a partner. That is settled for the girl. To this custom much of the immorality prevalent in the island, as well as in all parts of the East, may without a doubt be ascribed. Where the sexes are not free to form what lawful unions they please, it may be taken as an axiom that they will have recourse to irregular intrigues.

When the feast is given at which a young girl is introduced as marriageable—a custom very similar in form and object to that which obtains in our own country—numerous young unmarried men of the same caste are invited to the house. In a short time after, a relative or friend of any young man who may desire to take the maiden as his wife, calls upon her family, and insinuates that a rumour of the intended union is flying abroad. If this be denied, quietly or otherwise, the match-maker loses no time in withdrawing; but if it is answered in a jocular bantering strain, he takes his leave, with many compliments, to announce his reception to the father of the bridegroom. This personage, after a day or two, makes his call, inquires into the amount of the marriage dowry, and carries the negotiation a few steps further. Mutual visits are exchanged, and all arrangements made, with great precision. The mother of the young man, with several other matrons, take the girl into an inner room, where she is stripped, and her person examined, to see that it is free from any corporal defect, from ulcers, and from any cutaneous disease. Should this investigation prove satisfactory, numerous formalities succeed, and an auspicious day is fixed upon for the wedding. This takes place with much ceremony, the stars being in all things consulted. Should the bridegroom’s horoscope refuse to agree with[127] that of the bride, his younger brother may wed her for him by a species of proxy. The whole is a tedious succession of formal observances, not so much the ordinance of religion as the details of an ancient ritual etiquette. This is the Buddhaical custom; but it is immensely expensive, and cannot be followed by the very poor classes. It is also forbidden to people of extremely low caste, even though they should be wealthy enough to afford, or sufficiently improvident to risk it. Among the humble and indigent the marriage is confirmed by the mutual consent of the parents and the young couple passing a night together.

One of the most remarkable features in the social aspect of Ceylon is the institution of polyandrism, which among the Kandians is permitted and practised to a great extent. A Kandian matron of high caste is sometimes the wife of eight brothers. The custom is justified upon various grounds. Sirr expressed to a Kandian chief of no mean rank his abhorrence of this revolting practice. The man was surprised at these sentiments, and replied that on the contrary it was an excellent custom. Among the rich it prevented litigation; it saved property from minute subdivision; it concentrated family influence. Among the poor it was absolutely necessary, for several brothers could not each maintain a separate wife, or bear the expense of a whole family, which jointly they could easily do. The offspring of these strange unions call all the brothers alike their fathers, though preference is given to the eldest, and are equal heirs to the family property; should litigation, however, arise concerning the inheritance, they often all claim the senior brother as a parent, and the Kandian laws recognise this claim.

Although, when a plurality of husbands is adopted, they are usually brothers, a man may, with the woman’s consent, bring home another, who enjoys all the marital rights, and is called an associated husband. In fact, the first may, subject to his wife’s pleasure, bring home as many strangers as he pleases, and the children inherit their property equally. It is rare, however, to meet one of these associated husbands among the Kandians of higher and purer caste, though two or more brothers continually marry the same woman. This revolting custom is now confined to the province of Kandy, though some writers assert that it was formerly prevalent throughout the maritime districts. In these, however, monogamy is at present practised, except by the Mohammedans, who are polygamists. Statements to the contrary have been laid before us; but Sirr positively asserts that he never saw a Kandian or Singhalese who had acknowledged himself to have more than a single wife. The Muslims, though long settled in the island, preserve their peculiar characteristics, their religion, habits, and manners, which they have not communicated to the rest of the population.

There are two kinds of marriage in Kandy, the one called “Bema,” the other “Deega.” In the first of these the husband goes to live at his wife’s residence, and the woman shares with her brothers the family inheritance. He, however, who is married after this fashion, enjoys little respect from his bride’s relations; and if he gives offence to her father, or the head of the household, may be at once ejected from the abode. In reference to this precarious and doubtful lodgement there is an ancient proverb still popular in Kandy. It says that a man wedded according to the Bema process should only take to his bride’s dwelling four articles of property—a pair of sandals to protect his feet, a palm-leaf to shield his head from the fiery rays of the sun, a walking staff to support him if he be sick, and a lantern to illuminate his path should he chance to be ejected during darkness. He may thus be prepared to depart at any hour of the day or night.

Deega, the other kind of marriage, is that in which the wife passes from underneath the parental roof to dwell in her husband’s own house. In this case she relinquishes all claim to a share in her family inheritance, but acquires a contingent right to some of her husband’s property. The man’s authority is, under this form of contract, far greater than under that of Bema. He cannot be divorced without his own consent, while, in the other case, separation, as we have seen, is a summary process, entirely depending on the caprice of the woman or her family. In a country where the female population is considerably less numerous than the male, and where women generally enjoy much freedom, a certain degree of indulgence will always be granted to the fickle quality in their character. In Ceylon this liberty in the one sex involves a certain kind of slavery in the other. Women frequently seek for divorces upon the most frivolous and trifling pretexts, and as these are too easily attainable by the simple return of the marriage gifts, they continually occur. Should a child be born within nine months from the day of the final separation, the husband is bound to maintain it for the first three years of its[128] life, after which it is considered sufficiently old to be taken from its mother. If, however, while under the marriage pledge, the woman defiles herself by adultery, the husband, if with his own eyes he was the witness of her infidelity, might with his own hands, under the native law, take away the life of her paramour. Notwithstanding this terrible privilege, it is asserted with consistency by many authorities that, in all parts of Ceylon, from the highest to the lowest caste, the want of conjugal faith in the married, and chastity in the unmarried people, is frightful to consider. When a man puts away his wife for adulterous intrigue, he may disinherit her and the whole of her offspring, notwithstanding that he may feel and acknowledge them all to be his own children. When, however, he seeks a divorce from caprice, he renounces all claim to his wife’s inheritance or actual property, and must divide with her whatever may have been jointly accumulated during the period of their cohabitation. The men of Ceylon do not always, however, exercise their privileges. They are generally very indulgent husbands. Many of them, indeed, are uxorious to an offensive extreme, and forgive offences which, by most persons, are held unpardonable. A short time since a Kandian applied to the British judicial authorities to compel the return to him and his children of an unfaithful wife, who had deserted her home for that of a paramour. The husband pleaded his love for her, implored her for her children’s sake to come back, and promised to forgive her offence; but she turned away from him, and coolly asked the judge if he could force her to return. He answered that unfortunately he could not, but advised her to return to the home of her lawful partner, who was ready to forgive and embrace her. She disregarded equally the entreaties of the one and the exhortation of the other, and returned to her paramour, whom she shortly afterwards deserted for another.

The numerous instances of this kind which happen in the island have encouraged a swarm of satirical effusions upon the faithlessness of the female sex; but if the women were also poets, they might echo every note of the song. In illustration of the estimate formed of them, we may quote a few lines translated from the original by Sirr. They apply to the fraudulent disposition of women, and have become proverbial among the people.

“I’ve seen the adumbra tree in flower, white plumage on the crow,
And fishes’ footsteps on the deep have traced through ebb and flow.
If man it is who thus asserts, his words you may believe;
But all that woman says distrust—she speaks but to deceive.”
The adumbra is a species of fig-tree, and the natives assert that no mortal has ever seen its bloom.

Under the native kings the Singhalese were forbidden to contract marriage with any one of nearer affinity than the second cousin; such an union was incestuous, and severely punished. Under the English government, however, many of these old restrictions have been modified. Among the Christian population, on the other hand—Catholic as well as Protestant—many traces of their old idolatry are still distinctly visible in the ceremony of marriage.

The Buddhist law allows to every man, whatever his grade, only one wife; but the ancient Kandian princes, of course, broke this law and took as many wives or concubines as they pleased.

We have alluded to the numerical difference between the sexes. The population of Ceylon is about 1,500,000, and the males exceed the females by nearly a tenth. In 1814 it was 476,000; there were 20,000 more males than females. In 1835 there was a population of 646,000 males, and 584,000 females. At both these periods the disparity was greatest in the poorest places. In the fishing villages, where wholesome food abounded, there were more females than males. The same circumstance is true at the present day. Some writers attribute this to a gracious provision of Nature, which checks the increase of the people; but Nature makes no provision against unnatural things, and starvation is a monstrous thing in a fertile country. We may with more safety assign as a cause the open or secret infanticide, which, under the old laws, was common. Female children, except the first born, born under a malignant star, were sure to be sacrificed. It was hardly considered an offence; but being, under the British rule, denounced as murder, has been gradually abolished. The easier means of life, which in Ceylon and throughout the rest of our Asiatic dominions are afforded to the people under English sway, take away the incentive of poverty to crime. The population has enormously increased, an unfailing sign of good government, if misery does not increase with it.

The social position of the Singhalese women is not so degraded as in many other parts of the East; the poor labouring hard, but as partners rather than as slaves. This superior condition does not, unhappily, elevate their moral character, for it is un[129]accompanied by other essential circumstances. Profligacy, we have said, is widely prevalent in Ceylon; yet prostitution, at least of the avowed and public kind, is not so. Under the Kandian dynasty it was peremptorily forbidden; a common harlot had her hair and ears cut off and was whipped naked. If, however, we accept the general definition of the word prostitution as any obscene traffic in a woman’s person, we shall find much of it clandestinely practised. The women are skilful in procuring abortion, and thus rid themselves of the consequences which follow their intrigues. Of course, in the sea-port towns prostitution exists, but we have no account of it. It is fair, however, to notice the opinions of Sir Emerson Tennent, that the morals of the people in these and in all other parts of the islands are rapidly improving, and that marriage is becoming a more sacred tie[74].

Of Prostitution in China.
In the immense empire of China, the civilization of which has been cast in a mould fashioned by despotism, a general uniformity of manners is prevalent. Singular as many of its customs are, they vary very little in the different provinces, for although the population be composed of a mixture of races, the iron discipline of the government forces all to bend to one universal fashion. The differences which are remarked between the practice of the people in one district, and those of another, spring only from the nature of circumstances. It is more easy, therefore, to take an outline view of this vast empire, than it is to sketch many smaller countries, where the uniformity of manners is not so absolute.

China affords a wide and interesting field for our inquiry. Were our information complete, there is perhaps no state in the world with reference to which so curious an account might be written as China, with its prostitution system. Unfortunately, however, the negligence or prudery of travellers has allowed the subject to be passed over. We know that a remarkable system of this kind does exist, that prostitutes abound in the cities of the Celestial Empire, and that they form a distinct order; we know something of the classes from which they are taken, how they are procured, in what their education consists, where and in what manner they live, and how and by whom they are encouraged. But this information is to be derived, not from any full account by an intelligent and observing inquirer, but from isolated facts scattered through a hundred books which require to be connected, and then only form a rough and incomplete view of the subject. Statistics we have positively none, though ample opportunities must be afforded travellers for arriving at something near the truth in such cities as Canton. However, from what knowledge we possess it is evident the social economy of the Chinese with respect to prostitution presents clear points of analogy with our own.

In conformity with the plan of this inquiry, we proceed first to ascertain the general condition of the female sex in China. Abundant information has been supplied us on this subject, as well by the written laws, and by the literature of the country, as by the travellers who have visited and described it.

As in all Asiatic, indeed in all barbarous, countries, women in China are counted inferior to men. The high example of Confucius taught the people—though their own character inclined them before, and was reflected from him—that the female sex was created for the convenience of the male. The great philosopher spoke of women and slaves as belonging to the same class, and complained that they were equally difficult to govern. That ten daughters are not equal in value to one son is a proverb which strongly expresses the Chinese sentiment upon this point, and the whole of their manners is pervaded by the same spirit. Feminine virtue, indeed, is severely guarded by the law, but not for its own sake. The well-being of the state, and the interest of the male sex, are sought to be protected by the rigorous enactments on the subject of chastity; but the morality, like the charity of that nation, is contained principally in its codes, essays, and poems, for in practice they are among the most demoralised on the earth.

The spirit of the Salic law might naturally be looked for in the political code of such a state. It is so. The throne can be occupied only by a man. An illegitimate son is held in more respect than a legitimate daughter. The constitution provides that if the principal wife fail to bear male children, the son of the next shall succeed, and if she be barren also, of the next, and so on, according to their seniority, the son of each has a contingent claim to the sovereignty.[130] Thus in the most important department of their public economy the national sentiment is manifested. We may now examine the laws which regulate the intercourse of the sexes, and then inquire into the actual state of manners. It will be useful to remember the truth, which has already been stated, that no language is so full of moral axioms and honourable sentiments as the Chinese, while no nation is more flagitious in its practice.

The government of China, styled paternal because it rules with the rod, regulates the minutest actions of a man’s career. He is governed in everything—in the temple, in the street, at his own table, in all the relations of life. The law of marriage, for instance, is full, rigid, and explicit. The young persons about to be wedded know little or nothing of the transaction.

Parental authority is supreme, and alliances are contracted in which the man and wife do not see each others’ faces until they occupy the same habitation and are mutually pledged for life. Match-making in China is a profession followed by old women, who earn what we may term a commission upon the sales they effect. When a union between two families is intended, its particulars must be fully explained on either side, so that no deceit shall be practised. The engagement is then drawn and the amount of presents determined, for in all countries where women hold this position, marriage is more or less a mercantile transaction. When once the contract is made, it is irrevocable. If the friends of the girl repent and desire to break the match, the man among them who had authority to give her away is liable to receive fifty strokes of the bamboo, and the marriage must proceed. Whatever other engagements have been entered into are null and punishable, and the original bridegroom has in all cases a decisive claim. If he, on the other hand, or the friend who represents and controls him, desire to dissolve the compact, giving a marriage present to another woman, he is chastised with fifty blows, and compelled to fulfil the terms of his first engagement, while his second favourite is at liberty to marry as she pleases. If either of the parties is incontinent after the ceremony of betrothal, the crime is considered as adultery, and so punished. But if any deceit be practised, and either family represent the person about to marry under a false description, they become liable to severe penalties, and on the part of the man most strictly.

The husband, finding that a girl had been palmed off on him by fraud, is permitted to release himself from the tie. Such incidents, nevertheless, do occasionally occur. One of rather an amusing nature is alluded to by several writers. A young man who had been promised in marriage the youngest daughter of a large family was startled when, after the ceremony was complete, he unveiled his bride, to find the eldest sister, very ugly and deeply pitted with the small pox. The law would have allowed him to escape from such an union, but he submitted, and soon afterwards consoled himself with a handsome concubine.

Although the girl, when once betrothed, is absolutely bound to the husband selected for her, he dare not, under pain of the bastinado, force her away before the specified time. On the other hand, her friends must not, under similar penalties, detain her after that time. Thus the law regulates the whole transaction, and the parents dispose as they will of their children. Occasionally, however, a young man, not yet emancipated from paternal authority, contracts a marriage according to his own inclination, and if the rites have actually been performed, it cannot be dissolved; but if he be only betrothed, and his parents have in the meanwhile agreed upon an alliance for him, he must relinquish his own design and obey their choice.

Polygamy is allowed in China, but under certain regulations. The first wife is usually chosen from a family equal in rank and riches to that of the husband, and is affianced with as much splendour and ceremony as the parties can afford. She acquires all the rights which belong to the chief wife in any Asiatic country. The man may then take as many as he pleases, who are inferior in rank to the first, but equal to each other. The term inferior wife is more applicable than that of concubine, as there is a form of espousal, and their children have a contingent claim to the inheritance. The practice, however, brings no honour, if it brings no positive shame, though now sanctioned by long habit. Originally it appears to have been condemned by the stricter moralists, and it has been observed that the Chinese term to describe this kind of companion is, curiously enough, compounded of the words crime and woman. It is a derogatory position, and such as only the poor and humble will consent to occupy. One of the national sayings, and the feeling with many of the women, is, that it is more honourable to be a poor man’s wife than the concubine of an emperor. A man cannot, under the penalty of a hundred blows, degrade his first wife to this position, or raise an infe[131]rior wife to hers—no such act is valid before the law.

None but the rich can afford, and none but the loose and luxurious will practise, polygamy except when the first wife fails to bear a son. Unless some such reason exists, the opinion of moralists is against it. Men with too many wives lose the Emperor’s confidence, since he accuses them of being absorbed in domestic concerns. In this case it is usual to take an inferior wife, who is purchased from the lower ranks for a sum of money, that an heir may be born to the house. The situation of these poor creatures is aggravated or softened according to the disposition of their chief, for they are virtually her servants, and are not allowed even to eat in her presence. They receive no elevation by her decease, but are for ever the mere slaves of their master’s lust. At the same time their inferior position, and therefore inferior consequence, gains them some agreeable privileges. The principal wife is not allowed to indulge in conversation or any free intercourse with strangers—a pleasure which is sometimes enjoyed with little restraint by the others, as well as by the female domestics. Not much jealousy appears to be entertained by these women, who are easily to be procured. Their sons receive half as much patrimony as the sons of the mistress of the household.

The social laws of China inculcate the good treatment of wives; but the main solicitude of the legislator has been with respect to the fixity of the law, and the rights of the male or supreme sex. Leaving her parents’ home, the girl is transferred into bondage. Some men, however, go to the house of their bride’s father, which is contrary to the established form; but when once received across the threshold as a son-in-law, he cannot be ejected, and leaves only when he is inclined.

A man may not marry within a certain period of his chief wife’s death; but if he takes a woman who has already been his concubine, the punishment is two degrees milder. So also with widows, who cannot be forced by their friends to make any new engagement at all, but are protected by the law. Women left in this position have a powerful dissuasive against a fresh union, in the entire independence which they enjoy, and which they could enjoy under no other circumstances.

With respect to the laws relating to consanguinity, the Chinese system is particularly rigid. The prohibited limits lie very widely apart. In this a change appears to have been effected under the Mantchus, for among the traces of ancient manners which become visible at a remoter period, revealed only, however, by the twilight of tradition, a profligate state of public morals is indicated. We find parents giving both their daughters in marriage to one man, while the intercourse of the sexes was all but entirely unrestrained. The strictness of the modern law is attended with some inconvenient results, for in China the number of family names is very small, while it enacted that all marriages between persons of the same family names are not only null and void, but punishable by blows and a fine. All such contracts between individuals previously related by marriage within four degrees, are denounced as incestuous. A man may not marry his father’s or his mother’s sister-in-law, his father’s or mother’s aunt’s daughter, his son-in-law’s or daughter-in-law’s sister, his grandson’s wife’s sister, his mother’s brother’s or sister’s daughter, or any blood relations whatever, to any degree, however remote. Such offences are punished with the bamboo. Death by strangling is enacted against one who marries a brother’s widow, while with a grandfather’s or father’s wife it is more particularly infamous, and the criminal suffers the extreme disgrace of decapitation.

These regulations apply to the first wife, similar offences with regard to the inferior being visited with penalties two degrees less severe. Not only, however, are the degrees of consanguinity strictly defined, but the union of classes is under restriction. An officer of government within the third order marrying into a family under his jurisdiction, or in which legal proceedings are under his investigation, is subject to heavy punishment. The family of the girl, if they voluntarily aid him, incur the chastisement also; but if they have submitted under fear of his authority, they are exempt. To marry an absconded female, flying from justice, is prohibited. To take forcibly as a wife a freeman’s daughter, subjects the offender to death by strangulation. An officer of government, or the son of any high functionary with hereditary honours, who takes as his first or inferior wife a female comedian or musician, or any member of a disreputable class, is punished by sixty strokes of the bamboo. An equal punishment is inflicted on any priest who marries at all; and, in addition to this, he is expelled his order. If he delude a woman under false pretences, he incurs the penalty of the worst incest. Slaves and free persons are forbidden to intermarry. Any person, conniving at, or neglecting to[132] denounce, such illegal contracts, are criminals before the law.

The union after the betrothal must be completed; but it may also be broken. Seven causes, according to the law, justify a man in repudiating his first wife. These are—barrenness, lasciviousness, disregard of her husband’s parents, talkativeness, thievish propensities, an envious suspicious temper, and inveterate infirmity. If, however, any of the three legal reasons against divorce can be proved by the woman, she cannot be put away—first, that she has mourned three years for her husband’s family; second, that the family has become rich after having been poor before and at the time of marriage; third, her having no father or mother living to receive her. She is thus protected, in some measure, from her husband’s caprice. If she commit adultery, however, he dare not retain, but must dismiss her. If she abscond against his will, she may be severely flogged; if she commit bigamy, she is strangled. When a man leaves his home, his wife must remain in it three years before she can sue for a divorce, and then give notice of her intention before a public tribunal. It is forbidden, under peremptory enactments, to harbour a fugitive wife or female servant.

A man finding his wife in the act of adultery may kill her with her paramour, provided he does it immediately, but only on that condition. If the guilty wife adds to her crime by intriguing against her husband’s life, she dies by a slow and painful execution. If even the adulterer slay her husband without her knowledge, she is strangled. The privilege of putting a wife to death is not allowed for any inferior offence. To strike a husband, is punishable by a hundred blows and divorce; to disable him, with strangulation. In all these circumstances the inferior wife is punished one degree more severely. Thus offences against them are less harshly, and offences by them more rigidly, chastised. In addition to these legal visitations the bamboo is at hand to preserve discipline among the women.

One of the laws of China exhibits a peculiar feature of depravity in the people. It is enacted, that whoever lends his wife or daughter upon hire is to be severely punished, and any one falsely bargaining away his wife or his sister is to be similarly dealt with. All persons consenting to the transaction share the penalty. Nor is this an obsolete enactment against an unknown crime. Instances do not unfrequently occur of poor men selling their wives as concubines to their wealthier neighbours. Others prostitute them for gain; but these instances of profligacy usually occur in the large and crowded cities. Sometimes the woman consents, but sometimes also opposes the infamous design.

In 1832 a woman was condemned to strangulation for killing her husband by accident, while resisting an adulterer whom he had introduced for her to prostitute herself to him. These incidents occur only in the lowest class. Some men are as jealous as Turks, and maintain eunuchs to guard their wives.

Under this system many restrictions are imposed on the women of China. They form no part of what is called society, enjoying little companionship, even with persons of their own sex. Those of the better class are instructed in embroidering and other graceful but useless accomplishments. They are seldom educated to any extent, though some instances have occurred of learned women and elegant poetesses, who have been praised and admired throughout the country. Fond of gay clothes, of gaudy furniture, and brilliant decoration, they love nothing so much as display; and though assuming a demure and timid air, cannot be highly praised on this account, for their bashfulness is, in such cases, more apparent than real. Still they are generally described as faithful partners. Religious services are performed for them in the temple, to which women are admitted. The wives of the poorer sort labour in the fields, and perform all the drudgery of the house, an occupation which is held as suited to their nature. “Let my daughter sweep your house” is the expression made use of in offering a wife. It should be mentioned, however, to relieve the darkness of this picture, that husbands often present offerings at the temples, with prayers to the gods for the recovery of their sick wives. The idea may indeed suggest itself, that this is with a view to economy, as girls are costly purchases; but no man is the greater philosopher for asserting that a whole nation exists without the commonest sentiments of human nature. Indeed, many instances occur even in China of husbands and wives living as dear friends together, especially when polygamy has not been adopted in the dwelling. The obedience to old habits is not to be confounded with characteristic harshness in the individual; nor does it seem impossible, when we examine the variety of manners in the world, to believe in a strong and tender attachment between a man and the woman whom, in adherence[133] to ancient usage, he would not allow to eat at the same table with himself. A privilege belongs to the female sex here which it enjoys in no other barbarian country. A strong authority is recognised in the widow over her son. She is acknowledged to have the right to be supported by him, and it is a proverbial saying, that “a woman is thrice dependent—before marriage on her father, after marriage on her husband, when a widow on her son.”

From this view of the condition of women, and the regulations of marriage, we proceed to an important part of the subject—the infanticide for which China has been so infamously celebrated. It is impossible to conceive a more contradictory confusion of statements, than we have seen put forward with reference to this question. Weighing the various authorities, however, we are inclined to adopt a moderate view, rejecting the extravagant pictures of one, and the broad denials of the other set of writers. Infanticide, it cannot be disputed, is practised in the country, and to a considerable extent; but it is, and always will be impossible, to acquire the exact statistics, or even an approximation to the precise truth.

Two causes appear to have operated in encouraging this practice—the poverty of the lower classes, and the severity of the law with respect to the illicit intercourse of the sexes. The former is the principal cause. There is a strong maternal feeling in the woman’s breast, and children are only destroyed when the indigence of the parents allows no hope of rearing them well. It is invariably the female child which is, under these circumstances, slain; for the son can always, after a few years, earn his livelihood, and be an assistance, instead of a burden, to the family. The birth of a female child is regarded as a calamity, and brings mourning into the house. One of the national proverbs expresses this fact in a striking manner, exhibiting also the inferior estimation in which that sex is viewed. It says, that to a female infant a common tile may be given as a toy, while to a male a gem should be presented.

When it is determined to destroy the offspring thus born under the roof of poverty, a choice of method is open. It may be drowned in warm water; its throat may be pinched; it may be stifled by a wet cloth tied over its mouth; it may be choked by grains of rice. Another plan is to carry the child, immediately after its birth, and bury it alive. Captain Collins, of the Plover sloop-of-war, relates that some of his company, while visiting the coast of China, saw a boat full of men and women, with four infants. They landed and dug two pits, in which they were about to inter their living but feeble victims, when they were disturbed. They then made off rapidly, and passed round a headland, beyond which they, no doubt, accomplished their purpose without interruption. When the missionary Smith was in the suburbs of Canton, in 1844, he was presented by a native with a work written by a mandarin, and published gratuitously at the expense of government, to discourage the practice of infanticide. When questioned upon the actual prevalence of the custom, the native said that, taking a circle with a radius of ten miles from the spot they then occupied, the number of infanticides within the space thus included would not exceed five hundred in a year. It was confined to the very poor, and originated in the difficulty of rearing and providing for their female offspring. The rich never encouraged, and the poor were ashamed, of the practice. He knew men who had drowned their daughters, but would not confess the act, speaking of their children as though they had died of disease. In Fokien province, on the contrary, infanticides were numerous. At a place called Kea-King-Chow, about five days’ journey from Canton, there were computed to be 500 or 600 cases in a month. The comparative immunity of Canton from the contagion of this crime was the government foundling-hospital established there. About 500 female children, born of parents in poverty and want, were annually received, to have temporary provision and sustenance. From time to time, the more wealthy merchants and gentry visit the institution to select some of the children, whom they take home to educate as concubines or servants. The hospital has accommodation for at least 1000 infants, each of which is usually removed after three months, either to the house of some voluntary guardian, or to wet nurses in other districts. This is the only important institution of the kind in the province. Infanticide is still, even by the most favourable accounts, lamentably prevalent. The foundling-hospitals, of which there is one in every great town, do certainly oppose a check to the practice. That at Shanghae receives annually about 200 infants.

The villagers in the neighbourhood of Amoy confessed that female infanticide was generally practised among them, and their statements were expressed in a manner which left no doubt that they considered it an innocent and proper expedient for lightening the evils of poverty. Two out[134] of every four, they said, were destroyed; but rich people, who could afford to bring them up never resorted to, because they never needed, such a means of relief. Some killed three, four, or even five out of six; it depended entirely on the circumstances of the individual. The object was effected immediately after the infant’s birth. If sons, however, were born in alternate succession, it was regarded as an omen of happy fortune for the parents, and the daughters were spared. None of the villagers denied to any of their questioners the generality of the custom, but few would confess personally to the actual fact. In some districts one-half was reported as the average destruction of the female population, and in the cities some declared the crime was equally prevalent, though we may take this as the exaggeration which always attends the loose statements of ignorant men, who, having little idea of figures, are required to furnish a number, and speak at random.

Infanticide, however, is not wholly confined to the poor. It is occasionally resorted to by the rich to conceal their illicit amours. In 1838 a proclamation against it was published, but the general perpetration of the crime rendered its repression impossible, with such machinery as the Emperor has at his command. Abeel calculated that throughout a large district, the average was 39 per cent. of the female children. It is evident, however, from all these facts, that under an improved government, the crime might be altogether extinguished, not by severe enactments or vigilant police, but by rendering infanticide unnecessary in the eyes of the people.

The second cause which induces parents to destroy their children is the stringency of the law against the illicit intercourse of unmarried people; its provisions are equally characteristic and severe. To render its enforcement easier, the separation of the sexes is rigidly insisted upon. Not only are servants, but even brothers and sisters, prohibited from mixing except under regulation. Intercourse by mutual consent is punished with 70 blows, while with married people the penalty varies from 80 to 100. Violation of a female, wedded or single, is punished by strangulation. An assault, with intent to ravish, by 100 strokes of the bamboo and perpetual banishment to a remote spot. Intercourse with children under twelve years of age is treated as rape. Should a child be born from one of these unlawful intrigues, its support devolves on the father; but if the transaction be thus far concealed, this evidence of it is usually sunk in the river, or flung out by the way-side. An unmarried woman found pregnant is severely punished, whether her accomplice can be discovered or not. The illicit intercourse of slaves with their masters’ wives or daughters is punished with death; while officers of government, civil and military, and the sons of those who hold hereditary rank, if found indulging in criminal intrigues with females under their jurisdiction, are subjected to unmerciful castigation with the stick.

One grace is accorded to the weaker sex in China. No woman is committed to prison, except in capital cases, or cases of adultery. In all others they remain, if married, in the custody of their husbands; if single, in that of their friends. No woman quick with child can be flogged, tortured, or executed, until a hundred days after her delivery.

Women, however, of the poorer orders, whose friends do not care, or are unable, to be responsible for them, are lodged under the care of female wardens, and in reference to this we may instance a curious fact illustrative of prison discipline in China. In 1805 one of the great officers of government made a report to the Emperor, that three female warders of the prison were in the habit of engaging with traders in an illicit and disgraceful intercourse with female servants, and hiring out the female prisoners, not yet sentenced or waiting for discharge, to gain money for them by prostitution.

Sensual as the Chinese are, the punishable breach of the moral law—the intercourse of unmarried persons—is checked by the system of early marriages. Children are often betrothed in the cradle. Men seldom pass the age of twenty, or girls that of fifteen, in celibacy. The Parsees, however, of all ages, are notorious for their abandoned mode of life.

Prostitution, however, prevails to a prodigious extent. There is throughout the country a regular traffic in females. “Seduction and adultery,” says Williams, “are comparatively unfrequent; but brothels and their inmates occur everywhere on land and water. One danger attending young girls going alone is, that they will be stolen for incarceration in these gates of hell.”

This is in allusion to a very extraordinary system prevalent in the great cities of China. In 1832 it was calculated there were between 8000 and 10,000 prostitutes having abodes in and about Canton. Of these the greater portion had been stolen while children, and compelled to[135] adopt that course of life. Dressed gaily, taught to affect happiness, and trained in seductive manners, they were examples of their class in Europe. Many young girls were carried away, forcibly violated, and then consigned to a brothel.

Hundreds of kidnappers, chiefly women, swarmed in the city, gaining a livelihood by the traffic in young girls and children. Nor was this the only way in which such places were supplied. In times of general scarcity or individual want, parents have been seen leading their own daughters through the streets and offering them for sale. The selling of children, says Cunynghame, one of the most recent visitors to Canton, is an every-day occurrence, and is on the whole a check upon infanticide. The little victims are seen constantly passing on their way to the habitations of their purchasers gaily dressed out as though for some great ceremony or happy festival. Of these, indeed, some are disposed of as concubines, but many also are deliberately sold to be brought up as prostitutes. It is looked upon as a simple mercantile transaction, the children being transferred at once to the brothels, whence they are hired out for the profit of their masters. Some of those who are deserted or exposed to perish are reserved by the agents for these places; but the principal supply is brought by kidnappers. Proclamation after proclamation has been issued to complain of them, but with little effect. The system appears rather on the increase than otherwise.

The children thus purchased or picked up in the streets are educated with care, taught to play on various kinds of instruments, to dance, to sing, to perform in comedies or pantomimes, and to excel in many graceful accomplishments, which render them agreeable. They are often richly clothed, and adorned in such a way as to render them most attractive to the roués of Canton and Peking.

They do not often compress their feet, as it is a hindrance to their movements, but may be seen in the streets occasionally—though not often—with painted faces, looking boldly at the strangers who pass along. Of the houses they frequent we have no particular description; but they probably resemble much similar places of resort in civilized countries. A peculiar feature of China, however, is displayed in the floating brothels, which are the chief habitations of the prostitutes. Licentious as the native of that empire is in the general turn of his ideas, he makes a public display of his indulgence in those pleasures which in Europe men affect, at least, to conceal from general view. The floating brothels of the Pearl River are moored in conspicuous situations, and distinguished from the other boats by the superior style of their structure and decorations. The surface of the stream, indeed, is studded with beautiful junks, which are the first objects to attract the traveller’s eye as he approaches the provincial city of Canton. Comparatively few of the women parade the streets, except when they form part of a public procession, so that there is at least in the heart of the town an appearance of morality.


[From Alexander’s “Illustrations of China.”]

Many of these brothel junks are called Flower Boats, and are resorted to by numbers of the class. They form, indeed, whole streets in the floating city on the Pearl River, which is one of the most remarkable features of Canton. The prostitutes themselves, like all women of the same sisterhood, lead a life of reckless extravagance—plunging while they can into all the exciting pleasures which are offered by their particular mode of life, careless of the future, and eagerly snatching at anything which may release them from the change of dulness or time for reflection. Diseases are very prevalent among them, and cause much havoc among the men who frequent their boats or houses. They endeavour to cure themselves by means of drugs and medicinal draughts, and by this means concentrate the malady upon some secret vital part, whence it shoots through the frame, but does not manifest itself until the victim is all but destroyed. With the exception of an unusual paleness and a heated appearance in the eyes, the prostitutes do not wear the aspect of disease; but they, indeed, paint themselves inordinately to mask the ravages of time or the maladies which afflict them.

The prostitutes of Canton are usually congregated in companies or troops, each of which is under the government of a man who is answerable for their conduct—if they rob, or disturb the peace, or commit any gross offence against decency, or perpetrate any other offence. National delicacy, however, has little to do with the prohibitions which restrain them from entering certain parts of the city, and forbid young men of rank and influence to hold intercourse with them. The brothel junks, of lofty build, brightly painted, and glittering with gaudy variegated flags, float in squadrons on the water, are seen and known by all, and are resorted to by numbers of the citizens. Persons pass to and from them without an attempt at disguise or conceal[136]ment. Rich men, on festive occasions, make up a party of pleasure, embark in a gaily-decorated boat, send to one of the prostitute junks, engage as many of the women as they please, and spend the day in amusement with them. It is openly done, and no disgrace attaches to it. The junks themselves are fitted up in the interior—according to the class of prostitutes inhabiting them—with all the appurtenances of luxury, and on board them is a perpetual gala. It would be interesting to know how many of these boats are known to float on the Pearl River, with the average number of prostitutes in each.

But this is not the only, or the most offensive form which prostitution assumes in China. An incident which occurred at Shensee a few years ago illustrates another system, which is clandestine, though apparently carried on to a considerable extent. A young widow resided there with her mother-in-law, supporting herself and her companion by the wages of prostitution. At length her occupation failed her; she was deserted by her associates, and could procure no more rice or money by the pursuit of her vicious calling. The elder woman, however, would not hear of these excuses, ordered her daughter-in-law to obtain her usual supplies from the man she had last cohabited with, and on her declaring her inability, began to flog her. The prostitute defended herself, and at last, taking up a sickle, struck her relative dead. She was seized, tried, and condemned to be cut in pieces for the crime; but as her mother-in-law had been guilty of an illegal act in forcing her to prostitute herself, the sentence was changed to decapitation.

It is to be regretted that our sources of information on this subject are not more copious. Travellers have had opportunities of communicating more, but have refrained from doing so. We wait for a separate and full account of prostitution in China[75].