Page images

The People's Concert Society was founded in 1878, and since then has done good work. Twenty-nine concerts (the object being "to increase the popularity of good music by means of cheap concerts ") were given in the winter and early spring of 1882. "Sixteen of these," we quote from the society's report, "were given at the South Place Institute, Finsbury, at first on alternate, afterwards on successive Sunday evenings. The hall, which seats over nine hundred persons, was invariably filled by an attentive audience, the same people coming regularly Sunday after Sunday long before the doors were open to secure their seats; many were unavoidably turned away for want of standing room. Next in importance were the concerts at Chelsea, of which seven were given in the Vestry Hall. Although not self-supporting, this series was encouraging on account of the large proportion of penny tickets sold." When it is stated that these concerts are chiefly of chamber music, and that the pieces performed were by Beethoven, Mozart, Corelli, Brahms, Schubert, Haydn, Boccherini, &c., it will not be thought surprising that they could scarcely pay their expenses, but rather that large and appreciative audiences of the lower classes should greedily snatch at the grave musical and intellectual treat thus proffered them. Another noticeable feature is the popularity of Sunday concerts, showing plainly what an admirable preventive effect these have in keeping people out of public-houses, and from loitering idly at street corners. Miss Florence Hill has inaugurated some pleasant Sunday evenings for the people in the schoolroom in Little Lichfield Street. The room is open after evening service; tea, books, illustrated papers, and music are provided, and admission is free, and the attempt has answered well. The working-men's club at Lime Grove, which is open every evening from seven to eleven o'clock, have concerts every Saturday evening to which admission is 1d. or 2d. The room is crammed with an audience of working men and women, lads and girls, who are most appreciative and well conducted, one of the principal attractions being the joining in chorus on every available opportunity. These concerts are now being carried on by the men themselves, with occasional assistance from ladies and gentlemen. The men elect their own committee, and have a paid secretary. The success of a music-hall in the New Kent Road, Southwark, entirely managed on temperance principles, and originating in an experiment tried by Mr. Palmer, of Reading, deserves to be chronicled here. It is in the hands of a society called the Self-Help, the number of whose members is now 1,500. The price of admission to the musichall is 1d., and the programme is included in the penny. The entertainment is that of the better class music-hall. The City Police band are allowed to play there occasionally, as also the Polytechnic orchestral band, and every Saturday a concert is given. Artisans and their wives troop in to enjoy themselves soberly, and

the number of young men members goes on steadily increasing. For the price of 1d. the concert cannot be self-supporting, but there is little doubt that, were the price raised to 2d. or 3d., this result could be obtained. At any rate here is hope for private charity. Concerts given on Sunday evenings would be sure to attract. The Victoria Music-Hall likewise still holds its own in one of the very poorest parts of London. It is desirable that every effort should be made to develop the musical taste, to encourage part-singing and choir practice. Girls could be taught in their club or recreationrooms, and music would then become a solace to the unhappy and a joy to the light-hearted; for "music expresses aspirations that words cannot express," and affords scope for the development of man's spiritual needs and for the perception of divine and beautiful emotions. And let me plead also for the needs of the children, whose bodies in the present system of hothouse education we too often neglect for the sake of their overstocked minds. The children of the poor rarely play; they do not know how to play, and they have neither the knowledge nor the appliances to learn. The first requisite is naturally space, and many a child's life is divided between school and home, consisting of one or two close rooms, and the gutter. When, however, playgrounds are given them (and gradually this is being done) they do not understand how to appreciate the advantages; they wander along listlessly or rush wildly and dangerously about. Organised and superintended games in these playgrounds are sorely needed-a kind of kindergarten discipline to show children what they can do for themselves, and what a science even pleasure may become. Swinging, gymnastics, ball-playing, rhythmic dances, prisoners' base, Tom Tiddler's ground, singing in chorus, even storytelling, or a game of cricket or football where there is sufficient room, may be encouraged and organised. Children left to themselves are apt to wrangle and fall out; the little ones get bullied by the older ones; the big boys fight, and quarrels take the place of happy recreation. The school-board managers are well aware of this, and would open their large playgrounds on Saturday afternoons if only proper people would volunteer to superintend the children.' An attempt of this kind has been made by the Rev. A. Jephson, vicar of St. John's, Waterloo Road. He says, "A small playground for children has been erected on a vacant piece of ground in St. John's churchyard, in which a giant stride and a swing have been put up. There is a gardener attached to the ground, and he keeps order in the playground. There are no rules and regulations, except those usually in vogue at the games played by the children. It is desired to erect a gymnastic apparatus for men, but the requisite funds are not forth

(1) The Metropolitan Public Garden and Playground Association, through their chairman, offered to present the London School Board with a gymnasium for boys and one for girls at the cost of £400. The offer was accepted, and the School Board have appointed a Standing Committee on Physical Education.

coming." The Saturday afternoons, so precious for health and happiness, would be far more fruitful of results were such gymnasia common. Young men need exercise and games as much as children, especially those clerks and shopmen who are engaged during the week in sedentary employments under the depressing influences of close air and hot rooms. The experiment of gymnasia and cricketgrounds for the poor has as yet been scarcely tried, and is of great importance.

What we principally need is a general recognition of the fact that pleasure is a moral duty, and as necessary to man's perfect and wholesome development as work; coupled with this a stronger public opinion, which must create the desire to promote all innocent recreations, and to organise a scheme of amusement by which people can be taught what is pleasure, how to get and how to value it. Once the national recognition of man's need for pleasure becomes a fact, the supply of pleasure will be equal to the demand, and the stream of tendency will be quietly guided into the right channel. There seems no reason to doubt that amusements can be made elevating and yet self-supporting, and eventually by encouraging habits of thrift and economy, and diffusing a higher standard of moral duty, advantageously relieve the rates. There is an obligation laid upon the educated and the holders of property not to stand aloof, inert, wrapped in a mantle of selfish indifference, for if they have acquired political interests and rights, they are also bound by social interests and duties. One of the deterrents to enthusiasm may be found in the fact that it does not pay to be a social reformer. He cannot be a party man, for he must view the subject from a wider and more catholic standpoint; he is of no value to a Government, rather a thorn in its side, and he can expect neither honours nor promotion. Therefore practically what is everybody's business is nobody's business, and as the State cannot and will not interfere, such things are left to the spasmodic and characteristic attempts of private charity. And the inadequacy and waste of charity which is not conducted on some system is every day more apparent. The various suggestions here given would, no doubt, entail an enormous expenditure of money and patience. The money would probably be returned in time with interest; the patience must be its own reward. But there are numbers of people to whom money is not of paramount value, and there are numbers on whom a sense of the tragedy of life presses with such an unbearable weight of sadness and despair that they would gladly do all in their power to alleviate, if only in the smallest degree, the ills caused by want of thought, the accumulation of capital in the hands of a minority, and the increasing struggle for life rendered inevitable by the remorseless results of a highly complex civilization. Let us endeavour to spend more time in righting the just balance of toil and pleasure, more money in recrea

tion, so that less need be spent in crime; let us inaugurate the advent of prevention rather than cure, as has already been done to some extent in medicine; let us train up healthy men and women instead of miserable, degraded criminals; let us empty our jails and reformatories, and fill our concert-rooms and our picture-galleries; let laughter reign in the place of sullen defiance, and let us not refuse to acknowledge the inexorable aspirations of humanity and the entreaties of heart and brain crying out for legitimate satisfaction. VIOLET GREVILLE.


There was never a time when men, engaged in the assertion of their rights, were in so much danger of neglecting their duties. The partisan cries of the rights of capital, the rights of labour, the rights of landholders, and the rights of those who have no land, are for ever ringing in our ears, but of duties we are told little or nothing. In proportion as women have escaped the dangerous influences of such social warfare, their hearts have remained more tender, their sympathies greater, their affectionate instincts keener. The rights of woman, as enumerated by her political champions, would be dearly purchased indeed if achieved at the expense of any departure from that steadfast devotion to duty that has hitherto been the noblest trait in woman's character. We see in men the dangers which beset the tendency to take more interest in rights than duties, and its brutalising results. If we honestly desire that future generations should enjoy the blessings of the softening and purifying influence of woman, we should be at least as zealous in encouraging her to devote herself to duty as we are in teaching her to aspire after rights.

In no class of life is woman's influence of graver importance than among the artisan class, and yet, by a strange anomaly, among no class is less attention paid to her proper training for the position of wife and mother. The fact that so many workmen's wives, notwithstanding this disadvantage, perform their duties so well should inspire us with hope for the future of the class on which the prosperity of the country largely depends, and urge us to encourage every effort in the way of educating and training the wives and mothers of generations to come. That a proper appreciation of the position, responsibilities, and influence of woman is lamentably absent among the working classes, few even of those who are their most pertinacious apologists and sympathisers will venture to deny; and it would be an instructive, although a melancholy task, to trace out the


mischief and the misery that, while popularly attributed to other causes, is really the result of this lack of what may perhaps not improperly be called ideality. Little enough of the ideal enters into modern industrial life; men shrink from it as an element of weakness, and blindly worship the practical, forgetting that the best of all practical work is that produced in an idealistic spirit. It should be part of woman's work in every grade of life to assist men to keep idealities in view, to cleanse the hearts of men from the dross that rough contact in the battle of life is sure to leave behind. If such work were the sole task of woman's life, her duties would be onerous indeed; but how small a part is it of the sum-total of the life's work of an artisan's wife in any of our great cities! If we only took more pains to thoroughly realise the important part she has to play, the enormous influence it is possible for her to wield for evil or for good, the difficulties in her environment that she has to fight with, some of us might be led to take as much interest and care in her mental and moral training as we devote to the training of racehorses, cows, sheep, and dogs. It is to our disgrace that we allow wives of men and mothers of children to spend their lives in surroundings compared to which the stable of a Derby favourite is a palace. If the well-housed, well-fed, well-educated portion of the public, who express so much surprise and alarm at the drinking habits and other vices of the people, only paused to think how utterly unfitted the women among the poorer and working classes are to take up the responsibilities of wife and mother, they would rather be astonished that the intellectual and moral standard of those classes is not much lower than it is. We cannot do much to remedy the shortcomings and faults of the women of the present. The growth of many generations is not to be changed in a day; but we can do much to give the wives and mothers of the future a better chance of reaching the ideal womanly standard, and thereby making the world of work happier, brighter, purer, and more useful.

The more or less smartly-attired young girls we meet in the streets, hurrying to or from factories and workshops, are the future wives of the artisan class. They are the beings to whose care in the future the children of our great cities will be entrusted. Is it too much to say that in their hands will rest the well-being, the prosperity, and the greatness of our common country? For the honour of Great Britain and the happiness of her people are not exclusively or even chiefly in the hands of the monarch, statesmen, or political economists; they depend quite as much and more upon the character of the pitmen of Staffordshire, the weavers of Lancashire, the ironworkers of the Midlands, the shipwrights on the Clyde; and the humblest workman who drives a nail or carries a hod of mortar has it in his power to add in degree to his country's fame or shame. When we reflect that the workmen of the future, on whom so much depends, will

« PreviousContinue »