Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

men, is clearly a sound one. Grapple with them on morals. Instead of that, it bears the simple, exthe very earliest indications of their presence, and pressive title, “La Crèche”—The Mapger: suggestthey are perfectly within control; but leave them to ing at once a thought of the cradling of a certain fix themselves in evil habit, and, whether you try Babe at Bethlehem, the needs of whose infancy punishment or the persuasiveness of forbearance, have thrown a halo of sanctity about the wants of in their maturity you are powerless. And in what. all succeeding infaucy, and the utterauces of whose ever degree your machinery for the guardianship manhood have been recognised as the warrant for and guidance of early life approaches sufficiency the tenderest care of the little ones that men have and completeness, in that degree will society be ever shown. relieved of the annoyance and disgrace inflicted by The sort of character which such a name might those wlio in later years live by the violation of her seem to imply prevails throughout. There is a laws.

tone of gentleness perceptible through the whole These principles are followed out in some other management of the institution. It might have been countries of Europe even more efficiently than they quite otherwise ; for no ordinary amount of selfare in our own. During a recent visit to one of the control and good temper are requisite in those who leading capitals of the Continent, I saw them illus. undertake the care of other people's infants. Espetrated by an institution of a kind which is almost cially is this the case where they are grouped toge(but, I believe, not quite) without a parallel in this ther in considerable numbers. Take one individual country. The aim of this institution is to guard youngster of your acquaintance-say, of about four. and nurture children of the tenderest age during teen months old—a youth stout in limb and stenthose hours of the day in which their mothers are torian in lung, and think of the strain there must compelled, by the exigencies of the home, to leave be upon the patient good-humour of his nurse in their families, and earn the means of their sup- those trying moments when, in the teeth of all report in some industrial occupation. It pot an monstrance, he persists in clamouring for something educational establishment in the ordinary sense of which the very faintest sense of propriety would the word ; that is to say, its primary object is, show him he could ou no account be allowed to not to communicate knowledge—though that also have; waxing louder and more angry as the denial is done to some extent-but only to protect from becomes more firm; and finally, on becoming conevil, both of body and of character, those whose scious of an attempt to coax him into submission, childish helplessness leaves them peculiarly exposed extending himself defiantly at full length into that to its attacks. The doors of the house are accord posture of perfect rigidity in which, he seems well ingly open for the reception of any children between aware, the idea would be equally preposterous that the ages of ten days and seven years, whose parents he should either sit, stand, or lie. Multiply this may find it inconvenient or impossible to extend by about a hundred-throw in the consideration to them that guardianship and care which falls that by the time you have pacified one, another is most naturally within the province of a parent to morally certain to be ready for the same friendly bestow.

office at your hands—and you will have some conIt must not indeed be supposed that the institu- ception of the almost angelic character that should tion which I am about to describe is traceable to distinguish the officials of the Crèche. In the inany upprecedented ontburst of pbilanthropic feeling stitution under consideration, I am compelled to say in any particular locality: that it is, in fact, merely that the greatest judgment seems to have been dis. one of the eccentricities of cbarity. On the con played in their selection. The supreme authority of trary, it is but one example selected at random out the house is vested in a directress. She is a homely | of mauy similar establishments. It may therefore sort of dame, of about fifty years of age, who is

1 be fairly taken as the type of a whole class. In gifted with the faculty of administration in an emi. truth, it is but one of the members of a vast and nent degree. During my conversations with her Ii well-considered system, adopted by the government found that she was a clear-headed person, who had of the country for promoting the morality and well. a knowledge of all the minutest details of her house; " being of the people. Not that you can at all think and, what is in such an establishment almost of of this when first you visit such a house, for there more importance than her aptitude, I observed as is such an air of tenderness surrounding the whole we walked through the several apartments that conception of a stranger's acceptance of the duties she had a soft, motherly word, and a gentle little of a mother towards such tiny children, debarred attention, if needed, for every child that attracted from a natural mother's care, that it is quite in our notice. She is assisted by a governess and an possible, in presence of it, to think much of offices, assistant-governess, who are young women, welland statistics, and reports, and the routine of a informed, of cheerful manners, and belonging to Social Science Department in the government. The about the same class of society as the better sort very name of the institution seems almost designed of National schoolmistresses in this country. to dispel all such memories, for they do not call it addition to these, the personnel of the establishment by any grand high-soundling name, which might consists of three nurses, for those children who are indicate its exact place and functions in some care. too young to receive any instruction whatever, and fully graduated system of intluencing the public a servant to do the house-work.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In

[ocr errors]

The first room into which I was conducted was “Ninette.” This cradle, I was informed, was the a very large, airy, cheerful one, devoted to the gift of a military officer. He had an only child, youngest of all the inmates of the house, who lay over whom he had watched through a long sickness in very pretty light iron cradles, placed head to the in despair of her life. To his great comfort, the wall all round the room. It was a singular sen- child was ultimately restored to health ; and one sation to have a door flung open and find oneself expression of his thankfulness for this unexpected in an instant in the presence of about six-and-thirty mercy was here in this pretty iron cradle. cralles occupied by six-and-thirty tiny habies. The Moreover, it was impossible to look at the infants sight was utterly disturbing to all one's past im- themselves without reading a tale of misery in the pressious of the habits of humanity. Children, appearance of some of them. True, there were greater and smaller, who can be trusted upon their some plump little creatures lying upon their backs, own legs, are gregarious enough. We are quite kicking out their little fat legs, and crowing lustily familiar with laughing, prattling assemblages of in the first enjoyment of life. Such figures were them; but the baby proper is for the most part a immediately suggestive of the bright side of existsolitary animal, or to be seen only in groups of two ence-of health, and respectable, honest parents, or three at the most. Here, however, is really a and of well-ordered, happy, even though not formidable congregation of bona fide babies, cold wealthy, homes. But then there were many poor lected from all quarters-quite a fortuitous con- emaciated little starvelings, exhibiting thus early coarse of atoms, one of our party suggested—whose the seeds of inherited disease, and by their arrested anited ages would not exceed a few score months. growth manifesting the improbability of their ever

A cheerful room, as I have said, that baby-room developing into robust men and women. And this is meant to be. All that human brains could was the sad side of that infant population. One derise to make it so, has been done. The officials could hardly help believing that in some of these bave taken care-as everybody who has to bring up wasted forms there was the Nemesis of sin at children is bound to take care-that, so far as in work. One or two of them were actually pointed them lies, the earliest impressions made upon the out to me as the offspring of profligate and shamemind shall be happy and joyous ones. Accordingly less mothers, who brought their infants to the there is plenty of light and air, and space, and Crèche in the morning that their day of intoxication bright cheerful colour. But notwithstanding all, might be completely updisturbed. Some amongst that baby-room was to me on the whole a very sad them, again, were probably examples of that mys

mom It seemed to me crowded with the saddest terious law, by which the consequences of a 1. and most touching associations and memories that forefather's debauchery and vice, after slumbering

it was possible to bring together. The very fact through a generation or two, are said to break out that a room of such a nature could be open at all, afresh and be visited upon his children of the third tenibled me instantly of men who in the midst of and fourth generation. But, however, sufferers and toiling Lamanity must be feeling the severity of the hale alike, so long as they were in the Crèche, no yoke of labour to a degree that is quite exceptional. effort was spared to make them comfortable and In Leguage that could not be mistaken, such a happy: indeed, it was at times almost ludicrous to mom declared that there are men whose very see the exertions of the attendants for this end. hardest toil fails to yield a maintenance for their One of these much-euduring young women, for ex

bonnes. It told of the struggling widow, left in ample, I saw being victimised by a sturdy youngster 1

poverty with little strength and many children, of ten months, who was doing his best to pull her aad driven by their necessities and her own from nice white cap to pieces, and would not be even her legitimate sphere of occupation round her own moderately quiet on any other terms, while with bearth to earn a pittance away from home. Or, her unoccupied band she was extending his bottle sidest of all, it told of an anxious woman linked to a refractory young gentleman in a cradle. I to a dissipated, idle husband, and forced to sell for found it was quite superfluous to compassionate her zoney the labour of her hands that she may feed in the trying situation, for with unflagging good the children, whom their abandoned father would humour she laughingly replied, “It does not matter: leave to starve. The furniture of the room, too, I am quite accustomed to it." tu full of reminiscences of anxiety and sorrow. From this baby-room we passed into another, in Many of the cradles I observed were not numbered which those children were kept who were a stage - the ordinary way, but had written upon them more advanced in life. Its occupants varied in age wne endearing dame.

from about sixteen months to two and a half years. These had not been purchased by the institution The most conspicuous piece of furniture in this in the common routine of business, but had been room was an ingenious contrivance for teaching the given by charitable people--sometimes in memory children to stand and walk. It is a little difficult of a departed child of their own, sometimes as a sort to describe it thoroughly without the assistance of of tbank-offering for mercies they had received in a drawing, but some idea may be conveyed in this the persons of their children. One in particular way:—Take an ordinary school-room form with a attracted my notice. It was occupied by a chubby very broad seat, about twelve feet in length, having httle sleeper, and was inscribed with the pet name legs slightly pointing outwards, after the usual fashion, for the sake of stability, and these all destruction of paper with no other aim than to joined together by a wooden bar near the floor, to litter the floor, but it was the careful, deliberate give strength to the whole construction. Then in shaping of paper into all sorts of patterns and forms side these legs saw out all the central part of the with no other implement than the thumb and fora. seat, so as to leave only a broad rim of the form finger of a child's hand. Children are always fond standing on these legs. Into this central space the of tearing paper, and when done in this way it children are put, several together, with their arms ceases to be utterly meaningless. Moreover its over the rim, which thus supports the body just efficiency in preserving good humonr amongst chilunderneath the shoulders, and seems most effectual dren, when wearied out with everything else, proves in preventing falls. The children appeared de- it to be an art which might be introduced with lighted with this safe method of feeling their own advantage into many an English nursery. Its feet. Besides its very practical aim, this unique extreme simplicity renders it available for the very piece of furniture was evidently one of the most youngest children. It may be described thus. popular sources of entertaiument through the long Take a square of soft, pliant paper, a leaf of a castday during which these poor children had to be off copy.book, for example; if not too thick, double amused.

it into a triangle, then double it again two or three On the ground-floor of the house are two excel times, and then, with the thumb and finger-nail, lent school-rooms, in which the children who are snip out pieces in such shapes and directions as the old enough spend a portion of every day. These fancy may suggest. On unfolding the paper the rooms are fitted up with everything which can child is delighted at finding that he has turned ont render the acquisition of knowledge easy and at- a little mat of paper, often of very intricate pattern, tractive. In the rudimentary education of these and always captivating his eye by the necessary children many features are adopted from the sys- symmetry of its form. One or two experiments tem of teaching known as Froebel's. This system, cannot fail to open out new ideas to the child. I in its entirety, has been put in operation in a have in my possession a collection of these papers few cases only in this country, but in some parts which were done very rapidly in my presence by of Germany it is in great repute, the establish these poor children of five and six years old, and ments in which it is carried out being known by which I afterwards purchased from them. Some of the name of Kinder-garten. This name-Children's them are most elaborate and elegant in their design. Garden - of Froebel's own invention, sufficiently The inventors of patterns for our carpets, linens, indicates the main principle upon which his system and textile fabrics of every description are in the is based. Like many other things emanating from habit of resorting to the fortuitous combinations of men who give their whole life to one idea, it shape and colour in the kaleidoscope for their ideas. contains no doubt some features which are fanciful And of the infant art before us a somewhat similar and unpractical; but it is equally certain that in use may evidently be made. These paper figures many respects it is the product of a genuine appre- have the same recommendation which makes the ciation of child-nature and sound sense. Its aim forms of the kaleidoscope so valuable to designers. then is, not by any hard-grinding process to cram It is that they are perfectly symmetrical. By the the child's memory with facts about which it can aid of this simple device every lady may become feel no possible interest, but to induce the child to her own designer; and especially in the days when think a little in its own small way about its own the braiding of small table-mats is in vogue, she small subjects. But whether such a system might will find herself supplied with an endless variety of be successful, or merely visionary, if applied to suggestions for her work by a contrivance, whose education at large, it clearly is the very thing first aim was no higher than the keeping of her wanted in an institution where the indispensable children out of mischief. condition is that the children shall be amused. The greatest cleanliness prevailed throughout the

Amongst other apparatus, the materiel of the establishment. It required, as the clever directress school-room includes a large supply of thin, flexible, remarked, no small amount of watchfulness to strips of wood, about nine inches long and a quarter maintain a strict cleanliness of person and of dress of an inch in breadth. As a relaxation in the amongst a multitude of children two and three intervals of severer studies, a number of these strips years old. But still, she went on to say, it must are dealt out to each child, which they are taught be done. And accordingly it was done. An importo interlace into all sorts of geometrical figures. tant help to this end is doubtless to be found in the Their ingenuity is thus exercised in the invention fact, that every item of linen and clothing in use of new forms. One and all, they seemed to be very throughout the house is the property of the Com. intent upon the occupation, some of them displaying mittee of Management. Immediately on its arrival considerable aptitude for design, and most of them in the morning, every child is stripped of its own being able to name the several figures which they clothes, whether clean or foul, whole or tattered, constructed.

and dressed in the clothing of the institution, which Akin to this was an art which appeared to be in is removed again before departure in the evening. great request. It was the art of tearing up paper. This persistent determination of the managers, that I call it an art, for it was not the mere indolent every child shall be neat and wholesome while ander their charge, has worked a remarkable effect own, in much the same way as we do those things on the parents of some of the children. For the in England. In the first place, the institution has clothing which is taken off each of them on their a small capital, invested in Government securities, arrival is hung up throughout the day in a room and yielding about 20l. per annum. Then they set apart for the purpose. Now, before seeing have 300 to 400 subscribers, who give upwards this room, I must admit that I expected to find a of 1001. a year. The children's payments, morerather disagreeable exhibition in it. If some of the over, amount in the aggregate to a considerable children came from careful parents and tidy homes, sum; and some assistance is given from the purse others, I knew, came from very low and demoralised of the Sovereign, as well as by the national ones; and their own proper clothing would probably and municipal governments. The alms-box of the be a disgusting mass of filthy and tattered gar- house produces something, and special gifts from menta. Such, however, had been the moral influ. anonymous and other benefactors form a large item ence of this law of cleanliness in the Crèche, that in the year's receipts. The whole is eked out, as bot even one of the most degraded of those mothers it would be amongst ourselves, by concerts and had ventured to send her child there in discredit- lotteries and bazaars and dramatie performancee, able clothing. They were quite at liberty to do so and all the usual machinery for raising money for if they pleased. Yet I confess I was surprised to charitable purposes. see that in all that miscellaneous collection of gar- The establishment is administered by a council ments, emanating from homes of the most opposite of gentlemen, who undertake individually to visit characters, there was not one single set that was the house with tolerable frequency. But the open to challenge as being dirty and neglected. So regular and systematic visitation of it is entrusted much for the silent operation of moral influence. to a number of ladies, who take upon themselves

This indirect moral power of every circumstance each a week in turn. In reply to my inquiry is wisely kept in view by the managers in every whether these ladies had any voice in planning one of their arrangements. It would not be the arrangements of the house, the clever direcdifficult for them, if they thought it desirable to tress congratulated herself that no one of them do so, slightly to enlarge their funds, and to feed, had any power to issue any orders whatever clotbe, and house these poor children gratuitously. during her visit, for in that case, she sagaciously To do this, however, it is thought might have a observed, no business would ever be done at all ; demoralising effect both upon the parents and upon but she added, that if anyone who visited them the children themselves. It would be calculated to had any complaint to make against existing condiminish their self-respect, and to check the growth ditions, or any suggestion to offer with a view of all ideas of self-dependence. Accordingly no one to improved management, a book lay open on the is admitted into the Crèche without payment-a table for the entry of it, which book the gentlemen payment indeed sufficiently modest to be within of the council would have before them at their next the reach of all who really desire the benefit of meeting. I examined some pages of this book, and the institution, yet large enough to relieve the was not surprised to find that a long string of inparents of the pain of feeling that their children spectors and visitors had uniformly recorded their are being brought up by eleemosynary aid. The unqualified approval in it. I say I was not suramount of these payments varies according to the prised at this, for I paid two visits to the insti. age of the children. For the youngest of all, tution myself at different hours of the day without those who inhabit the baby-room, the amount is giving the slightest notice that I was coming. abaut twopence per day-no very extravagant re- Without reserve, hesitation, or delay, I was at once muneration for the custody, the feeding, the use admitted into the several apartments of the house ; and washing of linen, the bedding, and the doctor and though there had been no time for getting ing of an infant a few weeks old, from five o'clock things into show condition, I found the most in the morning until half.past eight in the evening. perfect order and cleanliness throughout the whole To meet the case of those motbers who can go establishment. out to work for only half the day, the regulations Another important feature in the constitution of

allow one-half of this amount to be paid for the such an undertaking is this. The children are | deposit of a child during half the day. The average admitted without distinction of religious creed :

attendance per day of children, older and younger, indeed, it would have been absurd to order this is about 120; and the whole expense of con otherwise ; for it is obvious that they are, with

ducting this large establishment, rent included, out exception, far too young to be able to under1. amounts to something less than 4001. a year. stand any of the points at issue between rival | It is only fair, however, to say that there are no systems of doctrine. Not, however, that religion

medical expenses included in this sum, inasmuch as is banished from the house. Quite the contrary : one of the physicians in the neighbourhood chari- it is prominent. The children are carefully taught tably undertakes to pay a daily visit to the Crèche about God and their relationship to Him as the without remuneration.

All-seeing Father, and about their duty in the The raising of the necessary funds is accom- world. They are taught, that is to say, those plished, with only one or two specialities of their fundamental notious of religion which are common to all modern systems alike, and which Clearly, therefore, in coming to a decision upon are in fact all that the infant mind is capable of the question, there is a disadvantage on either side grasping. Only the institution is not under the to be taken into account. On the side of the oppo. auspices of any particular denomination of religious nents of the Crèche, it is admitted that some chil. men ; nor is there any officially-appointed minister dren will not be reared and taken care of at all; of religion authorised to direct the religious exer- and this, it is also admitted, is an enormous evil. cises of the place, and made responsible for their On the other side it is claimed that, supposing the due conduct. The visits, however, of the ministers Crèche system to be perfectly worked ont, no of religion in the neighbourhood are gladly wel- child will be left to a chance nurture ; but it is at comed (I thought they even seemed to be expected), the same time admitted as a disadvantage, that and the Roman Catholic priest of the parish in some mothers will be induced by the facilities which the house is situated-a benevolent old offered by it to delegate their maternal duties, gentleman, full of kindness and sympathy-pays which they would not otherwise bave done. Neces. frequent visits, not with any professional intent, sarily, it will remain a matter of opinion which of but in the ordinary way of friendly patronage these two disadvantages is the greater. On the and encouragement. I think it is important to whole, it would seem the part of sound wisdom to notice these facts, as indications of an enlightened deal with the facts life as they actually are, and liberality of opinion with which Roman Catholic not as they ought be or might be, if every one countries are not generally credited in England. were a model of perfection in fulfilling the duties of In the country of which I am writing, the dominant his station. And the fact is simply this, that, proparty is unquestionably the Romanist; I believe test as loudly as you will, there will always be that, as to their individual convictions, the ma- some defaulters. There is not one of those who jority of the people who support and direct this discountenance these infant refuges but knows Crèche are Romanists; yet it is but just to them that, whether they flourish or are suppressed, there to say that they do not allow a diversity of religious will always be mothers uutrue to the maternal inprofession to narrow their sympathies with tem- stinct. Is it worth while then, to abandon the chilporal distress, or to cramp the freedom of their dren of such parents to their miserable fate, for the energies for succouring and bettering the condition sake of making a moral protest, which, whatever of those in want.

be its value or its partial influence, we are perfectly As might be expected, even so excellent an well assured can never be universally effectual? institution as the Crèche is not without its op- It cannot be worth while to do so, knowing, as we ponents. It is urged by those who do not agree do, that as a matter of fact, there are and will be with the principle of it, that one of the most young lives in jeopardy; it must be more consonant indefeasible obligations of life is the obligation of a with the duty, as well as the interest of a Christian mother personally to superintend the early growth community, to come forward and try in some of her offspring. There is an inviolable sacredness degree to mitigate the evil which parental negliabout her functions which forbids that they should gedce creates. This is a branch of a subject which be delegated to another, let the apparent advan- just now is touching English feeling to the quick. tages of doing so be what they may. And, conse- The public mind of England has lately been shocked quently, every facility that is afforded her of shift at finding how prevalent infanticide is amongst ing this responsibility from herself on to the us ; and thoughtful men have been puzzling themshoulders of others, involves an error of social selves to find out the causes which lead to the policy. Very true, reply the advocates of the commission of this crime with such extraordinary Crècle system ; it is admitted that the duty is as frequency. Probably it would be a mistake to imperative as you assert it to be. It is admitted, ascribe it to any single cause. But it is worth further, that that alone is a perfectly healthy con consideration whether one of the causes does not dition of society in which the duty of the mother is lie here: that in many departments of industry universally recognised and discharged by her. Yet there is a greater opening than formerly for female our experience proves to us that under existing cir- labour, while in that eager struggle for life that is cumstances, this is not the case. Some mothers now going on in England, women find themselves are compelled by their poverty to devote their compelled to supplement the earnings of a man by labour, not to the nurture of the infant, but to the the labour of their own hands. Now if the preearning of money ; others, again, are too ivdolent sence of an infant be, as is admitted, an impedior too infamous to give themselves any trouble ment to the labour of a woman, she has at once a about it. Some, that is to say, cannot, and others strong temptation to rid herself of the irksome will not, act up to their maternal duty. And it is burden. And on the other hand, if you can devise surely better and wiser for us to receive the child any legitimate organisation for sharing the burden dren of such into a well-organised place of refuge, with her, and leaving her hands, at any rate, perthan to leave them uncared for, either to perish fectly free to minister to her necessities, you thereby from neglect on the very threshold of life, or, if diminish the temptation for her to release herself they should escape this happier fate, to become in completely from the tie by violent and claodestine future years the pest and the disgrace of society.

Now it is precisely this which the Crèche

means.

« ForrigeFortsett »