Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

secondly, his natural bent, or, thirdly, his opportunities; then let him get a slight knowledge of what else is worth it, regulated in his choice by the same three circumstances, which should also determine in great measure where an elementary and where a superficial knowledge is desirable. Grammar, logic, rhetoric and metaphysics (or the philosophy of mind) are manifestly studies of an elementary nature, being concerned about the instruments which we employ in effecting our purposes; and ethics, which is, in fact a branch of metaphysics, may be called the elements of conduct. Such knowledge is far from showy. Elements do not much come into sight, they are like that part of a bridge which is under water, and is, therefore, least admired though not the work of least art and difficulty.

We could not more fitly conclude these few stray gleanings from Archbishop Whately's interesting annotations to Bacon's Essays, than by quoting, for our own warning in our daily walk, a part of the concluding annotation on the Essay "Of Custom and Education." "I wish," says the Archbishop, "I could feel justified in concluding without saying anything of Bacon's own character; without holding him up as himself, a lamentable example of practice at variance with good sentiments, and sound judgment, and right precepts. He thought well and he spoke well; but he had accustomed himself to act very far from well. And justice requires that he should be held up as a warning beacon, to teach all men an important lesson; to afford them a sad proof that no intellectual power, no extent of learning, not even the most pure and exalted moral sentiments confined to theory, will supply the want of a diligent and watchful conformity in practice to Christian principle. All the attempts that have been made to vindicate Bacon's moral conduct tend only to lower, and to lower very much, the standard of virtue. He appears but too plainly to have been worldly, ambitious, covetous, base, selfish, and unscrupulous; and it is remarkable that the Mammon which he served proved but a faithless master in the end. He reached the highest pinnacle, indeed, to which his ambition had aimed, but he died impoverished, degraded, despised, and broken-hearted. His example, therefore, is far from being at all seductive. let no one therefore undervalue or neglect the lessons of wisdom which his writings may supply, and which we may through Divine grace turn to better account than he did himself. It would be absurd to infer that because Bacon was a great philosopher, and far from a good man, therefore

But

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

you will be the better man for keeping clear of his philosophy. His intellectual superiority was no more the cause of his moral failures than Solomon's wisdom was of his. You may be as faulty a character as either of them was without possessing a particle of their wisdom, and without seeking to gain instruction from it. The intellectual light which they enjoyed did not indeed keep them in the right path; but you will not be the more likely to walk in it if you quench any light that is afforded you. C. L. R.

دو

Revelations of Prison Life, with an Enquiry into Prison Discipline and Secondary Punishments. By GEORGE LAVAL CHESTERTON, twenty-five years Governor of the House of Correction at Cold Bath Fields. Hurst and Blacket, London, 1856. 2 vols. 8vo.

An honest autobiography always possesses both interest and instruction. This is the case whether it be personal or professional. Mr. Chesterton's work is an honest autobiography of the professional kind, with much of the personal intermixed. It bears internal evidence of sincerity and outspoken candour. It introduces us to a gentleman discharging duties of almost an offensive nature, with firmness which degenerates not into tyranny, and with benevolence which never relaxes into weakness. When Mr. Chesterton accepted the office of governor to the great metropolitan prison, he found it a sink of iniquity, "a cage of impure birds." The warders carried on illicit commerce in every species of luxury, with prisoners who could afford to pay for them. Individual warders acknowledged that their gains from these perquisites amounted to £450 a year. The cells in the basement were converted into convenient cellar room for tobacco, wine, spirits, &c., which were doled out at extortionate prices. To the poor prisoner incarceration was a real punishment, for he enjoyed none of these things, and if he was not utterly corrupted, the promiscuous intercourse of the prison wards was sure to make him so. To the swell-mob's-man, or to the member of any gang who could supply means to an incarcerated comrade, a term of punishment only represented a period of enforced idleness, solaced by expensive de

bauchery. In the roofs of the building, male and female prisoners had easy nightly access to each other, through the venal connivance of the turnkeys; and when a swell-mob'sman, whose success in depradation rendered him flush of money, was brought to undergo his sentence, he was met at the gate by one of the turnkeys with a hearty shake of the hand: "How do you do? how long have you got? we will take excellent care of you."

Mr. Chesterton set himself earnestly at work to reform the most glaring and injurious of these mal-practices; and the feelings of revenge he excited were so strong, that he was obliged to carry loaded pistols night and day. By slow degrees he effected the removal of his corrupt and treacherous turnkeys. It appears that he was unable to discharge a turnkey, no matter how glaring the misconduct or gross the neglect which had been committed. The dismissals were made by the visiting justices after the crime had. been proved; and so well organised was the combination of the corrupt turnkeys against the governor, so slow and difficult their removal, that the new turnkeys introduced into the midst of the vicious system, were rapidly infected with the vices of the place, and the progress of reform was hardly perceptible.

Mr. Chesterton's pages leave an impression upon the reader of the utter hopelessness of any attempts to reform habitual vice. Of drunkenness, he says, referring to the strange history of a young woman of good parentage, who had become a street-walker of the most degraded class, in consequence of her uncontrollable habits of intemper

ance.

"This disclosure presented one of my earliest insights into the all-absorbing and scarcely credible influence of the passion for ardent spirits; and afterexperience taught me the utter hopelessness of reform, (especially in the female character,) when once that accursed craving had assumed a chronic form. No earthly consideration would seem equal to arrest the mastery of that unappeasable vice. In its vortex, every moral and social obligation becomes alike engulfed. The comforts of home, the advantages of station, or the sanctity of kindred, even of maternal ties, prove insufficient barriers against the inroads of that fatal thirst. It drowns all reflection, and plunges its willing votary into any excess of crime and dishonour for its own insatiate gratification."

The habitual thief also, he believes, is rarely, if ever reformed; in his midnight walks through the gaol corridors, he frequently heard plans for the commission of further offences, ardent longings for freedom to indulge a crime which had become a propensity. On such an occasion, he has heard a youth exclaim, "Lord, how I do love thieving, if I had thousands I would still be a thief."

"Another young miscreant openly professed his intention to seize the earliest opportunity to commit an abandoned crime, for he swore by a variety of obscene oaths, it was his ambition to assay every species of wickedness that he could possibly commit." This, and other examples with which the work abounds, will suggest to the reflecting psychologist that nothing can be more unsafe, nothing can be more untrue, than to attribute the invincible propensity to crime, and the most monstrous perversion of human instincts to mental disease. A physician of benevolent disposition, who has only studied the features of insanity, and compared them with the healthy manifestations of the wellconducted members of society, will, in the astonishment which the gaunt and distorted features and characteristics of crime for the first time present to him, be liable to to mistake them for the result of disease. The study, therefore, of books like the one under our consideration, is essential to the information and culture of the alienist expert; for unless he knows the monstrous depths of iniquity, devotion to criminal indulgence, recklessness, and perverse preference of evil to good, which are capable of existing in whole classes of criminals, which may be reckoned upon as the natural results of a certain mode of life, he will never be able to distinguish the excesses of the criminal from those of the lunatic.

The distinctive classification which prevails among criminals is remarkable; for, although some rarely gifted individuals would be found to figure in turn under all the denominations of crime, still, as a rule, each one kept to his own line, and the frequent re-commitments of the same person were for repeated perpetrations of the same offence. Thus, the burglar, the pickpocket, the area sneak, the begging-letter impostor, and the termagant prostitute, kept to their distinctive phases of violence and craft. "One vice, however, was more or less conspicuous amongst all classes, and the debauchery universally prevailing, most generally resulted in confirmed drunkenness. Riotous behaviour, assaults, and wilful damage, were consequently fruitful causes of incarceration, and the recent felon became entitled to a less penal sentence, and thus it happened that vast numbers were in the course of time occupants of every ward in the prison.'

[ocr errors]

It does not appear, however, that the hopelessness "of habitual thieves and systematic evil-doers" extends to first or casual offenders. Boileau indeed says:

66

دو

"Dans le crime il suffit qu'une fois on debute; "Une chute toujours attire une antre chute.' But the experience of Mr. Chesterton agrees with that of all other prison authorities, in rejecting the sombre opinion of the French Juvenal. A casual lapse from virtue and rectitude was constantly and frequently known to be followed by a life free from imputation of guilt. For many years 33 per cent. was the steady rate of re-commitments to the Cold Bath Fields Prison, and this ratio we understand Mr. Chesterton to indicate as that existing between the casual and the systematic offenders. He says, however, that there is a larger proportion of hopeful subjects among the men than among the women; so very many of the latter, under whatever form of conviction, belong to the loose order. Although during their residence they gave a steady adherence to the rules, became expert and industrious workwomen, and exhibited a thousand good qualities, but then, alas! as the hour of their release approached, they testified to the restless excitement of their former course, and discarded the forced sobriety of their late existence." They came back again to prison, despite the counsels and recommendations of the chaplain, and the lavish patronage of the lady visitors. They came again, "sometimes under protracted sentences, but more assuredly under summary conviction." Mr. Chesterton, however, gives one pleasing instance of reformation in which he assisted-that of Georgina Harrison, who supported herself by needlework which she obtained from the prison. She had, however, been attacked by paralysis. Mr. Chesterton remarks upon the torpid indifference which characterises this class. In the last moments of one who had been committed upwards of a hundred times. She asked him, "What harm had she done?" "Many of them were in the habit of professing penitence to obtain a winter asylum, only to emerge and roam at large when summer returned, to render their life endurable." There must, however, be very wide differences in the mode of life of this class of females; for, if we remember rightly, Mr. Acton gives a very different account of the frequent termination of their career. We apprehend that in Mr. Chesterton's examples, prostitution was associated with habitual drunkenness and violence, but that this association is by no means constant, or even frequent, in the less degraded members of the class.

In 1832, the cholera made its appearance in the wards of a prison over-crowded by the greatest number of commit

« ForrigeFortsæt »