The People of the Abyss eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 185 pages of information about The People of the Abyss.
Yesterday Dr. Wynn Westcott held an inquest at Shoreditch, respecting the death of Elizabeth Crews, aged 77 years, of 32 East Street, Holborn, who died on Wednesday last.  Alice Mathieson stated that she was landlady of the house where deceased lived.  Witness last saw her alive on the previous Monday.  She lived quite alone.  Mr. Francis Birch, relieving officer for the Holborn district, stated that deceased had occupied the room in question for thirty-five years.  When witness was called, on the 1st, he found the old woman in a terrible state, and the ambulance and coachman had to be disinfected after the removal.  Dr. Chase Fennell said death was due to blood-poisoning from bed-sores, due to self-neglect and filthy surroundings, and the jury returned a verdict to that effect.

The most startling thing about this little incident of a woman’s death is the smug complacency with which the officials looked upon it and rendered judgment.  That an old woman of seventy-seven years of age should die of self-neglect is the most optimistic way possible of looking at it.  It was the old dead woman’s fault that she died, and having located the responsibility, society goes contentedly on about its own affairs.

Of the “submerged tenth” Mr. Pigou has said:  “Either through lack of bodily strength, or of intelligence, or of fibre, or of all three, they are inefficient or unwilling workers, and consequently unable to support themselves . . .  They are often so degraded in intellect as to be incapable of distinguishing their right from their left hand, or of recognising the numbers of their own houses; their bodies are feeble and without stamina, their affections are warped, and they scarcely know what family life means.”

Four hundred and fifty thousand is a whole lot of people.  The young fireman was only one, and it took him some time to say his little say.  I should not like to hear them all talk at once.  I wonder if God hears them?

CHAPTER V—­THOSE ON THE EDGE

My first impression of East London was naturally a general one.  Later the details began to appear, and here and there in the chaos of misery I found little spots where a fair measure of happiness reigned—­sometimes whole rows of houses in little out-of-the-way streets, where artisans dwell and where a rude sort of family life obtains.  In the evenings the men can be seen at the doors, pipes in their mouths and children on their knees, wives gossiping, and laughter and fun going on.  The content of these people is manifestly great, for, relative to the wretchedness that encompasses them, they are well off.

But at the best, it is a dull, animal happiness, the content of the full belly.  The dominant note of their lives is materialistic.  They are stupid and heavy, without imagination.  The Abyss seems to exude a stupefying atmosphere of torpor, which wraps about them and deadens them.  Religion passes them by.  The Unseen holds for them neither terror nor delight.  They are unaware of the Unseen; and the full belly and the evening pipe, with their regular “arf an’ arf,” is all they demand, or dream of demanding, from existence.

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The People of the Abyss from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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