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.

When there are more men to work than there is work for men to do, just as many men as are in excess of work will be inefficients, and as inefficients they are doomed to lingering and painful destruction.  It shall be the aim of future chapters to show, by their work and manner of living, not only how the inefficients are weeded out and destroyed, but to show how inefficients are being constantly and wantonly created by the forces of industrial society as it exists to-day.


When I learned that in Lesser London there were 1,292,737 people who received twenty-one shillings or less a week per family, I became interested as to how the wages could best be spent in order to maintain the physical efficiency of such families.  Families of six, seven, eight or ten being beyond consideration, I have based the following table upon a family of five—­a father, mother, and three children; while I have made twenty-one shillings equivalent to $5.25, though actually, twenty-one shillings are equivalent to about $5.11.

Rent $1.50 or 6/0
Bread 1.00 " 4/0
Meat O.87.5 " 3/6
Vegetables O.62.5 " 2/6
Coals 0.25 " 1/0
Tea 0.18 " 0/9
Oil 0.16 " 0/8
Sugar 0.18 " 0/9
Milk 0.12 " 0/6
Soap 0.08 " 0/4
Butter 0.20 " 0/10
Firewood 0.08 " 0/4
Total $5.25 21/2

An analysis of one item alone will show how little room there is for waste. Bread, $1:  for a family of five, for seven days, one dollar’s worth of bread will give each a daily ration of 2.8 cents; and if they eat three meals a day, each may consume per meal 9.5 mills’ worth of bread, a little less than one halfpennyworth.  Now bread is the heaviest item.  They will get less of meat per mouth each meal, and still less of vegetates; while the smaller items become too microscopic for consideration.  On the other hand, these food articles are all bought at small retail, the most expensive and wasteful method of purchasing.

While the table given above will permit no extravagance, no overloading of stomachs, it will be noticed that there is no surplus.  The whole guinea is spent for food and rent.  There is no pocket-money left over.  Does the man buy a glass of beer, the family must eat that much less; and in so far as it eats less, just that far will it impair its physical efficiency.  The members of this family cannot ride in busses or trams, cannot write letters, take outings, go to a “tu’penny gaff” for cheap vaudeville, join social or benefit clubs, nor can they buy sweetmeats, tobacco, books, or newspapers.

And further, should one child (and there are three) require a pair of shoes, the family must strike meat for a week from its bill of fare.  And since there are five pairs of feet requiring shoes, and five heads requiring hats, and five bodies requiring clothes, and since there are laws regulating indecency, the family must constantly impair its physical efficiency in order to keep warm and out of jail.  For notice, when rent, coals, oil, soap, and firewood are extracted from the weekly income, there remains a daily allowance for food of 4.5d. to each person; and that 4.5d. cannot be lessened by buying clothes without impairing the physical efficiency.

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