Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/35

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33
BLANK COURT; OR, LANDLORDS AND TENANTS.

recounting the history of an attempt to spread those principles to a class still lower than that alluded to in my former paper.

It was near the end of 1869 that I first heard that a good many houses in Blank Court were to be disposed of. Eventually, in the course of that year, six ten-roomed houses were bought by the Countess of Ducie, and five more by another lady, and placed partially under my care. I was especially glad to obtain some influence here, as I knew this place to be one of the worst in Marylebone; its inhabitants were mainly costermongers and small hawkers, and were almost the poorest class of those amongst our population who have any settled home, the next grade below them being vagrants who sleep in common lodging-houses; and I knew that its moral standing was equally low. Its reputation had long been familiar to me; for when unruly and hopeless tenants were sent away from other houses in the district, I had often heard that they had gone to Blank Court, the tone in which it was said implying that they had now sunk to the lowest depths of degradation. A lawyer friend had also said to me, on hearing that it was proposed to buy houses there, "Blank Court! why, that is the place one is always noticing in the police reports for its rows."

Yet its outward appearance would not have led a casual observer to guess its real character. Blank Court is not far from Cavendish Square, and daily in the season, scores of carriages, with their gayly dressed occupants, pass the end of it. Should such look down it, they would little divine its inner life. Seen from the outside, and in the daytime, it is a quiet-looking place, the houses a moderate size, and the space between them tolerably wide. It has no roadway, but is nicely enough paved, and old furniture stands out for sale on the pavement, in front of the few shops.

But if any one had entered those houses with me two years ago, he would have seen enough to surprise and