Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/Last week (August 4, 1860)

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Fouquier Tinville used to amuse his leisure by the training of canaries. Robespierre liked to have a bouquet of flowers upon his table, which served as a paper-weight to the Reports of the Committee of Public Safety. Mr. Thomas Hopley, F.S.S., who flogged the wretched boy, Cancellor, to death the other day, at Eastbourne, because water on the brain drowned his power of learning the four first rules of arithmetic, was a great philanthropist—a professional lover of his species—a man with what they call a mission. Last year, whilst the skipping-rope was hanging up in his study, and he was taking pleasant sea-side walks up to Beechey Head, with the walking-stick in his hand with which he afterwards killed poor Cancellor, he was engaged in hitching together fine words which were to put all our social sixes and sevens to rights.

The world was out of joint. Oh! cursed spite
That ever he was born to put it right!

Hopley, the Humanitarian, gave his little book the title of

Wrongs which Cry for Redress.

The word “wrong,” in the original, is printed in capital letters so big, that you would almost fancy the fellow was about to bring the strong points of a new-fangled coffee-biggin under your notice. He writes for the “Men and Women” of the United Kingdom! He says nothing about the children. He had another way of leading them to correct opinions upon “solemnly momentous questions”—such as Practice, and Vulgar Fractions. He announces himself to his readers as

“Thomas Hopley, F.S.S., Author of ‘Helps towards the Physical, Intellectual, and Moral Elevation of all Classes of Society,’ ‘Lectures on the Education of Man,’ etc.”

The “etc.” perhaps points to his doings in the way of manslaughter—occasion arising. T. H. in his title-page scorns the old-fashioned plan of borrowing a motto from any of the great worthies of our book-shelves. He boldly quotes himself, and hoists as his flag a little dirty rag of nonsense from his own Lecture iii., page 36. The rag is all covered with slang; the kind of slang which people talk when they set up in the philanthropy line, just as more honest men open a ham and beef shop. Hopley tells us that “the true educationist is the bigot of no political party, of no class section.” When a man keeps a school, he might know that there is no such word in English as “educationist.” It is not so bad to murder your own language as to kill little boys; but still it is best to write English, even if you flog your scholars to death. The true “educationist” of the Hopley school must be a very fine fellow. The Chief Justice who set Hopley to work the other day amongst our penal serfs couldn’t hold a candle to him. The fight of the “educationist” is “against cold-heartedness, wherever it exists. His struggle is against the selfishness of the world. . . . He casts his eyes around, and whenever he beholds any infringement of the Creator’s laws—those laws which are ordained to regulate the conduct of the human family—whether the infringement be the deed of the wealthy, or the indigent, of the many or the few—” How one feels that the lecturer has got into his stroke; he is full of what is called “second-wind,” and could go on mumbling this stuff for hours. Well, “the many or the few—whether it affect the mental constitution by acting on the body, or bodily constitution, by acting on the mind; he knows that such infringement must lessen human happiness, and he feels it his duty to lift up his voice and say, ‘These things are contrary to the laws of God.” Well done, Thomas Hopley, few of us could go off at score in such style as that; the world is not good enough for men like you. How small a poor fellow would have felt now if he had gone down to Eastbourne and taken a walk with the F.S.S. upon the edge of the cliff, and listened to him humming away at his philanthropy like a tea-kettle on the hob. How pleasant it must be for such a man to sit before his own fire of an evening, and groan over the wickedness of his fellow-men, until the time comes for ringing the bell, and saying to Alice Deacon—“Alice, my dear, tell Master Cancellor that I should wish to have the pleasure of speaking with him in the library!” It may be that the “educationist who is the bigot of no class section” would then proceed to lessen the sum of human happiness in a way which would make common people open their eyes pretty wide.

The little book is filled with the grievances of oppressed milliners and dress-makers, hard-ware manufacturers, and others. It is very true these poor folks have too often a hard time of it; but Thomas Hopley and his kind will scarcely mend matters for them. However, it is a pity the lawyers who were handling his case down at Lewes the other day, did not know what his own ideas were about murderers and murder. At page 15 of “Wrongs which cry for Redress,” there are these words:—“Fathers and mothers of England, you have no right to place your children, or to consent to their being placed at any occupations whatever which you know must prove destructive to them. Let your country’s laws say what they may—permit what they may, the laws of God instruct that if you do so place them, or consent to their being so placed, you rank yourselves with murderers.” What happens when a schoolmaster flogs a boy to death, and takes two or three hours about the work? One scrap more from the “Wrongs, &c.,” and we will just bring Hopley’s acts and his words together. He had been very busy scolding the bleaching and scouring people, up one page and down another for over-working the poor children. It is strange, now we know the man for what he is, to see the way in which he gloats over the sores and sorrows of these little folks; but bad as things may be, I, for one, should have been sorry to have been a child in Mr. T. Hopley’s “Bleaching, Scouring, and Finishing Works for Cottons, Woollens, &c.” if he had gone into that line of business. However, when he has told us all about the sore-feet, and the other pains and aches of the poor creatures—this humane school-master bursts out in fiery indignation with these words:—

Think of all this, ye apathetic legislators. And think of this livid and wan child, ye cruel men of mammon. Her little hands can ply her task no more. “The spoil is in your houses.” Oh! but how dare you heap up sin on sin? How dare you with such spoil establish schools? What! you give Bibles to the working classes! you erect churches! Oh, ye poor blind guides! Alas for you, ye poor blind money-changers! And can ye not then see yourselves of those for whom the Saviour made the scourge of cords to drive you from the presence of his holiness? Repent ye: repent ye. Heap no more burning coals upon your heads. Your churches may stand, your schools may flourish; for even Herod when he slew the innocents, helped on Christ’s kingdom; but “I say unto you that except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom.” Oh think of it: oh think of it. Heap no more burning coals upon your heads. “Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Think of it—think of it, ye worshippers of mammon. “What can it profit you if you gain the whole world, and lose your own souls?”

And now just a word or two about the case itself.

It seems pretty clear by the evidence of the nurse, Ellen Fowler, and the housemaid, Alice Deacon, that the beating must have continued about three hours. Young Cancellor died hard. Think of this poor stupid fellow, with the water pressing so heavily upon his brain, that for the life of him he couldn’t make out what happened when seven and nine were multiplied together,—and how he was punished because he couldn’t find out. The lawyers say that they could not have pressed the capital charge against Hopley with any reasonable hope of a verdict; but if by the law of England intentions are inferred from acts—and if it is proved that a man continued beating a boy for three hours, and death followed, it looks a good deal like murder. If the school-master had simply given the boy a good thrashing, and there an end, and the boy had died, there would have been less to say. As a reasonable being, he was not bound to know that he was putting the boy in peril of his life. It is another thing when the torture is kept up for three hours. What would the doctors say, if they were asked the question, “Take any boy at random, of young Cancellor’s age, and thrash him for three hours, as young Cancellor was thrashed, and what would be the probable—almost the inevitable result?” What a tight hand the brute must have kept over his household. Here were three women—Mrs. Hopley; the nursemaid, Ellen Fowler; and the housemaid, Alice Deacon—who all heard the child’s screams whilst the Philanthropist was knocking him about with the walking-stick and skipping-rope, and yet none of them dared to come to his help. The nurse slept in the next room to Cancellor; and here is her account of what went on after the boy had been dragged up to his bed-room; this was after midnight. “I had a clock in the room, and I got out and looked at it. The boy kept screaming and crying while he was being beaten; but all of a sudden there was a complete stillness in the room, and about ten minutes afterwards I heard a slushing of water, and then some person went upstairs.” This was the murderer, who had done his work; young Cancellor was killed before he had found out the value of seven times nine. No blame is to be fastened on the wife because she helped to wash away the marks of her husband’s bloody work; but one wonders how a woman could sit up “doing her hair,” or reading a good book, whilst the house was ringing in the still hour of night with the screams of the poor boy in his death-agony. The wretch has got four years of penal servitude before him—a sharp punishment, but scarcely sharp enough for the offence.

It is not worth while to dwell on any cases tried at the recent Assizes which are not in some way to be distinguished from common murders. But surely the case of that unfortunate gentleman who was put in the dock the other day at Lewes for having given a dose of prussic acid to his mother deserves more than passing notice. It appeared very clearly by the evidence produced that he was entirely guiltless, and that he was living on the most affectionate terms with his mother. He had been trained to the profession of medicine, and had prescribed small doses of prussic acid for her, as she was afflicted with spasms in the stomach. On the 11th of July he gave her a dose of the acid, which relieved her sufferings. She went out for a walk; and, on her return, as she was still in pain, he gave her a second dose. In five minutes she was dead, killed by prussic acid. There are two degrees of strength at which prussic acid is sold; and if your doctor orders you one kind, and the chemist’s boy serves you out the other, the Lord have mercy on you! In two or three minutes you will have done with this troublesome world. “Great amusement was created in court”—that is the usual phrase—on account of the answers of the apothecary who sold the prussic acid. He did not measure it, but gave what he considered to be one-fourth part of the bottle. He seemed to have the haziest ideas as to the difference between a drop and a minim; he couldn’t tell what was the strength of the acid which he had sold, although at a venture he would be inclined to say about four per cent.; a pleasant condition this of the prussic-acid market! A patient would not do ill if he told his doctor that he altogether declined to put his life to the hazard of such a game of pitch-and-toss.

Although the case does not fall strictly within the compass of last week’s work, it may not be amiss to say a few words about the Child in the Well. On the 12th of the present month, Ann Barker, a servant, was tried before Justice Byles, at Oxford, for having thrown her child into a well. At a place called Berrin’s Wood, in the parish of Ipsden, near Henley, there is an old well—it is now dry—cut in the chalk. It is supposed to be the handiwork of the Romans, and is by measurement 134 feet in depth—and of the uniform diameter of three feet three inches. It is such an outlying curiosity that few people ever go near the spot from year’s end to year’s end. Into this hole Ann Barker dropped her child, and fled from the spot. You would have supposed there was an end of that child as far as this world went. Two days afterwards a blacksmith’s apprentice, a stranger in the neighbourhood, happened to be at Berrin’s Wood. He met a man named Grace, who was going home from his work, and the two fell a-talking. Grace said there was a queer old well not far off in the wood, and as the young blacksmith had not any particular business on hand, he answered that he should like to see the place, if the other would show him the way. Most probably, for months, no one—save Ann Barker—had been near the spot. When they got to the well the blacksmith threw a large stone of about two pounds or three pounds weight down the well, and they heard it strike the bottom. Grace next tried his luck, and threw down a smaller stone; but this time, instead of the expected “thud,” they heard, or fancied they heard, a child’s cry from the bottom of the well. The two men acted with great judgment. In place of flinging any more stones they kneeled down, and listened, and soon satisfied themselves that it was not a mistake; there really was a living child lying down at the bottom of that old Roman hole. They went for ropes, and first tried to let a lantern down, but it knocked against the side of the wall, and went out. At length they succeeded in rigging up the proper machinery, and a boy of fourteen years of age was let down by ropes to the bottom of the well, and when drawn up again he produced a child, which, as it was afterwards discovered, had been lying there for about forty hours. The child was thirteen months old. Though cold, and stiff, and sore, it soon revived. Grace took it home, and his wife gave it a few teaspoonfuls of wine and water, and then, more judiciously, bread and milk. The child was afterwards taken to the workhouse, and is now thriving and doing well. Neither starvation nor exposure, nor the big stone, nor the port wine, had killed it; and, as it was produced in court, it is described as “a fat, healthy, and handsome child.” Here is a scrap from the report: “The prisoner, during her trial, fell down from her seat in the dock, and was unable to cast a look at her infant, who sat smiling in his nurse’s arms, unconscious of his mother’s shame.” Her account was that she had stumbled against the stump of a tree, and the child had flown out of her arms, and so into the well. She was found “Guilty,” as of right.

The mysterious case of child murder at Road is veiled in deeper mystery than ever. On Friday last there was a protracted investigation before the magistrates at Road into the charge against Miss Constance Kent, the half-sister of the murdered boy. It will be remembered that the main ground of suspicion against this young lady rested upon the disappearance of a night-dress, which was supposed to be the one she had worn on the night of the murder. This point now rests as follows: Sarah Cox, the housemaid in the service of Mr. Kent, deposed, that on the Monday morning after the murder she found a night-dress on the landing, in the place where Miss Constance Kent’s night-dress was usually thrown. This she took, and counted the linen. As she counted the articles the Misses Kent entered the numbers in the washing-book. The night-dress which was lying on the landing was thrown into the basket with the rest. There were three night-dresses in the basket, none of which belonged to Miss Elizabeth Kent. This was between ten and eleven. The laundress came for the clothes between twelve and one. The basket was left in the lumber-room, and the room was unlocked. Miss Constance came to the door of the lumber-room after the clothes were in the basket; and, whilst standing on the landing-place, asked the nurse to step down stairs and get her a glass of water. The girl was not absent a minute, and when she returned found Miss Constance standing in the same place. There certainly does not seem to have been time in this brief interval for any one to pull a particular article out of the heap of dirty linen; but, at the same time, it must be remembered that the basket was left in the unlocked lumber-room for more than an hour, during which time Sarah Cox was absent at the inquest, while the family were left in the house. The housemaid was very positive that she put three night-dresses in the basket, one of which belonged to Miss Constance. Miss Constance’s night-dresses were easily distinguishable from the other Miss Kent’s, as they had plain frills, while the others had lace and work. On the other hand, Esther Hobbs, the laundress, swore that she and her daughter examined the basket within five minutes of their arrival at their own house, and that there was a difference between the account and the articles of one night-dress—missing. She sent to the house on discovering its absence, but whether she sent immediately, or the same evening, or the day after, is not clearly stated. There is an ambiguity in the report which there may not have been in the evidence. But she was positive that her three daughters were present when she examined the clothes that she brought from Mr. Kent’s, and all three might have been called if there had been hope of shaking their mother’s testimony. The amount of the housemaid’s evidence was this: “I am certain I put the night-dress of Miss Constance into the basket, but I can’t swear it went out of the house, because I was not in the house at the time.”

There the matter rests for the present. There were no grounds for detaining the prisoner, and she was discharged on her father’s entering into recognizances of 200l. for her appearance if called upon.


Queen Victoria and Louis Napoleon are now about to play over again the parts acted in former days by Richard the Lion-Hearted, and Louis the Saint. England and France must needs attack the Moslem in Palestine once more, just as they did five or six centuries ago. We cannot help ourselves. All “political and diplomatic considerations,” as they are called, must yield to the overwhelming necessity of saving the lives of those who are attacked, because they profess the Christian Faith in one form or another. If you see these men in turbans in the act of murdering a man with a round hat, and you have a revolver in your pocket, you do not stop to ask yourself what the effect of your interference will be on the minds of the political chess-players at Washington or St. Petersburgh,—but you blaze away. The illustration is a fair one as far as the district of Mount Lebanon and its neighbourhood are concerned at the present moment. There may have been mistakes, and suspicions upon one side or the other; but the fact remains that, ever since the Crimean War, there has been a deliberate intention upon the side of the followers of Mahommed to attack the followers of Christ wherever they have, or think they have, the upper hand. The mutiny in India, and the atrocities at Djedda, were but scenes in this bloody play, and we have not yet arrived at the fifth act. The government of the Sultan is one thing, the Mahommedan population of the Levant, and of the East generally, another. The Sultan and his advisers have not the strength, if they have the desire, to restrain the fierce fanatics of their creed from deeds of violence. It is stated that the Porte will decline the intervention of the European powers; but intervention must proceed, whether the Porte acquiesces or no. We have no choice in the matter—we must needs act, even if the end of our action be the destruction of the Phantom which occupies the throne of the companions of the Prophet and their successors. The present troubles in the Lebanon nominally began in the first days of May with assassinations and reprisals between the Christians and Druses as reported to Sir H. Bulwer by Consul-General Moore on the 18th of that month; but in reality these were but incidents in the last struggle of Mahommedanism against Christianity, and the struggle must be fought out. This generation will live to see the expulsion of the Turks from Constantinople, whatever may be the form of government which may arise on the ruins of their power. Meanwhile, who can read without indignation the report of the Tragedy of Hasbeyah, and of the treachery of Osman Bey, the Turkish Kaimakam? After they had been worsted in their conflict with the Druses, Osman Bey told the Christians to give up their arms, and he “would make it a high point of duty to protect them.” They did so in reliance upon his promise, and he ordered them to retire within the Serai. On the eighth day, the Druse sheiks came and had a conference with Osman Bey. When it was over, he ordered the Turkish troops to collect the tents and stores in a place by themselves. When this was done, the soldiers gathered the Christians together and drove them out into an open space before the Serai, where the Druses were waiting for them. Then there was a slaughter, by the side of which the Cawnpore Massacre fades into insignificance. First there was a volley from the fire-arms, and the work was finished up with cold steel. The number of the slain is reckoned at about eight hundred. Throughout the whole district these bloody scenes have been repeated, and now the wretched Christians of Damascus have suffered the same fate. Can any miserable jealousies between France and England stand in the way of retribution for such acts as these? Let us not deceive ourselves. Diplomatic people talk of “putting pressure”—that is the phrase—upon the Sultan, and compelling him to do the work which must now be done. He cannot do it if he would. Khoorshied Pasha’s comment upon the whole affair represents the true failing of the Turks. “Mâda ma mâda.” “What is done is done.” It is so: the past cannot be recalled, but the future is the heir-loom of energetic men.


Why should not the Italians be permitted to take their own way in their own country? The Russian Emperor announces that he distinctly objects to the principle that the people of a country may choose their own ruler. Be it so. The objection smacks of the North Pole, and will scarcely be held as of much weight in regions where the intellect of the human race stands at a little above 32° of Fahrenheit. We Englishmen find no fault with the principle. Our forefathers upon more than one occasion acted on it, although it is true that in 1688 the appearance of Dutch William on the scene enabled them to reconcile traditions with realities to a certain extent. If the French Emperor disputes it, he must in conscience make way for the Duke of Bordeaux. As a question of policy, and looking to the future destinies of the tribes and nations which live about the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean, the resurrection of Italian power would seem to be a great thing for the world. At present the knot cannot be untied. Constantinople is a bone of contention, and England, France, and Russia are growling round it like three angry dogs. Possibly, the re-appearance on the scene of a Power which was supreme in the Mediterranean in former days might help us to a solution of the enigma. The interest of England in the matter is but to secure a free thoroughfare to India. We cannot afford to let Russia or France stop the way. The one is dreaming of Asiatic conquests, the other never pauses in its design of converting the Mediterranean into a French lake. The Italian peninsula, could it be purged of its priests and Austrian Satraps, would be an efficient make-weight amongst these opposing forces. Garibaldi is the man who is just now doing the work of the human race, whoever may be doing the work of the diplomatists and politicians. He is at a critical period of his fortunes. Most probably the citadel of Messina is to be taken from Naples. All reports from Naples seem to imply that the Royal power is but as a dead leaf in autumn, blown hither and thither in the swirls and eddies which come before the storm breaks. Count Cavour thinks that it is best to make sure of Sicily, and leave the young Bourbon tiger-cub to another spell of power on the mainland. The people of Naples have had such bitter experience of how others of his race visit upon their people the crime of belief in Royal promises, that it is scarcely probable they will try the experiment a fourth time. It is not a question in which England ought to interfere, or to tolerate the interference of others. We had long since broken off diplomatic intercourse with Naples on the ground that the conduct of the late King of Naples to his subjects was a scandal to humanity. The cruelties of the son equal, if they do not exceed the cruelties of the father. If we would not help a people against their King, why should we help a King against his people?