A WEEKLY JOURNAL
CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS
SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 1852 No. 116
FROM the city pleasure ground of Smithfield it is not a distance of many steps to Charterhouse Square, a fortified position in the heart of London, made secure by an array of iron gates, and garrisoned by a well- victualled beadle. Charterhouse Square is nearly as quiet now, in the very core of the noisy City of London, as it was five hundred years ago, when it was a lonely field, bearing the name of ” No Man’s Land.” Ralph Stratford bought it as a place of burial for the victims of the pestilence of 1349. ” In this place of sepulture was buried in one year,” says Camden ” no less than sixty thousand of the better sort of people.” Thirteen acres of adjoining ground, bought at about the same time of ” St. Bartholomew’s Spittle,” and called the Spittle Croft, had also been enclosed and consecrated. Upon this ground Ralph de Northburgh, Bishop of London, founded a monastery, devoted to the use of the Carthusian monks, whose name of Chartreuse time has corrupted into Charterhouse. It was the third Carthusian monastery instituted in this country. Such monasteries being always named after some event in the life of the Virgin, the title and address of this one was —” The House of the Salutation of the Mother of God, without the Bars of West Smithfield, near London.”
The monastery having been suppressed by Henry the Eighth, in 1537, its site, with all the buildings on it, was in the next place bought by Thomas Sutton for the erection of a proposed Free School Hospitable Foundation. Thomas Sutton had enjoyed lucrative situations under government, and had acquired also very great wealth by a happy speculation in coal mines near Newcastle. He had next increased his wealth by fitting vessels out for privateering service, and had finally enlarged his borders as a money-lender at usurious interest upon the largest scale. This taste for money-getting being accompanied with a great dread of money-spending, Sutton’s wealth became so serious as to inspire him with the hope that he could fully make amends with it to Heaven for any profane things he might have done in getting it together. He designed the foundation of a vast establishment for the education in their youth of promising boys found among the poor, and for the support of decayed gentlemen in their old age. For this purpose Sutton bought the Charterhouse, intending to erect and endow a noble edifice within its walls, and this he obtained leave to do from James the First in the year 1611. Six months afterwards he died, almost an octogenarian. He has been charged with avarice in acquiring the money he bequeathed, and has been pointed out as the original of Ben Jonson’s comedy of Volpone the Fox; but this Gifford disproves.
Sutton being dead, high festival was held over his body. Before the funeral procession started from the house, there was taken by the assembled mourners a slight refreshment in the form of a hogshead of claret, sixteen gallons of Canary wine, twelve gallons of white wine, ten gallons of Rhenish, six gallons of hippocras, six barrels of beer, with a little diet bread and a few wafers. After the funeral the mourners dined at Stationer’s Hall, where they ate forty stone of beef, forty- eight capons, thirty-two geese, forty-eight roasted chickens, thirty-two neats’ tongues, twenty-four marrowbones and a lamb, forty- eight turkey poults, seventy-two field pigeons, thirty-six quails, forty-eight ducklings, ten turbots, twenty-four lobsters, three barrels of pickled oysters, sixteen gammons of bacon, with a great many things more that are to be named before one comes to a great continent of pastry, and a sea of wine. So the Usurer was buried, and so before the earth had fairly covered him, the wasting of his property began.
The next business connected with Sutton’s great bequest was to resist the heir-at-law, Simon Baxter, who, through the pleadings of the Solicitor-General, no less a person than Lord Bacon—then Sir Francis, disputed the validity of the will. It needed in the sequel a bribe to his majesty often thousand pounds to procure a decision against Baxter’s claims. The preparations for establishing the proposed institution then proceeded; but, instead of raising a new structure, the trustees repaired and adapted the old monastic buildings, making some additions; and having spent six thousand pounds in patchwork, opened the establishment to the captains and gentlemen scholars and officers on the third of October, 1614.
Before this time, at the third meeting of the governors, held on the tenth of December, 1613, it had been settled that the decayed gentlemen who were to be consoled in their old age within the walls of the Charterhouse, under the name of ” Poor Brothers,” were to be eighty in number. It was resolved, also, that in accordance with the disposition of the founder, they were ” to be ancient gentlemen, having the same tender breeding with their elder brothers, but only the slender fortunes of a younger brother — gentlemen too generous to beg, and not made for work (whose ingenuous natures might be most sensible of want, and least able to relieve it), and who would be cast away and brought to misery for want of a comfortable subsistence in their old age.” At this meeting it was therefore decided, that no rogues or beggars should be eligible for admission but that ” these ancient gentlemen were to comprise such as had been servants to the king’s majesty, either decrepid or old, captains either at sea or land, soldiers maimed or impotent, decayed merchants, men fallen into decay through shipwreck, casualty of fire or such evil accident.” The definition of the purpose of the founder was probably suggested by a passage in one of Bacon’s letters to the king, in which he says: ” The next consideration may be, whether this intended hospital, as it hath a greater endowment than other hospitals have, should not likewise work upon a better subject than other poor, as that it should be converted to the relief of maimed soldiers, decayed merchants, house- holders aged and desolate, churchmen, and the like, whose condition being of a better sort than loose people and beggars, deserveth both a more liberal stipend and allowance, and some proper place of relief not inter- mingled or coupled with the basest sort of poor.”
It was designed, then, by the founder himself, and declared by his trustees, that the Poor Brother of the Charterhouse should be chosen from a rank, and elected to a position, higher than the meanest. He was to be gentleman as to his antecedents. Misfortune was to qualify him for election into what might be called a fellowship on Sutton’s munificent foundation, over which officers were set, entrusted with the care of shielding him in his old age from all painful reminder of his changed position. He was to have, as the funds well allowed, a shelter from the world, in which he could retain many of the comforts of his old position, unoppressed by any sense of beggar-like dependence. The foundation was not established for the express purpose of supplying handsome incomes to a staff of officers, but for the consolation of decayed gentlemen in their last years, over whose wants certain officials were to be well paid for exercising delicate and tender care. The act of parliament, obtained 1628-9, in the third year of Charles the First, to secure the privileges of the foundation, requires, ” That all the members of the intended hospital shall be provided ” (not ” in a good and sufficient” but) ” in a very ample manner with all things.” And so Hearne in his doggrel writes of it in 1677:—
“Plenty here has chose her seat, Here all things needful and convenient meet; Every week are hither sent Inhabitants o’ the wat’ry element.”
Hearne evidently looked upon fish dinners as a special luxury:—
“Fourscore patriarchs here Wander many a year, Until they move unto the promised land.”
Fourscore patriarchs here wander still; and to see how they wander, and to ascertain what great improvements have strengthened this foundation, since the old world has increased in wisdom, and the old property of La Chartreuse, outside Smithfield Bars, near London, has increased in worth, we have lately been paying a few visits to the Charterhouse.
It was provided by the founder, that if the funds devoted to their use increased, these were to be applied either to an increase in the scale of comfort upon which the Brethren were maintained, or to an increase in the number of the Brethren, as might seem most fit. The funds have increased very largely; and as there are still but eighty Brothers, there is reason to expect that the old gentlemen are in the enjoyment of extremely comfortable little fellowships.
Out of the quiet of Charterhouse Square, we pass under an archway, by a porter’s lodge, into the still greater quiet of the Charterhouse. Scattered buildings, many old monastic walls, a sort of lane leading to a silent square with a bit of green and a large pump; a chapel, a hall; an archway, other squares, cloisters, modern buildings like dull piles of law chambers constructed to match Pump Court in the Temple, a handsome modern house, an archway; a graveyard like a meadow, a boy’s playground; monkish time-eaten cloisters, where monks spent an agony before death in the old grim days of persecution; then back, in some odd way, to the pump, or under an archway to the kitchen, or the chapel, or some other unexpected place —all this belongs to the confused image left upon the mind, by a first ramble over the acres covered by the Charterhouse, and shut out from the noise and tumult of the city. On a sunny afternoon, one may see the milkman talking to a maid servant at the door of the schoolmaster’s handsome modern residence; or an old man in a livery-gown sunning himself, as he crawls up and down with a long pipe between his lips. Except the playground and the school, which do not form part of our present thoughts, nothing conveys to the mind light associations. Our blood stirs drowsily within us as we walk about.
There is a grand ball at the Master’s house on founder’s day, when the new-fashioned world comes to the old-fashioned place, makes a great noise, wakens it up for that one day, and then leaves it to drowse heavily again for twelve months more. The Master’s house is on the right hand after you come in by the porch; an ancient gate leads to its portals. The Master, according to the words of the foundation, should be a learned, discreet, and meek man, unmarried, and aged, when appointed, above forty years. He should neither have nor accept of any place of preferment or benefit either in church or commonwealth, whereby he might be drawn from his residence, care, and charge of the Hospital; and if he do, in such case he shall leave that place, or be displaced if he refuse to. leave it. His salary was fixed at fifty pounds, a very reasonable sum in those days, and about nine times the annual allowance to each of the Poor Brethren. The said Master was at first intended to be any grave and proper man, whether churchman or not, but on the election of the third of the first masters, the governors ordained ” that no person be admitted as master who is not a learned and grave divine, a licensed preacher, unbeneficed, unmarried, and a constant resident.”
The Master’s house, as it now stands, looks very much like a piece of the year 1611. Who is the unbeneficed divine residing here, devoting his whole care to the superintendence of the household of Poor Brethren? He is the venerable churchman, whose archdeaconry of London, whose post of canon residentiary of St. Pauls, whose onerous duties as rector of St. Giles’s, Cripplegate, whose chaplaincy to the Bishop of London, whose almonership of St. Pauls, (the whole yielding between two and three thousand pounds per annum,) are not considered incompatible with the receipt of an additional eight hundred a-year as Master of the Charterhouse, together with residence and partial board. The residence is humble in external pretensions, but inside luxuriously fitted, having thirty- three rooms, including all domestic offices; it is, in fact, one of the best ecclesiastical nests in London.
Then, there is an old monastic wall on our right hand as we go on, and behind it are the registrar’s offices, and an excellent and convenient house. The salary of the registrar has risen, with the changed value of money and improved administration of the place, from thirty to six hundred pounds a-year. From an archway, between the houses of the Master and the registrar, you pass up to the apartments of the chapel- reader, whose original salary of eight pounds has become two hundred; while the forty pounds a year, which made the preacher passing rich two centuries ago, are now four hundred; in addition to a handsome house containing sixteen or seventeen rooms.
If we pass by the door leading to the reader’s chambers, under the archway, we shall come to the chapel, cloisters, and the great hall, built for lay purposes in the reign of Henry the Eighth, and afterwards fitted up as a banqueting-hall by the ill-fated Duke of Norfolk. In the good old times this handsome hall had, of course, a mud floor covered with rushes; and, when the rushes were abolished, the Poor Brethren — for it was and is their dining hall — dined over the simple dirt. Within the last few years, however, the floor has been boarded. In still farther obedience to the march of mind, the old custom of eating from wooden trenchers is abolished; the existence of pottery is recognised, and glass is substituted for the old clumsy mugs; the benches of the Brethren are replaced by chairs.
The outer world is not a blank, then, in the Charterhouse. The officers and Brethren used to dine together in this hall; but, as the officers ate poultry and drank wine, while the Brothers had plain meat and table beer, and as also the hour at which the Brothers dine— three o’clock — is too early for their ” betters,” the official dinner was transferred to Brooke Hall, an adjoining smaller building, where the officials dine together very comfortably every day at half- past five.
In a corner of the great hall are boards, on which are pasted notices for the benefit of the Poor Brothers. When we read these, we were troubled with a few misgivings; but we will postpone for the present any observation upon their contents. Up stairs one goes to the governor’s room, a handsome tapestried apartment, a relic of the palace of the before- mentioned Duke of Norfolk. Then there are, in the chapel, monuments of course, brasses and all that sort of thing, and a tremendous founder’s tomb.
If we pass on, we shall come to scattered buildings, old or new, with numbered doors, through which we reach the residences of the Poor Brothers of the Charterhouse, each of whom has one room, with a closet in it to contain his coals and other housekeeping supplies. We may see as many as we are able of these eighty chambers, and we shall find no two alike; because the furnishing of each depends on the amount of capital of his own, which each tenant has been able to expend. Some affect mahogany, and have a carpet with a little painting and gilding on their walls; others have bare boards and a plain deal table. At the present time we shall see little saucepans on most of their grates, for the kitchen is closed during alterations, and they are left to be their own cooks.
We have taken a little pains to ascertain what is the present condition of a Poor Brother of the Charterhouse.
He is, or we should rather say, in the true spirit of the charity, he ought to be, a decayed gentleman a merchant, artist, author, or the like — upon whose merits the world has frowned, and who finds in the Charterhouse an honourable place of refuge and an easy home in his old age, not too bitterly contrasting with his memory of comforts past. Let us suppose an educated man, a widower in his old age, become destitute, and, being worthy of all kindly feeling, presented to a share in the benefit of Sutton’s endowment. He pays a visit to the room allotted for his residence. A single room, not very large, with a deal table and chair, bed and bedding; nothing more. There is a closet, which will be large enough to hold his bed and form a separate apartment, if the lodging should chance to be over an archway. A deal table and chair, and a bed are cheerless lodging to the eyes of the ancient gentleman, and would seem more so if he could contrast them with the luxuriously fitted thirty-two roomed residence of the Master, whose income was appointed by the founder of the institution to be only nine times greater than his own. The Master’s income being eight hundred pounds a-year, over and above the board and lodging, that of the Brother should be about eighty. It is, however, only twenty-five. The payment of the manciple used to be eight pounds, that of the Poor Brother five pounds, six and eightpence. The manciple has now two hundred, and the brother twenty -five.
The ancient gentleman, when he has finished looking at his room, and considered how much money he can raise wherewith to add a little to its comfort, is informed that the governors require him to bring in with him, on entrance, two pairs of new sheets, — sheets cannot be found for him. He proceeds to inquire further, what is to be done, and what will not be done on his behalf. He is informed that he will have coats without stint, and thirteen pounds of kitchen candles yearly, which he finds out by arithmetic to yield about an inch a night. He will have left at his door daily in the morning a loaf, containing twelve ounces of bread—a trifle larger than a penny loaf — and two ounces of butter. That he is to take this for his breakfast, or lunch, or tea, or supper, or all of them in one. That will be his provision for the day, dinner excepted. A loaf is left every morning at the master’s door, with even-handed charity; though the footman scorns it when he takes it in. The ancient gentleman is to make tea, sugar, cheese, or what he will out of his loaf and butter. No restraint is put upon his fancy. There will be dinner in the hall at three o’clock, at which he may attend, wearing his livery-gown, and eat as much as he is able of good meat and pie, and drink with it a pint of table beer. The dinner, if he goes to eat it punctually at dinner time — for a minute after time condemns him to fast until the morning — has no limit but his appetite. Experience of hungry nights, caused many of the ancient gentlemen to carry to the hall tin cases, wherein to conceal a few scraps for their supper. This practice being discovered, was denounced in the hall by the officials as exceedingly ungentlemanly; no doubt it was, nevertheless some little allowance is to be made for the weakness of old gentlemen, who do not like to be sent supperless to bed.
The ancient gentleman, not being young and lusty, will often be disposed to keep his room, but when he does so, and desires to dine in private, his dinner is straightway weighed for him. A Shylock, with knife and scales, holds firmly to a half-pound of flesh; and if the invalid desire a pudding, then his meat is reduced in allowance to a quarter of a pound.
The old gentleman inquires whether there is provision made for tending him, and looking to his small domestic wants. He is informed, that when he enters as Poor Brother, he will be committed, with seven others, to the care of a nurse, who will attend during eight hours daily, upon those eight rooms; so that he receives a daily average of one hour’s attendance. His room is cleaned out once a-week; and his window is cleaned once a-year — that is to say, every December. During the sixteen hours free from nurses, the Poor Brother will be left — very helpless and infirm as he often is — wholly to himself, or to the care of friends who may come to him in the daytime, or to what service he may hire out of his twenty-five pounds a-year— one pound of that being payable in fees to the nurse provided by the institution. In the night he is left quite alone, and without means of summoning assistance. Should he be seized with illness, he must get up, and having lighted a candle, place it in his window; the light, if seen by the watchman, brings his tender assistance when he next comes on his hourly round. Whatever fit or seizure to which age is liable may render him unable to get up and light a candle, or if he be blind, as three or four of the Poor Brothers are — it must either pass from him, remain on him, or kill him, as the chance may be: no help can come until the morning. So rigid is the exclusion of non-residents, that it is a breach of Charterhouse law for a mother or a sister to be present in the night time. If a Poor Brother wish to leave the world comfortably, he must not die in the night time.
When the Poor Brother dies in the usual; way, he spends his last days in the infirmary. When dead, a coffin is supplied for him by contract, and he is deposited in the burial- ground attached to the foundation, service being read over him in the chapel by the chapel-reader. Towards the expense of the coffin twenty-four shillings is allowed from the foundation; and to this there is added a sum of one pound, six shillings and sixpence, towards defraying the expense of the ground, clergyman, &c. So the Poor Brother is. buried. No head-stone is permitted. For a few weeks the mound, which covers his remains, is allowed to disfigure the smooth surface of the grass. A heavy roller after that time passes over it, The solemn little heap is levelled and turfed over, and the last trace of the Poor Brother is wiped away. A few smoke-soiled votive tablets fixed against the wall which separates this graveyard from “Wilderness Row,” are the only memorials left of the dead. There is a level green, broken at this moment by a little cluster of three graves, upon which the mould lies fresh. In the present year, one of the most eminent booksellers and publishers of his own younger time, who had given to the literary world upwards of two hundred and fifteen volumes in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Italian, and ninety-five in English Classics and Divinity, was buried here as a Poor Brother, and after six weeks had the roller passed over his grave. Certain rooms of the Brothers open on this graveyard; and they who reside in them find other evidence than hillocks furnish of the multitude of bodies therein buried.
The ancient gentleman who has obtained the privilege of admission as Poor Brother of the Charterhouse, finds a great deal to wound his feelings, or his prejudices, in all this. Prejudices they are, which it is commonly accounted gentle and becoming to respect. The old fellow is told that a portion of this cemetery, consecrated not very many years ago, was formerly a garden for the supply of vegetables to the foundation. These vegetables the Master had found so convenient to his private kitchen, that, when the garden was converted into a cemetery, there was accorded to him, in addition to his spacious house, and his luxurious dinners in Brooke Hall, and his eight hundred pounds a-year, twenty-five pounds a-year — a Brother’s pension — as consolation for the cabbages of which he was deprived.
A gate in a strong iron railing leads from the graveyard to the wilderness. This wilderness is described in an old tract of the year 1707, called ” A Trip to the Charterhouse, or the Wilderness Intrigue,” as ” a small, yet complete little flower-garden, formed of shady walks and choice parterres, and adorned with some very rare trees, and shrubs, which we must confess have but a dingy hue. Notwithstanding, there are not many such gardens in London.” It was a plot covering about three acres, designed for the recreation of the patriarchs. The ancient gentleman, finding the gate locked, is informed that it is now called “The Master’s Gardens,” and that Poor Brothers are intruders there, except when the boys are gone home for the holidays, and the officials are out of town.
The ancient gentleman begins now to discover that the Charterhouse is intended for the consolation of officials, and that the Poor Brothers are simply the discomfort of the place; which otherwise provides good salaries, and dwellings, and dinners, and daily pints of wine to the gentlemen and ladies who are really fed upon its funds. The Poor Brother’s pint of wine comes once a-year. The Poor Brother of the Charterhouse is, in. fact, a bore.
Our gentleman, however, takes possession of his room. The infirm old fellow, waited upon somewhat cavalierly by the eighth part of a nurse during a third part of the day, grows restless at the sight of men-servants and maid-servants about the squares. Not counting the men at all, he discovers that three female servants wait on the Master, three on the registrar, five on the preacher, two on the reader, four on the schoolmaster, four on the usher — and he thinks, therefore, that with very close economy, the rich endowment of the Charterhouse might possibly afford him something larger than the twenty-fourth part of a woman’s care.
The old gentleman having taken possession of his rooms, brought in his own sheets, and gone to bed between them, finds that there is a bell ringing him to matins at nine o’clock. The same bell ringing for dinner at a quarter before three makes a pleasant music. Then at seven the bell rings again for prayers— vespers — and at eight o’clock in winter evenings, at nine in summer, it rings a curfew to call all the Brothers home. This curfew tolls exactly eighty times when the Poor Brothers’ places are all filled. When there is one dead, one stroke is deducted till his place has been supplied. The number of pulls made at any time in the last tolling is always adapted to the number of Poor Brothers then on the foundation. Our old friend, being very deaf, thinks it not worth his while to go to chapel; so he takes a walk after having breakfasted on bread and butter, and goes abroad to buy himself some sugar and some tea. As he goes in and out he observes that his outgoing and incoming are chronicled at the gate, by the porter, for the information of the officials. He pays a visit to a friend, and, coming home, is duly reminded that he must put on his livery-cloak when he goes into the hall for dinner. When he has dined, he pays a visit to the notice-board, and is startled to perceive that he is in debt threepence to the Charterhouse, for having staid away from chapel. The notice-board, among a number of Musts, by which he is somewhat offensively reminded of the humility of his position, informs him that for absence from chapel on a week-day he has threepence to pay; and if the day be Christmas-day, or one of the great days of Christian celebration, the fine upon the ancient gentleman is adjusted to the religious character of the occasion, and becomes a shilling. An old gentleman offers the new Brother a contribution from his personal experience, and says, that being completely deaf he has not heard the service now for twenty years, though he has paid daily attendance at the chapel, because there is a porter there who ticks off from a list the Brothers who attend; and there is no evading fines under what he calls, not very reverently, the Gospel according to Saint Mark. The new Brother is likewise informed that it will be his humble duty to turn out in his livery- gown, and form with his companions a guard of honour, coughing and wheezing, to assist at all the churchings, christenings, &c., which arise on occasions of rejoicing in the families of the clerical officials.
Another notice on the board refers to the kitchen, and the place being put out of commons — upon which subject the new Brother requires some enlightenment. For two or three weeks every autumn, when the boys are gone, and the officials in a body take their holiday, it is not thought worth while to cook for the Poor Brothers alone. The kitchen of the Charterhouse has a tremendous range, able to cook fifteen sirloins at a time, and it cooks three dinners daily: one for the boys, by two o’clock; one for the Brothers, by three; and the last for the officials in Brooke Hall, at half-past five. When there is no dinner wanted for the boys, and none for Brooke Hall, the Brothers receive each of them thirteen pence a-day (on Sunday two shillings and a penny) to provide and cook their dinners for themselves. While we now write, the kitchen grate is cold, because the kitchen itself is unroofed, and undergoing large repairs. The Poor Brothers, therefore, being out of commons, receive each of them eight shillings and sevenpence weekly, with which they are required either to dine at eating-houses, or to find dinners and cook them in their little rooms — not pleasant occupation in June weather. Those who desire to take to themselves the whole care of their own maintenance during this period, may, by giving notice, receive an additional one and fivepence, in lieu of the daily bread and butter. They receive, therefore, ten shillings a-week for their whole board, and are permitted with this money to obtain, if they please, lodging also, out of doors. Of course, when the kitchen is pulled down the cook must hang his ladle up, but the ancient gentleman feels it to be somewhat of a slight that there is no dinner to be got ready for him when there is none required by the magnates of the establishment.
Another piece of information on the notice- board, intended to strike terror into the hearts of the eighty ancient gentlemen, is the formal notice of expulsion of one of their number, for speaking impertinently to the Master. If the Master lost his place, he could fall back upon the income of his arch- deaconry, his canonry, his rectorship, and all the other gifts and graces for which he is, perhaps, a little too notorious. The Poor Brother, deprived of his asylum, was turned out into the roads a beggar by offended dignity. In the words of the offended dignitaries, here is the poor fellow’s condemnation, signed, sealed, and delivered, in the depth of winter, and when all hands and hearts in England were preparing for the blessed festival of Christmas, forgetting injuries, and above all such injuries as wounded nothing but our pride. There can be no mistake as to the genuineness of this document, which we have copied ourselves from the notice posted in the dining hall of the Poor Brothers:—
“At an Assembly of the Governors of the Charterhouse, held on Tuesday, the sixteenth of December, 1851,
“John Dingwall Williams, one of the Poor Brothers, having appeared before the Assembly to answer a charge of having written certain letters then produced, and having been heard in respect thereof: and such letters being, in the judgment of the Assembly, so insulting to the governors and officers to whom they were addressed, that it would not be consistent with the good government, order, and well-being of the Hospital to allow the said John Dingwall Williams to continue a Poor Brother: the said John Dingwall Williams was deprived, displaced, and removed from the place of a Poor Brother of the Foundation; and it was ordered that he leave the House on or before the twenty- third of December instant.”
We believe that these letters contained comments on facts similar to those collected in this paper, and that the Poor Brother had been emboldened to speak out by the decision, given last year by a revising barrister. A Poor Brother, who had once been one of the most influential tradesmen in the Strand, had endeavoured last year to improve his anomalous position by claiming the privilege of the franchise as an elector. His claim was contested, and allowed by the revising barrister, who decided that ” the Brothers of the Charterhouse were duly qualified to vote, both by property and position; that the Charterhouse was not to be regarded merely as a charitable institution, but was by its charter to be ranked with the colleges and other public foundations of the country, instituted at different times by royal and other illustrious individuals; that it does not empower those entrusted with its administration to expel at pleasure, &c.; consequently that its members do not come under any denomination that can render them at all ineligible to the possession of the franchise.”
It will be very obvious that the humbled position of Poor Brother of the Charterhouse has long ceased to be fit for the solace of those “decayed merchants, householders, aged and desolate churchmen, and the like,” for whom it was originally intended. It therefore will surprise no person to learn that although some men who have occupied places of honour in society are always to be found among the Brethren of the Charterhouse, the position has for a long time been habitually given to men who are in no need of consolation for a lost position in the world. A great number of the Poor Brothers of the Charterhouse are men who, instead of looking back on better days, look back on a position against which the Charterhouse contrasts as a great scene of luxury. Kind patrons get admission to the Charterhouse for aged fathers of their footmen, and for people of that class — the only class for which its present style of government is fitted. To the sensitive and educated man, smitten by poverty in his old age, the asylum offered in the Charterhouse is lost: one of the very few asylums that were ever opened to such sufferers.
Some months ago, we made our readers acquainted with the French community of Little Sisters of the Poor, and told of the house in Paris wherein a few peasant women maintain ninety old people by their own exertions—beg for them, feed them, warm them, cheer them with such true sympathy and Christian love that the most refined scholar or poet in Christendom, if he were fallen into poverty, might sit in his old age among those poor coarse women, and be made subject to their pious care, without a sense of degra- dation. In England, in the Charterhouse, on a munificent foundation, thousands of pounds yearly are spent upon the care of eighty poor old men. The money provides for the rich, salaries, houses, wine: we have partly seen what it does for the Poor Brothers. The “Little Sisters ” across the Channel, with bright eyes and busy hands, with a maid- servant for founder, and not a sous of capital, have done so much, that it is a pleasant dream (but quite a dream) to fancy what result a little of their spirit could produce out of the plentiful resources of the Charterhouse.