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The Hopeless Poor
by [?]

Education? Ah, there comes a pinch–and a very severe pinch it is! About five or six years since some of the most important thoroughfares in London, Liverpool, and many great towns have been rendered totally impassable by the savage proceedings of gangs of young roughs. Certain districts in Liverpool could not be traversed after dark, and the reason was simply this–any man or woman of decent appearance was liable to be first of all surrounded by a carefully-picked company of blackguards; then came the clever trip-up from behind; then the victim was left to be robbed; and then the authorities wrung their hands and said that it was a pity, and that everything should be done. The Liverpool youths went a little too far, and one peculiarly obnoxious set of rascals were sent to penal servitude, while the leader of a gang of murderers went to the gallows. But in London we have such sights every night as never were matched in the most turbulent Italian cities at times when the hot Southern blood was up; our great English capital can match Venice, Rome, Palermo, Turin, or Milan in the matter of stabbing; and, for mere wanton cruelty and thievishness, I imagine that Hackney Road or Gray’s Inn Road may equal any thoroughfare of Francois Villon’s Paris. These turbulent London mobs that make night hideous are made up of youths who have tasted the full blessings of our educational system; they were mostly mere infants when the great measure was passed which was to regenerate all things, and yet the London of Swift’s time was not much worse than the Southwark or Hackney of our own day. I never for an instant dispute the general advance which our modern society has made, and I dislike the gruesome rubbish talked of the good old times; but I must nevertheless point out that “fancy” building and education are not the main factors which have aided in making us better and more seemly. The brutal rough remains, and the gangs of scamps who infest London in various spots are quite as bad as the beings whom Hogarth drew. They have all been forced into the Government schools; all of them have learned to read and write, and not one was suffered to leave school until he had reached the age of fourteen years or passed a moderately high standard according to the Code. Still, we have this monstrous army of the Hopeless Poor, and they are usually massed with the Hopeful Poor–the poor who attend the People’s Palaces, and institutes, and so forth. Alas, the Hopeless Poor are not to be dismissed with a light phrase–they are not to be dealt with by mere pretty words! They are creatures who remain poor and villainous because they choose to be poor and villainous; so pity and nice theories will not cure them. The best of us yearn toward the good poor folk, and we find a healthful joy in aiding them; but we have a set of very different feelings towards the Evil Brigade.