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and body. Add to that the fear, not only of having no spare cash to meet the inevitable repairs necessitated by the wear and tear of a house always full, but of seeing quarter-day come round when the rent is not forthcoming, and the burden is too heavy; and some of the really useful work must be put aside that the Sister Superior may employ herself in what is commonly summed up in the word begging.'
Here is the state of the case. The young women in their various houses of business earn 108., or at best 12s. a week. In an ordinary lodging-house they pay from 48. to 58. a week for lodging, from 18. 3d. to 18. 6d. a day for meals, each charged for separately, making their expenses, on an average, always in excess of their earnings, and leaving no margin for dress, boots and shoes, nor of course any possibility of saving or provision for illness. What resource is honestly possible but pawning or selling all that can be parted with, or omitting a meal, and so pinching out the money bit by bit? But alas! these desperate efforts do but sow seeds of illness, and assist an already unhealthy life to undermine the constitution. Another and a terrible resource suggested to them, nay, is too often pressed upon them by companions and acquaintance—the wages of sin. A resource of which it is a shame even to speak, if it were not that we trust this fierce and frightful temptation has only to be hinted for every one to be eager to turn it aside, and to deliver those who are bravely resisting its approach, and to whom the mention is a horror.
In St. Gabriel's Home the lodgers are free from this frightful peril. Not that life there is too easy or too sheltered; far from it, many a risk of London streets, many a sharp temptation, much of evil communication' has still to be bravely withstood, sneers and taunts have to be disregarded, some persecution to be met and endured; but there is to set against this the support of true friends, good examples, opportunities of prayer and meditation, help and healing for body and soul, and the great preservative of a good home atmosphere.
One or two such brave girls thus strengthened’ may not only keep themselves in temperance, soberness, and chastity, but may rescue a companion, raise the tone of the workroom, and widely extend the good work begun in St. Gabriel's Home.
It has been shown that the earnings of the average young woman in business cannot be stretched so as to cover proper food and lodging, either she must be badly lodged and half fed, or she is bankrupt.
It is a frightful state of things, produced by the unequal pressure of the work in summer and winter, and still more by the immense competition, so that to refuse the low wages is to be at once dismissed and the place filled up at once by some one of the twenty other girls who are anxiously waiting for employment.
Iv spite of the Act of Parliament, work at extra hours, lasting on till one and two in the morning, is frequently exacted when there is a great pressure of work, and for this overtime no payment is made, exhausting though this additional strain is for the tired eyes and aching fingers. It may be that by-and-by some strong remedy may be brought to bear on this evil, or that in time the overplus of young women may turn to other employments, or the great shops and fashionable dressmakers be willing to make fortunes more slowly, and with more regard to their workpeople.
In the meantime, it is impossible to wait and let a generation perish, and what is there that can be done ?
St. Gabriel's Home is meeting the difficulty as far as it can by affording to the young women who live here full board and lodging, both for 98. a week, without dinner, 78. a week. But even these are only summer payments, in winter and slack time they are less, or nothing. Lodgers for a short time at the rate of 108. a week. Standing, as it does, in the near neighbourhood of Regent Street, Oxford Street, and Tottenham Court Road, it is admirably suited to those who work at houses in those streets, and is in a neighbourhood where cheap, respectable lodgings are scarce. That it is appreciated is evident from the fact that twice the twenty-one beds which it contains could be easily filled.
Besides these beds, each with their red screen securing privacy to the occupant, there is a cheerful little sitting-room, and another room set apart for family prayer, and for private prayer, and meditation, double value to those whose life is spent in the constant talk and excitement of the shop workroom.
By good management and much care the expenditure of the Home is so arranged that the payments at their best cover, on an average, board, rates, and taxes, and with the help of an annual grant from the Confraternity of All Saints, the fire and lighting also. But the rent remains, the rent which it is evident at the present rate of their wages the young women's payments cannot cover, a rent of £250 per annum, towards which we earnestly ask for annual subscriptions. For donations we are very grateful, they have tided us through our hand-to-mouth existence hitherto, also for gifts in kind, vegetables, rabbits, fish, eggs, etc., or any article for housekeeping, or for old clothes for sale, but above all for annual subscriptions towards the rent. If that could be assured, what a load would be taken off the mind of those who manage St. Gabriel's. If that could be assured, the haunting fear of having to close the house and turn our young women again adrift in London might be dismissed. And the whole sum is but £590, towards which we have already, in annual subscriptions, £101 108. May we not reckon on receiving, either in large or in small sums, in shillings or in sovereigns, the lacking sum from the readers of the Monthly Packet'?
Gifts in kind should be sent to the Sister Superior, St. Gabriel's Home, 34, Mortimer Street, London, W. Money to the Treasurer, Miss E. Duncombe, 49, Berkeley Square, London, W.
We then entrust this matter hopefully to all those who lead safe and sheltered lives, who keep no involuntary fasts, to whom London suggests either home, or a season of holiday and amusement, with its accompaniment of pretty new frocks. Then they need fear no haunting vision of
And cheeks without a bloom ;
We haste to an early tomb." '
SHAKSPERE TALKS WITH UNCRITICAL PEOPLE.
XXIII.—HAMLET, PART I.
(Supposed date 1602–3 ; published 1603.) THERE is something discouraging in attempting to say anything about this, the most discussed of all Shakspere's plays. The mass of existing Hamlet literature is already so great that it seems absurd, even presumptuous, to think of saying anything not already said fifty times. Moreover, when the ground is so thickly covered, it gives us an uneasy feeling that our ideas must be very crude and below the subject. Well, but never mind if they are crude, let us boldly find out what the play has to say to us at first hand, not through any one else's brains, however clever; and if it has said the same to hundreds before us, we shall still feel it fresh and unhackneyed. It is worth while to carry along in our minds, the question why this play has such an inexhaustible fascination, that after all these years people are still disputing over the actions of the unhappy Prince of Denmark. Doctors are arguing about him as if he were a pet case, and we can mostly sympathise with the good clergyman who confessed that if Hamlet walked into the room, he should have more to say to him than to any of his parishioners! It is far the most popular of the plays from the standpoint of actual representation. Managers say that it'acts itself,' although the most finished art might be expended on it without bringing the performance quite up to an ideal one. It is strange that the play which goes deepest into mysteries, asks the most insoluble questions, and is in itself something of an enigma, should be thus the most popular, if people are really so shallow and frivolous as we are constantly told they are. To touch on all the points of interest which arise as we go through the play, would be impossible even in the briefest fashion within reasonable limits, and even without attempting this, we must divide our subject into two parts, considering Hamlet himself first and the rest of the characters on a future occasion.
We need not pause long over the origin of the story which is first known as a Danish Saga, then filtered through an Italian novel, translated into French, and from that into English. It was turned into a play now lost, before Shakspere made it his own. The earliest existing edition of the English translation was not published till 1608, but evidently Shakspere had the story in pretty much the same shape. Though he treated his original with even more than his usual freedom, re-shaping characters at his pleasure, and though the Historie of Hamlet' is a gruesome tale of blood and wickedness, it is, all the same, interesting to see how it was worked up, and it does sometimes throw light on bits of the play which seem inconsistent, by showing the links which were in Shakspere's mind, though he does not explain them. For instance, the case of Claudius' usurpation is partly cleared up, when we find the brothers in the original, joint rulers of the kingdom, and there are other similar points. Even Shakspere could not transfer situations, and either alter or ignore what had led up to them, without being sometimes inconsistent and sometimes obscure in minor matters, and this has happened repeatedly in Hamlet, where the manifold beauty of the play has not been compatible with the barbaric simplicity of the old story. To turn the wild Hamlet of the Saga, half savage, half wizard, with his coarse cunning and cruelty, his double marriage and miserable death, into the Prince whom we all know so well, could hardly be done with perfect consistency in detail.
Before Hamlet actually comes on the scene, we begin to hear of him as the proper person to whom the apparition of the dead King should be reported, and by putting together scattered hints and statements, we get a sufficient idea of his life up to the opening of the play. It is strange that everything after his father's death is so dark and sad, while everything up to that point seems so bright. With a hero father, on whom to expend all his treasure of admiring affection, and who evidently truly loved his son, with a mother whom he believed to be the loving and gracious creature which she appeared, fully endowed with mental and bodily gifts, and culture to match them, and with bright prospects before him, how could Hamlet's childhood and youth be anything but sunny? He had companionship also, not living in cold isolation, but sharing the lively student life of Wittenberg, where he had one friend of friends to wear in his heart's core,' and also gay comrades to work and frolic with, no suspicion of their future treachery darkening his soul. Perhaps, too, some vision of the “Rose of May,' the fair daughter of Polonius, may be imagined as already floating before the princely student, as he must surely have known Ophelia before his father's death. No doubt Claudius must always have been obnoxious, but not sufficiently important deeply to trouble the full tide of Hamlet's young life. It is well to realise this early radiance of his youth, so as to appreciate the subsequent contrast. If Shakspere had not expressly stated Hamlet's age, we should have thought of him as younger than thirty, and it still seems inconsistent with the unfinished college life and some other suggestions. But whatever his age, his life is full of hope and promise, when blow after blow comes down upon it, and crushes it ruthlessly. First comes the King's death. That such a nature as Hamlet's would find this alone hard to bear, let those answer who have had the glory and ideal of their childhood and youth taken from them at a stroke, but with him it