Bateman Street, London, W1. Photo © Roger Dean 2011
Ins and Outs of London – W. O’Daniel, 1859:
Of the lower classes of London society, it would be a matter of impossibility to give a description. They form the largest portion of the inhabitants, and with accurate accounts of them, many volumes might be filled. There is one class however, on which it is necessary to say a little, inasmuch, as it is connected with every every other class, and is as much an institution of London, as slavery is of the Southern States, or as free labor is of the Northern. This class attracts as much of the attention of the London legislators and the public press, as does slavery in the States, and should I omit it, the omission would be considered too great by any who know anything of London. I allude to courtesans. It is said, that these form about one-fortieth part of the entire population, or, are in number about fifty-five thousand. Many reasons are given why this class is so large, but there can be no doubt that the chief reason is, the general state of poverty among the lower classes, caused in a great measure by the wholesale system of taxation.
The children of the poor, almost as soon as they can walk or talk, are sent to the workhouse. For girls, these are the primary schools for prostitution. The large number constantly leaving the workhouse for service, renders work scarce, and the number of the unemployed great. Thus, of necessity, they become vicious. There is not a particle of doubt, but that stern necessity makes more persons wicked, than does the love of iniquity. On the countenance of these girls, nothing but joy and animation can be seen, while the very vulture of misery is gnawing hour after hour, day after day, at their hearts. Originally seduced from a state of innocence, and then abandoned by every one who held them in any degree of estimation, they are left upon the world, and have no alternative but to go on in the way they have commenced. They are then exposed to insult without the means of redress, imposed upon by the police, must stand all kinds of weather, often without a friend in misery, or a place to call home. Fifty-five thousand such creatures roam the streets of London. No wonder that the journals teem with cases of suicides. Of these, fifty-five thousand nine-tenths die prematurely of disease and in misery, having lived lives of almost unimaginable hardships, and having, during those lives corrupted twice, or thrice nearly, their number of young girls – to say nothing of the ruin showered upon strong masculine constitutions. In a police report, I recently noticed a return of four parishes, containing in all, about 12,900 houses, and 70,000 inhabitants. Of the houses, 510 were of ill-fame, and of the inhabitants about 4,000 were prostitutes.