From the Archive — From the September 2015 issue

At the Ragged School

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I found my first Ragged School, in an obscure place called West-Street, Saffron-Hill, pitifully struggling for life, under every disadvantage. If I say it is ten years ago, I leave a handsome margin. It had no means, it had no suitable rooms, it derived no power or protection from being recognized by any authority, it attracted within its wretched walls a fluctuating swarm of faces — young in years but youthful in nothing else — that scowled Hope out of countenance. It was held in a low-roofed den, in a sickening atmosphere, in the midst of taint, and dirt, and pestilence: with all the deadly sins let loose, howling and shrieking at the doors. Zeal did not supply the place of method and training; the teachers knew little of their office; the pupils, with an evil sharpness, found them out, got the better of them, derided them, made blasphemous answers to scriptural questions, sang, fought, danced, robbed one another; seemed possessed by legions of devils. The place was stormed and carried, over and over again; the lights were blown out, the books strewn in the gutters, and the female scholars carried off triumphantly to their old wickedness.

With no strength in it but its purpose, the school stood it all out and made its way. Some two years since, I found it, one of many such, in a large, convenient loft in this transition part of Farringdon-Street — quiet and orderly, full, lighted with gas, well whitewashed, numerously attended, and thoroughly established.

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