+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

to me, demanding to know what compensation
I proposed to make him for his having
passed the night in a 'loathsome dungeon.'
And next morning, an Irish gentleman, a
member of the same fraternity, who had read
the case, and was very well persuaded I
should be chary of going to that Police-Office
again, positively refused to leave my door for
less than a sovereign, and, resolved to besiege
me into compliance, literally 'sat down' before
it for ten mortal hours. The garrison being
well provisioned, I remained within the walls;
and he raised the siege at midnight, with a
prodigious alarum on the bell.

The Begging-Letter Writer often has an
extensive circle of acquaintance. Whole pages
of the Court Guide are ready to be
references for him. Noblemen and gentlemen
write to say there never was such a man for
probity and virtue. They have known him,
time out of mind, and there is nothing they
wouldn't do for him. Somehow, they don't
give him that one pound ten he stands in
need of; but perhaps it is not enoughthey
want to do more, and his modesty will not
allow it. It is to be remarked of his trade that
it is a very fascinating one. He never leaves
it; and those who are near to him become
smitten with a love of it, too, and sooner or
later set up for themselves. He employs a
messengerman, woman, or child. That
messenger is certain ultimately to become an
independent Begging-Letter Writer. His sons
and daughters succeed to his calling, and
write begging-letters when he is no more.
He throws off the infection of begging-letter
writing, like the contagion of disease. What
Sydney Smith so happily called 'the
dangerous luxury of dishonesty' is more tempting,
and more catching, it would seem, in
this instance than in any other.

He always belongs to a Corresponding-
Society of Begging-Letter Writers. Any one
who will, may ascertain this fact. Give money
to day, in recognition of a begging-letter,—no
matter how unlike a common begging-letter,—
and for the next fortnight you will have a
rush of such communications. Steadily
refuse to give; and the begging-letters become
Angels' visits, until the Society is from some
cause or other in a dull way of business, and
may as well try you as anybody else. It
is of little use enquiring into the Begging-
Letter Writer's circumstances. He may be
sometimes accidentally found out, as in the
case already mentioned (though that was not
the first enquiry made); but apparent misery
is always a part of his trade, and real misery
very often is, in the intervals of spring-lamb and
early asparagus. It is naturally an incident
of his dissipated and dishonest life.

That the calling is a successful one, and
that large sums of money are gained by it,
must be evident to anybody who reads the
Police Reports of such cases. But, prosecutions
are of rare occurrence, relatively to the
extent to which the trade is carried on. The
cause of this, is to be found (as no one knows
better than the Begging-Letter Writer, for it
is a part of his speculation) in the aversion
people feel to exhibit themselves as having
been imposed upon, or as having weakly
gratified their consciences with a lazy, flimsy
substitute for the noblest of all virtues. There
is a man at large, at the moment when this
paper is preparing for the press (on the
29th of April), and never once taken up yet,
who, within these twelvemonths, has been
probably the most audacious and the most
successful swindler that even this trade has
ever known. There has been something
singularly base in this fellow's proceedings:
it has been his business to write to all sorts
and conditions of people, in the names of
persons of high reputation and unblemished
honor, professing to be in distressthe general
admiration and respect for whom, has
ensured a ready and generous reply.

Now, in the hope that the results of the real
experience of a real person may do something
more to induce reflection on this subject than
any abstract treatiseand with a personal
knowledge of the extent to which the Begging-
Letter Trade has been carried on for some
time, and has been for some time constantly
increasingthe writer of this paper entreats
the attention of his readers to a few
concluding words. His experience is a type of
the experience of many; some on a smaller;
some on an infinitely larger scale. All may
judge of the soundness or unsoundness of his
conclusions from it.

Long doubtful of the efficacy of such assistance
in any case whatever, and able to recal
but one, within his whole individual
knowledge, in which he had the least after-reason
to suppose that any good was done by it, he
was led, last autumn, into some serious
considerations. The begging-letters flying about
by every post, made it perfectly manifest, That
a set of lazy vagabonds were interposed between
the general desire to do something to relieve
the sickness and misery under which the
poor were suffering; and the suffering poor
themselves. That many who sought to do
some little to repair the social wrongs,
inflicted in the way of preventible sickness
and death upon the poor, were strengthening
those wrongs, however innocently, by
wasting money on pestilent knaves
cumbering society. That imagination,—soberly
following one of these knaves into his life of
punishment in jail, and comparing it with the
life of one of these poor in a cholera-stricken
alley, or one of the children of one of these poor,
soothed in its dying hour by the late lamented
Mr. Drouet,—contemplated a grim farce,
impossible to be presented very much longer
before God or man. That the crowning miracle
of all the miracles summed up in the New
Testament, after the miracle of the blind seeing,
and the lame walking, and the restoration of the
dead to life, was the miracle that the poor had
the Gospel preached to them. That while the