[Reynoldsʼs Newspaper, 21. November 1869]

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Reynoldsʼs Newspaper. Nr. 1006, 21. November 1869. S. 3.
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SIR,—There is more downright rascality to be found in bank parlours, in private committee rooms, and in the board rooms of our public institutions, than in all the prisons of the metropolis, with Newgate at their head. Some of the so-called London charities may well, in truth, be also designated London rascalities. It is, indeed, the same in the provinces as in the metropolis. Moneys left by charitable persons for the purpose of clothing, educating, and relieving the poor in sickness and in want, have been diverted from their legitimate purposes, and scandalously misappropriated by those into whose hands their appropriation was confided. Like birds of prey over a carcase, well clad, sanctimonious, smug-faced church and chapel-going harpies have fastened themselves on the bodies of our national charities, and are sucking the life-blood out of them. It is a common saying, that nothing can be done without jobbery in this country; but it does appear a monstrous, a shameful, and a scandalous fact, that not even charities are exempt from this prevailing evil.

Jobbery, I fear, is sadly curtailing the utility of many of those noble and necessary institutions, the public hospitals; and, judging by some disclosures recently made in reference to the management of Bartholomew’s Hospital, there is reason to suspect that the poor reap but little benefit from the forty-eight thousand pounds income that charity enjoys. It is said that pretty well the whole and sole control of the hospital is vested in the hands of a very highly salaried functionary named Foster White, who is a sort of bashaw in the establishment, and monarch of all he surveys. Ugly rumours have oozed out lately as to the shabby treatment of the indoor patients at this magnificently endowed hospital; and, likewise, it has been shown, and proven, that the medical treatment of out-door patients is little better than a cruel, and, indeed, dangerous, farce.

One of the medical men connected with the hospital, more thin-skinned, perhaps, than some of his brethren, recently resigned because he would not be an accomplice to what appeared to him a gross and cruel deception. It seems that the doctors appointed to relieve the out-door patients are expected to “knock them off” with such rapidity, that only some twenty or twenty-five seconds can be devoted to each case! Never mind how serious or how trivial the ailment, the doctor on duty must make himself acquainted with every particular of the malady in the time mentioned, or he will fall into arrears with his patients, and into disgrace with the hospital authorities. The martyr to cancer must be disposed of in the same time as the sufferer by a catarrh. “Come and go” seems to be the order at Barthlomew’s, and, I fear, at most London hospitals. No time can be spared to inquire minutely as to the origin and nature of the out-door patient’s maladies, but he is dismissed after the most hurried and superficial examination, with the inevitable bolus or blister.

Indeed, it is doubtful whether more out-door patients are not killed than cured through their visits to some of the public hospitals. Of course, this hasty, unsatisfactory, and discreditable way |47 of doing business might easily be remedied by enlarging the staff of the hospitals, and letting half a dozen, instead of two or three, doctors attend applicants for medical advice and aid. There are hundreds of fully qualified surgeons who would gladly undertake these duties; but the hospital authorities will not go out of the old grooves to which they have been so long accustomed, and they set their faces against all innovations, however needful and beneficial they may be. They like keeping all authority, all patronage, and all pickings to themselves, and refuse to alter the existing state of things, fearing that interlopers might interfere with the loaves and fishes.

It appears there is a brown jug ready at hand, from whence pretty well all patients are physicked alike. “A Clerkenwell Guardian” makes the following astounding statement in reference to a case, which, if true, reflects the utmost discredit upon the authorities of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. He writes as follows:—

“Amongst the applicants to the Clerkenwell Relief Committee was William Clarke. His arm was in a sling, and his hand was swathed in hospital bandages. He evidently came from some remote village, and had the appearance of an agricultural labourer. He informed the committee that he had had one of his fingers amputated at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital a few days before, and that half an hour after the operation, he was sent out friendless, homeless, and penniless. The night was bitterly cold, and after wandering about for some time, a police-officer directed him to the Clerkenwell casual wards. He was at once admitted, and from thence, the next day, he was received into the workhouse. The committee ordered his detention in our infirmary, where he will receive the attention of the surgeon and have sick diet, notwithstanding his not belonging to the parish.”

And this accusation, brought against a hospital with 48,000l. per annum, with the Prince of Wales as patron, and with a treasurer and manager who receives a very large salary! I rejoice to say the scandals that have got abroad in reference to St. Bartholomew’s, have induced the authorities at last to order an investigation as to their truth.

And so it is thus that some of the noblest charities are cramped in the good work their founders meant them to execute. And thus it is that the poor are made to suffer, and to suffer severely, because they are comparatively helpless to protect themselves against those who fatten and flourish upon the proceeds of bequests intended for the behoof and benefit of others. Charities abroad are admirably administered compared with those at home. In most cases the administrators are honorary officers, and make that a work of love which the paid secretaries, treasurers, and the hundreds of other harpies that fasten and fatten upon English charities, regard purely in a mercenary point of view. The results are consequently most opposite. Out of a thousand pounds given to the poor in France, nine hundred and ninety is expended upon them; whilst here half the amount would be frittered away upon officials, functionaries, and a host of other leeches that must all have a nibble at the substance. Some of these cormorants are not contented with a nibble, but make a large bite into the bequests intended for the poor, and extract therefrom, under the designation of salary, five, six, eight hundred, and sometimes, fifteen hundred per annum.

At least a million is filched annually from the poor by those who have obtained control over charitable funds. The sums purloined by the public officers and public companies of the City of London in the aggregate make an enormous amount, but so powerful is the interest of these rogues in crimson, mazarine, and broadcloth, that they easily stifle all attempts to get at how they appropriate the funds entrusted for charitable purposes to their keeping. We all know they spend an enormous amount in guzzling; that they appoint each other to sinecure offices with large salaries attached thereto, and adopt other equally ingenious and disgraceful methods of spending on themselves funds intended for the poor.


  • Social cases. 1869