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BIRMINGHAM AND ITS VICINITY.
IRMINGHAM is indeed a remark- admiring eye: in this soft and lovely climate people live, able place, in the midst of remarkable too, to a good old age; and (for there is a reverse to
and interesting scenery—so close this picture) here, people—too many, alas-live until to other counties that an hour's walk will carry you life is a burden, for here, in the midst of God's bounty into the lovely and luxuriant Worcestershire, or the and loveliness, stalks the curse of poverty—the whole densely populated Staffordshire, interesting alike from population of this beauteous region being, without its amazing mineral resources, and for its industrious, distinction of sex, nailers, a name at once descriptive patient, ill-paid people.
of all poverty and wretchedness. Everywhere cottages A mile from our busy town, and we come upon the and mud hovels meet the eye in the most picturesque road to Hales Owen (or Yell's, as it is called by the situations, built up of such incongruous materials, and natives) and in view of the loveliest valley in the world, in such dilapidation, as would rejoice the heart of a albeit they are many: as far as the charmed eye can painter—but to plain prose, appear neither more nor reach, are soft, swelling, green hills, quiet shady lanes, less than utter distress and poverty, little valleys with the bright sparkling waters of a canal To each of these cottages or hovels is attached a shed glancing now and then in a blink of sunshine, village for the forge; and here may be seen the maid, the spires peeping up from groves of trees, while here and matron, the young, the old, the strong and the weak, there the curling smoke arises from farm houses so re working from early dawn till long after “ dewy eve, mote, and so secluded, that wandering only a hundred -perhaps not able to sell their day's work at any price; yards from the turnpike road, we can scarcely fancy perhaps, next day, wandering with a bagful to our ourselves in busy England; the startled hare and rabbit town, begging at every shop door that we would buy dart across our path, the wood-pigeon cooes in the tall them, or in the majority of cases receiving from fourtrees, while, in the back-ground, giving an exquisite pence halfpenny to sixpence for their long day's work. finish to the scene, arise the blue-tinted hills of the This state of existence, for it cannot be called living, Lickey, Clent, and Malvern.
precludes instruction,—that blessing being confined to Here Shenstone wrote—here he lived—for here are the inhabitants of this “happy valley” while children; his far-famed Leasowes, a perfect garden of beauty- they are, while children, taught at Sunday schools imwith every diversity of landscape stretched out to the perfectly to read and write, but there their education
ceases—for from the time that they have strength “But I thought women's luxury was tea ?” enough to hold a hammer, their doom is fixed. Many "Yes, when they can get it; hereabouts we drinks a slight and graceful girl have I seen wielding a ham- peppermint tea; real tea is dear, you know, and we mer, who would have much better become the benches earus no money scarce : I sometimes think I'd better of a day-school, both from her tender age and delicate hang myself than live to grow old.” form, clad in a coarse woollen petticoat, a rough hand- “ But I heard you were about to be married ?" kerchief covering her bosom as protection from the “ Well, and it's time: he's but a rough sort of blade, sparks of red-hot iron, and sufficiently disclosing her and I dare say I shall have to work as hard then as stays and shift-sleeves. The only little display of femi- now, but I shall perhaps get more to eat; for I don't nine vanity attempted, is in the arrangement of her mind telling you—and I'm sure it is no sin, like hair: no time to spare for curling and braiding, she thieving any thing else -- but he often catches hares is a gainer in appearance from her smooth unadorned and them things that swarm about here, and so he tresses; and the poor nailer girl may be forgiven the gets a little more than always nailing. Do you think bit of coquetry with which she keeps the door half shut it wicked ?” to hide her poor attire, while she peeps out on hearing “I can't say I think it wicked; but he might be the sound of approaching wheels. Alas! poor girl, found out, you know.” well she knows, despite her now graceful and flexible Ah, so he might—well, we mun take our luck ; form, before she is thirty years old, she will be bent to we can't go on in this way.”. the shape of the anvil at which she now works, singing A whole sermon on the sin of poaching would not with all the light-heartedness of youth.
make me believe it was a sin, if, like this poor girl, I She cannot extricate herself—for all the girls round never tasted animal food from one year's end to another. her are nailers, or (until very lately) work in coal-pits. How easy for wise men to make laws, and how
easy She cannot be a servant-for her hovel never required for virtuous men to declaim upon the necessity of household work, and she knows nothing of it; while obeying those laws; but how frail a barrier are they, her talents as a cook have never been tested farther when hungry desperation stands arrayed against them! than potatoes and bacon. She has no alternative; The character of the scenery entirely changes on she exists, and works on, as all the district do, until approaching the confines of South Staffordshire; and she becomes a crippled, starved and miserable object, with it, also, change the occupation, habits, and living in the midst of beauty with the slightest appre- manners of the people. Lanes, instead of being pleaciation of it, in the midst of plenty without partaking sant and shady, become mere ravines, as if in some of it, and with no other notion of the power of God convulsion of the earth the solid rock had been rent than that he is the inflicter of her present hard fate, asunder; the land becomes broken into little abrupt which if she bears without murmuring, she may, by round hollows, clearly indicating the nature of the subpossibility, obtain some future reward.
terranean operations going on all round; fields, though And with all the boast of superior intellect, the men all hill and hollow, are exceedingly fruitful—the heat are the same ignorant, hardworking, helpless, starved of the soil producing the best and most luxuriant crops; objects as the women; from the constant habit of and though now advancing into a manufacturing disstooping over their work, they are not above half as trict, all sounds and signs of bustle are shut out in the tall at fifty as they were at twenty. In the close calm peacefulness of the scene, until mounting a short neighbourhood of some of the finest saline springs in hill, or turning a sharp corner, unexpectedly appears the kingdom, they are dirty and neglectful of their one of those hives of human industry and skill for persons. It may be urged in extenuation of this, that which the whole county is celebrated. the baths being rented of Lord Dudley, a charge is No longer do “ hedge-rows green" divide the fields made for admission by the tenant, which, of
course, and fence in the garden plots. Cinders piled one they are totally unable to pay; but, if a disposition upon the other supply the place; not cinders such as were shown by the inhabitants to avail themselves of we see in parlour grates—but huge masses of calcine the boon, his lordship’s liberality is too well known to from which the iron ore has been extracted. Instead doubt that every facility would be afforded even to the of mud-built or thatched cottages, the sheds and outvery poorest. Thus they vegetate on, with no in- houses are built up of this material, and often roofed struction, no amusement, no relaxation, no luxury but with plates of iron; and when the chinks are well filled tobacco, which is used by both sexes and all ages. up, are certainly more comfortable, and are not unsightly
Sauntering along one of the lanes, I stopped at a to the eye. Here and there are small brick buildings well known smithy, and asked the girl if she had ever something like beehives, to warn the heedless from heard of Shenstone ?
approaching, for they indicate the mouth of an ex“The ould conjurer, he has made songs and verses, hausted mine, and the earth is always treacherous and put up seats under the trees for folks to sit and even after many years. look at the fields !"
Similar structures of a larger size are placed near I suppose you mean the same do you ever walk the opening of every coal-pit for the accommodation of through his Leasowes on a Sunday ?".
the miners; tram-roads intersect the ground in every “ Not I. I bin so tired,
my arms aching so direction; and in many places, steam issues from fiswith my week's work, that I mostly lies abed Sundays, sures and holes in the banks, so hot as to make it till toward night sometimes I goes to meetin'." painful to hold the hand in it for a moment. Such is
She picked up a short black pipe. I remarked, the difference in general appearance within four miles, “I was sorry to see so young a girl smoke."
-and in the inhabitants is as great a change. Instead “Perhaps you'd smoke too, if you hadn't nothing of rude cottage buildings, the houses are decorated with else." God knows, perhaps I should.
staring colours; window-shutters are painted in the strongest contrasts of blue and brickdust; iron scroll- The use of nicknames is universal, and the droll work painted green serves for curtain, while a range applicability of many of them speaks much for the of garden pots of the brightest red are generally natural humour possessed by the natives, while their placed on a shelf half way up the window.
honesty is proverbial; so high is the tone of moral Instead of the mild, low accent in which the nailers feeling (except in one small corner of this region, the of the valley speak, the tone is loud and harsh, and limits of which are so clearly defined, that even marthe dialect scarcely to be understood except by long riages out of it are rare), that no attempt at palliation acquaintance with the county. I remember, when a or extenuation of it is ever made. child, being electrified by a smart slap on the shoulder, How sorrowful to reflect that such a people should accompanied with “ Ou’se na ate, wanch ?” which neither receive a fair reward for their labour, nor more being interpreted meant an hospitable inquiry, why I instruction than they can gather while children at the did not eat more.
Sunday schools ! “ Maither," bawls a damsel from a house door to Heavy indeed is the satire presented by South Stafher mother in the fields opposite, “whae's ma fey- fordshire to that false philanthropy which sends ther's porridge cup?"
teachers and aids of all kinds to distant lands-for“ O’er anunst the steairs," shouts the matron in reply. getting to look at home.
THE SHAWL BUYER.
AN INCIDENT OF 1843.
BY MISS CAMILLA TOULMIN.
BRANCHING off from one of those wide, leading, ever- a violent passion; and, moreover, was not unused to crowded streets, which are aptly called the arteries of the debasing influence of intemperance. the metropolis, is a certain insignificant turning, which, Mary Morris," said the latter, addressing her comnot even boasting itself as a thoroughfare, is seldom panion, “I wonder you can be such a fool-to grieve remarked by the hurried pedestrian, unless he have about one of them rich people! Let them sicken, and business in one of the half dozen dull, dingy looking die; what should we care ? For my part, I like to see houses which rise on each side of the avenue. Yet at them suffer, and know they are miserable ; it's a comone corner, with windows embracing both sides of the fort, that it is." house, is a certain shop, which may be called linen- “Oh, Hannah, don't talk so," said the other, draper's, hosier's, glover's, or, if you will, an outfitting through her tears. warehouse-so varied and crowded does the merchan- “ But I shall talk so. Don't they grind us down to dize seem.
Perhaps, however, my readers will better what we are ? You say, it is the shopkeepers, and that understand the description if I call it a ticketing shop. the ladies know nothing about the price we get. I say, Yes, there are doubtless at this moment suspended they ought to know.” the Brobdignag tickets, expressive of shillings, accom- They don't think.” panied by microscopic pence; while ribbons, gloves, “But they ought to think." and other trifling wares, are placed temptingly for- “Well, Hannah, don't let us quarrel.” ward, decorated with legible inky intimations of pence, “That is what you always say when you are crying which on a nearer inspection one finds incumbered with and moping. Only yesterday, said I to myself, she's mystical figures, traced as it appears by an HH. getting over Nancy's death; and though we may be pencil, and signifying three farthings. The shop door next door to starving, we sha'n't have crying and wailfaces the great thoroughfare; the private door is in ing from morning to night." the narrow, unfrequented street. The latter is but Getting over Nancy's death! Oh, God, have little used ; and on the step of it, on a certain day, last mercy !” And the wretched, childless widow raised October, were seated two meanly clad women. Both her thin hands and streaming eyes to Heaven.—“O were apparently in abject poverty—nay, they might be God, have mercy!" she continued, “ though unworthy mendicants-for aught the passer-by could tell ; yet if
am I to ask it." he paused a moment, and his eyes had the privilege “ Well,” returned the other, “I think we had better of direct communication with his understanding, he go home-such a home as it is :—two chairs, and an would feel assured that they were very different beings. empty cupboard ; three sticks and a handful of cinders; Companions, associates, they might be, and were, the two cups and a broken teapot; a kettle without a strange fellow-labourers which adversity yokes toge- handle; two forks and one knife ;-that's all, isn't ther, but this was all.
younger of the two, who looked about five and “You forget the bed-her gift.” thirty years of age, and whose tattered apparel was “Well, it was a bed which we were not used to, black, was weeping bitterly, and rocking to and fro on that made us oversleep ourselves, and so lose a day's the cold stone in her anguish. The countenance of work.” the other seemed one that had been distorted by many “Cruel !" murmured the widow" because we were
five minutes beyond the hour. But does it not prove, there is no actual necessity for it, Edward disapproves she continued, in a firmer voice, “ that the customers of my walking out by myself; and though I tried to know nothing of the pay we get; because it must be make him understand the sure protection of a shabby to avoid our seeing them, that they give out the work dress and old-fashioned bonnet, he only answered, that before eight o'clock.”
he disapproved of them also. Now, though I have not “If it had not been for our coming this afternoon to quite given in, we have come to a compromise ; I have see if they'd advance us a shilling on next week's work," promised never to go out alone, unless there be a real muttered the elder woman, "you'd never have known necessity for my doing so, and he has magnanimously who bought the shawl-I am sure I wish you didn't.” left it to my own conscience to decide whether there be
'Oh, Hannah !” said the widow Morris, “be such a necessity or not.” human—be what you were five years ago, when first “ Edward is quite right, my child.” I knew you, or, when long after that, you and I and “ Perhaps he is; but after having taught myself, my
blessed child, first made one room our home.” and not easily, to feel independent, I seem to have "Now, don't preach."
lost my liberty. The worst of it is, this point of con“I would rather ATONE."
science is more binding than a fixed rule ; for instance,
I wished very much to go and see the poor widow Very different was the scene that might have been Morris, this morning, but I could not prove to my witnessed only half a dozen streets distant from that conscience that the visit was one of necessity.” cold damp step, where the shivering women held their “I want to know more about this poor woman,” strange discourse. A party of three-father, mother, said Mrs. Greville. "I hope, my dear Lucy, you have and daughter-had just finished dinner ; and though not been wasting your time, and sympathy, and money, twilight was now fast deepening into night, they had upon an impostor.” not asked for candles, but were content with the “ Little have I had of the last to bestow, and my cheering rays of a bright fire, which, as almost the sympathy I could not withhold. That she is not one first fire of the season, was doubly enjoyable. They of those faultless heroines of humble life, which are were something better than a merry trio—they were a found, I suspect, only in novels, I admit; and if we, happy one; the clouds of adversity which for three dear mother, had never known trouble ourselves, I dare years had darkened the world to them, had lately say my heart would have hardened against her, when I passed away, and now, with grateful hearts, made found out she was no such pattern of perfection.” better and wiser, they basked once more in the sun- “I can hardly fancy,” said Mr. Greville, smiling, shine of prosperity, and tasted its sweets, as those only “ that it is my Lucy, not three and twenty till Christwho have known suffering can do. Mr. Greville was a mas, talking so like a philosopher.” merchant, who, from the unprincipled conduct of his “Better smile than frown, mio padre ; and if you will partner, had been reduced, three years before, from promise not to call me blue, when I talk from my heart affluence to a penniless condition. Yet he had had at home, I give you my word I will discourse glibly in enough to pay all claimants, so that his honour was society on the last new novel, the favourite dancer, the unscathed; and
sketch from life has nothing more elegance of Louis Quatorze furniture, Berlin woolto do with the struggles which followed, than to paint work, and, when the Exhibitions open, of any or all the their effect upon character. Though there was little pictures to be found in the Catalogues." probability that he would ever again be a rich man, Although you are no artist ?" there was a rational prospect of ease and competence ; “ Certainly, for these are considered lady-like and one of the invaluable lessons he and his family had topics; and though I start, and almost shudder, at learned, was to be more than content with such a lot. hearing the daring and opinionated manner in which His domestic happiness, too, was complete ; for Lucy, the utterly ignorant and inexperienced talk of Art, his only child, was about to wed one every way worthy without their seeming to guess at the subtle genius of her, and who, having been tried by adversity, had and tedious labour of the artist, I observe there is not been found wanting.
a by-law of society, which forbids a lady conversing “It certainly is very delightful,” said Lucy, seating on many much simpler matters, under the penalty of herself on a low stool, and leaning her head against her being called Blue." mother's knee, “quite a luxury, once again to have my “ Pray what do you call simpler matters, my little long mornings to myself, to read, or work, or write, enthusiast ?” or, best of all, practise myself, instead of counting one, “What you call me, papa, a little philosopher two, three, to dull children, and suffer the torture of for talking about, but which seem to me simple wrong notes and faulty time. But all is for the best; truths, discoverable by almost involuntary observation I should never have felt it to be a luxury if I had not and reflection. Not, I dare say, that I should ever fagged as a music teacher in the manner I have done. have observed or thought, had I continued the rich So do not draw a long face, dear papa ; I am a great merchant's daughter-or at least have not observed or deal wiser and better, and consequently happier, for all thought of the same things. For instance, had I not that has happened. Though, I suppose, I ought not twice a-week, all the spring and summer, left home at to be happy to-day, for I have had my first quarrel eight o'clock, I should not have met each morning the with Edward.”
poor widow Morris, and so could not have observed “Not a very serious one, I think,” said Mr. Gre- how she grew thinner and thinner, and shabbier and ville, would not smile about it."
shabbier; and so could not have thought, when I saw I hope not," replied the mother, anxiously, “for her (after missing her for a fortnight) in tattered I always warned you to keep off the first quarrel.” black, and weeping bitterly, that she was in some sore
“Dear mamma,” said Lucy, pressing her hand, " as affliction ; and thus could never have spoken to her, if we could really quarrel ! The truth is, now that and learned her history."
“I always thought her very wrong," said Mrs. much interested ?” And while the lady spoke, her Greville, “ to suffer you to enter her wretched hovel, husband poured out a glass of wine for the now only one day after her child, having died of small-pox, trembling widow. The word and act of kindness had been taken from it."
loosened the floodgates of her soul--tears came to “ It was wrong, mamma,” returned Lucy ; " and her relief—and in a few moments she was able to when I discovered of what disease the child had died, tell her story with some degree of distinctness. though it was not till weeks afterwards, I told her “ You, my lady,” said Mary Morris, addressing frankly—almost severely—of her error. There was no Lucy in the style which the very humble, to lady or denial -no defence on her part; but, for the first no lady, usually adopt—"you have often listened to time, I perceived the marked difference between herself my complainings till the tears started to your bright and the woman who shares her wretched room. No
eyes ; and indeed—indeed—I would not risk calling change passed over the face of the latter, unless indeed them there again, were it not that what I have to it were not a fancy of mine that she rather smiled
tell concerns you. than otherwise, as she bent over her work. On the " What can be the matter? You alarm me," incontrary, poor Morris trembled and wept, as if some terrupted Mrs. Greville. new feeling were awakened in her heart, or as if a ray “ Under Heaven the danger is over," continued the of light had streamed upon her dark mind. Since widow solemnly. “I sometimes wonder if I have then
done right in telling her a story of such misery and Here Miss Greville was interrupted by a servant abject want as mine. Yet that is past—she has learnt who entered, saying, “ A poor woman, named Morris, how I sank from being a respectable servant, step by begged leave to speak to her."
step, to the wretched, friendless creature I am. For " How very strange!" cried Lucy, —"I never gave give me for saying friendless,” she proceeded, turning her our address.'
again to Lucy, “I shall be so again, and feel as if I “Let her come in,” said Mr. Greville,-and in were already. My marriage ten years ago was against another minute the unhappy widow stood before them. the advice of those who knew better than myself; and Paler she was than ever, and either she was grown when I found out that my husband was worthless, a sort still thinner, and so looked taller ; or it might be her of shame kept me away from all my old associates. tattered mourning hung each day closer and closer, But human beings cannot live alone in a great city ; or perhaps some innate consciousness of acting rightly and from shrinking from his acquaintances as at first made her figure more erect; and certainly she pos- I did, in time I grew to tolerate them.
This was sessed a composure and dignity of manner which my great error. No wonder that when the hour of sensibly interested both Mr. and Mrs. Greville. Yet need came, my early and true friends were disinclined when she began to speak, composure seemed gone, to aid me. They had lost faith in me; and though, for her words were scarcely articulate.
thank Heaven, no one deep sin darkens my conscience, “ Sit down,” said Mrs. Greville kindly; “ you are, I a host of circumstances in which I witnessed wrong in think, the person for whom my daughter feels very others, with scarcely an opposition on my part, crowd
my memory to tell me they were right. I am a good respectability. But there was no one whose word needle-woman, and, when my husband died, might would be taken to speak for me, where I might have have supported my child and myself in comfort and procured good work; and wanting daily bread as I