Page images

ties and the jests that may be pass- course to his fate with a grumble; ed on them, in the ready acquies- but his religious and moral training, cence of the criminal with inevitable will at once assure him that he conditions. This part of his nature must not attribute evil motives to includes a signal exemption from the hostile judge. We may be irritability or angry excitement, assured that reasoning like this and a bland courtesy of obedience never pierces to the mind of the that has a strange similarity to a convict. His patient acquiescence high tone of Christian resignation. —his exemption from all hatred, So long as he remains free from malice, or uncharitableness to those prison bonds, he of course adopts who have been his . persecutors, every alternative for the protection make a phenomenon not to be thus of his freedom. He hides himself; accounted for by the moral influhe flees before his enemy the officer ences that reign throughout the unof justice; he knocks down his criminal part of the community. It pursuer if that is apparently the seems to be a result following on a sole alternative for the retention of certain torpidity which we shall, his freedom. But once in prison ere much more is said, find to be a bonds, all is changed in the direc- phenomenon of the criminal nature, tion of gentle submission. It is and a phenomenon as yet in its like the occurrences so often ex- sources unsolved. emplified in books of sensational One peculiar, and it may be said religion, where the wicked, un- interesting, form of this phenomenon scrupulous, dissipated man, having in the criminal world, is the abject experienced a call,” is at once subjugation of the female to the converted into the meek forgiving male. To one happily unacquaintsaint. What makes the amiability ed with the inner life of the crimof prison-life so perplexing a phe- inal world there will be a ready pomenon is, that we know the evil cause for this in the brutal and passions to be in existence beneath unscrupulous nature of the male the gentle exterior. The pheno- offender, subduing and coercing to menon is not mere acting. It has his will the weaker partner in wicka root much deeper. The passions edness. But those who have had of hatred and revenge are somehow opportunities for the accurate study for the time suspended, and Chris- of the criminal nature will not be tian amiability reigns in their stead. content with this solution. The There are general conclusions known phenomenon is, along with others to all of us that point to the ab- in the same dreary region of husence of vindictiveness in the man experience, merely to be recogcriminal nature. Judges, jurymen, nised as a distinct fact, supported prosecutors, and prison officers have by abundant and indubitable eviall been their enemies in bringing dence. Nor can it be solved on them under conditions of suffering the theory that a united career in and grief. Yet it never crosses the crime will give opportunity for thought of such official persons enhancing the power naturally exthat society is filled with people ofercised by the stronger over the a degraded, unscrupulous nature, weaker nature. Sometimes, no who have had occasion to be roused doubt, it has occurred that the against them by a sense of injury. corrupt wife has been the tutor of The litigant who is the suffering the husband in the ways of crime; party in a civil suit submits of but there can be no question that such an incident is rare in com- most miraculous point. The officer's parison with its converse, in the skill is aided by general regulahusband being the leader in the tions, and one is, that no specific road to ruin. A prison officer, thing, however innocent, is to be who had arranged many inter- transferred from the one to the views between husband and wife, other. Take an example of the the one being a prisoner and the necessity for this strictness. The other free, was known to give woman, plunged in deep and sonthis utterance of his experience in orous grief, dandles an infant in such affairs—that he had known her arms. Becoming excited, she many instances where the man had swings the infant wildly about. It upbraided his wife as the cause of has an apple in its hand, and that his career in wickedness, but had apple, by a skilful sweep, the innever known a single instance of fant brings within the reach of its the wife casting such a charge on father, and it passes into his hand. her husband.

The warder instantly seizes it, and The author of these casual and finds that it is stuffed with a letter fugitive notices does not profess to to the prisoner-father. It may be be a philosopher with a perfect noted that people are much missystem of prison discipline in his taken when they adopt the notion brain, ready to be communicated to that the visit from wife or daughter the world whenever the world de- is always acceptable. That this sires to see it. He will be satisfied idea is entertained is testified by if he affords a few morsels of the suspension of such visits being amusement to the casual reader; inflicted as a punishment for misand in offering them, he does not conduct in prison. It is believed desire to reveal the conditions that criminals often misconduct under which his experience in themselves to gain an end in this prison discipline was obtained. It form of punishment. On the other is, then, in a merely expositive and hand, if there be in the criminal not a critical spirit that he says any remnant of susceptibility to what he has to say. He means gentle or virtuous impressions, the neither laudation nor blame in no- visit from mother, wife, or daughter ticing that the conditions of inter- is often the means of giving life view with a criminal husband are to it. hard on a virtuous wife. They are There was a passing intention of placed, as it were, in two cages conferring on these erratic gleanwhere they can speak to but not ings, the title “ Lights and Shadows touch each other. A warder sits of Prison-Life.” It occurred, howin the space between them, and ever, as an admonitory objection, the poor woman has seldom the that the association of light with happiness of knowing how dead prison - life would appear, in its every word passing between them unexplained simplicity, something touches his well-practised ear. One incongruous, and that it might be intellectual function he must exer- well to reserve it for a place where cise-a vigilant skill directed to- some explanation could be given of wards the defeating of any attempt the nature of such lights. Their at secret communication. What- nature is embodied not so much in ever be his skill in defeating, it may brightness as in serenity. Even have to meet its match in a skill this requires explanation, and here for trickery, educated up to an al- it comes. It may not be said that to any one there is positive happi- people taken from the ordinary ness in prison-life, but to the hab- world, there would be slight sounds itual criminal it is frequently the arising from nightmare following portion of his life that has least un- on indigestion—perhaps from some happiness in it-the unhappiness reminiscence troubling the concaused by terrors that seldom cease science on the question whether to baunt, and by occasional visita- the strong steps taken for payment tions of starvation and other physi- of that bill were not in the circal forms of hardships. Long as cumstances slightly harsh, or some they may for freedom, there is to other disturbing recollection; there this class an obvious serenity in might also be uneasy thoughts and prison-life. The terrible responsi- dreams creative of restlessness. bilities that may follow on some None of these troubles disturb the mistake in the policy of a life full sleep of the habitual criminal. This of schemes and dangerous projects, is not because his conscience lies are unknown for a time. The de- easy on him, but because he does teriorating influence of orgies de- not possess the article known to structive to the vital powers is sus- the rest of the world as a conpended. The food is simple and science. Hence he neither enjoys wholesome, and after a time the the satisfaction of its healthy and prison-bird feeds on it with satis- genial condition, nor the troubles faction. The dinner is seized and attending on its inflictions, and it devoured with so much avidity that is with him essentially that the the warder in charge of it feels that “Prayer for Indifference,” by Greit would be personally dangerous to ville, as it may be found in the withdraw or delay it: there is a old · Elegant Extracts,’ is granted. feeling in the class that a convict would commit murder to secure his "Oh haste to shed the sacred balmdinner if it were in danger. It is And for my guest serenely calm,

My shattered nerves new string; true that there is a depressing influ- The nymph Indifference bring. ence in long sentences, but this is counteracted by abundant and nonr- At her approach see hope, see fear, ishing diet ; so that the accidental And disappointment in the rear onlooker from the outer world is That blasts the promised joy. scandalised by the sight of the petty offender feeding on porridge, while The tear which pity taught to flow the great criminal enjoys an ample The eye shall then disown;

The heart that melts for others' woe meal of butcher-meat.

Shall then scarce feel its own. There is something very solemn in a large convict-prison at mid- The wounds which now each moment night. A faint sound of healthy bleed, slumber comes from the cells where And tranquil days shall still succeed

Each moment then shall close, the convicts sleep. Perhaps there To nights of calm repose." are a thousand, perhaps only five hundred, undergoing punishment; It is only to the hardened and but whatever may be the number, habitual offender, however, that one is conscious that nowhere else there is serenity in prison - life. save in a convict-prison could so to the man whose weak apparatus many human beings sleep with so of moral restraint has been insuffilittle to interrupt the sense of calm cient to overcome the temptations repose. In the same number of of gain, and who has been detected


in a forgery or some other fraud, come in contact with criminals. the entrance at the prison-gate is Beyond the bare fact nothing seems an announcement to him in terrible

as yet to be seen that would lead and appalling reality of the warning to a closer knowledge of the whole of Dante, that all hope is left be- affair as a psychological phenomenon. hind-that for him in this world it And indeed incidents have occurred is dead and buried. And here we suggesting that the hereditary taint touch one of the points where there may be latent in a race not notorious arises a sense of the extreme dif- for crime. Even in those unexficulty of measuring punishment pected instances already referred against the weight of crime, and to, where a man has stepped out of are reminded that we are gener- respectability to inhabit a felon's ally driven to the alternative of prison, the curiosity of the inquirinflicting not what is abstractlý ing world, excited by the strangejust, but what most likely to ness of the event, is gratified by protect the world from fraud and the discovery of ancestral stains of injury.

criminality. There was recently Yet there are some considerations an instance of a lapse into crime inclining to the alternative that the on the part of a gentle, kindly, punishment of the man who has inoffensive man whose immediate lapsed from virtue and respecta- relations were clergymen, or membility should, if nominally light, bers of the other decorous profeslie more heavily npon him than sions; yet it was found that he that of the habitual offender hard- had a grand-uncle who had been ened to prison-life. Let us hanged. how in the general case he comes There was another curious little to be what he is. Pedigree is re- incident of coincidence in the case puted to be an attribute of aristo- of this man connecting him with cratic position ; but if it is not the perhaps the best account to be mere ordering of stars and garters, found in print of the experiences but the stamp of certain qualities of one who has lapsed from the reon races of living beings, we must spectable into the criminal classes : go to the races of the lower crimi- Five Years' Penal Servitude. By nals to find its fullest development. One who has Endured It.' The As intermediate between these two author of this book begins by classes of pedigree, comes to the statingperson familiar with prison popula

“It matters little to the public tions, the pedigree of crime; and it

what it was that brought me within may perhaps some day be seen that note is taken of the descendants of it to say, after over twenty years of

the grip of my country's laws: suffice thieves, and of the qualities devel- commercial life in more than one oped by them, as we follow the large English city, I found myself, in descendants of the lower animals the year 186-, drawn into the meshes in The Short-horned Book,' and

of a man who was too clever for me other manuals of that kind of and for the law, and who, crossing the lore.

seas to a place of safety, left me to

meet a charge to which, in his abThere is no attempt here to de

sence, I had really no defence."-P. 3. velop any philosophy of criminal descent by pedigree, but the fact The persons who thus lapse from of its existence is well known to external respectability into crime every one whose lot it has been to have generally something like an

[ocr errors]

apology to , state,--the habitual and gloomy repose when he takes criminal knows that to be useless. his place in the cells for convicted It happened that in the instance prisoners. His life may have been above referred to, the apology cor- for any number of years a succession responded precisely with that of of dexterous and narrow escapes the author of 'Five Years' Penal from the grip of the criminal law. Servitude.' It was hence inferred The most familiar to us among that he must have been the author cases of this kind is in a'succession of that book, but that was contra- of forged bills, each retired by the dicted by the fact that he had not discounting of its successor. It has to pass through the prisons so well been whispered in some of these described by the author of the instances that some of the knowing · Five Years.

persons through whose hands the There is something characteristic forged documents passed in the in the excuse or apology set forth banks knew what they were, and by the five years' man in this, that kept silence. Money was circuit does not assert absolute inno- lated, and trade encouraged, while cence; and this calls up to recollec- there was ever the comforting astion the conduct of habitual crim- surance, “ Thou canst not say I did inals in their intercourse with it.” But, on the other hand, the inspectors and other persons super- supposition that such things may intending the administration of be is probably a calumny. All who, prison discipline. The ears of under any circumstances, spend these officers are open to any their time within the walls of a complaints that may be made to prison, undergo a process of assimthem, but it is notorious that ilation towards a scepticism as to they rarely if ever are told by the capacity of poor human nature the convict that he is innocent of for real goodness. the crime for which he is under- Before losing sight of the heredigoing punishment. If a reason is tary character of crime, it is proper given by him why sentence should to say that it has been recognised, not have been passed on him, it is examined, and commented on, not founded on some legal technicality only by ethical philosophers, but which his ingenuity has suggested by men of practical understanding, to him. No better reason can be holding high administrative offices. given for this than the supposition But all has been fruitless, so far as in the criminal mind, that the definite practical .conclusions go. official mind will listen to a story Let us here, as in so many other about a technical error, but not to human difficulties, hope to see a betan assertion of innocence.

ter day dawning on us as the result It has been noted that serenity of earnest and candid inquiry. The and a sense of relief in a prison following passage from a writer is more likely to be the lot of its who had opportunities of acquiring habitual than of its casual inmates. knowledge on the point may be of But it may be, and in fact is, occa- interest, if merely from the haze sionally known to occur, that the of mystery that envelops all clear person who has lapsed from a posi- insight into causes and effects, action among his neighbours, recog- companied with the consciousness nised as respectable, into punish that there is mischief of a formidable crime, may also enjoy with the able kind at work, for which a habitual criminal a sense of peace remedy is surely possible :

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »