From a pencil drawing by Edward Clifford
In the year 1882 the most popular novelist of his day wrote as follows about the East End of London—
"Two millions of people, or thereabouts, live in the East End of London. That seems a good-sized population for an utterly unknown town. They have no institutions of their own to speak of, no public buildings of any importance, no municipality, no gentry, no carriages, no soldiers, no picture-galleries, no theatres, no opera,—they have nothing. It is the fashion to believe they are all paupers, which is a foolish and mischievous belief, as we shall presently see. Probably there is no such spectacle in the whole world as that of this immense, neglected, forgotten great city of East London. It is even neglected by its own citizens, who have never yet perceived their abandoned condition. They are Londoners, it is true, but they have no part or share in London; its wealth, its splendours, its honours, exist not for them. They see nothing of any splendours; even the Lord Mayor's Show goeth westward: the City lies between them and the greatness of England. They are beyond the wards, and cannot become aldermen; the rich London merchants go north and south and west; but they go not east. Nobody goes east, no one wants to see the place; no one is curious about the way of life in the east. Books on London pass it over; it has little or no history; great men are not buried in its churchyards, which are not even ancient, and crowded by citizens as obscure as those who now breathe the upper air about them. If anything happens in the east, people at the other end have to stop and think before they can remember where the place may be."
It will be a somewhat startling reflection to many of us to realise that Sir Walter Besant wrote All Sorts and Conditions of Men thirty years ago, and it is more profitable to inquire how true the words I have just quoted are to-day. It is indubitable that a great improvement has taken place. The East End has been "exploited" by many other eminent writers, following in the footsteps of Sir Walter. It is no longer true in the main to say that the East End of London is wholly neglected: the pages of any decent book of reference will bear witness to the innumerable philanthropic and religious missions which have sprung up in the City of the Poor. Yet, to the average man and woman of some place and position, both in London and in the country, I venture to say that the East End is just as remote and visionary a place as Suez.
As an average man myself—perhaps, owing to my profession as a writer, having seen even more of life than the average man, and being endowed with a rather eager curiosity and liking for new scenes—I had never visited the East End, or been nearer to it than Liverpool Street Station, until the early part of the present year.
About the time of which I speak certain facts came to my knowledge about the work that was being done by Frederick Nicholas Charrington, Honorary Superintendent of the Tower Hamlets Mission. It was in a casual conversation with one of the great experts on inebriety that I first even heard of Mr. Charrington's name. What I heard seemed rather extraordinary and out of the way. From what was said, I suspected that a strange personality, and one offering considerable interest to a novelist, was hidden away—at least, as far as I was concerned—in the East End of London.
It came to pass that from other sources I heard more of Mr. Charrington, almost immediately afterwards.
I suppose every one knows how, when they have met with some new word, some quotation, or name of a place, entirely fresh to them, they find it cropping up on every possible occasion. Now, this, of course, is not coincidence. It is merely that one's eyes have been opened.
I heard of the subject of this biography as conducting a work unique in its scope and methods among the great charitable organisations of London. I heard of him as being the owner of a sea-girt island not more than forty-five miles away from London! and some vague story of the sacrifice, made in his youth, of an enormous sum of money.
One does not hear of this sort of personality every day, and my curiosity was immediately excited. Then, as chance would have it—or who shall say that it was not some Higher Power than chance?—I made the acquaintance of Mr. Charrington, chiefly through a novel dealing with the subject of intemperance which I had recently published.
It is not necessary to say more about the genesis of this book, save only that from all over the world the subject of it has constantly received requests from people of every class to write his own biography. Publishers have approached him also with the same proposal, but he has consistently declined. In the event Mr. Charrington has done me the honour to appoint me his biographer, and to place the fullest information as to his career in my possession.
I have made personal experience of the work in the East End. I have read through an enormous amount of documents, both printed and written. I have interviewed and had long conversations with friends and fellow-workers of Mr. Charrington, who have been associated with him for forty years. And finally, I have lived with the man himself, upon his island.
The first time that I ever went to the East End was upon a Sunday, after lunch. I was sitting in my club in St. James' Street. After breakfast, in the smoking-room I asked a man there how to get to the Great Assembly Hall in the Mile End Road. His reply, which was prompt and to the point, was, nevertheless, not exactly what I wanted. He said, "Why, take a taxi-cab, of course," but I discovered that he knew no more how to get to the place in question than I did. Shortly afterwards, in my bedroom, I spoke to the head valet—a very old and confidential servant of the club. He, at least, was able to give me more detailed directions, but added, "If I may say so, sir, you will have a rather unpleasant time of itamong as nasty a lot of ruffians as you'd find anywhere!"
What experiences I did have upon this first visit, and upon subsequent ones, will be related in their proper place in this picture of F. N. Charrington, but the remarks of both member and servant recalled very forcibly the passage I have printed from All Sorts and Conditions of Men.
It is, then, to the East End, and to a series of incidents so rich in drama, a time so breathlessly exciting, and at all times so strangely seen in a light which is not of this world, that readers of this memoir are coming with me. To many of them it will be as fresh and as intensely interesting as it has been to me, and, as Thackeray indulged in theatrical simile in the preface of Vanity Fair, let me also announce the ringing up of the curtain upon as soul-stirring a drama upon the boards of life in a city as, perhaps, it has ever been the lot of a man to write.
You shall see the wars of the Powers and Principalities of the air against the Angels of Light, you shall hear the menacing drums of the legions of Evil, and the clear, clarion calls of the soldiers of God. Nor shall there be wanting a pastoral interlude also, of a lonely Island of Rest, where summer breezes blow among the trees, and there is a murmur of many waters.
. . . .
The Mile End Road, which is the great main thoroughfare through the East End—from the City of London west, to the vast glades of Epping Forest in Essex—has no more conspicuous an object than the vast brewery of Messrs. Charrington & Head.
It stands up in the middle of the wide thoroughfare like some Gibraltar rising from the human tide at its feet. It is a huge pile of almost goblin masonry, with its colossal ladders, towers, and vast receptacles for malt. It is surrounded by a high wall, and covers an enormous expanse of ground. It hits the eye like a blow with its vastness, its suggestion of mighty, vested interests, solidity, and wealth. It dwarfs everything else in the neighbourhood.
On almost every public-house that one meets one reads in huge gilt letters the words, "Charrington & Co.'s Entire." If you go off the main roads it is the same thing—every little public-house flaunts the same legend. From the mighty portals of the brewery, day by day throughout the year, a never-ending flood of alcohol is pouring, and in those enormous vats who shall say how many souls have been dissolved?
I quoted above from Sir Walter Besant's All Sorts and Conditions of Men. The quotation was more à-propos to commence this life than most people are aware. The story of "Miss Messenger," the heiress to the great East End brewery of "Messenger & Co." in the Mile End Road, and how she went to live among the struggling millions of the East, was inspired by the life story of Frederick N. Charrington. It was his career that, in the first instance, made it possible for Sir Walter to write one of the most popular novels of the last fifty years.
A great many people will remember the description in chapter four, where the heiress of the brewery is taken over her own possession for the first time in her life.
It is a singularly vivid picture Sir Walter has given us, and one which is substantially true to-day.
"The walk from Stepney Green to Messenger and Marsden's Brewery is not far. You turn to the left if your house is on one side, and to the right if it is on the other; then you pass a little way down one street, and a little way, turning again to the left, up another—a direction which will guide you quite clearly. You then find yourself before a great gateway, the portals of which are closed; beside it is a smaller door, at which, in a little lodge, sits one who guards the entrance.
"Mr. Bunker nodded to the porter, and entered unchallenged. He led the way across a court to a sort of outer office.
"'Here,' he said, 'is the book for the visitors' names. We have them from all countries: great lords and ladies; foreign princes; and all the brewers from Germany and America, who come to get a wrinkle. Write your own name in it too. Something, let me tell you, to have your name in such noble company.'"
. . . .
"Ah! It's a shame for such a property to come to a girl—a girl of twenty-one. Thirteen acres it covers—think of that! Seven hundred people it employs, most of them married. Why, if it was only to see her own vats, you'd think she'd get off her luxurious pillows for once, and come here."
They entered a great hall, remarkable, at first, for a curious smell, not offensive, but strong and rather pungent. In it stood half-a-dozen enormous vats, closed by wooden slides, like shutters, and fitting tightly. A man standing by opened one of these, and presently Angela was able to make out, through the volumes of steam, something bright going round, and a brown mess going with it.
"That is hops. Hops for the biggest Brewery, the richest, in all England. And all belonging to a girl, who, likely enough, doesn't drink more than a pint and a half a day. "
. . . .
He led the way up-stairs into another great hall, where there was the grinding of machinery, and another smell, sweet and heavy.
"This is where we crush the malt,' said Mr. Bunker—'see!' He stopped, and picked out of a box a great handful of the newly-crushed malt. 'I suppose you thought it was roasted. Roasting, young lady,' he added with severity, 'is for Stout, not for Ale."
Then he took her to another place, and showed her where the liquor stood to ferment; how it was cooled, how it passed from one vat to another, how it was stored and kept in vats; dwelling perpetually on the magnitude of the business, and the irony of fortune in conferring this great gift upon a girl.
"I know now," she interrupted, "what the place smells like. It is fusel oil." They were standing on a floor of open iron bars, above a row of long covered vats, within which the liquor was working and fermenting. Every now and then there would be a heaving of the surface, and a quantity of malt would then move suddenly over.
"We are famous," said Mr. Bunker, "I say we, having been the confidential friend and adviser of the late Mr. Messenger, deceased; we are famous for our Stout; also for our Mild; and we are now reviving our Bitter, which we had partially neglected. We use the Artesian Well, which is four hundred feet deep, for our Stout, but the Company's water for our Ales; and our water rate is two thousand pounds a year. The Artesian Well gives the Ale a grey colour, which people don't like. Come into this room now,"—it was another great hall covered with sacks. "Hops again, Miss Kennedy; now, that little lot is worth ten thousand pounds—ten—thousand—think of that; and it is all spoiled by the rain, and has to be thrown away. We think nothing of losing ten thousand pounds here, nothing at all!"—he snapped his fingers—"it is a mere trifle to the girl who sits at home and takes the profits."
. . . .
Then they went into more great halls, and up more stairs, and on to the roof, and saw more piles of sacks, more malt, and more hops. When they smelt the hops, it seemed as if their throats were tightened; when they smelt the fermentation, it seemed as if they were smelling fusel oil; when they smelt the plain crushed malt, it seemed as if they were getting swiftly, but sleepily, drunk. Everywhere and always the steam rolled backwards and forwards, and the grinding of the machinery went on, and the roaring of the furnaces; and the men went about to and fro at their work. They did not seem hard worked, nor were they pressed; their movements were leisurely, as if beer was not a thing to hurry; they were all rather pale of cheek, but fat and jolly, as if the beer was good and agreed with them. Some wore brown-paper caps, for it was a pretty draughty place; some went bareheaded, some wore the little round hat in fashion. And they went to another part, where men were rolling barrels about, as if they had been skittles, and here they saw vats holding three thousand barrels; and one thought of giant armies—say two hundred and fifty thousand thirsty Germans—beginning the Loot of London with one of these royal vats. And they went through stables, where hundreds of horses were stalled at nights, each as big as an elephant, and much more useful.
. . . .
In one great room, where there was the biggest vat of all, a man brought them beer to taste; it was Messenger's Stout. Angela took her glass and put it to her lips with a strange emotion—she felt as if she would like a quiet place to sit down in and cry. The great place was hers—all hers—and this was the beer with which her mighty fortune had been made.
"Is it?" she asked, looking at the heavy foam of the frothing stout; "is this Messenger's Entire?"
(This photograph was taken during the year 1912. Frederick Charrington is the centre of the three small figures below)
"This is not Entire," he said. "You see, there's fashions in beer, same as in clothes; once it was all Cooper, now you never hear of Cooper. Then it was all Half-an'-arf—you never hear of any one ordering Half-an'-arf now. Then it was stout. Nothing would go down but Stout, which I recommend myself, and find it nourishing. Next, Bitter came in, and honest Stout was despised; now, we're all for Mild. As for Entire, why, bless my soul! Entire went out before I was born. Why, it was the Entire that made the fortune of the first Messenger that was—a poor little brewery he had, more than a hundred years ago, in this very place, because it was cheap for rent. In those days they used to brew strong Ale, Old and Strong; Stout, same as now; and Twopenny, which was small beer. And because the Old Ale was too Strong, and the Stout too dear, and the Twopenny too weak, the people used to mix them all three together, and they called them "Three Threads"; and you may fancy the trouble it was for the pot-boys to go to one cask after another, all day long—because they had no beer engines then. Well, what did Mr. Messenger do? He brewed a beer as strong as the Three Threads, and he called it Messenger's Entire Three Threads, meaning that here you had 'em all in one, and that's what made his fortune; and now, young lady, you've seen all I've got to show you, and we will go."
To a brewery identical with the one described in almost every respect, owning hundreds of tied public-houses, producing the revenue of a prince for its proprietors, Frederick Nicholas Charrington was heir.
He was born in the Bow Road, in the East End of London, on February 4, 1850, and is now, therefore, in the sixty-second year of his life.
A dear venerable old lady (Mrs. Pratt), still retained under Mr. Charrington's roof, well remembers his mother, a deeply religious woman, driving in a pony and chaise visiting the sick and needy, and relieving them according to their several necessities, for miles round the neighbourhood of the brewery. She always took with her a cordial which was made up in her own home, and for which there was a great demand from the poor, who regarded it as an infallible remedy for all kinds of diseases.
Mrs. Pratt remembers carrying "Master Fred" in her arms when he was about two years of age, and how excited he became when she took him to see a balloon passing over what was then known as Charrington's Park, open fields by which the brewery was then surrounded, but which have long since been built over.
She also remembers Master Fred at nine years of age, taking a bundle of bank notes from his father's table in the counting-house, and throwing them into the fire. When asked by his father why he did so, he characteristically replied that "he wanted to see a blaze."
Surely the child was father to the man!
In all the great breweries of London the rule has been made, and is very generally adhered to, that the partners share and share alike, so that it must be explained that Mr. Charrington was not sole heir to the business. The revenues, however, are so enormous, that, roughly speaking, a million and a quarter pounds would have come to the boy who was born in 1850. Mr. Charrington's parents were members of the Church of England, and belonged to the Evangelical school of thought. Frederick was educated at Marlborough, but during his stay at the famous public school he was laid low by a fever, which necessitated his removal at the time. Subsequently he was entered at Brighton College, where he finished his school career. He lived the ordinary life of a boy born to great wealth, and, when school days were over, he was given the choice of proceeding to the University of Oxford or of Cambridge, whichever he preferred. A University life, however, offered no attractions to the young man's cast of mind. His first experience of the larger world of men and things was made upon the Continent. It must be remembered that, at this time, the tradition that it was necessary for every young man of position to make what was known as "the grand tour," had not yet died away. Travelling was then a most costly affair, and only possible to the rich. Sir Henry Lunn and Messrs. Cook and Sons had not, at that time, made the chief Continental cities practically suburbs of London. It was thought, and rightly thought, that a Continental tour was in itself an education, and this was the means selected to widen the young man's mind. All his subsequent life Mr. Charrington has been a great traveller, and there are few parts of the world which he has not at one time or another visited, and where he has not been welcomed. So that this first foreign excursion must have been a time of great pleasure and enlightenment.
He was accompanied by the Rev. Thomas Scott, a clergyman, and had for his companion Mr. J. H. Buxton, another wealthy young brewer, who subsequently became chairman of the London Hospital. The lads visited the Paris Exhibition of 1867, and travelled through both Switzerland and Italy.
Upon his return Frederick Charrington at once elected to learn the details of the great business which there was, at the time, every prospect of his superintending. He went to the smaller brewery of Messrs. Neville, Read & Co., who were brewers to the Queen at Windsor. There he shared rooms with a young curate, the Rev. John Stone, who, by the way, was the author of the two famous and beautiful hymns, "The Church's one Foundation," and "Weary of earth and laden with my sin."
The young man's pursuits, even at this time, were by no means those of his contemporaries. Although he had the command of large sums of money if he had wished, the pleasures of ordinary young men did not appeal to him. It is not to be understood that he was in any way a milksop. He was a good waterman upon the river, and at a time when young men of position did not indulge in cricket, football, and other field sports to anything like the same extent that they do to-day, he was yet a fearless, skilful rider. There had always been many horses in his father's stables, and from his earliest youth Mr. Charrington had been an expert equestrian. In those days a young man so fond of horses, and so good a horseman, nine cases out of ten owned horses or took great interest in betting and the affairs of the turf, while an alternative was the driving of a four-in-hand coach, generally in the company of people of both sexes, neither desirable nor worthy for them to know.
Mr. Charrington did nothing of the sort. The attractions of the gilded youth of his adolescence passed him by without any appeal, and at the end of the twelve months' experience at Windsor, he entered his father's great brewery in the Mile End Road.
A rather interesting little episode in connection with Mr. Charrington's horsemanship might be mentioned here. One day, during his time at Windsor, he was riding a very spirited chestnut in a quiet and narrow lane in the environs of the town. Suddenly a groom upon horseback turned the corner, galloped up to him, and with a rude and overbearing manner ordered him to turn round and go away. Extremely surprised at the man's insolence, Mr. Charrington refused to do anything of the sort, and it seemed that almost a scrimmage was imminent.
The man then explained that the Queen was coming, and Mr. Charrington asked him why on earth he had not said so before. It was now too late. A carriage and pair, with outriders, came down the road in the opposite direction, and Queen Victoria was seated within.
Mr. Charrington realised at once what was happening, although the man had given no reasons, and he backed his horse as well as he could into the hedge. The lane was very narrow, and there was hardly room for the carriage to pass. Mr. Charrington made his horse rear upon its hind legs and took off his hat as he did so. It was only by the display of the most magnificent horsemanship that he was able to keep his seat, and allow the chaise to pass, and her Majesty smiled and bowed very graciously as she went by.
Soon after this he accompanied his parents upon another Continental tour. Upon this occasion he met with Mr. William Rainsford, son of the Rev. Marcus Rainsford, of Belgrave Chapel. The two young men returned to England together, and Charrington invited his friend to stay with him at his father's house.
It was during this visit that Mr. Rainsford spoke to his friend about his soul, and plainly asked him if he knew whether he was saved.
The question struck Mr. Charrington as singularly unpleasant. It startled him, and seemed also in bad taste. He had lived a moral and decent life in every way, and, moreover, a definitely religious life. Such a point-blank question appeared unnecessary, and he protested against such a subject of discussion, referring to the pleasant time spent upon the Continent, and hinting that a reminiscent talk of their adventures would be far more à-propos at the moment. Mr. Rainsford, however, pressed the question home, and would not be denied. Eventually he made his friend promise that the next time he was alone he would read the third chapter of the Gospel of St. John. The promise was kept, though the reader expected no new spiritual experience whatever.
As he opened the Bible an incident of the past struck him, and before reading he paused to recall it.
Upon one occasion whilst staying at Hastings he became friends with a Mr. Canning, who subsequently became Lord Garvagh. This young man was at the time at the watering place with his tutor, and when he first met Charrington had just come from hearing Lord Radstock preach. Fired with enthusiasm, he straightway told his new acquaintance the history of the meeting, and made a special reference to the third chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. He related that he believed that he was now a saved man. He definitely stated that conversion had taken place. Now to Mr. Charrington the whole thing was a riddle, and he thought it was at least indecorous for a youthful aristocrat to go and hear a Dissenter, even though that same Dissenter was a peer himself. Moreover, the word conversion presented no very special meaning to him, and was associated in his mind with suggestions of sudden hysteria, and no particularly lasting result. He did not know, as Mr. Harold Begbie has pointed out in his brilliant psychological studies of spiritual experiences, that conversion is in reality nothing of the sort. As Mr. Begbie says—
"... And these critics with their 'cortical susceptibilities' and 'explosions of nervous energy,' limit their investigations of conversion to those examples of the miracle which become public property through the chronicles of revivalism. It is now a vulgar idea that conversions only follow upon the hysterical absurdities of professional revivalists. It would be fatal to religion if such were the case. No one, I think, could more detest the professional revivalist than myself, and than myself no one could more entirely doubt the lasting effect of the majority of the conversions accomplished by this means. I can see the need for revivalism, and I can see in the future a development of revivalism which will be of noble service to humanity; but I dislike the un-Christly character of this worked-up excitement and I am utterly uninterested by its result. Conversion, real conversion, is almost always the effect of individual lovingkindness, of personal and quiet love, of intercourse between a happy and an unhappy soul in the normal colloquies of friendship, and passionate seeking of the lost by those whose lives are inspired by unselfish love. It may possibly have its culminating point in a public meeting; the act of standing up and publicly declaring for righteousness may have tremendous effect; but even in such cases, such rare cases, the preparation has usually been long and difficult, secret and gradual.
"... Conversion is a quite common experience among ordinary men, is very often nothing more than a secret turning of the face towards God, a private decision to live a new life, a personal and wholly tranquil choice of the soul for Christ as its Master and Saviour. No priest appears to be necessary, the excitements of the revivalist preacher are absent. In the privacy of its own soul, the spirit turns from evil and faces towards God."
As Mr. Charrington began to read the suggested portion of Scripture, he remembered this Mr. Canning and his allusion to exactly the same chapter, and it seemed a singular thing that two of his friends of a similar age should agree in giving a certain passage the same interpretation. The remembrance made him read the chapter with the very greatest care, and the words "Marvel not that I said unto ye, Ye must be born again," came to him with a singular force. And though, perhaps, he was unaware of it at the time, in looking back upon it, Mr. Charrington is convinced that this moment was the great turning-point in his life. There was no sudden conversion, let it be remembered—that is, using the word in its more widely accepted sense. It must not be lost sight of that Mr. Charrington had always lived a religious life. But, certainly, whatever name we may give to the spiritual change which passed over him at the moment, it was a real and lasting one.
I have in my possession a letter written by Mr. Charrington a good many years ago, describing the occurrence exactly as it happened, and, as I am allowed to quote, it may be as well to supplement my own account with Mr. Charrington's own words.
"To begin with, I was travelling on the Continent along the Riviera, or the South of France, and just before I returned from Cannes I met with my friend William Rainsford, the celebrated episcopal clergyman from New York. We travelled home together to England, and when we got to London I invited him to come and stop at my father's house at Wimbledon. At the time I was living a very moral life, and not without some interest in eternal things, but my only belief and trust was in the Book of Common Prayer, and especially the statement, 'Wherein I was made a member of Christ, the Child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven." When we got to my father's home, to my great astonishment Rainsford suddenly said, "I feel very guilty, we have travelled together all the way over the Continent, and enjoyed ourselves very much, but I have never spoken to you about your soul. The fact is, I am a Christian, but I have spent the winter in the South of France for my health, and I have been in very worldly society; but now that I have got back to old England, these things seem to rise in my mind, and I feel that I must ask you if you are saved." I said, 'Really, Rainsford, we have had a very good time on the Continent, and I think it is a very great pity that you bring up such a debatable subject just now.' He said, "I only will ask you to do one thing, and that is: when I am gone you will promise me to read through the third chapter of St. John's Gospel." I promised him I would, and accordingly the next night, while smoking a pipe before I went to bed, I read the third chapter of St. John, and as I read it I thought to myself, "This is a very curious thing: here are two men, my new friend Rainsford, and my old friend Lord Garvagh, both say the same thing, that they are "saved" '; and as I read the chapter, Light came into my soul, and as I came to the words, 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life' I realised that I, too, possessed the 'eternal life.'"
We are come, then, to a certain definite point in the life of this young man. As a result of what I have just described, he felt that he ought to be doing something to help others, to be setting his hand to some good works.
In its proper place, I shall tell of these first tentative efforts at work for Christ, and how they broadened out into such a magnificent life work. It is not in the scheme of this chapter, which I have headed "The Great Acceptance," to give details at present. It is sufficient to say that this early work prospered and became engrossing, and it gradually led up to the astounding event, almost without parallel, one fancies, which I am about to describe. Mr. Peters, a nephew of Mr. Cunard the great steamship owner, used to help Mr. Charrington in the ragged school for boys, conducted in a loft over a stable. One evening at this period Mr. Charrington was walking from the brewery to the horrible slum where the school was held.
He passed a horrid-looking little public-house, known as the "Rising Sun."
When I say a horrid little public-house, I speak from experience. There are dozens of varieties, from the magnificent bars of the West End, with their columns of marble, their gleaming glass and silver, rich carpets and sumptuous good taste, to the flaunting gin palaces or even the picturesque, flower-covered country inn, and there are mean little holes in back streets which are absolutely destitute of any personality whatever. I think, for my part, though it is pure personal opinion, that I have never seen a more utterly unlovely alcohol shop than this same "Rising Sun." I went personally to look at it before writing this chapter. It lies in an appalling neighbourhood, where even the police patrol in couples, and it is about as hideous an erection as can be found anywhere in England.
Mr. Charrington, then, upon the memorable evening of which I speak, came up to this place. I quote his own words in the account of what occurred here.
As I approached this public-house a poor woman, with two or three children dragging at her skirts, went up to the swing doors, and calling out to her husband inside, she said, "Oh, Tom, do give me some money, the children are crying for bread." At that the man came through the doorway. He made no reply in words. He looked at her for a moment, and then knocked her down into the gutter. Just then I looked up and saw my own name, Charrington, in huge gilt letters on the top of the public-house, and it suddenly flashed into my mind that that was only one case of dreadful misery and fiendish brutality in one of the several hundred public-houses that our firm possessed. I realised that there were probably numbers of similar cases arising from this one public-house alone. I thought, as if in a flash, that, whatever the actual statistics might have been, there was, at any rate, an appalling and incalculable amount of wretchedness and degradation caused by our enormous business. It was a crushing realisation, the most concrete, unavoidable object-lesson that a man could possibly have. What a frightful responsibility for evil rested upon us! And then and there, without any hesitation, I said to myself—in reference to the sodden brute who had knocked his wife into the gutter—"Well, you have knocked your poor wife down, and with the same blow you have knocked me out of the brewery business."
"I knew that I could never bear the awful responsibility of so much guilt upon my soul. I could not possibly allow myself to be a contributory cause, and I determined that, whatever the result, I would never enter the brewery again."
Mr. Charrington went to his father and announced his intention of absolutely giving up all share in the brewery. The opposition he met with may easily be imagined. Mr. Charrington senior was amazed and angry. The thing seemed the height of quixotic folly. It verged on madness, and had neither rhyme nor reason to the older man, himself, it must be remembered, a liberal, God-fearing Churchman of the Evangelical school, as well as one of the most successful men of business of his day.
The arguments used against Frederick's determination were all such as keen common sense and the logic of this world would naturally employ.
A VERY EARLY FAMILY GROUP
Mr. Charrington with his sisters, brothers, and governess
Mr. Charrington senior pointed out that he had been many years in business, and that during every day of them he had been studying the drink question. His interest in it was old, and at least as close and personal as his son's could possibly be after a mere casual ramble in the slums of the East End. It was to drink that Frederick Charrington owed the position to which he was born. It might be distasteful to the young man—though to the older it was nothing of the sort—but whether it was agreeable or not, the plain fact was that beer had made Frederick Charrington one of the richest young men in England.
It was suggested to him that he had suffered a kind of first nausea, just as young surgeons are supposed to do when they first handle the knife—or, more general still, and as has been so well described by Sir Conan Doyle, medical students when they first see an operation. But because medical students suffered nausea, it was quite unlikely that operating or dissecting rooms were going to be done away with, and certainly breweries and public-houses would not be done away with though a million fanatics were to call for their suppression. For his own part, Mr. Charrington had made it his business to brew as good beer as could be brewed. His business was conducted with conspicuous regard to decency and order, but, at the same time, he entirely declined to be responsible for the actions of fools. He asked no man to drink more of his beer than was good for him. He was not in the least responsible for drunkenness. It was the drunkard himself who was responsible for it. To indulge in sweeping condemnation of the brewery because there were drunkards, was, so Mr. Charrington senior imagined, just as logical and reasonable as to condemn religion because it makes fanatics and maniacs.
In reply, the young man stated that his convictions were unaltered. It was a question between himself and his conscience, his conscience and the God whom he served. Nothing could possibly affect the issue.
"My father," Mr. Charrington has told me, and I record our conversation here, "was terribly distressed. At first, I think, he was more angry and astonished than pained, but afterwards his distress was very great, and I would have done anything I could to alleviate it but continue to take money from the brewery. I do not want to go too much into this—your own father is alive, and you can imagine what a son's feelings were. Of course, my decision was a very heavy blow to the pride of the family. I am afraid I did not realise that sufficiently at the time, but I do now, and I see what pain my decision must have caused, although it was inevitable. After the first shock, however, my father was extremely kind to me, when he realised that I could not change. He certainly sympathised with my wish to do good among the poor, and he had always helped me in my early efforts among the very rough juvenile population, and himself paid for more suitable premises in which we could carry on the work.
Shortly after my decision was made my poor father met with a very severe accident. He was thrown from his horse while out riding, and he never recovered. When he was upon his deathbed I was sent for, and what occurred between us at that solemn moment has always been a most precious memory to me. Several other members of the family were gathered round, but he said, "You all go out of the room for a little time. Let Fred remain with me. He is the only one who knows about these things."
When we were left alone together, my father said, "You are right, Fred. You have chosen the better part, which will never be taken away." We prayed together then, and the next morning he again said to me, "After you prayed with me, my sleep was like an angel's slumbers." Finally he whispered, "I am afraid I have left you very badly off, but it is too late now." Shortly afterwards he passed away."
Here is another picture in this astounding history of the Great Acceptance.
One day in February, 1873, the whole traffic of the Strand at a certain point was disorganised. Thousands upon thousands of people were gathered in the vicinity of Exeter Hall. Exeter Street itself was impassable. The Strand was blocked for many hundred yards. The crowd was composed of people from all parts of London and the suburbs, but it was obvious—as the Daily Telegraph remarked in its issue on the following morning—that many of the thousands present were East-enders. "Troops of the East End saints were seen wending their way to Exeter Hall"—was how the Telegraph was pleased to put it.
And what was the occasion which brought such an enormous crowd together? What spell was there over them all that they pressed onward in phalanx after phalanx to the doors of Exeter Hall? The fact had been noised abroad that the young ex-brewer had accepted the invitation of the Band of Hope Union to preside over their Annual Meeting, under the presidency of the Rev. Charles Garrett, the most famous Temperance reformer of his day.
No other man living than Mr. Charrington has ever caused the Strand to be blocked for hours. No such sight was ever seen before or has been since. The interest created was universal. An eye-witness of the scene has told me that it will never be obliterated from his mind while life lasts. Here was a young man, only just entering his twenty-third year, called upon to preside over an immense meeting for which many of his seniors in the Temperance Cause thought it an honour to receive an invitation.
When the wishes of the Union were first conveyed to him, and the formal invitation made, it gave him food for deep thought. He had left the brewery, and the world's eyes were upon him. He shrank from the great ordeal which acceptance would mean. Still, he was not a man to turn his face from anything he considered to be his duty, and for the welfare of the cause he had at heart. He assented to the wishes of the committee.
"On the night in question," writes a friend who was with him, "Mr. Charrington and
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Tag der Veröffentlichung: 10.04.2014
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