| THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS, by Jack London.
THE EXPERIENCES RELATED in this volume fell to me in the summer of
1902. I went down into the under-world of London with an attitude of
mind which I may best liken to that of the explorer. I was open to
be convinced by the evidence of my eyes, rather than by the
teachings of those who had not seen, or by the words of those who
had seen and gone before. Further, I took with me certain simple
criteria with which to measure the life of the under-world. That which
made for more life, for physical and spiritual health, was good;
that which made for less life, which hurt, and dwarfed, and
distorted life, was bad.
It will be readily apparent to the reader that I saw much that was
bad. Yet it must not be forgotten that the time of which I write was
considered 'good times' in England. The starvation and lack of shelter
I encountered constituted a chronic condition of misery which is never
wiped out, even in the periods of greatest prosperity.
Following the summer in question came a hard winter. To such an
extent did the suffering and positive starvation increase that society
was unable to cope with it. Great numbers of the unemployed formed
into processions, as many as a dozen at a time, and daily marched
through the streets of London crying for bread. Mr. Justin McCarthy,
writing in the month of January, 1903, to the New York Independent,
briefly epitomizes the situation as follows:-
'The workhouses have no space left in which to pack the starving
crowds who are craving every day and night at their doors for food and
shelter. All the charitable institutions have exhausted their means in
trying to raise supplies of food for the famishing residents of the
garrets and cellars of London lanes and alleys. The quarters of the
Salvation Army in various parts of London are nightly besieged by
hosts of the unemployed and the hungry for whom neither shelter nor
the means of sustenance can be provided.'
It has been urged that the criticism I have passed on things as they
are in England is too pessimistic. I must say, in extenuation, that of
optimists I am the most optimistic. But I measure manhood less by
political aggregations than by individuals. Society grows, while
political machines rack to pieces and become 'scrap.' For the English,
so far as manhood and womanhood and health and happiness go, I see a
broad and smiling future. But for a great deal of the political
machinery, which at present mismanages for them, I see nothing else
than the scrap heap.
Piedmont, California.Next chapter |
THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS, by Jack London. CHAPTER ONE. The Descent. CHAPTER TWO. Johnny Upright. CHAPTER THREE. My Lodging and Some Others. CHAPTER FOUR. A Man and the Abyss. CHAPTER FIVE. Those on the Edge. CHAPTER SIX. Frying-pan Alley and a Glimpse of Inferno. CHAPTER SEVEN. A Winner of the Victoria Cross. CHAPTER EIGHT. The Carter and the Carpenter. CHAPTER NINE. The Spike. CHAPTER TEN. Carrying the Banner. CHAPTER ELEVEN. The Peg. CHAPTER TWELVE. Coronation Day. CHAPTER THIRTEEN. Dan Cullen, Docker. CHAPTER FOURTEEN. Hops and Hoppers. CHAPTER FIFTEEN. The Sea Wife. CHAPTER SIXTEEN. Property versus Person. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. Inefficiency. CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. Wages. CHAPTER NINETEEN. The Ghetto. CHAPTER TWENTY. Coffee-houses and Doss-houses. CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE. The Precariousness of Life. CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO. Suicide. CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE. The Children. CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR. A Vision of the Night. CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE. The Hunger Wail. CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX. Drink, Temperance, and Thrift. CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN. The Management.
(Wednesday, 21 April, 2021.)