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Ir is generally allowed that none of the human species are more miserable in themselves, or more mischievous in society, than those unhappy women who disgrace our streets, and subsist upon the infamous wages of iniquity. Their occupation and connexions, and the scenes which they perpetually witness, speedily obliterate every sentiment of virtue that they may have received from education, and familiarize them to wickedness; till, shame and remorse being completely banished, they are, in the daily practice of effrontery, deceit, and licentiousness, prepared for any kind or degree of vice, to which they can be tempted.
Young women, having been seduced and deserted, are banished from their friends; excluded from their former prospects and satisfactions; and frequently after an indulgent education, left without other resource than that of entering the vile recesses of debauchery. When once initiated in these seminaries, the general consequences are increasing wickedness, a ruined constitution, a premature death, and as far as we can see, everlasting destruction.
In the meantime their malignant influence on
society is equally deplorable. They throng our streets, and lay in wait for the inexperienced and incautious so that a youth can scarcely walk a mile in many parts of this city, without running the gauntlet through at least fifty of those temptations, which are most likely to prevail against him. Thus are the rising generations successively corrupted; evil habits are early contracted, ruinous connexions formed, conscience and the sense of shame subdued, and our youth trained up for a life of profligacy. Here especially they learn extravagance; and hence sally forth to assault our persons and habitations, in order to make those depredations on our property which may support the expences of their licentious indulgences: and many of those unhappy wretches, whose executions are the disgrace of our age and country, and the grief of every feeling heart, confess that in the company. of harlots they were trained up for this fatal end.
When further we consider the influence which these unhappy women have upon our population, and the health of the people; upon relative life, especially the conduct of children to their parents, and husbands to their wives; with all the long train of domestic miseries that ensue: and, when we consider, that commonly the very seducers of virtuous young women (whose conduct is so generally and justly execrated,) are trained up for such seduction in the company of those who are licentious; We may then without exaggeration assert, that a common prostitute is in a community an evil not dissimilar to a person infected with the plague; who, miserable himself, is daily communicating the contagion to those who will in turn infect
others, and propagate still wider and wider the fatal malady.
There is therefore scarcely a motive that can influence the feeling heart, which does not powerfully urge us to attempt something in order to remedy, or at least to check the progress of, this most enormous evil. Compassion for the poor wretches themselves; the desire both of their temporal and eternal welfare; love to society, and to our connexions and relatives; together with regard to the interests of religion and morality; with united energy constrain us to wish that something effectual could be done.
But the mischief is so deeply rooted and so widely diffused, that a radical cure may perhaps be in its own nature impracticable: at least nothing more than a partial redress can be expected from any single expedient, or any private society. But, in such a case, no degree of success should be despised, nor any expedient slighted, which reasonably promises it. On the contrary it behoves every one, whose situation, ability, or influence enable him, to devise, propose, and apply some remedy, whether of a more public or a more private nature for a multiplicity of expedients, except they interfere with each other, will not be found too many; and each may have its peculiar usefulness.
These observations regularly introduce the de sign of this pamphlet. It has pleased God, in his wise and righteous providence, to chastise this species of vice by a very loathsome and dreadful disease; which yet admits of a ready and effectual cure, when properly treated; but, being neglected, produces the most fatal effects. Now both the di
vine precepts and example instruct us to attempt the relief even of those very miseries which are the immediate effects of sin. At a time therefore when persons labouring under this dreadful malady were inadmissible into other hospitals; and consequently when numbers, through poverty, were incapable of obtaining effectual relief: compassion for the miserable induced many of the nobility and gentry to found and support by subscription the Lock Hospital, purposely for the reception and cure of such persons. Aware of the objections that might be urged against, and the abuse that might be made of, such an institution, many salutary arrangements were made to obviate such objections and prevent such abuses :-as may be seen in the annual reports and other papers circulated by the governors. Especially one part of the plan has ever been, to convert the hospital into a sort of penitentiary and while the patients were under cure, and feeling in the most sensible manner the bitter effects of vice, that they should be attended by a minister of the establishment, and instructed from the word of God in such things as were directly suited to their character and situation: such as have a tendency to convince them of their wickedness, of the displeasure of God against them on that account, and of their being exposed to an unspeakably severer punishment hereafter, unless they repent of and forsake their sins, seeking for that forgiveness and salvation which the gospel proposes.
It is not easy to ascertain the success of these endeavours; as persons, to whom we are utter strangers, after six weeks or two months con
tinuance in the hospital, are dismissed to all parts of the kingdom, and we see them no more. But, as the instructions are given them privately in their wards, in the plainest and most familiar style, and upon the most interesting and uncontroverted subjects; and are accompanied with earnest exhortations, warnings, and persuasions, as well as supplications to God for them; we may reasonably hope for the divine blessing on our endeavours: for we are assured by the highest authority, that publicans and harlots are brought to true repentance, and do find admission into the kingdom of God. And indeed the general attention of the patients, the seriousness observable among them, and the grateful acknowledgments which many of them make; with the hope they express that they have received real and durable advantage; are sufficient encouragements to proceed. Nor should it be forgotten that serious impressions, when not immediately effectual, nay after having lain dormant for many years, do not unfrequently at last spring up and produce the happiest effects.
In full confidence that these endeavours will by no means be in vain, I should have proceeded in the discharge of the duty of my situation, without seeking to attract the notice of any one, or asking any human assistance, were there not one discouraging circumstance, which I am incapable of removing, but which may be removed by the united efforts of others.
It is, I suppose, generally known that the patients in the Lock Hospital are both male and female, in separate wards: but their cases are widely different. The men have their places of