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Elizabeth Fry
by Mrs. E. R. Pitman
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When joy seems highest Then sorrow is nighest,

says the old rhyme. An experience of this sort came to Mrs. Fry. One of her children had just married an estimable member of the Society of Friends, and while rejoicing with the young couple, she appeared to be drawn out in thankfulness for the many mercies vouchsafed to her. Her cup seemed brimming over with joy; and after the bridal party had departed, one of her daughters came across the lawn to remark to her mother on the beauty of the scene, finishing by a reference to the temporal prosperity which was granted them. Mrs. Fry could do no other than acquiesce in the sentiments expressed, but added, with almost prophetic insight, "But I have remarked that when great outward prosperity is granted it is often permitted to precede great trials." This was in the summer of 1828; before that year ended the family was struggling in the waves of adversity, losses, and trials—struggling, indeed, to preserve that honest name which had hitherto been the pride of Mr. Fry's firm.

One of the houses of business with which Mr. Fry was connected at this time failed, and his income was largely diminished. The house which he personally conducted was still able to meet all its obligations; but the blow in connection with this other firm was so staggering that they were forced to submit to the pressure of straitened means, at least for a time. We are told, indeed, by Mrs. Fry's daughters, that this failure "involved Mrs. Fry and her family in a train of sorrows and perplexities which tinged the remaining years of her life." The strict principles and the not less strict discipline of the Society of Friends rendered her course of action at that juncture very doubtful. Occupying the prominent positions she had before the nation—indeed before the world, for Mrs. Fry's name was a household word—it seemed impossible to her upright spirit to face the usual Meeting on First Day. Her sensitive spirit winced acutely at the reproach which might perchance be cast upon the name of religion; but after a prayerful pause she and her husband went, accompanied by their children—at least such of them as were then at home. She occupied her usual place at the Meeting, but the big tears rolling down her face in quick succession, testified to the sorrow and anguish which then became her lot. Yet before the session ended she rose, calmed herself, and spoke, most thrillingly, from the words, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," while the listeners manifested their sympathy by tears and words of sorrow. In November of that sad year she wrote the following letter to one of her children, in reference to the trial:—

I do not like to pour out my sorrows too heavily upon thee, nor do I like to keep thee in the dark as to our real state. This is, I consider, one of the deepest trials to which we are liable; its perplexities are so great and numerous, its mortifications and humiliations so abounding, and its sorrows so deep. None can tell, but those who have passed through it, the anguish of heart at times felt; but, thanks be to God, this extreme state of distress has not been very frequent, nor its continuance very long. I frequently find my mind in degree sheathed against the deep sorrows, and am enabled not to look so much at them; but there are also times when secondary things arise, such as parting with servants, schools, the poor around us, and our dear home. These things overwhelm me; indeed, I think naturally I have a very acute sense of the sorrow. Then the bright side of the picture arises. I have found such help and strength in prayer to God, and highly mysterious as this dispensation may be in some points of view, yet I think I have frequently, if not generally, been able to say, "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt," and bow under it. All our children and children-in-law, my brothers and sisters, our many friends and servants, have been a strong consolation to me.

It was not possible, however, for Mrs. Fry to suffer without experiencing an unwonted measure of sympathy from all classes of the community. Many hearts followed her most lovingly in these hours of humiliation and sorrow; and when it was known that she must leave Plashet House, the tide of deep sympathy overflowed more than one heart. As a preliminary step the family moved, first to St. Mildred's Court, then to the home of their eldest son. The business which had been carried on there by Mr. Fry and his father was now conducted by his sons; and by this the young men were enabled to provide for the comfort of their parents. Their bidding good-bye to Plashet, however, entailed very much that was sad to others. The schools hitherto supported by the Frys were handed over to the care of the vicar of the parish; many old pensioners and servants had to be given over to the kindness of others, or in some cases, possibly, to the not very tender mercies of "the parish;" while she herself, who had always laid it down as an indispensable rule to be just before being generous, was compelled to conform her manner of life to somewhat narrow means.

Shakespeare says: "Sorrow comes not in single spies but in battalions," and experience proves the adage to be true. William Fry, the eldest son of the family, was thrown upon a bed of illness, as the result of an over-strained and exhausted brain; soon after, sickness spread through the whole family, until the house, and even Plashet,—which, being empty, afforded them a temporary shelter,—became a hospital on a small scale. Yet at this time the kindly letters of sympathy and condolence received from all quarters must have comforted and cheered her anguished spirit. From a number of such communications we give two, one from William Wilberforce, the other from Mrs. Opie. Wilberforce wrote:—

You, I doubt not, will be enabled to feel, as well as to know, that even this event will be one of those which, in your instance, are working for good. You have been enabled to exhibit a bright specimen of Christian excellence in doing the will of God, and, I doubt not, you will manifest a similar specimen in the harder and more difficult exercise of suffering it. I have often thought that we are sometimes apt to forget that key, for unlocking what we deem to be very mysterious dispensations of Providence, in the misfortunes and afflictions of eminent servants of God, that is afforded by a passage in St. Paul's Epistle to his beloved Phillipians: "Unto you it is given, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." It is the strong only that will be selected for exhibiting these graces which require peculiar strength. May you, my dear friend (indeed, I doubt not you will), be enabled to bear the whole will of God with cheerful confidence in His unerring wisdom and unfailing goodness. May every loss of this world's wealth be more than compensated by a larger measure of the unsearchable riches of Christ.... Meanwhile you are richly provided with relatives and friends whom you love so well as to relish receiving kindnesses from them, as well as the far easier office of doing them....

In reply to this, it would seem that Mrs. Fry, while thankful for the sympathy manifested on all hands, doubted the advisability of resuming her benevolent labors among prisons and hospitals. Mr. Wilberforce proved himself again a wise and far-seeing counsellor. He wrote:—

I cannot delay assuring you that I do not see how it is possible for any reasonable being to doubt the propriety ... or, rather, let me say the absolute duty—of your renewing your prison visitations. A gracious Providence has blessed you with success in your endeavors to impress a set of miserables, whose character and circumstances might almost have extinguished hope, and you will return to them, if with diminished pecuniary powers, yet, we may trust, through the mercy and goodness of our Heavenly Father, with powers of a far higher order unimpaired, and with the augmented respect and regard of every sound judgment ... for having borne with becoming disposition a far harder trial certainly than any stroke which proceeds immediately from the hand of God. May you continue, my dear Madam, to be the honored instrument of great and rare benefits to almost the most pitiable of your fellow-creatures.

The Record newspaper had suggested that additional contributions should be sent to the chief of the societies which had been inaugurated by Mrs. Fry, and so largely supported by her. The Marquis of Cholmondeley wrote to Mrs. Opie, inquiring of that lady fuller particulars of the disaster, in so far as it affected or was likely to affect Mrs. Fry's benevolent work. He had been a staunch friend of her labors, having seconded them many times when the life of a wretched felon was at stake; and now, continuing the interest which he had hitherto exhibited, he was fearful lest this business calamity would put a stop to many of those labors. Mrs. Opie, whose friendship dated from the old Norwich days, lost no time in writing as follows to her suffering friend:—

Though I have not hitherto felt free in mind to write to thee, my very dear friend, under thy present most severe trial, thou hast been continually, I may say, in my thoughts, brought feelingly and solemnly before me, both day and night. I must also tell thee that, two nights ago, I had a pleasing, cheering dream of thee:—I saw thee looking thy best, dressed with peculiar care and neatness, and smiling so brightly that I could not help stroking thy cheek, and saying, "Dear friend! it is quite delightful to me to see thee looking thus again, so like the Betsey Fry of former days;" and then I woke. But this sweet image of thee lives with me still.... Since your trials were known, I have rarely, if ever, opened a page of Scripture without finding some promise applicable to thee and thine. I do not believe that I was looking for them, but they presented themselves unsought, and gave me comfort and confidence. Do not suppose, dear friend, that I am not fully aware of the peculiar bitterness and suffering which attends this trial in thy situation to thy own individual feeling; but, then, how precious and how cheering to thee must be the evidence it has called forth, of the love and respect of those who are near and dear to thee, and of the public at large. Adversity is indeed the time to try the hearts of our friends; and it must be now, or will be in future, a cordial to thee to remember that thou hast proved how truly and generally thou art beloved and reverenced.

Mrs. Fry's health failed very much during the dreary months which followed. Nor was this all, for trials, mental and spiritual, seemed to crowd around her. It was indeed, though on a scale fitted to her capacity, "the hour and power of darkness." She says in her journal, that her soul was bowed down within her, and her eyes were red with weeping. Yet she rallied again. After spending some months with their eldest son, William, at Mildred's Court, Mr. and Mrs. Fry removed to a small but convenient villa in Upton Lane, nearly adjoining the house and grounds of her brother, Samuel Gurney. This house was not only to be a place of refuge in the dark and cloudy days of calamity, but to become, in its turn, famous for the visits of princes and nobles, who thus sought to do honor to her who dwelt in it. Writing in her journal, on June 10th, 1829, Mrs. Fry said:—

We are now nearly settled in this, our new abode; and I may say, although the house and garden are small, yet it is pleasant and convenient and I am fully satisfied, and, I hope, thankful for such a home. I have at times been favored to feel great peace, and I may say joy in the Lord—a sort of seal to the important step taken; though at others the extreme disorder into which our things have been brought by all these changes, the pain of leaving Plashet, the difficulty of making new arrangements, has harassed and tried me. But I trust it will please a kind Providence to bless my endeavor to have and to keep my house in order. Place is a matter of small importance, if that peace which the world cannot give be our portion.... Although a large garden is now my allotment, I feel pleasure in having even a small one; and my acute relish for the beautiful in nature and art is on a clear day almost constantly gratified by a view of Greenwich Hospital and Park, and other parts of Kent; the shipping on the river, as well as the cattle feeding in the meadows. So that in small things as well as great, spiritual and temporal, I have yet reason to ... bless and magnify the name of my Lord.

Two of her nieces accompanied her, in 1834, upon a mission to the Friends' Meetings in Dorset and Hants; and recalling this journey some time later, one of them said, speaking of her aunt's peculiar mission of ministering to the tried and afflicted: "There was no weakness or trouble of mind or body, which might not safely be unveiled to her. Whatever various or opposite views, feelings, or wishes might be confided to her, all came out again tinged with her own loving, hopeful spirit. Bitterness of every kind died when entrusted to her; it never re-appeared. The most favorable construction possible was always put upon every transaction. No doubt her feeling lay this way; but did it not give her and her example a wonderful influence? Was it not the very secret of her power with the wretched and degraded prisoners? She could always see hope for everyone; she invariably found or made some point of light. The most abandoned must have felt she did not despair for them, either for this world or for another; and this it was which made her irresistible."

In taking a view of this good woman's religious life and character, it will be helpful to see her as she appeared to herself—to enter into her own feelings at different periods of her life, and to listen to her heart-felt expressions of humility and perplexity. Thus, in relation to the ups and downs of life with her, we find in her journal this passage:—

The difference between last winter and this winter has been striking! How did the righteous compass me about, from the Sovereign, the Princes, and the Princesses, down to the poorest, lowest, and most destitute; how did poor sinners of almost every description seek after me, and cleave to me? What was not said of me? What was not thought of me, may I not say, in public and in private, in innumerable publications? This winter I have had the bed of languishing; deep, very deep, prostration of soul and body; instead of being a helper to others, ready to lean upon all, glad even to be diverted by a child's book. In addition to this, I find the tongue of slander has been ready to attack me. The work that was made so much of before, some try to lessen now. My faith is that He will not give me over to the will of my enemies, nor let me be utterly cast down.

In relation to her conscientious fear of the admixture of sin with her service of God and of humanity, she wrote:—

I apprehend that all would not understand me, but many who are much engaged in what we call works of righteousness, will understand the reason that in the Jewish dispensation there was an offering made for the iniquity of holy things.

In regard to marriage she writes:—

We have had the subject of marriage much before us this year; it has brought us to some test of our feelings and principles respecting it. That it is highly desirable to have young persons settle in marriage, I cannot doubt, and that it is one of the most likely means of their preservation, religiously, morally, temporally. Moreover, it is highly desirable to settle with one of the same religious views, habits, and education, as themselves, more particularly for those who have been brought up as Friends, because their mode of education is peculiar. But if any young persons, upon arriving at an age of discretion, do not feel themselves really attached to our peculiar views and habits, then, I think, their parents have no right to use undue influence with them as to the connections they may incline to form, provided they be with persons of religious lives and conversation. I am of opinion that parents are apt to exercise too much authority upon the subject of marriage, and that there would be really more happy unions if young persons were left more to their own feelings and discretion. Marriage is too much treated like a business concern, and love, that essential ingredient, too little respected in it. I disapprove of the rule of our Society which disowns persons for allowing a child to marry one who is not a Friend; it is a most undue and unchristian restraint, as far as I can judge of it.

As the time passed, and her family got scattered up and down in the world, the idea occurred to her that, although members of different sects and churches, they could unite in fireside worship and study of the Bible, as Christians. Many of them were within suitable distances for occasional or frequent meetings, according to their circumstances; while some of the grandchildren were of an age to understand, and possibly profit by, the exercises. In response to the motherly communication which follows, these family gatherings were arranged, and succeeded beyond the original expectations of she who suggested them. They continued, under the title of "philanthropic evenings," to cement the family circle, after Mrs. Fry had passed away. The tone of the letter inviting their co-operation is that of a philanthropist, a mother, and a Christian. It shows plainly that with all her engagements, worries and trials, she had not absorbed or lost the spirit of the docile Mary in that of the careful Martha.

MY DEAREST CHILDREN:

Many of you know that for some time I have felt and expressed the want of our social intercourse at times, leading to religious union and communion among us. It has pleased the Almighty to permit that by far the larger number of you no longer walk with me in my religious course. Except very occasionally, we do not meet together for the solemn purpose of worship, and upon some other points we do not see eye to eye; and whilst I feel deeply sensible that, notwithstanding this diversity among us, we are truly united in our Holy Head, there are times when, in my declining years, I seriously feel the loss of not having more of the spiritual help and encouragement of those I have brought up, and truly sought to nurture in the Lord. This has led me to many serious considerations how the case may, under present circumstances, be in any way met.

My conclusion is that, believing as we do in the Lord as our Saviour, one Holy Spirit as our Sanctifier, and one God and Father of us all, our points of union are surely strong; and if we are members of one living Church, and expect to be such for ever, we may profitably unite in some religious engagements here below.

The world, and the things of it, occupy us much, and they are rapidly passing away; it will be well if we occasionally set apart a time for unitedly attending to the things of Eternity. I therefore propose that we try the following plan: if it answer, continue it; if not, by no means feel bound to it. That our party, in the first instance, should consist of no others than our children, and such grandchildren as may be old enough to attend. That our objects in meeting be for the strengthening of our faith, for our advancement in a religious and holy life, and for the promoting of Christian love and fellowship.

I propose that we read the Scriptures unitedly, in an easy, familiar manner, each being perfectly at liberty to make any remark or ask any questions. That it should be a time for religious instruction, by seeking to understand the mind of the Lord, for doctrine and practice, in searching the Scriptures, and bringing ourselves and our deeds to the light.... That either before or after the Scriptures are read we should consider how far we are engaged for the good of our fellow-men, and what, as far as we can judge, most conduces to this object. All the members of this little community are advised to communicate anything they may have found useful or interesting in religious books, and to bring forward anything that is doing for the good of mankind in the world generally.

I hope that thus meeting together may stimulate the family to more devotion of heart to the service of their God; at home and abroad to mind their different callings, however varied; and to be active in helping others. It is proposed that this meeting should take place once a month at each house in rotation. I now have drawn some little outline of what I desire, and if any of you like to unite with me in making the experiment, it would be very gratifying to me; still I hope all will feel at liberty to do as they think best themselves. Your dearly attached mother,

ELIZABETH FRY.

None but a parent whose spiritual life was pure, true, and deep, could feel such a constant solicitude about the spiritual progress and education of her family. Nor was this solicitude confined to the membership of her own circle. All who in any way assisted in her special department of philanthropy were councilled, wisely and kindly, to act rather than preach the gospel of Christ. In communications of this sort we find the newly-appointed matrons to the convict-ships advised to show their faith more by conduct than profession; to avoid "religious cant;" to be prudent and circumspect; to have discretion, wisdom and meekness. So she passed through life; the faithful friend, the patient, wise mother, the meek, tender wife, the succorer of all in distress. Everyone felt free to go to her with their troubles; a reverse of circumstances, a sick child, a bad servant, or turn of sickness, all called forth her ready aid, and her wise, far-seeing judgment. And even in the last months of her life, when, worn out with service and pain, she was slowly going down to the gates of death, her children and grandchildren were cut off suddenly by scarlet fever, she bowed resignedly to the Hand which had sent "sorrow upon sorrow." And when she who had been as a tower of strength to all around her, was reduced to the weakness of childhood by intense suffering, the survivors clung yet more closely to her, as if they could not let her go. So as physical strength declined, she actually grew stronger and brighter in mental and moral power. The deep and painful tribulations which characterized her later years, but refined and purified the gold of her nature.



CHAPTER XIII.

COLLATERAL GOOD WORKS.

It must be remembered that Mrs. Fry's goodness was many-sided. Her charity did not expend itself wholly on prisons and lunatic asylums. It is right that, once in a while, characters of such superlative excellence should appear in our midst. Right, because otherwise the light of charity would grow dim, the distinguishing graces of Christianity, flat and selfish, and individual faith be obscured in the lapse of years, or the follies and fashions of modern life. Such saints were Elizabeth of Hungary, around whose name legend and story have gathered, crowning her memory with beauty; Catherine of Sienna, who was honored by the whole Christian Church of the fourteenth century, and canonized for her goodness; and Sarah Martin, the humble dressmaker of Yarmouth, who, in later times, has proved how possible it is to render distinguished service in the cause of humanity by small and lowly beginnings, ultimately branching out into unexpected and remarkable ramifications. One can almost number such saints of modern life on the fingers; but for all that, their examples have stimulated a host of lesser lights who still keep alive the savor of Christianity in our midst; and towering above all her contemporaries in the grandeur of her deeds and words, Mrs. Fry still lives in song and story.

Among the collateral good works which she instituted and carried on, the first in order of time, and possibly of importance, as leading to all the others, was the "Association for the Improvement of Female Prisoners at Newgate." As this association and its objects were fully treated of in a previous chapter, it is unnecessary to enlarge upon it here. It suffices to say that it sought the welfare of the female prisoners during their detention in prison, and, also, to form in them such habits as should fit them for respectable life upon their discharge. Out of twelve ladies forming the original association started in 1817, eleven were Quakeresses.

Nearly akin to this society, was that for "The Improvement of Prison Discipline and Reformation of Juvenile Offenders." This society aimed at a two-fold object: first, by correspondence and deputations to awaken the minds of provincial magistrates and prison officials to the necessity for new arrangements, rules, and accommodations for prisoners; while it afforded watchful oversight and assistance to the numerous class of juvenile offenders who, after conviction, were absolutely thrown friendless upon the country, to continue and develop a course of crime. At the time of the formation of this society, public meetings were first held to further the welfare of prisoners, and to prevent the increase of crime. The doctrine of "stopping the supplies" first began to be understood; while even the most confirmed stickler for conservation could understand that there could not be a constant succession of old or middle-aged criminals to be dealt with by the law, provided the young were reformed, and trained in the ways of honesty. At one meeting, held at the Freemasons' Hall in 1821, in order to further the work of this society, Lord John Russell made an eloquent speech, concluding with the almost prophetic words: "Our country is now about to be distinguished for triumphs, the effect of which shall be to save, and not to destroy. Instead of laying waste the provinces of our enemies, we may begin now to reap a more solid glory in the reform of abuses at home, and in spreading happiness through millions of our population."

A society possessing broader aims, and working in a wider field, was the "British Ladies' Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners," formed in 1821, and really an outgrowth of Mrs Fry's efforts to reclaim the women whom she taught while in prison. It existed as a central point for communication and assistance between the various associations in Great Britain engaged in visiting prisons. Its corresponding committee also maintained interchanges of ideas and communications with those ladies on the Continent who were interested in the subject.

The Convict Ship Committee looked after the welfare of those who were transported, saw to the arrangements on board ship, the appointment of matrons, furnished employment, and secured shelters in the colonies, so that on arriving at the port of disembarkation the poor convicts should possess some sort of a place into which they could go. Further details of this branch of work will be given in the next chapter.

The chief work of the society, however, lay in providing homes for discharged female criminals. In 1824, "Homes" or "Shelters" were opened at Dublin, Liverpool, and many other places in England, Scotland, and the Continent. Tothill Fields Asylum, a small home for some of the most hopeful of the discharged prisoners, was opened at Westminster. Miss Neave, a charitable Christian lady, was fired with some of Mrs. Fry's enthusiasm, and devoted both time and money to the carrying out of the project. She relates that the idea first entered her mind when out driving one morning with Mrs. Fry. That lady, speaking of her work, said, in somewhat saddened tones: "Often have I known the career of a promising young woman, charged with a first offence, to end in a condemned cell. Were there but a refuge for the young offender, my work would be less painful." As the result, Tothill Fields Asylum was opened, with four inmates. Very soon, nine were accommodated, and within a few years, under the new name of "The Royal Manor Hall Asylum," it sheltered fifty women of different ages.

Another class of discharged prisoners, viz., little girls, were also provided for by this society. To these were added destitute girls, who had not yet found their way into prison; and the whole number were placed under judicious training in a "School for Discipline," at Chelsea. This institution became most successful in training these children up in orderly and respectable habits. At one time Mrs. Fry endeavored to get this home under Government rule, but Sir Robert Peel considered that the ends of humanity would be better served by keeping it under the control of, and supported by, private individuals.

A temporary stay at Brighton suggested the formation of the District Visiting Society. This aimed, not at indiscriminate alms-giving, but at "the encouragement of industry and frugality among the poor by visits at their own habitations; the relief of real distress, whether arising from sickness or other causes, and the prevention of mendicity and imposture." Visitors were appointed, who went from house to house among the poor, encouraging habits of thrift and cleanliness; whilst a savings bank received deposits, and trained these same poor to save for the inevitable "rainy day."

Probably one of the most extensive works of benevolence and good-will carried on to success by Mrs. Fry, next to her prison labors, was the establishment of libraries for the men of the Coast Guard Service. This arose from a circumstance which occurred during the sojourn at Brighton, for the benefit of her somewhat shattered health, in 1824.

During her residence there she was subject to distressing attacks of faintness in the night and early morning. Again and again, it was necessary to immediately throw open her chamber window for the admission of the fresh air; and always upon such occasions the figure of a solitary coast-guardsman was to be seen pacing the beach, on the look-out for smugglers. Such a post, and such a service, presenting as it did a life of hardship and danger, inevitably attracted her sympathetic attention; and she began to take an almost unconscious interest in the affairs of this man. Shortly after, when driving out, she stopped the carriage and spoke to one of the men at the station. He replied civilly, that the members of the Preventive Service were not allowed to hold any conversation with strangers, and requested to be excused from saying any more. Mrs. Fry, feeling somewhat fearful that her kindness might bring him into difficulty with his superiors, gave the man her card, and desired him to tell the man in command of the station that she had spoken to him with the sole object of inquiring after the welfare of the men and their families. A few days afterwards, the lieutenant who commanded at that post waited upon Mrs. Fry, and, contrary to her fears, welcomed her inquiries as auguries of good. He confessed to her that the officers, men, women, and children, all suffered much from loneliness, privation, semi-banishment—for the stations were mostly placed in dreary and inaccessible places—unpopularity with the surrounding people, and harassment by constant watching, through all weather, for smugglers. The nature and regulations of the Coast Blockade of Preventive Service precluded anything like visiting or personal kindness. There was really no way of benefiting them except by providing them with literature calculated to promote their intellectual and religious good, besides furnishing an occupation for the dreary, lonely hours which fell to their portion. This course Mrs. Fry immediately adopted.

She first applied to the British and Foreign Bible Society; the Committee responded with a grant of fifty Bibles and twenty-five Testaments. These were distributed to the men on the stations in that district, and most gratefully received. As a proof of the gratitude of the recipients, the following little note was sent to Mrs. Fry by the commanding officer:—

MY DEAR MADAM,—Happy am I in being able to make you acquainted with the unexpected success I have met with in my attempt to forward, among the seamen employed on the coast, your truly laudable and benevolent desire—the dissemination of the Holy Scriptures. I have made a point of seeing Lieutenant H., who has promised me that if you will extend your favors to Dutchmere, he will distribute the books, and carefully attend to the performance of Divine service on the Sabbath Day. Also Lieutenant D., who will shortly have a command in this division. I trust, Madam, I shall be still further able to forward those views, which must, to all who embrace them, prove a sovereign balm in the hour of death and the day of judgment. With respectful compliments to the ladies, allow me to remain, dear Madam, your devoted servant.

This communication enclosed another little note from the seamen, which expressed their feelings as follows:—

We, the seamen of Salt Dean Station, have the pleasure to announce to those ladies whose goodness has pleased them to provide the Bibles and Testaments for the use of us seamen, that we have received them. We do therefore return our most hearty thanks for the same; and we do assure the ladies whose friendship has proved so much in behalf of seamen, that every care shall be taken of the said books; and, at the same time, great care shall be taken to instruct those who have not the gift of education, and we at any time shall feel a pleasure in doing the same.

Some ten years later, when visiting in the Isle of Wight, she conceived the plan of extending the system by supplying libraries to all the Coast Guard stations in the United Kingdom. The magnitude of the work may be realized when we state that there were about 500 stations, including within their boundaries some 21,000 men, women and children. How to set about the work was her next anxiety, for it seemed useless to attempt it without at least L1,000 in hand. She submitted the proposition to Lord Althorp, at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, and asked for a grant of L500 from Government, in order to supplement the L1,000 which she hoped to raise by private subscriptions. A grant could not, however, be made at that time on account of different political considerations; but within a few months one was obtained, and her heart rejoiced at this new proof of appreciation of her work on the part of those high in office. An entry in her journal in February, 1835, reads thus:—

The way appears opening with our present Ministers to obtain libraries for all the Coast Guard stations, a matter I have long had at heart. My desire is to do all these things with a single eye to the glory of God, and the welfare of my fellow mortals; and if they succeed, to pray that He alone who can bless and increase, may prosper the work of my unworthy hands. Upon going to the Custom House, I found Government had at last granted my request, and given L500 for libraries for the stations; this is, I think, cause for thankfulness.

Private subscriptions were sedulously sought, and large sums flowed in; besides these, many large book-sellers, and the chief religious publishing societies gave donations of books. These were valued in the aggregate at about one thousand pounds. The details of the work were left to herself, while the Rev. John W. Cunningham, Captain W.E. Parry, and Captain Bowles selected the books.

The total number of volumes for the stations amounted to 25,896. Each station possessed a library of fifty-two different books, while each district, which included the stations in that part of the country, possessed a larger assortment for reference and exchange. Most of the parcels were sent, carriage free, in Government vessels, by means of the Custom House. This work involved many journeys to London, and much arduous labor. The Rev. Thomas Timpson, a dissenting minister in London, acted most efficiently as secretary, and lightened her labors to a large extent. During the summer of 1835, the work of distributing these volumes was nearly all accomplished; and as during that summer Mr. Fry's business demanded his presence in the south of England, she decided to seize the opportunity of visiting all the Coast Guard stations in that part of the country. In this way she journeyed along the whole south coast, from the Forelands to Land's End, welcomed everywhere with true-hearted veneration and love. She addressed herself principally to the commanders of the different stations, bespeaking for the books care in treatment and regularity in carrying out the exchanges. These gentlemen manifested the warmest interest in the plan, and promised their most thorough co-operation.

At Portsmouth she visited the Haslar Hospital, and while in Portsea, the female Penitentiary. In the latter institution she desired to speak a few words to the inmates, who were, accordingly, assembled in the parlor for the purpose. Mrs. Fry laid her bonnet on the table, sat down, and made different inquiries about the conduct of the young women, and the rules enforced. It appeared that two of them were pointed out as being peculiarly hardened and refractory. She did not, however, notice this at the time, but delivered a short and affectionate address to all. Afterwards, on going away, she went up to the two refractory ones, and, extending her hand to them, said to each, most impressively: "I trust I shall hear better things of thee." Both of them burst into unexpected tears, thus acknowledging the might of kindness over such natures.

At Falmouth, during this same excursion, she supplied some of the men-of-war with libraries. Some of the packets participated in the same boon, so that each ship sailing from that port took out a well-chosen library of about thirty books. These library books were changed on each succeeding voyage, and were highly appreciated by both officers and seamen.

In 1836, the report of the Committee for furnishing the Coast Guard of the United Kingdom with Libraries, appeared. From it, we find that in addition to the L500 kindly granted by the Government at first towards the project, Mr. Spring Rice, a later Chancellor of the Exchequer granted further sums amounting to L460. Thus the undertaking was brought to a successful termination. There were supplied: 498 libraries for the stations on shore, including 25,896 volumes; 74 libraries for districts on shore, including 12,880 volumes; 48 libraries for cruisers, including 1,876 volumes; school books for children of crews, 6,464 volumes; pamphlets, tracts, etc., 5,357 numbers; total, 52,464 volumes and numbers.

These were distributed among 21,000 people on Coast Guard stations, and to the hands on board many ships. Years afterwards, many and very unexpected letters of thanks continued to reach Mrs. Fry from those who had benefited by this good work.

"Instant in season and out of season," this very trip in the south of England produced another good work. She, with her husband and daughter, returned home by way of North Devon, Somerset, and Wiltshire. At Amesbury she tarried long enough to learn something of the mental destitution of the shepherds employed on Salisbury Plain, and set her fertile brain to contrive a scheme for the supply of the necessary books. She communicated her desires and intentions to the clergyman of the parish, and Sir Edward and Lady Antrobus, who unitedly undertook to furnish a librarian. A short note from this individual, addressed to Mrs. Fry some few months after, proved how well the thing was working. In it he said: "Forty-five books are in constant circulation, with the additional magazines. More than fifty poor people read them with attention, return them with thanks, and desire the loan of more, frequently observing that they think it a very kind thing indeed that they should be furnished with so many good books, free of all costs, so entertaining and instructive, these long winter evenings."

About the same period Mrs. Fry formed a Servants' Society for the succor and help of domestic servants. She had known instances wherein so many of this class had come to sorrow, in every sense, for the lack of temporary refuge and assistance, that she alone undertook to found this institution. In an entry made in her journal in 1825, we find the following reference to this matter:—

The Servants' Society appears gradually opening as if it would be established according to my desire. No one knows what I go through in forming these institutions; it is always in fear, and mostly with many misgivings, wondering at myself for doing it. I believe the original motive is love to my Master and love to my fellow-creatures; but fear is so predominant a feeling in my mind that it makes me suffer, perhaps unnecessarily, from doubts. I felt something like freedom in prayer before making the regulations of the Servants' Society. Sometimes my natural understanding seems enlightened about things of that kind, as if I were helped to see the right and useful thing.

In closing this chapter, some allusion must be made to her latest effort. It dates from 1840, and owed its foundation principally to her. It was that of the "Nursing Sisters," an order called into existence by the needs of every-day life. As she visited in sick-chambers, or ministered to the needs of the poor, she felt the want of efficient skilled nurses, and, with the restless energy of a true philanthropist, set about remedying the want. Her own leisure would not admit of training a band of nurses, but her desire was carried into effect by Mrs. Samuel Gurney, her sister-in-law. Under this lady's supervision, and the patronage of the Queen Dowager, Lady Inglis, and other members of the nobility, a number of young women were selected, trained, and taught to fulfil the duties of nurses. They were placed for some time in the largest public hospitals, in order to learn the scientific system of nursing; then, supposing their qualifications and conduct were found to be satisfactory, they were received permanently as Sisters. These Sisters wore a distinctive dress, received an annual stipend of about twenty guineas, and were provided with a home during the intervals of their engagements. There was also a "Superannuation Fund" for the relief of those Sisters who should, after long service, fall into indigence or ill-health. Christian women, of all denominations, were encouraged to join the institution; while the services of the Sisters were equally available in the palace and in the cottage. No Sister was permitted to receive presents, directly or indirectly, from the patients nursed by her, seeing that all sums received went to a common fund for the benefit of the Society. These Sisters appear to have worked very much like the modern deaconesses of the Church of England. They rightly earned the title of "Sisters of Mercy."

These are but examples of Mrs. Fry's good works,—done "all for love, and none for a reward."

Many other smaller works claimed her thoughts, so that her life was very full of the royal grace of charity. The list might have been still further extended, but to the ordinary student of her life it is already sufficiently long to prove the reality of her religion and her love.



CHAPTER XIV.

EXPANSION OF THE PRISON ENTERPRISE.—HONORS.

It is an old adage that "nothing succeeds like success." Mrs. Fry and her prison labors had become famous; not only famous, but the subjects of talk, both in society and out of it. Kings, queens, statesmen, philanthropists, ladies of fashion, devotees of charity, authors and divines were all looking with more or less interest at the experiments made by the apostles of this new crusade against vice, misery, and crime. Many of them courted acquaintance with the Quakeress who hesitated not to plunge into gloomy prison-cells, nor to penetrate pest-houses decimated with jail fever, in pursuance of her mission. And while they courted her acquaintance, they fervently wished her "God speed." Two or three communications, still in existence, prove that Hannah More and Maria Edgeworth were of the number of good wishers.

In a short note written from Barley Wood, in 1826, Hannah More thus expressed her appreciation of Mrs. Fry's character:—

Any request of yours, if within my very limited power, cannot fail to be immediately complied with. In your kind note, I wish you had mentioned something of your own health and that of your family. I look back with no small pleasure to the too short visits with which you once indulged me; a repetition of it would be no little gratification to me. Whether Divine Providence may grant it or not, I trust through Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us, that we may hereafter meet in that blessed country where there is neither sin, sorrow, nor separation.

Many years previous to this, Hannah More had presented Mrs. Fry with a copy of her Practical Piety, writing this inscription on the fly-leaf:—

TO MRS. FRY. Presented by Hannah More, as a token of veneration of her heroic zeal, Christian charity, and persevering kindness to the most forlorn of human beings. They were naked, and she clothed them, in prison, and she visited them; ignorant, and she taught them, for His sake, in His name, and by His word, who went about doing good.

No words can add to the beauty of this inscription.

During one of Maria Edgeworth's London visits, the name and fame of Mrs. Fry, and Newgate as civilized by her, formed such an attraction that the lively Irish authoress must needs go to see for herself. In her picturesque style she thus affords us an account of her visit:—

Yesterday we went, the moment we had swallowed our breakfast, by appointment to Newgate. The private door opened at sight of our tickets, and the great doors, and the little doors, and the thick doors, and doors of all sorts, were unbolted and unlocked, and on we went, through dreary but clean passages, till we came to a room where rows of empty benches fronted us, and a table, on which lay a large Bible. Several ladies and gentlemen entered, and took their seats on benches, at either side of the table, in silence.

Enter Mrs. Fry, in a drab-colored silk cloak, and plain, borderless Quaker cap; a most benevolent countenance; Guido Madonna face, calm, benign. "I must make an inquiry; is Maria Edgeworth here? And where?" I went forward; she bade us come and sit beside her. Her first smile, as she looked upon me, I can never forget. The prisoners came in, and in an orderly manner ranged themselves on the benches. All quite clean faces, hair, caps and hands. On a very low bench in front, little children were seated, and watched by their mothers. Almost all these women, about thirty, were under sentence of transportation; some few only were for imprisonment. One who did not appear was under sentence of death; frequently women, when sentenced to death, become ill, and unable to attend Mrs. Fry; the others come regularly and voluntarily.

She opened the Bible, and read in the most sweetly solemn, sedate voice I ever heard, slowly and distinctly, without anything in the manner that could distract attention from the matter. Sometimes she paused to explain; which she did with great judgment, addressing the convicts—"We have felt! We are convinced!" They were very attentive, unexpectedly interested, I thought, in all she said, and touched by her manner. There was nothing put on in their countenances; not any appearance of hypocrisy. I studied their countenances carefully, but I could not see any which, without knowing to whom they belonged, I should have decided was bad; yet Mrs. Fry assured me that all those women had been of the worst sort. She confirmed what we have read and heard—that it was by their love of their children that she first obtained influence over these abandoned women. When she first took notice of one or two of their fine children, the mothers said that if she could but save their children from the misery they had gone through in vice, they would do anything she bid them. And when they saw the change made in their children by her schooling, they begged to attend themselves. I could not have conceived that the love of their children could have remained so strong in hearts in which every other feeling of virtue had so long been dead. The Vicar of Wakefield's sermon in prison is, it seems, founded on a deep and true knowledge of human nature; the spark of good is often smothered, never wholly extinguished. Mrs. Fry often says an extempore prayer; but this day she was quite silent; while she covered her face with her hands for some minutes, the women were perfectly silent, with their eyes fixed upon her; and when she said, "You may go," they went away slowly. The children sat quite still the whole time; when one leaned, her mother behind her sat her upright. Mrs. Fry told us that the dividing the women into classes, and putting them under monitors, had been of the greatest advantage. There is some little pecuniary advantage attached to the office of monitor which makes them emulous to obtain it. We went through the female wards with Mrs. Fry, and saw the women at various works, knitting, rug-making, etc. They have done a great deal of needle-work very neatly, and some very ingenious. When I expressed my foolish wonder at this to Mrs. Fry's sister, she replied, "We have to do, recollect, Ma'am, not with fools, but with rogues."... Far from being disappointed with the sight of what Mrs. Fry has done, I was delighted.

This naive, informal chronicle of a visit to Newgate incidentally lets out the fact that the gloomy prison was fast becoming attractive to visitors—indeed, quite a show-place. That Mrs. Fry's labors were receiving official honor and recognition also, there is plenty of evidence to prove. In Prussia, her principles and exhortations had made such headway that the Government was adapting old prisons and building new, in order to carry out the modern doctrines of classification and employment. In Denmark, the King had given his sanction to the measures proposed by the Royal Danish Chancery for adding new buildings to the prison. As soon as these buildings were completed the females would be separated from the males, female warders were to be appointed, employment found for all prisoners, and books of information and devotion were to be supplied to each cell; while a chaplain (an unknown official, hitherto) was to be appointed. In Germany, four new penitentiaries were to be constructed; viz., at Berlin, Muenster in Westphalia, Ratibor in Silesia, and Koenigsberg. Two of these penitentiaries were to be exactly like the Model Prison at Pentonville; separate confinement was to be practically carried out, and the prisoners were to be taught trades under the superintendence of picked teachers. From Duesseldorf came information that all the female prisoners were improving under the new regime; that an asylum for discharged prisoners was effecting a wonderful transformation in the characters and lives of those who sought refuge there; and that the inmates only left its shelter to secure situations in service. In addition to these cheering items she had the satisfaction of holding communications with many princely, noble and royal personages on the Continent, respecting the progress of her favorite work, and the new regulations and buildings then adopted.

To return to her home-work and its ramifications will only be to prove how far the great principles which she had taught were bearing fruit. The Government Inspectors were working hard upon the lines laid down by Mrs. Fry; and if at times they found anything which clashed with their own pre-conceived ideas of what a prison should be, they were always ready to make allowance for the difficulties of pioneer work, such as this lady and her coadjutors had to do at Newgate. At Paramatta, New South Wales, where, according to a letter from the Rev. Samuel Marsden in an earlier part of this work, the condition of female convicts had been scandalous to the Government which shipped them out there, and deplorable in the extreme for the poor creatures themselves, a large factory had been erected, designed for the reception of the convicts upon their landing. It served its purpose well, being commodious enough to receive not only the new importations, but the refractory women also, who were returned from their situations. It was well managed; the inmates being divided into three classes, and treated with more or less kindness accordingly. True, at one time, even after the erection of this factory, from the management being entrusted to inefficient hands, a scene of disorder and misrule had prevailed; but that had been promptly and firmly repressed. Hard labor and strict discipline had succeeded in reducing the temporary confusion to something like order, and made residence there the dread of returning evil-doers, whilst it afforded a refuge for new-comers. Sir Richard Bourke, and Sir Ralph and Lady Darling, used every endeavor to make the place a success; while, at home, Lord Glenelg and Sir George Grey gave the matter, on behalf of the Government, every needful and possible aid. A good superintendent and matron were appointed from England, and supplied with every requisite for the instruction and occupation of the convicts at the factory.

This cordial co-operation of the Colonial Office in her schemes of improvement for the female convicts at Paramatta, encouraged her to attempt the same good work for the convicts at Hobart Town, Tasmania. It happened that by 1843 the transportation of females to New South Wales had ceased, the younger establishment at Hobart Town receiving all the female convicts; but, like the hydra of classic lore, the evil sprang up there as fresh and as vigorous as if it had not been conquered at Paramatta. Lady Franklin and other ladies communicated with Mrs. Fry, showing her the great need that still existed for her benevolent exertions in that quarter. From these communications it seemed that the assignment of women into domestic slavery still continued, in all its dire forms. When a convict ship arrived from England, employers of all grades became candidates for the services of the convicts. With the exception of publicans, and ticket-of-leave men, who were not allowed to employ convicts, anybody and everybody might engage the poor banished prisoners without any guarantee whatsoever as to the future conduct of the employer toward the servant, or specification as to the kind of work to be performed. Those convicts who have behaved themselves best on the voyage out were assigned to the best classes of society, while the others fell to the refuse of the employers' class. As it was a fact that a large proportion of the tradesmen applying for servants were convicts who had fully served their time, it may be imagined how lacking in civilization and integrity such employers often were. But if the condition of the convicts was hopeless after their assignment to places of service, it was, if possible, more hopeless still in the home, or "factory," in which they were first received. Some of the letters before referred to cast a flood of terrible light upon the condition of the poor wretches who had quitted their country "for that country's good," even when under supposed discipline and restraint. A passage from one of these letters reads like an ugly story of "the good old times!"

The Cascade Factory is a receiving-house for the women on their first arrival (if not assigned from the ship), or on their transition from one place to another, and also a house of correction for faults committed in domestic service; but with no pretension to be a place of reformatory discipline, and seldom failing to turn out the women worse than they entered it. Religious instruction there was none, except that occasionally on the Sabbath the superintendent of the prison read prayers, and sometimes divine service was performed by a chaplain, who also had an extensive parish to attend to.

The officers of the establishment consisted, at that time, of only five persons—a porter, the superintendent, and matron, and two assistants. The number of persons in the factory, when first visited by Miss Hayter, was five hundred and fifty. It followed, of course, that nothing like prison discipline could be enforced, or even attempted. In short, so congenial to its inmates was this place of custody (it would be unfair to call it a place of punishment) that they returned to it again and again when they wished to change their place of servitude; and they were known to commit offences on purpose to be sent into it, preparatory to their reassignment elsewhere.

Yet, after visiting the factory, and hearing everybody speak of its unhappy inmates, I could not but feel that they were far more to be pitied than blamed. No one has ever attempted any measure to ameliorate their degraded condition. I felt that had they had the opportunity of religious instruction, some at least might be rescued. I wish I could express to you all I feel and think upon the subject, and how completely I am overwhelmed with the awful sin of allowing so many wretched beings to perish for lack of instruction. Even in the hospital of the factory the unhappy creatures are as much neglected, in spiritual things, as if they were in a heathen land. There are no Bibles, and no Christians to tell them of a Saviour's dying love.

Mrs. Fry laid these communications before the Colonial Secretary without delay, praying him to alter this terrible state of things. She was at once listened to. The building was altered, by orders from England; the convicts were divided into classes; employment and discipline were provided; daily instruction, both secular and religious, was imparted; so that, by degrees, the establishment became what it should have been from the first—a house of detention, discipline, and refuge. In addition, a large vessel called the Anson was fitted up as a temporary prison, sent out to Hobart Town, and moored in the river. This vessel received the new shipments of transports from England, and afforded, by its staff of officers, opportunity for a six months' training of the convicts, who then were not permitted to enter the service of the colonists until after this period had expired. By these different means Mrs. Fry had the satisfaction of knowing that the convicts had yet another opportunity of amendment granted them after leaving the prisons of their native land. It has already been observed that in most of the prisons of the United Kingdom female warders were employed, while matrons were appointed on the out-going convict ships. Contrary to the lot of many reformers, Mrs. Fry was spared to see most of the reforms which she had recommended, become law.

After Mrs. Fry's death an interesting report was issued by the Inspector-General of Prisons in Ireland, relating to the Grange Gorman Lane Female Prison, Dublin. Mrs. Fry had taken special interest in this prison, it having been the first erected exclusively for women in the United Kingdom, and intended, if found successful, to serve as a sort of model for other places. The experiment had proved entirely successful and satisfactory; matron, warders and chaplain all united in one chorus of praise. Major Cottingham, the Inspector-General, wrote:—

Although I made my annual inspection of this prison on February 18th, 1847, as a date upon which to form my report, yet I have had very many opportunities of seeing it during past and former years, in my duties connected with my superintendence of the convict department. The visitors may see many changes in the faces and persons of the prisoners, but no surprise can ever find a difference in the high and superior order with which this prison is conducted. The matron, Mrs. Rawlins, upon whom the entire responsibility of the interior management devolves, was selected some years since, and sent over to this country by the benevolent and philanthropic Mrs. Fry, whose exertions in the cause of female prison reformation were extended to all parts of the British Empire, and who, although lately summoned to the presence of her Divine Master, has nowhere left a more valuable instance of her sound judgment and high discriminating powers than in the selection of Mrs. Rawlins to be placed at the head of this experimental prison, occupied alone by females; and so successful has the experiment been, that I understand several other prisons solely for females have been lately opened in Scotland, and even in Australia. In this prison is to be seen an uninterrupted system of reformatory discipline in every class, such as is to be found in no other prison that I am aware of.

The matron alluded to in the above extracts gratefully acknowledged that Mrs. Fry's plan had completely succeeded in every respect, while she was equally grateful in owning that to her instructions and wise maternal counsel she herself owed her own fitness for that special branch of the work.

The testimonies to her success not only came in from official quarters, but from the prisoners themselves. This chronicle would scarcely be complete without a specimen or two of the many communications she received from prisoners at home and from convicts abroad. True, on one or two occasions the women at Newgate had behaved in a somewhat refractory manner, for their poor degraded human nature could not conceive of pure disinterested Christian love working for their good without fee or reward; but even at these times their better nature very soon reasserted itself, and penitence and tears took the place of insubordination. To those who had sinned against and had been forgiven by her, Mrs. Fry's memory was something almost too holy for earth. No orthodoxly canonized saint of the Catholic Church ever received truer reverence, or performed such miracles of moral healing.

The following communication reached her from some of the prisoners at Newgate:—

HONORED MADAM,—Influenced by gratitude to our general benefactress and friend, we humbly venture to address you. It is with sorrow we say that we had not the pleasure of seeing you at the accustomed time, which we have always been taught to look for—we mean Friday last. We are fearful that your health was the cause of our being deprived of that heartfelt joy which your presence always diffuses through the prison; but we hope, through the mercies of God, we shall be able personally to return you the grateful acknowledgments of our hearts, before we leave our country forever, for all the past and present favors so benevolently bestowed upon what has been termed the "most unfortunate of society," until cheered by your benevolence, kindness and charity: and hoping that your health, which is so dear to such a number of unfortunates, will be fully re-established before we go, so that after our departure from our native land, those who are so unfortunate as to fall into our situation may enjoy the same blessing, both temporally and spiritually, that we have done before them. And may our minds be impressed with a due sense of the many comforts we have enjoyed whilst under your kind protection. Honored and worthy Madam, we hope we shall be pardoned for our presumption in addressing you at this time, but our fears of not seeing you before the time of our departure induce us to entreat your acceptance of our prayers for your restoration to your family; and may the prayers and supplications of the unfortunate prisoners ascend to Heaven for the prolonging of that life which is so dear to the most wretched of the English nation. Honored Madam, we beg leave to subscribe ourselves, with humble respect, your most grateful and devoted,

THE PRISONERS OF NEWGATE.

The following letter was from a convict at Paramatta, New South Wales, some time after her banishment to that colony:—

HONORED MADAM,—The duty I owe to you, likewise to the benevolent society to which you have the honor to belong, compels me to take up my pen to return you my most sincere thanks for the heavenly instruction I derived from you, and the dear friends, during my confinement in Newgate.

In the month of April, 1817, that blessed prayer of yours sank deep into my heart; and as you said, so I have found it, that when no eyes see and no ears hear, God both sees and hears, and then it was that the arrow of conviction entered my hard heart; in Newgate it was that poor Harriet, like the Prodigal Son, came to herself, and took with her words, and sought the Lord. Truly I can say with David, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have learned Thy ways, O Lord."... Believe me, my dear Madam, I bless the day that brought me inside Newgate walls, for then it was that the ways of Divine truth shone into my dark mind.'... Believe me, my dear Madam, although I am a poor captive in a distant land, I would not give up having communion with God one single day for my liberty; for what is the liberty of the body compared with the liberty of the soul? Soon will the time come when death will release me from all the earthly fetters that hold me now, for I trust to be with Christ, who bought me with His precious blood. And now, my dear Madam, these few sincere sentiments of mine I wish you to make known to the world, that the world may see that your labor in Newgate has not been in vain in the Lord. Please give my love to the dear friends; the keeper of Newgate, and all the afflicted prisoners; and although we may never meet on earth again, I hope we shall all meet in the realms of bliss, never to part again.

Believe me to remain your humble servant, HARRIET S——.

In addition to the grateful acknowledgments of "those who were ready to perish," Mrs. Fry won an unusual meed of honorable esteem from the noble and great. Sovereigns and rulers, statesmen and cabinet councillors, all owned the worth of goodness, and rendered to the Quaker lady the homage of both tongue and heart. Beside that notable visit to the Mansion House to be presented to Queen Charlotte, in 1818, Mrs. Fry had many interviews with royalty—these royal and noble personages conferring honor upon themselves more than upon her by their kindly interest in her work.

In 1822 the Prince and Princess Royal of Denmark visited England, and spent considerable time in inspecting public institutions, schools, and charities tending to advance the general well-being of the people. Of course Mrs. Fry's name was spoken of prominently, seeing that she was then in the full tide of her Newgate labors. The Duchess of Gloucester first introduced Mrs. Fry to the Princess, when a few words of question and explanation were given in relation to the prison enterprise. But some days later, the family at Plashet House were apprised of the fact that the Princess intended honoring them with her company at breakfast. She came at the hour appointed, and, while partaking of their hospitality, entered fully into Mrs. Fry's work, learning of her those particulars which she could not otherwise gain. The foundation of a firm friendship with the Princess Royal of Denmark was thus laid, which continued through all Mrs. Fry's after life.

In 1831 she obtained her first interview with our gracious Queen, then the young Princess Victoria. Then, as now, the Royal Family of England was always interested in works of charity and philanthropy, and the young Princess displayed the early bent of her mind in this interview. In the most unaffected style Mrs. Fry thus tells the story: "About three weeks ago I paid a very satisfactory visit to the Duchess of Kent, and her very pleasing daughter, the Princess Victoria. William Allen went with me. We took some books on the subject of slavery, with the hope of influencing the young Princess in that important cause. We were received with much kindness and cordiality, and I felt my way open to express not only my desire that the best blessing may rest upon them, but that the young Princess might follow the example of our blessed Lord; that as she grew in stature she might also grow in favor with God and man. I also ventured to remind her of King Josiah, who began to reign at eight years old, and did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, which seemed to be well received. Since that I thought it right to send the Duke of Gloucester my brother Joseph's work on the Sabbath, with a rather serious letter, and had a very valuable answer from him, full of feeling. I have an invitation to visit the Duchess of Gloucester the next Fourth Day. May good result to them and no harm to myself; but I feel those openings a rather weighty responsibility, and desire to be faithful and not forward. I had long felt an inclination to see the young Princess, and endeavor to throw a little weight into the right scale, seeing the very important place she is likely to fill. I was much pleased with her, and think her a sweet, lovely and hopeful child."

Some three years afterwards the Duke of Gloucester died, and his death recalled the old times when he was quartered at Norwich with his regiment. The biographers of Elizabeth Fry tell us that the Duke "was amongst the few who addressed words of friendly caution and sound advice to the young and motherless sisters at Earlham." She never forgot the old friendship—a friendship which had been increased by the unfailing interest of both the Duke and Duchess in her philanthropic work. As soon as she heard of the bereavement she wrote the following letter to the Princess Sophia of Gloucester:—

MY DEAR FRIEND:

I hope thou wilt not feel it an intrusion my expressing my sympathy with thee in the death of the Duke of Gloucester. To lose a dear and only brother is no small trial, and for a while makes the world appear very desolate. But I trust that having thy pleasant pictures marred in this life may be one means of opening brighter prospects in the life to come, and of having thy treasure increased in the heavenly inheritance. The Duchess of Gloucester kindly commissioned a lady to write to me, who gave me a very comforting account of the state of the Duke's mind. I feel it cause for much thankfulness that he was so sustained through faith in his Lord and Saviour; and we may humbly trust, through His merits, saved with an everlasting salvation. It would be very pleasant to me to hear how thy health and spirits are after so great a shock, and I propose inquiring at Blackheath, where I rather expect to be next week; or if thou wouldst have the kindness to request one of thy ladies in waiting to write me a few lines I should be much obliged. I hope that my dear and valued friend, the Duchess of Gloucester, is as well as we can expect after her deep affliction.

Shortly after this she paid a visit of condolence to the Duchess by appointment.

Early in 1840 the young Queen, her present Majesty, sent Mrs. Fry a present of fifty pounds by Lord Normanby for the Refuge at Chelsea, and appointed an audience. On the first day of February Mrs. Fry, accompanied by her brother, Samuel Gurney, and William Allen, attended at Buckingham Palace. This was only a few days before Her Majesty espoused Prince Albert. Mrs. Fry writes as follows in her journal, respecting that interview:—

We went to Buckingham Palace and saw the Queen. Our interview was short. Lord Normanby, the Home Secretary, presented us. The Queen asked us when we were going on the Continent. She said it was some years since she saw me. She asked about Caroline Neave's Refuge, for which she has lately sent me the fifty pounds. This gave me an opportunity of thanking her. I ventured to express my satisfaction that she encouraged various works of charity, and I said it reminded me of the words of Scripture, "With the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful." Before we withdrew I stopped, and said I hoped the Queen would allow me to assure her that it was our prayer that the blessing of God might rest upon the Queen and her Consort.

In January, 1842, the Lady Mayoress pressed Mrs. Fry to attend a banquet given at the Mansion House, in order principally to meet Prince Albert, Sir Robert Peel, and the different Ministers of State. After a little mental conflict she decided to go, with the earnest hope and purpose of doing more good for the prisoners. A summary of her sayings and doings at that banquet is best supplied in her own words:—

I had an important conversation on a female prison being built, with Sir James Graham, our present Secretary of State.... I think it was a very important beginning with him for our British Ladies' Society. With Lord Aberdeen, Foreign Secretary, I spoke on some matters connected with the present state of the Continent; with Lord Stanley, our Colonial Secretary, upon the state of our penal colonies, and the condition of the women in them, hoping to open the door for further communications with him upon these subjects. Nearly the whole dinner was occupied in deeply interesting conversation with Prince Albert and Sir Robert Peel. With the Prince I spoke very seriously upon the Christian education of their children ... the infinite importance of a holy and religious life; how I had seen it in all ranks of life, no real peace or prosperity without it; then the state of Europe, the advancement of religion in the continental courts; then prisons, their present state in this country, my fear that our punishments were becoming too severe, my wish that the Queen should be informed of some particulars respecting separate confinement. We also had much entertaining conversation about my journeys, the state of Europe, modes of living, and habits of countries. With Sir Robert Peel I dwelt much more on the prison subject; I expressed my fears that jailers had too much power, that punishment was rendered uncertain, and often too severe; pressed upon him the need of mercy, and begged him to see the new prison, and to have the dark cells a little altered.... I was wonderfully strengthened, bodily and mentally, and believe I was in my right place there, though an odd one for me. I sat between Prince Albert and Sir Robert Peel at dinner, and a most interesting time we had.... It was a very remarkable occasion; I hardly ever had such respect and kindness shown to me; it was really humbling and affecting to me, and yet sweet to see such various persons, whom I had worked with for years past, showing such genuine kindness and esteem so far beyond my most unworthy deserts.

Royalty and nobility thus concurred in carrying out, although perhaps unconsciously, the Scriptural command: "Esteem such very highly in love for their works' sake." It is interesting to notice how very frequently, in this world, the course of events does coincide with the words of Holy Writ, and the honor which Providence showers upon a remarkable servant of God. It is equally interesting, also, to see how completely, in the philanthropic Quakeress, the nobility of moral greatness was acknowledged by the highest personages in the land.

Very soon after this meeting at the Mansion House, the King of Prussia arrived in England, to stand as sponsor to the infant Prince of Wales; and, speedily after his arrival, he desired to see Mrs. Fry. He neither forgot nor ignored her visits to his dominions in the interests of charity; and he concluded that a woman who could travel thousands of miles upon the Continent, in order to ameliorate the condition of prisoners and lunatics, must be worth visiting at her own home. By his special desire, therefore, she was sent for, to meet him at the Mansion House. After the dinner, at which no toasts were proposed, in deference to Mrs. Fry's religious scruples, an appointment was made by the King to meet her at Newgate on the following morning, and afterwards to take luncheon at the house in Upton Lane. This memorable engagement was carried out in its entirety about midday. Mrs. Fry and one of her sisters set out to meet the party, which included the King, his suite, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs, some of the Ministers of State, and a large number of gentlemen. The poor women of Newgate numbered about sixty, and doubtless their attention was somewhat distracted by the grand company present; but Mrs. Fry, with her accustomed common-sense, reminded them that a greater than the King of Prussia was present, even "the King of Kings and Lord of Lords." After this admonition she read the 12th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and expounded and conducted a short devotional service. Then, she says, "the King again gave me his arm, and we walked down together. There were difficulties raised about his going to Upton, but he chose to persevere. I went with the Lady Mayoress and the Sheriffs, the King with his own people. We arrived first; I had to hasten to take off my cloak, and then went down to meet him at his carriage-door, with my husband and seven of our sons and sons-in-law. I then walked with him into the drawing-room, where all was in beautiful order—neat, and adorned with flowers. I presented to the King our eight daughters and daughters-in-law, our seven sons and eldest grandson, my brother and sister Buxton, Sir Henry and Lady Pelley, and my sister-in-law Elizabeth Fry—my brother and sister Gurney he had known before—and afterwards presented twenty-five of our grandchildren. We had a solemn silence before our meal, which was handsome and fit for a king, yet not extravagant, everything most complete and nice. I sat by the King, who appeared to enjoy his dinner, perfectly at his ease and very happy with us. We went into the drawing-room after another silence and a few words which I uttered in prayer for the King and Queen. We found a deputation of Friends with an address to read to him; this was done; the King appeared to feel it much. We then had to part. The King expressed his desire that blessings might continue to rest on our house."

Solomon says: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men." Elizabeth Fry's life was a living proof of the honors that a persistent, steady, self-denying course of doing good invariably wins in the long run.



CHAPTER XV.

CLOSING DAYS OF LIFE.

Indefatigable workers wear out, while drones rust out. As the years are counted, of so many days, months, and weeks, many workers of this class die prematurely; but a wiser philosophy teaches that "He liveth long who liveth well." Into her years of life, long, eventful, and busy, Elizabeth Fry had crowded the work of many ordinary women; it was little wonder, therefore, that at a time when most people would have settled down to enjoy the relaxations and comforts of a "green old age," she had begun to set her house in order, to die. Her energies had been fairly worn out in the service of humanity, and from the time that she made the resolution to serve God, when moved by William Savery's pleadings, right onward through forty-eight years of sunshine and shadow, vicissitudes and labors, she had never swerved from her simple, earnest purpose. The propelling motive to that long course of Christian usefulness may be found in a few words uttered by her shortly before her death: "Since my heart was touched at seventeen years old, I believe I have never awakened from sleep, in sickness or in health, by day or by night, without my first waking thought being, 'how best I might serve my Lord.'" That unchanged desire ultimately became the master-passion of her life.

Honors clustered thickly about her declining days. She was the welcomed guest of royalty and nobility; on the Continent, as well as in far-away English colonies, her name was pronounced only with respectful love. Her eldest son was appointed to the magistracy of the county; her relatives and associates were foremost in every enterprise intended to benefit mankind; while both in Parliament and out of it, her recommendations were respectfully adopted. Had her years been counted on the patriarchal scale, instead of by their own shortened number, she could have reaped no higher honors; for titles were in her ears but empty sounds, and wealth only meant increased responsibility. Not many nobler souls walked this earth, either in Quaker garb or out of it.

In 1842 her state of health appeared to be so infirm and shattered that her brother-in-law, Mr. Hoare, offered her the loan of his house at Cromer. She accepted the offer for a couple of months, and found a little benefit for the bracing air. She mentioned in her diary at this time that she had "an undue fear of an imbecile or childish state"—a not unlikely feeling to be cherished by an energetic woman accustomed all her life long to the work of helping others. At the end of October she returned home, thankfully rejoicing, however, in an improved state of health.

But a new series of trials awaited her. Death seemed to visit the happy family circle so often that one wonders almost where the tale will stop. Four or five grand-children passed away in rapid succession. After the funeral of the first grand-child, she assembled the family party in the evening, and with a little of the old fire and yearning affection, gave them exhortation and consolation. Then she prayed for all the members of the three generations present. After this funeral service she paid a final visit to France; and then returned home, to descend still further into the valley of suffering.

Her sister-in-law—also named Elizabeth Fry—died during this time of weakness and pain. There had been a close bond of sympathy between these two women; they had travelled many times together as ministers in the Society of Friends, and had been united by the closest bonds of womanly and Christian affection. The faithful sister-in-law preceded the philanthropist to "the better land," by about fifteen months.

In the summer of 1844 she attended her beloved meeting at Plaistow once more. She had been so long in declining health, that meeting with the associates of former years, for worship, had been of necessity an enjoyment altogether out of the question. But Sunday after Sunday, as the "church-going bell" resounded on the still morning air, her spirit yearned to worship God after the manner of her sect. Still, for weeks the attempt was an abortive one. The difficult process of dressing was never accomplished until long after 11 o'clock, the hour when the meeting assembled. The desire was only intensified, however, by these repeated disappointments, and finally it was resolved that the attempt should be made on Sunday, August 4th, at all risks. It succeeded. Drawn by two of her children, in a wheeled chair, she was taken up to the meeting, a few minutes after the hour for commencing worship. Her husband, children and servants followed behind, fearing whether or no the ordeal would be too heavy for the wasted frame. But after remaining for some time in the wonted quiet of the sanctuary, an access of strength seemed to be granted her, and in somewhat similar spirit to that of the old patriarchs, when about to bid farewell to the scene of labor and life, she lifted up her voice once more with weighty, solemn words of counsel. The prominent topic of her discourse was "the death of the righteous." She expressed the deepest thankfulness, alluding to her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Fry, for mercies vouchsafed to one who, having labored amongst them, had been called from time to eternity. She quoted that text, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they cease from their labors, and their works do follow them." She dwelt on the purposes of affliction, on the utter weakness and infirmity of the flesh, and then tenderly exhorted the young. She urged the need of devotedness of heart and steadfastness of purpose; she raised a tribute of praise for the eternal hope offered to the Christian, and concluded with these words from Isaiah: "Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty; they shall behold the land that is very far off." Prayer was afterwards offered by her in a similar strain, and then the meeting ended. Shortly after this, a removal to Walmer was effected, in the vain hope that the footsteps of death might be retarded.

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