Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Lady of No Reputation Who Was Simply Amazing, Part VIII

Dore's Portrait of East End Squalor

Wash Day in the East End

Christ Church, in Spitalfields, London, the Anglican Church

Where William Samuel Charles Dawson Was Baptized

Street Urchins in 19th Century London


During most of the first half of the 19th century, while English overlords in London's West End collected rents from their stolen Irish estates, and demolished Irish industry by flooding Ireland with cheap English manufactures after the Act of Union indirectly eliminated all trade barriers, London's neighborhoods for the working classes in the East End boomed as employment opportunities in London's newly-mechanized factories grew in number. The new neighborhoods lacked sewage facilities -- toilet and wash water drained into the Thames from open gullies in the streets. Public transportation was just then coming into its own, so that steam locomotives at street level or on elevated tracks belched steam, oil, sparks and smoke into adjacent streets. In short order new neighborhoods became overcrowded working-class ghettoes. Cholera, typhus and dyssentery spread via the open sewers. Mini-epidemics of these diseases, wiping out this section and that neighborhood of London's East End, became commonplace. Especially during the Summer, the smell in London began to become so unbearable that Parliament actually considered leaving for a pleasanter location.

Around 1810, somewhere in these interesting neighborhoods in London's East End, a little boy name WILLIAM DAWSON was born to one working-class family, and a little girl named SARAH TRAVELLER was born to another working class family. These would become our G2 GPs, the parents of G1 GF WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON.

Both G2 GF WILLIAM DAWSON and G2 GM SARAH TRAVELLER would have been baptized into the Church of England by their parents.

The London of the first half of the 19th century is well-portrayed in Dickens' novels. On the East End, it really was a despicable place. Both G2 GF WILLIAM DAWSON and G2 GM SARAH TRAVELLER would have "lived lives of quiet desperation" in their families, going out to work, without much education, if any, as early in their teen years as possible to supplement family income. There is some evidence that they met and engaged in an intimate relationship before marriage, and that G1 GF WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON was conceived and born before their marriage, a not-uncommon thing in the disorganized lives of the denizens of the East End in those days, according to books on the subject.

G1 GF WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON's early years would not have been much different from that of his parents. As a member of the working class in London's dirty East End, he would have been poorly educated, and forced out to work as early as possible in his teen years. WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON's classsification, on his immigration record, as a mere "laborer" bears this out. Who knows when his parents died, and why. Perhaps one of the many cholera, typhoid or dyssentery epidemics, borne through London by the sewers, did them in.

It was customary for young men in London's East End to commit themselves to marriage at around the age of 17 or 18. G1 GF WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON apparently did so, probably around 1848. We really know nothing at all about his wife, except that, according to family tradition, she died shortly after their marriage, perhaps of one of the mini-epidemics of cholera, typhoid or dyssentery which came out of London's open sewers on a regular basis, or perhaps she was one of the 250,000 victims of the great tuberculosis epidemic which assailed the population of London and its suburbs between 1850 and 1855.

While 1848 was a deadly year in Ireland, 1848 and subsequent years were difficult years in London's East End. When the Potato Famine hit Ireland, the Irish suddenly had nothing, so that English exports to Ireland plummeted. Elsewhere throughout Europe, the failure of the potato crops due to the same fungus caused food prices, generally, to rise, resulting in a massive shift of cash from industry into farming, further drying-up markets for England's manufactures. Suddenly, the working class in London's East End, and throughout Europe, were thrown out of work. Unemployment as a consequence of the failure of the potato famine is the major caused of the violent revolutions wracking government across Western Europe in 1848.

The employment picture would not have been too pretty for G1 GF WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON during this period. Though London avoided a revolution in 1848, emigration to America of the chronically unemployed began to skyrocket. Hundreds of thousands of English young people began to join the Irish crammed into the windjammers out of Liverpool, hoping for a better life in America. WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON was one of these.

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