Sir,—I have read with pleasure your leading article discussing the action of the Middlesex magistrates in the recent licensing cases. But, Sir, it seems to me that the comae they have adopted deserves more sweeping condemnation than is conveyed by mere doubts as to its prospect of success. The crusade against places of amusement has now been going on for some time, and it is therefore fair to look at its results, and these must be pronounced eminently unsatisfactory.
Some time ago, Cremorne Gardens were closed, and the consequence was that the Argyll Rooms, the Criterion, and the Aquarium were crowded with the undesirable characters who had previously congregated there. Last year the Argyll Rooms lost their licence and we were promised order and quiet in the Haymarket and its approaches. This promise has not been fulfilled, and the revelry and not shift a few hundred yards eastward and re-appear in a worse form in Covent-garden, where Evan's Supper Rooms have become so notorious that a licence is now refused them, and other places of amusement have with difficulty obtained a renewal of their own.
Nor is this all. The foyers and approaches to the theatres are far lees select than they were, and our streets at night are such that few would think of letting a lady walk home after the theatre. In this respect we are certainly put to shame by Paris, the city over whose dissipation we sigh so sadly. There, at least, one can at all times safely escort ladies through the principal streets, and it would be no exaggeration to say that during a month's residence in Paris such annoyances would not be experienced as in a single stroll at night (sometimes even in the day) down a leading thoroughfare at the West-end.
Nov, Sir, my point is this. The attempted remedies of the magistrates are all in the wrong direction, and aim at an impossible mode of effecting a cure, instead of going deeper into the matter, which requires the application of a surer and more efficient preventive. As was pointed out by a lady in your columns in commenting on a recent police case, assaults and outrages upon women should be visited with the utmost rigour. At present, unfortunately, the penalty for seduction and the damages in an affiliation cane are so trifling that the principal offender gets off almost scot free, white the weaker party is at once classed in a category to which pity or assistance is too seldom extended, and hunted and harried from places of resort, where at least they required to be sought, to force themselves upon us, where from long prescription we possessed a fancied immunity. Like "Poor Jo," the memorable outcast in "Blank House," they're allus a movin' on," but it would be well if the magistrates realised this " chivvin' of 'em up and down," not only acts most injuriously to other places of amusement to which they naturally betake themselves, but renders our streets anything but pleasant to pedestrians. Apologies for the length of my letter, I enclose my card, and remain yours faithfully,
A BARRISTER.--Oct. 18.
Sir,—I shall be very grateful if you. could allow me space in your valuable columns to answer "A Barrister's" letter in your:issue of this morning. I also read with great interest and much sympathy your article upon the action of the Middlesex magistrates in the recent licensing cases; and I think, that before "A Barrister" pronounces what he call a "crusade against places of amusement "—what I should call a crusade against ill-conducted places of amusement—eminently unsatisfactory, he should adduce some evidence to prove that this crusade has had no moralising effect upon the proprietors of places of amusement generally, who are the only people it could , tend directly to moralise. It is obvious that bad men and women will not cease to exist, nor become suddenly good when a licence is refused to what has been till then their habitual place of resort. But I think it is reasonable to suppose that other managers will by this line of action be led to use a little more surveillance over the conduct, not the character, of the people they admit ; and that thus by degrees we women may gain some places of amusement to which we can go unprotected by men. This never can be the case till managers gain the moral courage, not to refuse admittance to the poor down trodden woman of the streets (to whom I for one think they have no right to refuse admittance whilst they pay their entrance money and behave properly), but to eject those men who insult women and otherwise misconduct themselves. I know that this is not done now, because it is apt to cause a little disturbance, which is liable to be reported in the morning papers next day, and thus to bring the place of amusement into disrepute. But it is the only way in which it ever can he made possible for respectable women to go in numbers to any public place, and until respectable women can do so I really do not see how any place of amusement intended for men and women can be called respectable. I cannot help regretting, that "A Barrister," with some of whose opinions I so heartily concur, should object to a crusade which might almost be entitled a, crusade to wrest places of amusement from the disreputable and hand them over to the respectable, and which notoriously goes hand in hand with societies for opening Coffee Music Hails and playgrounds for the girls of the poorer classes. For these last no thought has been taken till lately. And whilst in the teeth of opposition and , derision some of us, women are saving up our odd ha-pence —we women have so little money—to buy for poor girls pianos and battledores and skipping ropes, and are trying to secure rooms in which they can make use of them without losing their characters in men's eyes, we do feel it a little hard to be told we are joining in a crusade against amusement. It is, however, our wish, and I should think " A Barrister's" also, to convince those who invest their money in order to gain tenfold by leading others into temptation, that the investment is an insecure one, liable at any moment to be stopped by the strong hand of the law. Otherwise we may see becoming common among us such elegant establishments as are to be found in Paris, where, as " A Barrister" truly says, men may "at all times safely escort ladies through the principal streets "—that is to say, where a man can walk about without let or hindrance, but where, as he must surely be aware, no lady alone would take five steps at night without being insulted. And, though it may not be necessary for ladies to walk alone at night, there are large numbers of women who have to do so ; and if any one would wish to know the results for them in Paris let such ask to see S. Lazare.—I remain, yours faithfully,
A. E N. BEWICKE.-25, Hereford-square, S.W., October 21
correspondence in Daily News 21-22 October 1879