In 1886 a 19 year-old journalist disguised himself as a tramp and visited the worst lodging houses of London to 'see things as they really are.' Dottings of a Dosser is an account of his experiences and an attempt to come up with a solution. Howard Joseph Goldsmid (1866-1895) warned that if something was not done to improve the situation of the poorest in society then the country might end up confronting a revolution.
Two years later 'Jack the Ripper' murdered five prostitutes in Whitechapel and Spitalfields. His victims were mostly middle-aged women who lived in the similar common lodging houses to those that Goldsmid described. They were people 'who have neither house nor room that they can call their own, and who night after night, week in, week out, for many a weary year, ''doss'' in the nearest lodging-house, and hardly dare to dream of any other or better accommodation.
While they live their principal care is to find the necessary fourpence each night, together with a few coppers more for food, or at all events for drink. When they die they depend upon the kindly feeling of their chums and fellow-dossers for the means of burial, or upon the scantier, if more certain, mercy of the parish sexton and the workhouse hearse.' 'Are you prepared, reader, to meet such company? If so, come with me round some of the places I have visited. You will have the advantage that, while my tour was made in the flesh, yours may be completed in the spirit. And much is to be learned from such an expedition, even if made only in imagination, by those who have but very dimly realized the fact that there are dens of misery unutterable, and of vice indescribable, in some quarters of this wealth-teeming, yet poverty-producing, metropolis.'