Ancestry UK

Christmas In A Workhouse by Hubert von Herkomer


Once on a time, not long ago,
Only some sixty years or so,
Her skin was white as driven snow,
   Each lip a cherry;
At least, so rapturous lovers said,
And now these lovers all have sped,
Gone to the City of the Dead,
   In Charon's Ferry.

Too oft Life saddens towards its end,	
Yet helping hand of child or friend,
And independent means, may lend
   Some compensation;
But when Old Age, bereaved, distressed,
Crawls to the Workhouse for its rest,
Existence then must be at best
   A desolation.

Most days are sad, but not quite all,
For even the cheerless Workhouse hall,
When dawns the Christmas festival,
   Looks bright and pleasant;
And then the kindly fairy's last
Best gift — the tea — in teapot cast,
May bring to mind a far-off Past,
   A welcome Present!


The weekly illustrated journal The Graphic was founded in December 1869 by W.L. Thomas and soon became known for its social realism, especially through its engravings. Its Christmas issue in 1876 included a drawing by Hubert von Herkomer entitled Christmas in a Workhouse with accompanying verses which illustrated the annual small gifts given to the "deserving" inmates — the elderly, the sick, and children.

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