Extract from Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge’s London Travel Diary

Yesterday, Christmas day, we went in the morning to the Church of the Foundlings where the music is good, the preaching “mediocre.” The services were long and the execrable creed of St. Athanasius formed a part. What an insult to God and Man the reciting of this blasphemous relic of barbarous ages!—There were present nearly two hundred children, boys and girls, ranged on each side of the Organ and Choristers—the boys to the right, as you looked at them from the body of the Church, the girls to the left. They were comfortably clad, the boys in dark coats & pantaloons, with red waistcoats and white collars,—the girls in a very old-fashioned & picturesque costume consisting of long-waisted gowns with short, plain sleeves, (over which the short sleeves of the chemise were neatly turned up) low in the neck with a sort of cambric tucker or frill, and a white apron with a bib or front-piece. Each little head was covered by a plain, high-crowned cap starched stiff, having a plaited frill, like the cap, of thick cambric. They were ranged according to their sizes and formed quite a pretty picture. Poor forlorn little creatures! Orphans and maintained by charity, I hope they are taken good care of! They look as if sufficient attention was paid to them, particularly the girls whose appearance is much more respectable and pleasing than that of the boys, I cannot understand why.

We went after the morning services were over, to see the children dine. In the first room, a very long table covered with a clean cloth, and with benches on each side, was appropriated to the girls, who each received, on a clean wooden platter, a large piece of baked plum-pudding. This constituted their Christmas dinner. They looked clean and healthy but grave beyond their years. This gravity may have been taught them as a lesson of propriety. In another room, at the opposite extremity of the building, the boys were served in the same manner, the puddings being placed at the head of the table and cut up by a woman belonging to the establishment. Grace was said by one of the larger children and their manners were entirely decorous. The appearance of the boys, however, was any thing but prepossessing. They had, on their faces, the stamp of low birth—the low birth which proceeds from a degraded stock, the human animal brutified by poverty & vice, degenerate in body and soul and perpetuating a degenerate race. These boys looked stupid and cross—ill shaped—and in all ways indicating a preponderance of the evil principle over the good. Whilst we were in the Church the carriage went on to Highgate and when we came out we found our dear boy come to pass his Christmas with us. It was a great pleasure to him and to me. We spent the evening at home and after our boy was gone to bed, Mr Coolidge read aloud to me from Lockhart’s Life of Scott. I must not omit to say that this Christmas day was bright and clear, the Sun shining, which he had not done for a month before. To-day, the 26th, is again dark & sad, more so to me because I must take Jefferson home to his school. He has been talking to me incessantly so that I can hardly write, but his little dinner is over and the hour approaches when he must return to Highgate.

MS (MHi: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Diary, Ms N-1027); in Coolidge’s hand. Published in Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838–1839, Ann Lucas Birle and Lisa A. Francavilla, eds. (2011), 112–14.

John Gibson lockhart’s Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet was first published in 7 volumes in 1837–38.