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Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Offers to criticise his article, and suggests he talk with Norman Franks. Is disgusted by the sentimental reaction to the death of Queen Victoria. Refers to their guests for dinner.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr.
28 Jan. 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

We must try to bear up! We are quite used to seeing our bulwarks (against old ladies and other enemies) walking off in all directions! And yet we manage somehow to hold the fort! Seriously, we are not discouraged—neither are we optimistic; while we are alive we go on, voila tout!

I am glad about the book; yes, do send the article when it is ready and I will criticize unmercifully. I know what you mean; we don’t want something merely academic but something dynamic. This is your subject. I think you ought to have a talk with Norman Franks. He knows a great deal experimentally. He nearly lost his life sticking on for 3 years in Rothwell Bgs: {1} and is most keen on the subject. I am sure he would be delighted to see you any time at 59 Eastcheap.

I cannot help being disgusted by the sentimentalism run riot amongst us. {2} There is something real, as you say, something great in the way the ends of the earth have been united in their loyalty to one woman {3}, who was personally worthy of the great ideal which she represented, but it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, who found herself growing so small that she began to be drowned in her own tears and had to swim through to dry land. Besides, sentimentalism is the death of real feeling and we lose everything including our own self-respect.

Thanks for the little book that you sent me; it is full of the sweet reasonableness and light of the writer, but I always miss the battle-cry:

“Fall battle-axe & clash brand!
Let the King reign.”! {4}

I am going to send you one of my books, one of which I never tire, that never loses its absolute fascination for me. I don’t expect you to like it, so don’t go against the grain to read it. But if you do read it perhaps I might be able to tell you why I accept Wagner and reject Tolstoi.

Shall I tell you for whom we are cooking the dinner today: Mr Pett Ridge, Mr Dunbar Smith {5} and Mac, and the Lady Katherine Thynne (or “Miss Bath”) {6}.

The wife May has a Boys’ Club, so we have to do dishing up and all. She is still as great a source of pleasure and amusement as ever. Her latest is in reference to Mr MacIlwaine coming while we were out:

(Sister Mary, soliloquy) “I suppose he went back to his work”
(May (in her most clucking style)) “Didn’t look much like work!—the way he flopped ’isself down!”

By the way, you have a principle against answering invitations, nicht wahr? Und der Herr ist auch in Deutschland gewesen, und er spricht wohl Deutsch. Also, leben Sie recht wohl.

Ihre höchst, etc.
Emmeline Pethick

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{1} Rothwell Buildings, in Whitfield Street, St Pancras.

{2} The reference is to the national mood following death of Queen Victoria on the 22nd.

{3} Above ‘human being’ struck through.

{4} A conflation of two lines repeated several times in Tennyson’s ‘The Coming of Arthur’ (one of the Idylls of the King):

‘Fall battleaxe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.’

and

‘Clash battleaxe, and clash brand! Let the King reign.’

{5} Arnold Dunbar Smith, who, together with Cecil Claude Brewer, had designed the Passmore Edwards Settlement. He was later employed by the Pethick-Lawrences to build a cottage near their house in Surrey as a guest-house for London children. See My Part in a Changing World, p. 132.

{6} Lady Katherine Thynne was the second daughter of the 4th Marquess of Bath. She married the Earl of Cromer on 22 October this year.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, W.C.—Sends a paper by Mary Neal, a manuscript about the opening of their first show-room, and Forman’s translation of The Nibelung’s Ring. Expresses some ideas on education, and sends news of the Club.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr., W.C.

Dear Mr Lawrence,

I am thinking of writing a book and calling it “Imaginary Conversations with a Matter of Fact Man”. If I do, you will perhaps cease to be plagued with books and papers! But in the meantime will you read this little paper {1} of Sister Mary’s before it goes to the Publishers. I would like to know what you think of it, and so would she. Of course we do not get much criticism from our own circle!

I was turning out my old papers yesterday, and I found this ancient-looking M.S. I do not know why I send it to you, but something makes me want to send it. It brings back our opening service in our first little show {2} room. We were all there, and I had to take the service. There is something very sweet about those memories of the earliest days; we were all so young!

And I am sending the book too {3}, the story of the magic of the gold, the power and the curse of the ring. I am not going to say very much because it is too big. But I am sure there are some things in it that you will like. The whole story of Brunhilda, and the boy-hero Siegfried, so unconquerable in his youth and fearlessness, and yet so unseeing. So wholly regardless of all his possession except his sword:

“In a sword I wrought
are all my riches—” {4}

If I could have anything to do with education, I should of course have the children fitted for their work by the usual technical instruction, but their education for life should be by the old Greek method, games and stories. There should be no precept, but vision. The only idea of morality should be “the King in his beauty” {5}, to whom loyalty should be not duty but living impulse, for whom death itself could be sweet, and life uncalculating.

Talking of children, I wish you could have been present the other evening at a little party that the children gave to me and a few friends. They got up the entertainment entirely by themselves, and the most amusing part was the stage-directions and audible asides. They did Sleeping Beauty, and when the little Sleeper opened her eyes before the psychic moment, great was the irritation of the Prince; she was thrust back on the conventionalities with a vigorous poke and a loud whisper: “Not yet, you silly”!

Pett Ridge came an hour too soon for dinner last Monday evening! {6} So he had the privilege of seeing the preliminary operations! I think he rather enjoyed it! I really won’t waste any more time gossipping, but will rather remain

Sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

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{1} On socialism. See the next letter.

{2} Probable reading.

{3} Alfred Forman, The Nibelung’s Ring: English Words to Richard Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen, in the Alliterative Verse of the Original, first published in 1877.

{4} The words are from Act I of Götterdämmerung, as translated by Forman (The Nibelung’s Ring, p. 286).

{5} Isaiah xxxiii. 17.

{6} 28 January. See PETH 7/67.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Responds to his criticisms of Mary Neal’s paper on socialism. Has heard that he is meeting Merriman, and asks to be kept informed about the situation (in South Africa).

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr.
Feb. 10th, 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

Thank you for your letter. Sister Mary and I were very glad to have your criticism on the Paper. There is just one point that I should like to take up in reply. I know that nothing less than the infinite pity is sufficient for the infinite pathos of human life, and that this infinite human appeal cannot be met by any finite forms of social reconstruction by any mere systems of distribution of production. And yet I think that the argument for Socialism may well be based on the ground of human justice. I do not think that human justice is lower ground than Christian love; I would rather call it the first step of the ladder of infinite pity that reaches from earth to heaven; it is the first step and it must be made first. “Christian love” has been in the world as a force for a very long time but I think it has never wrought any great deliverance for humanity until it has been focussed into a conception of human justice. There is of course a mystic or spiritual side to Socialism which does not fall within the scope of this paper, which we do not generally speak of because it belongs to the almost unspeakable life of the soul with God (we can’t speak of it, there are no words). On its mystic side it is Christ, the divine revelation, the infinite pity, the eternal sacrifice, the atonement, Christ the mediator of the new covenant between man and man. But you can never preach this; you couldn’t have it argued about, or bring dispute into the temple where each worships alone. You can only feel it.

Yes, that bit about music and art is not quite clearly expressed. Genius, like life, is the inscrutable secret, but like life it depends on material conditions for its manifestation and development, and without this manifestation it has not, as far as we are concerned, any being. And it comes home to all of us who know anything about the children of the disinherited, how much we lose as a society from the denial to human faculties of their proper material for development. But anything I could say on this point you would I think readily agree with.

I heard casually that you were seeing Merriman today. You will not forget, will you, how intensely interested I am in this political question, in which I seem to see so much more than mere political issues at stake. It is always my first waking thought and never very far from me. If you have anything to tell, any new light to throw on the situation, you will think of us, won’t you? Mr Cope, too; this thing has almost broken him, he has taken it so deeply to heart. Of course anything that you told him would come straight to me. I thought you were going to help him by keeping in touch with him. I told you, did I not, that you were the sort of man he ought to know; he ought to be properly “run” by a good executive!

I am sending you this book, you see. I thought perhaps it would be a help to the other. I have the Story too told more or less for children, but charmingly written (my kiddies love it), but I will not send that unless you want to see it. Do you hear how the kids are beginning to sing!

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Encloses a report of a lecture by Professor Herron and a book by Richard Jefferies, and expresses her admiration of Wagner. Commends Cope’s personality, and refers to South African affairs.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace.

  1. Feb. 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence.

The books arrived but—where is the MSS. {1}? Have you let it fall by mistake into the waste paper basket—or what? If you can find it, I should be glad to have it for association’s sake.

The other day I had the enclosed report from my friend Professor Herron {2} of one of his Sunday lectures, and it seemed to me to offer a common (because comprehensive) ground to our two standpoints in regarding this subject. I refer specially to the last three paragraphs of the report. I would like to have it back, for these lectures are parts of a book that Professor Herron is writing and he likes me to talk things over with him. If I did as I “oughter” I should try at any rate to write a Paper he has asked for his International Socialist Review {3} on “the relation of the socialist movement to the religion of the future”.

I am glad that you liked the Wagner book, and went and picked out the very part that I most desire to hear all through in opera. I hope I may be able to hear and see at least “The Walküre” in June at Covent Garden. The Bayreuth plan is perforce postponed. It is just what you say, “the whole of life seems set out before me”. Wagner seems to me the man whose conception of life is adequate to the mental conception of, say, the solar systems. He conceives life immense in passion, pulse and power commensurate with knowledge. Here at last we have an intensity to match our conceptions of space and time—intensity to infuse eternity itself with living warmth and the vital beauty of everlasting youth. Here then lies it seems to me the contrast between Wagner and Tolstoi. To the one belong youth and force and complexity, to the other old age, insensibility and the reduction of life to a rational abstraction. One is the universe of the solar systems, the other a world of extinct fires like the moon.

I have come to the conclusion that bitterness is the warp of the noblest or almost noblest natures. (Though of course there are cheap sham imitations of cynicism as there are of everything.) But one so often finds underneath it the ardently idealistic temperament; it is the recoil of the heart from pitiless circumstance.

I think I never knew anyone of so passionately chivalrous a temperament as Mr Cope, or anyone with such self-reckless pity for weak things. I know what it has been to keep him “chained-up” when any wrong or injustice was being done to one of the girls, or to any little child. You cannot possibly have any idea of what the suffering of women and children has meant to him. I don’t say that this capacity for pity is (standing by itself) a strength to a man or a good thing to have, but God only knows what the oppressed would do without it, or where their champions would come from, if there were not these uncalculating natures. Yes I think you could be of use to him. I have always thought so. Do try.

I thought the letter on Wednesday a very good one, just the right thing said in the best way. Did you notice a very pathetic account of Kruger in Tuesday’s paper, an interview with an Englishwoman? I was interested very in Graydon’s letter today. What do you think of its suggestions?

And now I am sending this with another book {4}, quite a different sort of book from anything else written—not because now or at any time you should read anything but what suits you, but because it is as easy for me to send or for you to return as not, n’est-ce-pas? Jeffreys†, as you probably know, was a naturalist and his other books are written in a different vein, but none without the quality of “mind-fire”, which does not invariably go with the scientific spirit. There are two or three pages from p. 111 especially which I always find very beautiful and touching.

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

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{1} Probably the MS sent with PETH 7/68.

{2} George Davis Herron, an American clergyman and Christian Socialist. Emmeline’s ‘talks’ with him were presumably by letter.

{3} The International Socialist Review was a monthly journal published at Chicago by the Marxist publishers Charles H. Kerr & Co. from July 1900. It was not in fact Herron’s journal—it was edited till 1908 by A. M. Simons—but Herron contributed ‘A Plea for Unity of American Socialists’ to the December number (vol. i, no. 6, pp. 321–8) and, from January 1901, a regular section entitled ‘Socialism and Religion’.

{4} Richard Jefferies, The Story of My Heart (1883).

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—(3rd.) Expresses delight at the result of the County Council election and the coming of spring. Refers to her reading of Kropotkin, and encloses a written reminiscence.—(4th.) Thanks him for news of the South African situation. Describes a story-hour at the Club.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace
White Sunday (3 March 1901)

This is truly a Sabbath day—a day of rest, and of deep joy and thanksgiving. God be praised that the people have won such a victory! {1} It is very wonderful and for the most part I think unexpected, and the more one thinks about it the more significant it is. The result of this C. C. Election is more significant than the result of any Parliamentary elections under the present division of parties could be; do you not think so? It is the triumph slowly won and honestly worked for of the best sort of socialism which puts human life above every other consideration and a vindication of the faith that has for the past 12 years {2} based the appeal to the voters on a regard for the common weal rather than on selfishness and private interest. I suppose no one who has not been in the thick of this election knows to what resorts the so-called Conservative party has been pushed, to make their negative policy acceptable—they seemed to stick at nothing that would help them; we worked this division with all our hopes under lock and key, and we have returned from St Pancras all the eight Progressive candidates. What does it mean? Surely amongst other things it means that the people are awake to the fact that the supreme issue for them is not the issue between the Conservative and Liberal parties; it is the John Burns element on the Council that has won the day.

The Spring has come at last. Oh comrade, it is good to be alive, at a time of promise. In spite of the suffering that is in the world, life is so unutterably sweet, the springs well up from their untainted source. Do you know Goethe’s little bird-song of Spring?

O Erd! O Sonne!
O Glück! O Lust!
O Leben! Leben
So golden schön!
Wie Morgenwolken
Auf jenen Höh’n!

I am reading a most fascinating book, “Memoirs of a Revolutionist” (Kropotkin’s Autobiography). It is a book, which if you were a child of revolution—like me! (which you’re not) you would read with suspended breath and consciousness and even as it is a story in which you could hardly fail to be greatly interested.

The enclosed guinea is a fee that I received for speaking. Please put it to your S. African fund.

Remind me that I have a pretty story to tell you of the triumph of a principle of mine, that force is worse than useless in a matter of real training. It is too long to tell now. By the way, one of the children was asked yesterday if her mother had gone to vote, and the reply was, “No. Sister Emmie hasn’t given her a vote!”

Here is a little reminiscence of a Spring day, rather later in the year than now. The “Artist” and the “Youngster” and the “Dreamer” (that’s me) were spending one of the happiest times of our life, near the North Cornwall sea. Don’t keep it; or lose it; I like to have it on days like these.

With greeting
E.P. {3}

Monday morning.

Thank you for remembering your promise. I am deeply interested in what you say this morning, and want very much to know more about it. It is such a big thing to write about, one can hardly begin; but every bit of information from original sources, every reliable indication of the development is so very acceptable to anyone who has realized the significance of the drama from the outset.

I am sorry you are laid up. Well, I’ll send you Mark Twain’s article to read, hoping that you haven’t seen it yet: “To the Person Sitting in Darkness”! I don’t remember a bit what the last part of “The Story of my Heart” is about. I expect I have read it once, but I turn to the first part as soon as the sap begins to rise, because it is like that subtle earth-fragrance that comes, a something in the air as spiritual as prayer. It is only the first part that has made any impression on my mind.

I had such a sweet time yesterday with the kiddies. I have quite an informal story-hour on Sunday evening, and the floor of the Club room gets covered with children of all ages from crawling babies to 14 year olds. I was telling them yesterday about the big battle that has been fought and won for them the day before, also about the coming of “The Green Lady”, all their dear happy eyes shining back at me! How on earth I am† ever going to leave ’em! but I needn’t think about that yet! You must come and see them someday. In fact the bigger ones are saving 3d. each to have a little party and invite a few friends; they are learning songs, etc., for the entertainment, amongst others some coon songs. Will you come that evening and sing “Under the old Umbrella” and any others?; they would be so delighted. It will be three weeks before they are ready!

This epistle is growing appallingly long, but since you can’t get about you’ll perhaps find time to get through with it. Besides, I must leave off writing letters now the Spring is coming! It’s dangerous when you feel too rich! However, if I do say anything extravagant between now and the turn of the year, you must say to yourself, “Ah well, poor thing! the sap has got into her head”! The children must be my refuge, those loyal hearts and true that stand “ever in the light, all rapture through and through” {4}, if you do but give them the least excuse.

But enough!—Do you know that our word “silly” comes from the German “selig”, and is therefore synonymous with “blessed”?

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{1} The Progressive party had retained overall control of the London County Council at the election held the previous day. All eight councillors elected from the four divisions of St Pancras were Progressives.

{2} The London County Council was established in 1889, and the Progressive party had maintained control of it since that date.

{3} At the end of a page. Followed by ‘(over)’, i.e. ‘turn over’.

{4} From the hymn ‘O Paradise! O Paradise’ by J. Barnet, the refrain of which is:

Where loyal hearts and true
Stand ever in the light,
All rapture through and through,
In God’s most holy sight.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Postpones a meeting, owing to a cold. Commends his paper, and encloses an outline of Greenhalgh’s housing scheme. Asks him to sing at a children’s party.

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20 Somerset Terrace, Dukes Rd, W.C.
26 March 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

I am so sorry to be obliged to put you off, but I came back from Canning Town with the fore-warnings of an appalling cold, which I hoped to combat in the spirit of Bruce Wallace & his philosophy! (Perhaps you dont know what that is, and I hope you never will, for only the most aggravating people belong to his “school”.) Evidently I am not of them, so I failed, and am laid low on the bed of affliction!

But tomorrow I shall be better. So you can come tomorrow evening if it suits you, or if you like better on Thursday evening about 6 or 6.30, and go on afterwards to the MacDonalds, and it please you. Mr MacIlwaine and Mr Montague Harris (the Liberal ex-candidate for St Pancras of whom I once told you) are calling to go with me at 7.30.

I think your paper a good one and can find nothing in the matter of it to criticize. I am with you in your conclusions so far as they go and think that you make several good points. Of course I do not know a great deal about the more technical part of the question, and am therefore not in a position to criticize. Mr Cope, Mr Greenhalgh and Sister Mary have read it. There are as I said just one or two sentences in which I should suggest verbal alterations; they are not very important and occur more often in the first few pages. In case you cannot come or are not able to bring your manuscript I have put a pencil line round the more obvious, with sometimes a pencil note in the margin. I am enclosing the outline of the Housing scheme on which Mr Greenhalgh has embarked; he is very convinced about it.

The children have their little party on Easter Wednesday. Can you come then & bring your Coon Songs to sing to them? They will sing to you too. Come about 7.30; to the Club of course.

Sincerely yours,
Emmeline Pethick

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Expresses delight at his suggested project (probably in connection with The Echo), and suggests likely supporters. Has arranged for the publication of a notice about the ‘Greene Ladye’ holiday hotel. Describes a visit to Edward Stott’s studio.

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20 Somerset Terr.
2 April 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

This is good news! {1} The best thing I have heard of since the C. C. Election! It is ripping!

I know that Mr Cope and Mr Greenhalgh will feel the greatest possible interest in the project when you tell them about it. And Mr Greenhalgh may be able to come into it financially. It is just the thing he would like to do, I know, but it may be that this new Building Scheme will have absorbed him in that way. Don’t ask Mr Cope. He can’t afford it, and it hurts him to refuse.

The man you ought to get into it is Mr Montague Harris. I happen to know that he has a little money that he wants to invest in this sort of way. He is thinking of putting into something else, but probably this project would appeal to him more than the other. Of course this particular bit of information is a matter of strict confidence; you will understand that I should not like him to know that I have spoken of it.

But apart from this, there is no reason why you should not approach him on the project if you think well, and say that Miss Neal {2} and I suggested that you should write to him (knowing that he would be interested). His address if you want it is Cyprus House, Harestock, Winchester, and his initials are G. M. He is just the right sort, a Liberal of the best tradition, inclining towards Socialism from the old Liberal side; he has not yet quite got his foothold in present Politics. As it happens he is just leaving his house at Winchester and wants to settle near London; he wants a definite occupation and has asked us to find him a job! It seems to me that it might turn out to be just the right thing. If you think you would like Sister Mary to write to him, I am sure she would do so.

She has just come back from a satisfactory interview with Stead. He is going to let us put “The Greene Ladye” Holiday Hotel into the May Number {3}—an article and appeal.

Do you know Edward Stott’s pictures? We went to his studio last Sunday; they give me an abiding joy. There was one, the full river about 2 miles N. of Littlehampton—the full river and the low flat country and great sky blue with the mist of evening and suffused with the light of an early moon. There are some boys bathing and watering horses. The horses are just lovely, in their expression and weariness and dignity; the whole picture is daily work, and—doom, and—peace. I don’t know which you feel most—the truthfulness, or tenderness. Look for it in the Academy show.

On Thursday I am going back to Mother Earth. The swift came (in me) last Saturday. Do you know how the first time the wind gets round to the South you feel the swallow in your blood? Some people call it “the go fever”. You cannot stay where you are, you must go—somewhere!

Easter, the sweetest festival of all the year. I shall keep it with the awakening earth, and shall be close in thought to the human lives that have been and are bound up with mine. I will greet you on the resurrection day as they do in Russia: “Joy be with you! Christ is risen!”

Well! I am glad to take this bit of good news away with me.

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

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{1} The reference is probably to Lawrence’s decision to acquire a controlling interest in the Echo newspaper.

{2} ‘Miss Neal’ above ‘Sister Mary’ struck through.

{3} Of the Review of Reviews.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Arranges to meet, and comments on his article. Asks him to attend a girls’ drill display, and reflects on the ‘old pagan worship of the human form’.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace, Dukes Rd, W.C.
18. 4. 01

Dear Mr Lawrence,

We shall be free tomorrow from quarter past four till six o’clock, and can talk about Echos and as many other things as there is time for!

I read your article. Yes, competition as a law of life is to be accepted as absolutely as all life and every one of its natural laws, but there is a competition that is a law of death, and many people are too thick to distinguish the difference. Your meaning may not have been as clear to others as it was to me, for I had the thread of course. And your literary expression wants a little seeing to!

Will you take a ticket and come to the Annual Drill Display of eight Girls’ Clubs on Sat. evening the 27? It is worth seeing. I am never tired of it, though I have seen it year after year. There is something about the rhythmic movement of a number of people that gives me an odd thrill. I can so well understand the old pagan worship of the human form. I wonder if you will know what I mean if I tell you that sometimes when I am with the children, I say to myself, Dear me! the church (and its representatives) wants these childrens’ souls. They may have them, if they will let me have their pretty looks and happy eyes, and arms and legs and bodies. That’s all I want. Don’t say that I’m materialistic. For just as it is only at the point of contact between earth and atmosphere that you get the dew, so it is only at the point of contact between the spiritual and material that you can get beauty. Manifestation—Incarnation—is always the root and centre and origin of religion.

“Whatever you do, don’t lure me into a conversation,” besought Mary at 7.30 this morning. I’ve been letting you lure me into one. Wallflowers today are a penny a bunch on the barrows.

E.P.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Arranges meetings.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr.
4. May 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence.

Just a line in immediate reply to begin with, so that you may get it tonight. Friday will suit us nicely, & thanks for letting me see the cordial little note. I should very much indeed like Percy to come. I want to ask Dr Gwyther & his wife too.

I think it would be an excellent idea to ask Hammond to the Meetings on Monday. Yes—Mary will have a good time: she has never yet had a dull one—& she always falls on her feet. “Yes Sister—they do ache too” said one poor girl for whom we found a situation after she had been tramping about all day (she did not understand the simile).

In haste to catch the post

Sincerely yours.
E.P.

I leave it to you to ask Percy?

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{1} Dr Gwyther ran a social club in rooms at Beaconsfield Buildings, off the Caledonian Road.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Recommends tact in returning MacIlwaine’s criticism (of his own play?). Alludes to Mary Neal’s part in arranging Lawrence’s ‘Canning interview’.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr., Dukes Rd, W.C.
4. 5. 01

Dear Mr Lawrence,

I am sending back Mac’s criticism; am very glad you brought it to us, but don’t let him know that we have seen it in this way. Send it to him yourself with a letter. First say how entirely true it is, that you are in complete sympathy with his attitude, and that is just the truth that wants to be constantly brought out—(you cannot possibly overdo this with a man so self-diffident and easily discouraged as Mac is)—but that you think that a little more description of plot would make it more interesting as probably—(as he himself says)—the play is almost unknown to the average play-goer.

One of two things will happen: he will leave it alone, or will bring it to us and we can do the rest. I think that a good thing could be made of it. Anyway he must not be hurt. You will excuse me for laying so much stress on the matter! But Mac is not like a great big man; he is thin-skinned and sensitive as any woman and as easily repulsed as any child, and he has gone so very far out of his usual way in entering heart and soul into this whole thing that I wouldn’t have him jarred for anything. He is not easily offended—I dont mean that—and he has no vanity, and there is nothing in the world you can’t say to him, but he must know that you appreciate and understand him. I have been quite surprised at the way he has knocked down the barriers himself to meet you; you must be very nice to him.

Sister Mary has just gone off. Mac came to do her shopping and see to her and carry her things to the station. I am glad the Canning interview was productive. Mary has a wonderful way of knowing just the right people for the right use and of being able to root them up at a moment’s notice. And men will take any amount of trouble to please her, as you saw for your-self last night. I think the Blatchford idea an excellent one.

Mr Cope came back last night quite charmed with your friend Mr Gooch {1}—quite overcome with his feelings! I like him awfully too. I hope he will come and see us. I could tell at a glance that he was just our sort—so gentle a man—which is a better way in these days than saying, such a gentleman, nicht wahr?

Sincerely yours,
Emmeline Pethick

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{1} G. P. Gooch and Lawrence both contributed articles to The Heart of the Empire: Discussions of Problems of Modern City Life in England, published the following month. See Fate Has Been Kind, p. 55.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Discusses forthcoming meetings, and asks for a copy of his Echo leader. Describes a luxurious supper.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr.
Sunday, 5. 4. 01

Dear Mr Lawrence,

I am sorry that I cannot be present at the Meeting tomorrow, especially as there are so many interesting points to bring forward—the Blatchford idea for one, and the idea about specializing in an industry and working up advertisements with reference to it. But as I shall not see you, I have a word to say about Friday. I remembered after sending off a hasty reply to you on Saturday that Friday is the day of our Meeting for “The Greene Ladie” at Lady Montague’s. That doesn’t matter except—we had better fix the hour for 7 instead of 6 o’clock. I hope this will not shorten the evening. I hope Mr Sauer will not be in haste to leave. Percy will be at that Meeting, and of course will come back with us. I am writing him a note by this post.

I missed the Echo yesterday—(Sat.)—was your leader in it?—if so you might send it me from the office “gefälligst”.

I am sending you one of my works tomorrow written nearly 7 years ago. I read it today—it turned up—and was amused and I think you will be to see that I had not got very far away from it after all these years! If you have nothing better to do—vain surmise—you can read it in the train on Thursday; only send it back to me as it is my sole copy.

Last night I returned to what should have been a fireless and dark home! to find what looked like a bit of conjuring: the fire bright—the lamp lit—a dainty supper spread—a little bottle of wine—strawberries and cream—and in the oven a great salmon trout done to a turn—with hot plates & everything just ready. “Is it my fault,” I said, “if I lose my immortal soul?” “Have I not striven not to be a pampered woman?” And all the while in my heart of hearts I loved it—the luxuries themselves perhaps, but certainly the fairy tale, which suited my fancy quite. (This is a secret, by the way.) Have you read R. L. Stevenson’s Vailima Letters? If not, you oughter. Talk about a temperament! “But,”—you will say—“we are not talking about temperaments or didn’t oughter be; this is the Echo Office and nothing is allowed here but business.” “Kindly keep to the point, Madam.” Oh well then, the point is—briefly—that I remain sincerely,

Emmeline Pethick

Talking about “the Apostle” and “the degradation of labour”, the enclosed little note may interest you to see. This is the side of the Apostle that his comrades in work know best. This is written after a party that my children gave to their parents, when A. S. was present.

Note-card from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, Euston Road, W.C.—Approves of his suggestion (of asking Percy Alden to edit The Echo?).

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, Euston Road, W.C.
6. 5. 01.

Dear Mr Lawrence.

In reply to yours of this morning—I see everything in favour of the suggestion. {1} And the one objection does not seem to me of much weight. To hold a position of national trust, which gives a power of control over the national resources & at the same time to keep the possible power & means of subverting public business & interests to private or personal ends is one thing—but I do not see that Percy’s position as Warden of M. H. Settlement offers any parallell†—and I do not see that there can be any possible misunderstanding about it. “If you arst me”—the more Big Brother Percy is in it—the better. Letter from Mary this morning. All well.

E.P.

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{1} Of asking Percy Alden to edit The Echo?

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Discusses writings by herself and others on social work in London.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace | Dukes Rd W.C.
8. May 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence.

The “Work” in question is “The Life of a Sister of the People” {1}. I am sending with it “Quest & Freedom”, which represents a time in the lives of all the writers, when the iron glowed white-hot in the furnace—a time of ideal comradeship in purpose & work, such as, one thinks, could not come more than once in a few lifetimes. Of course you wont see that—I was only smiling to think of it & the thoughts crept down to my pen, as they have a way of doing in rather an irrepressible way—sometimes. If you have nothing else to do, look at the little sketch of the social programme at the end. After the furnace, the blows came, blows that at the time seemed to smash our life’s purpose & work to pieces. We had to begin from the bottom. Arthur Sherwell lost his title & his profession & his living, & his dream of a social work in London. Mary & I lived on from week to week. The Girls Club was in the street. Well—this was the last thing that we accomplished together, so you see we have a peculiar sentiment about it. Forgive an old woman’s tale! We grow prolix in advanced age!

Read Sister Mary’s “Schlummerlied” {2}, “The dream of the soul’s slow disentanglement”. It is a true story, but I think very beautifully treated: and Arthur Sherwell’s “Tale in a Doss-house” gives the side of him shown in those old Labour Home days: he did all the doss-houses of London in disguise with a man called Tom Bickerton, a regular dosser & awful reprobate, but with a chivalrous devotion to “the guv’ner”.

Well here I am jawing on—I dont know what for, I’m sure. If you read my “Worship of the Holy Child”, it is the last column only, that is worth reading. I have got a bit of real truth into that, I believe.

God “keep us still faithful to the best & truest”, I say when I think of these things—when I think of the way by which we have arrived. Retrospect is good sometimes, in spite of my pet dogma—There is no Past. There is nothing but the present, & the To-Be.

But you will have had more than enough of the philosopher by this time!

Sincerely.
E. P.

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{1} An article by Emmeline Pethick published in the Young Woman, vol. ii (1893–4).

{2} ‘Lullaby’ (German).

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, W.C.—Reflects on their renewed understanding of one another.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace. | W.C.
13. 5. 01

Dear Mr Lawrence.

It is a matter of deep thankfulness & of gladness to me, that the mists have been swept away: that we can see each other again. I feel that every bit of misunderstanding is gone completely.

I can only wish now that the sense of an infinite security in God’s purpose in your life which came to you at the darkest hour may remain with you & abide with you now & for ever. Some sort of benediction has fallen on us both.

You hit a good many right nails on the head yesterday, you dear stupid old thing! One was your conclusion that I am a queer woman. That shows an amount of insight I shouldn’t have given you credit for—it was quite subtle! And another was your assertion that in a funny sort of way you understand me better than any of them: how you came to find that out, beats me quite. (Perhaps now that I admit it, you wont “quite agree”!—(you dont mind me teasing you a bit, do you?).)

Now there is just one word that I want to say—one word about yourself, & your mental habit of analysis & introspection which has (as you say) become a kind of tyranny: (I am not thinking of the personal bearing but simply of your health & balance.) Try your principle of non-resistance on your self. Dont struggle with this habit, you will only get entangled, you will only find that you are at war in yourself.
Give it rope: let it work itself out if it will, & exhaust its own power. Detach yourself, if you can. I can imagine a possibility of just simply breaking the connection between your self & the mental habit, so that the wheel can go round & round & the crank or whatever it is, be still, or if that isn’t possible, go with it, as you go down a hill on a bicycle coasting, knowing that you will eventually come to the bottom & that there will come the time for the other thing.

But dont have the waste of war, and dont resist any part of yourself.

And if you were to try what a little inspection would do sometimes just to balance the other thing: perhaps you wouldn’t be such a blind old bat as you are sometimes—you might even notice for instance next time you see her that Mrs Gwyther is a pretty woman!

Yours sincerely.
Emmeline Pethick

Note-card from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, Euston Road, W.C.—Discusses the printing of a manifesto.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, Euston Road, W.C.
15. 5. 01

It is impossible to do much to Manifesto today—If necessary to print tomorrow keep to what you have got—but if not, I will try & send in something tomorrow: Will write anyhow if possible tomorrow—Wishing you a good time at Oxford & continued success

E.P.

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There are some pencil notes on the back, possibly for speeches by Lawrence.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Encloses a draft manifesto. Suggests he write a letter to take advantage of the Daily News’s effort to ‘work up’ Merriman and Sauer. Discusses arrangements for going to the theatre and the opera, and refers to Club activities.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr. | Dukes Rd W.C.
16. 5. 01 {1}

Dear Mr Lawrence.

I enclose my draft: The point is to be comprehensive—& yet so far as possible, definite: I just send it for what it is worth—without waiting to show it to Mary even.

I see that there is an effort in Daily News to work up Merriman & Sauer even at the 11th hour—This ought to be made the most of. Can you write a letter by way of doing the very first next thing—& can we turn anybody on to the question. Can we get a little bit of “go” into the S. A Conciliation Talk to Percy—will you? I dont think his name ought to be used at the foot of a letter or publicly unless we really want it: because he has so much that is not his to lose: (you will understand just how far I think that this consideration weighs—)

We had a sweet day yesterday “round the billy fire”, Mary & Mac & “Katimole”, & my “Sweetest of All”, whose 7th birthday it was. I came home to the Club & then was too tired to do more than look at your Manifesto.

I am going this afternoon with dear Brother Jack to “Pelleas & Melisande” {2}. The angel never dreams of going anywhere without taking us along too!

By the way, I want to hear “The Walküre”, & you never know to a day or two when it is coming on at Covent Garden. You have simply to watch the papers & make a rush for the tickets. I am taking Emma Rozier (who lost her little sister last Friday). Shall I take a third ticket for you on spec: they cost 10/6. It is the one you want to hear. I daresay somebody else would take it if you couldn’t come.

One thing more. I want the children to have a very happy time at Canning Town on Sat. week (25th). I want them to come to the Residence to tea about 4.30. They love parties & I am consumed with the desire to give them every mortal thing they want. You know they are no trouble to entertain—they are not ordinary children, are they?—so keen, & so gentle. Of course I am writing to Percy, but I want you to be there, if you can possibly manage it.

Yes, I admire Miss Octavia Hill’s work very much—also above & beyond her accomplishment she was a pioneer, & that means the original mind & the heroic temper. I feel that I have heaps to talk to you about, but I may be wrong, it is only a vague impression!

Sincerely yours
Emmeline Pethick

P.S. Mac has just come in, & Mary. They approve of my draft.

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{1} ‘16’ altered from ‘15’.

{2} Mrs Patrick Campbell revived Maeterlinck’s play, with music by Fauré, for five mat-inees at the Royalty Theatre from 13 to 17 May (Monday to Friday). See The Times, 13 May 1901, p. 7.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Urges him to see Pelleas et Melisande.

(Dated Thursday.)

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace
Thursday evening

Dear Mr Lawrence.

Just a line to tell you that you must see Pelleas & Melisande tomorrow if anyhow possible. It is the last time. And remember the tragedy of life is in what we miss, not in what we suffer.

I am not going to say anything about the play now except this—you must meet it as you meet death, leaving behind all the cold clay that has gathered about the elemental spirit. Cast away criticism, logic, convention, reason—& thought—& look into the world of the spiritual made visible through the senses.

I’ll talk with you afterwards about what are to me key sentences—that doesn’t matter. Whatever else you will do or not do, you will fill your eyes with beauty.

I have a lovely book for you. More anon.

Yours sincerely.
Emmeline Pethick

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, W.C.—Encloses items (copies of a manifesto?) for distribution to friends and relations.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace, W.C.

Dear Mr Lawrence,

I am relying upon your energy & influence to get rid of the enclosed {1} amongst your friends & relations in the West End!

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

19 May 1901

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{1} Perhaps copies of a manifesto. See PETH 7/81–2.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence (incomplete?)

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Describes a quiet Sunday alone. Accepts his advice about funding the Club’s activities.

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20 Somerset Terrace | Dukes Rd WC.
21. May 1901

Thank you for your letter. Yes it was a day of days on Sunday {1}. I let all the others go off early & had a day of solitude in the blue kitchen—solitude broken only by the happy presence of my little Sunday visitor.

I thought perhaps somebody who had not been abused for a whole week would be ready for a little more scolding! But the dews of peace were falling all day long as the hours swing silently & slowly by—and the splendour of the sky changed from blue to gold & from gold to purple. There is a certain quality of happiness that has fallen upon me since childhood whenever the sun shines & the house is empty. I do not mean that I am not very dependent on companionship: it is only when there is a blue sky, and a human base not very far off, that I enjoy being Diogenes in my tub. But oh the wine of these hours!

And Maeterlinck’s bees (Bees)—I noticed yesterday that you had difficulty in reading my writing!—I say Maeterlincks Bees reconciled me to life and death & impelled me to kiss the black robe of Fate that is wrought with stars.

I must thank you for saying such nice things about our resources. Sister Mary & I will gladly accept your view of the position, though I think we are going to get all we want for the Green Lady & for the Children’s Holiday[,] for I agree with you that it is for the greater interests of the work to get the co-operation & help of the largest number of people that we can touch, leaving the reserves for emergencies.

Let me have your travels to take to Broadmoor {2}.

You couldnt be too prolix if you tried! I’m afraid that is one thing that you are to old to learn? You will never learn to babble?—

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This letter ends abruptly, and may be incomplete.

{1} 19th.

{2} The reference may be to the circular letters Lawrence sent home during his journey around the world in 1897–8 (PETH 5/30a–h). In early June this year Emmeline Pethick and Mary Neal took some girls of the Espérance Club to stay at Broadmoor, near Dorking, where a Mrs Brook had placed two cottages at their disposal. Lawrence joined the party for the weekend of 8 and 9 June.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Hillside, Caversham, Reading.—Commends his promptness in writing, and teases him about his failings as a lover. Refers to his mother’s wish to know more about her, and asks whether he has told Percy (of their engagement).

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

(Place of writing not indicated.)—Invites him to lunch on Sunday.

(Dated Friday.)

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Transcript

Friday Evening
Darling Freddy—

Just a line before ending the day in case I haven’t time tomorrow—Will you come to lunch here on Sunday. If you come about 11.30—we will go for a little walk in the Park. I shall be going with the Daddy to Hammersmith in the evening—about 5.30—you will be wanting to get back to Canning Town I expect.

I am thinking of you constantly. Your own Woman—

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