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Pethick-Lawrence Papers Lawrence, Emmeline Pethick- (1867–1954), suffragette, wife of the 1st Baron Pethick-Lawrence Imagen Con objetos digitales
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Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

S.S. ‘Ranchi’.—Outlines the intended programme of his and his wife’s tour of India.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

P & O. S. N. Co.
S. S. Ranchi.
November 3rd, 1926

An exceedingly comfortable journey is behind us. We are now only two days out from Bombay. So far all has been leisure, to-morrow will be pay, pack, and preparations, & Friday we shall be plunged into the vortex of our activities in India.

The voyage itself has however been far from wasted, for on this boat are congregated men holding important positions all over India—mostly English but a few Indians as well—and they have been eager to give us information upon all and every subject connected with the country.

There is not very much to tell about the voyage and it would be foolish of me to give you any impressions with regard to conditions in India until I have seen something of them first hand. But I have gathered enough to realise that there will be more than ample to fill up our allotted ten weeks to the brim. We do not propose to stay very long in Bombay on arrival, and as soon as possible we shall take the mail train through to Madras where we shall stay with an old College friend of mine, A.Y.G. Campbell. Mr. & Mrs. James Cousins are also there and they have received an invitation for us to go with them into the Native State of Mysore and stay there a few days as guests of the State.

After returning to madras† we are going towards the end of November up to Calcutta where we have a large circle of friends including the Governor, Bose the Scientist, Lord Lytton, and Tagore the poet. I expect to pay a visit to the jute mills and coal mines and we also hope to get away to Darjeeling to see the Himalayas.

After leaving Calcutta we are going to see the sacred city of Benares where I want to meet some of the professors of the Hindu University. Of course the famous Taj Mahal at Agra will claim a visit and from about December 15 to 20 we have promised to Mrs. Cruichshank† (née Joan Dugdale) at Sitapur near Lucknow. After that we have to see Delhi, Amritsar, Lahore and Ahmedabad, the home of Gandhi, before returning to Bombay.

We are due to sail from there in the Kaisar-i-Hind on January 15, and had intended to come straight home; but at Port Said on our way out we received a fascinating invitation to visit one of the Egyptian ministers at his home at Alexandria on our way back. We have decided to accept this, and accordingly our return will be delayed a few days, but not later than the first week in February.

Letters may be posted to us in India up to Wednesday night, December 22nd in London (and a day earlier in the provinces) to c/o Thos. Cook and Son, Bombay, who will forward all correspondence during our stay in India.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

S.S. ‘Ranchi’.—Describes their arrival at Aden, and their meeting with Lydia and her family at Port Said.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

P & O. S. N. COMPANY.
S.S. RANCHI.
November 3rd, 1926.

My dear Friends,

Let me send you my love and greeting. We are now nearing Bombay after a perfectly splendid voyage, with lovely weather all the way—such wonderful light and colour in sea and sky. Many a time I have to pinch myself to make sure it is all real and that I am not dreaming a bright dream, to awake to November in Northern latitudes. Our entry into the Bay at Aden was a realisation of the most vivid advertisement poster you can imagine. The sea was an incredible green-blue, the rocks of Aden a rose-red. The warm breeze fluttered the white and gay filmy dresses of the women on board[;] even the “field-glass” incident and the Kodak camera were not missing. Anything so fiercely barren as Aden looks, I have not yet seen. We had four hours in port from 11–3 o’clock. We did not leave the ship for there is nothing to see but a military fort and some ancient tanks constructed by the Romans, for hoarding the water and supplying the garrison. We shall have a chance to see these in January, when the heat will be less fierce than it is now upon those sun-exposed sunbaked cliffs. The scene from the deck, with the boats coming and going with their merchandise of oil for the ship, and ostrich feathers and fans, and amber necklaces and trinkets to tempt the passengers was most picturesque, and so was the landing of the mails in boats by means of a crane. We had four days before this—a halt of four hours in the Port of the Suez Canal—Port Said.

Some of you will remember that I once had a secretary whose name is Lydia, and that she married an Egyptian student, whom she met in London. She went out to Alexandria with him. They live in the home of his parents, and his father is the Chief Revenue Minister for Ports and Lights under the Egyptian Government {1}, a man with the title of “Bey” who has much influence. When we dropped anchor at Port Said at 6 a.m. in the morning of October 27th we knew by radiogram that Lydia in Port Said was waiting to greet us. But we did not expect her so early in the morning to appear, as she did at our Stateroom door. Her intense joy and delight infected us with the same feeling. Maurice (the husband) and Shafik (the little son) of 2¾ years of age awaited us on deck, and the parents sent their warm greeting. They had both intended to come, but at the last moment “Papa” took ill, and “Mamma” could not leave him. Well before 6.30 we were landed in Maurice’s steam launch (which he had borrowed from a friend) and they gave us a sumptuous breakfast in their hotel, and then we made some purchases. We enjoyed every moment of those four hours and were so very warmly entreated to stay in the Paternal home on our return, that we are seriously considering whether we cannot make some arrangement, though this is difficult as we have contracted for the return journey to the last detail. Nothing could exceed the warmth of the greeting given us. They had made this long journey of about 7 hours, taking the child for the first time in the train. They have already painted furnished and prepared our room in their house, counting upon our visit to them, and they made us feel that it would be almost wicked not to give and receive this mutual delight.

We some times say to each other that if we had to turn back without landing in India at all, the voyage would have been worth while: for we have met so many representative and interesting people and they have given us so readily and warmly, information and personal experience. Our first impression of a crowd of Indian Civil Servants is a very pleasant one—the general idea is that they are comparable to a crowd of Schoolmasters who are proud of their school and deeply interested in the boys. You get the same unashamed keenness which is very refreshing. There are some very highly educated and influential Indians on board and we have had most interesting and delightful talks with them too, and have made friends in particular with Sir Charu Ghose, one of the Judges of the High Court in Calcutta. The women on board are mostly very good to look at, and one cannot help being very proud of them. The young mothers are incredibly young and athletic, there are about 20 children and they enjoy the voyage as much as anyone. They are most attractive. Fred and I have remarked that we have never heard a cross word to or from a single child, and we all agree that they are “a prize lot”. They had a children’s Fancy Dress party on Monday {2}. It was a charming sight. Our Fancy Dress Ball was a great success the following evening. There were 83 costumes all of them good. The decks were beflagged and illuminated and we were all very festive till past the midnight hour.

Within a few hours a very different experience awaits. Gone will be the cool breezes, the hours of leisure and all the immunities of life on board, and there will be heat, flies, and clamour! Let us hope there will be compensating interests and delights! It is all unknown country to me.

Do not forget that letters written up to December 21 will reach us c/o Thos. Cook, Bombay, and let us have a good batch by every mail.

With greetings.

Yours,
EMMELINE PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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{1} Scander Bey Gabriel.

{2} 1 November.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Gambiers Gardens, Adyar, Madras.—Describes Campbell’s home, and gives her impressions of Madras. Refers to the involvement of women in the recent elections there.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

Gambiers Gardens,
Adyar,
Madras.
November 10, 1926.

My dear Friends,

This is only our sixth day in India, and so very many new and interesting experiences have been crowded into it, that I can hardly believe we have not been at least twice as long in this country. Fred has written a good long letter up to the day before yesterday when we were in the train for Madras. We reached Madras at 7.30 yesterday morning and were met by our very old and dear friend, Mr. A. Y. G. Campbell, Secretary to the Government of Madras, and by Dr. James Cousins, Principal of the Theosophical College at Adyar. We drove “home” at once leaving our bearer, Amir, to see to the luggage. We were simply delighted on the first sight of our new home. One enters the gate by what looks like a beautiful park, with fine trees, and stretches of green grass, with a river in the distance, and reaches a beautiful domain with great stone pillared high verandahs running all round, with very high vast cool rooms, with no doors and with high blue-shuttered windows opening out on the park according to the time of day and position of the sun. Electric fans in all the rooms can be turned on by pressing a button, and one lives all day and all night in currents of air. Fred and I have a gorgeous suit[e] of 5 rooms and a huge verandah for our private use, so we feel like duke and duchess. He is kept going with interviews and sights from 7.30 in the morning till night, but I prefer to spend the noon hours at home where I have books on Indian Architecture and the 5 daily newspapers, representing different shades of thought—and endless occupation for the mind and thoughts—as I think over the crowding impressions of the past few hours.

Madras is very beautiful, quite unlike Bombay which is beautiful also but in a different kind of world. Bombay is like a beautiful city of California—a mixture of Pasadena with a harbour beautiful as the Golden Gate of S. Francisco. Madras is unique—emerald with rice fields, rich in every kind of vegetation full of colour—waves of colour break over you, one is confused and dazzled. We see many people and talk with many, all am[a]zingly kind and ready “to take trouble with us” and we get a bewildering mass of impressions from which emerges the fact, that the individual persons who talk to us are all keen, disinterested, and very sincere. It is like Galsworthy’s play “Loyalties”, for each one is living for some ideal which he shares in common with his group. Where that ideal is touched he is as firm as a rock, otherwise is full of wide and varied sympathies and kindnesses.

We are invited to dine with the Governor, Viscount Goschen, this evening at Government House.

Monday was election day for the Legislative Council of Madras. 70 per cent of the Hindus voted, and a very large number of women. A woman stood as a candidate, the results will not be known until the end of the week. Women did duty at the polling booths. There are interesting articles about this subject in the papers. Everybody apparently agrees that the women of this country are developing with astonishing rapidity for “the unchanging East”. There is a mixed Ladies Club in Madras where European and Indian ladies play games of all kinds and tournaments. They are having a great Gymkana next Monday, to which I am invited, but on that day we shall be in Mysore. We have been invited to go to visit the Native Ruler of Mysore for 3 days so we travel all Thursday night and return here Monday night. The attractions and the invitations are so many that we could easily put in a very fruitful and interesting 10 months, instead of 10 weeks. Everyone regards the shortness of our sojourn as an absurdity and so it is, but I am so glad to have come at all, that I can’t give any emotion to regrets. I heard 2 lectures on Indian Art yesterday by Dr. Cousins—there was a dinner party here at 8.15. My day began at 5.30, when I was roused by Amir who brought tea to our compartment and ended about midnight. But I was not tired. So far the life and the climate suit me very well. I am always hungry before the meal time. Fred is very well too. With love and greeting.

EMMELINE PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Gambiers Gardens, Adyar, Madras.—Describes Campbell’s house and the Theosophical College. Refers to their visits to Hindu temples at Madras and a meeting with the Maharaja at Mysore.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)
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Transcript

Gambiers Gardens, | Adyar, | Madras.
November 17, 1926.

It is six a.m. The sun is just rising. I am seated on a spacious balcony in Campbell’s house overlooking this Adyar river. The clouded sky is tinted with pale pink. The temperature is about 82º, but as the air is heavily charged with moisture it seems much hotter. At 6.15 E.P.L. will join me and our “Boy”, Amir, who is a grave old Mohamedan servant whom we engaged at Bombay to look after us all the time we are in India, will bring us out “chota hazri” consisting of bananas tea and toast and butter. After chota we shall dress and drive off to Mr. Cousins’ bungalow getting back here at 8 o’clock to receive some visitors. At 9 o’clock we shall breakfast with Campbell and his friend, Col. Worgan who lives with him in the house and after that I am going to drive to the secretariat to have a short talk with the Governor of Madras.

We are very fortunate in having the use of a motor car during our stay in Madras, as another of Campbell’s friends, Mr. Boag, has gone to Delhi and has kindly allowed us full control of his car during his absence. The driver understands enough English to take our instructions. According to Indian ways he always shakes his head which means “yes” when I tell him anything, and at first one thinks he means “no” as it would do in England.

Campbell’s bungalow is pretty much what one would call a palace in England. Our rooms occupy about a quarter of the first floor and are about the size of the whole of Fourways including the billiard room. In addition our balcony alone is 100 ft by 40 ft with 15 tall Corinthian columns.

Madras is absolutely a garden city, Campbell’s compound I should think must be 25 acres in extent and some compounds are even larger. The Theosophical Society have a compound which is probably 50 to 100 acres and is lower down the river. In it are situated headquarters, library, several other buildings and bungalows one of which is occupied by the Cousins. From the balcony of the Library a view can be got of the mouth of the Adyar, and the ocean itself. A little north of the mouth of the Adyar commences the marine parade of Madras which stretches for seven gorgeous miles of sea front.

One day a prominent Hindu, Mr. Rangacharya, took us to see two Indian temples one to Shiva and the other to Vishnu {1}. By special privilege we were allowed to enter, first taking off our shoes. We were allowed to look right through to the holy of holies, and were also shown the silver and gold pedestals made in the form of animals on which the images of the god are carried each by thirty or forty men on the days of the great festivals. On one side of each temple is a great artificial lake (known as a tank in India) with steps down on all sides on which the people sit. On the other three sides of the tank are houses in which large numbers of people live. We were not allowed to leave either of the temples until the usual Indian honour had been conferred upon us of hanging round our necks great garlands of fragrant flowers.

In the middle of our stay in Madras we paid a visit to the Indian State of Mysore. The ruler, the Maharajah is a very enlightened man who has won praises on all sides for the progressive and sympathetic way he has run his State. We stayed in the city of Mysore in the guest house as the guests of the State, and were taken several interesting drives by the chief secretary and his assistant. One motor trip was to the famous island fort of Seringapatam. Another to the great dam of which they are justly proud. It is the second largest dam in the world, it locks in 40 square miles of water, is 130 ft high and 1¾ miles in length. It was constructed throughout by Indian labourers working under Indian engineers without any help from Europeans. During our stay we had a short interview with the Maharajah and if I had been able to stay a day or two longer he would, the secretary said, have probably invited me to play tennis with him as he is a very keen and good player. Mysore is about 2000 ft above sea level, and the climate in November is dry and invigorating like a perfect July day in England.

To-night we are off to spend a couple of days in Madura close to the southernmost point of India. I must leave the rest of the account of our stay in Madras until next mail. I will only say that Campbell has proved as ever a most kind & excellent host, and there is scarcely a public man of importance here whom I have not seen and talked to.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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{1} The Kapaleeswarar temple and tank, and the Parthasarathy temple, in front of which is the tank known as Paravei.

Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

En route to Calcutta.—Outlines his and his wife’s activities during the last fortnight. Discusses in detail the political situation in Madras and the labour conditions there, and describes visits to Mysore and Madura.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

En Route to Calcutta.
November 22, 1926.

It is only a month yesterday since we left England, and a fortnight ago in the train to Madras I was writing an account of our first experiences of India {1}.

I have rarely lived as strenuous fourteen days as those which I have just experienced. Thanks to the businesslike arrangements made by my friend Campbell I have seen almost everyone of any account in Madras—the Governor, all the non-elected members of the Madras Government, all but one of the elected Madras ministers, and all the principal members of the three political parties in Madras, “justisites”, “independents”, and “congressmen”; I have visited most of the factories of the city, I have addressed three trade union meetings and have discussed the labour position with the commissioner of Labour and with all the principal trade union officials; in addition I have travelled 300 miles west and spent 3 days in the State of Mysore seeing sights in the capital city Mysore and addressing two meetings in the adjacent city of Bangalor, and 300 miles south to Madura where we stayed with a landowner and spent two days visiting temples and investigating conditions in a neighbouring village.

Let me deal first with the political situation. We arrived in Madras on the day immediately following the election which had gone off quietly but not without considerable interest and excitement. We were told that quite a number of women had exercised the franchise, and that one woman had stood as a candidate in a rural constituency on the West Coast. Previous to the election the “Justice” members had formed the principal party in the Madras Legislative Council and therefore from them the Ministers had been selected. These ministers had charge of what are known as the “transferred” subjects, while the “reserved” subjects, according to the diarchy installed by the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, were controlled by the members of the Legislative Council appointed by and responsible to the Governor alone.

My first meeting was with the members of the “Congress” party who are the Swarajists in Madras. Their main plank is the utter inadequacy of the amount of self government provided by the existing constitution. The diarchy of the provincial governments and the very limited powers given to the elected representatives in the (federal) Government of India are alike condemned by them. They do not want a commission appointed in 1929 by Britain to consider what modifications of the constitution she will be graciously pleased to grant to India, but a round table conference of Indians and British to arrange the details of the change over to complete “Dominion” status. They have abandoned the “boycott” of the Council as implied in the “non-cooperation” of Gandhi, and the “walk-out of the Chamber” as ineffective political weapons and substituted obstruction based as far as they understand it on the tactics of Parnell. On local issues they deny that they are in any sense either a “capitalist” party or a Brahmin party, pointing to the fact that most of the Trade Union leaders hold prominent positions in their ranks, and many non-Brahmins were their candidates at the recent elections. They support a wide franchise but point out that an illiterate franchise provides grave opportunities for corruption.

The Justice party consider the diarchy a piece of rather badly constructed machinery which will need very considerable repairs if it is to be made to work. But they are quite averse to jumping from that into complete self-government either in the local or in the federal government. They regard the Swaraj and Congress parties of Indian† as essentially Brahmin, and fear that they would use any power given to them [to] rivet fetters of Brahmin tyranny upon India. They look upon themselves as champions of the non-Brahmins generally including the large section of outcast “untouchables” who are so terribly oppressed at the present time.

The Independents have not any one point of view and hold many divergent opinions, some approximating to the “Congress” and others to the “Justice” party.

The Mohammedans have a special franchise of their own for the Assembly and a specially appointed member of the Legislative Council of Madras. As traders they have not troubled much about the higher education which has been so much sought after by the Brahmins, and some of those whom I saw are fearful lest greater self government may mean in practice subordination of Mohammedan to Hindu which they would resent and resist perhaps even by violence.

The English in Madras hold many varying opinions and those in official positions are naturally chary of expressing very definite views as to the future. I think however there is a general consensus of opinion that there has been a genuine attempt made both by the British and by the Indian majority-party to work the constitution and that it has not proved at all easy. Some think that self government ought to have been confined first to taluk boards and district boards (rural district councils and county councils). Few however would think it possible to go back on the provincial self-government already conferred. The most advanced x† view that I heard was that (since people prefer self-government to good government) complete self-government should be bestowed in 1929 on the Madras Presidency, the Governor becoming entirely constitutional, all the subjects including law and order and finance being “transferred” to the control of the popularly-elected assembly, and the whole government to be in the hands of ministers to be selected, as in England, from the majority party. But, and those who took this view were emphatic on this point, this handing over the reins in Madras must be accompanied by a tightening instead of s† loosening of the reins in the Government of India as a whole, and further it must by no means be assumed that self governing powers similar to those proposed for Madras should be given to all the other component parts of British India.

I do not propose, at this stage, to express any view of my own, and I will therefore only add that the result of the elections in Madras presidency has been a considerable victory for the Congress party, who are now the largest single party and will perhaps constitute an absolute majority of the elected members (out of a Chamber of about 130, 30 or more are official or nominated). The woman in S. Canara just missed being elected. Whether the Congress party will accept office—as minister for the “transferred” subjects remains to be seen. Their originally avowed policy was the reverse and they have given pledges to the Indian National Congress itself to this effect. But it is thought that Congress itself this December may give them absolution from this promise and that that may not be too late for their final reply to the Governor.

I pass now to Labour conditions. It is essential in this connection to remember that town factory labour forms but a tiny part of the total labouring population of the country. This is of the greatest importance both in itself—in order that true proportion may be preserved in the mind—and also because the conditions of agricultural labour have necessarily a great effect upon wages and conditions in the factories. If the factory worker retains one foot on the land he has to that extent a refuge from unlimited oppression in the factory. If there is a horde of ill paid half-starved agricultural labourers at the factory gates that will make a successful strike very difficult.

I am glad to say that after considerable investigation I obtained substantial agreement as to facts from the employers’ and workmen’s sides. But here the satisfaction ends, for the conditions are certainly deplorable. In the cotton mills of Madras a skilled man working nine hours earns from less than a rupee a day or some R24 a month (8/- a week) up to about R36 (12/- a week) with a few at higher amounts. At the railway works the hours are 8 and the wages of about 50% of the skilled men vary from about R18 a month up to R24 (6/- to 8/- a week), another 30 or 40% getting 9/- to 12/- a week, with some at higher levels. The coolies (labourers) get R10, R12, and sometimes as much as R15 a month (3/6, 4/-, and 5/- a week).

Of course the Indian has far fewer expenses than the British worker having next to nothing to find for clothes and fuel, while rent will be from 4d to 1/- a week. Nevertheless at least R32 a month (11/- a week) is needed for bare subsistence for man wife and 3 children, while R72 a month (24/- a week) was given me by some of the workers as a real living wage for a family. Consequently existing wages do not in many cases provide even a subsistence level unless several other members of the famil[y] are also working.

One of the obnoxious features of Indian factory life is that wages often do not commence to be paid until full six weeks after a man starts work. In the meanwhile he often gets into the hands of the moneylender and can never extricate himself again. Other complaints are as to fines and victimisation, and the fact that while there are elected representatives of employers on the legislative councils there are no elected representatives of Labour, also the utterly disproportionate wages given to Europeans and Anglo Indians (children of mixed marriages) who probably start at R84 a month (28/- a week) and rise to far higher figures.

In fairness I should like to say that I found one of the British-owned cotton mills considerably superior to the Indian ones. Some attempts were being made at good housing, education of children of the operatives, and welfare work generally including the provision of well ventilated rooms for mid-day dinner. In the Indian mill I was shocked to see workmen eating their food squatting on the floor in the midst of the machinery.

Behind the town operative lies the ryot (peasant farmer), behind the ryot lies the landless agricultural labourer of whom perhaps 50% are outcasts. Taking one year with another the peasant with the help of his family may get an average monthly income of R10 (3/6 a week) and upwards, the landless may get R9, R12, or even R18 or R24 (3/6, 4/-, 6/-, 8/- a week) in busy times for his own labour alone but his wages will sink to R9 a month (3/- a week) or less or nothing when times are slack. Of course his wife and children may also be able to earn something and there may be something to be got out of a cottage industry or even a village industry. But the total family income may very likely not reach R100 a year (£7. 10. -) and of that pittance the money-lender and other harpies may secure a considerable part. I do not give these figures as in any way accurate but rather as a rough estimate from the general talks that I have had. Possibly I may have occasion to correct them later. In any case they relate only to Madras.

{2} In the early part of my letter I spoke of my visits to Mysore and Madura. My wife and I went to the former as guests of the native ruler, the Maharaja. This Indian State is governed exclusively by Indians and has recently received a constitution from him in which there are two properly elected Houses. Though the Maharaja is not obliged to accept their advice I gather that he usually does so except on certain questions which he reserves exclusively for himself. The State is acknowledged to be very well governed and has to its credit the construction by exclusively Indian design and labour of the second largest dam in the world.

In madura† we were entertained by Mr. Foulkes a friend of Mr. Campbell’s. We went inside two most interesting Hindu temples, one of them having an area of some 40 acres including a beautiful artificial lake. I climbed an intricate stairway to the top of one of the towers and overlooked the city. On our second visit it was festival night and the temple was illuminated. Great crowds of worshippers as well as sacred cows wandered everywhere at will except into the holy of holies.

Not far from Madura is the village of Usilempatti where the interesting experiment is being made of weaning the tribe of Kullahs from dacoity (robbery) by the simple expedients of giving them water and thus enabling them to earn their own living from their irrigated fields, & by giving their children education in an elementary school. It appears to be quite successful so far, showing once more that the roots of crime are poverty and ignorance.

This letter should reach you a few days before Christmas. Please accept from my wife and myself for your own circle and for all your friends our hearty good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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{1} PETH 6/125.

{2} The last sheet, which begins here, is marked “Keep Carefully only Copy.” and there is a cross in the margin alongside the paragraph about the village of Usilempatti. At the foot of the preceding sheet is written, ‘Note last Page taken by FWPL to Edinburgh 22/2/45 EK.’

† Sic.

Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Ghoom.—Describes his and his wife’s train journey to Darjeeling, and their accommodation there. Gives his impressions of the Himalayas, and describes his ascent of Tiger Hill at Ghoom.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

Ghoom, November 30, 1926.

A Week-end in the Himalayas.

I am seated in the verandah of a tiny hotel 8000 feet above the sea. On my left are the eternal snows—Kinchinjunga towering into the sky 20,000 feet above me and forty five miles away. Ir† is eight o’clock in the morning and breakfast is just coming, but more than 4 hours ago we had our “chota hazri” or little breakfast—a fine draught of hot milk and some buttered toast; for Tiger hill is 3 miles away and 1000 feet above us and it is necessary to climb up there before sunrise if one is to see the full panorama of hill and mountain.

This visit to the Himalayas is sandwiched in at the week-end between two strenuous bits of life at Calcutta—factories, politicians, trade unions—and is a very welcome interlude. We started from Calcutta at 7.30 p.m. on Saturday evening after a light repast and were soon both asleep on the train.

We were awakened at a stop at 6 o’clock. “If you look out in a few minutes on the right side of the train you will catch your first glimpse of the snow mountains” said the guard. Sure enough, a brilliant peak disclosed itself bathed in the pink light of dawn. A little later a whole range came into view and then was lost to sight again.

But we were still in the plains. At 8 o’clock we changed on to a narrow guage† line and the real ascent began. At 1000 feet altitude the train entered a forest and it grew colder. Winding round curve after curve three sturdy little engines pulled the train up the hill each engine having a section to itself, like 3 caterpillars with a little space between.

All sorts of engineering feats were accomplished and every ¾ hour another thousand feet was scaled. The tremendous Kinchinjinga† range came more frequently into view and remained longer in sight. At last the train reached the summit of its journey (about 7500 ft) and ran down a few hundred into Darjeeling station.

A short ascent took us to the “Mount Everest” hotel where we had booked rooms—a really delightful place very spacious but not pretentious, more like the Club at Lake Placid (New York State) than the swagger hotels at S. Moritz. We were almost the only visitors as though this is a perfect time of the year for weather it is between the two seasons of “residents” and “tourists” which come earlier and later.

We had two adjoining rooms and our front windows faced the whole range of which Kinchinjunga is the dominating figure. A little walk took us to Observatory Hill with a living panorama in sight and just above, a plan with names of the peaks. Kinchinjunga itself is 45 miles away and well over 28,000 feet in height that is to say more than 20,000 above the eminence on which we stood. Yet it stood out in clear outline against the cloudless sky. Only a few clouds spread out a thin gauzy mist about its lower limbs. I made a rough reckoning and realised that a rope ladder stretched from us to its summit would rise one in ten the whole way. I pointed my walking stick to the peak and verified roughly that it was correct.

It was no good looking for Everest, it cannot be seen from there. Owing to its great distance (110 miles from Darjeeling) its lofty height is hidden by intervening mountains. The guide reminded us that it was 29,002 feet high and when I poured contempt on the odd two feet chid me and pointed with triumph to the printed table!

We walked home passing through the open square where there is a special bazaar on Sunday. Thither had come the surrounding villagers, some pure Tibetans others Nepalese others the Indian Himalayan people half way it seemed between Aryan and Mongol. All of them are fine vigorous upstanding dignified happy folk. The men and women seem all able to carry immense loads on their back supported in place by a band round the forehead. The children are naive and fascinating.

Next morning we were called at 4.30 with chota Hazri, a fire was lit for us in the larger bedroom and we sat looking out into the darkness through the window. About 5 o’clock the snow mountains showed in faint outline. At 5.30 the range was clad in faint pink, the nearer dark mountains almost invisible. Two minutes to six the topmost point of Kinchinjunga was shot with light—the rising sun. We waited till nearly 7. Then E.P.L. went back to bed and I wrote letters.

A leisurely day passed and at 5 o’clock we took train to Ghum one station back on the line, the highest point on the railway. We had rooms in a primitive little hotel and after an early meal went to bed soon after 8.

We were called at ¼ past 3! I was to walk and E.P.L. to go in a chair to the top of Tiger hill. In view however of the great altitude E.P.L. decided that it was better I should go alone. It was three miles all uphill—the guide, Ameer and I strode on in the night with a little moon overhead and stars all around. We reached the summit just at 5 o’clock. Light was showing in the Eastern sky. A complete panorama was visible all around, the wonderful Kinchinjunga range in the north, a line of snowy peaks N.E, and in N.W. three points just showing above the dark foreground mountains, and the middle of these was Everest!

The snow hills grew light and punctually at 2 minutes to 6 Kinchinjunga caught the rising sun. Seven minutes later (it is I think some 80 miles further west) Everest shone out.

I waited half an hour, made friends with other sight seers (one of them Dr. Fritz Neuberger of Munich a friend of Fraulein Heymann!) watched the shadows fall down the mountains, and came home to breakfast at the hotel. These later pages have not been written as you can well imagine waiting for breakfast on the Ghum hotel verandah but back once more in the plains. At Ghum there was an interesting Buddhist temple to visit, and a final survey of the hills to be made. Then Ameer came down with the luggage by train and we descended more expeditiously by car ready for an early bed before another strenuous time in Calcutta.

I find this letter may just arrive in time for Christmas so I send once more our every greeting and good wish to you all.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

P.S. | Post up to Dec. 22 to c/o Thos. Cook and Son, Bombay, up to Dec. 29 to Passenger on SS “Kaisar-i-Hind”, Bombay (leaving Bombay Jany 15), up to Jany 5 to Passenger on Kaisar-i-Hind, Aden; up to Jany 12 to c/o Scandar Bey Gabriel, Head Revenue Official Ports and Lights Administration, Alexandria, Egypt.

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† Sic.

Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Hotel Cecil, Agra.—Describes his and his wife’s second visit to Calcutta, and their journey thence to Peshawar, Landikotal, Lahore, Delhi, and Agra. Records Emmeline’s impressions of the Taj Mahal.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

Hotel Cecil,
Agra.
December 15, 1926.

The date at the top of this letter reminds me that a calendar month from to-day we are due to set sail for home. But although we have already travelled through India from West (Bombay) to East (Madras & Calcutta) and from South (Madura close to the tip) to the extreme North (in the frontier of Afghanistan) and are now due in the North centre our next journeyings will take us a long way further East (out of Bengal into Assam) before we turn finally westward and homeward.

My last letter described our sight of the Himalayan snows from Darjeeling. I have now to tell you of our journey over the Khyber Pass and of our visit to the historic monuments of India.

Before this however I must tell you that my second three days in Calcutta were packed as full of incident as the first. I spent a morning going over a jute mill, an afternoon meeting the liberal and other non-Swaraj politicians, and an evening dining with an Indian Judge and going on from there to an Indian theatre. Another night I dined with the Swarajists, all of the Directors of “Forward” newspaper being present together. I lunched with an interesting group of people and heard a vigorous case made out against the handling by the Bengal Government of the irrigation of the Province, I lunched another day with a group of the Council members of Bengal; and finally Emmeline and I spent a day in the little French town of Chandernagore and visited the home of Mr. Roy Chowdury one of the appointed Labour Members of the Bengal Legislative Assembly.

That night we started on a 60-hour journey to Peshawar. Many people detest train journeys here because of the heat and dust and monotony. We find them very pleasant and a considerable rest after the busy days in towns. Of course it is the “cold weather” period just now when the temperatures in the North of India correspond very much to the best September and October weather in England.

We passed through Allahabad at midday, and in the afternoon reached Cawnpore where Ameer’s [Footnote: ‘Our Indian servant.’] two little girls were brought by his brother down to the station to see him, Delhi at midnight, Amballa at 5 a.m., Lahore at one o’clock in the afternoon, Pindi at 9 p.m., crossed the Indus about 4 a.m., and finally arrived at Peshawar at 6 p.m. It was quite dark, rather cold, the hotel was almost asleep, and our van luggage had got left behind at Amballa.

But the sun very soon shone and at 10 o’clock we were bowling along in a motor car over the Khyber Pass. First some eight miles along a dusty plain to Jamrud. Then 17 miles up a twisty mountain road to Landikotal. It was Tuesday—one of the biweekly caravan days—and we passed and met the full complement of camels and their drivers. We counted enough to enable us to realise that there were about a thousand gping† each way. This is an astonishingly large number and some idea of it may be gathered from these two computations. If they were all tethered head to tail with about a camel’s length between them they would stretch in all (as they did in fact) about three miles. If they each carried on an average 4 cwt of burden (and many of them carried more), they would bear between them a cargo of 200 tons the equivalent of the load of one train!

It was fairly simple on the outward journey to get by them for the road bifurcates in places and while fast vehicular traffic goes one way, ox waggons and pack animals go another, and we got by most of them during these stretches. But coming back we came up with them at places where one of the roads was under repair and we were all in a lump together—two thousand camels and a motor car on one road—no easy task either for camel drivers or chauffeur.

Landikotal is the last cantonment of any size in British India and is the top of the pass. We were taken three miles further with an escort on the front seat, beside Ameer and the chauffeur, to Michnikandar. A bend in the road and the whole Afghan landscape bursts into view—the frontier itself three miles away and beyond, plains and mountains and plains and mountains, and ranges and ranges until at last 200 miles to the North are the snows which lie beyond Kabul which itself is 155 miles away!

We clambered to the top of a mound to get the panoramic view, just above us is the tower fort with 2 Indian soldiers silhouetted against the radiant blue sky. A picnic lunch and the return to Peshawar past endless camels.

Peshawar is always liable to be looted by tribal robbers and is now surrounded by barbed wire and illuminated at night. That these marauding tribes are driven on by hunger is shown by the facts that 1) during the construction of the railway up the pass when there was a livelihood to be got by anyone who chose to work, marauding ceased; the rail built it has begun again. 2) A dam brought water to one tribe, it is now law-abiding. Unfortunately the same remedy cannot be applied elsewhere in other tribal valleys for there is no water available, and the tribesmen cannot be induced to leave their inhospitable mountain valleys for better irrigated regions.

Our friends the Jardines, whom we had met on board ship and expected to find at Peshawar had unfortunately been moved 2 hours journey away and could not come in, but they sent word to friends of theirs, Captain and Mrs. Galbraith, who were perfectly charming to us, showing us the sights of the city, getting up a game of tennis, giving us dinner, and letting us understand what they felt of the situation. It made our stay in Peshawar a delightful one.

A night’s journey and half a day brought us back to Lahore, where Lajpat Rai (now reckoned an Indian moderate) had arranged a public lecture for me and later a private dinner party. I was introduced to Punjab politics where there are three sections:—Mahommeddans 54% Hindus 33% Sikhs 13% (my figures are from memory only). Lajpat Rai has triumphed here over his Swarajist opponents, but the future is uncertain.

Next day after seeing some Labour men and visiting a famous mosque we lunched with some board-ship English friends and then were entertained at a big garden party where most of the leading Indians of Lahore came to see us.

A night’s journey brought us to Delhi. Of the three days there Emmeline spent the first two in bed with a cold, and I the last in bed with a slight fever. As a result we were Cox and Box in sight seeing. First I saw the new Delhi (five miles away) and made the acquaintance of several members of the secretariat; then next day I was taken by the Grahams to a picnic in the grounds of the Hanz Khas, an ancient Hindu College and tomb. The third day Emmeline did a round of Delhi’s† ancient and modern including the newest Delhi and visited the famous fort. We agreed on this that we liked the old Delhis best.

Yesterday morning we came here to Agra and as soon as possible went to the Taj. It is nearly thirty years since I saw it first, and I have seen many other lovely things in between, but my view has not changed that of all human achievements in architecture it stands without a peer. As Emmeline sees it now for the first time I leave the description of it to her. She writes:—“No words, no pictures or models can give any idea of the beauty of the Taj Mahal. The first sight of it strikes one almost breathless, as would the appearance of some heavenly vision. As one approaches nearer, the wonderful effect deepens, for the Taj is not only perfect in its wholeness, but perfect in every detail. Under the blue dome of the Indian sky the shining vision stands, its white marble crystal-like dome gathering and shedding forth the light. The approach to it is by a long avenue of conventional cypresses, and a long stone and marble water garden; and on the further side of the Taj the river Jumna flows.

As you know the building is the commemoration of a beautiful and beloved woman, built by her royal lover and husband. It is the equivalent of a lovely statue, for all the architectural critics admit that this structure expresses in all its curves and lines the ideal beauty of womanhood. The building, the 4 minarets that guard it, and the very large terrace on which it is elevated are of shining white marble, spotless and flawless. Every square yard has been touched by the artist, beautiful carving in bas relief (of flowers) and wonderful carving, of screenwork (like Mushriabiah screenwork): passages from the Koran inlaid in black marble, and lovely floral design inlaid with gems and precious stones. Glowing colour in that crystal whiteness. Beautiful as are all the parts, it is the simplicity and purity of its wholeness that moves one most of all.

The king spent all his patrimony on its completion, and was taken prisoner by his son, who feared penury, and was held in prison for seven years. At the hour of his death, he was at his request, carried to a balcony where across the river he could gaze to the last on the shining dome. We stood on the same balcony and tried to imagine what his thoughts were then.

There are many beautiful buildings and monuments in Delhi and in Agra—but the Taj is supreme. It is to my mind the most beautiful form that the human imagination has ever achieved. There may be greater and grander structures, but nothing for sheer loveliness like it.”

We drove to-day 23 miles to Fatipur Sikri to see the great palace of Akbar, a wonderful work of carved redsandstone†, and the delicate marble tomb of the saint.

Then to-night we went again to the Taj in the moonlight and to-morrow we go there to see the rising sun.

After that we are away to Cawnpore, Sitapur, Benares and eastward through Calcutta to Gauhati in Assam for the Indian National Congress.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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† Sic.

Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

In the train to Jaipur.—Records his general impressions of India, referring to the climate, mosquitoes, eating customs, servants, travel, bathrooms, and typical expenses.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

In the Train to Jaipur.
January 3rd, 1927.

We have now finished all the essential things which we came to India to do and see and hear. It is true that we have still to visit Rajputana and to spend a few final days in Bombay. But these are by way of being postscripts to our original plans. I think the time has now come therefore to sum up in broad outline the main impressions of India. I propose in the present letter to deal with the lighter side of the picture, to describe India as she presents herself to the casual visitor whose interest is in the external appearance of the country and the people and in the social amenities of European life found here. Next week I will try to convey to you what I have learnt of Indian politics and economics and to give my estimate for what it is worth of interracial relationships to-day in India.

I will begin at random with the climate. India is a terribly hot country, a viciously hot and moist country, in the late Spring & Summer. But this is hearsay only. For the cold-weather visitor does not experience it except in Southern India. November, December, and January are exquisite months in all the more northern parts. There is practically no rain. Every day about 6 o’cl. in the morning a pellucid light illumines a heliotrope sky and a little while after the sun rises clear and calm and beautiful. It is still quite cool, and in the higher latitudes or altitudes really cold with an occasional frost. About 8 o’cl. the sun’s rays begin to be powerful and European experience warns the visitor never to stand exposed to it without a pith helmet in the case of a man and both hat and parasol in the case of a woman. But it is by no means unpleasant. A gentle breeze plays around. Even at midday or an hour later when the sun’s rays are fiercest, the shade temperature lies probably between 60 & 70 and one chooses at will between cotton and wo[o]llen clothing. Sometimes the sky is cloudless, sometimes white fleecy clouds bathed in brilliant sunlight hover on the horizon.

As the afternoon draws on, the helmet (or topee as it is called) becomes unnecessary. It is then that one can play tennis or other sports much as one would play at midday on a mild September day in England. Towards sunset it grows colder and rapidly darker. By 5.30 or 6 one cannot see to play tennis, by 6.30 one needs a lantern to walk in the country and it is quite cold. It is then that one needs thick underclothes and medium overwear much as one would do in nice mid-October weather in England. At night in the unwarmed trains it may be very cold indeed.

In Bombay and the Madras Presidency it is much warmer. Except in the hills it is never really cold and it may be stickily hot. Going out to dinner in the evening one wears the thinnest clothes one can and even then one is glad to have the electric fans both to keep one cool and dry and to ward off the mosquitoes who cannot exist in a draught. Of course in the summer conditions are reversed. It is then merely very hot in Madras while in Northern India it is suffocating.

I have been led to speak of mosquitoes and I may as well clear up this unpleasant subject. One may travel about through a number of places and almost believe mosquitoes to be a myth. Then all at once one runs into them and withdraws all one’s scepticism. So long as they have stagnant water to breed in they do not seem to mind heat or cold and are particularly fond of one’s ankles at meal times, or one’s face and hands in bed. Unless one has a through draught in one’s bedroom at night there are very few places where one can do without mosquito bed-curtains. And if by accident one does so, a swollen face may be the penalty in the morning and it may be a week before traces are removed. Of course mosquito bites are not only unpleasant but dangerous as they cause malaria. At Gauhati where mosquitoes and malaria abound all sorts of things are done to stop it. Incidentally all the water, even the soda water to drink and the bath water to wash in is chlorinated and distinctly unpleasant in consequence. With proper precautions one has not much to fear, but mosquito-born[e] malaria is a fearful scourge in India. It is reckoned that in Bengal alone over 150,000 die from it every year. In spite of all that is done very much more might be done but it costs money and effort.

There are very few places in India where one can “go for a jolly walk”. There are a few public parks in the larger cities, there is always the “compound” if one is staying with a friend but this is not very extensive. Beyond these there is nothing but an exceedingly dusty high road and one very soon tires of that.

Practically every European in India takes Chota hazri (or early tea with toast and fruit) on being called in the morning. Breakfast follows at 9, lunch at 1, tea between 4 & 5, and dinner at 8 or 8.30 or even later. I am not enamoured of this double breakfast system nor of this very late hour for dinner, especially in view of the fact that people go to bed soon after 10 so as to be up by 7. The reason for so late a dinner is partly customary habit, and partly the fact that people like to have some leisure time together at the club between work and going home to their houses for dinner and bed. But it is carried to absurd lengths and in hotels and even on the trains where people often go to bed soon after 9 and there is no excuse for it, the normal dinner hour is still about 8.

All the express trains have restaurant cars, but the carriages are not corridor (except in rarecases†) and one gets out at a station, goes to the restaurant car and returns at the next station. The reason for this is that corridor carriages would provide an opportunity for thieving. Even as it is when one goes to meals a servant comes and sits in the vacated carriage.

It is quite a mistake to think as some people do that all lower class Indians are dishonest. My experience so far has been entirely to the contrary. I believe it would be true to say that Indian servants compare not unfavourably with servants all over the world. In many respects they are extraordinarily faithful. But in India there are large masses of terribly poor people, and they abound everywhere. It would obviously be unwise to put easy opportunities for petty larceny in their way.

Railway travelling in India for 1st and 2nd class passengers is very pleasant in winter except for the dust. If one travels at night one brings ones own bedding. For this and other reasons packages multiply. Accommodation is very spacious but if there are as many as four people in a compartment to sleep every available nook and cranny in it is stuffed with belongings. But generally the quota is only two and then there is ample room. Once in a crowded train I only secured accommodation by inducing an already four-filled compartment to allow me to make a fifth and lay my bed on the floor. Fortunately before bedtime I got a berth in another compartment. When trains are crowded husband and wife have to be separated and go into men’s and women’s compartments unless they can secure one of the rather rare coupés or half-compartments containing 2 berths only. Third class passengers are often terribly overcrowded but travel at the cheap rate of four miles for one penny.

I had written so far before retiring to rest in the train in a compartment with one other man, my wife being in the ladies’ compartment. At 3 a.m. an additional passenger got into the carriage and went to bed. At 4.15 we were again roused to see if we had room for yet another, but he went next door. Next night E.P.L. and I were again separated and arrived at our destination at 4.27 a.m.—somewhat early to turn out, but it had to be done. Thus travelling in India is sometimes far from comfortable!

Bath rooms in India are very different from those at home. To each bedroom is attached a lavatory, with an outside entrance. The stone floor has a little stone parapet dividing it into two, and on the outer side is a hole in the wall. When one has a bath the “waterman” brings in hot water and empties it into the little tin bath. When one has finished the “sweeper” comes in and overturns it and the water runs out at the hole in the wall. This is universal in private houses and is also the rule at hotels. Some hotels have running water, but even then it is rare to have the water-escape plumbed, it usually runs out through a hole in the wall.

I have spoken of waterman and sweeper, these are necessarily separate individuals for they belong to different castes, there is also the “room boy”. Then there are the major domo, the table boys, the plate washer, the cook, assistant cook, and at official residences several peons or messengers who bring one letters, introduce visitors, go errands etc. Everyone of these expect “back-shish” when one leaves, and from an M.P. on whose behalf many visitors have come the present must not be niggardly. At one house seven gardeners also came forward for a gratuity sent to me by the major domo. I yielded on that occasion but I told my own “boy” that I should draw the line at gardeners in future and have always done so. The net result is that tips for the two of us staying on a short visit with friends may easily run up to as much as R10 (15/-) for each day of one’s visit.

All the porterage at railway stations is done by hand or rather on the head and the same is true at hotels. I felt that my steamer trunk was too heavy to carry on one man’s head until I once saw a coolie who had it on his head insist upon putting on top of it a suit case and on top of that a bundle of rugs. Naturally one does not grudge these willing workers the 4 annas (about 4½d) which they claim for their labour. Still when all is paid for it is not a cheap method of getting about. Here is how it works when we have our full luggage with us. We arrive at a station and are sent off to an hotel in a little motor car or carriag[e] costing perhaps one or two rupees (1 rupee equals 1/6) and give a tip of say 4 annas. We bring with us hats, stick and parasol and smallest bags. Ameer our boy brings the luggage. Coolies at the station cost 1½ to 2 rupees, cart and tip 2½ or 3½ rupees according to distance, coolies at hotel another 1½ or 2. Total about 10/- to 15/- and the same in going back from the hotel to the station. In England one porter with a truck, 2 taxis and a porter at the hotel would move the lot and a generous cost would be 8/-. Hotels in the country districts charge about R25 or R30 (37/6 or 45/-) a day for the two of us. As this includes sitting room and bed room and bath room and all meals and as the hotels have a short season this is not perhaps excessive. In Calcutta we had only one room (and bath room), we took many of our meals out but still had to pay R45 (67/6) a day for the two. Railways charge 2 annas (2¼d) a mile first class. This is not excessive but amounts to a very large sum owing to the great distances. We shall have travelled altogether 9000 miles, and spent 24 nights, out of a total of 71 in India, in the train! Members of Parliament who are members of the Empire Parliamentary Association are supposed by a reciprocal arrangement to get ½ fares for themselves and their wives. But this has not yet been put through and we had to pay full fare except on two railways which gave us special concessions.

The postal system in India is excellent and most expeditious and I doubt if it has its equal in the world for so large an area. It is certainly far better than in the U.S.A. There is also a capital system of sending money and for a very cheap rate the post office brings a receipt back to the sender. Main roads are good though inevitably dusty. There have also been very fair roads so far as I have gone in the less frequented districts. Sometimes one has to go rather out of the way to keep on a road and to overcome some obstacles. Coming back from Tagore’s house to the main line by motor car I had to travel about 55 miles (the railway distance is 32) and had to cross an unbridged river by ford. Getting the car down and up the dry sandy banks taxed all the energies of myself and three villagers who came to our help.

I have left myself very little room to speak of the people here both English and Indian. In this letter I will content myself with saying that I have found them all extraordinarily generous and hospitable. They have entertained us in all sorts of ways, lent us their cars to ride in and given us of their time and trouble. It is this which has made our visit such a pleasant one.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Hotel Cecil, Agra.—Gives an account of the New Year’s celebrations at Calcutta, her visit to the Ramakrishna monastery, and their meeting with Tagore at Santiniketan, after which they came to Agra to revisit the Taj Mahal.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original. The latter part of the letter was written after the Pethick-Lawrences’ departure from Agra.)

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Transcript

January 5th, 1927.
Hotel Cecil,
Agra.

Dear Friends,

The New Year is a great season in Calcutta. It is a general holiday and there are races, polo tournaments, besides many other sports and games. New Year’s Eve was a night of revel in the Great Eastern Hotel, where we were staying in Calcutta. All the English and Scotch customs were carried out to the limit. The dinner was a great affair, of course the regulation turkey and the Christmas pudding enveloped in flames by rum formed part of the banquet. Every body was furnished at their tables with caps and masks and noses, balloons and whistles and hooters, fireworks, crackers, confetti. Scotch pipes dominated the din, and about every ten minutes Auld Lang Syne was sung, and at other times Scotch reels were punctuated with whoops and war cries. The Indian waiters looked on with solemn faces, and moved about bewildered and worried like sheep at a fair. Such a contrast it all was to the rest of the day. Fred having gone off to see some mines, I took a river steamer and went up the great river Hoogli, one of the mouths of the Ganges. It was one of the most golden days imaginable. The sun veiled in its own blazing glory shone in a cloudless sky, and a cool little breeze from the north rippled the surface of the water. I found myself amongst Indians who could talk English and two of them had been to the Congress at Gauhati. The river banks were the scene of ever changing drama—steps and quays (or “ghats” as they are called here) are built into the high sloping bank, and here, men and women and children bathe or play or pray or wash their clothes, and give their cow or buffalo a rub down. Big barges laden with hay or rough pottery floated down with the current and little boats with scarlet sails made their lazy way up or down stream.

When I came to the little quay labelled Belur I landed, for here was the Rama Krishna Monastery of which I had heard and read; and a friend who lives there was waiting to welcome me and take me to her retreat. A very beautiful place of retirement from the world, for her one living room overlooked all the traffic of the great river, and to lie on a mat and watch the noiseless flood going down to the sea, was to get the peace of all the world into your body and soul. Thirty years ago, this American woman met at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago the “Vedanta” Teacher Vivikananda, who himself was a disciple of the Indian Saint Rama Krishna Paramahamsa, and she made her life in India as his disciple forthwith. She helped him to found his Monastery, and now since his death, lives there helping to keep his influence alive and men come to this centre from all over the world. I saw a young man who had just arrived from Czecho-Slovakia, a peasant farmer who had saved money to make the journey and was just settling down to the work on the land, and give his inner being up to the influences that radiate from the place. This home is a centre of culture for many and while I was there, three young men dropped in for a talk. Towards sunset we all went on the roof, and watched the river and the buildings turning to gold and discussed many problems together, as Indians love to do. At last the little steamer that was to take me back came in sight, but one of them came back with me and we continued to talk as we moved down the now darkening flood illumined with many lights. This man had been with Margaret Noble (Sister Nivedeta) in her pilgrimages through the Indian villages which she describes so wonderfully in her books. Europeans say that she idealised, and wrote not facts but fairy tales. This man who was with her vouchsafed for the accuracy of her presentation, and told me many things about village life and custom, that did something to disperse the effect which the terrible poverty of the peasants makes upon one, and to show that even their life of ceaseless toil is able to produce loveliness and beauty.

The day had given me one of those glimpses of the soul of India which it is hard for anyone of another race to get. Yet there are ideas which make all races one. Once when I was given a reception in Calcutta a group of girls sang a song written and composed by the poet Rabindranath Tagore, and the gist of it was that though we were of different blood and spoke a different earthly language, we had met and conversed in heaven, and because we were moved by the same ideas we were not strangers, but heavenly friends. Speaking of Tagore brings me to describe the day that we spent at his home, which is also the school and University founded by his father 40 years ago, and developed by the poet recently into an International Centre of Research work, the various students there are specially seeking the secret of the unity of Asiatic culture, and are translating many manuscripts hitherto lost to memory. They will seek ultimately the union of all that is fundamental in the culture of the East and the West.

An hour or two in the train from Calcutta brought us to the junction and from there we took a local train to the little country station of Bolpur. Here we were met by a motor omnibus and conveyed to the Tagore estate which includes 700 acres in its area, to the Guest House called Santi Niketan i.e. the Home of Peace. This Guest House has been built over the spot where many years ago the Poet’s father came, having retired from the affairs of life. Here on this broad plateau, removed from sights or sounds of the world, he pitched his little hut, and gave himself up to meditation. The spirit of peace and of loving gracious hospitality pervades the place.

According to ancient Indian tradition still living in the Indian heart, the guest is “Atithi devobhava” the “guest divine” or the symbol of divine visitation.

The Poet Tagore has written “The guest brings to our house the great ideal of the spiritual unity of all human beings: It is not the guest who is under an obligation but the householder”. This is the spirit of Indian hospitality in general and of Santi Niketan in particular.

We were at once shown to the little suite of rooms set aside for us and after we had shaken off the dust of the journey we were served with tea. We were then taken round the School, Library, Art and Music Departments by a very gracious young Professor, and were brought back to our rooms for an hour of rest. We were then taken to the Poet who received us with warmest and kindest welcome, taking both our hands in his two hands. We talked awhile, and then were taken to the staff and students who had assembled on the wide roof for a talk from the Labour M.P. and after a very interesting question and answer discussion we came back to [about four illegible words] “Guru-daio” which is Tagore’s title amongst his students. It means Spiritual Guide or Divine Teacher, which indeed he is. We were perfectly charmed with him. He is a very beautiful and lovely person, his aristocratic face and his abundant silky white hair combed back from the forehead, and his young eyes and delicate sensitive hands, all these make a most worshipful presence. He is very simple and gentle and childlike and warmly gracious, and his mind is open to all beings and ideas which I found quite surprising. He is a keen Feminist and related with much quiet fun how he had written at the request of the women students a drama without a solitary male character in it (“doesn’t that rather please you!?”) and described with enthusiasm how beautifully the girls had acted in it. He spoke with astonishing understanding of the very controversial question of Birth-Control and his delightful talk was full of the spirit of youth. He is deeply alive to the unimaginative character of all burocracies†, and deeply grieved over circumstances in India that I cannot enter into here, but even in his criticism is humourous† and full of understanding. Indeed he seemed to us, the incarnation of deep ripe wisdom, and we bathed in it as in the light of a tropical full moon.

The electric plant on the estate had long ceased to work and the lights had gone out before we said goodnight, to walk back under a starry sky, with a bearer carrying a lantern to our feet. Next morning we were awake at 6 o’cl. with the birds singing and the sun shining, and after early breakfast we were taken in a motor car to see the Rural Construction side of the Foundation. This is no less than an attempt to carry out an experiment that if successful will enable the peasant without artificial irrigation, and without expensive implements, to raise 3 crops a year in the same soil, and also to develop useful handicrafts, such as spinning, weaving, tanning, and carpentry, that can be practised in the house in the hot season, when work on the land is impossible, and can also be done without expensive appliances, but with home-made tools. The model farm, including agriculture, intensive culture of vegetables, and dairy farm is excellent, and all immensely interesting. Everybody is so keen and works with so much harmony and pride in the result of their work. The teachers and students go out regularly into 20 villages to teach the people how to work to abolish their extreme poverty, and also to teach them by demonstration how to get rid of the plague of malaria and many other preventable diseases. They cleanse the water supply, clear the village of stagnant water and of approaching jungle, and perform many kinds of very helpful service. The son-in-law of Tagore is on the present Government Agricultural Commission. The ultimate aim is the growth of this movement to National magnitude: it is the contribution of the University to the problem of peasant poverty and misery.

You can have no idea how beautiful the early morning in this great plateau was. It seemed to have an Eden freshness and sweetness. Beautiful birds flew about in the trees, peacocks strutted, and above all human beings in all the sweetness of their early morning meditation greeted us with gracious looks. Several students came into the main office of this agricultural side, and sat down and waited for a speech just as the students on the literary side had gathered on the roof the night before, for a talk from the Labour M.P. We spoke of the oneness of all thought and work, the oneness without division of the spirit that is in us—because just at that moment we were realising it deeply. We then came back to take leave of the “Guru-daio” the presiding genius of all the activities of the place, and again he was most dear and gracious, and then after a most delicious breakfast that we found awaiting us, we set forth upon our journey.

The next objective was a re-visitation of the supernal Taj Mahal. And this reminds me that on the evening while dining with Tagore, we heard that he had written a beautiful poem about the Taj. It was in Bengali of course, as yet untranslated. We urged him to read it and translate it for us, which he was naturally a little reluctant to do, for words are his music and poetry is untranslatable. But he consented. It was lovely to hear his own speech, it was music as he gave forth the cadences. And then he slowly translated, feeling for the English words with eyes shut, and a dreamy light on his face. The one main idea of all remains with me—that glory, might, majesty, dominion, kingdom in Empire pass away as though they had never been and not one iota remains—but the sorrow of a great love had been transformed into immortal beauty and become “a tear on the cheek of eternity”.

We spent the next afternoon and evening renewing our delight, and bathing ourselves in the beauty of the Taj. We took a boat on the Jumna which flows under the wall on the north side and watched the afternoon light playing upon it, and saw it reflected in the river. Then we landed and watched the sun set, and lingered on and on until the light died out, except where concentrated on the white marble domes and minarets; and the flame of the lamps of the interior shrine flickered through the screens. The white ethereal beauty was reflected entire in the water garden, as we went away by the great South gate, leaving with us a vision of beauty which we shall never forget.

We left Agra last night to journey to the ancient city of Jaipur and have here met with some unique experiences, which must be told in another letter.

We leave Bombay in ten days from now and shall be home all being well on about February 3rd or 4th, well in time for the opening of Parliament on the 8th. We shall spend three or four days in Egypt, to get another look (after 20 years) at the Sphinx, and the great Pyramids and to stay two days with friends in Alexandria.

We look forward with great pleasure to seeing our friends again, and we send them our warmest greeting and good wishes.

Yours,
EMMELINE PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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† Sic.

Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

S.S. ‘Kaisar-i-Hind’.—Describes his and his wife’s meetings with Bose, Gandhi, and Tagore, their visits to Jaipur, Udaipur, and Ahmedabad, and their return to Bombay. Encloses a printed letter (6/135) recording his political impressions of India.—(Later.) His wife’s sudden illness compelled them to abandon their intended visit to Egypt.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original. The postscript was written after the Pethick-Lawrences’ return to England.)

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Transcript

P & O. S. N. Co.,
S.S. Kaisar-I-Hind.
January 19, 1927.

Three men in India stand out head and shoulders above the rest—Gandhi, Tagore, and Sir Jagadis Bose. We were fortunate in knowing all of them before we went out to India, and during the last few weeks of our stay there we had the opportunity of renewing our acquaintance.

We went to lunch with Sir J. Bose in Calcutta on our way to Gauhati. He has a wonderful Institute, buildings and lecture room in front and a beautiful garden court behind. He showed us many fascinating experiments. A plant feeding and automatically ringing a bell with each gulp of food; shading the plant from sunlight the gulps become less and less frequent. A plant’s pulse beating; poison supplied at the root the pulse dies down; restoratives supplied, the plant recovers. But Bose is not merely the world-famous plant physiologist, he is also a great artist, philosopher and patriot, and his explanations of the panels on the walls of his house were full of poetry and beauty.

Gandhi we met at Gauhati, in simplicity of life reminding us forcibly of John the Baptist. Dress a single loin cloth, food the humble fruits of the earth. Surrounded everywhere by hundreds or thousands of devoted followers to whom he is a Mahatma he remains a quiet unassuming man without the slightest pose of saintliness. He discussed mundane affairs quite simply with us in his tiny hut and told us that though on the surface things were not going exactly as his intellect would like, deep down in his consciousness he was content that all was well.

Tagore we went specially to see at his University a hundred miles away from Calcutta. He is a superb figure with his gracious smile and wide understanding and acceptance of life. Very different from the austere personality of Gandhi yet to him equally the spiritual life is the fountain spring of being. Learning, poetry, social service are the channels through which the living water pours out to sustain humanity. Yet a child would have no embarrassment in his presence and the laugh of the poet and of his little playmate would ring out happily together.

Tagore’s University is two sided. One half is for Literae humanae, and here are priceless manuscripts of Sanskrit and ancient Chinese; the other half is intensely practical, the actual demonstration of improved methods of agriculture and simple preventive medicines.

We left with reluctance and sped away westward to have another glimpse of the exquisite Taj at Agra and on from there to visit some of the native States of Rajputana. The rapid fall in temperature coupled with our early arrival at Jaipur (4.27 a.m.) gave us both bad colds but in other respects we were in luck’s way, for in view of the impending visit of the Crown Prince of Sweden all the glory of Jaipur was prepared for display. Enormous State elephants with faces and ears painted with lovely floral designs, solemn bullocks decked out in red and gold cloths, disdainful camels, soldiers in chain armour riding horses padded against primitive weapons—all passed us by in gorgeous procession, first in rehearsal and next day in actual display before the royal guest. Then there were jewels—strings of pearls the size of filberts, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, jade of matchless size and splendour. Next an amazing collection of old Indian paintings. Finally ancient carpets of fabulous worth, and shawls and saris of cashmere and silk exquisite in delicacy and in colour. Of all these we were afforded a special private view in company with the Councillors of State.

After Jaipur, Udaipur, where we were guests of the State and were taken to wondrous palaces enshrined on islands in a lustrous lake. Here Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj, spent his youth exiled by his father, but guest of the Maharana of Udaipur.

The glory of princes is not incompatible with—alas it is often built upon—the poverty of the country side. In Rajputana we introduced ourselves to some of a group of social reformers who are seeking to improve the lot of the peasant, and learnt something of their story. One we tried to interview in the Udaipur jail, but permission was not granted to us and in view of the shortness of our stay we could not press our request.

From Udaipur we went to Ahmedabad where we found one of the few well run Trade Unions in India with a woman as its leading spirit—Miss Anasuya Surabhai—a very remarkable personality who has fought many a battle for freedom both for her sex and for Labour. We also ran out to Gandhi’s “Ashram” a kind of college or fraternity for students. The Mahatma himself was away but his brother showed us over and instructed us in the cottage spinning and weaving which are specialities of Gandhi’s national revival.

From Ahmedabad back to Bombay to the charming roof-flat overlooking the city, the home of our friend Sheldon Bunting where we were entertained as happily as on our first arrival in India. One morning I visited a mill, and went on to see the so-called dwellings—insanitary pigsties would be a more nearly accurate description—in which many of the workers live, I also visited the 16,500 “model” tenements of which because they are uncomfortable, inaccessible, and financially beyond the reach of the workers, no less than 13,500 are untenanted! One day Emmeline addressed a meeting. We also lunched with the Governor and had an interesting talk with him.

We are now on the Kaisar-I-Hind sailing homewards. The Crown Prince of Sweden is on board and has won good opinions among the passengers by his unceremonious behaviour.

I have already written a special letter dealing with all my political impressions which owing to its unusual length and importance I am having printed. I am arranging for a copy to be enclosed with this letter {1}. I have a number of extra copies so if you would like one or more to give to your friends and will let me know, I will send them on as far as available.

Fascinating as our time has been it will be delightful to be home once more among all our friends.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

P.S. Since the above was written after our return to the ship from visiting the famous tanks at Aden, Emmeline contracted a germ which laid her unexpectedly low and made me exceedingly anxious. We abandoned our proposed visit to Egypt, and it was still not possible to land when we reached Marseilles. We accordingly continued on the boat to Plymouth and by the time we reached there her recovery was fortunately nearly complete. She will rest a few days in Weston-super-Mare before returning to London. Fortunately we were blest with beautiful weather the whole of the voyage.

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{1} PETH 6/135.

† Sic.

Carbon copy of a letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to J. M. Keynes

Has returned from India. Encloses a letter summarising his views of the situation in that country (see 6/135), and two others describing the Indian National Congress (wanting) and his meeting with Gandhi, Tagore, and Bose (see 6/133). His wife is recovering from the illness she suffered on board ship. Refers to adverse reactions to his recent pronouncements on the subject of free trade.

Letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

(Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead.)—Thanks her for helping to arrange for the safe birth of her son.

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Transcript

Dearest Emmeline,

I am only allowed to write to Silvio so slip in a note for you to sign.

Yes dear friend he is a fine healthy beautiful Child perfect in every way. Yet I am told if I had not come here {1} when I did I should not have brought him out alive. And that I could not have done so without Lady Barretts help in the nick of time as it was.

So dear it seems I owe him to you and Silvio {1}–You first and through all.

Thanks thanks and love.

Till Friday

Sylvia.

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This letter was evidently written shortly after the birth of Sylvia Pankhurst’s son Richard on 3 December 1927. A few of the words are indistinct.

{1} The reference is to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, where Lady Barrett was a consultant surgeon. See PETH 9/61.

Letter from Charlotte Despard to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Roebuck (Dublin).—Discusses her convalescence (from an injury?), and refers to the distress of the poor in Ireland.

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Transcript

Roebuck
22 Novr 1928.

My very dear friend.

I delayed answering your delightful letter until I could use my hurt hand. It is not quite itself yet; but I think like the rest of me it will soon be well.

The time has been a difficult one in some ways; but the compensations were many, and in the Hospital I had solitary hours of great happiness. Often and often I have thought of our strenuous days in the women’s movement.

I say sometimes, one of its chief achi[e]vements and joys was the discovery of woman by woman.

I was grieved to hear that you were laid aside during the Fair-time. I do hope the rest has restored you.

We are having terribly hard times here[. ]Two young men “mad with hunger” broke windows last week to get imprisonment. I fear things are not much better in England. Great changes, I be-lieve are impending

I must write no more. Thank you, dear friend a thousand times for your love and thought of me

I hope still to see you and my other dear friends of the League next year

With affectionate and grateful memories to your husband and true love to yourself

Yrs affectionately
C. Despard

Letter from Shareefah Hamid Ali to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Hotel Majestic, Avenue Kléber, Place de l’Étoile, Paris.—Encloses some papers she was unable to give her in London. Has been meeting friends and seeing the sights in Paris. Is leaving for India on the 14th.

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Transcript

Hotel Majestic, Avenue Kléber, Place de l’Etoile, Paris
8th June 1935

My dear Mrs Pethick Lawrence

I enclose the Luxembourg Stamp papers which you wanted. I am sorry I could not find it & send it to you in London. I did so wish to say goodbye to you both (if nothing else over the telephone) but my last days in London were so full of engagements—it was a rush to get to the station in time!

I am comfortably settled in room 741 of this Hotel. Mrs Brunschwick gave an at Home for me yesterday where I met many of our French friends—specially the delegates to Istamboul

I saw the Italian Exhibition yesterday & spent hours over it. The old “Primitives” are lovely beyond words. I couldnt tear myself away from them. Miss Getty took me to see Notre Dame in the afternoon. You will be amused to hear that the caretaker of the “Treasures of the Church[”] started muttering something—on Miss Getty making enquiries—he told her “why cant our women dress in such beautiful clothes (pointing to me) they are simple & decent & beautiful”!

Miss Getty said my blue sari had got an admirer!

I had a busy time in London—but I enjoyed the work & my visits to friends very much.

I shall be leaving for India on the 14th

Goodbye My warmest greetings & love to you both

Yours affectionately
Shareefah Hamid Ali

Letter from Charlotte Despard to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

29 Glenburn Park, Belfast.—Refers to her current circumstances and the arrangements for her birthday celebrations. The world needs true feminism more than ever.

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Transcript

29 Glenburn Park | Belfast
12 June 1935

Mrs Pethick Lawrence

My very dear friend.

On Saturday 15th instant I am having my own little birthday party {1}. You were with us last year and did much to make us all happy and joyful.

I hear that you are deeply engaged in Edinburgh now, so I do not even venture to ask if you can come. All I want you to understand that in the midst of our festivals, as in the more serious moments in our life as a league we could not forget you. Therefore I let you know.

I heard the other day that you have not been very well. I do hope and trust that you are not overtasking yourself. You should take rest when you feel it is to be necessary.

I cannot expect to be so strong as I once was, but I man[a]ge still to do some work, and to encourage and cheer those who are young.

I am glad [I] came to the North. This is the industrial part of Ireland, and there are many fine industrials here.

Some of these days if we meet I must tell you about them.

In the meantime I send you my love, complet[e] with an earnest desire that you may suc[c]eed in your present venture. Your husband too!

I don’t know what you think about the present situation in Europe and indeed throughout the world. I feel that there was never a time when feminism of the true sort was more needed than it is now.

I am so glad to hear that you are taking the chair on the day of the official birthday party.

We always miss our dear Dr Knight. The other officers, Miss Underwood in particular, are very good.

Women have not yet still {2} wanted. Women† has not reached her true position as she has in Russia—therefore our League has still its uses.

Earnestly wishing that all may go well with you

Yours in true affection
C. Despard

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Full stops have been supplied at the end of a few sentences.

{1} Charlotte Despard’s birthday, 15 June, was celebrated each year by the members of the Women’s Freedom League. But the distinction between the party mentioned here, which Pethick-Lawrence was not expected to attend, and the official party mentioned later, which she was to chair, is unclear.

{2} This word is indistinct.

† Sic.

Letter from Shareefah Hamid Ali to F. W. and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

The Residency, Satara.—Refers to their pleasant times together in England and sends photographs of her home. Encourages Mrs Pethick-Lawrence to attend the All-India Women’s Conference. Is running a class for midwives.

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Transcript

The Residency, | Satara.
12th October 1935 {1}

Dear Mr & Mrs Pethick Lawrence

I have been wanting to write to you for many weeks past but have not had either the leisure or the energy to do so. But you have not been out of my thoughts dear friends. My husband and I very often remember & talk of the lovely day we spent with you in your country house—& I have more recent memories of your delightful hospitality in London. I was such a nuisance losing my keys & leaving things behind!

I sent you last week—a photograph of us both—which we hope you will like & keep for our sake. I also enclose one or two pictures of our home in Satara—taken by my husband. This is rather an interesting old house—it used to be the Durbar Hall of the British Residents—in the times of the Maratha kings. We have a lovely garden which I enjoy more than anything else—we have converted it to our liking—“Indian atmosphere”!

Mrs Lawrence I do hope you will accept the All India Women’s Conference’s invitation & come out to us this cold weather? If you do please keep at least 2 weeks to be spent in our home. We are at Panchgani this week.

I am running a large “midwives” training class. We have 75 candidates & six instructors. It is intensely interesting.

With affectionate regards
yours affectionately
Shareefah Hamid Ali

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{1} The date was added in the margin after most of the letter was written.

Carbon copy of a letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to Shareefah Hamid Ali

Has been receiving treatment for deafness in Switzerland and supporting her husband’s election campaign. Thanks her for the photographs (see 2/35). She will not be able to attend the conference in India, but is very interested in the progress of the women’s movement there.

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Transcript

24th. November. 1935.

My dear Mrs. Hamid Ali,

I am afraid you will think that I am most remiss in not having replied to your letter before. I was away in Switzerland when it came receiving treatment from a specialist for deafness, and while I was there the General Election was announced and I had to hurry home to take my part in it and support my husband’s candidature in East Edinburgh. I am so glad to say that he was elected Member of Parliament for that constituency.

I am perfectly charmed with the photographs that you send me. I think the photograph of you and your husband is delightful and most beautiful, especially of you. I was also greatly interested to see the pictures of your home. Thank you so much for sending them to me. They will serve as a very delightful remembrance of the very great pleasure it was to my husband and to me to meet you and to hear something of your wonderful work.

It is very kind of you to invite me to the Indian Conference, but I am sorry to say that my health prevents me from accepting such an attractive invitation. The treatment in Switzerland for my deafness has not up till now been a success and I am extremely deaf, and until this condition passes away I am not fit to take part in any public life at all. I believe it is only a temporary condition, but I have no idea how long it is going to last.

I shall be with you in thought at your Congress, and I shall follow your deliberations with intense interest. As you know, my whole life has been given to the woman’s movement, and there is no development of the woman’s that I follow with such interest as that in India. The movement there fulfills† all that I had hoped and dreamed of in my young days. It is so valiant and courageous, so definite and determined and at the same time so entirely free from bitterness or narrowness of conception. People in the very highest position have testified to their belief that it is the most important and most uplifting movement in India, and I am happy to think that such general acknowledgement and admiration has been accorded publicly. I trust and pray that the woman’s movement will keep itself free of all political contamination and will maintain its character and will ultimately set an ideal which will be followed by the rest of the country. India has such a very great future.

With warmest good wishes,

Yours very sincerely,
[blank]

Mrs. Hamid Ali,
The Residency,
Satara,
India.

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† Sic.

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