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Letter from F. W. Lawrence to Mary Elizabeth Lawrence

‘Tantallon Castle.’—Gives an account of his departure from Southampton and the voyage so far.

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Tantallon Castle
Tuesday July 24. 00

My dear Mother

It is not very long since I started so there is not much to relate; still as you will not get another letter from me till the end of August I send you along this interim epistle from Madeira, or rather from the ship before we get to Madeira.

The ship got away from Southampton at about 5 o’c to the strains of “auld lang syne” & with the waving of a good many pocket handkerchiefs from on shore, passed out into the ocean. About an hour and a half afterwards we passed the Needles & we had a splendid view of them before going down to dinner.

I have a good cabin on deck & as the weather so far has been excellent, I have been able to have it wide open day and night & to get all the air that there is to be had.

It is rather early days to say very much of the passengers, but I don’t think they are at all a bad lot; I sit at the Captain’s table between a man who is going out to try the rebels in Natal, & some ladies from the Argentines, & opposite to some English people from Natal, and a very decent German with whom I have quite made friends already, & have had several games of chess.

Then there are a number of other people on board whose acquaintance I have made slightly; & I have played quoits, buckets, & a sort of deck croquet; all of which do fairly well pour passer le temps.

We have had awnings put up over the whole deck, the sea has begun to assume a sub-tropical blue & I expect soon it will begin to get awfully hot, but at present it is a cool contrast with London during the last hot weather.

With best love & all good wishes for a pleasant trip on the continent

Your affte Son
Fredk W Lawrence

I shall very likely send an encyclical home to Mans. Ho. from Cape Town. This will be copied, and a copy forwarded on to you which you can keep, as I am having other copies sent to A.J.L. {2} and Aunt Edith.

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{1} Followed by ‘P.T.O.’ The postscript is written on the front of the sheet.

{2} His sister Annie.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Is glad to be back in London. Expresses her sense of wonder at the progress of their relationship, and discusses the idea of his standing for Parliament in St Pancras. Sends some books.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Rd, W.C.
July 29, 1900

It is Sunday evening, and I am Home Again! I have the Western sky and the delicious evening breath, and the blue kitchen all to myself, and I feel like Diogenes in his tub, the world is so far away. Today you are at Madeira, and next Saturday I shall—shall I not? —have a letter to tell me how you have fared so far.

I had a sweet home-coming on Friday. The great weight of responsibility and all forboding gone, the children so happy and well; my Daddy at the station, tea and my dear old comrade waiting for me here, then one hour or two later a merry little dinner at the Kings X Restaurant—Daddy and Sister Mary and Mr McIlwaine and I—and a happy evening. No matter how lovely a holiday is I always come back with a great sigh of relief and joy, and the conviction that there is no place like the blue kitchen!

It is a most wonderful summer. I don’t think I ever saw things so beautiful. Last night we sat till late on the flat roof of the Buildings, the sweetest breath of a living earth about me like a presence, under the night sky and the stars. It was like being in a great ship. I thought of you and wondered, wondered.

Yes, I am filled with wonder. What a strange thing Fate is! Only three months ago another came {1}, and then I felt it was impossible, unthinkable. I said then, “This thing is not for me, ever. Freedom is more than life.” It is so curious how when this came, everything in me was hushed except a voice outside myself which said, “Let destiny decide”. So strange this great calm and acquiescence. I am half lost in wonder: Everything seems to me a dream sometimes.

But I wonder amongst what circumstances, what experiences, what thoughts this will reach you, and what plans for the future will be taking shape in your mind. I cannot help plans shaping themselves in my mind. I seem to see so much—so much possibility, so many definite threads that could be gathered up at once. I cannot get it out of my mind that you must stand for St Pancras. The former Liberal candidate {2} is rather curiously bound up with us. I must tell you about him some day and get you to meet him. He is {3} (on 2nd thoughts I efface name, in case of accident to this letter, which God forbid!), cousin of Lord Rosebery’s, quite young—less than thirty, I should suppose—and one of the sweetest nature (it is [a] queer word to use but it suits, this time). He is too delicate for the struggle and has retired to Colchester {4}, but longs to come back and work with us in some way. He came last Sunday morning for a long talk with Sister Mary. Sister Mary says that if you were to stand for this division he would come back to London and support you and work for you. (Of course nothing has been suggested, but he is so pathetically eager to come back and find his work here.) This is just one of the threads, though everything is of course too much in the air to even speak of these things. Yet doors seem to stand open, and plans organize themselves in the mind. You must not misunderstand any over-haste. Somehow one is always seeing lines converging, and new things developing; it always has been so. That is how all our work has grown and come. I am thinking of Mr Cope {5} too. He has never had his chance yet, or wide enough scope for his mind and energies; you would give him a platform; he just wants what you could supply, the executive and organizing power; he is a first-rate speaker, and very popular—has the gift of popularity, but no Anglo-Saxon capacity for clearing his way. He belongs to the woman-race, is pure Celt. He can’t work for himself, but for another he can work—and how well! You would find him invaluable.

This is what gives me such joy! That you came into all our lives, making all the old bonds and ties stronger & more established. Sister Mary feels this. She is more than absolutely content. There is not one of us who will lose, but all be so much richer for your life. And you will be richer too. I don’t think any man or woman ever found such comrades as I have found, such true, loyal and great-hearted men and women. Such beauty I have found in them—you have yet to learn how good they are. I ought to know, look at the years and years I have known them in daily intercourse. Well! it is the thinking time, the waiting time now. By & bye will come the time of doing, and deciding. Dear, I commend you with all my heart and soul to the great Maker and Re-Maker. How often has it been my own prayer for myself:

“Maker! re-make! complete!
I trust what Thou shalt do.” {6}

May the love that keeps us all in being keep you from every evil & bring you safe home to me.

Ever yours,
E.

Aug. 1st. That was a Sunday letter! Now it is Wednesday, and last evening came your most welcome letter, long before I expected it. You were at Madeira sooner than I thought. And now it is 12/9x7 {7}. Yes, it was the best thing (to go) {8}, and everything you have done for the last five weeks—that is, since I have known you—has been infallibly right and has strengthened my confidence in your judgement and my—Well! Yes, and everything you have said in your letters I have understood and there has not been a word that has not suited me perfectly. I should have the same qualms and afterthoughts about my letters if I did not trust you so completely. The relationship has been so strange; we have seemed to come so close to each other in spirit, while still standing on the outside line of acquaintance, and the remembrance of things thought and said in one mood would make me uneasy when I am at the other point of outlook if it were not that I could smile and say, “It doesn’t matter. It is all right!” I know that you honour me in every thought, as I honour you in every thought, and think you worthy of nothing less than the simple truth, though it may be just a mood of the heart, the breath that bloweth where it listeth, and we cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. Dear, I bless you with all my heart and soul.

Yesterday I got these books to send you. I cut the pages of the “Treasure of the Humble” {9} and read the two last chapters, said “No, it’s a shame! He shan’t be bothered! I am not going to send it!” Then I remembered that I had promised, and thought, “Suppose after all he wanted it and went for it, and it wasn’t there!” So I am sending it. And then there is a little book of wayside song, little bird-songs, which made one or two railway journeys last summer very sweet to me. And then there is a little story, worth all the philosophy and all the poetry in the world, “A Humble Romance” {10}, which I know will suit you. It is simply perfect, I think. I read it to the workhouse folk at Hadley Wood {11} on the Wednesday after the Tuesday {12}—you know—when already, strange to say, a new love and a new tenderness for everything living had come into my heart. I do hope you will get them. And so I shall not be able to write to you again until you are homeward bound? I suppose I can wait for you at Madeira with a welcome. I may ask for a line from Mr Bovill next week as to whether another letter could reach you at Cape Town. But anyhow, letters would be safe with the directions given on the outside in case of non-delivery. I shall not risk it next week unless I have reasonable hope, of course. Over the miles of sea, my thoughts arrive to you every day.

Aug. 3rd. Of course I should not have said anything about elections, only that I know you can take no action for the present. There will need an immense amount of thinking and talking things over. You first understand, don’t you, how I talk to you like this as though you were in the opposite chair; there is nothing documentary! Sister Mary says that I am to send her love and tell you that this hot weather she has got herself put on to a special local committee for attending to the Register, and a sub-committee of that, and that she is at present coquetting with the local fanatic! Meantime she has mentally set all the parts: the ex candidate is to be your agent; she will run the Office; Mr Cope will stampede; MacIlwaine will do the papers (he will); dear Brother Jack (Mr Greenhalgh) will give a “tone” to the platform {13}; I am to superintend your recreations! There are a good many minor parts!

Now, about the photographs. This is not my doing at all. I rarely keep photographs myself, preferring to carry the vision of my few in my inmost imagination and heart. But Daddy undertook the whole thing, and said I was to tell you that he took the whole responsibility for sending what I said you had not asked for. He arranged with the photographers and called for me and told me what I was to wear. If it were for myself I would have you in your most everyday clothes, but I must dress ’e up a bit for his aristocratic friends! And he made the man send home finished proofs in time for the mail (I never thought they would do it). Whatever I thought myself, I would never disappoint him or thwart him in his little plans.

(The above effaced will keep till I see you.) {14} I enclose a cutting from the Manchester Guardian yesterday. I liked that bit about “The fool hath said in his heart”. I am also sending a little dream-story of mine, because although you are only the 3rd person! to know it, you will see that I wrote it for that dearest and most sacred relationship of my life {15}, which I want you to understand. I have much yet to say to you about that, so that you may never fail me just here. So that together we may make the last part of his life the sweetest and happiest, and I may use the opportunity I have been waiting for {16} to acknowledge in deed and in life my great debt. This is more to me than what you call my “career”!

I shall not write next week, nor send anything important, just a magazine or book or something that matters not. I shall wait now till I see you. All is well.

E.

[Direction on envelope:] To F. W. Lawrence Esqe | c/o The Standard Bank of S. Africa | Cape Town [In the bottom left-hand corner:] S. Africa [On the back:] If not delivered please forward to. W. Bovill Esqe, Mansfield House, Canning Town, London E.

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This letter was apparently sent with a parcel of books, and possibly some photographs. The envelope is postmarked ‘LONDON W.C. | 1.15.PM | AU 3 | 00 | 34’ and (on the back ) ‘CAPE TOWN | 3.10 AM | AU 21 | 00’. Also marked on the envelope in pencil are the words ‘P. A [Nibtero?] | 3 & 4 Fenchurch St’. (4 Fenchurch Street was the address of the Union-Castle Line, the owners of the ship on which Lawrence travelled to South Africa.) Some changes have been made to the punctuation.

{1} This appears to be a reference to a previous suitor, perhaps a marriage proposal.

{2} George Montagu Harris, a second cousin of Lord Rosebery, his father, George Collyer Harris, a clergyman, having married a granddaughter of the 3rd Earl. He stood for the Radicals in a by-election in St Pancras (South) on 28 January 1896, but was defeated by H. M. Jessel, the Unionist candidate. He was later distinguished in the field of public administration. See The Times, 6 Oct. 1951, p. 8.

{3} Followed by two words (probably ‘Montague Harris’) struck through. The words in brackets are interlined.

{4} Written over another word, evidently ‘Winchester’, where Harris lived. The alteration was presumably made to conceal Harris’s true destination.

{5} ‘Mr Cope’ has been scribbled over heavily in pencil, but is still legible.

{6} A quotation from Browning’s poem ‘Rabbi Ben Ezra’.

{7} This presumably means that twelve days of Lawrence’s expected nine-week absence had passed.

{9} ‘(to go)’ interlined by way of explanation.

{10} Alfred Sutro’s English translation of Le Trésor des humbles, a collection of mystical essays by Maeterlinck. The first French edition appeared in 1896, Sutro’s translation the following year. The ‘two last chapters’ are ‘La Vie profonde’ (‘The Deeper Life’) and ‘La Beauté intérieure’ (‘Inner Beauty’).

{10} A story by the American writer Mary E. Wilkins (Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman). It first appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in June 1884, but the reference here is probably to the collection A Humble Romance and Other Stories, first published in 1887.

{11} In north Middlesex (now in Greater London), about a mile and a half north-east of Barnet.

{12} Tuesday, 26 June, the date of Fred’s proposal.

{13} For the ‘tone’ attributed to Greenhalgh see My Part in a Changing World, p. 113.

{14} This paragraph is preceded by three lines struck through, the latter half of which appears to read ‘it is how we can best avoid the appalling gossip of C. Town’.

{15} Mark Guy Pearse.

{16} ‘(his coming old age)’ interlined, then struck through in pencil.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Colville House, near Lowestoft.—Welcomes him home, and suggests meeting as soon as possible. Is distressed by the accounts (of the war) in the papers.

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Transcript

Till Saturday Sept. 8th
Colville House, nr Lowestoft

My dear Comrade,

There are two words from me you must find waiting for you—Welcome and Thanks! It has been a great joy to me since I received your letter on the 25 to think of you on your way home, to think of seeing you so much sooner than I expected, and it is now when I think of this letter greeting you in England.

Thank you for your letters; they have been so much to me, and I thought it so good of you to give me your thoughts and the picture of your surroundings so fully.

And now since we are persons “of purpose and of action” (I can’t help it, I always want to say wicked things when I’m happy!) it beseems us to be very business like, and having such important affairs to talk over, it is well that we should meet as soon as possible. I therefore take this opportunity of saying that I have a wholly free Sunday {1}. Of course you have a great deal to do and a great many to see, and you must not disappoint anybody or embarrass yourself in any way. It occurs to me that you may be spending the Sunday with your family. In that case you might be able to come early, say about 10 o’cl. on your way, and we could have a talk for an hour or two before you meet them at lunch. But if you can stay to lunch with me, or give me any other part of the day as well, you know how glad I shall be and you must consider me as being quite free to fall into your arrangements. All the other days of the ensuing week I am more or less engaged, and time would have to be arranged; you would hardly be likely to find me at home if you came on the chance of it.

Send me a word to say if you received my second letter and the little things I sent you. I hope you did, but I tremble. I never dreamt that you would not stay, even longer than your own outside limit. They will be all right anyhow, and I took every care with the directions. I have been writing to you as if I were on board ship this last week, an answer to your letters. You shall be your own postman and shall read it at your leisure—not now.

Yours,
E.P.

P.S. I have just received your second letter from the Cape, telling me just what I wanted to know. Thanks. You don’t know how very deep has been the interest with which I have read it. I have avoided all mention of the political question in my letters to you. I could not and would not presuppose your conclusions after such a very different sort of evidence from that to which hitherto we had both had access. But it is only by an effort of will that I can read the Papers every day; it is so heartrending, if there is any imagination at all to see. I do not wonder that Olive Schreiner with her intense sympathy for the weak against the strong does not believe in God. I think no man can know the horror of brute-force, as a woman knows it. A woman sees and feels that everything she holds best and most sacred in life can be crushed in a moment by the assertion of brute-force. Once she sees that triumphant and her foothold in life is gone. Olive Schreiner’s passion has identified her always with the worsted. I know that even with me there has been this sort of feeling during this awful year—the appalling sense of brute force trium-phant as the god of this world, the soul crushed, beaten down, vanquished.—I did not mean to be led into talk now.

I suppose you have had the one letter only, that first one, written first after a big strain was over and the gates of life and joy lifted up!—a mood of almost inexpressible happiness. I can only hope that it fell in harmoniously with a mood of yours. And now I am waiting. I shall be home at 5 o’clock on Saturday. If possible let me have a line or telegram to say when you are coming. I leave here soon after noon on Saturday, so do not risk my missing a letter here. I hope that you can come on Sunday. Oh, I do welcome you home. The thought of you has come to be lately like the feel of the earth under my feet, the strong foundation. God bless you, my dear dear Comrade. There never was a time when a man’s championship of the soul and truth could have been so saving to my spirit and faith. For this, you have the thanks of my heart and soul.

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{1} 9th.

Envelope, formerly containing 7/67–93

(Originally marked ‘Please burn these unopened at my death. These letters are from Emmeline. F.W.L.’ The first sentence was later struck through, and ‘1901’ was added below.)

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Templemead, Bromley, Kent.—She has a big list of things to go through with him when they meet. Chris is in fine health.

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Transcript

Templemead, Bromley, Kent

One word my dearest, though the time has slipped by, doing business & there are only a very few minutes to post—(I forgot you couldn’t post till midnight as you can in London)

I shall have a great big list of things to go through with you or to merely show you, just as you like—on Sunday or Monday. We shall not have time tomorrow.

Chris {1} is splendid—healthier happier & bonnier than ever!—But oh this isn’t talking to you a bit. I shall be doing that presently upstairs sitting by my open window: Then there will be no more thought of tableclothes & towels—but only the great sky & the soft infinite night and my arms will go round Freddy’s neck with limitless love—

Ever thine—Sweetheart
Emmeline.

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Templemead, Bromley was the home of Emmeline’s sister Annie and her husband Thomas Mortimer Budgett, whose first child, Christopher Felix, had been born there on 25 January 1901 (see Sussex Agricultural Express, 1 Feb. 1901, p. 4). The letter appears to have been written on a Friday.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr.
28 Jan. 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ihre höchst, etc.
Emmeline Pethick

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

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

{3} Above ‘human being’ struck through.

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

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

and

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

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

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

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr., W.C.

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

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{1} On socialism. See the next letter.

{2} Probable reading.

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

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

{5} Isaiah xxxiii. 17.

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

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr.
Feb. 10th, 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace.

  1. Feb. 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

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

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

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

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

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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

—————

Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace
White Sunday (3 March 1901)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With greeting
E.P. {3}

Monday morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

† Sic.

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