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Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Trafalgar House, Littlehampton.—Sends a book on matters they have been discussing.

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Transcript

Trafalgar House | Littlehampton.
2. July 1900.

Dear Mr Lawrence.

Just a word of thanks for your word: which set me free of an anxiety. I am sending you a book which has interested me—it may interest you—or it may be perhaps a bit too——Emersonian?—I read it a month ago & passed it on. On Friday evening {1} it came back to me. On looking it through again I find that some of the sentences deal with matters that we have discussed.

I shall be coming home next Sunday {2}.

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick

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{1} 29 June, the day on which Emmeline left London for Littlehampton.

{2} 8th.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Comments on his and his uncle’s attitude towards his career, and refers to his forthcoming meeting.

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terrace | Dukes Rd W.C
12. 7. 00

Dear Mr Laurence.

Thank you for your letter. It suits me! It has put a great gladness & a new song into the day.

Of course it was not you who said your career was ruined! Did I ever imagine that it was? And if I had, should I have dared to say that it was nonsense? But I have to vent my native impatience on somebody & your Uncle—all due regard and respect to him—was far enough away to be a safe victim!

I am glad that you dont believe in selfsacrifice. Neither do I {1}—be it far from me!—nor resignation nor any of the peculiarly “Christian” virtues—which by the way are not a bit Christian. The great new freshening tide of life poured into the world-old world-weary stagnant stream 18 or 19 centuries ago—brought the very opposite of these things—joy of life, spirit of adventure, inconquerable triumph—overwhelming sense of purpose and worth of being—& beyond reach of imagination, a further weight of glory: Courage, adventure, faith & inconquerable triumph—these are the things we believe in—Comrade—nicht wahr {2}?

Of course everything that I wrote yesterday was unnecessary. It doesn’t matter: But when I thought of you facing alone men like Lionel Philips {3}, to whom there seems to have been given an almost diabolical power to work mischief in achievement of their ends, I did tremble for the moment. And you talked so dreadfully solemn about the truth prevailing and all!! I had no idea you had reached the point of which your letter this morning tells me. Now of course I have not a fear.

I daresay I should like your Uncle very much if I met him. But of course we cannot take our life cues from our Uncles. After all, the full & flowing tide comes to each of us only once in our life-time, it is our turn now, and we must use it to float our craft & attain life’s fulfilment. By & bye it will turn for us too—& the ebbing tide will take us out from the world’s life, our work done or undone. Life—our own life—free, unfettered[,] our own—is so infinitely—infinitely precious. Not to be thrown away—not to be doled out to relations, not to be divided piecemeal amongst a thousand petty claims—but to be reserved—concentrated—a force—one of the forces of the universe!

Yes—we will go into all these practical questions—presently. They are very important. Thoughts will come—even prematurely. And I long to have the ground cleared & to be able to enter into the future. But I must cultivate a little further my two acquired virtues of patience and philosophy.

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick

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{1} Cf. Emmeline Pethick’s article ‘The Sin of Self-Sacrifice’ in The Woman’s Herald, 27 Apr. 1893 (pp. 152–3).

{2} ‘Isn’t that so?’ (German).

{3} Lionel Phillips had become very rich from his mining interests in South Africa, but had been banished from the Transvaal in 1897 for his part in the Jameson Raid.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Colville House, Lowestoft.—Supports his decision (to go to South Africa). Is unable to invite him to Lowestoft, as one of the children may have scarlet fever. Asks him to let her know the nature of his feelings towards her before he leaves.

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Transcript

Colville Ho., Lowestoft {1}
17. 7. 00

Dear Mr L.,

Your two letters this morning (they both came this morning) were a great surprise to me. I have nothing to say of course, except that I am sure if you think this is the best thing, that it is the best thing {2}, and except that it seems a very long time till the end of September.

May all good go with you. I am glad that you came to see me on Friday evening {3}. I would ask you, if it were possible, to come to Lowestoft, that I might give you God Speed!, only that one of my children has sickened of {4} measles or Scarlet (the Doctor cannot tell yet) and I am nursing her. If it is Scarlet, as I suspect, it would not be right to run the risk. The child is homesick and fretting, and I am writing this hastily to the tune of sobs! You had better burn it at once. I will disinfect it.

As this is the last letter perhaps that I shall feel any certainty about, there are one or two things that I want to say. {5} The first is, Will you write me one letter before you go, telling me freely what is in your heart? I can quite imagine that all this has changed the nature of your love for me, that you want me now as friend and comrade; if so, I shall understand perfectly, and I will be a true comrade to you. But if it is still the same, do not forget that I am—I mean treat me as a woman, not a—philosopher! I think it was the audacity with which you asked that preposterous question in that preposterous way! that won me; don’t leave any initiative to me.

I am afraid I can’t write any more, the child is crying. I have so many things to think of and I want to get this off by first post this morning to make sure. I had a dream last night. I was in trouble and it is was† quite dark, and then you were there and took my hand and it was all right. When I got your letter my first thought was, “Where is my dream?” But of course that was quite irrelevant. I wish you God-speed with all my heart.

Farewell.

Yours, Comrade,
E. P.

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This letter is written untidily in pencil and is not easy to read. Some of the readings are conjectural.

{1} The address printed on the letter-head—Worcestershire Golf Club, Malvern—has been struck through.

{2} Lawrence had decided, at his uncle’s suggestion, to go to South Africa and investigate the political situation there for himself. See Fate Has Been Kind, p. 52.

{3} 13th.

{4} Struck through, presumably by mistake.

{5} ‘I will disinfect … say.’ is one sentence in the MS, divided by a colon.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Colville House, Lowestoft.—Has moved into a cottage with the sick child. Dis-cusses her reaction to the news of Lawrence’s decision (to go to South Africa), and explains why she was so quick to tell ‘the Daddy’ (Mark Guy Pearse) about Law-rence’s proposal.

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Transcript

C H, L {1}
19. 7. 00

D Mr L {2}

It is Thursday evening, half past six, and the superb day is at at† its highest of splendour—floods of golden light and flight of birds, and dance and hum of insects; and as I sit at my window, and know that there is a chance of one more word from me to you reaching you certainly if posted to-night at half past eight, I can’t help it. Great sweet peace and joy, thanks for all the infinite beauty and the great gift of life are mine. I want to give them with all the blessing of my soul as my last giving, before you leave England.

First let me tell you that I have moved the child and myself into a suitable cottage, two large good rooms—one upstairs for the child, into which I have moved two little hospital beds, and a room downstairs for myself looking into the garden, where I am now sitting. The danger is now removed from the rest of my little ones, the little patient is going on speedily, and as far as it is possible to foresee all is well.

It has been an anxious two days, but I do really think that now everything has been successfully guarded and that there is no further need for anxiety. Your two letters yesterday—you can understand that it would be so—were an overwhelming surprise for the moment. Like Alice in Wonderland, sudden Cheshire cat like disappearances rather upset my nerves!!! Ask the Daddy {3}; he will tell you that he always begins to say Goodbye 10 minutes before he has to go, a concession to this known weakness. I like to prepare my mind, collect my thoughts, remember all the important things that ought to be said. I like a certain order and restraint. I like to be composed and dignified!! I never present any common sense or wisdom until I have had time to think. Therefore I like people to give me time to think!! But of course you couldn’t. Well, it don’t matter.

I have laughed to myself. Of course you cannot understand letters, at least not mine. It is quite hopeless. You see, you would always want me to be there to explain them to you. Moral: never waste a moment of your precious time or a fraction of your … brain cells in trying to. With your mathematical brain you would of course seize the most obvious meaning, and if so, unless I were on the political talk or on the moral philosophy talk or some abstract subject, you would be sure to be wrong. For instance, the Lord only knows what you made of the statement that the most difficult thing for me to do is to wait; what I meant was, that I couldn’t sit doing nothing, saying nothing, while there yet remained anything to be done or said before the fist fell; of course I can wait for circumstances, for things and events that are the common of† destiny, but I won’t wait with [a] word in my mouth that is ready to be spoken. I can’t face regret for a thing I might have prevented. I can’t have a long uncertainty, that there is any possibility of ending. Enfin, I couldn’t bear to think of you going into the unknown, alone.

Now, there is just one word more I want to say. I want to explain to you—not that I have the least fear of your misunderstanding, but I want to explain (that’s right) why I was so quick to tell the Daddy. He was so impossible the other night. I never knew him like that before. But the truth was that his dear old heart was broken up. There was all that gladness and outflowing love to you that he spoke of, but there had been the other thing too, what I knew there would be—the ghastly dread that now he wouldn’t be so necessary; and he had come to me every day that week to be comforted and have the tears kissed out of his dear eyes. Now he knows and is quite quite satisfied. You see, I knew just how it would be. And I was going away, and by the time I get back he will be going away until next September. And I didn’t know what the future was going to bring, and if we (he and I) had once been separated, it would have been awful. Either he might not have been the first to know (his sacred right) or it would have been a letter; and even if I could have made it all right afterwards, I should have heard the heart’s cry from the distance, and should have known no rest day or night till I could have got to him. I had to guard against that. But our confidence is quite quite {4} safe with him, the most absolutely safe that is is possible to be. We (he and I) have got into the habit of never speaking of each other to anyone; the world is too vulgar to be trusted. We have always known that, and that sort of reserve has become second nature to both of us. He has been my foothold on this world. He picked me up on the lonely shore, a baby washed in by the waves, and he has carried me ever since.

Well now, this is really all, positively the one last appearance. And go with this, mon brave!

Your
E

PS. I should get a letter from you to-morrow. I shall not answer it. But you will know that it is all right, nothing {5} but the blessing of perfect peace from me to you. You will rest assured.

You will understand—yes.

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This letter is written untidily in pencil. Some of the readings are conjectural. A number of abbreviated words (such as ‘mathl’, ‘wd‘, ‘diffict’, ‘to-m’) have been expanded. The letter-head bears the address of Mansfield House, Canning Town, E.

{1} i.e. ‘Colville House, Lowestoft.’

{2} i.e. ‘Dear Mr Lawrence’.

{3} Mark Guy Pearse.

{4} The second ‘quite’ is underlined twice.

{4} At the head of the last sheet, which begins here, is a cancelled version of the beginning of the letter, up to ‘window’, verbally identical.

† Sic.

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.

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

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Transcript

20 Somerset Terr.
2 April 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

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

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

{3} Of the Review of Reviews.

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