Showing 3144 results

Archival description
With digital objects
Print preview View:

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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



20 Somerset Terr.
Sunday, 5. 4. 01

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

Emmeline Pethick

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

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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



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

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,
Emmeline Pethick

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—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.



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,

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.


[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.


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, 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.



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!


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.


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

Trafalgar House, Littlehampton.—Invites him to supper.



Trafalgar House | Littlehampton. {1}
3. 7. 00.

Dear Mr Laurence.

Will you come and see me on Sunday evening {2} about 7 o’clock (if you can) and have supper with me in my kitchen! Do not be surprised if you find me an old woman by that time! I am obliged to return home on Friday.

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick


{1} The address embossed on the paper—20 Endsleigh Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C. (the home of George Cope Cope and John Herbert Greenhalgh)—has been struck through.

{2} 8th.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Comments further on the difference between their political positions, particularly with regard to the South African war. Will see him when she gets back from Littlehampton.

(Dated Thursday.)



20 Somerset Terrace
Thursday Evening

Dear Mr Laurence.

There was something in your letter this morning that touched me very much—I know what you say is true—yours is the disadvantage. But isn’t it the more necessary to stop you & ask you to consider before you come even in your thoughts or wishes, a step nearer to me—or state anything further?

Oh I dont want that there shall be many words. How can I say it most directly? The question goes so much deeper than argument: no I dont hold those crude notions about Capital nor those about Socialism. There isn’t a point touched upon in your long letter that would stand between us—I haven’t any fixed theories either, I am learning—comparing[—]balancing.

Will you allow me once and once only to go straight for your position. We must come to it. But I am dreadfully afraid of hurting you. I am horribly afraid of letters for one thing—when there is a heart that can be hurt. Words are such a poor medium. Will you believe that if I were looking at you saying these things that I have to fling out in black, I could take ever bit of the hardness there may seem to be, out of the words.

You believe that you may compromise for good reasons on a moral issue. I believe all such compromise to be deadly.

Place, position & any sort of purchased power are dust and ashes to me compared with the integrity of one man’s soul.

If I were to bear your name, I should be prouder of this essential quality of your manhood, than of any triumphs[—]any honours—that you could achieve. What has this to do with the immediate question? It is not easy to show it in a few words—

But you must try to put in the links, I must try to be definite.

Take for instance the foremost issue of the coming election—the “khaki” election. To me—(it has been a bitter realization)—to me this war is no war in the strict sense of the word: it is organized murder for robbery. It is the story over again of Naboth’s vineyard {1}—only instead of a king’s crime it is a nation’s crime. You are not responsible for the crime—you deplore it—but as a party man with an end in view you must condone it. Yes I know it is only shutting your eyes a little—only not investigating—you who are to be a leader in social reform—and this has been the foremost question of the hour for 12 months!

I can hardly tell you the actual facts, that you have not studied, you say. (I mean I wouldn’t say it if you hadn’t.) For you are a pledged man. There is a sort of sense of honour that would silence me—for what can you do? You have given your word to your party. You are consenting. It is only a little deadening of the clear child-like senses—a dimming of the sight. But that is why we are where we are today. There are few[,] very few malignant or unscrupulous men, but—the average man has his price! And that is why the few unscrupulous men have their enormous power. They know this & they are able to play their game. This is their whole creed & faith. It is all very subtle, very specious. The price is a varying one—low in some cases, high in others[,] but it comes to the same thing. This is the taint—the secret of all social corruption.

This is only one instance—only a little part of a big question. Over & over again the situation will recur—and you will have committed yourself more deeply to a party that hasn’t soul enough to keep its body for long above ground: only fit for decent burial in Conservative ground: its enthusiasm—its living essence has gone; & left the body of expediency which is sure sooner or later to fall into nothingness.

These things have been hard to say—I cannot write more.

After all it does not cost me nothing. It does not cost me nothing to forbid the entering into my life of a possible great joy.

I am going away tomorrow—my address will be c/o Mrs Arnold, Trafalgar House, Littlehampton {2}. But do not write unless it is necessary. When I come back I will see you. I have done a frightful amount of thinking & must let the matter rest a while. You see you have been weeks[,] perhaps months making up your mind before Tuesday {3}. I have had all that ground to cover in a few days & nights.

Sister Mary will be at home next week. If you want to talk over your own affairs with anybody, I dont know who could be of more use. She is most absolutely trustworthy & as true as steel—& eminently practical. I only say this—because I know there comes a point when thinking alone becomes confusion.

I thank you for your letters—they have touched me very deeply

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick


{1} Cf. 1 Kings 21. 1–16 and My Part in a Changing World, p. 122.

{2} Probably the house in East Street later known as the Green Lady Hostel.

{3} This fixes the date of Lawrence’s proposal.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, Euston Road, W.C.—Thanks him for buying shares in Maison Espérance, and encloses some books for him to buy too.



20 Somerset Terrace | Dukes Rd Euston Rd W C.
8. June 1899

Dear Mr Laurence—

It is very good of you: it never entered my “imagination” that you would be interested in Maison Espérance—I mean interested enough to take shares. We thank you much: And now you will have the further privilege of purchasing me of {1} these books, which I enclose herewith.

With thanks again

Believe me
Sincerely yours
Emmeline Pethick


{1} ‘me of’ is a slip for ‘of me’.

Notes for a speech by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence at Manchester on behalf of the Peace Pledge Union

(Carbon copy, with a handwritten correction. Undated.)



Recall the last occasion of visit to Manchester, two or three weeks after the Armistice in November 1918. Feeling in the country was intensely bitter and had been worked up by an intensive propaganda based on such slogans as “Make Germany and the Kaiser Pay”. The electors had been urged to “do their bit”. To go over the top and help to defeat for ever the enemy that had been conquered by their husbands and brothers.

After a fortnight of open-air and indoor meetings the election day came. The women, who used their vote for the first time, turned out to vote against me. (But the soldiers vote, announced a fortnight afterwards was cast on my behalf.) Mr. Plowman and I shall never forget that day. We said to one another “the people of this country though they do not know it, have voted to-day for another European war”.

I return to Manchester to speak at my first public meeting since I signed the Peace Pledge. It is fitting that I should take the opportunity of explaining why I have signed the pledge which I realise has very serious consequences, and also why I did not sign it before.

The last point first. I hesitated for a long while because I realise that it puts me outside the political pale for effective political action.

(Reminder of part taken to get votes for women).

It had been the dream of my life that men and women should work together in a political world and take joint political action.

During the twenty years since the 1918 election the international situation has gone from bad to worse. Many opportunities have occurred to bring appeasement by political means ——— (the pledge that the allies would gradually disarm; the Disarmament Conference) ——— but always the moment of grace was allowed to go by.

(Pact of Paris:

Collective Security through the League of Nations:

There never was a more simple case of collective security than Abyssinia:

The speech by Sir Samuel Hoare:

The Peace Ballot:

The General Election:

Abyssinia abandoned:

The electorate betrayed.)

Since that time blow after blow has been dealt at the League of Nations. Collective security has become a smokescreen behind which Governments re-arm with alarming intensity[.]

We have come full circle.

The Treaty of Versailles with Nemisis† within it has been torn to pieces by the penalized nations who have grown strong in military power.

I for one have come to the conclusion that appeasement cannot be won by political means in the political sphere. It can only come about by the re-birth of the idea that the human race is one body and that as individuals and nations we are members of one another. If we are one body it follows that war is self-mutilation and self-destruction. In that truth of oneness I have found at last solid ground. Because I believe with my whole being in the oneness of humanity and the oneness of the universe with its divine source of love; and because I can no longer separate that belief from personal action I have signed the Peace Pledge and am now united with all the others who have signed it in the effort to bring this truth to re-birth in the physical plane. Birth is sometimes won at the cost of life. But the cost is realised in advance and the risk is deliberately undertaken.

In the beginning was the Word, the Idea, the Thought and thereby the physical world was brought into being. My oneness with all living things is the thought that shared by others can create a social world where war is unthinkable.

Many objections are brought against the attitude which I have now deliberately taken. People are very puzzled and they feel torn in two by conflicting demands. In short they are to-day where I was only a few months ago. “Is it not cowardly” they say “to cut yourself off from the problems of the world that demand solution from day to day?” “Can you give carte blanche to any band of brigands who hold that right is might {1} to have their way in the world?” But these objectors think as if there was a world Government in being, capable of exercising legitimate and unlimited forces of restraint over all evil-doers. But there is no such authority. It is impossible to point to a single nation which has not acted on occasion on the conception that might is right. So the position is that one band of brigands goes to war with another. The result is not determined by justice or by right. Both bands use the same methods and bring destruction and death of millions of helpless people. There is no guarantee that right will win. The issue is decided by the relative weight of metal that one side or the other can draft into action.

“But we are living in a practical world. You cannot retire into a monastery and wash your hands of the immediate problems that the rest of the world has to face.” Is war a practical proposition then? We have only to look at the results from the last great war. It was fought by this country as a war to end war. A war to make the world safe for democracy. A war to secure liberty for small nations. Has it delivered the goods? Has it accomplished any single thing?

As for retiring to a monastery—well monasteries saved much that was worth while from destruction in the middle ages[.] But it is no monastery that we have retired into. Ask Mr. Plowman if the headquarters of the Peace Pledge Union resembles a monastery. No. We have put our hands to a task more onerous thatn that of the War Office. Did Edith Cavell contemplate retiring into a monastery when she said: “Patriotism is not enough: there must be no hatred or bitterness towards anyone”. She went forthwith to face the firing squad.

The signing of this pledge is so dangerous that I agree with the beloved founder of this movement Canon Dick Sheppard that no individual must ever be urged to sign it. It should be signed only by those who feel like Martin Luther that they “can do no other”. I would go even further than that and say it ought not to be signed by any person who feels that he is able at present to mould the policy of his political party effectively for peace. It is only for those who feel that there is no other way left to them whereby they can set in motion forces that can create a new world. We do not imagine that we can prevent the war when destructive forces may at any moment spring upon the world. But if the war comes it will not be the end of everything. The world will have to build itself up again. We believe that it can only be built up by the creative forces of love and unity. It can only survive by the triumph of the idea which we are striving to bring to re-birth in the physical world, the idea of the oneness of the human race, the brotherhood of all people and the Fatherhood of God.


At the top of the first sheet is written the file number ‘2069’.

{1} Probably a slip for ‘might is right’.

† Sic.

Results 1 to 30 of 3144