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Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Accepts an invitation to tea; her party will number about twelve. Sends news of Maison Espérance, which has moved to Wigmore Street.



20 Somerset Terrace
17. 3. 00

Dear Mr Laurance.

Many thanks for the kind invitation to tea on Saturday {1}. Our party will number about 12 I think, including Mr McIlwaine (the author of that book we like so much “Fate the Fiddler”) & Miss Western whom you have already met: We shall be there about 6.30:

So sorry that next Wednesday we are engaged: We want a talk with you about a little matter which concerns us all somewhat, and if you cannot call any afternoon next week, perhaps you can look in on the following Wednesday.

By the way. Maison Espérance moved to 80 Wigmore St last Monday {2}—& business has been coming in every day thick & fast. Canon Carter of Percy House Oxford called on Thursday—& the C.S.U are prepared to take the enterprise on. Mrs Tennant {3} has superintended the furnishing & we are quite grand! We must give an At Home there soon to shareholders:

Sincerely yours
Emmeline Pethick


{1} 24th. This letter was written the Saturday before.

{2} 12th. The firm’s premises were originally at 155 Great Portland Street (University and Social Settlements, p. 109).

{3} May Tennant?

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Discusses finding a home for a child, and asks for help in finding a replacement for Warwick Pearse, who is leaving the Boys’ Club for the Church.



20 Somerset Terrace | Dukes Rd W.C.
19. 6. 00

Dear Mr Laurence.

The delay in answering your letter on Saturday {1} is owing to a hope that I might be able to set you on a track. But I have just heard that the child is too young in this case: I have mentioned the matter to Mr Mark Guy Pearse who goes up & down the country constantly & he has said that he will keep it in mind & do his best to find the little one a home—

I should also suggest a short letter to The Christian. I think that has the sort of people that might come to your help in this sort of thing.

Now can you or Percy help me? Warwick Pearse is leaving us for the Church. We want a good man for the Boys Club. A salary of £100 goes with the position. We have plenty of helpers & voluntary workers but we want an energetic organizer who will play football & cricket & give his energy specially to the sports: He ought to be able to raise enough money to keep the Boys Club going. At present there is an income that meets the fixed charges. Warwick has always been able to raise the rest of the money for carrying out the Club programme—by arranging meetings—or writing appeals—or by concerts & displays etc. If you or Percy could set us on the track of the right man—we should be very grateful.

What should I have said, had you joined the Primrose League {2}? I should have said, “Good! anything that may serve to clear issues!”

I have just been reading an interesting & instructive book—“Practical Agitation” by Chapman {3}. So dont be surprised if I put the hints I have gathered into practice by setting up a Society in N. Lambeth {4} for the discovery & exposure of wolves in sheeps’ clothing. With 3 cheers for the red flag!

Yours sincerely.
Emmeline Pethick


{1} 16th.

{2} An organisation founded in 1884 to promote Conservative principles.

{3} John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900).

{4} Lawrence had been chosen as the Liberal Unionist candidate for this constituency. See Fate Has Been Kind, p. 51.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Responds to his letter (on his proposal of marriage). Her attachment to the socialist cause prevents her from supporting him in the capacity of a Liberal Unionist politician.



20 Somerset Terrace | Dukes Rd W.C.
27. 6. 00

Dear Mr Laurence.

I too feel that I can write to you the things that come from the fundamental. Thank you for your letter. I have been thinking very seriously: I have not been thinking about the personal things—because they have not entered into the question yet: They are not yet involved. Time and opportunity alone could show us the answer to that side of the question. But it is now—now before the personal feelings have become involved—now & only now—that we can think of those other things that make such a great part of life. For to you and to me—however strong the personal life may be—life has a meaning[,] it has a purpose and a reality beyond & underneath all personal affections or ties, in a way independent of them—it is a compelling force, shaping the destiny. I have always felt this compelling force—the authority that sets choosing aside: And now knowing this, when I come to face the question that you put to me {1}, I cannot help thinking first. What influence would this that you want be likely to have on your career. I know you will say that you dont want me to think of that. But I must. I cannot help it. Let me tell you a little bit about myself—so that you may understand. Our differences of thought upon specific things is as you say of no importance: as far as advocacy of interest in different schemes is concerned—it is a matter of argument only. But my—Socialism,—call it,—(for want of a better name) is not an idea in my head—it is in my bones—it was born in me—my whole life long it has been my touch-stone—my Standard of values. I mean this—my first consciousness was the clearest, strongest & most inveterate sense of the dignity & worth of the human body & soul above everything else—and this has forced me into life long campaign—against every sort of bondage, against all sorts of established authorities: and is {1} has kept me (not by choice but by inward necessity) always against the stream. Now what has this to do with you? Can you not see?

It is impossible for me in a letter to do more than suggest why it is, that I could not help you play your part as a Liberal Unionist politician. You must look at this. Now this is what I see as the issue of the Future—this is the great contest of the coming century: the life & death struggle of human life against material mastery. This is the world-wide issue—it is to some extent even now the world-conscious issue. All petty differences are really gone now in the presence of the impending issue between Capitalism and Manhood—Material Mastery & Moral Freedom. It is this—that is the root issue in S. Africa—that makes the war not an isolated event, but only one of the fruits of a tree that has its roots deep & wide. It is the uppermost question in America—in Europe—and it is becoming more & more acute in our country. It is the question of history, the question of social & individual destiny today. You & I can no more help being caught up in the conflict than we can help living in our day & sharing in the world consciousness: I feel that for me the question was decided when I was born: And the question is decided for you when you have allied yourself to a political party that stands for Capitalism (I mean the power and bondage of Capitalism, the sacredness paramount of vested interest)

Your career may [be] the right one for you, the Authority whatever it is, may have decided for you as surely as for me—if so I can only wish you to play your part whole-heartedly & truly. But just so far as my judgement had weight with you, so far would you find yourself pulled in opposite directions. I want you to think of this now. Let it be the clear issue. There is no other question as far as this is concerned for you at present. You have committed yourself to nothing with me, but have only won my esteem by your very straight & generous way of telling me what was in your mind, before knowing me well enought to be able to take these very important matters into consideration.

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick


{1} Lawrence had evidently written to her shortly after his proposal of marriage the previous day. His reference to the occasion in his autobiography was reserved: ‘Readers will not expect me to let them into the secret of all that passed at that interview; but they will not be surprised to be told that everything did not proceed quite so simply as an ingenuous young man had pictured to himself’ (Fate Has Been Kind, p. 51).

{2} A slip for ‘it’.

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, W.C.—Invites him to visit her. Is going to Lowestoft on the 15th.



20 Somerset Terrace | Dukes Rd | W.C.
6. July. 1900.

Dear Mr Lawrence

I have just received your letter which was forwarded from Littlehampton. I had to return a day sooner that† I expected.

Will you come tomorrow (Saturday evening) at about 7—or if that is not convenient come when you like. I have just one week at home before I start for Lowestoft on the 15th {1}.

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick


{1} On 1 July the following notice appeared in the ‘Town and Country Talk’ section of Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper: ‘Mr. A. W. Maconochie, a London merchant, has offered his mansion, Colville house, with 15 acres of grounds, on Lake Lothing at Lowestoft, as a holiday home for factory girls.’ Presumably similar notices appeared in other newspapers. Archibald White Maconochie (1855–1926) won the seat of East Aberdeenshire for the Liberal Unionists later this year, but subsequently became a Conservative. It may be noted that his firm, Maconochie Brothers, had a large contract with the War Office for supplying food to troops in South Africa. See The Times, 19 Oct. 1900, p. 10; 4 Feb. 1926, p. 14.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Is proud of his success in his meetings. Is sorry she has to go away when they have so much to talk about.



20 Somerset Terrace— | Dukes Rd W.C.
13. 7. 00

Dear Mr Lawrence.

As I stepped over my threshold at 11 o’clock last night, I found your letter. I am sorry I was out. Tell me. Am I a very sentimental woman? I cant help feeling a thrill of pride—when I think of your toppling over those two & going on to break your lance with Chamberlain himself {1} —It reminds me of Sir Gareth {2} who had to fight the three knights who called themselves fantastically—Morning—Noon—and Night: These barred the way to the most terrible of all—the giant-knight surnamed Death—who was never seen—but dwelt in his stronghold: But this terrible fourth foe turned out to be a little child under an erected disguise. Bye† the way, Sir Gareth’s cry from boyhood on was this—

Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King
Follow Christ, the King, —
Else, wherefore born?"

Ah well! Of course I know that when it comes to the hard issue, there is absolutely no room for any sort of sentiment—It is a very complex economic & legal question bristling with side issues & immense difficulties. But you must give me ten minutes off now & then, to indulge a woman’s fancies! It pleases me & does not hurt you!

And you mustn’t mind if that wish you gave me—“the one and only wish”—is a little modified: It is not so much now that—the truth, (the abstract truth) may prevail—but that the truth-bearer may prevail:

I am very busy all today. I have been alone all the week—& still am alone—& I have to hold my head together lest I should forget something important. I am engaged right up to 9 or 9.30 to night {3}.

It is rather hard lines that I have to go off for a fortnight, when there is so much we have to talk about. Tomorrow morning I shall not have a free minute before I leave at noon: Still—I suppose it does not really matter. Philosophy! where are you?. Take my thoughts and my one wish—modified you know.

Emmeline Pethick


{1} Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary.

{2} Cf. Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, ‘Gareth and Lynette’.

{3} However, Emmeline sent the telegram message ‘Shall be free seven thirty’ from Euston station at four in the afternoon (PETH 7/58), and Fred paid her a visit that evening (see PETH 7/61).

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

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).



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

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