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Letter from Keir Hardie to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

10 Nevill’s Court, London, E.C.—Returns a book by Fielding-Hall (The Passing of Empire). Is pleased to find that the author agrees with his own view that village councils should be recreated as a basis for popular government.

Letter from Virginia Woolf to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Monk’s House, Rodmell, near Lewes, Sussex.—Thanks him for some pamphlets. Hopes that his wife’s meeting at Oxford was successful.

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Transcript

Monk’s House, Rodmell, near Lewes, Sussex

Dear Mr. Pethick Lawrence,

It is very good of you to lend me the pamphlets. I am very ignorant of the subject,—shall {1} be much interested to read them. I hope your wife’s meeting at Oxford was successful.

With thanks

Yours sincerely
Virginia Woolf

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{1} Query whether the mark preceding this word was intended to represent an ampersand.

Copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to G. M. Trevelyan

Explains his view of the historical importance of the women’s suffrage movement (in response to views expressed by Trevelyan).

(Carbon-copy, with handwritten alterations.)

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Transcript

3rd. October, 1949.

My dear Master,

You may remember that when I had the honour of dining in Trinity last June {1} I mentioned to you that I should like some day to have a talk with you about the woman’s militant movement for the franchise at the beginning of the century. Thinking it over I have come to the conclusion that it will probably suit you better if I put what I have to say in writing.

I must begin by apologising for troubling you at all about the matter but as you know I have been for a great part of my life a propagandist and I am still incorrigible in my old age. I do not like to think that you, our foremost British historian, should have, as it seems to me, the wrong slant on this movement which I hold to have been of considerable historic importance. The fact that I played a prominent part in it myself entitles me to speak on its behalf though I am free to admit that it also entitles you to charge me with bias. But then you have said (and I agree) that even an historian is none the worse for bias.

My case is:— 1) that any section of the community that has no political rights should endeavour to win them by reason and argument, but that if prolonged peaceful agitation fails to influence those who have the power, then it has no alternative but to use extraordinary and extralegal methods unless it is prepared to acquiesce in its own subjection.

2) that such methods should be designed so as a) to rouse the largest number of the unenfranchised section to a consciousness of their subjection b) to create the greatest difficulties for the Government, and c) to win the support of the bulk of the population by casting odium on the Government for its repressive counter measures.

3) that the militant suffrage agitation acted broadly on these lines (though it naturally made some mistakes), and that it was instrumental—though not exclusively—in creating a situation from which there was no escape except by conferring a measure of enfranchisement on women.

I do not think you will substantially disagree with me on either of the first two points which are borne out by countless examples, the latest of which come from Asia—India and Indonesia, in the former of which I was acting for the Government—but I gather that you do not accept my version of the facts as to the third.

It is to this point therefore that I will specially devote myself.

I was brought up, like you, in the Liberal fold and I still think that we owe much of our national democratic heritage to the great Liberal statesmen of the 19th century. Nevertheless I think that the Liberal Party bungled the case of the women and of the working man and lost its prestige and pre-eminence by so doing. By the time that the militant suffrage movement began women had grown tired of asking politely for the vote and being fobbed off it by discreditable political devices; and some younger spirits had become rebellious.

The militants directed the spear-head of their attack upon the members of the Liberal Government because they were the most vulnerable in that it was contrary to Liberal principles to deny enfranchisement to a section of the community which paid taxes and was subject to the laws made by a parliament in which they were not represented. In the earlier stages of the agitation they abstained from violence and concentrated on questioning Cabinet Ministers, campaigning against Liberal candidates at by-elections and committing technical breaches of the law. As a consequence they were subjected to considerable violence at the hands of stewards at meetings and of the police in the streets and they suffered terms of imprisonment.

I think it is indisputable that in this way they succeeded in rousing the sympathy of a very large number of their own sex. Many thousands enrolled themselves in the militant organisations. They included such prominent women as Dr. Garrett Anderson the Mayor of Aldeburgh, Mrs. Saul Solomon widow of the Cape Premier, Lady Constance Lytton, and leading actresses, novelists and others. Funds were contributed running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. The paper Votes for Women the weekly organ of the movement had a circulation of 30,000 to 40,000. About a thousand women served terms of imprisonment. Moreover after militancy began (and in my opinion, and in the publicly expressed opinion of Mrs. Fawcett the leader of the “constitutional” suffragists, largely in consequence of it) the membership of the non-militant suffrage societies showed a marked and rapid increase.

They succeeded also in directing the attention of the general public to the question. At one time from 100 to 200 meetings were being held every week, some of them vast open-air demonstrations, others in the largest halls of the country which were packed to overflowing. I do not suggest that all the members of the audiences were supporters though many were, but there was little or no hostility; and in the street demonstrations the crowds were mostly sympathetic. In fact in the so-called “raids on Parliament” the women counted on the crowd to protect them from the police.

How far electors were influenced at by-elections to vote against Liberal candidates by suffragette orators and canvassers can never be proved one way or the other but the press frequently alleged that they were, and there is no doubt that Cabinet Ministers were greatly embarrassed and hard put to to defend their attitude. Naturally, as is always the case when coercive action is taken by a Government, the British public opinion reacted against the Government.

During this period of the agitation there was a growing feeling among all parties in the House of Commons that the question of woman suffrage ought to be treated seriously and sympathetically and in 1910 an all-party committee devised a compromise proposal which came to be known as the “Conciliation Bill”. In order not to prejudice the chances of this compromise the militant societies were asked to desist from any militant action. They agreed; and for several months they carried out strictly constitutional and non-provocative activities. But in the end the Liberal Government made it quite clear that they would have nothing to do with the Conciliation Bill and Mr. Asquith remained adamant in his opposition. Militancy was therefore resumed in all its forms. Women continued to go to prison in increasing numbers and suffered violence in the streets and at Liberal meetings for their insubordination.

It was then that some militant women decided upon a change of tactics in the direction of actual violence against property. They were influenced to take this course 1) by the preference for being arrested quickly rather than after being knocked about and 2) by the taunts levelled against them by Cabinet Ministers that their rebellion was trumpery and not of the same account as the riots indulged in by men agitators in the 19th century. The form of violence adopted was that of breaking windows. At first the leaders of the militant movement opposed and tried to restrain women from taking this course but later they recognised it and organised it. A great shop-window breaking raid took place in London and created a sensation. The Government took action by arresting the leaders of the militant movement on a charge of conspiracy. I was one of those leaders and I made a speech in the dock at the Old Bailey in my own defence. I enclose with this letter, a verbatim report of it which you may feel disposed to read (not the biographical note which precedes it which has no relevance to the present issue.) It gives a number of further facts which I have not repeated in this letter. The trial, which was given immense prominence in the press, ended in our conviction, the jury appending a sympathetic rider, and we were sentenced to nine months imprisonment. At the same time several hundreds of the rank and file of the movement were also imprisoned. After serving part of our sentence the prisoners adopted the hunger strike. Some of us were forcibly fed and then released.

Subsequently there was a division in the leadership. Mrs. Pankhurst decided on new and more violent tactics which did not appeal to my wife and myself and we parted company. The Government also adopted new tactics and instead of applying forcible feeding the hunger strikers, took powers in a special Act of Parliament—The Cat & Mouse Bill—to release them and to rearrest them when they had recovered their health. The agitation continued with increasing bitterness on both sides up to the outbreak of the first world war.

Meanwhile of the purely political side there had been many developments. Supporters of woman suffrage did not succeed in inducing Mr. Asquith to support a woman suffrage measure. Instead, he promised that the franchise Bill which would be introduced to extend the male franchise would be open to amendment to include women. In the event the Speaker ruled that the Bill could not be so amended. This created an impasse in which it became evident that though the supporters of woman suffrage were not strong enough to insist on the passage of a Bill to enfranchise women they were strong enough to prevent the passage of a Bill to enfranchise more men from which women were excluded.

The external war brought a truce to the domestic militant campaign and during the war women rendered great services to the nation. When in the middle of the war a new registration and franchise reform measure became necessary a Speaker’s conference was constituted to frame the basis of its provisions and a partial enfranchisement of women was included among them and was accepted as a reasonable compromise and as such was enacted.

I am in no doubt that the women’s war service reconciled a large number of doubters to the inclusion of women in the future lists of electors. But I equally have no doubt that the prominence given to the question by the pre-war agitation made it impossible to ignore their claims and that, without it, gratitude to women for their help in critical hours might easily have fizzled out without the accordance of any tangible recognition of their right to participate in the future governance of their common country.

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{1} 21st. See PETH 6/279.

Biographical note on Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Transcript

Biography of Mrs Pethick Lawrence

Mrs Pethick Lawrence realised when quite a child the very deplorable position of unprotected women in this country[,] especially those who belong to the working class. Upon the completion of her education she offered her services to the West London Mission then controlled by the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes and became one of the “sisters of the people”. She helped to found and organise the Esperance Club for working girls which has since established a reputation all over the country for its revival of folk dance and song.

Incidentally she had to do with many sad and difficult cases of human misery and she was often appealed to by the police on behalf of unfortunate women. In connection with these cases she attended Police Courts and became responsible to the magistrate for the woman prisoner in the dock.

After five years work in the West London Mission she went to live in a block of artisan buildings and tried the experiment of how much a working girl could live upon. She decided that the minimum was 15/– a week, whereupon she started with her friend Miss Mary Neal a co-operative dress-making establishment which paid its workers a miminim† wage of 15/– a week for an eight hour’s day. Several other schemes have been launched with her co-operation, including a holiday hotel for working girls at Littlehampton. Her marriage in 1901 did not put an end to any of these interests and the last twenty-two years of her life have been devoted to the social service of the community.

But every attempt at social and economic reform only drove more deeply home her conviction that so long as women were politically outside the pale of citizenship, the necessary leverage to life {1} working women and girls out of the morass was lacking.

In 1906 she became the first National Treasurer of the Women’s Social and Political Union. In the October of that year she suffered imprisonment for taking part in a protest in the lobby of the House of Commons. In 1909 she was arrested for leading a deputation for the purpose of presenting a Petition to the Prime Minister. In 1911 she was again imprisoned for a repetition of this offence. In 1912 she was arrested on a charge of Conspiracy and sentenced to imprisonment. On this occasion she adopted the Hunger Strike as a protest against the prison treatment and was forcibly fed. In the October of that year she was requested by Mrs Pankhurst to resign from the W.S.P.U. as Mrs Pankhurst had decided upon a development of the militant policy and did not want to be hampered by a Committee.

Great pressure was put upon Mrs Pethick Lawrence to found another Suffrage Organisation. To this she responded by forming the “Votes for Women” Fellowship—not a Suffrage Society, but an association of co-workers and Fellows to further a common enterprise, namely the establishment of the paper “Votes for Women” as the expression of the Suffrage Movement in its wide catholicity of ideal and purpose.

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Carbon copy of a typed original. ‘About 1912’ has been added at the top of the first sheet by hand, as well as the file number ‘2069’.

{1} A slip for ‘lift’.

† Sic.

Note introducing Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, with a short history of the Women's Freedom League

(Typed, with handwritten alterations.)

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Transcript

Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence is President of the Women’s Freedom League. This society was founded in 1907. Its objective was to secure the equality of women with men in political, social, professional and industrial life. Its first objective was to win the political enfranchisement of women. Realising that propaganda carried out for fifty years has {1} produced no result, they determined to bring the movement into the political arena by means of spectacular protests.

In the Parliamentary session of 1908, two of the members of the Women’s Freedom League took up their posts in the Ladies Gallery which at that time was fenced all round with an iron network so that women were entirely screened from the members of Parliament who were debating on the ground floor. They chained themselves to this iron work and threw away the key and this gave them the opportunity, though they themselves were unseen, to address the members of Parliament and to urge them to do justice to women. Police were sent for to remove the women from the Ladies Gallery but since they could not break the chain they had to hammer out a piece of the iron barricade and all the time that this work was being done, the ladies addressed the members of Parliament below.

This incident caused great excitement and the story was sent all over the world by press reporters.

During the same year some of the members showered handbills all over London from a balloon and on another occasion members of the Lords and Commons were address[ed] from a steam launch close to the Terrace of the House of Commons.

In 1909, the House of Commons was “picketed” during the whole Session lasting from July 6th until October 28th. During those months women stood throughout the heat, the rain and the cold all the time that Parliament was in Session and often they had to remain all through the night because there were a number of night Sessions. They stood there holding placards which attracted a large public, & secured a great deal of press publicity.

Then in 1909 the policy was adopted of Tax Resistance. “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” This is a well know[n] political slogan which has been honoured for centuries by men. Women determined that until they could sent their representative to Parliament they would refuse to pay imperial taxes. Many were prosecuted, fined and imprisoned and their property was sold at public auctions. Their demonstrations brought wide publicity and added crowds of new members to their Cause {2}. Caravans toured the country villages during the Summer. Huge open air meetings were held in London parks. In seaside places the women drew great crowds at in† the holiday season and woman’s suffrage became the main topic of conversation throughout the entire country.

During the war, the Women’s Freedom League organised the Woman’s Suffrage National Aid Corps whose chief object was to render help to women anc† children and to nurse in hospitals and convalescent homes. They also formed the Women’s Police Corps and women police volunteers who became known later as the woman’s† Auxiliary service. At the end of the war the first woman’s enfranchisement bill was passed in Parliament.

Years in, years out the Women’s Freedom League continued to work for complete political equality. This was achieved in 1928. The W.F.L. is still active in calling the attention of Parliament to any and every unfairness to women protesting by letter, by deputations, by prompting friendly members of Parliament to put questions in the House. The chief question with which they are concerned at the present moment, is the economic equality of women. The League stands for equal pay for equal work. It claims that all protective industrial legislation should apply to both sexes equally and deprecates restrictions applied only to women because this kind of protection has a tendency to relegate women to the more poorly paid occupations. The League stands for the same right for women to dertermine† their nationality as is exercised by men and also for their right to decide whether they will continue their career when they marry. It advocates the appointment of women in the Police Force and women in Prison Administration. It supports the return of women members of Parliament and advocates the inclusion of women to official positions in the League of Nations.

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Typed, with a handwritten alterations. At the top of the first sheet is written ‘February 1935.’ and ‘Only Copy.’

{1} i.e. ‘had’.

{2} The following words are struck through here: ‘all this time. Indoor meetings and outdoor meetings were held over the country. They were explaining to the public the need for women in political life.’

† Sic.

Account by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence of her visit to Germany

(Carbon copy, with a handwritten alteration.)

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Transcript

On Sunday October 5th, the German Parliament House in Berlin was filled to overflowing with a great gathering of people, who met to celebrate the memory of the friends of peace in all lands, and especially of those who had devoted themselves in life and in death to the furtherance of international understanding and friendship.

The speakers were Dr. Frithjof Nansen (Norway) Senator Henri La Fontaine (Belgium) Senator Ferdinand Buisson (France) Herr Paul Loebe (Leader of the German Social Democratic Party and late President of the Reichstag) and myself as representative of England and also of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom which is now established in 33 countries. Every speech was received with great enthusiasm and ardent desire for Peace permeated the spirit of the meeting.

There is a great movement of reconciliation growing rapidly between the German and French women and also between the youth of both countries. The German women have collected money to build a Reconciliation House in the North of France which will consist of a library, public halls, and club rooms. The German Youth Movement has arranged with the inhabitants of the devastated areas to send its qualified members in large numbers to rebuild with their own hands the houses of the peasant land owners. The French working women of Paris have received 300 children from the Ruhr into their own homes. A procession of French children marched through the streets carrying little banners inscribed “German children and French children are brothers and sisters” and the German children were met thus at the station loaded with flowers and gifts and brought home in loving triumph. Those women whose homes were too small and overcrowded to take an adopted child, give or collect 30 francs a month for the support of some particular child in the Ruhr with whom a correspondence is carried on, and many hundreds of children in the distressed areas are supported in this way. Not the money only, but gifts of clothing and good things find their way by post to the adopted little ones.

I addressed a great meeting of one thousand young men and women in Berlin organised by the German Youth Movement for Democracy and Worldwide brotherhood and peace. A young man told the story of how he had walked through France (for as he had no money he could not travel in any other way) to attend the recent International Peace Conference organised by the French Youth Movement. As he was at last, after many days, nearing the place of meeting he was met by an old French peasant woman, of whom he enquired the way. “Are you going to the young people’s Peace Conference” she asked. He pointed to his badge. “Over there” said the old woman solemnly pointing to a military burial ground in the distance, “lie my three sons.” “Over there” replied the young German student, “lie my three brothers.”

The old woman bent down and gathered some earth in the palm of her hand. Showing the dust to him and touching it, she said slowly, “Earth! The same earth covers my three sons and your three brothers,” then lifting herself and pointing upward she added, “Heaven—the same heaven is over us all.”

In company with Marcelle Capy (French) and Gertrud Baer (German) I went from town to town speaking about International Brotherhood. Magdeburg is a large town famed for its iron and steel industry two hours by express train from Berlin. There we met an audience of over three thousand men and women. They listened in intense silence with occasional bursts of applause, and when the meeting was over many of the audience walked with us to our train and gave us a send off with cheers.

Frankfurt, Heidelburg, Rastadt, Karlsruhe, Freiburg, Offenburg, Schopfheim, Stuttgart, Goppingen, Dresden were amongst the towns visited, and there were many more invitations that could not be accepted. Everywhere we found the same eager response.

The German and French people are far more deeply concerned with the subject of peace than we in England are. Listening to their impassioned words I realised that speaking comparatively we know little in England of the miseries and devastations, physical and moral—of war.

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A few typing errors have been silently corrected.

{1} i.e. ‘had’.

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

(Carbon copy, with a handwritten correction.)

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Transcript

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.

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

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

† Sic.

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.

——————

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.

————

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.

—————

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.

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