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Pethick-Lawrence Papers

  • PETH
  • Fonds
  • 1825-1970

This collection contains the surviving contents of the Pethick-Lawrences’ correspondence files, including letters from, and copies of letters to, a wide range of politicians and public figures; papers relating to the Lawrence family and the early life of F. W. Lawrence; articles and scripts of talks by Lord Pethick-Lawrence; correspondence between the Pethick-Lawrences themselves; papers of Lady Constance Lytton; papers relating to the separation of the Pethick-Lawrences from the Women’s Social and Political Union; and papers relating to prison conditions. The collection contains particularly notable material on the subjects of Indian independence, the suffrage movement, and other aspects of social reform.

Lawrence, Frederick William Pethick- (1871-1961), 1st Baron Pethick-Lawrence, politician

Carbon copy of a letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Aldous Huxley

Praises his book Grey Eminence, and discusses the involvement of mystics in politics. Refers to Gandhi’s inflexibility on certain subjects, and suggests that his policy may result in calamities comparable to those created by Father Joseph.

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Transcript

29th. November, 1943.

Dear Huxley,

A colleague M.P. {1} who had read my autobiography insisted that I should read your book “Grey Eminence” {2}, and I have now done so with absorbing interest. The double riddle that you set yourself to solve, first as to why a mystic should engage in politics at all and secondly, why if he did so he should play such an abominable part, is in itself a most fascinating one; and your solution appears to me as nearly satisfactory as any appreciation of somebody else’s pyschology† can possibly be.

I agree broadly with you that it is not the function of a mystic to engage in “activities” at all and that he is wise to refrain from so doing until he has reached a degree of spiritual discernment which enables him to discriminate between good and bad action. I think you are also right in pointing the danger of that school of Christian mystics who transfer their attempt at union with the Central Life to union with Christ (though no doubt some of them believe that this is the same thing). It seems to me moreover that if Father Joseph had concentrated his mind on Christ the Lover of men who suffered little children to come to Him and told us that we must enter the Kingdom as little children, he might not have been so regardless of human suffering as he became in contemplating the sufferings of Christ on the Cross.

Of course it is in general true that a man of some eminence in his own sphere should hesitate before entering a sphere other than his own. I have noticed the unfortunate result of neglecting this in many cases and I have noted also that the most eminent are usually too wise to fall into this mistake.

But for those whose sphere is religion and who have attained to {3} some measure to union with the Central Life the danger is much greater, both for themselves and also for the public who are wont to assume that their saintly life has given them a discernment in worldly af[f]airs which they do not necessarily possess. I was reading in The New Statesman a few weeks ago a remark which it is said was used by Oliver Cromwell to a number of Northern Ireland Divines “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ to think that ye may be mistaken”. The religieus† i4} is apt to assume that he is never mistaken and the words that fall from his lips belong to the category “Thus saith Zoroaster”.

I expect your mind has turned, as mine has done, from the mystic politician of the 17th century about whom you write to the Mahatma politician of our own day. I wonder whether it has occurred to you to write a companion volume dealing with his “activities”? If not, perhaps some future writer a century or two hence will write up the story and sum up the result in somewhat the same way that you have done with regard to Father Joseph.

I do not of course attribute to Gandhi the political malpractices performed by Father Joseph which seem so disreputable to us and even to his contemporaries. I have known Gandhi personally for a great many years and have been a great admirer of him; and I know his meticulous care to be fair and just. Nevertheless the result of his policy may bring upon India and indeed upon the whole world calamities comparable to those which Father Joseph created. I will give you three examples:—

1) Gandhi feels deeply the spiritual wrongs inflicted by Hindu castes on the untouchables and has his own approach to this question. But the untouchables must be saved his way and this makes him very intolerant of Ambedkar the leader of the untouchables. I saw this myself on the Round Table Conference and its sequel.

2) Gandhi preaches the spiritual view of continence. Therefore he will have nothing to do with birth control. But Gandhi’s spiritual doctrine is quite above the heads of the vast mass of his fellow countrymen. Therefore we have the appalling picture of an India already over populated, having some 50 million extra souls to its population in the course of the last ten years.

3) Gandhi has a spiritual conception of the independence of India. This makes him intolerant of any compromise and I think there is no doubt that it was his influence which caused the Cripss† olive branch to be rejected in the summer of 1942. This has resulted in the further drawing apart of the Hindus & British, of the Moslems & British, and the Hindus & Moslems; and though one can never predict the final closing of the gates of mercy, it may prevent a peaceful solution of the Indian problem for many years to come. I think that Gandhi himself has envisaged the breaking out of civil war.

In conclusion may I say once more what a great service I think you have rendered in writing such an amazingly interesting and penetrating book.

I remain,

Yours sincerely,
[blank]

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{1} Godfrey Nicholson. See 5/62.

{2} A study of François Leclerc du Tremblay (1577–1638), a French Capuchin monk more commonly known as ‘Père Joseph’ or ‘l’éminence grise’ (the grey eminence). He was the confidant and agent of Cardinal Richelieu, ‘l’éminence rouge’.

{3} Altered from ‘in’. ‘to’, the next word but two, should have been altered to ‘of’.

{4} Typed ‘religieuse’ and altered by hand to ‘religieus’.

† Sic.

Copy of a letter from M. K. Gandhi to Sir Stafford Cripps

Camp: Gauhati (‘as from’ Sevagram, Via Wardha).—Acknowledges the receipt of his letter, and expresses the hope that ‘this time there is determination to do the right thing in terms of Indian thought’.

(Typed transcript.)

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Transcript

As from Sevagram, | Via Wardha (India)

Camp: Gauhati,
12th January, 1946.

Dear Friend,

I was delighted to receive your letter of 19th December ’45. As I am touring Bengal and Assam, your kind greetings were received only yesterday. The Rajkumari {1} had described her talks with you and told me how affectionate you were towards me. I am hoping that this time there is determination to do the right thing in terms of Indian thought. I well remember what King Edward had said about right dealing. I was then in South Africa. The question was of interpreting the treaty between the British and the Boers, and the King had gently insisted on the Boer interpretation being accepted in preference to the British. How I wish that the admirable canon be repeated this time.

I hope with you that this New Year will bring to the thirsting earth the much needed shower of peace and goodwill for which the “Prince of Peace” lived and died.

Yours sincerely,
(sgd) M. K. GANDHI

Sir R. Stafford Cripps,
Board of Trade,
Millbank,
London, S.W.1.

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{1} Amrit Kaur.

Letter from Jawaharlal Nehru to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

17 York Road, New Delhi.—Apologises for the delay in replying to his letter (see 5/75), which was greatly appreciated. India is enduring hard times, and though the forces of evil will no doubt be overcome, a heavy price will have to be paid.

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Transcript

17 York Road | New Delhi
Oct 2. 1947

My dear Lord Pethick Lawrence,

Please forgive me for the delay in answering your letter which I was happy to receive. And yet when it reached me, it did not quite fit in with what was happening. There was little to feel happy about in India then or now. We have had a hard time and the forces of evil have surrounded us. We shall no doubt overcome them but the price we have paid, and will pay, is heavy.
But this note is not meant to contain an account of events here. I wanted to thank you for your very friendly letter which I appreciated greatly. Some time or other I suppose I shall visit England and then I hope to see you again.

Yours Sincerely
Jawaharlal Nehru

Letter from Clement Attlee to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

10 Downing Street, Whitehall.—Thanks him for his letter (of resignation). Is grateful that he agreed to carry on during the last few months. Praises the courage, endurance, and skill he showed during the mission to India, and thanks him for his support and counsel as a member of the Government.

Carbon copy of a letter from Lady Pethick-Lawrence to Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

11 Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London, W.C.2.—Thanks her for her congratulations and wishes her a speedy recovery. Refers to the many bonds linking the Pethick-Lawrences to India, particularly in connection with the women’s suffrage movement, and expresses the hope that their feelings of friendship might lead to a real union between the two nations.

Letter from Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

India House.—The flu prevented her from conveying personally to the Pethick-Lawrences her brother (Nehru)’s invitation to India, but he will probably mention the matter himself when he comes to London in a few days’ time. Suggests arrangements for a meeting at India House.

Draft of an article by Lord Pethick-Lawrence entitled ‘India’s Place in the World’

A tribute to Nehru, written for an unidentified volume.

(Carbon copy of a typed original, corrected by hand in pencil. Written some time after the assassination of Gandhi on 30 Jan. 1948.)

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Transcript

INDIA’S PLACE IN THE WORLD.
by Lord Pethick-Lawrence.

I am happy to be given the opportunity to pay a tribute to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the pages of this volume. During the years that I have been privileged to count him among my friends my admiration for his qualities has steadily grown. But he has told me that where so many have rendered service to his country he dislikes being singled out for special praise. On the personal side I will content myself therefore with the one incontrovertible statement that India has been indeed fortunate to have as her first Prime Minister a man of his noble character, rich and varied experience and exceptional breadth of outlook.

India has secured control of her own destiny at a time when the whole civilisation of the world is being reincarnated. Old customs and old ideas which have held sway almost from the dawn of history are being discarded. The nation-states of Western Europe in which these ideas were recently embodied are fallen from their high estate. New thoughts are filling the minds of men and women. Some of these have already taken shape. Others are in the realm of the subconscious waiting to be born. India has not merely to adapt herself to these kaleidoscopic changes in the pattern of human life, she has also to play an active part in the conception and gestation of the civilisation that is to be. How important this part is will be realised when we descend from the general to the particular.

First, on the purely material plane, the world is being transformed by the new powers of mass production, radio, television, flight, radar and atomic fission. Every one of these is capable of being used to set men and women free from the sordid scramble for animal existence and enable them to develop to its full stature their physical, moral and spiritual being. But alternatively they may be abused so as to bring about the greater enslavement and degradation of the human race. Which shall it be? The voice of India will be an important factor in the decision.

Next come the recent biological discoveries including new means of eradicating disease in men plants and animals. It is even possible that we are on the eve of revolutionary changes in the whole matter of the growth & production of food. India has suffered grievously in the past from malnutrition and preventible ill health. The responsibility now rests upon her own scientists to find out the remedy and upon her statesmen to apply it.

The civilisation now passing away was founded upon inequality. Even upright and religious men and women seemed to see nothing wrong in a structure of society in which some people lived in luxury while others toiled unceasingly and remained in squalor and degradation. But Gandhiji was one of those who saw in this system an affront to human dignity; and he inveighed against it unceasingly by precept and example. At first the doctrine of communism in its pure form seemed to be the answer but in its application it has got entangled in power politics and totalitarian dictatorship. The new civilisation has to be founded upon human equality; and India in memory of her Mahatma and in accord with the generous impulses of her Prime Minister will wish to take a foremost place among the nations who are imbued with the new spirit.

In the realm of internal government India has astonished the world by her achievement. Even those of us who had the greatest faith in her statesmen scarcely dared to hope that she would be able to integrate the whole of her territory in so short a time and with such general approval. The highest praise is due to all those who have contributed to this remarkable result. It augurs well for the future stability of her State and provides a fine example to other nations.
What of the international outlook? Here I am convinced that India has a part of paramount importance to play. She occupies a pivotal place on the map of the world. She looks westward to Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, eastward to China to the Pacific and to the Americas, northward to the lands of the Soviet Union in Asia, South West to the varied races of Africa and South East to the new civilisation of Australia and New Zealand. So situated she cannot exist isolated and detached.

The world needs friendship and co-operation. It needs the mutual interchange of materials and ideas. Above all it needs peace. But peace like liberty requires eternal vigilance for its preservation. It requires the constant avoidance of the pairs of opposites—arrogance and cowardice, aggressiveness and subservience, self-sufficiency and undue dependence, anarchy and regimentation. A free and democratic India in close association with other likeminded free and democratic peoples can be a great bulwark of peace and of constructive fellowship in the community of nations.

Long may Panditji be spared to exercise his wise leadership in guiding the destinies of his country!

Letter from —— to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

The British Broadcasting Corporation,, Broadcasting House, London, W.1.—Invites him (retrospectively) to prepare and deliver, on stated terms, a radio talk on Ramsay MacDonald for the series ‘British Prime Ministers since 1900’ (cf. 5/123a–b).

(A printed form, with details typed in. Signed p.p. the Talks Booking Manager (the name is indistinct, but is probably Ronald Boswell).)

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