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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.).—She and Cope commend the positions taken up by Lawrence in the enclosed document, but do not think he should submit it to Chamberlain.



20 Somerset Terrace.
14. 7. 00.

Dear Mr Laurence.

I have carefully read & considered the enclosed & have shown it to Mr Cope & consulted him upon it; we are of the same opinion: You have taken up impregnable positions. Nothing could be better or more to the purpose. There is, as far as our judgement goes[,] nothing to add or take away.

At the same time I find that he feels as I do—that it is an undesirable thing that you should submit this to Mr Chamberlain or should see him. Not that I have now the smallest fear that you will be moved from these positions: But I do not think it is a fair thing. I do not think it is desirable that you should commit yourself to Mr Chamberlain in this way—especially in writing. In an interview you will be at a great disadvantage. Your position to Mr Chamberlain is one of very acute criticism. It is necessary to criticise a public man’s motives & to doubt at certain times his good faith. But it is impossible when talking to a man to impute motives—or challenge his good faith. Thus a great part of your objection must be concealed & your argument weakened. However I only put this in this way, so that you may weigh advantages and disadvantages. Whatever you decide to do, it will be the right thing—for you. You only can judge. This is written in great haste in a few snatched moments—but it has not been hastily considered.

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Colville House, Lowestoft.—The place is lovely, and they are all happy.



Colville House | Lowestoft {1}.
16. 7. 00—

Dear Mr Laurence.

Just a word of thanks for your letter which was quite correctly addressed.

This is a lovely place and we are all as happy & contented as it is possible to be. It is a blue world just now. You know Watt’s† picture “Hope” {2}—that sort of blue.

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick.


{1} Cf. PETH 7/53.

{2} Either of the two paintings of this name painted by George Frederic Watts in 1886. The better-known of the two was presented by the artist to the National Gallery of Art (the Tate Gallery) in 1897, the year the gallery opened, and this may be where Emmeline saw it, though both versions had been exhibited publicly in the 1880s.

† 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.



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.


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.—Urges him to write to her while he is away.



C H, L {1}
17. 7 00

D M L {2}

Once more the horror of the written word instead of the spoken word seizes me. The written word can only be trusted when you understand and know perfectly the other’s point of view. Let nothing written by me ever puzzle you or trouble you—I am quite content, though I have always found writing the hardest thing in the world. I am bound to tell you that, you know.

That brings me to the next heading in the discourse, another confession. I cannot do with he-roic people, people who suffer in grand silence, and bear their own burden and another’s—the people, you know, that one is always supposed to admire. I love dear weak human people, who—well, seriously. Don’t talk about troubling me with your letters. How can I be troubled except by your no letters, by a mist or a blind let down between us. I have always combatted (“there it is again” —this warrior woman, are you not afraid of her? —no, you are not, are you?) the idea that anything, however heroic, however sublime, however self forgetful—that anything is so worthy a gift for those we love—only two or three at most in a life time—as the childlike truth. Therefore, you see, though my besetting sins are independence and satanic pride, these two things seem to have no place now—now that you are going away for such a long time; noth-ing matters except telling you just what I feel. Now go with my blessing, go without doubt or anxiety or afterthought. If any of your thoughts or words naturally belong to me, give them to me. Letters will always reach me quite safely. No one ever dreams of touching my letters except sister Mary, and she will know your writing. I am yours {3} as you would have me be.

The last thing you said to me was, “Then we understand each other perfectly”. My reply was, “Perfectly”. Let that stand. Burn this letter and wash your hands. I have burnt my hands with carbolic acid. I don’t think there can be any risk.


This letter is written untidily in pencil and is not easy to read. Some of the readings are conjectural. The letter-head bears the arms and address of Mansfield House, Canning Town, E.

{1} i.e. ‘Colville House, Lowestoft.’

{2} i.e. ‘Dear Mr Lawrence.’

{3} Reading uncertain.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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



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

D Mr L {2}

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

You will understand—yes.


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

{1} i.e. ‘Colville House, Lowestoft.’

{2} i.e. ‘Dear Mr Lawrence’.

{3} Mark Guy Pearse.

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

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

† Sic.

Letter from F. W. Lawrence to Mary Elizabeth Lawrence

‘Tantallon Castle.’—Gives an account of his departure from Southampton and the voyage so far.


Tantallon Castle
Tuesday July 24. 00

My dear Mother

It is not very long since I started so there is not much to relate; still as you will not get another letter from me till the end of August I send you along this interim epistle from Madeira, or rather from the ship before we get to Madeira.

The ship got away from Southampton at about 5 o’c to the strains of “auld lang syne” & with the waving of a good many pocket handkerchiefs from on shore, passed out into the ocean. About an hour and a half afterwards we passed the Needles & we had a splendid view of them before going down to dinner.

I have a good cabin on deck & as the weather so far has been excellent, I have been able to have it wide open day and night & to get all the air that there is to be had.

It is rather early days to say very much of the passengers, but I don’t think they are at all a bad lot; I sit at the Captain’s table between a man who is going out to try the rebels in Natal, & some ladies from the Argentines, & opposite to some English people from Natal, and a very decent German with whom I have quite made friends already, & have had several games of chess.

Then there are a number of other people on board whose acquaintance I have made slightly; & I have played quoits, buckets, & a sort of deck croquet; all of which do fairly well pour passer le temps.

We have had awnings put up over the whole deck, the sea has begun to assume a sub-tropical blue & I expect soon it will begin to get awfully hot, but at present it is a cool contrast with London during the last hot weather.

With best love & all good wishes for a pleasant trip on the continent

Your affte Son
Fredk W Lawrence

I shall very likely send an encyclical home to Mans. Ho. from Cape Town. This will be copied, and a copy forwarded on to you which you can keep, as I am having other copies sent to A.J.L. {2} and Aunt Edith.


{1} Followed by ‘P.T.O.’ The postscript is written on the front of the sheet.

{2} His sister Annie.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Is glad to be back in London. Expresses her sense of wonder at the progress of their relationship, and discusses the idea of his standing for Parliament in St Pancras. Sends some books.



20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Rd, W.C.
July 29, 1900

It is Sunday evening, and I am Home Again! I have the Western sky and the delicious evening breath, and the blue kitchen all to myself, and I feel like Diogenes in his tub, the world is so far away. Today you are at Madeira, and next Saturday I shall—shall I not? —have a letter to tell me how you have fared so far.

I had a sweet home-coming on Friday. The great weight of responsibility and all forboding gone, the children so happy and well; my Daddy at the station, tea and my dear old comrade waiting for me here, then one hour or two later a merry little dinner at the Kings X Restaurant—Daddy and Sister Mary and Mr McIlwaine and I—and a happy evening. No matter how lovely a holiday is I always come back with a great sigh of relief and joy, and the conviction that there is no place like the blue kitchen!

It is a most wonderful summer. I don’t think I ever saw things so beautiful. Last night we sat till late on the flat roof of the Buildings, the sweetest breath of a living earth about me like a presence, under the night sky and the stars. It was like being in a great ship. I thought of you and wondered, wondered.

Yes, I am filled with wonder. What a strange thing Fate is! Only three months ago another came {1}, and then I felt it was impossible, unthinkable. I said then, “This thing is not for me, ever. Freedom is more than life.” It is so curious how when this came, everything in me was hushed except a voice outside myself which said, “Let destiny decide”. So strange this great calm and acquiescence. I am half lost in wonder: Everything seems to me a dream sometimes.

But I wonder amongst what circumstances, what experiences, what thoughts this will reach you, and what plans for the future will be taking shape in your mind. I cannot help plans shaping themselves in my mind. I seem to see so much—so much possibility, so many definite threads that could be gathered up at once. I cannot get it out of my mind that you must stand for St Pancras. The former Liberal candidate {2} is rather curiously bound up with us. I must tell you about him some day and get you to meet him. He is {3} (on 2nd thoughts I efface name, in case of accident to this letter, which God forbid!), cousin of Lord Rosebery’s, quite young—less than thirty, I should suppose—and one of the sweetest nature (it is [a] queer word to use but it suits, this time). He is too delicate for the struggle and has retired to Colchester {4}, but longs to come back and work with us in some way. He came last Sunday morning for a long talk with Sister Mary. Sister Mary says that if you were to stand for this division he would come back to London and support you and work for you. (Of course nothing has been suggested, but he is so pathetically eager to come back and find his work here.) This is just one of the threads, though everything is of course too much in the air to even speak of these things. Yet doors seem to stand open, and plans organize themselves in the mind. You must not misunderstand any over-haste. Somehow one is always seeing lines converging, and new things developing; it always has been so. That is how all our work has grown and come. I am thinking of Mr Cope {5} too. He has never had his chance yet, or wide enough scope for his mind and energies; you would give him a platform; he just wants what you could supply, the executive and organizing power; he is a first-rate speaker, and very popular—has the gift of popularity, but no Anglo-Saxon capacity for clearing his way. He belongs to the woman-race, is pure Celt. He can’t work for himself, but for another he can work—and how well! You would find him invaluable.

This is what gives me such joy! That you came into all our lives, making all the old bonds and ties stronger & more established. Sister Mary feels this. She is more than absolutely content. There is not one of us who will lose, but all be so much richer for your life. And you will be richer too. I don’t think any man or woman ever found such comrades as I have found, such true, loyal and great-hearted men and women. Such beauty I have found in them—you have yet to learn how good they are. I ought to know, look at the years and years I have known them in daily intercourse. Well! it is the thinking time, the waiting time now. By & bye will come the time of doing, and deciding. Dear, I commend you with all my heart and soul to the great Maker and Re-Maker. How often has it been my own prayer for myself:

“Maker! re-make! complete!
I trust what Thou shalt do.” {6}

May the love that keeps us all in being keep you from every evil & bring you safe home to me.

Ever yours,

Aug. 1st. That was a Sunday letter! Now it is Wednesday, and last evening came your most welcome letter, long before I expected it. You were at Madeira sooner than I thought. And now it is 12/9x7 {7}. Yes, it was the best thing (to go) {8}, and everything you have done for the last five weeks—that is, since I have known you—has been infallibly right and has strengthened my confidence in your judgement and my—Well! Yes, and everything you have said in your letters I have understood and there has not been a word that has not suited me perfectly. I should have the same qualms and afterthoughts about my letters if I did not trust you so completely. The relationship has been so strange; we have seemed to come so close to each other in spirit, while still standing on the outside line of acquaintance, and the remembrance of things thought and said in one mood would make me uneasy when I am at the other point of outlook if it were not that I could smile and say, “It doesn’t matter. It is all right!” I know that you honour me in every thought, as I honour you in every thought, and think you worthy of nothing less than the simple truth, though it may be just a mood of the heart, the breath that bloweth where it listeth, and we cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. Dear, I bless you with all my heart and soul.

Yesterday I got these books to send you. I cut the pages of the “Treasure of the Humble” {9} and read the two last chapters, said “No, it’s a shame! He shan’t be bothered! I am not going to send it!” Then I remembered that I had promised, and thought, “Suppose after all he wanted it and went for it, and it wasn’t there!” So I am sending it. And then there is a little book of wayside song, little bird-songs, which made one or two railway journeys last summer very sweet to me. And then there is a little story, worth all the philosophy and all the poetry in the world, “A Humble Romance” {10}, which I know will suit you. It is simply perfect, I think. I read it to the workhouse folk at Hadley Wood {11} on the Wednesday after the Tuesday {12}—you know—when already, strange to say, a new love and a new tenderness for everything living had come into my heart. I do hope you will get them. And so I shall not be able to write to you again until you are homeward bound? I suppose I can wait for you at Madeira with a welcome. I may ask for a line from Mr Bovill next week as to whether another letter could reach you at Cape Town. But anyhow, letters would be safe with the directions given on the outside in case of non-delivery. I shall not risk it next week unless I have reasonable hope, of course. Over the miles of sea, my thoughts arrive to you every day.

Aug. 3rd. Of course I should not have said anything about elections, only that I know you can take no action for the present. There will need an immense amount of thinking and talking things over. You first understand, don’t you, how I talk to you like this as though you were in the opposite chair; there is nothing documentary! Sister Mary says that I am to send her love and tell you that this hot weather she has got herself put on to a special local committee for attending to the Register, and a sub-committee of that, and that she is at present coquetting with the local fanatic! Meantime she has mentally set all the parts: the ex candidate is to be your agent; she will run the Office; Mr Cope will stampede; MacIlwaine will do the papers (he will); dear Brother Jack (Mr Greenhalgh) will give a “tone” to the platform {13}; I am to superintend your recreations! There are a good many minor parts!

Now, about the photographs. This is not my doing at all. I rarely keep photographs myself, preferring to carry the vision of my few in my inmost imagination and heart. But Daddy undertook the whole thing, and said I was to tell you that he took the whole responsibility for sending what I said you had not asked for. He arranged with the photographers and called for me and told me what I was to wear. If it were for myself I would have you in your most everyday clothes, but I must dress ’e up a bit for his aristocratic friends! And he made the man send home finished proofs in time for the mail (I never thought they would do it). Whatever I thought myself, I would never disappoint him or thwart him in his little plans.

(The above effaced will keep till I see you.) {14} I enclose a cutting from the Manchester Guardian yesterday. I liked that bit about “The fool hath said in his heart”. I am also sending a little dream-story of mine, because although you are only the 3rd person! to know it, you will see that I wrote it for that dearest and most sacred relationship of my life {15}, which I want you to understand. I have much yet to say to you about that, so that you may never fail me just here. So that together we may make the last part of his life the sweetest and happiest, and I may use the opportunity I have been waiting for {16} to acknowledge in deed and in life my great debt. This is more to me than what you call my “career”!

I shall not write next week, nor send anything important, just a magazine or book or something that matters not. I shall wait now till I see you. All is well.


[Direction on envelope:] To F. W. Lawrence Esqe | c/o The Standard Bank of S. Africa | Cape Town [In the bottom left-hand corner:] S. Africa [On the back:] If not delivered please forward to. W. Bovill Esqe, Mansfield House, Canning Town, London E.


This letter was apparently sent with a parcel of books, and possibly some photographs. The envelope is postmarked ‘LONDON W.C. | 1.15.PM | AU 3 | 00 | 34’ and (on the back ) ‘CAPE TOWN | 3.10 AM | AU 21 | 00’. Also marked on the envelope in pencil are the words ‘P. A [Nibtero?] | 3 & 4 Fenchurch St’. (4 Fenchurch Street was the address of the Union-Castle Line, the owners of the ship on which Lawrence travelled to South Africa.) Some changes have been made to the punctuation.

{1} This appears to be a reference to a previous suitor, perhaps a marriage proposal.

{2} George Montagu Harris, a second cousin of Lord Rosebery, his father, George Collyer Harris, a clergyman, having married a granddaughter of the 3rd Earl. He stood for the Radicals in a by-election in St Pancras (South) on 28 January 1896, but was defeated by H. M. Jessel, the Unionist candidate. He was later distinguished in the field of public administration. See The Times, 6 Oct. 1951, p. 8.

{3} Followed by two words (probably ‘Montague Harris’) struck through. The words in brackets are interlined.

{4} Written over another word, evidently ‘Winchester’, where Harris lived. The alteration was presumably made to conceal Harris’s true destination.

{5} ‘Mr Cope’ has been scribbled over heavily in pencil, but is still legible.

{6} A quotation from Browning’s poem ‘Rabbi Ben Ezra’.

{7} This presumably means that twelve days of Lawrence’s expected nine-week absence had passed.

{9} ‘(to go)’ interlined by way of explanation.

{10} Alfred Sutro’s English translation of Le Trésor des humbles, a collection of mystical essays by Maeterlinck. The first French edition appeared in 1896, Sutro’s translation the following year. The ‘two last chapters’ are ‘La Vie profonde’ (‘The Deeper Life’) and ‘La Beauté intérieure’ (‘Inner Beauty’).

{10} A story by the American writer Mary E. Wilkins (Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman). It first appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in June 1884, but the reference here is probably to the collection A Humble Romance and Other Stories, first published in 1887.

{11} In north Middlesex (now in Greater London), about a mile and a half north-east of Barnet.

{12} Tuesday, 26 June, the date of Fred’s proposal.

{13} For the ‘tone’ attributed to Greenhalgh see My Part in a Changing World, p. 113.

{14} This paragraph is preceded by three lines struck through, the latter half of which appears to read ‘it is how we can best avoid the appalling gossip of C. Town’.

{15} Mark Guy Pearse.

{16} ‘(his coming old age)’ interlined, then struck through in pencil.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Colville House, near Lowestoft.—Welcomes him home, and suggests meeting as soon as possible. Is distressed by the accounts (of the war) in the papers.



Till Saturday Sept. 8th
Colville House, nr Lowestoft

My dear Comrade,

There are two words from me you must find waiting for you—Welcome and Thanks! It has been a great joy to me since I received your letter on the 25 to think of you on your way home, to think of seeing you so much sooner than I expected, and it is now when I think of this letter greeting you in England.

Thank you for your letters; they have been so much to me, and I thought it so good of you to give me your thoughts and the picture of your surroundings so fully.

And now since we are persons “of purpose and of action” (I can’t help it, I always want to say wicked things when I’m happy!) it beseems us to be very business like, and having such important affairs to talk over, it is well that we should meet as soon as possible. I therefore take this opportunity of saying that I have a wholly free Sunday {1}. Of course you have a great deal to do and a great many to see, and you must not disappoint anybody or embarrass yourself in any way. It occurs to me that you may be spending the Sunday with your family. In that case you might be able to come early, say about 10 o’cl. on your way, and we could have a talk for an hour or two before you meet them at lunch. But if you can stay to lunch with me, or give me any other part of the day as well, you know how glad I shall be and you must consider me as being quite free to fall into your arrangements. All the other days of the ensuing week I am more or less engaged, and time would have to be arranged; you would hardly be likely to find me at home if you came on the chance of it.

Send me a word to say if you received my second letter and the little things I sent you. I hope you did, but I tremble. I never dreamt that you would not stay, even longer than your own outside limit. They will be all right anyhow, and I took every care with the directions. I have been writing to you as if I were on board ship this last week, an answer to your letters. You shall be your own postman and shall read it at your leisure—not now.


P.S. I have just received your second letter from the Cape, telling me just what I wanted to know. Thanks. You don’t know how very deep has been the interest with which I have read it. I have avoided all mention of the political question in my letters to you. I could not and would not presuppose your conclusions after such a very different sort of evidence from that to which hitherto we had both had access. But it is only by an effort of will that I can read the Papers every day; it is so heartrending, if there is any imagination at all to see. I do not wonder that Olive Schreiner with her intense sympathy for the weak against the strong does not believe in God. I think no man can know the horror of brute-force, as a woman knows it. A woman sees and feels that everything she holds best and most sacred in life can be crushed in a moment by the assertion of brute-force. Once she sees that triumphant and her foothold in life is gone. Olive Schreiner’s passion has identified her always with the worsted. I know that even with me there has been this sort of feeling during this awful year—the appalling sense of brute force trium-phant as the god of this world, the soul crushed, beaten down, vanquished.—I did not mean to be led into talk now.

I suppose you have had the one letter only, that first one, written first after a big strain was over and the gates of life and joy lifted up!—a mood of almost inexpressible happiness. I can only hope that it fell in harmoniously with a mood of yours. And now I am waiting. I shall be home at 5 o’clock on Saturday. If possible let me have a line or telegram to say when you are coming. I leave here soon after noon on Saturday, so do not risk my missing a letter here. I hope that you can come on Sunday. Oh, I do welcome you home. The thought of you has come to be lately like the feel of the earth under my feet, the strong foundation. God bless you, my dear dear Comrade. There never was a time when a man’s championship of the soul and truth could have been so saving to my spirit and faith. For this, you have the thanks of my heart and soul.

{1} 9th.

Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence

Account of part of a visit to South Africa, headed ‘Third Encyclical’.



Third Encyclical

I write from on board the Scot on the homeward journey; a tedious voyage; a more tiresome set of passengers than are here assembled I think it would be difficult to imagine—at least those in the first class—but of that anon.

The remainder of my time spent in Cape Town passed along pleasantly enough. I forget whether I told you that in front of the Railway Station were always gathered a number of mining refugees from the Transvaal who sat upon the railing and smoked. So one evening I put on my worst looking attire and joined them. By dint of smoking a great number of pipes I managed to get a very fair view of the situation, from a new point of view. As Schreiner said to me “The question is like a diamond with many facets”—Well I was looking at a fresh facet.

Another morning I went & saw the Editor of the Cape Times who is a member of the Imperialist side of the Cape House; another day I went & saw a doctor—Doctor Beck—who is on the other side; & after lunching with him, I went to a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church—an interesting man of distinctly Huguenot origin. From all these I learnt much, & of course it must seem rather unsatisfactory to you that I don’t make some attempt to give you their opinions, but really it is practically impossible. In the first place one has not the right, to say nothing of the ability, to repeat on paper very much of a private conversation; & even if one could, the absence of the personal element would render the attempt more or less abortive. All I can say it that from those I have mentioned, from Hofmeyr, from ex miners of Johannesburg & from numbers of others, from my frequent visits to the House of Assembly—to say nothing of people on board this ship who come from both camps—I think I have got a pretty comprehensive knowledge, both as to the actual state of facts, and as to the actual state of mind which prompted the various actors in the great drama to take up the positions which they actually did. As to the state of feeling to-day it is of course very much harder to speak with certainty, because as a matter of fact no one knows absolutely & each person has a natural race,—class,—interest,—sentimental bias impelling him not only to say but to think in a certain direction.

I may as well say at once that the result of my investigation has been to confirm me in my views; to enable me to sort out the tangible & intangible grievances of the English Outlander population & to estimate how far these stood a chance of redress in case a less violent policy had been adopted; & also to comprehend to some extent the inter-racial position in the Cape Colony; & to form a knowledge of the conduct of the belligerents in the war.

This is not the place to enter into a detailed defence of my views or to attempt to lay down any line of policy, but I may say that I have weighed very carefully in my mind the question of how far any line of opposition to the government tends to encourage the enemy in a futile resistance. I do not think I minimise for a moment the gravity of this contention, or the responsibility which rests upon those who in spite of it, take up a line of active opposition. At the same time I am convinced that the proper thing to do is to actively oppose the government, if for no other reason but because I believe that the only hope to save South Africa lies in the continuance of something of a party, at any rate, at home, who have not been led away by the present state of public opinion.—But to set out the whole case would lead to a very much longer statement that† can be conveniently put down in an encyclical. So let us leave the war question out for the rest.

I enjoyed my stay in Cape Town & made a number of friends; my project to ascend Table Mountain never came off, but one day a party of us drove right round it in a four horse wagonette & had a very jolly time—it was the same round that I think I described to you I had taken on my bicycle—taking up the whole day & stopping at one of the bays to have lunch and a bathe. Cape Town is situated in a peninsular & the drive round is—I think—practically the drive round the peninsular; and the views of the different bays in sight of which one comes from different points are very grand. The weather in Cape Town was very much as it had been in Sydney when I was there; short days but generally sunny & bright like an English September, just the sort of weather that it is pleasant to be about in. Some of the people who had come out on the boat with me stayed some little time in Cape Town & I sometimes saw something of them. I went out on one occasion to dine with some at Queen’s Hill, Seapoint, 3 or 4 miles out of the town and taking my music with me (as I was directed) we had a musical evening & a good deal of boat reminiscences.

I should have said that Seapoint is one of the most beautiful suburbs & I often used to go out there on my bicycle before breakfast to see the waves coming in—I believe I mentioned this in my last encyclical.

As to the Cape Parliament, I think I saw & heard most of the principal people, but I was sorry that Rhodes was away all the time; by the way I heard the other day that he has never learnt to speak or understand Dutch! Anyone is admitted tot he debates, but if you have a speaker’s ticket you are able to get a very much better place; it is only recently that there has been much crowding on the part of the general public. Hitherto a scab act has been perhaps the most exciting sort of thing which has been passed.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Offers to criticise his article, and suggests he talk with Norman Franks. Is disgusted by the sentimental reaction to the death of Queen Victoria. Refers to their guests for dinner.



20 Somerset Terr.
28 Jan. 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

We must try to bear up! We are quite used to seeing our bulwarks (against old ladies and other enemies) walking off in all directions! And yet we manage somehow to hold the fort! Seriously, we are not discouraged—neither are we optimistic; while we are alive we go on, voila tout!

I am glad about the book; yes, do send the article when it is ready and I will criticize unmercifully. I know what you mean; we don’t want something merely academic but something dynamic. This is your subject. I think you ought to have a talk with Norman Franks. He knows a great deal experimentally. He nearly lost his life sticking on for 3 years in Rothwell Bgs: {1} and is most keen on the subject. I am sure he would be delighted to see you any time at 59 Eastcheap.

I cannot help being disgusted by the sentimentalism run riot amongst us. {2} There is something real, as you say, something great in the way the ends of the earth have been united in their loyalty to one woman {3}, who was personally worthy of the great ideal which she represented, but it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, who found herself growing so small that she began to be drowned in her own tears and had to swim through to dry land. Besides, sentimentalism is the death of real feeling and we lose everything including our own self-respect.

Thanks for the little book that you sent me; it is full of the sweet reasonableness and light of the writer, but I always miss the battle-cry:

“Fall battle-axe & clash brand!
Let the King reign.”! {4}

I am going to send you one of my books, one of which I never tire, that never loses its absolute fascination for me. I don’t expect you to like it, so don’t go against the grain to read it. But if you do read it perhaps I might be able to tell you why I accept Wagner and reject Tolstoi.

Shall I tell you for whom we are cooking the dinner today: Mr Pett Ridge, Mr Dunbar Smith {5} and Mac, and the Lady Katherine Thynne (or “Miss Bath”) {6}.

The wife May has a Boys’ Club, so we have to do dishing up and all. She is still as great a source of pleasure and amusement as ever. Her latest is in reference to Mr MacIlwaine coming while we were out:

(Sister Mary, soliloquy) “I suppose he went back to his work”
(May (in her most clucking style)) “Didn’t look much like work!—the way he flopped ’isself down!”

By the way, you have a principle against answering invitations, nicht wahr? Und der Herr ist auch in Deutschland gewesen, und er spricht wohl Deutsch. Also, leben Sie recht wohl.

Ihre höchst, etc.
Emmeline Pethick


{1} Rothwell Buildings, in Whitfield Street, St Pancras.

{2} The reference is to the national mood following death of Queen Victoria on the 22nd.

{3} Above ‘human being’ struck through.

{4} A conflation of two lines repeated several times in Tennyson’s ‘The Coming of Arthur’ (one of the Idylls of the King):

‘Fall battleaxe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.’


‘Clash battleaxe, and clash brand! Let the King reign.’

{5} Arnold Dunbar Smith, who, together with Cecil Claude Brewer, had designed the Passmore Edwards Settlement. He was later employed by the Pethick-Lawrences to build a cottage near their house in Surrey as a guest-house for London children. See My Part in a Changing World, p. 132.

{6} Lady Katherine Thynne was the second daughter of the 4th Marquess of Bath. She married the Earl of Cromer on 22 October this year.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, W.C.—Sends a paper by Mary Neal, a manuscript about the opening of their first show-room, and Forman’s translation of The Nibelung’s Ring. Expresses some ideas on education, and sends news of the Club.



20 Somerset Terr., W.C.

Dear Mr Lawrence,

I am thinking of writing a book and calling it “Imaginary Conversations with a Matter of Fact Man”. If I do, you will perhaps cease to be plagued with books and papers! But in the meantime will you read this little paper {1} of Sister Mary’s before it goes to the Publishers. I would like to know what you think of it, and so would she. Of course we do not get much criticism from our own circle!

I was turning out my old papers yesterday, and I found this ancient-looking M.S. I do not know why I send it to you, but something makes me want to send it. It brings back our opening service in our first little show {2} room. We were all there, and I had to take the service. There is something very sweet about those memories of the earliest days; we were all so young!

And I am sending the book too {3}, the story of the magic of the gold, the power and the curse of the ring. I am not going to say very much because it is too big. But I am sure there are some things in it that you will like. The whole story of Brunhilda, and the boy-hero Siegfried, so unconquerable in his youth and fearlessness, and yet so unseeing. So wholly regardless of all his possession except his sword:

“In a sword I wrought
are all my riches—” {4}

If I could have anything to do with education, I should of course have the children fitted for their work by the usual technical instruction, but their education for life should be by the old Greek method, games and stories. There should be no precept, but vision. The only idea of morality should be “the King in his beauty” {5}, to whom loyalty should be not duty but living impulse, for whom death itself could be sweet, and life uncalculating.

Talking of children, I wish you could have been present the other evening at a little party that the children gave to me and a few friends. They got up the entertainment entirely by themselves, and the most amusing part was the stage-directions and audible asides. They did Sleeping Beauty, and when the little Sleeper opened her eyes before the psychic moment, great was the irritation of the Prince; she was thrust back on the conventionalities with a vigorous poke and a loud whisper: “Not yet, you silly”!

Pett Ridge came an hour too soon for dinner last Monday evening! {6} So he had the privilege of seeing the preliminary operations! I think he rather enjoyed it! I really won’t waste any more time gossipping, but will rather remain

Emmeline Pethick


{1} On socialism. See the next letter.

{2} Probable reading.

{3} Alfred Forman, The Nibelung’s Ring: English Words to Richard Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen, in the Alliterative Verse of the Original, first published in 1877.

{4} The words are from Act I of Götterdämmerung, as translated by Forman (The Nibelung’s Ring, p. 286).

{5} Isaiah xxxiii. 17.

{6} 28 January. See PETH 7/67.

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

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Encloses a report of a lecture by Professor Herron and a book by Richard Jefferies, and expresses her admiration of Wagner. Commends Cope’s personality, and refers to South African affairs.



20 Somerset Terrace.

  1. Feb. 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence.

The books arrived but—where is the MSS. {1}? Have you let it fall by mistake into the waste paper basket—or what? If you can find it, I should be glad to have it for association’s sake.

The other day I had the enclosed report from my friend Professor Herron {2} of one of his Sunday lectures, and it seemed to me to offer a common (because comprehensive) ground to our two standpoints in regarding this subject. I refer specially to the last three paragraphs of the report. I would like to have it back, for these lectures are parts of a book that Professor Herron is writing and he likes me to talk things over with him. If I did as I “oughter” I should try at any rate to write a Paper he has asked for his International Socialist Review {3} on “the relation of the socialist movement to the religion of the future”.

I am glad that you liked the Wagner book, and went and picked out the very part that I most desire to hear all through in opera. I hope I may be able to hear and see at least “The Walküre” in June at Covent Garden. The Bayreuth plan is perforce postponed. It is just what you say, “the whole of life seems set out before me”. Wagner seems to me the man whose conception of life is adequate to the mental conception of, say, the solar systems. He conceives life immense in passion, pulse and power commensurate with knowledge. Here at last we have an intensity to match our conceptions of space and time—intensity to infuse eternity itself with living warmth and the vital beauty of everlasting youth. Here then lies it seems to me the contrast between Wagner and Tolstoi. To the one belong youth and force and complexity, to the other old age, insensibility and the reduction of life to a rational abstraction. One is the universe of the solar systems, the other a world of extinct fires like the moon.

I have come to the conclusion that bitterness is the warp of the noblest or almost noblest natures. (Though of course there are cheap sham imitations of cynicism as there are of everything.) But one so often finds underneath it the ardently idealistic temperament; it is the recoil of the heart from pitiless circumstance.

I think I never knew anyone of so passionately chivalrous a temperament as Mr Cope, or anyone with such self-reckless pity for weak things. I know what it has been to keep him “chained-up” when any wrong or injustice was being done to one of the girls, or to any little child. You cannot possibly have any idea of what the suffering of women and children has meant to him. I don’t say that this capacity for pity is (standing by itself) a strength to a man or a good thing to have, but God only knows what the oppressed would do without it, or where their champions would come from, if there were not these uncalculating natures. Yes I think you could be of use to him. I have always thought so. Do try.

I thought the letter on Wednesday a very good one, just the right thing said in the best way. Did you notice a very pathetic account of Kruger in Tuesday’s paper, an interview with an Englishwoman? I was interested very in Graydon’s letter today. What do you think of its suggestions?

And now I am sending this with another book {4}, quite a different sort of book from anything else written—not because now or at any time you should read anything but what suits you, but because it is as easy for me to send or for you to return as not, n’est-ce-pas? Jeffreys†, as you probably know, was a naturalist and his other books are written in a different vein, but none without the quality of “mind-fire”, which does not invariably go with the scientific spirit. There are two or three pages from p. 111 especially which I always find very beautiful and touching.

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick


{1} Probably the MS sent with PETH 7/68.

{2} George Davis Herron, an American clergyman and Christian Socialist. Emmeline’s ‘talks’ with him were presumably by letter.

{3} The International Socialist Review was a monthly journal published at Chicago by the Marxist publishers Charles H. Kerr & Co. from July 1900. It was not in fact Herron’s journal—it was edited till 1908 by A. M. Simons—but Herron contributed ‘A Plea for Unity of American Socialists’ to the December number (vol. i, no. 6, pp. 321–8) and, from January 1901, a regular section entitled ‘Socialism and Religion’.

{4} Richard Jefferies, The Story of My Heart (1883).

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—(3rd.) Expresses delight at the result of the County Council election and the coming of spring. Refers to her reading of Kropotkin, and encloses a written reminiscence.—(4th.) Thanks him for news of the South African situation. Describes a story-hour at the Club.



20 Somerset Terrace
White Sunday (3 March 1901)

This is truly a Sabbath day—a day of rest, and of deep joy and thanksgiving. God be praised that the people have won such a victory! {1} It is very wonderful and for the most part I think unexpected, and the more one thinks about it the more significant it is. The result of this C. C. Election is more significant than the result of any Parliamentary elections under the present division of parties could be; do you not think so? It is the triumph slowly won and honestly worked for of the best sort of socialism which puts human life above every other consideration and a vindication of the faith that has for the past 12 years {2} based the appeal to the voters on a regard for the common weal rather than on selfishness and private interest. I suppose no one who has not been in the thick of this election knows to what resorts the so-called Conservative party has been pushed, to make their negative policy acceptable—they seemed to stick at nothing that would help them; we worked this division with all our hopes under lock and key, and we have returned from St Pancras all the eight Progressive candidates. What does it mean? Surely amongst other things it means that the people are awake to the fact that the supreme issue for them is not the issue between the Conservative and Liberal parties; it is the John Burns element on the Council that has won the day.

The Spring has come at last. Oh comrade, it is good to be alive, at a time of promise. In spite of the suffering that is in the world, life is so unutterably sweet, the springs well up from their untainted source. Do you know Goethe’s little bird-song of Spring?

O Erd! O Sonne!
O Glück! O Lust!
O Leben! Leben
So golden schön!
Wie Morgenwolken
Auf jenen Höh’n!

I am reading a most fascinating book, “Memoirs of a Revolutionist” (Kropotkin’s Autobiography). It is a book, which if you were a child of revolution—like me! (which you’re not) you would read with suspended breath and consciousness and even as it is a story in which you could hardly fail to be greatly interested.

The enclosed guinea is a fee that I received for speaking. Please put it to your S. African fund.

Remind me that I have a pretty story to tell you of the triumph of a principle of mine, that force is worse than useless in a matter of real training. It is too long to tell now. By the way, one of the children was asked yesterday if her mother had gone to vote, and the reply was, “No. Sister Emmie hasn’t given her a vote!”

Here is a little reminiscence of a Spring day, rather later in the year than now. The “Artist” and the “Youngster” and the “Dreamer” (that’s me) were spending one of the happiest times of our life, near the North Cornwall sea. Don’t keep it; or lose it; I like to have it on days like these.

With greeting
E.P. {3}

Monday morning.

Thank you for remembering your promise. I am deeply interested in what you say this morning, and want very much to know more about it. It is such a big thing to write about, one can hardly begin; but every bit of information from original sources, every reliable indication of the development is so very acceptable to anyone who has realized the significance of the drama from the outset.

I am sorry you are laid up. Well, I’ll send you Mark Twain’s article to read, hoping that you haven’t seen it yet: “To the Person Sitting in Darkness”! I don’t remember a bit what the last part of “The Story of my Heart” is about. I expect I have read it once, but I turn to the first part as soon as the sap begins to rise, because it is like that subtle earth-fragrance that comes, a something in the air as spiritual as prayer. It is only the first part that has made any impression on my mind.

I had such a sweet time yesterday with the kiddies. I have quite an informal story-hour on Sunday evening, and the floor of the Club room gets covered with children of all ages from crawling babies to 14 year olds. I was telling them yesterday about the big battle that has been fought and won for them the day before, also about the coming of “The Green Lady”, all their dear happy eyes shining back at me! How on earth I am† ever going to leave ’em! but I needn’t think about that yet! You must come and see them someday. In fact the bigger ones are saving 3d. each to have a little party and invite a few friends; they are learning songs, etc., for the entertainment, amongst others some coon songs. Will you come that evening and sing “Under the old Umbrella” and any others?; they would be so delighted. It will be three weeks before they are ready!

This epistle is growing appallingly long, but since you can’t get about you’ll perhaps find time to get through with it. Besides, I must leave off writing letters now the Spring is coming! It’s dangerous when you feel too rich! However, if I do say anything extravagant between now and the turn of the year, you must say to yourself, “Ah well, poor thing! the sap has got into her head”! The children must be my refuge, those loyal hearts and true that stand “ever in the light, all rapture through and through” {4}, if you do but give them the least excuse.

But enough!—Do you know that our word “silly” comes from the German “selig”, and is therefore synonymous with “blessed”?


{1} The Progressive party had retained overall control of the London County Council at the election held the previous day. All eight councillors elected from the four divisions of St Pancras were Progressives.

{2} The London County Council was established in 1889, and the Progressive party had maintained control of it since that date.

{3} At the end of a page. Followed by ‘(over)’, i.e. ‘turn over’.

{4} From the hymn ‘O Paradise! O Paradise’ by J. Barnet, the refrain of which is:

Where loyal hearts and true
Stand ever in the light,
All rapture through and through,
In God’s most holy sight.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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



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

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,
Emmeline Pethick

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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



20 Somerset Terr.
2 April 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,
Emmeline Pethick


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

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

{3} Of the Review of Reviews.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Arranges to meet, and comments on his article. Asks him to attend a girls’ drill display, and reflects on the ‘old pagan worship of the human form’.



20 Somerset Terrace, Dukes Rd, W.C.
18. 4. 01

Dear Mr Lawrence,

We shall be free tomorrow from quarter past four till six o’clock, and can talk about Echos and as many other things as there is time for!

I read your article. Yes, competition as a law of life is to be accepted as absolutely as all life and every one of its natural laws, but there is a competition that is a law of death, and many people are too thick to distinguish the difference. Your meaning may not have been as clear to others as it was to me, for I had the thread of course. And your literary expression wants a little seeing to!

Will you take a ticket and come to the Annual Drill Display of eight Girls’ Clubs on Sat. evening the 27? It is worth seeing. I am never tired of it, though I have seen it year after year. There is something about the rhythmic movement of a number of people that gives me an odd thrill. I can so well understand the old pagan worship of the human form. I wonder if you will know what I mean if I tell you that sometimes when I am with the children, I say to myself, Dear me! the church (and its representatives) wants these childrens’ souls. They may have them, if they will let me have their pretty looks and happy eyes, and arms and legs and bodies. That’s all I want. Don’t say that I’m materialistic. For just as it is only at the point of contact between earth and atmosphere that you get the dew, so it is only at the point of contact between the spiritual and material that you can get beauty. Manifestation—Incarnation—is always the root and centre and origin of religion.

“Whatever you do, don’t lure me into a conversation,” besought Mary at 7.30 this morning. I’ve been letting you lure me into one. Wallflowers today are a penny a bunch on the barrows.


Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace (Duke’s Road, W.C.).—Arranges meetings.



20 Somerset Terr.
4. May 1901

Dear Mr Lawrence.

Just a line in immediate reply to begin with, so that you may get it tonight. Friday will suit us nicely, & thanks for letting me see the cordial little note. I should very much indeed like Percy to come. I want to ask Dr Gwyther & his wife too.

I think it would be an excellent idea to ask Hammond to the Meetings on Monday. Yes—Mary will have a good time: she has never yet had a dull one—& she always falls on her feet. “Yes Sister—they do ache too” said one poor girl for whom we found a situation after she had been tramping about all day (she did not understand the simile).

In haste to catch the post

Sincerely yours.

I leave it to you to ask Percy?


{1} Dr Gwyther ran a social club in rooms at Beaconsfield Buildings, off the Caledonian Road.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Recommends tact in returning MacIlwaine’s criticism (of his own play?). Alludes to Mary Neal’s part in arranging Lawrence’s ‘Canning interview’.



20 Somerset Terr., Dukes Rd, W.C.
4. 5. 01

Dear Mr Lawrence,

I am sending back Mac’s criticism; am very glad you brought it to us, but don’t let him know that we have seen it in this way. Send it to him yourself with a letter. First say how entirely true it is, that you are in complete sympathy with his attitude, and that is just the truth that wants to be constantly brought out—(you cannot possibly overdo this with a man so self-diffident and easily discouraged as Mac is)—but that you think that a little more description of plot would make it more interesting as probably—(as he himself says)—the play is almost unknown to the average play-goer.

One of two things will happen: he will leave it alone, or will bring it to us and we can do the rest. I think that a good thing could be made of it. Anyway he must not be hurt. You will excuse me for laying so much stress on the matter! But Mac is not like a great big man; he is thin-skinned and sensitive as any woman and as easily repulsed as any child, and he has gone so very far out of his usual way in entering heart and soul into this whole thing that I wouldn’t have him jarred for anything. He is not easily offended—I dont mean that—and he has no vanity, and there is nothing in the world you can’t say to him, but he must know that you appreciate and understand him. I have been quite surprised at the way he has knocked down the barriers himself to meet you; you must be very nice to him.

Sister Mary has just gone off. Mac came to do her shopping and see to her and carry her things to the station. I am glad the Canning interview was productive. Mary has a wonderful way of knowing just the right people for the right use and of being able to root them up at a moment’s notice. And men will take any amount of trouble to please her, as you saw for your-self last night. I think the Blatchford idea an excellent one.

Mr Cope came back last night quite charmed with your friend Mr Gooch {1}—quite overcome with his feelings! I like him awfully too. I hope he will come and see us. I could tell at a glance that he was just our sort—so gentle a man—which is a better way in these days than saying, such a gentleman, nicht wahr?

Sincerely yours,
Emmeline Pethick


{1} G. P. Gooch and Lawrence both contributed articles to The Heart of the Empire: Discussions of Problems of Modern City Life in England, published the following month. See Fate Has Been Kind, p. 55.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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



20 Somerset Terr.
Sunday, 5. 4. 01

Dear Mr Lawrence,

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

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

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

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

Emmeline Pethick

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

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