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Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Trafalgar House, Littlehampton.—Invites him to supper.



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

Dear Mr Laurence.

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

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick


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

{2} 8th.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

20 Somerset Terrace, Duke’s Road, W.C.—Discusses his forthcoming meeting with men from South Africa, and dismisses the suggestion that his career is ruined.



20 Somerset Terrace | Dukes Rd W.C.
11. 7. 00

Dear Mr Lawrence,

I will think of you on Saturday {1} & before Saturday with the one wish that you have expressed.

I fully realize the nature of the ordeal that is before you. I only want to say one thing. Remember that these men from S. Africa will be special pleaders of their own cause. To be in a judicial position you ought to hear the other side—not from Mr Cope who is himself in a correct judicial position but the special pleaders on the other side. If you have read Fitzpatrick’s book {2} which is the apologia for himself and his confederates—you ought to read Reitz’s “A Century of Wrong” {3}. You get thus the two extreme points of view & a fair representation of the two colliding interests.

So in hearing these men you have to remember that to a man trained to weigh evidence {4}— no statement of theirs would be accepted as it stands—you understand what I mean[.] I will not say any more. I hope that I have not said too much.

Another point. As to the “ruin of your career” {5}. Excuse me, but this is nonsense! You will have to stand in St Pancras, which is a Liberal constituency crying out for a Liberal candidate {6}! And we will draw the many various threads together that 8 years living in one district have put into our hands, and we will work for you—to the bone!! I say “we” confidently. There is not one of us who would not stand by you after this. If I did not most confidently believe that this decision will clear your way of endless obstructions & confusions, and take your feet out of a net—I should feel an anxiety which I do not now feel. No: let the present only be right—the future—God’s future— you then make way for. I have proved it. I’ll tell you some day.

Yours sincerely
Emmeline Pethick


The punctuation has been revised slightly.

{1} 14th. The reference is to Lawrence’s forthcoming interview with Lionel Phillips and another supporter of the war in South Africa. See PETH 7/56–7.

{2} J. P. Fitzpatrick, The Transvaal from Within: A Private Record of Public Affairs (1899).

{3} F. W. Reitz, A Century of Wrong (1900), originally published in Dutch as Een Eeuw van Onrecht. The book was a collaboration between several writers, including J. C. Smuts, but the English edition bore only the name of Reitz, State Secretary of the South African Republic, by whose order the second Dutch edition had appeared. The English edition included a preface by W. T. Stead.

{4} Probably a pointed allusion to Lawrence himself, who had been called to the Bar the previous year.

{5} The suggestion was probably made by Lawrence’s uncle, Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, who visited him about this date, Lawrence having decided that it was impossible for him ‘to remain a candidate supporting the Government’. See PETH 7/56 and Fate Has Been Kind, p. 52.

{6} The reference appears to be to the parliamentary constituency of St Pancras (South). See PETH 7/64. St Pancras was divided into four parliamentary constituencies, North, East, South, and West, which also served as a divisions for County Council elections. Each constituency was represented by a single MP, each division by two councillors.

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.

Envelope, formerly containing 7/67–93

(Originally marked ‘Please burn these unopened at my death. These letters are from Emmeline. F.W.L.’ The first sentence was later struck through, and ‘1901’ was added below.)

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.).—(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 John Parker to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

Webb Trustees, 11 Dartmouth Street, London, S.W.1.—Encloses a personal appeal for support for a memorial to Beatrice Webb (probably 3/277).

(At the foot is a note by Lord Pethick-Lawrence, and answers to it by Esther Knowles, dated 22 and 23 October.)

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