Item 55 - Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence


  • 11 July 1900 (Creation)

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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.

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