Item 67 - Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence


  • 28 Jan. 1901 (Creation)

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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.

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