Item 69 - Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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PETH/7/69

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Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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  • 10 Feb. 1901 (Creation)

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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).

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Transcript

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

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