Item 71 - Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence


  • 3–4 Mar. 1901 (Creation)

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3 folded sheets

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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.

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